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Rent Board Appoints Tenant Activist to Fill Open Seat


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By Jorge Casuso

June 17, 2024 -- Kay Ambriz -- a staunch tenants' rights advocate who serves on the Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) steering committee -- was appointed Thursday to fill an open seat on the Rent Control Board.

Approved 4 to 0, the appointment makes Ambris -- who was a Section 8 tenant and formerly homeless -- the front runner in the November race for two seats on the five-member board.

In her reelection bid for a four-year term, Ambriz has the backing of former Mayor Sue Himmelrich, Councilmember Caroline Torosis and the four current members of the board that appointed her.

Ambriz will fill the seat held by Lonnie Guinn, who resigned without explanation in May, making him the fourth Commissioner to be initially appointed ("Rent Board to Make Another Appointment," June 4, 2024).

"I would like to see somebody who has made up their mind clearly what they want to do," said Board Chair Erika Lesley, "and that would be also to make a final decision to run for the seat as well."

Lesley said she was looking for "somebody who is dedicated, someone that would want to see this through."

Ambriz -- who has lived in Santa Monica for nine years -- was appointed to the Social Services Commission in 2019, serving for three years until the Commission was reconfigured.

She also is a volunteer on SMRR's hotline, where she assists callers with their problems and directs them "to appropriate resources."

"Without rent control, I would have been priced-out of Santa Monica years ago," Ambriz wrote in her application. "I know many other city residents share this experience.

"Now I would like to use my lived experience and education to help others by serving on the Rent Control Board."

Ambriz said her "top issue" is renter education. "As I have seen firsthand as a SMRR hotliner, many residents are ill-informed about their rights," she wrote.

"I also hope to build a more equitable and inclusive community for renters in rent-controlled apartments," said Ambriz.

Ambriz, who works as a campaign consultant, was one of three applicants for the vacant seat. Also submitting applications were community volunteer Phillis Dudick and K. Thomas Touzin, a retired veteran.

Dudick said she is running with Ambriz for the two open seats in the November 5 election.

No incumbents will be seeking reelection after Board member Anastasia Foster announced she would run for an open seat on the College Board.

Ambriz was sworn in after he appointment and joined the Board for the rest of the meeting.

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