A few of this weeks news:
- A bill to authorize a major deal between CSX Railways and the State of Florida to provide 61 miles of commuter rail around Orlando is trying to get through the State legislature today before the session ends. This would be a great move in the right direction for Central Florida. It also revives hope of a statewide rail system that could connect major urban centers and connect to local commuter rail. It is a boon for regional transit, and a great opportunity for rail lines throughout the state to really consider the benefits of public-private partnerships with municipalities as a way of providing mass transit. I for one want to see a line along the FEC corridor from downtown Miami to Ft. Lauderdale and points beyond. Then we’ll be cooking with gas.
- Surprise surprise, we are again in the top 5 cities with the worst traffic. It’s no wonder Miami is the cleanest city in the country, nothing gets dirty if everyone stays in their car…
- Not to beat a dead horse….I was trying to make this UDB fight a little less frustrating by being optimistic about the future of planning in Dade County when I read a couple of letters in the Herald today from Katy Sorenson and Natasha Seijas. Kudos to Commissioner Sorenson! You really get what this is about. Shame on you Commissioner Seijas! Your blatant disregard for the environment is clear from your leadership record on this issue. You claim that the UDB has been around since 1983, but according the Planning Department documents, the UDB was an implied line that was enforced by land use policies and maps since 1974. According to these same documents, based on an influx of 30,000 people a year, we have enough residential capacity until 2018, enough commercial until 2025, and industrial until 2029. I find it hard to understand why, given the best judgment of the county planning department, basic good planning principles, and negative recommendations from two different regulatory bodies, you wold move forward with this obviously backward decision. If, as you say, you are awaiting a report from the EPA, why not delay these decisions until then? Please save your platitudes for your constituents, and don’t patronize us by pointing out that the land use policy outside the UDB is just as bad as it is in. Thanks. If you really were really interested in solving these issues you would work on fixing these issues, and not touch the UDB. Here’s a suggestion, how about some creative thinking about our agricultural land and where we get our food. For example, if local agricultural interests worked to supply Dade County Public Schools with part of their dietary needs, you would find reduced shipping costs, and increased demand for local produce. I’m sure if you put your thinking cap on you could think of some win-win solutions (to quote Kordor). Incidentally, I made a little graphic that shows how commission votes were divided geographically across the county (green is against expansion and pink is pro), and what it shows is that the commissioners who voted no are predominantly in areas that are at risk of facing future UDB fights (Districts 8 and 9) or facing a backlash of overdevelopment (District 4). Commissioners Sorenson and Moss cover a great part of the developable land outside of the UDB. Interesting…
”This is a very beautiful thing that will look good on the bay,” said Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who said it could compare to Sydney’s signature Opera House in Australia.
Evidently Natacha has never visited, let alone seen what the Sydney Opera House looks like. The preliminary designs by Chisholm Architects more likely resembles a cheap imitation Mies van der Rohe house, on steroids. Even then, remotely comparing this thing to any Mies van der Rohe structure is glorifying it far too much; this thing is HIDEOUS folks. What’s more, it’s boxy shape apparently tries its best to pave over the full 4.5 acre park (like most Cuban-American homes in Hialeah…)
”Obviously, the area has changed dramatically from what it was in the past,” said Chairman Bruno Barreiro, fretting that nearby development was leaving the arena without sufficient parking. “I think we might hamper and will hamper the arena if we do not really consider an additional parking structure with amenities on that site.”
Some said it could maintain a park-like atmosphere with the right landscaping. ”You could design these things nowadays with a lot of greenery around the edges and borders, a very friendly pedestrian use,” Barreiro said.
AKA: We’ll skimp out due to cost overruns and plant some Queen Palms…
Now, let’s apply some of the principles learned by the studies conducted by William Whyte on successful urban spaces in the late 1970′s and portrayed in this Month’s BoM.
Blue Circle: First and foremost a successful Urban Park is no more than 3 ft above or below the surrounding pavement, thus making the two flights of stairs necessary to enter the only open space left in the 4.5 acre park and immediate physical and sociological drawback to the urban space. An excerpt:
“Circulation and sitting, in sum, are not antithetical but complimentary. It is to encourage both that the zoning stipulates the plaza not be more than three feet above or below the street level. The easier the flow between street and plaza, the more likely people are to move between the two- and to tarry and sit.”
Red Circle: Large concrete open spaces do not bode well in the Miami sunlight. See those little people walking around in the plaza? Their a figment of someone’s imagination because nobody, in their right mind will be attracted into an unshaded, concrete park, two flights of stairs above street level, and in an area whose eastern bay view is completely obstructed by a blank concrete wall…It’s just not happening. An Excerpt:
“In summer, [people] will generally sit in the sun as well as the shade; only in very hot weather- 90 degrees or more- will the sunny spots become vacant.”
Yellow Circle: Street interaction? Inexistent. There is some foliage provided as Barriero suggested, but its only in place to cover up the monstrous parking garage this building will sit atop. The site is foreboding to pedestrians and the on street parking depicted is highly unlikely, given that a garage is being constructed…
Green Circle: Look at the public access to the Bay. Also Inexistent. It appears that the Museum has taken advantage of the beautiful vistas and has wholly blocked off the easter views to the non-paying public. The covered breezeways on the east side of the building provide cover only to museum patrons.
Heck, we’d do anything to revert to the original plans which included an apartment building attached to an entertainment complex…Anything but an above ground parking structure on prime public waterfront land…Are these people even thinking?
Miami-Dade County Approved the funding for the Port of Miami Tunnel…
”This project is morally wrong,” said Miami attorney Nicolas Gutierrez, who represents the descendants of a Cuban family whose property was expropriated by the Castro regime. One of the resorts that the Bouygues affiliate helped construct is on the family property in eastern Cuba.
But in the end, only Commissioner Javier Souto, a Bay of Pigs veteran, specifically mentioned the firm’s ties to Cuba in casting his vote against the deal. Also voting against the deal were Commissioners Natacha Seijas and Rebeca Sosa.
Vice-Chairman Dennis Moss was quoted, “It’s not an easy situation and folks are not going to give in in terms of their philosophies”.
Here’s a philosophy: We’re all screwed if the recommendations from the watershed study are ignored. Why? According to the study:
- The South Miami-Dade Watershed region is expected to nearly double in population by 2050, going from 791,000 in 2000 to approximately 1, 500,000 in 2050.
- The Watershed cannot continue to grow as expected without substantial consequences to its water and natural resources, quality of life, and community characteristics
- The Watershed Plan calls for a Smart Growth (which we’ve preached for over a year ad nauseam) approach to accommodating future population growth; however, if the the alternative (sprawl or current) approach continues the watershed area will negatively and irreversibly be changed
- The waters of Biscayne Bay will be subject to substantial increases in water pollution
- 3/4 of our agricultural areas will be lost to sprawling, low-density residential subdivisions
- Traffic congestion will increase significantly
- The effectiveness of the $8 billion Everglades restoration program will be greatly reduced
- It is estimated that the “sprawl scenario” will cost nearly $8 billion more for infrastructure than the recommended Watershed Plan between now and 2050, which does not even include substantial environmental costs (who’s going to be funding most of this unnecessary, unsustainable infrastructure? Mostly taxpayers.)
Seijas, easily the worst of all the county commissioners (and that is really saying something), who is lucky to even have a job after threatening a fellow commissioner’s life during session in the County Chambers, is leading the charge to foil implementation of the watershed study. It shouldn’t be of much surprise to citizens, given that she is profoundly connected to developers and pro-sprawl interests as evidenced by her consistent voting record to move the UDB line and quotes like “I don’t see why we need to be creating an environment for them (Manatees) to continue”.
Her opposition is significant because she is the chairwoman for the GOEC, which oversees urban growth policies and monitors the utilization of our natural resources. What’s she saying?
“I don’t think this study should be used to do anything (involving major land-use decisions)”.
OK, so nearly $4 million, six years of research, and perhaps the future of our region may be down the drain if she gets her way. Some Commissioners are talking about potentially adopting some aspects of the Plan but ignoring the land-use aspects. Duh. It doesn’t work like that. ALL OF THESE ASPECTS ARE INTERCONNECTED.
This is the type of business that makes my blood pressure boil because the incompetence and special interest pandering is so blatantly obvious, shameless, and completely detrimental to the area’s future. This is the same type of incompetence and slipshod politics that has sadly become standard practice for many of our elected officials. It has become obvious that expert opinion, research, and administrative work are almost entirely irrelevant in this county, because our elected officials instead use their own pet theories, intuition, and self-interest to make decisions that will negatively affect the area for many generations to come. Frankly, it is not only unprofessional, but completely embarrassing.
SELF-INFLICTED BEANBALL: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas says the Florida Marlins hardly helped themselves over the weekend with their insistence that the team’s stadium be built downtown on a site designated for the county’s new juvenile-justice center. The team’s comments were a “completely and absolutely offensive” brushback of the county’s children, Ms. Seijas said Tuesday during a meeting of the commission’s Governmental Affairs and Operations committee. “The Marlins need to be more respectful when interviewed on TV. They need to be more respectful of the children’s courthouse.”
Ok, so Natacha Seijas has no clue what she’s talking about, right? Big Deal? Well, yes it is a big deal because she’s one of our Fab 13 who will be deciding where we will one day place the stadium in question. Given her take on the manatee, I’m sure she’d have no qualms with paving over everglades to accommodate anything…
In any case, like I mentioned above the stadium issue has gotten more complex. Now Michael Cannon, a “real-estate researcher” whatever that is, is declaring that the new Marlins’ stadium should be constructed on the Melreese Golf Course property. Sure, it would be next to the Miami Intermodal center, but, why complicate that project any further, FDOT has been constructing it since the late 90’s and we’ve yet to see any considerable progress. The Marlins’ stadium belongs in the city center which a new MLB drawing will soon depict, according to Miami Today:
COMING SOON: Major League Baseball is preparing a schematic of a stadium as it would appear in the proposed downtown location. “As soon as they have something formalized, they’ll bring it to us,” Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said in a committee meeting Tuesday. The Florida Marlins want a retractable-roof ballpark with 37,000 seats and 60 suites to be built on nine acres of county- and city-owned land just north of the county government center north of Northwest Second Street, east of Interstate 95 and west of Metrorail. Commissioners have been reluctant to give full backing of the downtown location. “I know there are not seven votes here for this site,” Mr. Martinez said at a Tuesday meeting of the Government Affairs and Operations Committee. The favored plan is to replace the Orange Bowl with a ballpark.
Things can’t possibly get any worse, right? Try again. Plans also resurfaced at a recent commission meeting by Jose “Pepe” Diaz to analyze a “Bayfront” park idea. That’s Bayfront as in Bicentennial Park, the same park slated to for the new home of the MAM and Museum of Science, apparently chop liver and easily moved to sites elsewhere…Apparently it doesn’t matter if MAM has already contracted Herzog and DeMuron to design their new complex. The Millions spent thus far on plans to recreate Bicentennial into Museum Park also seem to be dispensable, after all, its only taxpayer money and there seems to be a never ending supply of it, why not keep wasting it? The Bayfront idea will never fly. We voted to create bonds to establish a cultural icon on the site, not another waterfront sports venue.
BACK TO THE BAY: Some formerly favored sites for a stadium haven’t been discarded, county commissioners say. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said he has asked County Manager George Burgess to give further study to putting the ballpark on the Biscayne Bay front. “I’ve asked him to look at it,” Mr. Diaz said, though he said he doubts a bayfront site is viable. The 29-acre Bicentennial Park, designated for a pair of museums, got a passing mention Tuesday. “If the city somehow has a change of mind, then that location would be back on the table,” Mr. Diaz said. Also back on the table, he said, would be the problem of parking. That’s been a major challenge for the bayfront Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, he said, and would be an even bigger one for planners of a ballpark on the bay.
Parking not the issue, not building any parking to along with the Carnival Center is the problem, which was under development since the 80′s…That’s the problem. Museum Park should feature underground parking, beneath the museum structure, with enough parking for some, but not all of the Museum Park visitors. The point is to provide some parking and some public transit, but just little enough to price people into not driving…
What is so incredibly difficult about agreeing on a single location for the Marlins’ stadium? Why can’t the Commission show some solidarity? One is discussing the orange bowl site while another asks for research on the Bayfront site and I’m sure someone else is still fixated on the Hialeah plan. There may very well be 13 different plans on 13 different sites floating around the Commission chambers. Heck, they’re not even sure of why it shouldn’t go in downtown. It’s amazing how hypocritical they are, somehow the Children’s courthouse poses as an insurmountable obstacle to placing the stadium downtown, but yet the two iconic museums and parks can be easily relocated elsewhere…Go figure!
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- Greenway Bike Festival February 22, 2012