CITY HALL — There once stood a stack of more than two dozen applications from residents who were interested in replacing late Councilman Herb Katz after he died in January from cancer, making up a larger pool of candidates than in the election just a few months prior.
It’s been a different story for the vacancy on the unsung Rent Control Board.
Christopher Braun, a 34-year-old chiropractor who narrowly lost to landlord Robert Kronovet in the November 2008 election, was the only person to submit an application by Wednesday evening’s deadline to fill a vacancy left by former Chairman Joel Koury, who resigned last month to spend more time with his young family.
The lack of interest in the board, which handles all matters related to landlord and tenant issues in rent controlled buildings, came as a surprise to many.
Kronovet, who last year became the first person to win a seat on the board without the political backing of the influential Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), said he reached out to a variety of individuals to apply for the position, including bankers, former City Councilmembers, property owners and tenants, some of whom reportedly indicated that they would consider it.
“I can’t understand why some people allowed themselves to be intimidated and let the government function as is,” Kronovet said. “Here is a chance for citizens who have been complaining to be involved.”
Braun, who since the election has been volunteering with an organization that helps resolve tenant and landlord disputes, said he began thinking about making a run for the vacancy soon after Koury announced his resignation, submitting an application on Monday.
“It’s something I definitely wanted to do to serve the city,” he said.
The application period opened on Aug. 7 and closed at the end of business on Wednesday. The board is expected to make an appointment at its next meeting on Sept. 3 when the new commissioner will be sworn in immediately. The replacement will serve until the next municipal election in November 2010 when the seat will be up for a two-year term.
Candidates are required to have Santa Monica residency and be registered to vote in the city.
Braun received endorsements from various organizations during the previous election, including SMRR and the Santa Monica Democratic Club. Given the electoral history with the board, it was widely believed that Koury, an incumbent, and Braun would win the two seats on the council, the latter being vacated by Jeff Sklar, who was termed out.
“I think the very fact that nobody else applied probably showed that there wasn’t a huge interest in the position and there was a strong feeling that there was a good candidate (Braun) who was the first choice,” Patricia Hoffman, the SMRR co-chair, said.
Early returns on Election Day showed Kronovet holding steady at second place, gradually losing the lead over Braun as the night progressed. By the morning, results showed incumbent Joel Koury with a commanding first place lead, followed by Braun and Kronovet for the two available seats on the board.
But as the weeks went by and more votes were counted, Kronovet, who ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2006, began closing the gap.
The final tally showed Kronovet with a 62-vote advantage, or 28.7 percent as opposed to Braun’s 28.58.
While the board at its Aug. 6 meeting established a process to seek a new commissioner that included accepting applications of interest, it is not required to automatically appoint Braun.
“If they all agreed to accept additional nominations at the next meeting next Thursday, they could,” said Tracy Condon, Rent Control Board administrator. “However, they did ask for interested people to submit applications.”
Kronovet said he believes that it’s a foregone conclusion that Braun will get selected since the other three members on the board — Jennifer Kennedy, Marilyn Korade-Wilson, and Zelia Mollica — were all endorsed by SMRR in the previous election.
Attempts to reach the board members, aside from Kronovet, were unsuccessful.
“This is a chance for registered voters to step into elected office … and they don’t put their money where their mouth is,” Kronovet said.