Some of you may have read about the recent debacle caused by the FDOT and Biscayne Boulevard preservationists over the removal of nearly all of the Royal Palms along the streetscape. Here’s the abridged version of the recent events:
  • FDOT planned to remove most of the palms on Biscayne Boulevard to 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 Boulevard corridor 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, Miami’s tree canopy is an abysmal 10% (compared to 30-40% in other denser, pedestrian-minded cities) and yet, the solution to improve our tree canopy dysfunction involved the removal of existing trees. I guess we’re trying to maintain it at 10%, rather than improve upon it.

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…

12 Responses to FDOT Plan to Pave Over Palms is Finally Nixed

  1. Steven says:

    I just love the concept of a traffic circle with a rail crossing… even if it is a streetcar. Imagine that with the current traffic!

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  2. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Madness! Two foreign concepts with Miami’s foreign Drivers would equal a disaster today…

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  3. Manola Blablablanik says:

    That postcard scape looks so pretty. (sigh)

    WHy can’t they plant trees AND keep the royal palms?

    Also Gabe, is that % of foliage reduction in part due to hurricanes?

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  4. Javier says:

    For once I agree with the tree huggers. I’m no urban landscaping guru but, I’m not sold on the Live Oak idea, due to higher maintenance costs, among other reasons. I’m beginning to appreciate Sarnoff’s activism more and more everyday.

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  5. Dave says:

    Royal Palm’s add nothing in the “foliage” department as they are tall and thin with no canopy and thus provide no shade. I think that was the point that FDOT was trying to make as they proposed trading palms for “shade trees”.

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  6. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    I agree with the shade tree idea, just as long as it wasn’t at the expense of so many Royal Palms. Oak trees are perfect shade trees in Miami, seeing that they require very little upkeep and are extremely hurricane resistant.

    Manola, No I’m afraid Miami has always had a very thin canopy. It’s from the Clear then Build Mentality…

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  7. Ryan says:

    The problem with the royal palms is that they are 50-60 feet tall, which appear as little more than poles to pedestrians at grade. Plus, they don’t provide any canopy, which is typically cited as one of the main reasons people don’t walk around here.

    The City of Miami ultimately wants shade trees (the oaks) to be placed BETWEEN the royal palms, thus offering the best of both worlds. The tropical vibe will not be lost and the pedestrian environment will be enhanced.

    Hurricanes obviously have an affect on our canopy, which is all the more reason to plant as many trees as possible along our sidewalks in order to offset inevitable future damage.

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  8. David says:

    Ryan’s analogy of royal palms as 60-foot poles is identical to those who proposed the royals’ removal. To call one of (if not the) most majestic of all palm trees a pole indicates a lack of understanding of South Florida’s sub-tropical pride and sub-tropical landscape.

    Lack of canopy is not why people do not walk in Miami. Miami’s layout is comparable to that of other sprawling U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta…it is way too spread out for anyone to walk anywhere past their immediate neighborhood.

    “Pedestrian Friendliness” is the latest catch phrase being used by a number of people who want to transform Miami into a northern town. The city should focus on adding more pedestrian friendly crosswalks and educating drivers to yeild to pedestrians before we allow our tax dollars to be used to destroy our tropical lanscape.

    Royal palm lined Biscayne Boulevard has played a significant role in Miami’s history. It should be preserved. Kudos to the SavePalms folks for working on this issue.

    There are plenty of areas in Miami which are in dire need of canopy – including our city parks. The neighborhoods adjacent to Biscayne Boulevard have ample canopy (try a google satellite scan of the area, you will agree).

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  9. Ryan says:

    David, first of all you’re idea of “majestic” is highly subjective and I would even say rather questionable – you obviously have no idea which urban design elements make for stronger pedestrian realms.

    Secondly, I was not advocating for the removal of the palms, I was advocating for both the shade trees and the palms.

    Thirdly, “pedestrian-friendliness” is not a catch phrase, it is a major goal for the City.

    Fourthly, in my comment I was talking about tree canopy along Biscayne Blvd., not in surrounding neighborhoods. As for the satellite imagery, however, you must not be looking at the same thing I am. I see a sun-baked Biscayne Blvd, as well as relatively canopy-free streets in adjacent neighborhoods. Just because you see trees doesn’t mean they make successful canopies. Most of the trees you see are located in the quasi-private neighborhoods east of US-1. If you look closely, you’ll see that the few trees are actually along sidewalks. We can have trees everywhere, but they will not enhance the pedestrian realm if they do not provide shade along sidewalks.

    Lastly, if you think the reason people don’t walk in Miami is because everything is too spread out, what do you advocate for a solution to this problem?

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  10. Robert says:

    I say keep the palms but plant the oaks. Honestly, I would have been happy if they would have removed half the palms and replaced them with oaks. Two-thirds is too much. Replacing Royal palms with oaks would improve our tree canopy.

    Fact is, we’ve grown a bit too enamored with palm trees. Yes, they are nice and “tropical”, but they don’t give much shade. Oaks are native to South Florida, require virtually no maintenance, attract wildlife and handle hurricane winds very well. Actually, I think Miami-Dade County has realized that we need shade trees. If you notice a lot of the newer plantings on street medians, they are going more for native shade trees and less for palms.

    How about the Royal Poinciana? Yes, they’re not native and the root system can be a problem, but is there a more scenic canopy drive anywhere than South Miami Avenue just south of Brickell in June?

    Remember, the natural landscape of South Florida is mostly savannah – in other words, flat grasslands with little in the way of trees except in small hammocks or pine strands. Take a trip west of Krome Avenue/Okeechobee Road on Tamiami Trail or Alligator Alley and that was much of metro Miami’s landscape 150 years ago. That’s a big reason we don’t have many trees, there weren’t many to begin with.

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  11. Adam says:

    I have to say that Royal Poincianas are really awesome to walk under. I also like Oaks and Gumbo Limbos.

    Thinking about the tree line should be done the same way a good architect thinks about the skyline-impact of their tall building. The Sears Tower in Chicago is a good example of how architects can keep the building’s “look” on an appropriate level depending on where the viewer is standing. Miles and Miles away it is seen as an enormous tower, but standing at the base of it it doesn’t feel overbearing. The treeline should be a sight to see from the causeways and far views with royal palms, but should also be nice to walk under with shade and texture.

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  12. Mike Arias says:

    Hello,

    Let me take this opportunity to state that although I fully support beautifcation landscaping projects throughout the City, along with much needed canopy cover throughout the City to provide shade cover for pedestrians however there also needs to be consideration for the public safety of the motorists as well.

    An errant vehicle can collide into a tree that is installed in the middle median or adjacent to the roadway just like numerous utility poles are currently located and depending upon the diameter of the tree or utility pole can seriously injure or kill a motorists involved in a slow speed collision of 40 mph or less especially if they are not wearing their seat belts and are driving a compact size vehicle.

    Lets not create additional potential safety hazards on the public roadways for motorists, (motorcyclists which are the most vulnerable on the public roadways) in addition to the numerous potential safety hazards already in existence on the public roadways which are certainly not beneficial for everyones public safety vested interests.

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