CITY HALL — Just more than half a year into his second term on the Rent Control Board, Joel Koury, who commanded the most votes in the November election, resigned from his post last week citing the desire to spend more time with his young family.
Such time with his wife and two children — ages 9 and 6 — has become even more scarce since Koury, who was first elected to the board in 2004 as one of several candidates backed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, took on a new job as an attorney with the Federal Public Defender in Downtown Los Angeles about a year ago.
He previously worked at the Los Angeles County Public Defender for 18 years.
“The demands at my new job are such that I rarely have time to breathe let alone handle extra responsibilities and that’s coming at the expense of my family,” Koury said during an interview on Monday.
The announcement during the Rent Control Board meeting last Thursday came as a surprise to fellow commissioners who said they sympathized with their colleague’s position.
“He’s working on a high-level federal defense team and he’s got young children,” Robert Kronovet, who was elected last year, said. “He’s realizing his kids are growing up and needs to spend precious time with them.”
Zelia Mollica said she was shocked when Koury informed the board that he would be leaving, calling the board chairman “humble but extremely smart.”
“He has a strong sense of fairness and I feel like we are really losing a great asset for the Rent Control Board,” he said.
The next question will focus on who the board will appoint to replace Koury, a discussion that is expected to take place at its next meeting on Aug. 6.
The appointed replacement will serve on the term through the next municipal election in 2010. Whomever is elected will then be seated until Koury’s term is up in 2012.
Kronovet said he would like to see someone who has knowledge of the banking or real estate industry, adding that the taxpayers are entitled to a professional individual who understand various aspects of housing and not someone who is a “party member.”
Excluding Koury, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights has a 3-1 majority on the Rent Control Board.
Koury, who was a renter for six years and has been a homeowner since, decided to make a run for the board because he felt it was important to mediate disputes between landlords and tenants fairly.
“It’s important to the property management side that there is someone fair listening to their issues and seeing they get a fair return entitled under the law and I think it’s obviously important to renters that they not get unnecessarily priced out of their homes,” he said.
He said the board has weathered several storms in the past few years, including fighting Proposition 98, which sought to end eminent domain and ultimately, according to rent control advocates, phase out rent control across the state. The proposition was defeated in the June 2008 primary.
The board also went through a long process of replacing several key personnel, including the general counsel and administrator.
“I think we put the department in a position where it will be stable and strong for the next 10 years at least,” he said.
It’s one of the reasons why Koury said he feels comfortable leaving the board at this point.
Koury said his job with the Federal Public Defender brings with it some constraints when it comes to taking off time, noting that some of his colleagues were surprised when he decided to take off Independence Day, which fell on a Saturday this year.
“The time and the flexibility is what is lacking with the Federal Defender’s Office,” he said.
Tracy Condon, who was hired to replace former Rent Control Board Administrator Mary Ann Yukonis in 2007, said Koury was a significant contributor to the board and was always well-prepared for meetings.
“He thought carefully about each of the decisions that he made and that the board made,” she said.