Miami…it’s time to admit that you have a problem, and you need to get some help.

In my opinion, a recent Zoning Board meeting exemplified a) just how obsessed the City is with parking requirements; and b) how the City just flat out does not understand the connection between parking requirements, urban land use, induced vehicular demand, or how these elements factor into building a sustainable city.

This last Monday, the Miami Zoning Board oversaw a resolution on its agenda calling for a reduction in parking requirements for a proposed affordable housing building in the Lummus Park/South Overtown area. The resolution sought a special exemption from an already excessive parking requirement to allow 58 spaces instead of 103 for a building to be located on NW 4th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues. So, what’s the big deal, other than the fact that this building is located a block outside of downtown and is a 6-7 minute walk from Government Center Station? It’s a “very” affordable housing project courtesy of Camillus House designed to house the ex-homeless.

So in review, this proposed building will be 1) located one block from downtown; 2) short walk to City’s transit hub; 3) very affordable housing for the recently-homeless. Despite these characteristics, there was still substantial deliberation over whether or not to exempt this project from already excessive parking requirements. Never mind the fact that recently homeless folks likely will not (and shouldn’t feel obliged to) own a car, given their financial situations.

In particular, one Board member Ron Cordon, questioned the likelihood of recent homeless folks getting executive office jobs downtown, saying “Jobs in downtown are not typically offered to these people…instead, they will seek out small shops to gain employment…and for that, they will need a car because the transportation is inadequate”. In fairness, one Board member, Brett Berlin, did state that this location is “perfect for someone without a car”.

With the first statement above, I’m guessing Mr. Cordon drives from his house to a parking garage, rarely setting foot on the downtown streets. If he did, he would notice that downtown actually has a high concentration of “small shops”. Also, there are countless job opportunities all along the Metrorail line, which residents of this building would have easy access to without a car. Moreover, this location is just blocks from Little Havana, which may have the highest concentration of “small shops” in the whole metropolitan area. This is easily accessible by multiple Metrobus lines. Also, what about all of the low-skilled service jobs offered by hotels and restaurants, which are highly concentrated nearby in downtown, Brickell, and South Beach? This sounds to me like another example of City Board/Commission members using gut instinct and intuition rather than supporting facts and research. Sadly, these are the same people who make critical decisions that will affect our quality of life now and for the distant future.

Bottom line: Even with multiple reasons to justify a reduction in required parking spaces, the resolution only passed by a 5-4 vote.

Perhaps it’s time to bring in parking guru Donald Shoup to lead an intervention.

8 Responses to Miami Needs a Parking Intervention

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ryan–

    You definitely understand the big picture. I can’t wait until you get elected to public office. I just hope it won’t be too late.

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  2. CDM says:

    I was wondering what was happening with that development. I pass it everyday.

    Location is crazy. I would say it’s practically in downtown (minus the walk under 95).

    There are plently (okay a few) new developments blocks away in downtown without any parking (Lofts I, Capital Lofts, Flagler First…). How was that justified? (I think it is okay, just wondering if there are different zoning laws just two blocks away…).

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Even at 5-4, passed is passed.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Zoning scams?
    Tax scams?
    Serving special interests instead of the public?
    LEGITIMATE ISSUES AND NEEDED COMMUNICATION – ISN’T IT SO FORTUNATE THAT THE FIRST AMENDMENT EXISTS, LEST WE BE EVEN MORE SUBSERVIENT TO ‘THE MAN’ THAN WE ARE NOW? AND WHO EXACTLY IS IT THAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BOW TO?

    So much real information about so many issues and aspects of all of the neighborhoods and communities that make up Metro Miami area never gets to the attention or availability of most people, most voters, most taxpayers …..

    What goes on in the County, the cities, the unincorporated areas, what REALLY goes on, does not get “air time” or print.

    Surfside, a small town in northeast Miami-Dade, is one of many examples.

    Why on earth would Florida state officials want to reign in the over the top spending of local governments? Why would all taxpayers deserve to have their money saved by themselves rather than wasted by out of control local politicians? There are lots of examples. One can be found in Surfside, Florida, where there used to be outstanding government, but now there is the most wasteful, inefficient, incompetent government ever in the town’s 70+ year history. This year they passed the most bloated, fat, wasteful, unproductive town budget ever, serving up a perfect reason for strong state imposed medicine to cure this growing disease.

    Here’s the factual background.

    Surfside 1935: Local residents obtain state approval and create an independent municipality, the Town of Surfside, based on their desire to maintain a community with independence from Miami Beach and to have a small, accountable, and efficient local government to reflect the priorities and well being of its own residents. Over the 7 decades to follow, Surfside has its ups and downs, but generally does a superb job at serving its residents, remaining debt free, and being a widely recognized example for cities and towns and villages all over the nation.

    Surfside 1990 – 1992: Mayor Eli Tourgeman enacts foolish budget policies with a 3-2 vote of his Town Commission that put the Town into the red, ending his term with town deficits. Tourgeman supports a number of major zoning variances and tries to break down the zoning code to get approval for a 20 story condo despite a height limit in the code of 12 stories. The voters turned back Tourgeman’s approval in a referendum that defeated and reversed the condo project’s variance approval. In 1990 he was elected mayor, in 1992 he was voted off of the commission when voters saw his real priorities and he came in last from a field of 10 candidates.

    Surfside 1992 – 2004: Mayor Paul Novack and a new Town Commission unanimously enact budget corrections and fiscally responsible policies and every year for 12 years the town operated under balanced, stable and efficient budgets, with production of increased levels of town services, and numerous capital projects undertaken and completed that upgraded the parks, playgrounds, streets, drainage system, business district, Veterans Park, Town Hall, and much more, all with no debt, no bonds, and with the building of significant town surplus funds to serve the town’s present and future. The town attracted a new Publix and many new restaurants and shops for the business district and made improvements and expansions to town parking facilities. Plans are made for a new town library and hi-tech information center to go on newly acquired property on the west side of Collins Avenue. The town was internationally recognized as a model community, and in 2003 Novack was honored as the state-wide “Community Steward of the Year” in Tallahassee. Mayor Novack was elected by the voters six times to serve as mayor, not one variance for height or density or setbacks or uses were ever approved during his tenure, and he retired from office in 2004 with official tributes from the Florida House of Representatives, the United States Congressional Record, and many others.

    Surfside 2004 – 2006: Mayor Tim Will and a new Town Commission operate the town carefully and responsibly with balanced budgets, continued expansion of town surplus funds, obtaining a grant to help pay for the new library project, and making plans for the renovation and upgrading of the Community Center. The project would have made vast improvements to the facilities and would not have involved any closure or reduction in use by residents. There was no debt, no bonds, and yet there were even further enhancements of many town services. The town was honored by statewide organizations for superb levels of municipal accounting and auditing and outstanding transparency and performance with public funds. After several productive terms on the Town Commission, and service on the Town’s Planning and Zoning Board, and a term as Mayor, Mayor Will retired from public service.

    Surfside 2006 – 2007: Mayor Charles Burkett (who got elected on a campaign designed to try to throw mud and aspersions at former town officials and previous administrations and to lodge false complaints with various agencies as part of a political campaign full of publicity stunts and abuse of public agencies) and a new Town Commission spurs, devises, creates and presides over a new town budget that is actually – by far -the largest and most expensive and bloated and wasteful budget in the town’s 70+ year history, spending actually MILLIONS more on lawyers than ever, needlessly paying millions of dollars of town funds to “settle” dubious law suits that objective outside reviews found had no merit at all with payments made to the claimants (all were Burkett campaign supporters) just before Courts were set to rule in the Town’s favor, spending over $300,000 on a town charette to create false support for Burkett’s plans to change zoning laws and other pre-conceived notions for the benefit of non-resident commercial interests, hired a large law firm for a minimum annual fee of $600,000, no town projects or improved service levels, serious draining of town surplus funds, hired many new consultants with large fees paid by the town, and initiated plans for a public relations campaign to approve putting the town into deep debt with bond issues for as much as $50 million to substantially raise tax burdens on residents for many years to come. The town newsletter is expanded to include political attacks and misinformation every month at a cost of approximately $100,000 in taxpayers’ funds for the one year alone. No projects are undertaken, and the community center pool is closed on a ruse after a pool pump has a minor short that the town fails to repair or replace. During his first year in office many respected town employees leave Surfside including its Police Chief, Town Engineer, Town Comptroller, Tourist Director, Public Works Director, and others, all of whom are replaced with “old friends” and campaign workers of Mayor Burkett. Burkett refuses to release his financial disclosure documents from court cases and his membership on City of Miami Beach boards and committees. Information surfaces that indicates he is really a resident of Miami Beach despite owning a house (one of his many, many properties in Florida) in Surfside. Mayor Burkett seeks to contract out services such as fire service, sanitation services, police services, and administrative services to the City of Miami Beach and private companies. His first year in office ends with a disastrous record of misfeasance, a vastly inflated town budget, no successes or positive results at all, no projects completed and NONE even underaken! and many overall and specific negative results for the community. The important example of Surside which honorably and earnestly served the public has in this last year been stolen, lost, and/or reversed, and Surfside is now just another reason for the state legislature to force HONEST reductions in taxes and budgets because the gang at Surfside Town Hall now are really bad news.

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  5. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Thanks for that Surfside History…Don’t really see where you were headed with it though…

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  6. Anonymous says:

    What has happened in Surfside does seem to offer lessons for all sorts and levels of government situations

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Surfside is a fascinating example of how a community can be a model for good, or an example of bad. Today it is governed by a deceptive group of officials who are beholden to special interests and who are determined to make fools out of voters and taxpayers. It is a scenario that WE ALL need to notice and learn from BECAUSE it offers lessons for all communities in South Florida.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Surfside Florida is the region’s leading financial BASKETCASE. Millions of savings squandered with payouts, no show jobs, no-bid contracts, crazy decisions that have so far escaped all scrutiny and accountability. Taxes UP. Fees UP. Services DOWN. The money flows and flows and to where it goes no one knows? Bond issue on the way AGAIN. Debt. Corruption????

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