With three seats up for election on Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board (RCB) this year, none will be contested by an elected incumbent. 

The seats of Steve Duron, Naomi Sultan and Nicole Phillis are up this year but Duron cannot run again due to term limits and the other two have recently resigned due to the Commissioners moving out of town.

Phillis resigned last month and her seat has already been filled with an appointed successor despite her wish the seat remain vacant until the upcoming election. 

“But as an elected official, I have seen first hand how insular Santa Monica politics can be. I have seen the insider baseball, the gamesmanship, the horse trading, and the sausagemaking. And I really, really don’t like it,” she wrote in May. “If Santa Monica is going to be a truly progressive, inclusive, and equitable community, then we must continually guard against anti-democratic tactics that undermine the direct democratic power of our residents. As we have seen, using anti-democratic tactics to gain a strategic edge, even in the promotion of candidates who hold progressive values, ultimately erodes trust in local government and the legitimacy of elected bodies.”

First-term RCB Commissioner Naomi Sultan will not be seeking reelection to the five-member board this November, instead announcing her resignation effective Aug. 1 due to her moving out of Santa Monica.

The surprise announcement came during the Thursday, July 14, RCB meeting, just hours after the other vacancy was filled by new Commissioner Ericka Lesley.

“I was heartened that we’ve got so many wonderful applicants for the position and I feel like, you know, Commissioner Lesley is already a wonderful addition to the board,” Sultan said, later adding, “I’m sad to need to resign — unfortunately, that’s the rule. I can’t stay on the Board if I’m not living in Santa Monica after July. But I do feel like the board is in good hands and will continue to be in good hands going forward.”

Fellow Commissioner Caroline Torosis suggested the lack of affordable housing in Santa Monica was to blame for Sultan’s sudden departure from the RCB.

“I would just say, obviously, this is just another indication Santa Monica is not very affordable if we’re losing folks that need to go elsewhere — and good folks,” Torosis said. “Naomi, I’m really, really sad not to be serving with you —  your intellect, your empathy, the fact that you’ve dedicated your life’s work to help folks who haven’t been able to have a voice or representation kind of permeated over to the Board, and I know we’re going to continue working together in our professional capacities and I really just appreciate all of your service.”

Duron was first elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018. Rent Control Board Commissioners are limited to two terms and a recent effort to extend that to three terms which would align with current City Council limits was rejected. 

Torosis is not up for election to the Rent Control Board this year but she has declared a candidacy for City Council.

editor@smdp.com