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.”

Related posts:

  1. Free Fruit Trees
  2. Pic O’ The Day - Brickell’s Triangle Park Rising
  3. Miami 21 Under Attack By New Mayor
  4. Brickell Homeowners Association: Meetings with FDOT: necessary, frustrating, ongoing
  5. Another Pedestrian Hit on Brickell Avenue

8 Responses to Brickell Trees Under Attack

  1. Johnny says:

    Blocked views? These are the same people that move next to empty parcels/lots and then complain that a new building is going to block their views. Pathetic.

       2 likes

  2. Albert Garcia says:

    It is unbelievable the amount of mis-information that has circulated over this issue (on both sides). I’ve been involved in many discussions with many neighbors and even strangers who have joined in to protect the trees. I am one of “those people” who’s bay view is obstructed by trees, but my wife and I love the trees and were opposed to the idea the second we heard about it. And, so were our neighbors below us. So, while some folk obviously protested about the trees, it wasn’t everyone who’s view is blocked. And, for the record, I didn’t see or hear of Lovo getting involved until just recently. If he is truly interested in helping to make Brickell Bay Drive better, perhaps he should start by picking up after his dog.

       1 likes

  3. Craig Chester says:

    Thanks for the comment, Albert.

    What I find unbelievable is that this hairbrained attempt got as far as it did - complete with the City coming out to measure and report on each and every tree, compiling the report I linked to in the post. An epic waste of time, money and energy for an already financially-straped municipality. On the other hand, it was encouraging to see Brickellians stand up for their neighborhood and thwart this disaster.

    Craig

       1 likes

  4. Albert Garcia says:

    @Craig: I agree with you 100%. I’ve been living on Brickell Bay Drive for 12 years and in the Brickell area for almost 30, and I’ve never seen so many people rally behind one cause (BTW, the city removed a couple of trees from Brickell Bay Drive not too long ago, without notice or fanfare). I would love to see that kind on community involvement continue. I love Brickell, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Unfortunately, most citizens rarely get involved with community projects. Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever need help.

       1 likes

  5. Craig Chester says:

    Albert, drop me a line at Craig@TransitMiami.com so I have your e-mail address.

    Thanks!

    Craig

       0 likes

  6. Jose leiva says:

    TREES ADD BEAUTY AND IMPROVE PERSONAL HEALTH
    Picture your town without trees. Would it be a place where you would like to live? Trees are major capital assets in America’s cities and towns. Just as streets, sidewalks, sewers, public buildings and recreational facilities are a part of a community’s infrastructure, so are publicly owned trees. Trees-and, collectively, the urban forest-are important assets that require care and maintenance the same as other public property. Trees are on the job 24 hours every day working for all of us to improve our environment and quality of life. Without trees, the city is a sterile landscape of concrete, brick, steel and asphalt. Trees make communities livable for people. Trees add beauty and create an environment beneficial to our mental health. Trees add natural character to our cities and towns. Provide us with colors, flowers, and beautiful shapes, forms and textures. Screen harsh scenery. Soften the outline of masonry, metal and glass. Can be used architecturally to provide space definition and landscape continuity. Trees impact deeply on our moods and emotions, providing psychological benefits impossible to measure. A healthy forest growing in places where people live and work is an essential element of the health of the people themselves. Trees create feelings of relaxation and well-being. Provide privacy and a sense of solitude and security. Shorten post-operative hospital stays when patients are placed in rooms with a view of trees and open spaces. Black Olive Trees have high salt tolerance: Source: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st102 Black Olive Trees do well in sea-side locations, heavy branches very wind tolerant. Source: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st102
    The beautiful 22 Black Olives in Brickell Bay Drive contribute to a sense of community pride and ownership, and I have not mentioned the impact it will have on the wild life that call these trees home.

       0 likes

  7. Kyle says:

    Props to Marc Sarnoff for stopping this from happening. In this city, I unfortunately, always expect the worst of our politicians, but not this time.

       0 likes

  8. Adam says:

    Good job!!!

       0 likes

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