Commissioner Pat Keon, who was first elected to her position in 2013, formally announced in November that she will be running for mayor in the April election. We caught up with Commissioner Keon in her City Hall office to ask about her priorities and her record.
Why did you decide to run for Mayor?
I’ll have been a commissioner for eight years in April, and I would like to finish out my time in office here as mayor. Your authority isn’t particularly different as a commissioner than as the mayor [the four commissioners and mayor have equal votes] but you are the spokesperson for the city, and you do set the tone for the commission.
What would be your priorities as Mayor?
I think you always start with maintaining our neighborhoods, and the values of our homes and the aesthetics of the city. What is of paramount importance is maintaining the quality of life. That, and to continue to keep the city as financially sound as it is.
What would be your wish list for the city?
To work to have administrative excellence and performance measures. From the time I was elected – and I remember telling [then] City Manager Cathy Swanson – my goal has been for the city to win the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award.
What are your short-term goals for the city?
Short-term is being financially solid to meet the requirements to maintain and improve all elements of the city – to maintain the fountains and keep them working, to maintain the youth center so children have a great place to play, to maintain the streets and the sidewalks.
What are your long-term goals for the city?
Long-term, like every other city, is to deal with the issues of sea rise and climate change. And drainage. I think that drainage is going to be one of the big issues [because] we have drainage problems in a lot of areas in the city. Then there is the issue of septic tanks, because the level of the water table continues to rise below us. Fortunately, [most of] the city was built on high ground … and the low lying [properties] of the waterfront communities along the Bay are on sewers. But [sea rise] is going to come, so we need to start looking at where we can put sewer lines.
What is your stance on development?
I’m not pro-development, I’m not anti-development. I recognize that people have property rights. We have a [zoning] code that we should follow. I have been pretty good [in dealing with developers]. I don’t give much away. But I don’t hold a resentment toward developers or land use attorneys. They can come and it’s what we give them, it’s what we allow. Far more things are built “as of right,” [meaning in accordance with zoning code] than are ever built coming through the commission. So, part of the issue is the zoning code.
What are the problems with the zoning code?
We have no provision in the code for mixed-use buildings where you could have commercial below and residential above… We don’t have a middle. We have regulations for low development and very big development, but we don’t really have anything for a 10,000- square foot lot. [The code] has to retain the texture of smaller buildings, medium-sized buildings and big buildings throughout the city, so it’s not just massive buildings. You want to be able to retain that aesthetic of varying heights and sizes. The code as it is written encourages the assemblage of property for large developments.
What are you most proud of as commissioner?
After I was elected, I would come to City Hall down Granada Boulevard and go past Temple Judea. There was this house behind the temple that was an abandoned construction site. It had been abandoned two or three years before. And I would say, “How can that be, that we have these abandoned construction sites in the city?” There were a lot of them from the 2007 and 2008 economic crisis… People lived next door to those for years and felt helpless [so] we developed a whole set of abandoned property ordinances [which required banks to finish or remove them].