Whoever said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” probably had the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in mind. As if the recent real estate market crash was not enough of a wakeup call for our elected leaders, commissioners recently voted to expand the Urban Development Boundary – the line that separates agricultural and environmentally sensitive land from urbanized areas – for a 9.9 acre commercial development that adds to the existing stock of vacant and undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County. Apparently, some county commissioners didn’t get the memo that their love for suburban sprawl over the past decade led to the real estate market tanking, and to the bloated county government that they now seek to reign-in.
They must have overlooked the 2010 EPA report, “Growing for a Sustainable Future” that described an inventory of 16,140 acres of undeveloped land within the boundary. That amounts to 6% of the land within the urbanized area of Miami-Dade County - currently vacant. With so much land within the boundary unused why are commissioners adding more land to existing capacity? Is it that they want to further depress land values and our economic recovery? Some cite the need for jobs – oh jobs! The latest excuse for any project to be shoved down our collective throats is the promise of jobs. Want jobs? Here’s a stadium. Jobs you say? How about a humongous resort casino?
But, when it comes to the UDB amnesia sets in about the 16,140 acres of empty land within the UDB waiting for development. Let’s put this in perspective– 16,140 acres is approximately 25 square miles. The island of Manhattan – from Battery City Park to 218 street - is only 22.96 square miles. I would say that we have more than enough development capacity to last the next 100 years and beyond without having to touch the UDB – and that’s just with our undeveloped land. Take into account underdeveloped land and we should never expand the UDB again.
Critics argue that the line was never meant to be a solid boundary – but a flexible delineation between the reach of county services and the agricultural and environmental lands beyond. There may be 16,000 acres of undeveloped land in the city– but what about the residents of this suburban neighborhood? Don’t they deserve access to strip malls and warehouses and outparcels within close proximity? What if they need closer services? This particular property is already surrounded by developed residential land – what is 9 more acres of commercial land? Attorney for the project Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said, “You’re not talking about some land that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It’s contiguous with the UDB.” Of course this argument ignores an undeveloped 40 acre tract designated for commercial development, currently within the UDB, as well as the existing Hammocks mall, both within ½ mile of this site and with enough commercial capacity to serve the surrounding community for the next 30 years.
Commissioners might argue that they shouldn’t dictate where development happens. If a willing developer wants to build a Publix on what is currently farmland – so be it. Except they overlook the fact that in expanding the extent of county services, they put us all on the hook to provide those new areas with infrastructure, police, and life safety services. That single story Publix surrounded by a parking lot uses the same services as the 8-story mixed-use building in the urban core – only it provides a fraction of the tax base forcing commissioners to make a choice between two evils: reduce services for the rest of the county, or raise tax rates.
Last week County Commissioner Xavier Suarez wrote a column for the Huffington Post that critiqued Mayor Gimenez’ latest county budget saying that “absolutely nothing changed in the way the county does business.” The same day that column was published he voted to expand the UDB for an application that has been repeatedly criticized as unnecessary, and for which the County’s own professional planning department recommended denial because of the reasons noted above. Our leaders cannot simultaneously seek to reduce the bloated bureaucracy of county government and at the same time expand the extent of the county services. If Suarez and other commissioners want to break the business as usual attitude in county hall they should start with the UDB. The application has to come back to the commission for a final vote in the spring – let’s hope commissioners come to their senses and hold the line – indefinitely.
This week visitors from the EPA Smart Growth office joined the UDB/Hold the line fray as self described ‘outside observers’. They were invited by the County commission, and boy do they have their work cut out for them.
Thursday’s workshop was a mini battle royale, with the developer/attorney camp led by sprawl advocate Jeffrey Bercow pitted against the smart growth crowd. The speakers from the EPA began their talk by saying that they didn’t come with any preconceived notions, but the fact that they represent a ‘smart growth’ office means that they should begin by making it clear that they support smart growth policies, containing growth within a growth boundary and supporting infill. They made no such claims, only to ask us what we wanted from our UDB. For the record the UDB should: encourage infill, encourage agriculture, provide a buffer between development and the everglades, and discourage sprawl.
Several speakers made excellent points on the smart growth side, while only one speaker came out in favor of sprawl and for moving the line, Jeffrey Bercow (and friend Truly Burton who gave her time for his powerpoint presentation). His points were mostly about how we need sprawl. He cited economic reasons (without flexibility in moving the line housing prices will rise), while also saying that most people don’t want to live in dense, skyscrapers (his narrow definition of infill). I pointed out that that was a result of obsolete, auto-centric zoning codes that prohibit walkable, intermediate building types - not a lack of demand on the side of the market. (A point reiterated by this recent study by Todd Litman about the demand for smart growth housing.)
My biggest suggestion to our friends from the EPA deals with the amount of available land within the line. Available supply within the UDB should be calculated taking into account capacity along ALL corridors, not just within 1/4 mile of rail transit stops. This is the only way of taking into account the real infill capacity within the line, and would extend the horizon of available infill land within the UDB well past the time frame required by the Planning Department.
I could go into Bercow’s presentation, but without the visuals you won’t see how ridiculous it actually was. One point he made that I can’t let slip by was to make the case for sprawl by arguing that jobs centers were too far away, requiring further expansion of the line. Uhhh, what? Yeah, he actually said that. Wonders never cease. He (and Truly) also complained of NIMBY problems when trying to support infill development (definitely a problem), while failing to mention how they are both against the most important infill project in the country: Miami 21. Seems like the only thing they really believe in is whatever their clients pay them to believe in.
Transit Miami friend, and manager of urban planning for the DDA Javier Betancourt said it best in his June 2009 letter to the Miami Herald.
By focusing our collective efforts on revitalizing and expanding existing communities through infill development, we will make better use of our land supply, reduce congestion and preserve our region’s valuable natural resources. At the same time, we will realize a number of economic and urban planning benefits, including better connectivity between businesses and the labor force, more efficient use of our existing infrastructure and across-the-board increases in property values.
There are certain critical factors which create a functional street. This street, exemplifies what the urban center of a small town should resemble. Let’s get interactive and discuss some of the qualities which make this such a functional urban space.
Also, Can anyone name the town?
It’s not often that our local politics gets featured in National news media (unless of course it has something to do with Cuba or an international custody battle), but Time Magazine featured an article this week on the UDB fight.
“One of the Lowe’s project’s biggest backers on the commission is Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who is under federal investigation for allegedly receiving gifts from developers whose plans he’d voted for. (He denies any wrongdoing.) Another, Natacha Seijas, who at one commission meeting voiced her dislike of manatees, one of Florida’s most beloved and endangered sea mammals, faced a recall vote in 2006 (which she defeated) due to public complaints that she also was too cozy with developers.”
Wow. ‘Nuff said…You can’t buy publicity like this. Maybe now when the Mayor vetoes this decision, some of the other commissioners will come to their senses and realize that this is a bad idea. The UDB line does not need to move for a long long time. We need to take advantage of the infrastructure that we already have rather than expand. Its very simple math: the more people living in one area the less it costs on a per person basis to provide public services. The same roads and sewers service sprawl neighborhoods at a density of 4 units per acre as they do at 200 units per acre. In a very direct way, our tax dollars go to subsidize neighborhoods whose tax base doesn’t break even.
Ana Menendez wrote a column today about this. She takes the argument a step further and describes the other hidden costs of living in a McMansion out in the sticks. The social costs of living in disconnected suburbs and the environmental costs of paving over the Everglades are never figured into the calculus of expansion.
Even the shortsighted politicians of the area should sympathize with this argument: it doesn’t make financial sense to develop this land. The further west you go, the lower real estate prices are per square foot. This is a trend you see in every major city across the country. Suburbs do not hold their value and end up costing municipalities more because their tax base doesn’t grow.
We need to worry about density and intensity in the parts of town that are served by transit. We need to develop our urban centers, and the mass transit necessary to support them, and we need to stop building so far west and south that we kill any chance we have of having a successful transit system. At a certain point, which we might have already passed, we become so far behind the ball and the city gets so big, that good projects get caught up in NIMBYism and political baggage (read: Baylink and the Orange Line).
Coincidentally, I found myself this weekend at my brother-in-law’s house off of 8th street and 152nd avenue. As I sat in the backyard, which fronts the Everglades, I realized that between the back of his house and the begging of Everglades National Park was only about 20 blocks. Eventually, by default, there will be no where else to expand to. We will have backed ourselves into a corner that no amount of good planning can undo.
“Life science companies such as Schering-Plough, Boston Scientific, Beckman Coulter, Cordis, Noven Pharmaceuticals and others contribute to the biotech economy in the county, said Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero. About 17,000 people are employed by more than 1,400 life sciences companies in the county, which contributes about $2.3 billion in total annual revenue, according to the Beacon Council.”
Private investment will flock around the
Um is also planning on restoring one of
HighlandPark and the Golf Links is a massive stone building, the residence of John Sewell, shoe salesman and the third mayor of . Started on July 20, 1913 it was situated on the highest elevation in the City of Miami . Sewell called his home Halissee Hall [locator], “Halissee” being the Seminole word for “New moon.” In his book, Miami Memoirs, Sewell writes that Halissee Hall was built with “boulder rock grubbed up on the hill” with which he built “the best home in Florida, not the most expensive, but the best home, with eighteen-inch walls of solid stone and cement, three stories high, with a half-acre of floor space.” The original entrance to Halissee Hall, two pillars, can be seen just south of the 836 Expressway near Miami NW 10th Avenue.”
“At a length of nearly 19 km, the Canada Line will be an automated rapid transit rail service connecting Downtown Vancouver with central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport — linking growing residential, business, health care, educational and other centres in the region — and adding transit capacity equivalent to 10 major road lanes. The Canada Line will connect with existing rapid transit lines at Waterfront Station and major east-west transit services, creating an enhanced transit network to serve the region in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The line is expected to carry 100,000 passengers per day at launch and 142,000 passengers by 2021. Travel times southbound from downtown Vancouver will be 25 minutes to Richmond Centre and 26 minutes to the airport terminus. Northbound, trains will leave Richmond City Centre and YVR every six minutes heading to Vancouver. The departures will be coordinated to allow for a train every three minutes on the main line in Vancouver.”
West Kendall Baptist Hospital plans…
What irks me most is the marketing ploy to promote the
fought for the plan — arguing that developer David Brown promised to build a long-sought road connecting Martinez Kendall Driveto a nearby residential complex. It was a job, said, that the county couldn’t complete. Martinez
Sorenson took exception: “Should we make policy decisions based on what developers are going to do for us? Seems to me we ought to be making the policy.”
The Lowe’s vote commanded the most attention. Twice since 2003 representatives of the home improvement giant have tried to convince commissioners to let them build outside the UDB; both times they were denied.
Tuesday they cracked through — even as dozens of people lined up to speak against the plan to build on 52 acres at Southwest Eighth Street and 137th Avenue.
Said Julie Hill: “Further sprawl will exacerbate climate change in South Florida.”
Added John Wade: “We should have a water recycling program working before there’s any attempt to move the UDB.”
But Humberto Sanchez, who lives about 25 blocks from the proposed Lowe’s site, told the story of a recent shopping venture to buy light bulbs. “It took me an incredible amount of time to buy light bulbs at Home Depot.”
Interesting side note: you would not believe how difficult it is to find pictures of Sprawl and suburban office complexes despite how common they are in the American Landscape. Just further proof that we keep building places that aren’t photographic, let alone even livable. Finding a decent picture of a Lowes parking lot was just as difficult because as common as they are, who the heck would want to photograph one?
Uh Oh, apparently there is a UDB vote today…
”If we’re starting to get serious about water, climate and environmental issues, the most important thing we can do is prevent urban sprawl,” [Katy Sorenson] said.
The debate will surely pit opponents to further development in Florida’s most populous county against business interests that say the projects are needed.
One applicant wants to build a Lowe’s retail store near Southwest 138th Avenue and Eighth Street; another plans to create office and industrial space in an area in Doral near Beacon Lakes; two others aim to convert agricultural patches off Kendall Drive near Southwest 167th Avenue to business and office space.
But Martinez, the county commissioner who oversees a large portion of Kendall, believes some of the applicants have an upside. Though the Lowe’s would be built just outside his district, he said the company has promised to build a bridge over Southwest 139th Avenue that will actually “alleviate traffic.”
Alleviate traffic? Thanks Martinez! we weren’t aware of your experience in traffic engineering, do you care to elaborate how sprawl will reduce congestion throughout the county?
In a post I published last week on the transit options available to the
The CSX corridor was never meant to serve as a replacement to the Kendall Metrorail, LRT, or BRT, but rather operate in conjunction with the east-west option. The belief stems from our knowledge of the low upstart cost of the CSX rail, along with the increased benefit citizens in the Southern part of the
Now, we don’t fully support plans to bring transit to the
Similar measures should be set into place for the CSX corridor at key intersections and stations, creating accessible nodes or urban life. The CSX corridor should be limited to a southern terminus at Metrozoo to prevent “justification” of UDB expansion. UDB line movement will be critical to the success or failure of all transit oriented redevelopment in the
We support the use of the CSX corridor to serve as a complimentary system with a rapid transit system along
The latest rounds of Miami 21 meetings begin tomorrow:
|Aug 2||Simpson Park||55 SW 17th Road||6pm||Coral Way|
|Aug 7||West End Park||250 SW 60th Ave.||6:30pm||Flagami|
|Aug 9||Police Benevolent Assc.||2300 NW 14th St.||6pm||Allapattah|
|Aug 15||Curtis Park||1901 NW 24th Ave.||6pm||Allapattah|
|Aug 16||Belafonte Tacolcy Center||6161 NW 9th Ave.||6pm||Model City|
|Aug 20||St. Michael||2987 West Flagler St.||6pm||West Flagler|
|Aug 21||Disabilities Center||4560 NW 4th Terr.||6pm||Flagami|
|Aug 23||Orange Bowl||1501 NW 3rd St.||6pm||Little Havana|
|Aug 27||Citrus Grove Elementary||2121 NW 5th St.||6pm||Little Havana|
|Aug 28||Frankie S. Rolle Center||3750 S. Dixie Hwy||6pm||SW Coconut Grove|
|Aug 29||Hadley Park||1350 NW 50th St.||6pm||Model City|
|Aug 30||Shenandoah Park||1800 SW 21st Ave.||6pm||Coral Way|
|Sep 4||Coral Way Elementary||1950 SW 13th Ave.||6pm||Coral Way|
|Sep 5||LaSalle High School||3601 S. Miami Ave.||6pm||NE Coconut Grove|
The U.S. Green Building Council South Florida Chapter and University of Miami School of Architecture present:
MIAMI STREET CAR UPDATE
7 pm. Refreshments at 6:30 pm, Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Lecture Hall, Dickinson Drive, University of Miami, Coral Gables Campus. and open to the public.
Mary Conway, P.E., Chief of Operations, City of Miami
In recent years, the City of Miami has seen an unprecedented wave of urban infill and redevelopment in a compressed downtown core area, and in adjacent neighborhoods. Miami Streetcar Project has emerged as one essential component of a transportation network that will entice Miami motorists out of their cars, into convenient mass transit, and onto city (and County) streets. Miami Streetcar Project is a direct response to the challenge to provide improved mobility options for users of the transportation network throughout the downtown core. This presentation provides an update on the Miami Streetcar Project, and an overview of the roles that streetcar systems play in shaping cities, by fostering pedestrian-friendly urban environments, and re-invigorated downtowns across the United States. This affordable mode of mass transit is emerging as an increasingly popular application, because of its cost-effective and time-efficient construction, its financial affordability, and its ready adaptability to active pedestrian-focused environments. City of Miami has responded to the local mobility challenge by pursuing multi-agency partnerships and innovative project delivery methods to build the single transit investment that could make a profound difference in re-shaping downtown Miami, in record time.
Mary H. Conway, P.E., currently serves as the Chief of Operations for the City of Miami and is a prominent Civil Engineer and Project Manager with more than 18 years of experience in the industry. studied briefly at Harvard University and the United States Naval Academy before earning a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Miami. was the recipient of the “Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Graduate” award from University of Miami as well as a member of Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon, engineering honor societies. Prior to joining the City, Mary worked with the Florida Department of Transportation for over 10 years, where she oversaw major transportation projects in Miami-Dade County as well Broward to Indian River Counties. She also worked with FPL as a service planner and Beiswenger, Hoch and Associates as a production and project manager. served as Director for the City of Miami Capital Improvements and Transportation (CIT) Department for approximately two years. Mary’s hard work and results were recognized and she was promoted to Chief of Operations and is now responsible for overseeing the following Departments: Parks and Recreation, Solid Waste, General Services Administration (GSA), Public Works and CIT. Mary has also continued her involvement with CIT,responsible for overseeing the planning, coordination,implementation and monitoring of all construction related capital projects and transportation projects in the City of Miami. projects include street infrastructure and flood mitigation; park improvements; public facilities including fire stations, police and other city buildings; marinas; the Orange Bowl; and a state of the art urban streetcar transit circulator project. City’s current Capital Improvement and Multi-year plan encompasses over 1100 projects valued at over $675,000,000 through the year 2010 and will certainly increase as Miami continues to grow. experience, professionalism, dedication and drive have earned her the respect of her peers in the City, with other government agencies and within the engineering community at large.
Business owner Robert Morell called for Spanish-speaking residents to learn English — and was booed by the crowd.
”I am a little bit appalled because if you travel to any other city it looks like they’re going into the future. Some of us still want to live in the past,” Morell said. “I speak Spanish, even though my whole family is American. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t learn the [English] language.”
Tomas Martinez, a regular at council meetings, where he addresses members in Spanish, approached Morell as he left the podium and an argument ensued.
As the men stared each other down, Robaina and City Council President Esteban ”Steve” Bovo threatened ejection from the meeting or arrest for anyone causing a major disturbance.
Ignoring Morell’s suggestion, resident Randy Carter said he would address the council in Spanish.
”I am going to speak in Spanish because when you do your political campaigns you do them in Spanish,” Carter told council members in Spanish.
Members of the audience laughed and applauded.
Despite the fact that this plan is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the zonal mess of
Some residents said they feared being displaced from their trailer homes or that historic landmarks would be dwarfed by seven-story buildings.
I find it amusing that the largely Cuban audience (who typically spends time lamenting over how great a city Havana was) would try to defeat a plan which could potentially bring some of Old Havana’s urban planning charm (by charm I clearly mean the old Spanish, walkable, non-autocentric, dense, ground floor commercial with residences above, covered walkways, etc.) to the city of Hialeah… Like the photo above/below, minus the decay of the past sixty years…
- FDOT planned to remove most of the palms on
Biscayne Boulevardto replace them with shade trees such as Oaks, in order to enhance the pedestrian experience along the boulevard and to improve “safety” along the corridor in a new ROW acquisition.
- The FDOT plan was met by stiff activist resistance, opposing the removal of any trees and opposing the plans by the FDOT.
- To date, 135 palms have been removed, approximately 2/3 of the palms along the corridor which were planted over 80 years ago to commemorate the Veterans of all Wars.
- Trees continued to fall, as recently as February 6.
- On February 7th, the FDOT agreed to stop further destruction of the Royal palms, claiming that the trees removed the day before were either sick or part of the ROW acquisition.
- Today, after the lobbying of Commissioner Sarnoff and Mary Conway, the FDOT has finally agreed to end the destruction. The
Biscayne Boulevardcorridor will now feature much more foliage than had been previously planned, including more Royal Palms and various other shade trees.
It’s difficult to swallow the “pedestrian enhancement” bull the FDOT is throwing at us when the trees are being removed to further enhance the traffic flow along the corridor. As the herald article noted,
The bigger picture I’d like to point out is while one local agency works to make our streets more pedestrian friendly, our city commission is out approving a monstrous structure with 1,700 parking spaces in the immediate area. Note above: the pedestrian friendly streets of yesteryear featured not only pedestrian friendly foliage but streetcars as well. The approval of 2222 Biscayne is a dark reminder of how far we still have to go to improve the urban culture of our city. Any structure on an existing or planned public transit route should feature far less parking than the city code currently calls for and certainly far less than the 1 space/250 square feet offered by this eyesore…
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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