Wednesday May 17, 2006

Miami 21 meeting

meeting @ culmer

Went to a Miami21 meeting yesterday. Miami 21 is a great big master plan the city’s working on with Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company, and they recently unveiled a draft of the document (actually, the “document”: is a Powerpoint presentation, so I’m not sure it technically counts as a “draft”); this meeting was one of three intended to be an opportunity for citizen feedback. In the first hour, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk ran through the Powerpoint. A lot of her presentation was in city planning lingo and acronyms (sample slide: “Calculation of NFA based on GLA”), and I hadn’t really done my homework.

Still, the plan is commendable: it re-does the current zoning codes to create a logical distribution of density, human-scaled development, pedestrian-friendly streets, agreeable public spaces, and the like. If Miami were being built from scratch according to a plan like this (don’t laugh: see New Songdo), everything would be great. Coming, as it does, at the tail end of a building boom, well . . . we’ll see – it’s still a worthwhile effort, I guess.

The second half of the meeting (which ran quite precisely 5:45 – 7:45 pm) was for citizen comments and questions, which ran more or less as you would expect: a few property owners complaining that the changes would reduce their property’s value, a few passionate citizens with problems specific to their neighborhoods, and general grumbling that the process isn’t allowing enough time for citizen input. With regard to the latter, they have a point – the plan has only been on the web a couple of days, and there were a number of hands still up when the meeting ended. Ms. Plater-Zyberk handled this part of the meeting very well, answering the questions as best as possible, promising, as appropriate, to revisit each of the specific issues raised, and assuring everyone that, while the whole process was being rushed, they’d take the time to work through everyone’s concerns and stretch the schedule if necessary.

More meetings follow for Little Haiti, Upper Eastside, Wynwood, and Edgewater over the next couple of days (the plan is divided up into four quadrants, and all this is really just referencing the first of them).

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  1. Manola BBB    Wed May 17, 10:50 AM #  

    Thanks for the report, Alesh. After my time in Spain, I have to say that those pedestrian areas and agreeable public spaces do make a big difference. I’d love to see more places where people can just hang out that isn’t a freakin’ shopping mall. The way streets were designed in Barcelona, long diagonal avenues ending in plazas, as well as a public square in every neighborhood, makes for a great design that invites people to go out and just enjoy their city without it being hanging out at the mall. We can’t build new avenues here, but I’m glad there’s some awareness.

  2. A.T.    Wed May 17, 02:35 PM #  

    Good post, Alesh. Politicians simply would not have paid any attention to these ideas just a decade ago. Not saying Miami 21 doesn’t have problems, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

  3. NicFitKid    Wed May 17, 05:13 PM #  

    As the average underinformed citizen, here’s my opinion of Miami 21: that horse left the barn a while back. The parking pedestal condo tower monoliths are here, or they’re being built as we speak, so Miami 21’s moot. How exactly, would the city be rengineered around the the giant turds the developers have already dropped on the city? And where would the political will to REGULATE developers come from? That’s never existed in this town, going all the way back to the original land boom in the 20’s.

    On the other, a ridiculous condo glut may trigger some falling rents in a few years. That’d be nice for a change.

  4. A.T.    Thu May 18, 08:11 AM #  

    NicFitKid: They would do it by coming up with what Miami 21 calls “the quadrant,” or a zoning that takes into consideration height vs. density vs. human scale. It’s all about zoning. Whether you allow diversity or homogeneity. Right now, we don;t have that.

  5. Manola BBB    Thu May 18, 09:55 AM #  

    Well, those glass penises in the sky are all going to fall down when the next Andrew swings by the beach and Downtown. That hurricane-proof glass construction is the biggest bullshit lie to make people buy an illusion of safety. Mark my words and wait patiently. The meek shall inherit the earth, and the those who can afford million-plus condos will have their apartments gutted by wind and rain not to mention the fact that they won’t have access to their building for weeks because only spiderman can climb thirty stories when the elevator isn’t working. People aren’t going to want to deal with that again and will move into mudhuts by the river. The native Miamians were smart.

  6. oldswish    Thu May 18, 10:38 AM #  

    Hey, I hit the Miami21 meeting in Little Haiti last night (BTW did you notice that in all the Miami21 docs they have eliminated “Little Haiti” referring to the area as “The Upper Westside”) The highlight for me was “Grandma” showing up. Those of you who are not well versed in our upper eastside lore, may not know her, but she is a master of costume who works NE 4th court early in the morning and later in the afternoon. She has been spotted in a nurse’s outfit, innocent Amish wear and my favorite, a Rodeo Drive style bolero and walking a stray attached to a rope. I was so fascinated by her appearance that I couldn’t concentrate on the hostess and wondered if grandma was gonna give blowjobs after the meeting.

  7. Peter Ehrlich    Thu May 18, 11:00 AM #  

    Many people in Lemon City and Little River (formerly Little Haiti) would like to see more density and mixed use in our area. People east of Biscayne Blvd, of course, want to see single family neighborhoods protected. The “West of the Tracks” stakeholders covet mixed use and additional density. The city consultants, DPZ, need to do more homework.

    Lemon City Taxpayers Association

  8. A.T.    Thu May 18, 05:05 PM #  

    Above I wrote “quadrant.” Sorry, it’s “transect.” It organizes different elements of the urban landscape going from rural to urban. According to DPZ the transect can be translated into zoning categories which become “immersive environments,” that is, a wholistic and heterogeneous whole. I believe that the more diversity we get in the urban realm the better. The zoning must allow for that to occur.

  9. NicFitKid    Fri May 19, 12:24 PM #  

    Transect, immersive environments, it’s all wholistic and heterogeneous b.s. Where’s the ground level retail space, where’s the supermarkets where neighborhood folks can buy groceries (and I don’t mean that overpriced Whole Foods nonsense that Met is talking about), where’s the incentive for businesses, both small and large, to come back to Miami and start employing working people, where’s the public transport infrastructure to move them all without cars? I’ll believe it when I see it, and right now all I see is rising land values and quick-buck developers looking to cash in on a condo investment craze. Go for a WALK (no motorized transport) from the river to the Tuttle and you’ll see what I mean.

  10. A.T.    Fri May 19, 08:52 PM #  

    NFK, are you trying to convince me? I’m on your side. But I can’t share your gloom. Too easy for me. What’s your point, things are bad they’ll get worse? Not a necessary conclusion and not one I’m ready to accept.

  11. NicFitKid    Sat May 20, 02:10 AM #  

    Ignore my ravings, I probably just needed a cigarette, or maybe the helmet was on too tight.

    I just wish Miami was better, you know?

  12. alesh    Sat May 20, 08:47 AM #  

    No way, Nic… you have a good point, and it’s a position that needs to be stated more often. Unhelpfully, Miami21 comes at the tail end of a major development boom. It’s a worthwhile effort, though we’ll see where it goes – the meetings are dominated by developers/realtors/large landowners, who have strong interests which are contrary to those of the rest of us. Quite a separate issue is that municipalities in general have a habit of ordering up big plans like this and then ignoring them.

  13. sasson1608    Sat May 20, 12:22 PM #  

    Many people along Miami’s waterfronts have made fortunes lately. Residents and stakeholders in the urban core have not seen the benefits their eastern neigbors have enjoyed. Now that Miami 21 is here the DPZ consultants want to put the brakes on appreciation west of the tracks. This seems to discriminate against the urban core people who were hoping for a piece of the pie. And actually by reducing density and height limits DPZ is making housing more expensive for people who can least afford it.

  14. pasi    Sun May 21, 04:22 PM #  

    I agree. The City of Miami and especially the DPZ planners need to do a lot more work before they start increasing housing costs for everyone in Liberty City, Overtown, Little Haiti and elsewhere in District 5. If you take away height and density you increase unit cost. And if you do not allow mixed use in the Industrial areas of Wynwood and Little Haiti you doom those areas to no growth. Isn’t that anti-New Urbanism?

  15. John    Sun May 21, 05:31 PM #  

    Thanks Alsesh. I’ve been delaying on posting on the Miami-Dade commissioners raise and Miami 21 because I think it is important that my top posts remain, at least for a day or two, about that evil hobbit Johnny Winton. I put up a comment about the raise and here is a post reworked as a comment reviewing Miami 21:

    I am not sure it is a question of aesthetic homogeneity. There seems to be few guidelines in this area. Too few in fact. The plan did little to address the footprints and setbacks of new structures in low rise residential neighborhoods that have let McMansions flourish, thereby destroying the character of many neighborhoods.

    On the other hand the plan does address the need to have fronting of new hi-rise structures on the street. There was also attention to making building frontage along major thoroughfares and high density areas have the sort of ground-level window spacing and other design features that make for a pleasant, pedestrian friendly environment.

    What the planning seems to a fairly good job in is mixed use guidelines. (Though Pasi’s comment above about mixed use in light industrial areas in dead on.) The truth of it is however, that this zoning is inherently fluid. As population make-up and economies change there has to be input. What will be done with markets, schools, light manufacturing, etc. I am not sure any sort of formulas (which serve as guidelines) were even forwarded in this area.

    Mixed use is always more complex than it seems. We know the sort of basic rules. Multiple-story, high density residential housing needs commercial (retail and office) uses in the ground floors. Single family and low density housing needs to have their commercial areas placed in nearby commercial corridors.

    We also know about best practices in terms of placement of building types; access to recreational and aesthetic resources (beaches, waterfront and parks as well as sunlight and breeze)etc. Miami 21 has failed in offering basic “Light and air” provisions to protect against out of scale building and urban canyons; is partially successful in offering access to public amenities such as water front areas; the plan fails in placing of hi-rise structures in hubs and along high traffic, high density corridors where public transportation is available.

    There was a lot of lip service about allowing higher density at transit hubs, with a greater amount of commercial structures. That happened with the plan. There are obviously some challenges here because the city doesn’t control the majority of transit spending. At the same time, we do know planned transit expansion and many of the high density hubs were not in places that will have transit.

    Perhaps the biggest failure was in providing for infrastructure and amenities. The city did not want to commit to spending in this area because of the failure to collect adequate impact fees or to maintain set asides. So what they are doing is letting us have much higher density in a city that lacks the green-space and budget for urban land scaping, etc.

    In terms of height limits and maintaining the integrity of healthy neighborhoods, the Miami 21 plan has been hostage to developers, with entire single-family, residential swaths of the city having eight story restrictions while the higher density areas have virtually no limit. (To give a comparison, the East Village and Lower East Side, where I happen to be writing this, are some of the highest density residential neighborhoods on Earth but the building heights are largely limited to six stories.) Do we really want a Miami with this sort of density far in excess of Manhattan throughout the city?

    Not long ago I was speaking with Frederick Bland, (partner Beyer, Blinder and Belle) and my old professor and one time advisor at NYU who attended Yale with the Duany and Plater Zyberk. I won’t get into his general view of the two but I will say that he acknowledges that urban/metro planners are sometimes limited by development interests expressed though government clients. It is the professional duty however to inform the public faithfully on the realities that exist when communicating with the public.

    IMO Duany and Plater-Zyberk, ever the hucksters are failing abysmally here. But as Prof. Bland suggested the public gets what is puts in; has to be vigilant and informed.

  16. Ray    Tue May 23, 11:58 AM #  

    Miami 21 – They finished public meetings in 3 days. And no one could have understood the rough draft, put up (legibly) only after the first meeting! And, we still haven’t seen two zones – D-1 and D-2!
    DPZ has helped re-zone dozens of cities, they know how to railroad this stuff through. It’s not innocent delays or oversights in scheduling meetings and the posting of docs.
    Even if it took several months more—this time because of public input, and not just more time to send emails—we, as a city, would be better off with the finished concrete product. The mayor says the new code is as imp’t as the initial designs in the 1800’s for NYC and Paris. So, why is he, and are we, ok with only three – one hour Q & A meetings, over less than a week … and without time to properly view or digest the rough code, in full?

  17. carmen    Sat Jun 3, 12:05 PM #  

    It is now June 3 and DPZ does not seem willing to have additional public meetings and they do not seem willing to fix the mistakes in the Miami 21 draft. They are dooming the area west of the FEC Corridor to poverty. DPZ does not realize that Wynwood and the area around NE 59th Terrace has attracted some great new companies. “Why keep the illegal Haitian rag shops”?

  18. John    Sat Jun 3, 04:18 PM #  

    Carmen, Carmen. There you go thining they WANT to do something good for the people west of I-95 which is what the real boundary seems to be. That will become the new dividing line just as it exists in LA (or every other city in America). When there isn’t a natural boundary to divide people on one side with the jobs and infrastructure and social and natural amenities, real estate people will create them. (NYC deliberately created a wall of high rise public housing at the edge of Harlem/Washinton Heights to artificially constrict Manhattan’s real estate market in the 1970’s.) Think of Westside of L.A. being the Eastside of Miami. I think the divide has become more obvious now but this is just cementing it. Should there be a FEC corridor railway going through eastern Broward and PB and the MB train it’s over. Let the social divides and snootiness race begin!