Dennis Zine, shown in 2010, has represented a section of the San Fernando… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
In another sign of budding political ambitions as City Hall heads into a period of transition, Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine on Wednesday announced he plans to run for city controller in 2013.
Zine, a former police officer who has represented a swath of the San Fernando Valley for a decade, is the first person to position himself in the race for controller, an office that has historically been a steppingstone for higher office.
If elected, Zine would replace Wendy Greuel, who is eyeing a run to take the place of termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Zine, who filed paperwork Wednesday to create a campaign fundraising committee, said his experience as chairman of the council's Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee made him a good fit for controller.
"It has groomed me for that position," said Zine, a self-styled populist who has attacked red-light cameras and other initiatives that have stirred public anger.
In recent months, his committee has delved into a little-known and controversial parking ticket review service that dismissed more than 1,000 citations, including some for city officials.
Earlier this year, Zine drew criticism for not being transparent about his relationship with Veronica Becerra, a lobbyist and land-use consultant whom he has dated.
A Times review showed that Zine had taken part in at least three votes involving companies that had hired Becerra or her firm, Rabuild Commercial.
On Wednesday, Zine said he didn't know Becerra had been involved in the projects. He said his staff now alerts him to any possible conflicts of interest so he can recuse himself.
He and Becerra still date casually but, he said, "she doesn't lobby me."
Zine said he would not use the controller's office as a springboard. "I am not going to go for mayor," he said, adding that he would like to serve two terms as controller. He said he would work to make the city more transparent and efficient. Currently, he said he asks his staff to take furlough days even though they are not required to, which he said has helped generate a $1-million surplus in his office budget. And also he said he has voluntarily taken a 10% pay cut.
Zine, 63, said he rides a Harley-Davidson and works out daily. "I don't see myself going and sitting on a park bench, counting pigeons."
A longtime Republican, Zine laid the groundwork for Wednesday's announcement several months ago when he changed his party affiliation to "decline to state." He said he did so because he's tired of the "gridlock" of partisan politics and because his liberal positions on gay marriage and other social issues are out of line with traditional Republican views.
But he acknowledged re-registering may make him more attractive to L.A. voters — most of whom are Democrats.
His party switch leaves only one Republican on the City Council — Mitchell Englander, who was sworn in last week.