Happy new year blogosphere! Transit Miami is back and better than ever with a tough agenda on the way for 2011. While we are excited about the coming year we didn’t want to move on without looking back at the top 5 events (in our opinion) which rocked our local planning and transportation world in 2010.
5. FL High Speed Rail
With the Obama Transportation policy reform in full swing, Florida’s Tampa-Orlando HSR link emerged as a big winner, securing over $2 Billion in federal funds and virtually guaranteeing the initial 84 mile corridor’s completion in 2015. Despite the near 100% funding commitment from the feds, this project almost faced a similar fate as the Ohio and Wisconsin HSR plans which were scrapped by incoming Republican Governors late this year. Incoming Republican Gov Rick Scott has pledged to fully evaluate the fiscal viability of the line and is awaiting a feasibility study due in February before deciding whether to accept the federal funds.(barf )
4. Construction begins on the Port of Miami Tunnel
At the end of 2009, things were starting to look bleak for the $1 Billion Port of Miami Tunnel intended to divert truck traffic out of Miami’s downtown streets and onto the highway. With funding in place, the port tunnel quietly broke ground in the summer of 2010, finally bringing the 20+ year old concept into reality. The 1 mile tunnel will link Dodge and Watson Islands, providing the estimated 7,000 trucks and countless other vehicles which access the port daily with new, direct access; reducing congestion, and eliminating much truck traffic that would otherwise use normal downtown streets to get to I95. The tunnel is expected to be completed in 2014.
3. Tragedy on the Rickenbacker Causeway
The year got off to a rough start for South Florida Cyclists with the tragic death of Christophe Le Canne on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Le Canne, a 44 year old local cyclist and photographer was killed by a drunk driver on the morning of January 17. His death struck a nerve in growing cycling community. South Florida cyclists gathered like never before in a massive display of solidarity. With an estimated 2,500 cyclists in attendance, the Christophe Le Canne memorial ride (see video below), while tragic, echoed the collective sentiment of cyclists fed up with the status quo. Transit Miami issued a set of design and policy recommendations for the Rick in 2010, and we will continue to meet with elected officials and stakeholders to make the causeway the multimodal parkway we know it could be.
2. FDOT heeds Brickell Community Concerns; more must be done
One of Transit Miami’s big projects this year was the campaign to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell. We organized residents, community groups, business interests, and elected officials to come together to speak with one voice to tell FDOT to make Brickell more pedestrian friendly as they move forward with street redesign and drainage improvement plans. We took field trips with FDOT to show them how unsafe they were desiging the road, and we let them square off with community residents and stakeholders in a meeting that left them looking careless and silly. FDOT eventually agreed to lower the speed limit, add several new crosswalks, and include shared-use arrow (sharrow) markings on the outside lane for cyclists - but more still needs to be done. We are not going to stop until FDOT designs the street to take into account all users, and more than that, places automotive Level of Service at the bottom of a long list of other more important factors (like pedestrian and cyclist safety).
1. Miami 21
After a tumultuous 4 years of public comment, hysterics, and misinformation, Miami 21 was officially implemented in 2010. We here at Transit Miami joined forces with the City of Miami in 2006 in full support of the plan, working closely with commissioners and city officials to help promote the virtues of a solid, form-based zoning code. The revolutionary work in Miami hasn’t gone unnoticed; since its adoption in May, Miami 21 has been the recipient of numerous awards including the American Planning Association (APA) Florida Chapter Award of Excellence, the American Architecture Award, and the Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award. The code has its issues, including excessively high parking requirements (championed by NYMBY groups) and a general lack of T4 around town, but these are issues we will continue to address in the coming years. We remain committed partners with the City of Miami Planning Department, and look forward to seeing how the code works with our existing transit investments to help Miami get through its urban growing pains.
Here is to a healthy and prosperous 2011! Cheers from the Transit Miami team.
As part of the implementation of Miami 21, the City of Miami City Commission is holding a Town Hall meeting today, June 1 at 9AM for the purpose of conducting a public forum on Miami 21.
Please come out and let your commissioners know what you want to see in your community. The discussion will center on Miami 21 but is an opportunity to give ideas, improvements, etc.
Wed June 2 @ Miami City Hall 9am
True to his word, Mayor Tomas Regalado made only minor comments before the City Commission today related to future amendments to the code after implementation. Later, while waiting for the City Manager to make a presentation regarding the budget, the commissioners went around griping about how there was not enough public process, or that the code was still not ‘complete’.
Commissioner Carollo described the lack of public process and lack of time (is he for real??) Commissioner Gort went on to propose a special meeting (after the May 20th implementation date) to bring all stakeholders together to further discuss changes to the code, which he said would be many considering “things that were not well thought out.” Others, like Commissioner Suarez brought up good points related to affordable housing and the impact of downzoning on the city budget. While he made some good points, he also is not sold on the value of walkability or the principles behind the code, going so far as to suggest it was fatally flawed. Commissioner Dunn was very positive, echoing some of what Commissioner Suarez said about affordable housing, but clearly saying that he agreed with the code in principle. Commissioners Suarez and Carollo should take their cue from Commissioner Dun - you can seek changes to the code, but are you really against creating a pedestrian friendly Miami? I hope not.
Mayor Regalado held the commission back saying that is was not “practical” to delay the implementation date. He rightly recognized that any extension would result in the same last minute blitz by attorney’s and told the commission as much. I hope that as time goes on, Gort, Suarez and Carollo take the time to truly understand what this code aspires to, and how it will change our city for the better.
Below is the reply I received from Mayor Regalado regarding the implementation of Miami 21:
Dear Mr. Azenha,
The reason I asked for the delay in the implementation was precisely because the people had not been heard and developers—not the people—had a lot of input in the plan that was approved last October. Miami Neighborhoods United, an umbrella of residents’ associations of the city, proposed many amendments, most of them downzoning next to residential neighborhoods. This was not included in the October plan. We have been placing the amendments in the agenda for the city commission to act. Miami 21 will be implemented on May 20th but there are amendments still to come, not from developers but from the people.
From the Official City of Miami Agenda:
M.1 DISCUSSION ITEM
DISCUSSION RELATED TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF MIAMI 21 ZONING CODE INCLUDING THE PROCESS FOR AMENDMENTS OR REPEAL AND PROCEDURE FOR CHANGING THE IMPLEMENTATION DATE OF THE MIAMI 21 CODE AND ANY NECESSARY AMENDMENTS
TO ANCILLARY CODE PROVISIONS.
This agenda item is being sponsored by Mayor Regalado, who only days ago confirmed to Transit Miami that the administration would not seek to delay implementation. What ever happened to transparency and honesty in government Mayor? What happened to “implemented on schedule”? Unfortunately, the lone Miami Herald article to cover this important topic over the past few weeks (by Chuck Rabin and Andres Vigglucci) was inaccurate and one sided, laying most of the responsibility on the commission, without acknowledging that that there is no commission sponsored agenda item on the subject. The only item related to implementation is this sneaky discussion item (sponsored by the Mayor). (Andres and Charles - what are you guys thinking??) The fact is that if this item does not get heard, then the commission does not need to do anything and the code becomes effective on the 20th of May.
Insiders have told Transit Miami that the last minute blitz by attorneys in reaction to the overreaching MNU amendments has re-energized both sides - and that another delay might be likely. In spite of the high probability of legal and economic consequences for our already cash strapped city, the mayor and the special interests that are pushing this last minute blitz may be looking to repeal the code altogether. I wonder if they have considered the profound economic impact of leaving our city with no effective zoning code while the commission, mayor and special interests get their way. Lets not also forget that the State of Florida, upon approval of the state mandated comprehensive plan that corresponds to Miami 21 (back in October of 2009), gave the city one year to make its zoning code compliant with the comprehensive plan. That deadline will lapse in October leaving the city in direct noncompliance with State growth laws.
Are these people really in charge of our city? With all the other problems that the city is facing, why are they going back and opening a can of worms that will cost the city dearly in lost time, economic development, and improved quality of life?? Remember what happens next Thursday at election time folks. The institutional memory of this commission might be short, but the civic memory of its constituents is not.
Special News Regarding Miami 21 From the City of Miami Hearing Boards Department:
Hearing Boards will accept Planning and Zoning public hearing applications under the current Ordinance No. 11000 until Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm. Please note that pursuant to Section 1304.2.2 of the Miami Zoning Ordinance No. 11000, no application shall be deemed to have been filed unless and until the application shall have been completed. All pertinent and accurate information/documentation; i.e., the plans, reports or other information, exhibits, or documents required, shall be presented at the time of filing, in addition to the paid receipt(s).
I received this email this morning from City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado regarding my previous post on Miami 21:
On the May 13th Agenda the only item relating to Miami 21 is a discussion item regarding the future amendments to Miami 21. As you may know Miami Neighborhoods United was left out of the process and they requested several amendments that this administration has been placing in different agendas. Some have been approved and some were deferred by the Commission. The ordinance is not in the agenda and neither the administration nor the City Attorney have any intentions to place it on the agenda. Miami 21 is for the residents and will be implemented on schedule. Please feel free to contact me if you have any concerns firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomas P. Regalado
Thank you Mr. Mayor!
Its official - Regalado will try to delay implementation of Miami 21 for another six months. I received this draft ordinance from an inside source:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE MIAMI CITY COMMISSION AMENDING ORDINANCE NO. 13114, PASSED ON OCTOBER 22, 2009, ADOPTING A NEW ZONING CODE, TO BE KNOWN AS THE “MIAMI 21 CODE”, FOR THE ENTIRE CITY OF MIAMI, FLORIDA, TO EXTEND THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF ORDINANCE NO. 13114 FROM MAY 20, 2010, TO JANUARY 2, 2011; AND ALSO TO EXTEND THE REPEAL OF ZONING ORDINANCE NO. 11000 TO JANUARY 2, 2011; AND EXTEND OR REPEAL, HOWEVER APPLICABLE, ANY ANCILLARY ORDINANCE IMPACTED BY THE ADOPTION OF MIAMI 21 AND THE REPEAL OF ZONING ORDINANCE 11000; CONTAINING A SEVERABILITY CLAUSE AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
WHEREAS, the City Commission, by way of Ordinance No. 13138, extended the effective date of Ordinance No. 13114 from February 19, 2010 to May 20, 2010; and
WHEREAS, the City Commission, after careful consideration of deems it advisable and in the best interest of the general welfare of the City of Miami and its inhabitants to extend the actual effective date of Ordinance No. 13114 from May 20, 2010 to January 2, 2011; and also to extend the repeal of Zoning Ordinance No. 11000, to January 2, 2011;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF MIAMI, FLORIDA, AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. The recitals and findings contained in the Preamble to this Ordinance are adopted by reference and incorporated as if fully set forth in this Section.
Section 2. The City Commission hereby amends Ordinance No. 13114, passed on October 22, 2009, adopting a new zoning code, to be known as the “Miami 21 Code”, for the entire City of Miami, Florida, in order to extend the effective date of Ordinance No. 13114 from May 20, 2010, to January 2, 2011; and correspondingly to extend the repeal of Zoning Ordinance No. 11000 to January 2, 2011.
Section 3. Correspondingly, the City Commission extends or repeal, however applicable, any ancillary ordinance impacted by the adoption of Miami 21 and the repeal of Zoning Ordinance 11000. If any section, part of section, paragraph, clause, phrase or word of this Ordinance is declared invalid, the remaining provisions of this Ordinance shall not be affected.
Section 4. This Ordinance shall become effective thirty (30) days after final reading and adoption thereof.
Can’t say I’m surprised. Given the many problems facing the City of Miami (and there have big problems) its a wonder to me that the Mayor would pay so much attention to a law that was already voted on and which has profound implications for the future of our city. Why reopen this wound now? This delay is not only bad planning, it is fiscally irresponsible. It will further destabilize land values, and push our city deeper into economic malaise.
Don’t think so? How can any real investment take place in a city where you as a landowner cannot be sure whether the city commission will suddenly decide to down-zone your property? Why would I invest in the City of Miami, where my property rights are based on the whim of the mayor’s judgment. No sir, I would rather take my dollars elsewhere - like Coral Gables, or South Miami, or any of the other dozen cities we have in Dade County. Or maybe I won’t bring my money here at all.
Commissioners: Miami 21 has been vetted. It has been vetted to death. Let it pass. By now, thousands of business owners and residents have made their mark on this code. It already belongs to the city. You will never get everyone to agree because our city is diverse - but we can stand by basic principles. Our code should prioritize walking, provide for active streets, and provide for better transitions to neighborhoods. Miami 21 does these in a way that 11000 cannot. For the simple reason that Miami 21 is a huge improvement over 11000 it should be implemented now.
Please contact your commissioner and let them know that Miami 21 is what our city needs.
Looks like we are close to the end of the Miami 21 approval adventure. You will remember that the code was set for implementation in January, but was delayed so that the new commission could make tweaks before the code becomes effective on May 20. As the commission holds its second reading for final amendments to the code next Thursday (May 13), the Mayor has sneakily inserted a discussion item related to “Miami 21 implementation”. This wouldn’t be alarming if it were not for this Mayor’s distaste for Miami 21 . After the ill advised down-zoning amendments to the code (sponsored by NIMBY group Miami Neighborhoods United) were voted down by the commission, I fear that the Mayor may be looking to abandon the code in favor of a new code rewrite. You will remember that MNU helped Regalado get elected, and he has repeatedly said that he wanted all of MNU’s amendments to be implemented (including down-zoning major corridors to T3). On the opposite side of the discussion, land-use attorneys are also clamoring for the code to be tabled because they know it will stop the developer give-away that has existed until now under code 11000.
City Hall insiders note that there is not enough time at this point to table the code past the May 20 date given advanced notice requirements, but I remain skeptical of the Mayor’s ‘discussion’. I hope that Chairman Sarnoff and the new members of the commission reject any possible political games being played by the Mayor at the expense of City residents. Continued shenanigans with Miami 21 will further hinder our economic rebound by keeping property owners and investors in limbo about the value and use of the their land, while also making Miami a less attractive place to live for professional, working-class residents.
Write to your commissioner to ensure that Miami 21 is implemented as re-scheduled for this month. Commissioners should remember that hundreds of supporters from all five districts came out during the approval hearings. Their call for a walkable Miami must be heeded.
(PS. If you comment on this and live in the City of Miami please identify your district!)
As City of Miami Commissioners consider final tweaks before implementation of Miami 21 this week, they should be proud that our own code is already influencing land use laws all around the country. In our own backyard, the Lee County Board of Commissioners just recently approved a plan for the Southeast part of the county which will be awarded a Charter Award at this year’s Congress for the New Urbanism. The project plans for 150 square miles of Lee County, Florida (east of Fort Myers) that hosts neighborhoods, limerock mines, farms, endangered species and public water supply wells (as a comparison, the City of Miami encompasses 55 square miles). This area is the main water supply for Lee County which is expected to have a million residents by 2030.
The plan proposes a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program to create 11 compact, complete, transit-ready and sustainable communities in the midst of preserved farmland and habitat. All of the development rights in the 150 square mile can be utilized on a fraction of the area previously allowed for development. The project area has 3-unit per acre sprawl to the north and west, but has up to now been ‘‘protected’’ by a 1-unit-per-10-acre density requirement. As with our own UDB/agricultural area, this has led to over development by limerock mining and large-lot subdivisions.
By building more compactly, agricultural lands shall continue to produce local food; natural lands such as wetlands which contain public supply wells are preserved, and pathways for endangered species such as the Florida panther remain undisturbed. Each community has been coded to allow the appropriate level of food production – from large community-supported farms to roof gardens – based on the Food Production Module of the SmartCode. The plan allows build-out of the traditional mining corridor in the northwest of the site hand-in-hand with flowway restoration. By mining compactly, Lee County can satisfy the region’s need for limerock used in building materials and restore the flowways that purify surface water en route to the Estero Bay.
The project included a two-week charrette (including nine stakeholder meetings), 23 steering committee meetings, six approval meetings and was unanimously approved by the County Board. The design of each plan involved input from property owners and neighbors. Each of the proposed new communities is designed in accordance with the LEED for Neighborhood Development criteria. The approval of the communities shall be ‘‘as-of-right’’ as the plans have been approved by local neighbors and neighborhood associations and endorsed by environmental groups such as 1,000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Sites for schools and municipal buildings were embedded into each community within walking distance to homes at even the farthest periphery of the proposed neighborhoods.
This is a big win for smart growth and conservation advocates across the US. Our county commission should look to this plan to learn how other urbanized areas balance mining, development and conservation. Bravo Lee County!!
Miami 21, the long debated and approved zoning code for the City of Miami is coming back to the City Commission tomorrow for additional amendments being presented by Commissioners and Miami Neighborhoods United. Transit Miami supports Miami 21 and asks that the City Commission not delay any more in implementing the new form-based code before revising, tweaking, and amending further areas of the code without knowing the large scale implications on the city.
Transit Miami promotes pedestrian friendly neighborhoods built around a structure that promotes transit and alternative forms of transportation such as bikes. To achieve these goals the city needs a solid foundation upon which to work. Miami 21 attempts to meet many of these by allowing bonuses in high density areas and creating urban centers or nodes. We do not want to see the code further degraded by allowing “free” bonuses allowing builders to build above height limits without giving open spaces or other public benefits specified in the code.
We are not against further reductions in the neighborhoods or height caps next to single family homes however; we have lost sight of the idea of urban nodes. Urban nodes were to provide more height at the intersections of transit routes and major intersections not the typical commercial suburban strip zoning of today. Miami 21 should not reduce height on these urban nodes such as Coral Way at Douglas Rd and Coral Way at 5 points. Similarly, we would agree with a diversity of densities and heights along corridors such as Calle Ocho, Flagler Street, NW 7th St, 27th Avenue, 37th Avenue, 57th Avenue to name a few. Too often these corridors are given one transect zone for miles and miles as if the site conditions never change. We should be developing more near transit stations like 27th Ave and US 1 and less at the intersection of 27th Ave and SW 5th St as an example.
Additionally, specific changes for one area of the city may be better explained in Special Area Plans not in the transect that affects the entire city now and in the future. Areas such as the Marlins Stadium, Wynwood Arts District, or MiMo could be further studied in detail and planned systematically through this process. Special Area Plans are already in effect under 11000 as Miami WorldCenter and Midtown. Here regulations can be tailored to the site in exchange for public parks, transit investments, and other benefits.
Please ask your commissioner to move forward with Miami 21 without further delay and changes prior to the code being implemented. We will continue to fight for the urban nodes that are outlined in the code and fight for pedestrian-transit oriented new developments and the preservation of historic or stable communities.
I will pledge to you Miami 21 will be implemented, but with the input of the new commissioners.
That is enough of a pledge for me to believe that this is not the end of the road for Miami 21. I hope the Mayor lives up to his word.
PS. The Herald article said it best:
…the new commission could be setting itself up for further delay in trying to reconcile often mutually exclusive changes sought by neighborhood activists and developers. Attempts by planners and city leaders to balance competing interests was one reason Miami 21 took so long to win approval.
So it is after four years, countless meetings, and hours of testimony over the fate of Miami 21, that we still find ourselves fighting for a walkable future for the city of Miami. It is absurd that the new mayor (and longtime foe of liveable cities) is requesting that the fractured City Commission vote on delaying implementation of Miami 21 for 90 days (until May 20).
Forget that the full commission voted in favor of the code (with Regalado casting the lone ‘no’ vote), and also forget that over a third of the city is not going to be represented when the item comes to vote tomorrow because the commission seats are empty (a detail that Regalado would have cried fowl over were he still on the commission). Not to mention bringing such an important item to vote right before the holiday and with less than a week’s notice. What ever happened to transparency and public involvement in government? It would seem by the Mayor’s actions that he only believes in these principles as they apply to people who are running for office (not those already in office).
Lets also forget that one of the items being presented before the commission is to delay implementation of the land use changes associated with the code even though these changes, by the planning department’s own admission, have already been transmitted and accepted by the State of Florida. How do you delay implementing something that has already become effective according to state law? Weird.
The newbies to the commission are not likely to pick a fight with the new Mayor, but they should know that delaying the code will only cost the city taxpayers money. The cost to the real estate market will be devastating, as property owners will be uncertain what rights are being taken away from them, further exacerbating the current economic problems. Litigation by property owners and concerned citizens could bring financial ruin to the city. All of this to allow a couple of projects to move forward under 11000? (Another anomaly for Regalado, considering his strong criticism of the previous administration’s relationship with the business community. Why is it now ok to change the law around to suit private development?)
If reconsidering the code is about allowing projects already in the pipeline to move forward then the commissioners should propose that they advance these projects under 11000, while not moving back the start date for Miami 21. I urge all three commissioners to respect the votes of the previous commission and allow the code to become effective. All new commissioners will have time to review and propose changes to the code - but it has to be allowed to start functioning. How the new commissioners vote tomorrow will be a strong indicator of what smart growth advocates can expect from our newly elected officials. I am deeply concerned that the progress we made this year in advancing smart growth and walkability will be have been shortlived. I hope I am wrong.
PS. Dear Commissioner Sarnoff: please don’t increase parking requirements downtown. That’s just plain dumb. We don’t need more parking. I drive downtown all the time and never have trouble finding parking. Evidence from around the world shows that cities are reducing requirements to support pedestrian life. Please listen to your professional city planners (and local professional planners like me) when we tell you that parking requirements downtown should be very different from parking requirements in Kendall. Read up on Donald Shoup, guru of parking.
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