A longtime defender of renters’ rights in Santa Monica, Joel Koury, announced last week that he will vacate his position as the city’s Rent Control Board Chair next month. Koury said his new job at the Federal Defender’s Office has left him little to no time to spend with his family, including his nine-year-old son and six-year-old daughter.
Koury has been on the board for more than five years. A believer in protecting the rights of long term tenants, he said his proudest moment during his tenure on the board was what he called his “small role” in the defeat of Proposition 98, a measure on the June 2008 California ballot that, if passed, would have eliminated rent control and other tenant protections.
“If Proposition 98 had passed, many long term renters in Santa Monica would have lost their apartments,” Koury said. “It was one of the biggest threats to long term renters I’ve ever seen.”
Koury went on to say that his only regret is not having more time to dedicate to the volunteer role of Rent Control Board Chair. Not wanting to shortchange the people he represented, Koury said his resignation was a decision based solely on lack of time.
“I was working last week and didn’t have a chance to take a lunch break. When I looked up at the clock, it was 5:30 and I still hadn’t gone over the paperwork for that night’s board meeting,” Koury said. “That’s when I knew it was time to go. The people deserve someone who can devote more time to this very important role”
As far as upcoming issues, Koury said the incoming board chair will be faced with the issue of roommates and rent hikes, a hot topic in the city.
“Many people want to bring in roommates right now to share costs, but some landlords are saying they want to charge a disproportionately higher amount of rent in roommate situations,” Koury said. “I think there is a real opportunity there to open a fair negotiation between property owners and renters.”
Though no replacement has been selected for Koury’s position, he speculated that Chris Braun, the third-highest vote getter in last year’s election might fill the position. No matter who is selected to replace him, Koury is confident that renters will be in good hands with new board administrator, Tracy Condon, who has 20 years of experience with the Rent Control Agency and was appointed to her new role last year by Koury and the board.
“The bottom line is that I am leaving at a time when there are some people in place that I trust will keep doing good work for at least the next decade,” Koury said.
Santa Monica Mayor, Ken Genser, said Koury will be missed.
“Joel has been a steadfast advocate for the residents of this community and I really wish him well in his new endeavors,” Genser said. “I am sad to see him go, but I understand he has other obligations.”