Miami Dade County Community Forum

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tomas Regalado Acknowledges his Orchid Award. By Fran Bohnsack

City of Miami Commissioner Tomas Regalado, also a candidate for Mayor, said in his thank you letter for his Orchid Award (for his Marlin's "no" vote):

"I believes government should listen and be partners with the UEL in order to have the right development and quality of life for all."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Democratic Planning? Is that possible? By Gene Tinnie

This is an open email by Virginia Key Trust Chair, Educator-Artist, Gene Tinnie:

Kudos to UEL for this blog. There is a lot of good stuff here. (GREAT touch to include the Joni Mitchell video, and glad to see that the EJ Conference in Broward, in which I participated, was featured.)

Greg, your June 23rd piece is a reminder of how and why "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne" still seems to hold true.

All of the "shoulds" in that article make great good sense, even common sense (which, alas, we know is not common), but... There is always that "but," because, preach as we might to the choir of the common-sensical, and believe as we might that there is a logic by which truth, knowledge, and wisdom should "naturally" prevail over falsehood, ignorance and folly, we have that other side to deal with, which, in our time, might be labeled as the spiritual descendants of Columbus. Their mentality is quite simple: land is for the taking by those who can take it, and is for exploitation, to the profit of the takers and the detriment of all else, which matters little in any case.

This intransigent and, to our minds, benighted opposition is, of course, no reason for us to stop our efforts, but, rather, if anything, a reminder of how far off course we have been led, and how extensive the work we need to do actually is. What I am reading in the principles you articulate here is nothing less than a return, as it were, or an advance, as we now need to view it, to traditional village values. The question is whether our urban environments have become such anti-social "concentration camps," and whether our government apparatus has become so unwieldy, that this kind of "village" dialogue is rendered impossible.

The comparison to "concentration camps" may seem exaggerated but it does have its lace in understanding the nature of what cities (urban environments) have become. They have become many things, of course, on many levels, and no single description will suffice, but we do need to acknowledge that aspect of urban life which has been described in Stevie Wonder's old hit song "Living for the City." (This was the latest in a number of literary and artistic variations on the theme of rural people flocking to the lure of the bright lights and big city only to be consumed by it.) The concentration camp analogy was illustrated by the "relocation centers" that were established in Viet Nam during the war. Simply stated, they were places where people were herded after being displaced from the land. In that process, they went from being self-sufficient and in possession of a productive resource (land) to being forced to work and compete for wages (those who could be employed at all), applying their labor to the profitability of others. Some, by fair means or foul (usually the latter) will "succeed' in this prison-like environment, and will be glorified for their fast and flashy lifestyles, and held up a s examples that "anyone, even you" can make it.

Government, such as it is in such a setting, is clearly not on the side of the displaced inhabitants of these artificially contrived environments, and there is little wonder that it exists as only as a multi-layered, corrupt and inaccessible tool that only serves the perpetrators of the urban enterprise, not those on whom it thrives. It is easy to see how this analogy of the wartime "relocation center" applies to these sprawling urban "madscapes" like Sao Paulo, Lagos, Mexico City, etc., etc., in the basic paradigm of onetime rural populations having their self-sufficiency compromised to the point that, in desperation, they seek dreams of survival in the city.

Naturally, that is not the whole story, but it is enough of the story that urban life cannot be fully understood without it, just as American history (both hemispheric and national) cannot be fully understood without acknowledging and understanding the roles of "Indian Removal" and slavery, not to mention a "planet-for-the-taking" mentality vis-a-vis the natural environment.

Our cities in the U.S. are ostensibly free of the squalid shanty towns that surround so many others worldwide, but we ought not to be lulled into complacency by our relative comfort, which, of course, is a direct consequence of that global reality. We might note that the disparities in wealth and power in those other places are scandalously exaggerated between the few and the many, but we would be as sheep to the slaughter if we did not recognize that while the have-nots among us have a lot more than in those other countries, the disparities between the struggling many and the wealthy few in our own country is far more extreme and exacerbated. This is what is not sustainable, except by force of arms, which consume an even larger proportion of natural and human resources.

It seems to me that making peace with urban living requires recognizing the ugly and unreliable foundation on which so much of our unquestioned lifestyle rests. The hope, symbolized and represented by groups like the UEL, is that there are enough people who have the mental courage to do so (I have likened the process to the diners at a fine steak house having the curtain drawn aside to reveal a view of the slaughterhouse), who demand environmental common sense and equitable social relations, so that the city becomes a real asset rather than an impending liability. This is what makes this blog so welcome and refreshing, but with it comes the realization that we have some, often daunting, rather radical transformations to make.

So much of the work at hand is due to the consequences of our own past complacency and/or ignorance. The History Channel, for example, has been running a series on urban infrastructure, revealing that not only our so many of our bridges, tunnels, water mains, sewer lines, etc., being very poorly maintained, if at all (it is not as politically sexy as big, new shiny things), but many were poorly built in the first place, sometimes with skimped-on materials or methods due to the scarcity and hardships of wartime, etc. Miami's and South Florida's infrastructure might be younger than many of the other American cities, but this may well be an issue for closer monitoring.

Then we have such absurdities as the number-one agricultural product grown in the U.S. being grass lawns, with a whole ancillary industry of machinery and chemical fertilizers and pesticides built around it. Dare we grow food in place of grass, with the fear that our crops might be stolen before their time, or sabotaged by some unhealthy anti-social forces at work? Might we not start considering rooftop gardens? What of this madness of corporate control of agriculture through genetically-modified seeds that cannot reproduce, but need to be purchased annually from the "manufacturer"? These are crazy times, but all the more cause for the kind of common-sense values and approaches that are being advocated by the UEL, for which we have to be thankful, and of which we need to be supportive.

The economic times we are now going through are certainly a test. We are being forced to come to our senses on some issues, but whether that will mean a greater tendency to create a more equitable society, or a greater tendency to engage in dog-eat-dog values of everybody for him- or herself will remain to be seen. We would like to think that common sense and enlightenment will prevail, but history gives us no reason to assume so, and so much of our work is just beginning, to ensure that madness doesn't prevail either, which well it might without our activism to the contrary. At least, we don't have to start from scratch. The UEL and other groups have done great and wonderful work in laying a foundation on which a more sane future might be built. Yet, we might be called upon to do even more than we have ever done, just to keep that foundation in place.

At least, that's how it all looks from where I am...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Come to the "Hold the Line" Picnic on Sunday. By Fran Bohnsack

There will be plenty of paella and friendly faces. be sure to RSVP.
Hit on graphic to enlarge it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Florida Hometown Democracy - Don't believe the Hype Against It. By Fran Bohnsack

Note the press release below. It is hype. Ryan Houck is a young political operative who worked for Republican Senator Martinez. He was hired to keep Hometown Democracy off the ballot. Now it appears he is trying to smear it, i.e. by calling it the Anti-Jobs amendment. Don't believe the hype! Look at the word "Radical" that he uses. That couldn't be further from the truth. I am going to vote for Amendment 4. I have seen growth management railroaded. I think letting the people vote on Land-Use changes, after they have been approved by a city or a county, is not radical: It is democratic. And it is not 'Vote on Everything,' as they say, it is vote for what the government changes in the State Approved Growth Management Plans (changes that are usually developer driven).

Tell the truth Floridians for Smarter Growth (better known as the Chamber and the development lobby).

CONTACT: Ryan Houck

Led by Floridians for Smarter Growth, the business community is ready for battle
(ORLANDO, FL - June 22, 2009) The radical "Hometown Democracy" proposal failed to reach the ballot in 2004, 2006 and 2008. However, the Secretary of State today certified the anti-jobs amendment for the 2010 ballot. It will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Memory of Clyde Judson

Miami Architect, Clyde Judson was a UEL Vice President in the early years of the organization. He was a great asset to the League and helped with planning the Virginia Key Park. The members of UEL who knew him are saddened by his sudden passing this week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment is on the 2010 State Ballot

The Amendment is No. 4 on the 2010 ballot. It gives citizens a say by allowing them to vote on controversial Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) Amendments that their government has approved. Citizen vote becomes the final word!

Democratic Planning and the Public Voice: A Statement of Principles for Local Governments in South Florida. By Gregory Bush

Drafted by Gregory Bush: email:  
From the time of Thomas Jefferson’s Northwest Ordinance of 1785, land use planning has evolved at both the national and local levels in ways that have tested our federal system and our relationship to the land.   Our present condition of suburban sprawl and the increasing scarcity of land require clearly articulated principles and a coherent set of priorities to guide future development at the local level.

In order to promote better local land use, improvement of the general welfare, and more representative forms of civic engagement in planning efforts, the undersigned organizations believe that the following baseline set of principles should be followed by area governments.  Central elements should include impartial professional and scientific standards, broadly defined notions of stakeholders, and sensitivity towards public land, urban design, economic equity, and environmental conditions.

Planning must be transparent and democratic in order to build public confidence in the quality of local government and hope for a better future for all our residents.

1. Democratic planning should never rationalize or promote pre-determined results by special interest groups but build community consensus from maximum feasible participation of area residents.
2. The goal of the planning process should be to create a viable vision for long-term land use and include sensitivity to the historic character of neighborhoods, cultural and ethnic diversity, greater economic equity, sustainable environment and green design.
3. The public planning process should always be clearly defined and transparent, provide multiple public workshops and various forms of public input and public decision-making that are assessed and tracked through the entire planning process. Resident friendly meetings should be held in accessible venues, at convenient times for residents who work, take place on multiple occasions, with plenty of advanced notice. Meeting results should be published and readily available to the public in a variety of different media.  Special efforts should be made to include a wide diversity of opinion, including the elderly, young people, as well as gender and ethnically diverse populations.  
4. A comprehensive information data base should be developed early in the planning process for maximum impact on participants. A variety of organized public information outlets should be developed and updated in a timely manner through the web and other venues. Successful experiments in broadening public participation in other areas of the world should be implemented.  The voices of area residents should be captured, preserved and relayed to interested participants in a manner that increases awareness of local issues.  The information data base should address all aspects of the planning process including specific historical references to deed restrictions, and changing land use and zoning classifications.
5. A broad notion of stakeholders shall include non-contiguous residents (notably if the land in question is a regional asset), students, and involve include focus groups, social needs assessments, and other tools in assessing public opinion, notably within schools as well.   
6. Public land use and the public interest must be paramount considerations at all times, and should include enhancement of parks for public use, and adequate access to public space consistent with the stated goals of the growth management process. 
7. Economic criteria for redevelopment, including bond funding, must be derived from an open public process that views an improved standard of living for all as the central social goal.
8. A countywide Joint Democratic Planning Commission, set up by non-profits, governments, experts and non-professional residents, should periodically assess local planning efforts for their adherence to the above principles and others that may in their wisdom be added in the future.  

Monday, June 22, 2009

Art Collector, Marty Margulies, on the Marlin's Ballpark

An Open Letter Sent June 11, 2009 to County Commissioners:

This is the ballpark deal that should have been. Finances for the San Francisco 49ers new stadium would go before the voters for final approval. The city will pay 8% of the $937 million development. The team owners pay 92% as well as any cost overruns. The city gets the revenue from naming rights and net revenue from concession sales and parking lots. The team pays roughly $1 million a year rent.

The Marlins situation is completely different. The owners of the Marlins and George Burgess are laughing at the stupidity of this huge giveaway to the detriment of the taxpayers. Forbes Magazine recently said Miami is in the top 10 of the country in corruption. You can also add stupidity to that. The commissioners that voted yes said they would not dip into the general fund. We now know that they will. We also know the county manager with his $180,000 a year lifetime pension plus hospitalization is the mastermind behind this, working in partnership with the Marlins attorneys.

We also know that the interest rate never mattered no matter how high it will be. They will get the bonds because of the general funds guarantee. The sad part is that the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce endorsed this taxpayer giveaway because they were not courageous enough to step forward and voice their objections to the one-sidedness of this deal. They sold out the community. The county would not even allow the residents they serve to vote and on top of it they voted for a no-bid contract which will approximate $500 million or better. No one even knows the financial status of the Marlins.

The public hearing was nothing but a charade with the two mayors, the Marlins owners and the county manager smirking because they knew the outcome “was in the bag” before the votes were cast. This is what happens when ignorant people get elected and have no concern for the residents. A community which ranks 49th in education despite a lottery, joblessness, homelessness, and huge healthcare deficits in favor of a privately owned baseball team shows where the priorities lie and the lack of leadership in this community.

(Hit above 49er document to enlarge it)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mayor Manny Diaz Took Virginia Key Master Plan Off the Table

There will not be a vote at the City Commission on the Virginia Key Master Plan. The Mayor has asked EDSA, the Master Planners, to go back to the drawing board.

Cartoon by Harry Emilio Gottlieb.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Marlins Stadium: Important Question

The Marlins estimate: $389.4 million for ballpark construction.

However it was reported yesterday, that Tampa is estimating the cost of building their new retractable stadium at $450 million.

How could there be such as gap?

Is this another case in the model of the Miami-Dade Performing Arts Center where they will plead poverty in the middle of the project? Will it be like the PAC, where their pleas down the road got them more tax money? No one will want to leave a half finished project with so much invested.

Something doesn’t smell right with the stark difference of these two estimates. Is the Marlin number just bait to reel us in?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Florida Hometown Democray

High Court Clears Way for Growth-Management Amendment

The state Supreme Court appeared to clear the way Wednesday for the controversial Florida Hometown Democracy constitutional amendment to go on the 2010 election ballot. Justices, in a 4-2 decision, found unconstitutional a law that opponents have used to revoke Florida Hometown Democracy petition signatures. The ruling appeared likely to ensure that supporters of the growth-management amendment will have the required 676,811 signatures to take the issue to voters.

[Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal]

Virginia Key Master Plan: Planning Advisory Board Unanimous Against

At the Planning Advisory Board Meeting last night the City of Attorney advised the board that the Virginia Key Master Plan was an informational item and told them they should not vote on it. It appears it was advertised as such: An informational meeting. Why?

Perhaps the City officials pushing the plan didn’t want to get a vote to make it look bad?

The Board voted anyway, unanimously to reject the plan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This month the City of Miami Commission will consider for approval the controversial Virginia Key Master Plan. TONIGHT IS THE PLANNING ADVISORY BOARD MEETING!!

The proposed plan includes: at least 11 parking garages, a shopping center, a corporate retreat/conference center, overnight lodging, a second new marina in the Marine Stadium Lagoon, and a massive, fully lighted sports complex, including a football and track and field stadium with grandstand on the landfill site between the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife area and sea turtle nesting beaches.

View the proposed master plan.

"Friends of Virginia Key" and many civic and environmental groups and interested citizens have always urged a “less is more” approach to Virginia Key that keeps it green, preserves waterfront access and vistas and protects the existingwildlife refuges and other natural areas.


Contact City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Commissioners: (305) 250-5300 and City Commissioners.  

Attend the upcoming public meetings:
7 p.m., Wed., June 17, Planning Advisory Board, 3500 Pan American Drive., Miami TONIGHT!!!
9 a.m., Thurs., June 25, City of Miami Commission, 3500 Pan American Drive., Miami

$360 million stimulus for Everglades Restoration spurs South Fl. Environmental Justice conference

Several south Florida organizations have joined together to sponsor an environmental justice conference, Saturday, June 20, 2009 in the Broward County main library auditorium, beginning at 10 a.m.

Billed as “A Mobilizing Conference for Environmental Justice, Conservation and ‘We The People,’” conference organizers are hoping for a frank discussion with officials from the U. S Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), managers of the $22.8 billion Everglades Restoration projects.

Environmental justice (EJ) and conservation activists want to know specifics as to how the $360 million Recovery Stimulus Act funding the Obama administration is sending for Everglades Restoration, will impact socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and communities.
For example, the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project (Lake Okeechobee) and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) large reservoir construction, are two projects that will seriously impact low income and minority communities. The people want to know just how environmental justice issues are being dealt with.

At issue is what one activist called “the prostitution of congressional intent,” regarding how laws such as WRDA 2000, NEPA and Presidential Executive Order 12898, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, have been side-stepped or fudged. Those provisions were designed to protect the interests of the poor, near-poor and minority populations, “including individuals with limited English proficiency.”

Other EJ and conservation issues will be discussed at the conference, including the Wingate Road Municipal Incinerator and Landfill site in Fort Lauderdale, that spewed toxic waste from 1954-78 on mostly black residents of that northwest neighborhood and surrounding vicinity.

Schedule permitting, famed EJ sociologist Robert Bullard, Ph.D., affectionately called “the father of environmental justice,” and author of 12 books including Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, may be able to fly in to address the conference.

The conference will feature panel discussions with lots of time allotted for audience participation. A primary conference goal is to organize through mobilization and coalition building, initially in the tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Conference organizers say that EJ and conservation, not separately, but as one, is the civil rights movement of the 21st century.

Conference co-sponsors area: Operation Green Leaves/South Florida Community Partners; Florida Atlantic University, Department of Urban and Regional Planning; Broward Libraries Division, Department of Outreach Services; the Wilderness Society; and the South Florida Times.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Marvin Dunn's "Roots in the City"

Marvin Dunn, Associate Professor at Florida International University, was recognized with an Orchid Award from the Urban Environment League for strengthening Overtown by spearheading 7 years of activity for Roots in the City. Roots is a non-profit where students and volunteers tend 20 acres of gardens and beautifully manicured green spaces to bring out the best of Overtown.

Community workers are hired to tend the gardens on weekdays and between semesters, giving opportunity and training to folks who have had problems affecting their employability in the past. In addition to the time he has devoted, Dunn was also recognized because he has shouldered a great deal of the cost to develop these gardens from his personal income.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The UEL Orchids Awards - June 10th


Commissioner Natacha Seijas's Remarks at UEL Meeting June 10th.

The award Copy: Natacha Seijas is recognized as a one-of-a-kind Commissioner, daringly unpredictable, strong and determined. This year she was nominated for both an Orchid and an Onion -- a first in our history -- so we had to invent a new recognition, The Hybrid, just for her. We didn't agree with her stance on the UDB (which earned her an Onion), but we laud her efforts in water conservation, which earn her an Orchid. We hated the stadium deal for the Marlins (Onion), but her ordinances to protect people and properties in foreclosure are heroic (a whole flurry of vandas!). For these votes in particular, we anoint the Honorable Commissioner Seijas, as Hybrid to the 2nd power -- with kudos for her sense of humor!

Here is the text of Commissioner Natacha Seijas’ remarks made upon receiving the Urban Environment League’s Hybrid Award.

Thank you. I want to thank you all for creating my own special category – the HYBRID award. It suits me just fine. I have never identified myself as an environmentalist. I have never belonged to Tropical Audubon, the Sierra Club, or Friends of the Everglades. But, to get this Hybrid Award from the Urban Environment League is sincerely appreciated. This is the very first time I have been recognized for my Conservation work as a member of the Board of County Commissioners.

For many years I have been sponsoring legislation that has made Miami-Dade County a leader in conserving energy and water resources. I do not issue press releases or hold press conferences. Some officials are attracted to cameras “like moths to a flame.” It is simply not my style. I get plenty of satisfaction in just knowing things are getting done.

I have always had strong convictions about the importance of Conservation. I do not use terms like “sustainability” and “Ecosystems” when I talk. But I know good policies when I see them, and I believe in being accountable and responsible. One thing I know for sure: for future generations to live here, we will need to preserve and protect our water supply.

I am proud of the 20 year Water Use Permit the County got from the Water Management District. There were a number of actors involved, but this crucial agreement was struck when two strong willed women looked each other in the eye and agreed to get it done. I will not forget the day Carol Wehle and I had our heart to heart, eye to eye, conversation.

All of the Conservation proposals I have sponsored have been supported Unanimously by my colleagues. Despite the objections of the County Manager, we joined the Chicago Climate Exchange. We are the only government in the Southeastern United States that now buys and sells Carbon Credits. I passed the Water Use Permit. My Ordinance to require the most efficient plumbing fixtures in the nation passed. My motion to require residential applications outside the Urban Development Boundary to include alternative water supply plans was adopted. When I created the Climate Change Advisory Task Force, it was approved unanimously. My resolution to get a grant for the EPA to review our Urban Development Boundary passed. Despite what Kermit the Frog says, for a Miami-Dade County Commissioner, it is easy being green.

But getting things done is not always easy. That is why, tonight, I want to ask for your help. Your organization, with its focus on citizen engagement and getting actively involved, is uniquely positioned to help me with a couple of things. So, I accept your award and leave you with a to-do list:

1) The Climate Change Advisory Task Force was created to give the County Commission recommendations. They are an Advisory Board. They do not need to work out the details. I will sponsor legislation to implement their recommendations. Time is not on our side. Please push them to publish their final recommendations by the end of the calendar year.

2) I have been working with a group of local elected officials from around the
country to make sure that the Cap and Trade bill in Washington includes money
for local government projects. Please push for passage of the Waxman – Markey
bill . . . and remind them of the importance of local government funding.

3) Miami-Dade County has two-day water restrictions. Let the South Florida Water
Management District board members know that you believe everyone in South
Florida should live under the same rules.

4) When the EPA finishes its review of the Urban Development Boundary, let’s
have a civil conversation about their observations. Promise me everyone will
put down their pitchforks. I am hopeful the EPA will have its report ready by
the end of the calendar year. I look forward to meeting with you to see how we
can lower the volume when we debate land use issues.

Sorry I took so much time saying thank you – but I am not sure when I will be invited back. Thank you and please continue to speak your mind. I am listening.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Virginia Key Master Plan Rejected. By Blanca Mesa

The City of Miami Waterfront Advisory Board unanimously rejected by 11-0 the final proposed Virginia Key Master Plan at the June 9 meeting at Miami City Hall.

In a motion made in the affirmative asking for approval of the plan, each of the members present voted “No.” Two members who had said they would vote no, Manny Prieguez and Stuart Sorg, left before the final vote was taken. 

Before he left Sorg offered this zinger:   “I see every blade of grass has something on it. This is in another world. It’s not Miami. I wouldn’t support it for five minutes.”

He also had a few choice words for a proposed new “fishing pier” that looks like something out of a Hollywood premiere. “I would be embarrassed to go to this Fishing Pier. I think I would need a tuxedo.”

Board chair Wendy Kamilar said the deal breakers for her were the numerous parking garages along the Rickenbacker Causeway, (some which could be up to five stories tall) and the lack of a public boat ramp.  The city had promised a public boat ramp on Virginia Key after announcing the ramp in Coconut Grove would eventually close, she said. 

On the existing public boat ramp site across from the Bayside Hut restaurant in the Marine Stadium basin, the EDSA plan calls for a dry dock storage site for 725 vessels that would be about five stories high and about the length of 5-6 football fields.    The EDSA representative said  they had wanted to put a boat ramp on the north end of the island but were blocked by DERM officials.  

A DERM representative present explained why: the location selected by EDSA  was a public beach, a sea turtle nesting area, in a manatee protection zone, and that it would result in boat traffic cutting through the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Refuge or other ecologically sensitive areas.  

Some board members questioned who would own or manage the facilities, and how they would be paid for. Enrique Nunez, a city planner,  said no funds have been allocated. In the May 20 public meeting, the EDSA representative had said the development proposals could cost $300 - $400 million. Nunez indicated that the Master Plan would be used as the “guiding tool” to pursue financing opportunities, including a bond program. 

Other board members expressed concern about the scale and appropriateness of some of the projects that block the public’s views and access to the waterfront.  

“Unfortunately, the proof is in the picture and the picture is not what a lot of us thought would come out.” said board member Jose Keichi Fuentes, who said he runs on Virginia Key every weekend. “When what you see are parking lots, that takes away from what we love” about Virginia Key.

The meeting drew more than two dozen concerned citizens, many representing organizations with hundreds of members, including the Miami Rowing Club, the Sierra Club, Miami Group, Dade Heritage Trust,Tropical Audubon, the Urban Environment League, the Windsurfers and ECOMB as well as citizen representatives of neighborhood groups. Steve Hagan, a member of the City of Miami’s Park and Environment Advisory Board, said his group was never presented the plan.   

Speakers from many citizen groups urged the Waterfront Advisory Board to reject the plan, stating that many of the proposals, including large parking garages, shopping areas and speciality restaurants, lodging and conference centers, were explicitly rejected by the public at the charettes organized by the City to solicit citizen’s input.

Many speakers stressed that the consensus at the previous  public planning meetings was for a “less is more” approach to Virginia Key that would keep it green and preserve waterfront access and views and protect the existing wildlife refuges and other natural areas.

Representatives of the Dade Heritage Trust and Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium said the City of Miami has appealed the historic designation of the Miami Marine Stadium basin and that appeal is still pending so it would be premature to approve the Master Plan at this point. 

The City of Miami Planning Advisory Board will consider the Virginia Key Master Plan at 7 p.m., June 17 at the City of Miami Commission Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive..

The City of Miami Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on the Virginia Key Master Plan at 9 a.m., June 25, City of Miami Commission Chambers. View the proposed plan

What you can do:

Attend and speak out at the City of Miami Planning Advisory Board meeting, 7 p.m. June 17, City of Miami Commission Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami. Contact City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Commissioners
Write letters to the editor:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Waterfront Advisory Board Meeting. By Fran Bohnsack

Well, well, well! What an interesting meeting at the City of Miami Waterfront Advisory Board last night. The subject matter? The noxious Virginia Key Master Plan and its loads of concrete being pushed by EDSA and the City's leadership. In what was expected to be a greased acceptance by Waterfront Board members, a surprising turnabout came through in the form of a large public turnout and an epiphany from board Member Jose Fuentes who commented that the plan was overly "aggressive" in its scope. I'll say! Eleven parking garages, an overblown "promenade," a conference center, dozens of sports fields forming a major complex, dormitories, a camp ground, bike trails, an aquatic center, zero transportation but lots of room for cars, cars, cars!

Person after person stood up to decry the plan that despoils the island, arguing for clemency for the marine stadium and hands off for just about everything else. Of course, the Urban Environment League was there, as were dozens of other environmental groups who sang the same tune. In the end, the very observer who noted the aggressiveness of the plan made a motion to approve. When the vote was taken, it was unanimous against the plan -- even with the motion maker!

But we must remain vigilant. Virginia Key is still not safe. The plan is slated to go to the Planning Advisory Board on June 17th, where it's likely to meet the same fate, but observers of these boards know that the City Commission does not generally listen to their own advisory boards. So the real battle will be fought on June 25th at the Commission meeting, unless the enormity of the plan's defeat at the Waterfront Board is too embarrassing to keep the plan on track.

And there's a problem. How will what happened last night be couched by City officials? Will it be said that the Plan failed for lack of a single supportive vote (doubtful)? Or will it be implied that because no motion was passed, the plan proceeds with out a strike against it. Anyone taking bets out there?

Waterfront Board Meeting Last Night

Congratulations to the residents of Miami Dade and the City of Miami for defeating the EDSA Master Plan at the Waterfront Board last night. The UEL especially wants to thank attorney Blanca Mesa for her hard work in rallying people against this foolish plan. The forthcoming meeting at the PLanning Advisory Board on June 17 is equalling important as is the process of lobbying City COmmissioners against the plan. They vote on June 25. We need to push the need for more public meetings in order to keep the island from stupid commercial development. Overall, this could be another example of a good public planning process similar to that of Virginia Key Park Trust. Maybe its a new day. Maybe. Greg Bush

Monday, June 8, 2009

Virginia Key: Open Letter from Judith Sandoval to The City of Miami Commissioners

Re: EDSA Virginia Key Master Plan (Hit on Image to enlarge it)

Speak out at the City of Miami Waterfront Advisory Board Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 9, 2009, Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, FL 33133

Last week, I attended the presentation of the final EDSA Virginia Key Master Plan at the Miami Science Museum. Even after the problems with Bicentennial Park , Bryan Park and other city parks being threatened with unsuitable and expensive construction where landscaping is more suitable, I was shocked by the plan for Virginia Key. Also shocking are the claims that this is going to be a green park. Due to Miami's lack of green space and acquisition of park land to keep up with a burgeoning population, counting grass on top of the multitude of parking garages and other buildings instead of more grass on the ground is a joke.

This plan despoils the island and turns it into a commercial sports complex more grandiose and expensive than anything else in the city or the county. There is precious little left that is a park. Four baseball fields? Dormitories for visiting teams? No transportation within the park except for automobiles? Not even a tram to get to the beach? Double the boats at the marina, a very large restaurant and 40,000 of retail stores? This is not a park; it is Disneyland. The purpose indicates crowding as many people and cars into the place as possible. The plan is far worse than the one for Bicentennial Park's 21 acres after two museums are making off with 8 acres, a grave planning error that will be very costly to taxpayers.

The plan is not what the public asked for in three well-attended charettes but in spirit and detail just the opposite. It is the plan or an even more elaborate plan for construction and man-made facilities than was first presented to the public at the beginning of the process. It is a slap in the face of all the organizations and citizens, many of them members of neighborhood organizations and professional environmental agencies who have been involved with protecting and improving the natural areas of the park for many years.

This plan should be ditched straightaway. It is an insult to everyone and will only please sports fans and the construction industry and its friends. Creating an oversight board of just real estate developers is the final straw. Mr. City Manager and City Commissioners, how could you allow the destruction of our last large natural place that could be a paradise of beauty, a model of the preservation of Florida's natural habitat, and tranquility?

And the price tag of $300 to $400 million? The people responsible for this horrible project have no taste and no fiscal responsibility.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Virginia Key Master Plan: Is This the Plan our Community Wants?

(hit on images to enlarge them).
The final proposed Master Plan for Virginia Key was unveiled May 20 by the City of Miami's consultants and will first go to the Miami Waterfront Advisory Board Tuesday, June 9 at 6:3O PM, Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Coconut Grove, FL 33133 on its fast-track approval process to the City Commission by June 25, 2009. BE THERE!

Hit on this link to see the plan. Hiking and biking trails and wildlife observation decks show up but it’s also packed with dozens of sports fields with stadium lights near turtle nesting areas, parking garages to accommodate thousands of vehicles, a conference center, “dormitories” a huge “specialty restaurant,” and other intensive commercial activities, including a shopping area.

Is this what the public wants for our last wild, green open space? Is this right for this 1,000-acre environmentally fragile island in Biscayne Bay, home of the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area. Does the plan reflect the public input provided at numerous public meetings, where the request was for "less is more" on Virginia Key?

If you don't like what you see, here's what you can do:
Speak out at the City of Miami Waterfront Advisory Board Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 9, 2009, Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, FL 33133

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Refining the Pubic Interest in Planning the Future of Virginia Key

Virginia Key is a 1,000 acre island off the coast of Miami that has no residents and serves as a poster child for bad planning in South Florida. The proposed Master Plan for the Key going before the City Commission on June 25, 2009 has been long in coming - and reflects interminable delays and inadequate public information (deed restrictions on the land are not even listed on the website).

Suddenly this month, city officials have placed the plan on a fast track for approval. The Urban Environment League strongly advises against accepting the plan in its present form. The plan springs from a poorly designed public process and ignores issues of global warming in the future. The plan needs to be refined to reflect the best values of our time – not merely the short sighted values that have long dominated the city’s attitude towards the public waterfront.

The Urban Environment League along with other organizations and hundreds of other city and county residents have been involved in the planning process for the Key over the past ten years and were the major organizational champions behind the successful effort to preserve Virginia Key Beach. The present plan drawn by EDSA in no ways reflects public input. The plan calls for a far too intensive building program and inadequate consideration of public transportation.

As seen so far, there is no clear fiscal plan involved and it makes a mockery of present environmental concerns with massive unfunded developments. A raft of parking garages is envisioned – but for what? Massive numbers of cars? There is no new public transportation envisioned. It reflects poorly thought out uses of the historic Marine Stadium, a headquarters for Biscayne National Park, aquatic sports and other non-profit land uses.

Additionally, the historic Virginia Key Beach Park has been inadequately consulted; their plans are insufficiently integrated into the overall plan with no thematic coherence. We agree that the Rusty Pelican should continue to serve patrons from its present location but remain concerned that boat docks not protrude into the marine basin.

While there are elements of value in the EDSA plan, we believe that it should be vastly revised with additional public input. At least two more public meetings should be held. It should come back to the public bodies no earlier than October.

The UEL agrees that the North Point area of the island should be primarily preserved for nature and bike trails, but do not agree that a corporate center should be placed there. We agree that revenue needs to be raised by facilities on the island but strict limits must be placed on anything that would impede public access to this open space in a city that has among the least park acreage of any major city in the nation.

The proposed building along the Marine basin must be strictly limited – and enhanced by numerous public amenities and gardens; it should not reflect another Bayside Marketplace or projected development similar to Watson Island.

We believe that future development of the island should be guided by a clear set of principles for public development and overseen by a Virginia Key Development committee- but it should reflect a broad array of business, planning, environmental and neighborhood groups – and not simply reflect real estate interests as has been envisioned by the EDSA plan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

UEL was against SB360 from the start.

This was delivered to the legislature:

A Resolution of the Urban Environment League of Miami-Dade County
April 2, 2009

Whereas, Florida became a leader among states during the 1970s and 1980s in terms of the quality of its growth management legislation; notably with the Growth Management Act of 1985 under the leadership of Governor Bob Graham;

Whereas growth management has become an important tool in combating urban sprawl, inadequately planned growth, impact fees, and environmental oversight by state agencies;

Whereas, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), although inadequately staffed, has provided invaluable oversight of local developments, DRI’s and other growth management mechanisms;

Whereas the Florida Senate has passed SB 360 which can be found online at that will have the effect of decimating numerous existing agencies such as the DCA, and greatly facilitating the permitting process for builders at the local level. Among other problems with the legislation, it recommends that “the Legislature recognizes and finds that reduced state oversight of local comprehensive planning is justified for some local governments in urban areas and for certain types of development ” and that “this state's urban areas require a reduced level of state oversight because of their high degree of urbanization and the planning capabilities and resources of many of their local governments.”

Whereas, building sustainable neighborhoods has become a national priority, including adequate funding for infrastructure, water supply, and preservation of open spaces, urban development boundary lines; and

Whereas Florida, of all places on the planet, must find a way to support innovative development that can turn the tide against climate change;

Whereas, the economy of Florida has historically been devastated by poorly planned expansion of housing tracts and inadequate oversight of concurrency or planning of infrastructure;

Whereas the existing economic downturn has been caused, in significant degree, by the complicity of builders, bankers and others who have sought short term profits at the expense of long term planning;

Whereas there have been legitimate concerns expressed by developers about the length and clarity of the permitting process;

Whereas, the construction and development industry has, for far to long, had a disproportionate impact on the political process through its campaign funding and extensive lobbying and press/advertising networks;

Whereas the public has inadequate understanding of the proposed changes in SB 360 and other similar legislation;

Be it Therefore Resolved that the Urban Environment League

1. Condemns the proposed legislation known as SB 360 and calls for its immediate defeat. We urge the public to write to members of the House urging that the provisions of SB 360 that damage DCA not be incorporated into the House companion Bill, HB 1019, or any other growth management bill;

2. Recommends that a special Florida Reform Commission on Growth Management for Sustainable Development be created by Governor Crist with wide representation from construction, business, environmental, community/neighborhood, and affordable housing groups as well as state and local officials. Said commission will be charged to take a year to hold hearings around the state, take wide public input, do an historical assessment of growth management legislation and make a set of recommendations to the Governor and Legislature about reforms of the system;

3. Recommends that urban areas send representatives of non-profit organizations to a separate statewide conference on Reforming Growth Management to be held in the fall of 2009

4. That public school students -- and the public -- be made aware of the growth management legislation through linked websites.

Watch out for Cul-De-Sacs

Monday, June 1, 2009