Currently viewing the tag: "Planning"

Forty years since the publication of a visionary transportation planning document, the shortcomings of Miami-Dade County’s transportation reality suggest that we lost our vision somewhere along the highway, literally.

TransitMiami invites you to take brief trip through time . . .

THE PAST

The year is 1973. The Dade County Public Works Department has just released its State Transportation Programs Proposal for Dade County 1973-74.

In it, a chapter titled Mass Transit (pp. 72-98) makes declarations of a new “beginning on development of a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County, in which “non-highway elements” are stressed to be at least part of the solution to Dade County’s burgeoning population and economy.

Indeed, there seems to be a fundamentally new consciousness — dare I say, a paradigm shift — reorienting the urban planning and public policy realms away from highways and toward mass transit.

StateTransportationProgramsProposedForDadeCounty_1973_1974

Around 1973, this is the vision the County had for University Metrorail Station. Note the dedicated busway right along US-1. Note the wide sidewalks and crosswalks. Note the number of pedestrians. Note the relative “completeness” of the streets, save for the absence of bicycle facilities, etc. Compare this with this same site (US-1 and Stanford Drive, Coral Gables) today, especially in light of recent considerations to build an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing US-1.

The beginning of that Mass Transit chapter reads:

Metropolitan Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation in recent years have become increasingly active in planning the improvement of mass transit facilities. With less emphasis on highways alone, programming efforts have been broadened to multi-modal transportation facilities, including airports, seaports, rapid transit, terminals for truck, rail and bus companies, as well as the highway and street system that serves them and provides local traffic needs.

There’s a sense that perhaps the mid-20th century notion of highways being the transportation panacea has finally begun to lose potency. A more holistic, more enlightened view has apparently begun to gain traction, one which posits that transportation corridors and corresponding land-uses perform best when designed to serve the myriad means and purposes of mobility, as well as the urban environment’s diversity of functions.

Here are some of the major mass transit proposals from the report:

  • 53.7 miles of high-speed transit served by 54 stations,
  • bus routes operating on expressways and arterial streets,
  • feeder bus routes to complement other bus routes and rapid transit,
  • mini-systems at selected transit terminals to provide local circulation and link traffic generating areas with rapid transit.

THE PRESENT

Fast-forward 40 years into the future. The year is 2013.

FDOT and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) — and the construction, automobile, and petroleum lobbies — actively and aggressively seek to expand highways.

Tax payers are being charged $560,000,000 (that’s right: more than half a billion!) for the highway expansion mega-project at the SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Interchange.

826_836_ProjectRendering_North

826_836_ProjectRendering_Southeast

Real estate developers eager to cash-in on building single-family cookie-cutter homes along the urban periphery in the west and south of the County lobby to transgress the Urban Development Boundary (UDB). Residential sprawl continues to lower the quality of life on the edges of the city.

Eager to keep its agency coffers growing, MDX writes hyperbolic reports emphasizing inflated demographic growth projections on these suburban outskirts, thereby seeking to further justify its southwestward expansion of SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway). MDX advocates for expanding tolled highways in order to generate increased revenues aimed at the perpetual expansion of highways in greater Miami.

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

Those same city-destroying developers-of-sprawl back MDX — as do all others in the broader network of profiteers — because they perceive as far too lucrative to forego the opportunity to cash-in on pushing the boundary of Miami further into the Everglades and into our fresh water supplies.

Even on roads that have long exhausted their traditional function as “highways”, MDX pursues measures to retrofit them so as to restore their obsolete highway-performing characteristics. This is epitomized by MDX’s “US-1 Express Lanes”, whereby the agency hopes to reduce the dedicated South Dade busways to accommodate new tolled arterial travel lanes for private motorists, as well as, most notoriously, create elevated overpasses (that is, create more “HIGH-ways”).

US1_Elevated_expresslane

MDX_US1expressway_ShareFacilityPlan

FDOT, in collusion with MDX, actively seeks to expand the tolled Florida Turnpike in far south Miami-Dade County.

Meanwhile, our mere 23-station elevated heavy-rail Metrorail system traverses a very linear (and thus limited), virtually-non-networked 25 miles, including the recently added, yet long-overdue, Miami International Airport / Orange Line extension. This is literally less than half the of the 54 stations and 53.7 miles of rail network envisioned in the planning document from 40 years earlier.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Planned expansions to the Metrorail intended to create a true network have been scrapped due to a lack of political will to secure dedicated funding sources, along with an over-abundance of administrative incompetence and corruption.

Taken_for_a_Ride_MetrorailCorridors_MiamiHerald

Source: “Taken for a Ride”. Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/

After decades of false starts, broken promises, gross mismanagement of public funds, and outright political apathy, the time is now to regain the vision put forth four decades ago. The time is now to withdraw ourselves from our toxic addiction to the 20th century model of single-occupancy vehicles congested on highways. We must stop supporting those who seek to destroy our collective public spaces for personal gain through the incessant construction of highways.

The time of the highway is over. The time for “a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County  is now.

Has Miami-Dade County lost its vision for public transit over the last 40 years? — most definitely. However, one can find solace in the fact that this is not the Miami of 1973, nor of ’83, ’93, or ’03. We are no longer the Miami of the past.

This is the Miami of 2013. This is our time. It is up to us to set forward — and bring to fruition — the vision for the Miami of 2053 . . . and beyond.

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Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?

Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:

“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”

So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.

I-395_Miami_Bridge4

I-395_Miami_Bridge3

I-395_Miami_Bridge2

I-395_Miami_Bridge

For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.

Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown. 

In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.

The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.

Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:

  • San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
  • Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
  • Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct

While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.

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The City of Miami Beach will be hosting two public meetings next week (June  5 and June 7) to kickoff the process of updating the bicycle network plan (officially titled the Atlantic Greenways Network Master Plan).  The meeting will include a discussion of the update process and a presentation the Street Plans Collaborative on the latest best practices in bicycle and pedestrian street design  from all around the country. (NOTE: The time for the June 5 meeting was moved to 6 pm!)

 

You’re Invited to MIAMIBEACH’s Bicycle Summits

Atlantic Greenway Network Master Plan Update

The City of Miami Beach will be hosting two (2) public summits to discuss efforts to update the adopted Atlantic Greenway Network (AGN) Master Plan. The summits will focus on obtaining input from Miami Beach residents on the bicycle component of the adopted AGN Master Plan in order to assist the City in updating the plan.

Summit 1
Date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Time: 6:00 p.m. — 9:00 p.m.
Place: North Shore Park and Youth Center,
501 72 Street
Miami Beach, Florida 33141

Summit 2
Date: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Time: 5:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m.
Place: 1755 Meridian Avenue Building, third floor conference room
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Contact: Jose R. Gonzalez, P.E., transportation manager, 305.673.7080

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Hey everyone…sorry for the long hiatus, I’ve been in El Paso for the past couple of weeks participating in an exciting planning project for the city. The city of El Paso hired a team of planners led by the local Miami firm of Dover Kohl & Partners to develop plans for Transit Oriented Developments around three new BRT corridors the city is implementing (and to update their Comprehensive Plan). Yours truly was invited as a transit/planning/bike consultant and I am excited about the work going on here.

Proposed Sun Metro BRT Routes

El Paso is a cool city (22st largest in the country) with a lot going for it. Great architecture abounds, and the mountains are really stunning. Like most American cities, they have had a torrid love affair with highway building, but their newfound commitment to transit is an encouraging sign of things to come.

Historic Union Station Watercolor by Kenneth Garcia

Historically, El Paseños were blessed with one of the most extensive network of streetcars in the USA (which also extended into Juarez, Mexico), and was also one of the first to draft a Comprehensive Plan (compiled way back in 1925 by pioneering landscape architect George Kesseler).

Historic streetcar map

It is nice to see other cities investing in transit. Too bad our own County Commissioners can’t get their act together to provide adequate transit to the residents of Dade County. As the rest of the country advances toward multi-modal transportation, our own transit plans continue to stagnate with no end in sight.

If you want to check out more of the work being done in El Paso, go to www.planelpaso.org. (I’ll Be back in Miami soon!)

By: Sam Van Leer (sam@urban-paradise.org)
Executive Director and Founder, Urban Paradise Guild (Miami, Florida)


OVERTOWN VILLAGE GREEN

The Village Green has a special place in America: an agricultural space within the Village that belongs to everyone. In times of external strife, it is used by the Villagers to feed themselves. It was often the center of Village life. Overtown Village Green is all this and more.

A Park that grows plants also grows people. The nursery that provides fruit trees and native habitat plants to nurture people and wildlife is also an experience that can change kids and adults. These are among the missions of Overtown Village Green (OVG), which opens windows to new activities and careers.

Brad Knoefler is a local resident and businessman with a great idea: Use the Old Miami Arena Site as a temporary park, provide kids with safe recreational space and fight the Urban blight of demolition and vacant lots around Overtown. He approached Urban Paradise Guild (UPG) for a concept that could achieve this. We’ve been developing this plan for nearly a year. (Brad also spearheaded the creation of a greenway along the FEC tracks last year).
OVG’s purpose is to create a temporary park that enables permanent community transformation. It is a mixture of:
* community nursery: grow FREE native plants & fruit trees for Overtown
* personal garden plots for local families and groups
* food forest (permaculture growing methods)
* education for kids
* economic development for the community
* playing field for kids (football or soccer) which becomes a
* performing arts venue in the evening
* most infrastructure is intended for re-use at the next site of OVG
* public/private partnerships fund operations and control costs
* UPG Programs for the Overtown community
* UPG manages the space

Trees can be part of the transformation of a neighborhood. They have been proven to raise property values. Their shade makes sidewalks endurable under the blazing summer sun, and lower the electric bills of residents and businesses. The UPG Community Nursery at OVG will be operated by Volunteers, especially neighborhood kids. The trees will be planted by these same Volunteers, who will ensure that they are not forgotten. They will be free to Overtown residents.

Personal garden plots are not currently offered in Overtown. They create a way that people can be directly involved in improving their own lives. Fresh organic vegetables provide high quality nutrition. Growing them offers new opportunities for exercise and engagement in the community.

Public / Private Partnership
The mission of Parks in America is to serve the public. That is why Parks have always been funded from our tax dollars. The phrase “run it like a business” makes a nice sound-bite, but expecting Parks to do so ensures that they will fail in their primary mission of public service.

At the same time, we recognize that in an era of ever-tightening budgets we must find new ways to stretch every dollar. A public/private partnership does this.

OVG is a public/private partnership. Revenue for operations is generated by sub-leasing space to for-profits to provide parking, a café, solar power demonstration, and other compatible uses. Revenue generated through rental of the venue and sales of organic produce will be used to enhance public programming.
The address is 700 Miami Ave, 5+ acres along the FEC railroad. It is across the street from the Overtown Metro Station and M-D DERM offices, just 2 blocks north of MDC Wolfson Campus and 2 blocks West of Biscayne Blvd. MDC and DERM are both important UPG Partners, and MDC Service-Learning Interns and Students will be important parts of OVG.

Support from the City of Miami and CRA
UPG has already created successful Parks Partnerships with Florida State Parks at Oleta River and Miami-Dade Parks at Matheson Hammock. These government entities understand that as their budgets shrink, their needs for high-impact Volunteers expands. UPG has been asked to take responsibility for all invasive exotic plant eradication at Oleta, an 1,100 acre park, and is coordinating UPG, Park and third-party resources for maximum strategic impact. A similar arrangement exists at Matheson. UPG has become the go-to group for mobilizing the public in such innovative programs, and we hope to form a Partnership with the City of Miami.

Mayor Regalado demonstrated his commitment to the environment for years as a City Commissioner. The Miami Parks Department’s highly successful Habitat Restoration projects at Simpson, Virginia Key Hammocks, and Wainwright Parks might never have happened without his support. He understands the critical value to the community of native trees, habitat plants and fruit trees. He shares UPG’s vision of growing trees for City residents and providing them at no cost.

Last Tuesday, Brad and I had a very productive meeting about OVG with City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and members of his staff. UPG, Brad and the OVG Partners are deeply appreciative of Mayor Regalado’s support and efforts on behalf of OVG and the environment. We hope that it will be enough.

The Overtown/Park West CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) exists for the sole purpose of fighting the causes of Urban Blight. They are funded by taxes on local properties. Anyone reading this should drive through Overtown today, and ask themselves if the CRA is succeeding.

A fresh approach is needed. We believe that OVG offers a new vision and direction for Overtown, and we hope that the CRA will embrace Overtown Village Green.

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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.

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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).

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I received this email this morning from City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado regarding my previous post on Miami 21:

Tony

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 tregalado@miamigov.com

Tomas P. Regalado

Thank you Mr. Mayor!

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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.

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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!)

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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.

Using the same zoning designations as Miami 21, Lee county has created a series of pedestrian friendly, walkable communities.

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!!

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The City of Miami hosts regular meetings of the Bicycle Action Committee to update members of the public and city employees to the status of the Bicycle Master Plan and to discuss related issues in our community. City Commissioners are encouraged to send staff representatives and to invite residents from their districts to attend. Each county (Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) has a similar body within their respective Metropolitan Planning Organization that addresses the broader topic of bicycle/pedestrian concerns.

Yesterday’s meeting of ‘the BAC’ addressed 2 hours worth of topics, from new mountain biking trails (broke ground) to Bike Miami Days (on hold) to the (possible) return of a Miami criterium bicycle race. Read my full report on the South Florida Bike Coalition blog here.

Lest we forget that Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach are considered one metropolitan area, here is some news for Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is developing a Bicycle Master Plan for the county and would like your input. Public Workshops are scheduled for April 14 and April 15 in multiple locations, from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM both days. You don’t need to stay the whole time, just come out for a bit to share what your needs are as a cyclist.

Locations for Wednesday the 14th include the Bryant Auditorium of the Palm Beach County Office Building in Belle Glade and the Jupiter Community Center. Locations for Thursday the 15th include the Vista Center County Building in West Palm Beach and the Boca Raton Community Center. Flyers are available in English and Spanish, and for more info you can contact Bret Baronak, the MPO Bicycle/Greenways/Pedestrian Coordinator at bbaronak at pbcgov.org or (561) 684-4170. I hope to make it to the Boca Raton meeting myself, so I look forward to seeing you there if you ride in Palm Beach County!

From the Herald:

The 129-page “Jobs for Florida” bill, slated for a Senate vote Thursday after a single committee hearing, also could eliminate local regulations on wetlands protection and drainage, as well as give local and state regulators less time than ever to review development plans. The bill (SB 1752), which also addresses such issues as sales taxes on boats and the purchase of industrial machinery and includes tax breaks that could add up to $187 million for space, high-tech and film industries, was introduced on Feb. 28. It was approved by the Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means last week by a vote of 22-2 and shipped to the full Senate.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said those provisions were related to creating jobs in the state’s stagnant construction industry by cutting back government red tape. “A lot of subdivisions and strip shopping centers would fall under that” 40-acre limit, Tschantz said. But bill supporter Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, a contractor, said it just means “the governmental entities are honoring the professionalism of those who submit the plans.”

This is an sleazy attempt by several politicians to try to help their developer friends. It is more of the same bad government that led us to a near economic meltdown. When are these fools going to stop trying to revive the sprawl machine???

Call or write your local Senator- SAY NO TO SPRAWL PRODUCING UNPLANNED GROWTH!

Also, be sure to contact the Tallahassee office of Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton:

322 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
(850) 487-5078
Senate VOIP: 5078
bennett.mike.web@flsenate.gov

Tropical Paradise or Transportation Paradise?

Morro de Sao Paulo is a small village on the island of Tinhare in Bahia, Brazil which is located about 40 miles south of Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city. It is only accessible by a 2 hour boat ride or on a 25 minute puddle-jumper.  It has a small population of about 3000 local residents which rely predominantly on tourism in order to fuel the local economy.  Up until about 15 years ago, Morro de Sao Paulo was a fishing village.

The real beauty of Morro de Sao Paulo is not just the beaches, but the fact that no cars are allowed to enter the village center. To get around, your only real transportation option is your feet. In fact, during my 4 days in Morro de Sao Paulo, I saw only 4 bicycles, a couple of donkeys, and a tractor that collects garbage early in the morning. I saw my first car when I was on the way to the airport while riding on the back of a tractor-bus.

Getting around on two feet was not difficult, but rather pleasurable.  The development of the village has grown naturally on a human-scale; meaning most distances within the village are no longer than a half-hour walk. The inaccessibility of Morro de Sao Paulo is certainly a major contributing factor to its organic growth.

Particularly inspiring is the manner in which supplies are transported within the village. Whether a refrigerator, cement bags, computers, alcohol bottles or food, all goods are transported within the community by wheelbarrow. It is astonishing to see the small supermarket in the village was fully stocked with first-rate amenities. Approximately 200 men wheelbarrow all the supplies from the arriving boats to the village.  The car free village generates jobs by employing wheelbarrow operators that do not pollute.

There are some valuable lessons to learn from Morro de Sao Paulo. This tight knit community has shown that with a little hard work and planning, a car free community is possible and desirable, as can be evidenced by the thousands of tourists that visit this remote village every year. The community’s low reliance on motor-vehicles, combined with a transportation infrastructure which is predominantly reliant on human power will allow it to adapt more easily to an oil starved future.  As our cities become more densely populated, perhaps we will need to turn to working examples such as Morro de Sao Paulo.  This small village illustrates that with an emphasis on human power we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Pack Horse

Garbage Truck

Unloading Beer Bottles and Propane Tanks

Taxi

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