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Former Employee Becomes Fourth Appointed Rent Board Member

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By Jorge Casuso

January 17, 2023 -- In what is likely a first, Lonnie Guinn on Thursday became the fourth Commissioner initially appointed to the five member Santa Monica Rent Control Board.

Guinn, a former Rent Board employee, was the Board's unanimous choice to replace Caroline Torosis, who resigned after being elected to the City Council in November.

Guinn became the fourth Commissioner to join the Board in the past six months and the third who was appointed.

Only Commissioner Daniel S. Ivanov, who was elected in November, was initially chosen by voters, and not board members.

Guinn -- who has lived with his husband in a Santa Monica rent-controlled unit for almost 14 years -- worked for 13 years for the City, nine of them for the Rent Board.

As a secretary for the Board, Guinn said he "gained knowledge of how the board does and should work."

"My goal," he said, "is to be able too hit the ground running."

Board members cited Guinn's experience and passion for helping others as the reasons they chose him over two other candidates in the initial round of voting.

"We don't have time for job training when we have threats" to rent control, said Ivanov.

Commissioner Anastasia Foster agreed, saying that Guinn had "experience in the nuances and intricacies of the law."

"It's got to be someone who can hit the ground running," she said.

Guinn stressed how his experience with tenants shaped his passion for advocacy and policy making. He said he visited tenants seeking rent reductions and was "surprised and shocked by their living conditions."

He also visited tenants who lived in buildings undergoing construction, as well as units sitting vacant under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to get out of the rental business.

"I saw tenants in tears because they reached their emotional breaking point," Guinn said.

Guinn's appointment comes four months after Kurt Gonska was appointed to replace Naomi Sultan and six months after Commissioner Erika Lesley was appointed to replace Nicole Phillis.

Lesley and Gonska, along with Ivanov, were elected to three open seats on the Board after facing no competition.

Foster, who was appointed to replace Ilse Rosenstein in February 2016, was elected that November and reelected in 2020.

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