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 [...]
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.
-> “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.
As some of you may have noticed, two of Transit Miami’s writers, Andrew Davis and James Wilkins, have departed due to personal time constraints. Meanwhile we welcome the addition of our latest writer, Rob Jordan, who will be working his way into the website over the next few weeks. Transit Miami is looking for some [...]
- Palmetto Bay NIMBYs are fighting an unlikely foe: Palmer Trinity. When residents turn their backs against school expansion out of a fear of more traffic, there is something critically wrong… (Miami Herald)
- Despite the overwhelming success of the Coral Gables Trolley, plus numerous reports and independent studies which underline the very basic point that the transit system reduces city congestion and the need for 713 downtown parking spaces, Vice Mayor William Kerdyk is still having trouble finding a steady funding stream for the Coral Gables Trolley… (Coral Gables Gazette)
- The Sunpost, has become the latest newspaper to publicize Norman Braman’s efforts to hoodwink the community into thinking that streetcars, tunnels, and public works projects are a sham… (SunPost)
- The Public Works department has made a recommendation to cancel the 104 street widening project in west Kendall. (Community Newspapers)
- Damien Goodmon proposes the most asinine reason why a Light Rail Line should not be built in Los Angeles: Kids leaving school will get hit by the passing trains… (L.A. City Beat)
- Is Suburbia the natural evolution of development? Nope! (Planetizen)
- Phobia of Public Transportation? Have no fear Stagecoach has prepared a manual for Britons who have become too accustomed to personal vehicles, explaining the intricacies that come with riding a bus. (Telegraph)
- The Air Car: The world’s first fully air powered, zero emission vehicle to go on sale by summer 2009 in India and some other select countries. The $12,700 CityCAT is powered by 340 Liters of compressed air at 4350 psi, can travel up to 68 mph, and has an estimated range of 125 miles. (Popular Mechanics)
- Photographs of the BMW X6 sport utility coupe. (It’s Knuttz)
- A Funeral Dinner on a subway. (Oddity Central)
If you’ve ever traveled through the Grove (emphasis on Center Grove for this piece), you’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous gates and walls that fortress off most homes and buildings in the neighborhood. Perhaps many of these residents believe that gates and walls provide a feeling of safety and sense [...]
Anyone who travels down SW 32nd Ave/McDonald Ave (probably by car, given that sidewalks are non-existent) is moving down one the most unambiguous demarcations of poverty and wealth in any major American city. However, instead of the entire Grove community choosing to deal with these socioeconomic imbalances, the wealthier Center Grove has largely chosen to barricade itself from the West Grove’s problems. One gets the feeling that Center Grove residents are just waiting for well-off, private regarding urban pioneers to venture across McDonald Ave, gentrifying the West Grove parcel-by-parcel, block-by-block until it merges with its equally well-fortified South Grove neighbor.
The point is, the infamous gates and walls that have sprouted up like weeds in recent decades are cancerous to civic life and public spaces, as is evident by the astonishing segregation of these two neighborhoods despite their close proximity. We can and should do a better job building inclusive neighborhoods that are critical for democracy, social progress, and high quality civic life. It’s a delusion to think these easily traversable gates and walls provide any legitimate means of security. Thus, instead of barricading ourselves and turning away from the West Grove, it’s opening up to the street and being inclusive that gives the best opportunity for the whole community to be a safer, more democratic place.
- The Houston MTA has voted to use LRT on all of its upcoming 5 rapid transit routes.
- How do you resolve a budget deficit of $29 Million? You spend $102 Million to build a streetcar of course! This method is being pitched by Cincinnati’s City Manager, who argues that the added benefit the streetcar will bring will more quickly pull the city out of economic recession.
- Seattle voters will soon be heading to the polls to vote on a massive transportation bill which will simultaneously expand LRT service and widen highways…
- Alesh provides a run down of how to use Public Transit. Plenty of good points, particularly: the environment, exercise, reading time, and money. The only thing I’d add to the list is social interaction…
- Earth to these people…Lowering the parking rates at the Sonesta will CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS… If anything, parking meter rates should increase to discourage people within walking distance of the grove from driving around in search for a parking spot. If you need help on how to get around without a car, see Alesh’s post above…
- Michael Lewis provides us with some much needed insight on the former fountain in Bayfront Park once dedicated to Claude Pepper…
- Rail apparently isn’t a viable option to connect to the port… We still disagree…
Here’s the quote by Ed which really inspired me to write to them again:
”This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s total insanity,” said Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson of what he believes will become a traffic nightmare at the intersection of Kendall Drive and 97th Avenue.
That’s right folks…We’re going to scrap the cheaper LRT on existing tracks and ROW, because of possible traffic tie-ups along Ed’s commute.
You wouldn’t trust a gambling chimpanzee with your life savings, so why would you allow special interest groups and homeowners associations to plan a transit system around their vehicular needs? Sound foolish? I hope so. But that’s precisely what’s happening at the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee’s Subcommittee meetings in Kendall where plans are underway to design new public transit for area residents.
Various homeowners associations, backed by Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson, are working to garner public opposition to a plan that would make the Kendall community more accessible to area residents by using the existing CSX rail corridor.
The group opposes the proposed light rail transit because of possible congestion the at-grade crossings could create for vehicular commuters such as themselves. Not to mention, many of them believe that their homes (built along the previously existing rail corridor) will decrease in value due to added rail transit; this belief has been disproved statistically nationwide (Source: APTA.)
The Kendall community is at a crossroads. The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile.
It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community.
A cheap shot from Tom Falco of the Coconut Grove Grapevine insinuates that we’re the “whiners” up ahead. For the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce to assert that the downtown is full of whiners is downright absurd. It’s actually comical that our area NIMBY’s have decided to complain about other people complaining…
“I know one purpose of the Metrorail was to have development around to allow people to use mass transit, but Metrorail really doesn’t go where people want to go,” Tom Falco, a blogger for CoconutGroveGrapevine.com, wrote in an e-mail to the SunPost. “The development will do nothing but add traffic and congestion to the area.”
That silly Metrorail line, the obvious way to incite people to use it is build as little as possible around the stations? Hmm.
What really irks us about this billboard and especially its predecessor is the way it takes advantage of a neighborhood within the same municipality. The cannibalization that the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce has committed with these billboards continues to dissect and fragment the City of
“Very good marketing. It has led to comment, which is the goal of advertising.”
The billboard has met its objective, it has led us to comment and take notice of the fallacies portrayed through it, but it also begs the question: what is the objective of the CG Chamber of Commerce when so often residents mobilize against prospective urban commerce?
We turn our attention once again today to the East Kendall Homeowners (Association? Organization? Federation? Coalition of the willing?) to discuss the initial purpose of the group’s existence. The EKHO was formed in June 2005 in opposition to the former Dadeland Breezes development, slated for N Kendall Dr. and [...]
“A massive development called “Dadeland Breeze” is being proposed for our neighborhood. This development will demolish the 3 story apartment buildings at N. Kendall Drive & S.W. 77 Ave. in order to construct a complex of 8 condominium towers up to 8 stories high with nearly a 100% increase in the density of the existing buildings. This proposed construction project is clearly incompatible with the low-rise scale of our “
East Kendall” residential neighborhood…”
I’d like to speak to the person who reasoned that an 8 story building was “out of character” with the neighborhood, but the Palmetto expressway, expansive parking lots of Dadeland Mall, or the gargantuan 6 lanes of Kendall drive just blended in seamlessly with the surroundings. The fact that most
“…It will worsen our already bad traffic, further burden our over-capacity schools, and have a negative impact on the quality of life of our families.”
Yahtzee! “Impact on the quality of life” Now, what impact precisely is anyones guess, but a change that will have us living a more vertical, sustainable, and likely healthier life doesn’t sound so bad, that is, unless you like idling in traffic along US-1 or Kendall bouncing around from parking lots to fast-food drive-throughs.
Imagine that? The Four Seasons was once a 2 story bungalow. By now we surely would have paved clear across the everglades and into
An open letter reply to the East Kendall Homeowners Organization (EKHO):
It is disheartening to see such a motivated and presumably progressive group of individuals that comprise the East Kendall Homeowners Organization speak out so adamantly against a plan that would provide better access to most of the Kendall community. If we are to remain an economically viable community, we must embrace transit growth and the urban living that comes with it, rather than shun it with half-baked objections and trepidation towards drastic lifestyle changes.
The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile. The mentality is further compounded by the opposition to the CSX corridor alternative, presented by Ed Levinson (Community Council 12) last week, which declared that transit along the corridor would only hamper vehicular traffic. This mentality will soon become our prime obstacle in creating a truly urban and sustainable metropolis.
Miami has to sever its addiction to the automobile. Public transit has failed in Miami not because a lack of effort, but because of a widespread opposition to change in community planning efforts and lifestyle changes on the part of our citizens. With regards to concerns on property value, studies conducted by the APTA (particularly in Miami) showed an “assertion that rail transit imparts value to residential property in districts where the population values the access provided by that transit service the most, regardless of the income of the district.”
A less troubling notion is that MDT continues to push costly suburban commuter rail lines, further justifying our city’s unremitting sprawl. MDT should scrap these plans to spread Metrorail across the county to citizens who obviously won’t even use it and should instead work to bring less costly Streetcars and LRT to our urban core. How can we justify suburban commuter trains when we lack the necessary mobile infrastructure in our densest regions?
It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community. It is with all due respect that I therefore ask the members of the East Kendall Homeowners Organization to think about what is best for the future of our community rather than themselves.
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal
Last week, the Miami City Commission voted 4-1 to send the proposed mixed-use Coconut Grove Metrorail Station project back to have its standards reevaluated.
According to the Herald’s article, the project’s developer Carlos Rua has admitted his frustration with Grove NIMBYs, whom he has been trying to negotiate with for more [...]
According to the Herald’s article, the project’s developer Carlos Rua has admitted his frustration with Grove NIMBYs, whom he has been trying to negotiate with for more than a year over building standards and specifications.
Now I know I have lambasted this project in the past for the incredible oversupply of parking being proposed, but as time goes by and this project continues to linger, I find myself disheartened by the lack of progress. I’m tired of looking at the large vacant parcel adjacent to the station as it sits fenced off waiting for the project’s groundbreaking. It’s really sad when you are forced to choose between bad urban design and vacant land, especially on such an important block.
I find it interesting, though, that of all the Grove NIMBY complaints, I haven’t heard any objections over the elephantine parking allotments that will surely contribute disproportionately to increased traffic congestion in the area.
What happens when you have a NIMBY on the City’s zoning Board? Let’s just say it makes for a very interesting discussion on Camillus House. I get the feeling had it been a Biotech company looking to expand in Allapattah, Miguel Gabela’s response wouldn’t have included multiple locations in every city district. Oh, [...]
Click here for images of the cutting edge building soon to be rising…
This billboard was recently erected at the corner of SW 27th Avenue and US-1 by the northern boundary of the Grove. What a bunch of garbage - it appears this sign is implying that true urban living (e.g. Brickell, Downtown) is inherently stressful, while the less urban nature of the Grove is some desirable suburban oasis that is stress-free. What is even dumber is that the Grove and Brickell/Downtown are all neighborhoods within the City of Miami; therefore, this billboard illustrates that Miami actually has it’s own neighborhoods competing against each other as if they were separate cities.
Amazingly, the bike lanes almost didn’t happen. One of Miami’s 387,962 NIMBY groups masquerading as a neighborhood improvement organization, the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, had been a vocal opposition to the bike lanes on 16th. “I understand cyclists want bike paths, but why 16th Street”? Nice argument - I’m sure NIMBYs everywhere were proud.
According to the Sunpost, the real issue at hand is the right-of-way along 16th Street that would need to be taken back by the City in order to accommodate the bike lanes AND widen sidewalks. Similar to the Grove’s opposition over the quality 27th Avenue enhancement project, Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association members are concerned that the City will reacquire public right-of-way between buildings and the sidewalk that has been used for private means (e.g. landscaping). Commissioner Richard Steinberg took the stated position that “widening the sidewalks toward the buildings would not, in fact, encroach on private property, but in reality the private property was encroaching upon the city land”. It’s great to see an elected official embrace the public realm and what’s best for the city as a whole and not the private interests of a few NIMBYs.
photo courtesy of huwkan’s flickr account
I attended the Cocoanut Grove Village Council meeting at City Hall last night, and was pleasantly surprised by the county’s renderings for the beautification of SW 27th Avenue in the Grove. Although it is only in the 30% completion phase, it appears to be moving in a positive direction. Unfortunately, I do not currently have [...]
- Sidewalks: It appears that after years of embarrassing pedestrian-infrastructure, the county is planning on implementing sidewalks on both sides of 27th avenue in a uniform manner along the entire stretch of road south of US-1. It’s sad that I have to even mention sidewalks, given that they are as fundamental a part of a city as any piece of infrastructure, but in Miami this is never a given. I am a little disappointed that the new sidewalks are only proposed to be six feet wide; I would like to see 10-12 feet sidewalks throughout the avenue.
- Bike Lanes: Groveites, as well as any Miamian who frequents the neighborhood, should be very happy to learn that bike lanes are proposed for both sides of 27th Avenue south of US-1. This will be one of the first avenues anywhere in Miami or Miami Beach to get real bike lanes, which is quite a mystery given the fantastic riding conditions year-round. Now bicyclists who ride transit will have dedicated lanes to get to and from Grove Station and the neighborhood’s business district.
- Traffic Circle: One of the most contentious aspects of the plan is the proposed traffic circle at 27th, Tigertail, and Day Ave. The county is proposing an irregularly shaped traffic circle for this intersection, which would allow for the removal of traffic lights. Predictably, Day Avenue residents were concerned that traffic would increase significantly on their street. However, the county is planning on changing Day Avenue from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound, meaning one cannot enter Day Avenue from the 27th Avenue traffic circle. This will be ensured by a continuous portion of curb that will jut out just enough to make the turning angle onto Day Ave from the the circle impossible without going over the curb. I like this idea, because it will force cars to slow down considerably at this awkward and dangerous intersection. It will eliminate the need to wait for red lights to cross, as well as also making pedestrian crossings shorter.
- On-Street Parking: It looks like 27th Avenue will finally get on-street parking. The county plans on implementing 90 on-street spaces along this segment of the avenue, which would look similar to the set-up on Grand Avenue. The plan would have called for more on-street parking, but it wasn’t possible due to the ridiculously large number of driveways on the avenue. These on-street spaces are of the “cut-out” variety, meaning no current capacity will be taken by parking as the spaces are “carved” out of the sidewalk.
- Right-of-Way-Acquisition: Perhaps my favorite part of the plan was the proposed elimination of many parking swales (or parking lagoons) that line the avenue on both sides. These swales equate to such bad urban design for so many reasons, hence my appreciation for their removal. For one, they are just ugly to look at. A high quality pedestrian environment is certainly not define by any space flanked by automobiles. Also, these spots are small, so often times cars are parked on segments of the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to slalom the cars (sometimes requiring movement into the road) to traverse the swales. Also, this provides way too many free parking spaces along what should be a transit-oriented thoroughfare. As long as an abundance of free parking is available throughout the city, especially in close proximity to transit stations, induced automobile demand will remain high and transit ridership will not realize its ultimate potential. Moreover, these swales are just dangerous. They often require backing into the road, or other maneuvering within the swale that breaches the sidewalk. Lastly, these swales have always been located within the county’s right-of-way, and therefore people were parking for free within illegal zones. Therefore, the county is only retaking what is already theirs.
Count them. Not one, or two, but three independent studies call for increased density along the US-1 rapid transit corridor.
21 studies, Miami-Dade Watershed Studies, and Coconut Grove planning studies all encourage increased density along US1 and near Metrorail stations. Miami
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing better than some cold hard facts to combat the closed minded NIMBY thought process:
“Rush hour is already a nightmare; this will make things even worse,” said Kenneth Newman at a recent meeting between the developer and Grove Residents. “A lot of people are saying that it’s not going to work because rich people don’t ride the Metrorail…they have nice cars and they want to drive them,” says one Grove activist [Mr. Nimby] who wishes to remain nameless.
However, studies conducted by the transit department reveal a pattern that seems to have less to do with income level and more to do with urban design.
We needed a study to reach that conclusion after 20 years!? You could have looked at just about any other city in the world to see that we were doing things backwards.
Dadeland South and Dadeland North, the two southernmost Metrorail stations recorded the seconded highest weekly ridership averages of more than 6,500 boardings each. These two stations are not located in high poverty areas.
I wonder, perhaps, by how much the daily use of metrorail is going to increase once the units at Downtown Dadeland, Toscano, Colonnade, and Metropolis come fully onto the market. Let’s not forget about the upcoming
As Ryan showed below, the city is planning on investing millions of dollars to transform the area along
All is silent over at CGG…
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- Miami Urbanist on I Heart Douglas Road
- Miami Urbanist on Pedestrian Hit on Brickell, Multiple Witnesses; Officer Refuses to Issue Ticket for “Failure to Yield to Pedestrian”
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- Sammy on I Heart Douglas Road
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- John on ‘Bayfront Parkway’ Project Envisions a Greener Biscayne, Feb 29 - March 5
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- On the Value of Tight Urbanism February 17, 2012As cities such as Chicago and Detroit put forth programs to turn their neglected alleyways into urban amenities, JoAnn Greco speaks with Daniel Toole, a 26-year-old, Seattle-based architect, who has accidentally become an expert on the topic read more […]
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- Please, Commissioners, get us to the ballpark on time February 16, 2012Miami-Dade County commissioners took a needed step this week to improve baseball fans' access to the new Marlins Stadium. The County Commission's Regional Transportation Committee recommended approval of Miami's proposed shuttle bus system, which will offer free rides to the stadium, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Brickell Avenue and other parts o […]
- Greenway Bike Festival February 14, 2012Homestead Main Street sponsors this event to promote the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway, which will loop through the historic city. This is a fully-supported ride on routes of 62 miles, 42 miles, and 25 miles. You can register at Active.com. There's also on-site registration at 6 a.m. at 41 N. Krome Ave. Green Mobility Network will be helping that day; ch […]
- Climb the bridge for safer streets February 17, 2012