Currently viewing the tag: "Miami 21"
  • The South Dade Coalition is fighting FPL’s plans for transmission lines down US1 as these would keep the corridor from developing into the mixed-use, walkable place they seek. Good job guys.
  • Coral Gables is extending its trolley down ponce from 8th street to Flagler using FDOT dollars for the first year.
  • Dade and Broward Counties are getting express buses to run on I95 and the turnpike, linking Downtown Miami and Downtown Ft. Lauderdale and the ‘burbs. Yay! The routes are being funded by the State of Florida and the Federal government - no MDT money, also good.
  • A State Judge has said that the County’s decision to move the UDB was illegal. This is going to have big implications for the upcoming vote on Parkland.
  • No word on the Miami 21 vote yet from the City of Miami. Jeez.
  • More on taking the CITT back to voters from State Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera: “Unless the county commission reaches some sort of an accord, I’m going to explore legislation to call for a vote of the voters again. It should be up to the voters to decide, and let them judge if they’re satisfied with the way the money has been handled.” From Miami Today.
  • The Virginia Key Masterplan is going to be presented on May 20 at the Miami Museum of Science, 3820 South Miami Ave, from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. This is in anticipation of its consideration by the City Commission in June. If you are interested, please attend.

No news yet on when the City Commission will decide to take up the first reading of Miami 21. As the issue gets pushed back from month to month, I wonder why the item is not put on the agenda once and for all (considering that the code is finished and just collecting dust). What good will the code be (and our taxpayer investment) if it doesn’t get implemented? I would urge those commissioners with mayoral aspirations to consider what their options are once elected if Miami 21 has not been approved. Will you start from scratch? Are you really willing to throw away the work done to date?

With the recent endorsement of the DDA (and its important recommendations) the plan should move toward approval and implementation.  We will have to tweak the plan in a year and in the years that follow (in the same way we do with our current code), but we cannot operate under the business as usual paradigm. It’s time to make a decision.

Those of us who recognise how important this code is can attend an upcoming luncheon hosted by the American Planning Association Gold Coast Section on Friday May 1st. Hope to see you there!

WHERE:      Akerman Senterfitt, 1 SE 3rd Avenue, 25th Floor,

Miami, Florida  33131

WHEN:     Friday, May 1st @ 12:00 p.m.

LUNCH:       12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m

COSTS:         $10.00 (selection of hot lunches)

RSVP:        Susy Macet at 305-854-0800 or smacet@wsh-law.com

by April 27th

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The DDA officially endorsed Miami 21 (sort of). The changes will be considered when the code is heard before the City Commission, tentatively in April. The changes  involve current entitlements and permits, non-conformities and development rights. I didn’t see anything objectionable with the requests as they seem to be a matter of assuring business leaders that they will not lose rights/money as a result of the new  code.

To help strengthen its hand, the authority’s Miami 21 endorsement carried a condition that it will re-open its resolution after the city commission’s first hearing to check that the authority’s conditions were added.

Former County Chair Bruno Barreiro, whose district includes Downtown, is critical of the plan because, “in exchange for more density the city would lose on ‘creativity, innovation and individuality.”  Bruno:  codes don’t design beautiful buildings, talented architects do.

Here are some of the changes being called for and what they mean for Miami 21:

  • Ensuring the rights and approvals downtown developers have received for projects under the existing zoning code will not be lost.
  • Providing specific details on the methods the city will use to calculate fees under Miami 21’s public benefits program, whereby developers looking for development bonuses in height or capacity pay a fee for such bonuses.
  • Extending automatic extensions for existing development permits and approvals to six years from the code’s inception.
  • The authority also wants the city to allow unlimited extensions beyond that time subject to city commission approval.
  • Devising language that clarifies that the process for determining minor changes to development permits and approvals remains the same under the new code.
  • Providing protection for existing structures from casualties such as hurricanes. If a structure built under the old code were destroyed, it would allow the owner to rebuild under the current code.
  • Keeping downtown property uses deemed legal under the old code legal under Miami 21 as long as the structure remains the same.
  • Allowing structures that don’t meet the existing code to be expanded as long as non-conforming elements are not expanded.

As with most things, the devil is in the details, but this is a step in the right direction.

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Miami worships parking. Indeed, we can’t seem to build an urban building without smothering it with suburban parking requirements. Usually this comes in the form of parking as base or parking as appendage. The garage under construction above — an appendage if I have ever seen one — is located at Northwest Third Street, directly across the street from the new US Federal Courthouse. Currently at 10 stories, this latest garage is ostensibly being built to serve the needs of Courthouse employees and visitors. There are  three glaring problems with this development.

1) The Courthouse was finished long in advance of the garage, which believe it or not means that employees and visitors are miraculously finding parking, despite the non-existence of this new garage.  What, with the acres of surface parking lots, street parking, and other garages in the immediate vicinity, how could they not?

2) One block to the southwest of this new garage is Government Center, where Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus all converge. If there was just one location in downtown Miami able to reduce its parking requirements, this would be it.

3) The garage is being built with ramped floors, meaning that conversion to another use, say  office building or residential with retail on the ground floor, will remain nearly impossible. A better parking garage would have flat floors and floor to ceiling heights that allow for the conversion to a higher and better land use,  as dictated by the market.

By requiring and building so much parking, Miami will continue to develop an auto-oriented downtown,  make development more expensive than it has to be, and keep the transit that we have from reaching its potential. Sure, some parking is needed when building high intensity downtown uses, but implementing a more creative shared parking approach, along with reducing overall parking requirements, especially when in proximity to transit -as proposed in Miami 21-would make a far more efficient, transit-oriented, and walkable downtown. Until we do that, Miamians should expect that their downtown will never reach its full potential.

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For those who have been following, and hopefully supporting Miami 21, you already know that the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are a continuous thorn in the side of progress. Clearly not capable of understanding — or should I say reading — the code, most complaints state that Miami w21 will ” limit their creativity.” Proven to repeatedly be a bunch of hooey (with many examples) the following should gives M21 supporters a sense of justice.

Last night  Mayor Manny Diaz   received the 2009 American Architectural Foundation’s Keystone Award for taking on Miami 21, the largest form-based code ever proposed. That’s right readers, our local and vocal architects may like Miami just the way it is, but the nation is watching this process closely, and it seems most are hoping M21 succeeds. If it does, it will usher in a whole new precedent for replacing the very zoning codes — proliferated like a bad plague across the land without any regard for urbanism and local conditions — that prevent most US cities from allowing smart growth.

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To listen online, click here.

Wednesday, January 21

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

to

WLRN 91.3 FM

Topical Currents

Host Joseph Cooper discusses Miami 21 and its impact on the future of the City of Miami with guests:

Bernard Zyscovich

Zyscovich Architects

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk

Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

Elvis Cruz

Miami Neighborhoods United

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According to this recent press release, the Miami City Commission has approved the Miami World Center, an ambitious nine block, 25-acre redevelopment project slated for the Park West neighborhood, just north of Downtown. The glitzy pictures streaming on the project’s website promise a very sleek, but pedestrian-oriented district that, if nothing else, will transform this part of the city.

I am quite familiar with this area as I bicycle through it on my way to work, and again on the way home. At present, the underutilized surface parking lots and vacant buildings only seem to add to the area’s blighted image. And given that the project is being built using the principles of Miami 21, it seems that its mixture of uses, pedestrian orientation, and public spaces will become a living example of how large scale development should be undertaken. That being said, the architecture looks like more of the same, but I guess in that way it is in keeping with Miami’s current aesthetic.

Adjacent to the Metromover, and within walking distance of the Metrorail the project’s transit friendliness is evident and will give residents and visitors opportunities to move without driving.

I don’t know how liquid the development team is at this point, but given current market conditions, they will have to overcome much to get this mega-project built and occupied with residents, tenants and businesses.

Stay tuned.

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The County Commission decided to delay its vote Tuesday on the proposed transit hikes. I commend Carlos Jimenez and others for seeing that the issue had to be reconsidered. As Gabe mentioned earlier in the week, the monthly pass really needs to be consistent with the size/reach of our transit system (not higher than NYC). Not to mention that the last thing you want to do when ridership is up is to increase fares, but the fact is that the system needs to be funded. Unfortunately I think that this discussion is just the latest in a series of bad management and planning decisions that keep our holding our transit back.

It has been a tumultuous time for Miami-Dade transit recently. The result of poor vision, bad management, and professional incompitance, the transit system is currently on life support. (This all with record high transit ridership on Tri-Rail reported today!).

The recent allocation of PTP tax dollars for the refurbishment of existing cars (and purchase of new ones) is indicative of the state of our transit. If the Trust hadn’t stepped in and bailed out MDT there would not have been anywhere to get the money from. In other words once the metro cars reached their lifespan they would have been tossed and we would have a really expensive piece of civic art. By not rehab-ing the cars some time back (as Baltimore did with its metro cars) the Commission basically put itself in a position where they had to buy new cars or close up shop. Not to mention the message it sends to Washington: that we aren’t serious about competing for transit dollars.  As if the Orange Line didn’t have enough funding problems, this just adds to how disorganized the MDT is. When the feds look at our existing system and see that it is mismanaged, what incentive do they have to give us money when there are plenty of other cities out there that are serious about mass transit.

The Orange Line debacle is yet another indication of how flawed our system is. We are eligible for lots of free money to help build this line, and we are at risk of losing it because we don’t know if we can maintain the line for the next 30 years? Really?? Lets not even mention that the Feds are already miffed that we are going to downgrade our Tri-Rail service after giving us nearly half a billion dollars for track upgrades.

Whew. Where does that leave us with oil closing in on $150/barrel (and soon thereafter $200, and $250. and $300…)? We need our transit system more than ever. We need a successful transit system now, not under the 50 year plan, but the five year plan.

Truth is if our planners and elected officials were as serious about transit as they were about highway and road building we would already have a really great transit system. I think it would be a surprise to many here in our car-centered culture that plenty of other post-war suburban cities have developed amazing transit systems over the past fifteen years.

Incidentally, I had lunch with a buddy of mine named Dave who happily takes the bus everyday from his house in Kendall to work in Coral Gables. He tried to explain to me why transit works for him but not for his dad (who won’t take the bus to save his life). “Its really easy for me. It’s mostly a straight shot with one transfer. But my dad works five minutes away from his house. It’s easier for him to just get in the car and go. Transit can’t take us everywhere.” Now Dave is my friend so I didn’t reach over the table and smack him around, but that’s exactly the attitude that pervades our culture and is bred from policy decisions made at the top.

Our elected officials need to understand:

We NEED transit alternatives to the car.

We DESERVE multiple forms of transit that are safe, frequent, and far reaching without having to get into the car.

We need transit NOW.

As some of you might know, Mike and I serve advisory roles in Miami’s newly created Bicycle Action Committee (BAC).  The BAC is working on drafting a city of Miami Bicycle Master plan and is looking for any input our citizens wish to provide.  You can download this city map, draw on it, and send back your ideas to us (movemiami@gmail.com) for committee review.  You can also leave us comments or email us lists of potential bicycle routes, needed improvements, or any other suggestions.  Here is your chance to shape a masterplan which will guide all bicycle related planning for years to come.  I’m currently working on my version, which I will publish when complete and will finally get around to creating the Bicycle Rental plan I suggested to Alesh a while ago…

For today’s Metro Monday, we once again direct you over to our friends at Streetsfilms to view an exceptional piece on Melbourne’s pedestrian facilities. It is simply amazing to see how quickly a city can change with the right policy, perhaps Miami 21 will serve as our saving grace.

There is an invaluable lesson here. In the early 90s, Melbourne was hardly a haven for pedestrian life until Jan Gehl was invited there to undertake a study and publish recommendations on street improvements and public space. Ten years after the survey’s findings, Melbourne was a remarkably different place thanks to sidewalk widenings, copious tree plantings, a burgeoning cafe culture, and various types of car restrictions on some streets. Public space and art abound. And all of this is an economic boom for business.

Miami 21 Update: On Thursday the City of Miami commission approved the continuation of the Miami 21 project with the mapping of the quadrants. Interestingly, the only mention of this in the Herald was a recent editorial two days before the actual vote by Daniella Levine… Perhaps this is a contributing factor for much of the confusion regarding Miami 21…

Miami may be one of “America’s cleanest cities,” but it certainly is not one of the most bicycle-friendly. This fact was recently recognized in the June 2008 issue of Bicycle Magazine, which bestowed Miami with the dubious distinction of joining Dallas and Memphis as one of the three worst cities in America for bicycling. The excerpt, linked above states the following:

In Miami, the terrain lies pancake-flat and the sun shines bright nearly every day-perfect conditions for cycling. But Miami-Dade County has done little to foster safer streets for bikes, despite the fact that Florida ranks second in the nation in bicycle fatalities and that much of Miami’s poorer population relies on bikes for transportation. The county enacted the Bicycle Facilities Plan in 2001, but it failed to state any specific goals. The city of Miami has no finished lanes, and the only one under construction is less than a mile long. The rest of the county’s lanes are just as short, appearing randomly and disappearing a few blocks later. “We’re so far behind and in the dark with bikes it’s absurd,” bike-shop owner Chris Marshall told the Miami New Times in January. “I’d say we’re stuck in the ’60s, but it’s worse than the ’60s. In the ’60s you could still get around by bike.”

I agree that we are far behind, but the article fails to mention Mayor Diaz’s new Bicycle Advisory Committee, which is working under the umbrella of the Office of Sustainable Initiatives to create a bicycle master plan that dovetails with Miami 21. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Interestingly, the City of Boston, another cycling-poor city in which I have lived, repeatedly received similar honors from Bicycling Magazine. However, thanks to an aggressive agenda to improve cycling conditions the city is quickly altering its reputation. Let’s hope Miami is not too far behind.

Transit Miami is asking all readers to please actively participate in saving Miami 21 and Tri-Rail funding.

Miami 21: Our sources over in city hall have informed us that Miami 21 is literally on life support. The city commissioners are completely oblivious to the true benefits this new zoning policy will bring to the city, helping to create a sustainable, walkable, and accessible community. Miami 21 will create a cohesive and well organized map for future growth in the city, bringing density to the corridors and areas which would benefit from it most while preserving the qualities of every neighborhood.

We urge all of our readers to email/call the city commissioners to voice your support for Miami 21.

Commissioner Angel Gonzalez: agonzalez@ci.miami.fl.us (305) 250-5430
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff: msarnoff@miamigov.com (305) 250-5333
Commissioner Joe Sanchez: jsanchez@ci.miami.fl.us (305) 250-5380
Commissioner Thomas Regalado: tregalado@ci.miami.fl.us (305) 250-5420
Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones: MSpence@ci.miami.fl.us (305) 250-5390

Tri-Rail: In the wake of rising oil prices, our logical friends over in the FDOT are looking to strip Tri-Rail funding for a handful of road expansion projects in the tri-county area. Tri-Rail has launched the save my train initiative to prevent the budget cutbacks which would essentially cripple the agency. We should add that last year Tri-Rail was the second fastest growing transit agency in the country and the fastest growing agency in 2006.

If you have any further questions feel free to contact us (movemiami@gmail.com)

  • CITT will reconsider whether to vote for new Metrorail cars (Miami Today News)
  • Anti-Miami 21 Commissioner Regalado announces candidacy for Mayor (Miami Sunpost)
  • Metrorail controversy over “ghost posts” (Miami Herald)
  • Cyclist win the right to sue FDOT for failing to implement bike lanes (Bike Blog)

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Walking around in the Stade Olympique neighborhood of Montreal’s outskirts, I saw the perfect opportunity to illustrate how seamlessly medium density buildings can be integrated with classic single family homes (sans the hideous car ports). This picture above shows a row of multi-family buildings abutting one story and short two-story houses that are not unlike the ubiquitous kind of single family housing found throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

This is the kind of infill that Miami 21 would make possible, in turn creating denser communities in an unobtrusive manner. This also makes it easier to build affordable housing that makes for diverse socioeconomic communities.

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I know we have already mentioned this topic this week, but considering the Herald continues its negative spin campaign against the zoning rewrite I thought a healthy counterpoint was in order. Herald columnist Ana Mendez writes in her column today that she thinks that the code is a little too complicated for a layperson to understand.

She writes, “Its true zoning codes are difficult to write. And no one wants to minimize the important role that government plays in assessing the public’s needs and translating them into hopelessly complicated, impenetrable legal gobbledygook. But there has to be a better way.”

Now, as an urban planner and architect I agree that the language can be difficult at times, but the fact is that anyone with a high school education can figure it out (not to mention that all of the terms used are defined in the first chapter). Part of the problem is that we have to translate good urban design (which is a field that lends itself to drawing more than writing) into legal ‘gobbledygook’ so that land-use attorneys and developers don’t find loopholes in otherwise straightforward regulations.

Codes (Miami 21 or any other land use code) have to be written in language that is not simplistic, and that will hold up to scrutiny in court. Menendez quotes from the code:


Lots facing streets on more than one (1) side shall have designated Principal Frontage(s) and may have Secondary Frontage(s). Unless otherwise designated by a Special Area Plan, a Principal Frontage shall be that facing the street of higher pedestrian importance or intensity (i.e., traffic volume, number of lanes, etc.)

Which is another way of saying that you define the front of a corner lot as the one that faces the busiest street, but you can’t say that in a legal document because if you did then you would have all sorts of follow-up questions like:

  • How do you define which street is most important?
  • What do you call the other less important front?

Unfortunately, I think that this criticism of Miami 21, along most others, is less about the code than about blaming it for things that are beyond its control.

Here are a few of the arguments against Miami 21 that I have read both on the Miami 21 website and in various articles over the past two years:
-> “Miami 21 is the first urban application of a smart code in the US. It is an experiment that has never been tested.”

Actually, Miami 21 is not the first form based code to be applied to a major urban center, Philadelphia is in the process of passing a form based code, and I think we would all agree that as far as successful urbanism is concerned Miami pales in comparison. Form based codes have actually been around for a long time. Think of any good city (Chicago, New York, Philly, Boston) and their downtowns were developed with codes that were form based (as opposed to use based).

-> “Miami 21 is hated by architects and urban planners.”

Actually, having been written by urban planners and architects this one is not really true. The Herald loves to point out that architects dislike the plan, but really only a vocal minority of self-crowned celebrity architects dislike the code as a matter of ego than of substance. One architect in particular (whose name will remain anonymous except to say that it begins with Z and ends with h) says that the code infringes on his creativity by imposing height restrictions. Without going into some lengthy discussion on aesthetics and philosophy, lets just say that where this designer is concerned, creativity is overrated. Miami 21 holds faithful to some pretty basic premises (active street fronts, eyes on the street, etc.) and allows a lot of latitude after that. If you need your building to stand out like a huge phallic symbol, go to Dubai. Never mind that the the latest draft of the code has all but relaxed the height restrictions in certain T-Zones to be what they are in the existing code.

-> “Miami 21 will not allow me to rebuild my house if it gets destroyed.”

First of all, as with any zoning rewrite there will be nonconformities. The whole point of the code is that the existing code is allowing some pretty awful stuff to get built, and the new code will make some of that illegal. That’s the nature of any zoning code. I live in a 1940’s med style house that is illegal by today’s code because its too close to the sidewalk. Go figure. At any rate, the new draft of the code explicitly states that nonconformities in R1 zones will be grandfathered in. Period.

-> “Developers hate Miami 21.”

This one is my favorite. Developers love Miami 21 because it gives them greater development rights than they had before. The code was drafted using the existing regulations as a base. That means that all of the development rights have been preserved or augmented. All the code does is say that you have to meet the street in a way that will promote healthy urbanism. It’s not complicated.

-> “Miami 21 will allow tall buildings next to single family residences along Biscayne in the NE part of town.”

This one is true much to the chagrin of community activists such as Elvis Cruz who have long protected the area. Unfortunately they aren’t entirely using their thinking caps as to what they get in return for this extra height. Along parts of Biscayne you can build a 3 story building that would reach a height of 50’+ that would be adjacent to 30′ homes.

There are two parts to this that people need to understand.

1) We are trying to encourage pedestrian friendly development along in this part of Biscayne and part of that involves defining the street as a public space. With a street as large as Biscayne is, you need something more than two stories to make that happen. I don’t think that 50′ is all that egregious a transition to a single family neighborhood (especially in comparison to what is allowed now).
2) We need to start thinking of our eastern edge as the place where more intense development needs to happen. We cannnot hold the UDB line and be NIMBY’s at the same time. Saving the Everglades means that growth has to be in someone’s backyard. Biscayne Boulevard deserves buildings that are more than 3 stories.

Remember this: Miami 21 is a lot better than the existing code, and if we let this opportunity pass we are the ones who suffer. This is not some abstract concept in a book, this is about the kind of city in which we want to live and raise our families. I for one will not give up.

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