Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board member and City Council Aide Ryan Lau has resigned from the zoning board following a report in the Daily Planet last week which revealed that he had violated the city’s permit process.
Lau’s appointee, Councilmember Darryl Moore, confirmed Thursday that Lau had sent him a resignation letter after the two of them talked and came to the conclusion that given the current circumstances, resigning would be the logical course of action.
“He apologized to me and the city for his indiscretion and hopes that he doesn’t bring any bad will to my office and my name,” Moore told the Planet Thursday. “I have accepted his letter.”
Moore said when he first found out about the violation, he was “horrified with Lau’s tragic lack of judgment.”
“I apologize for any embarrassment that I may have caused to you and the city,” Lau said in his e-mail to Moore. “I am in the process of working with the city’s planning department to resolve this matter.”
City Planning Department officials said Lau had halted construction on his Carleton Street residence and is seeking the necessary zoning and building permits.
He was in the middle of expanding an old garage on the property he had bought last year when the Planet received an anonymous tip about the illegal construction and launched an investigation.
Lau continues to serve as Councilmember Moore’s staff aide. He joined Moore’s office in 2004, a couple of weeks after Moore got elected to the Berkeley City Council.
Moore said he appointed Lau to the zoning board in January after board member Terry Doran stepped down.
“He bought a house in my district where he lives with his partner Nicole Drake (aide to Councilmember Linda Maio and a Rent Stabilization Board commissioner) and I thought he’d be a good candidate for the zoning board,” Moore said. “I interviewed two other people but they were out of my district, so I decided to appoint him. I was impressed with his zeal for serving on the commission.”
Moore said he did not know what prompted Lau’s decision not to apply for the proper permits, which has resulted in calls for his resignation as Moore’s appointee.
“I have asked him but he hasn’t been able to tell me verbally why he did it except to say it was ‘stupid,’” Moore said. “Ryan is a great guy. I was so disappointed he took a short cut. I think it was the right thing for him to resign from the zoning board—he lost credibility. But I don’t agree with the calls for him to resign from his job as my aide. Hopefully he will meet all the requirements of the city process and it will be the end of the incident.”
Moore added that for “a young man his (Lau’s) age,” it is no small accomplishment to buy a house in Berkeley.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and majority of the other zoning board members did not return calls for comment.
Zoning board members who did respond to calls said they didn’t want to comment.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has also appointed his aides to various commissions, including the zoning board, said he has learned that there is a “significant amount of illegal construction without permits” in Berkeley.
Worthington’s former aide Jesse Arreguin, who was elected to the City Council in Nov. 2008, served as his representative on the zoning board before running for election.
Worthington’s current aide Alejandro Soto-Vigil is on the Berkeley Housing Commission. His wife Danfeng Koon was appointed by Worthington to serve on the zoning board.
“I think Ryan is a very nice man,” Worthington said. “Many first-time homeowners who buy houses often don’t know the complexities of regulations. It’s sad.”