Currently viewing the tag: "Commissioner Marc Sarnoff"

Latest Flap Highlights the Need for City-Wide Tree Ordinance

Thanks to Brickell resident and photographer Claudio Lovo, for bringing attention to a potential arborcide of 23 mature trees in the heart of Miami’s Brickell neighborhood. Lovo noticed that an application for tree removal had been filed by the ‘Point View Association’ for the removal of nearly all the large shade trees along the west side of Brickell Bay Drive between 14th and 15th street. Shortly thereafter, he tweeted out a call to action for Brickell residents to thwart the unnecessary tree removal.

These 2 perfectly healthy black olive trees, along with 21 others including crepe myrtles, could be gone because they ‘block views’.

Here is a .pdf file with pictures of each tree slated for destruction, and a map of the area. It’s a stunning amount of tree cover and valuable shade that would be lost in an instant if the permit is approved.

For some background, it appears that the Point View Association, which is a condominium board made up of a few older-construction condo buildings along Brickell Bay Drive, collected enough signatures to formally file a request for the tree removal. According to Lovo, owners of lower-floor units are upset that the trees obstruct their views of the bay. I spoke to a few local residents leaving the buildings who speculated another reason is that the leaves blow into the swimming pool areas of the condominiums, causing an inconvenience to the maintenance crews.

Regardless, both arguments are utterly irrelevant as the presumably healthy trees reside on public property belonging to all residents of the City of Miami. I’m no arborist, but leaves periodically falling from trees is not an abnormal phenomenon. Perhaps the trees could use some simple pruning, which is normal maintenance for trees of this size.

“These trees are part of the public realm - that space between private buildings. By allowing them to be removed out of the interests of a few, you deprive the many, allowing forces to act out of balance.” - Karja Hansen

City of Miami District 2 Commissioner Sarnoff is adamantly opposed to the tree removal, and posted the formal ways to protest via his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I sent an e-mail and called the Public Works department (who were very helpful in sending me the background material). But in case my e-mail was not clear enough, I posted another message below.

On Brickell Bay Drive near 15th Street, if you would like to go sign it.

The Next Steps

The permit application will go before the Historical and Environmental Preservation Board Meeting scheduled for September 4th at Miami City Hall. However, it’s imperative to voice your opposition before August 16th, which is the end of the posting period.

Here’s how:

If you would like to protest this proposed application for tree removal, you must supply the following information:
1) The location of the project and or project name (#12-209 – Brickell Bay Drive between SE 15 Road and SE 14 Street)
2) Your contact information: name, address, phone number, and e-mail address
3) The reason that you are protesting

You can transmit this information in any one (1) of the following ways:

1) Via E-mail: e-mail Regina Hagger (RHagger@miamigov.com) before midnight on August 16, 2012. Please be sure to “reply to all” of the parties in the Cc: field. (eestevez@ci.miami.fl.us, jsantana @miamigov.com, srevuelta @miamigov.com)

2) Via United States Mail: send a Certified Letter, with a Return Receipt via US Postal Service to:
City of Miami Public Works Department, 444 SW 2nd Avenue, 8th Floor, Miami FL 33130, ATTN: Regina L. Hagger. Note: the letter must be post marked by August 16, 2012. Any letter received with a postmark after August 16, 2012 will not be considered. We do allow 2 business days after the posting end date for the mail to be delivered to The City via the Postal Service.

3) Via Telephone: Call Regina Hagger at the City of Miami Public Works Department (305) 416-1749. I will take your protest over the phone. If you receive my voice mail – please leave a clear message with your name, phone number and reason for protest. I will call you back to let you know that your protest has been received.

4) In Person: You may come to the City of Miami Public Works Department. We are located at The Miami Riverside Center - 444 SW 2nd Avenue, 8th Floor, Miami FL 33130. You can ask for me and I will give you a protest form to fill out in person OR you can ask for a Protest Form from the Receptionist at the Public Works Reception Desk. Our business hours are Monday through Friday 8 am – 5 pm.

The Future

Today’s impassioned response to the potential tree destruction highlights a larger issue. As Karja Hansen of the Barrio Workshop explains on her Tumblr blog,

It is really easy to get fired up about sudden small injustices when they pop up. What is harder is the sustained effort, the continual attention. But that is what it takes, especially when you’re moving as fast as we are these days, and we’ve veered off in some important directions as much as we have.

Today’s flash in the pan effort to save 22 Olive Trees along Brickell Bay Dr is of importance and value, but it is simply a symptom of a larger problem: The City’s Tree Ordinance and its general attitude towards trees and landscaping, and the importance of these things in the overall picture.

As the Urban Paradise Guild urges us,

Protesting the removal before it becomes fait acompli is essential.”

In other words, without an over-arching tree ordinance (like Washington D.C’s for example) or Tree Ordinance Committee, today’s Brickell tree kerfuffle is tomorrow’s Coconut Grove battle or Friday’s Belle Meade tiff.

This is an important issue we should work together on in the near future. For the short term, it’s important we win the task and hand defeat this senseless destruction in Brickell.

The City of Miami actually has a plan for this street to create an attractive public space for people along Biscayne Bay. The details are in the planning stages, but tentatively it calls for removing the long row on-street parking, expand the sidewalk, planting shade trees and potentially including a buffered bike lane.

Douglas Thompson, a landscape architect and his wife, Ebru Ozer, a professor of landscape architecture at FIU, created the rendering below as an alternate long-term vision for Brickell Bay Drive. (Read more about the idea on Miami Urbanist - Envisioning Brickell Bay Park)

Final Thought
When a passerby spotted me posting the sign to the tree, she said, ‘Be careful, putting things on trees is illegal.”

I replied, “I’d rather get a ticket for putting something on a tree than having no trees left at all.

Update (8/16/2012 2:10pm)

City of Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff  via Twitter: “The City Manager confirmed this morning that the application to remove the trees on Brickell Bay Dr. has been withdrawn. No tree removal.”

Transit Miami recently sent out a list of questions to City of Miami District 2 Commission candidates to get their views on the issues facing District 2. Representing one of the most important economic and urban centers in our region, the District 2 commission seat plays a central role in supporting regional and local transit, and ensuring walkable, pedestrian friendly streets for city residents. The area included in District 2 includes those parts of the city that are best poised to take advantage of existing premium transit and walkable urbanism. We’ll be posting the candidate responses in the order they are received. Our first respondent is sitting District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

How will you work toward the goal of expanding transit in District 2?

We (the City) are ordering and implementing the Trolley project scheduled to commence in December for the north/south Brickell - Biscayne Blvd. corridor with an east/west connection down Flagler. There will be a circulator in the Health District. These two districts won grants from FDOT to operate and AARA money to purchase. In addition there will be special service to events Trolley in Downtown i.e. Heat games and the Performing Arts Center that will operate during the scheduling of those events. The fees have not been set - some Commissioners do not want to charge for this service but the Trolley’s will run out of money if we do not charge. I prefer a 6o day no fee trial period, then a $1.00 fee to allow the operation to continue for the next 15 years with Cap X for new trolleys and maintenance.

Do you support the South Florida East Coast Corridor project to expand local and express rail service to downtown? Do you support a Tri-Rail option or a Metro-Rail option?

I support the project but not to the exclusion of the North South link by FEC, as far as we have learned Metro Rail is far too expensive and will not be viable for more then 10 years while we could commence implementing the Tri Rail option.

What are your views on expanding MetroRail along the East/West corridor from western Miami-Dade through the Airport to Downtown?

Metro Rail going to the airport is what we all thought it should be. It now goes somewhere that many users can enjoy that are not commuting to work.

Do you support a MetroRail Baylink connection?

Yes this should have been part of the 5 year plan at MPO 10 years ago. The Beach should have no fear of us.

Critics of Miami21 contend that the parking provisions of the code are excessively high, precluding the sort of neighborhood scale development that the code was meant to support. How would you work to lower the parking requirements of Miami21 so that the benefits of the code are realized?

I continue to support Miami21 and its present parking provisions. Changes to peoples habits is not a light switch - it takes time and we can not burden neighborhoods with people who will park wherever and whenever they can. This must be viewed as a process.

How will you ensure that upcoming mega developments, like the Genting Casino Resort, contribute to pedestrian friendly street frontage?

Through the review process and by ensuring the impact fees are used to create the walkable downtown that we all envision. This process - if Gen Teng commences building - will allow us the opportunity to create not only an east west corridor but a north south connection to BicentennialPark. The Gen Teng process is very amorphous and will present many opportunities for walkability.

The Transit Miami led coalition to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell led to the temporary lowering of the speed limit by the Florida Department of Transportation, but only a change in the design of the street toward a true pedestrian boulevard will impact driving habits. TM sent the FDOT a list of over 20 missing crosswalks and recommendations for travel lanes that will encourage lower travel speeds, which have been ignored to date. Will you join our coalition and fight with us to ensure that Brickell is reconstructed with narrowed lanes, permanently reduced speeds, and more abundant crosswalks?

There is a plan in place for 19 cross walks that we are finalizing with FDOT. The cross walks will be raised to create friction and naturally slow drivers down. We have lowered the speed limit on the residential part of Brickell to 30 MPH with FDOT to review and determine if it goes to 35 MPH (it was 40 MPH). We have written more than 5200 traffic enforcement tickets on Brickell to slow traffic ….so it’s working.

In the ongoing planning for the I395 reconstruction, the Florida Department of Transportation is pushing an elevated highway through Overtown that will dwarf the existing expressway that decimated the once vibrant Overtown community. Other alternatives include a tunnel option that will open up over 40 acres of prime downtown land, as well as an at grade boulevard option. Which alternative would you support as District 2 commissioner?

The second one however FDOT is not listening to local in put into this project. I suspect they are hell bent on the raised highway project a misuse of its power and money.

The Miami-Dade County Public Works Department informed a group of Belle Meade residents that closing off public access to Belle Meade would not be allowed at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. In a letter addressed to Miami Commissioner Sarnoff,  County PWD Director Esther Calas had this to say:

The Manual of Uniform Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways (Florida Greenbook), developed by the FDOT provides minimum standards for the design and maintenance of County and municipal roadway systems, including pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks.  Chapter 8 of the Greenbook provides that “ All new highways, except limited access highways, should be designed and constructed under the assumption they will be used by pedestrians.”

Chapter 15 of the Greenbook provides that if traffic diverters are being installed to redirect vehicular traffic, such as a street closure, as has been in the Belle Meade neighborhood, “Bicyclists and pedestrians should be provided access through traffic diverters.

The Greenbook provisions are consistent with the Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Master Plan (CDMP), which provides that pedestrian and vehicular networks should serve as connectors between neighborhoods, while the walling off of a neighborhood from arterial roadways should be avoided.  It further states that pedestrian circulation shall be provided between public places through connectivity of sidewalks and supplements by pedestrian paths.”

Furthermore, the Pedestrian Safety Guide and Contermeasure Selection System, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, states that if a street closure is implemented, it should always allow for the free movement of all pedestrians including wheelchair users and bicyclists. Moreover, emergency vehicles should be able to access barricaded streets.  Additionally, street closures must be implemented so as “not to adversely affect access to destination in the community by pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Therefore, based on the attached local, state, and federal provisions and as stated by our Assistant County Attorney’s email, the modification of the existing barricaded streets to include blocking pedestrian access along the sidewalks in the Belle Meade neighborhood cannot be allowed. However, as an option pedestrian free movement may be provided through the installation of concrete pipe bollards.”

Belle Meade residents where quick to point out that the communities of Miami Shores and Coral Gate had completely closed off road access to pedestrians and bicyclists. Mr. Gaspar Miranda, Assistant Director of the Miami-Dade County Public Works, told the audience that both communities had been advised that the street closures had to be removed, setting the stage for a showdown between local NIMBY’s who fought for the walled neighborhoods and County officials.  The Coral Gate wall in particular was only recently completed and was strongly supported by Mayor Tomas Regalado. How can City of Miami officials, from the Mayor to the public works department be so oblivious to County, State and Federal regulations?

In October Commissioner Sarnoff told Belle Meade residents that he would support the fencing of Belle Meade and he even offered to pay for it with public funds.  He instructed the Belle Meade HOA to gather a petition of support. In response, the Belle Meade HOA went door-to-door to get signatures and a surprising 78% of Belle Meade residents supported the fencing of Belle Meade.

Interestingly, the only residents that were asked to vote were neighbors to the east of NE 6th Avenue. Residents and businesses that to the west of NE 6th Avenue were never asked if they supported the fencing of Belle Meade. I’m guessing that if a petition were circulated to them, most would not support severing public access to Belle Meade.  While the County’s statements may make the closings a mute point, in order to make the process truly democratic all neighborhood stakeholders, including those to the west of NE 6th Avenue, should be allowed to voice their opinion.

It appears that the fencing of Belle Meade may not move forward, or at the very least there is a long road ahead for everyone involved. Our readers know that we here at Transit Miami do not support gated communities; they do more harm then good. Fences divide communities and remove “eyes from the street”, perhaps the greatest deterrent against crime. The less people walk the more dangerous an area becomes. Truly vibrant neighborhoods are those that are walkable and allow residents to interact with ALL their neighbors and local businesses by foot and bicycle. Everyone, including the elderly, the handicap and the carless, depend on easy access to businesses on Biscayne Boulevard.

As the neighborhood continues to improve and more businesses come to the Upper East Side the area will naturally become safer. As a resident of Miami for many years, I have witnessed incremental and steady improvements to the Upper East Side - which is one of the reasons I moved here. Yes, more needs to be done, but severing Belle Meade from its surroundings is not the answer.

An alternative strategy for residents and businesses to help advance redevelopment would be to engage local groups like the MiMo BID and the MiMo Biscayne Association. The MiMo Business Improvement Committee is a voice for the business community and with a broad base of support could become a strong advocate for the neighborhood. Similarly,  The MiMo Biscayne Association has been promoting the area successfully for some time - they understand the value of historic preservation and are another organization which businesses and residents should support.

You might be saying, “Thats great for the long term -but how do we improve safety now??” Here are a couple of easily implementable suggestions for making my beloved neighborhood a little safer.

1. Maintain the landscaping that exist along NE 6th Court - policing by Belle Meade residents and police officers would be more effective with clearer sight lines

2.Take action on the abandoned Vagabond Hotel (tearing it down is not an option)

3. Maintain a strong Citizens Crime Watch program

4. Increase the presence of City of Miami Police

Bollards, as suggested by the CPWD, would not allow cars to access the neighborhood.

The abandoned Vagabond Hotel is cesspool #1 on the Upper East Side for crime, drugs, homelessness and probably prostitution.

Check out the new Citizens' Crime Watch sign. Belle Meade neighbors mobilized after a daylight armed home invasion in October.

This is a joint letter Ryan and I submitted to the Miami Herald’s Op Ed section and to the city of Miami Commission regarding last Thursday’s vote on the Empire World Towers proposal:

Commission’s View of Parking is Misguided
By: Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal & Ryan Sharp
www.TransitMiami.com

As transportation engineers and urban planners, we feel that City of Miami’s plans to increase the total number of parking spaces in the Empire World Towers development will have a detrimental effect on both the people and City of Miami.

An Increase in Parking Supply Increases Driving Demand

An increase of net parking spaces – to one per unit, as the city commission proposed – will only worsen the traffic conditions along Biscayne Boulevard and the surrounding streets. The aim of the city administration and all downtown development should be to reduce automobile dependency, not enhance it, especially in one of the few areas well served by public rail transit. Any increases in available parking will only serve as a means with which our residents will continue to neglect and undermine the intended purpose of public transportation.

More Parking = More Traffic Congestion Downtown

It is in our opinion, that the city commission should fully embrace reductions in parking space requirements for all downtown buildings within a 3-block radius of any fixed rail transit station. To do this, the city should unequivocally support Empire World Towers‘ proposed station link to Metromover, not an increase in parking spaces. Supporting both would be contradictory – essentially taking one-step forward and one-step backward. An Empire World Towers station linkage to Metromover will facilitate transit use resulting in a net reduction of vehicular trips, while more parking will do just the opposite.

Miamians possess no innate preference for car use; land use policy in this region has never presented residents with a clear alternative option. Increasing the number of parking spaces in this development will only exacerbate this problem, while doing nothing to make our transportation infrastructure more sustainable.

Car-Related Infrastructure has contributed significantly to Downtown Miami‘s Ills

Every time we allow a policy that favors cars over transit, such as increasing parking mandates, our entire region becomes less sustainable and we all lose. Drivers who are supposed to benefit from more parking actually suffer because traffic congestion worsens. Those who do not or cannot drive suffer because they feel all the externalities of car-dominated spaces, including noisy, polluted, and unsafe streets. Anyone who sets foot downtown suffers because they are forced to walk by so many unpleasant spaces, such as surface parking lots and the blank walls and curb cuts of parking garages. Businesses suffer because fewer people will pass by on foot, while employees will have worse commutes. This vicious cycle has been the status quo downtown for too long, which has left the streets unpleasant and thus a vacuum to be filled by the undesirable elements that people complain about.

Do the Right Thing and Support a Livable, Sustainable Future for Miamians

The inefficiency of the parking system proposed by Maclee is proposed to force EWT residents and visitors to seek alternative means of transit when accessing the development (a direct point made by Enrique Peñalosa to the city, was that in order for public transportation to be successful it would have to be at least equally attractive as the alternatives.) Mobility in Miami will only continue to be governed by the automobile if we continue utilizing land use policies that favor vehicles over people. Transit Miami asks the city commission, with all due respect, to reduce the parking requirements this Thursday for the Empire World Towers proposal.

From the Miami Today:

EYES ON THE STREET: Small black kiosks are popping up around Coconut Grove as part of a City of Miami pilot initiative to have more “eyes on the street,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. He proposed the idea in May, calling for increased enforcement officer presence. The booths are to serve as bases for police officers “most of the time,” he said, and sometimes for code-enforcement officers. During special events, they could also serve as information booths for visitors, he said. The city hopes to complete the booths before the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, which begins Feb. 16. “If this (pilot) works, we’re going to bring it up Biscayne Boulevard around the performing arts center,” as well as to the Upper East side and possibly Little Havana, Mr. Sarnoff said.

The CGG has a different view:

They look like prison guard stations or even worse, Gulag booths. Do they need to be black and do tourists really need an info booth? The Grove is three streets long. The best thing is to let the tourists wander around and go into stores and ask around for things. It will bring more business to stores this way and it makes it a friendlier place than to have a cold black info booth.

We here at Transit Miami like this new approach to keeping our streets safer. The booths will create a place for tourists to seek advice while keeping a vigilant eye on our higher pedestrian areas. They promote safety and tourism while encouraging people to walk about our most urban neighborhoods. I think we could use a few of these along Flagler, Brickell, and Little Havana. Your thoughts?

Leave a comment and let us know what you think on our poll in the left sidebar…

City of Miami Commissioners will be voting today on ponying up their paltry $50 million share of a nearly Billion dollar plan to tunnel from Watson Island to the Port of Miami, providing direct highway access to the facility. We’ve discussed (See: Port Part 1, Part 2) how we prefer a rail option to be sought for the port first, however, given the strength of the trucking lobby it’s only natural that plans move ahead for a vehicular tunnel. The tunnel, rail or not, is a vital link to Miami’s second largest revenue generator and a necessary piece of infrastructure to help reform downtown Miami’s streets. The sidewalk cafe, pedestrianized urban environment will be completely impossible to achieve unless we remove the thousands of trucks and buses which currently traverse the downtown streets.
I received an email with a different opinion:

“The tunnel will take noise off the streets but add noise to the water, thus ruining the experience along the bay walk and Bicentennial Park. Imagine the noise of the trucks as they climb the incline as they leave Watson Island and move toward and past Bicentennial Park and the Carnival Center. This elevated noise will travel over water and neighborhoods ore then the street noise now.

At the least, sound walls would have to be studied and installed if the tunnel was to go forward or the bay walk and Bicentennial Park will be a flop as no one will want to experience the noise traveling over the open water.

I would be far better to create a tunnel cap over all of Watson Island instead of having a cover just over the portion of the new truck tunnel as it comes up out of the ground on the east end of Watson Island. That way Watson Island becomes quiet and an elevated park can be created on top of the tunnel way, linking the north and south sides of Watson Island.”

- Steve Hagen

A Sound wall on a bridge? This is the problem with suburban thinking in an urban setting. Steve clearly has never visited an urban park. I cite the serenity offered by Brooklyn Bridge park which is wedged between two high traffic bridges (Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge) leading to New York City:

Alesh Brings us the Port Tunnel Commercial…

Write to the commissioners and tell them you’d like a new, cleaner downtown free from port traffic:

TRegalado@miamigov.com

AGonzalez@ci.miami.fl.us

FCastaneda@ci.miami.fl.us

JSanchez@ci.miami.fl.us

SWright@ci.miami.fl.us

MSpence@ci.miami.fl.us

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