HomeCommunityAs COVID-19 persists, Mayor Potter hopes for civil debate among Carmel residents

As COVID-19 persists, Mayor Potter hopes for civil debate among Carmel residents

Published Feb. 3, 2022

By RILEY PALSHAW

Co-editor-in-chief Riley Palshaw met with Mayor Dave Potter on Jan. 13 to discuss the shape of Carmel and current issues taking precedence in the city. 

From handling COVID-19 and parklets to dealing with the new state mandate for housing in the city, Carmel-by-the-Sea Mayor Dave Potter has been kept busy throughout the pandemic, but his priority remains handling disagreements in the community professionally and courteously, as well as fostering continual conversation within the community as a whole. 

After years in construction and service on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, Potter ran for mayor of Carmel on the sole goal of improving the experience for its residents and visitors. What he didn’t anticipate was that two years after he was elected into office in 2018, he would have a pandemic to wrestle with. 

“I ran on a platform that we will get along as a community and we’ll do the public’s business,” Potter says, “but we’ll do so respectfully, professionally, and courteously. I think we’re there.”

Since the pandemic first hit, Potter has had to think creatively in order to adjust and keep Carmel’s businesses afloat, which has been no easy task. But, ultimately, it’s been the help of the community that has kept Carmel in the great shape it finds itself in today. 

“COVID has been hard for government,” Potter says, “but as a community, I’m very proud that we’ve gotten through it together. We really have.” 

Yet such an upbeat outlook wasn’t always easy. 

“Normally when you have a recession you can see it coming,” the mayor notes. “Unemployment starts going up and housing and real estate starts to slow, but this was just lights-on-lights-off all of a sudden. It was really shocking.”

Mayor Dave Potter (with wife Janine) envisions disagreements within the city to be handled professionally and courteously among Carmel’s residents. (Photo by RANDY TUNNELL)

To combat the disadvantageous economic position in which Carmel found itself, the city moved forward with a plan to install parklets on the streets outside of restaurants at the start of the pandemic. These wooden platforms serving as space for additional seating areas for diners have sparked debate among Carmel’s residents, with some members of the community loving the idea, while others claiming the pop-up seating takes away from the charm of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  

While an opinion poll conducted by the city did come back with overwhelmingly positive support for the installation of parklets, Potter does recognize that this temporary seating can look tacky on the streets of Carmel. Hoping to fix their somewhat disheveled appearance, the mayor is looking into the possible extension of the city’s sidewalks, which would allow more outside seating for restaurants right alongside their buildings. This way more people can dine outside in a setting that’s more visually appealing and maintains Carmel’s indescribable charm. 

The parklets certainly haven’t been the only thing COVID-19 has affected in Carmel. The mayor acknowledges that the pandemic has put a strain on the public process too now that in-person meetings are not happening. 

“I like to be able to read the room,” Potter adds. “I like to be able to see everyone’s faces and watch the crowd, which you can’t really do on Zoom.”

The one advantage the mayor does point out is that he can now schedule meetings with his congressman or state senator with more ease instead of having to worry about scheduling issues like he did in the past. 

Although Zoom meetings might not be ideal, Dave Potter has bigger fish to fry. As of September, when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new legislation to expand housing across the state, California has mandated that each city construct a certain number of new housing units dependent on the city’s size. For Carmel, this means the construction of around 340 housing units, and although a fourplex can be put up on a single family lot in Carmel, Potter is wary about what the city logistically has the capacity for. 

“I didn’t buy a home in a single family neighborhood to end up with an apartment put in next door to me,” says the mayor. “It’s a state mandate, but one size does not fit all.”

Figuring out the logistics of a project like this is something the mayor and the city council will have to begin working on soon, but for now, Mayor Dave Potter hopes to accomplish a more foundational goal: handling disagreements within the city professionally and courteously, as well as seeing continual conversation between the community as a whole. 

“I’m not naive enough to think we’re all going to get along all the time,” Potter muses, “but I just want respectful participation and to at least do public business professionally.”

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