Kate Daniels and Mary Adams (copy)

Kate Daniels, left, is a former aide to County Supervisor Mary Adams, right. Adams is endorsing Daniels to succeed her as District 5 supervisor. 

Monterey County Planning Commissioner Kate Daniels has announced her campaign for the District 5 seat on the county Board of Supervisors, becoming the second candidate to throw their hat in the ring to succeed the outgoing Mary Adams next year.

Carmel native Daniels is a former educator who has grown increasingly prominent in local politics in recent years. She has close ties to Adams—having managed her successful 2016 campaign for District 5 supervisor, and subsequently serving as Adams’ chief of staff for two years. 

Daniels was appointed by Adams to a four-term term on the Monterey County Planning Commission in January 2020. She also currently serves as a policy adviser to California State Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, whose district includes Monterey County.

With her candidacy, Daniels joins Monterey City Councilman Alan Haffa—who announced his own run for the District 5 seat two weeks ago—in the early field for the 2024 Board of Supervisors election. Adams said last week that she would not seek a third term on the board after eight years representing District 5.

While Daniels acknowledges that she and Adams are close and share many views, she insists that she’s “a different candidate than Mary.” Adams is among a number of local elected officials who have already endorsed Daniels for the District 5 seat—including Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto, District 2 Supervisor Glenn Church and District 4 Supervisor Wendy Root Askew.

“I truly want to run on my own merits,” Daniels tells the Weekly. “In terms of who I am and the ability I bring to the table, it’s going to be unique and different.”

Daniels says she would bring to the role the insights she gained as Adams’ top aide on the Board of Supervisors, as well as her subsequent experience in land use as a Planning Commissioner and as a consultant to Laird on issues like water use, homelessness and the Big Sur coastline.

“All of the land use decisions that come before the Board of Supervisors, we have encountered at the Planning Commission,” she notes. “My familiarity with the specific land use plans that govern development along the coastal areas of Monterey County is something that sets me apart.”

Land use is key to what Daniels describes as her biggest policy priority: housing, a lack of which has contributed to escalating living costs in the coastal District 5 area.

“Being a District 5 native, I have seen the transformation of our community that is solely based on the high cost of living,” she says. “Members of our community who have lived here for generations cannot afford to live here anymore. I really want to turn that around; I want us to have a community once again where everyone who contributes to our economy has an opportunity to live in our community.”

That housing crisis has had a “ripple effect,” according to Daniels—influencing everything from the region’s traffic, due to the number of commuters on the roads, to other “sociological impacts” resulting from people having to work so far away from their families. “Our workforce cannot afford to live here, and what deteriorates is our community,” she says. 

Part and parcel of the housing issue is the proliferation of vacation homes in District 5, and Daniels says she would pursue steps to reign in unoccupied second and third homes—many of which are marketed by their owners as vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb—and instead develop more affordable, workforce housing.

“As a planning commissioner, one of the things I’ve noticed is that when we’ve approved market-rate housing, there’s no backstop in place to be sure that the housing we’re building will be for people who live in our community,” she notes. “Nobody is stopping someone from seeing Rancho Cañada and saying, ‘I’d like that to be my second home’—or doing anything to make sure that housing is for the population in need right now in Monterey County, rather than an investment home for someone from outside the county.”

Daniels insists that it’s possible to curb that kind of development, though she acknowledges that various proposals, such as occupancy mandates or restrictions on short-term rentals, have fallen short of the support required on both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

But Daniels, who lives in Carmel Valley with her husband Dan and their two sons, believes that her experience in local politics and government makes her well-equipped to work with other supervisors to pass measures that would move the needle on such issues. She cites her “history of bringing differing viewpoints together” on the Planning Commission—a body where commissioners often “don’t agree on anything, but the commission moves together on a unified front.”

“We focus on disagreements at the [Board of Supervisors] all the time, but I’m sure there are more things that the board agrees on than disagrees on,” Daniels says. “I feel what I’m good at is listening and hearing what others’ concerns are, and moving forward with compassion and kindness always. There aren’t just bad ideas and good ideas—there’s more gray than that.”

Daniels and Haffa, plus a likely field of to-be-announced candidates, are set to square off in the nonpartisan primary election on March 5, 2024. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will go to a runoff in November’s general election.

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