Elected Officials of the City of Miami:
The City of Miami is at a crossroads, poised with an opportunity to transpose the status quo from municipal mediocrity into a vibrant, livable community for generations to come. At a time when cities have reemerged at the forefront of urban innovation, Miami’s indolent city commission is struggling with the decision to approve a zoning code that will merely bring us in step with modern planning theory.
Miami 21 is a justified proposition – evidence of its future impact abounds. Our streets are congested and dangerous. Transit is ineffective. Development adheres to suburban zoning codes, promoting unsustainable lifestyles. Our tree canopy is nonexistent. Condominium towers loom high over single family neighborhoods, and our industrial lands are being transformed as jobs are shipped out of Miami. The bottom line is that Miami 21 is not a luxury; it has become a necessity.
Now is the time to act. As Miami recovers from the recent onslaught of development, we must take proactive measures to ensure that any future development in this city heed sound planning principles. The painful recession, caused in part by speculative overdevelopment, should be viewed as our opportunity to regulate market inefficiency through sensible planning for a healthy future.
The truth is Miami 21 isn’t perfect – no plan is. Every planning initiative will face its fair share of detractors; this is the essence of a democratic planning system. Planning is a conciliatory process between community, business, and municipal needs. Grove residents learned this firsthand in the protracted big box saga and are now living with the consequences of a failed zoning and redevelopment policy. To deride Miami 21 for its shortcomings is to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Miami 21 is about establishing urban conformity and regulating development to match community needs. Miami 21 establishes a level of predictability into our zoning code, ensuring that future growth heed constraints set forth by a sound citywide plan. Transect zoning establishes human-scale development, designing spaces around people, not vehicles. It stipulates that future development create safe, healthy, sustainable neighborhoods – oriented to residents – with an added emphasis on green public spaces, multi-modal solutions, and creating a sense of place. Miami 21 also ties together a number of congruent city initiatives namely the Master Plans for Parks and Open Spaces, Coconut Grove, Museum Park, and Virginia Key; the redevelopment of the Orange Bowl site; and transit solutions including the proposed trolleys and streetcar. Together, these initiatives will help reduce traffic, improve livability, and serve as economic engines for future municipal growth.
Contrary to the public misconceptions, proliferated by an ill-informed vocal minority, Miami 21 will change the rules by which developers will abide in our favor. Moreover, the primary source of professional opposition (namely the architects responsible for the most recent slue of dreary edifices dotting the skyline), kindly reminded us that Miami 21 would inhibit innovation and diversity. Not such an appalling proposition when you scrutinize the bland structures that rose when creativity wasn’t “inhibited.” Twenty story parking garages compound our congestion issues, do little to make our streets safer, and promote unsustainable, unhealthy lifestyles.
The City of Miami has spent $2.2 million of taxpayer money directly on Miami 21 and millions more on indirect costs. Millions of hard earned taxpayer dollars – spent in vain if this item is not voted upon by the city commission. There have been over 60 public hearings over the past four years, more than enough time for residents and commissioners to become intimately familiar with the new code. If ever a decision should be made it is today!
Time is of the essence. We cannot sit back and allow such a pivotal proposal wither away because of political differences. Miami residents and businesses will not sit for such costly inaction. The time for more input and clarification has long passed – it is now time to set aside self-interests and enact measures that will help our wonderful community flourish for generations to come. In trying times, successful leaders take action. Only the timid hedge their political futures on inaction.
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal
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