Mr. Mayor: Where are the Impact Studies?

Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli actually tried to cut residents and parents off at the October meeting because “the lobbyists are here” to talk about legislative priorities. He said the Village of Merrick Park had no negative effect on Coral Gables High and this would be the same.

Wawa Whaaaat? Coral Gables to get a gas station across elementary school – Political Cortadito

CORAL GABLES’ ZONING CODE REVISIONS: Public Workshop and Community Outlook

The 5-0 vote to hold the workshop, proposed by VIce Mayor Vince Lago, came a week after around 280 people watched a virtual special commission meeting on the zoning-code update. Several attendees complained they didn’t know about the undertaking, in the works for two years. Some claimed the city intentionally kept the zoning-code revisions “under wraps,” as one critic put it — something city officials strongly deny.

City officials documented nearly 25 public meetings and hearings on the zoning-code revisions, most of which are uncontroversial, but residents complained they were not notified of the effort. As a result, commissioners on Monday also unanimously backed a proposal by commissioner Jorge Fors to notify residents of all city public hearings by email through the city’s e-News service.

Questions from residents prompt delay in Gables zoning vote | Miami Herald

Many Coral Gables’ meetings slip under the radar for the average resident. The only reason that most meetings are often called “public” is because they are legally required to be spen to the public, even when the community is not invited to the meetings.

The Mayor has been highly critical of citizens complaining it was their fault if they didn’t know about the zoning code changes because they could have participated in 25 pubic meeting. The Mayor’s words were quite harsh and he questioned the motives of the critics in an undiplomatic tone. The demand for a new public workshop is, in part, a reaction to the Mayor’s annoying comments.

In the case of the 25 named public meeting held to discuss, review and revise the zoning code, with the advice of a consulting company, many of them were small invited technical working groups in which major revisions were discussed and agreed upon. The average resident interested in the outlook for Miracle Mile, the Crafts section and North Ponce, therefore, has to follow numerous meetings, the formal Commission meetings and working groups, without sufficient explanation, guidance and interpretation.

But the 25 prior “public meeting” can be described as:

(1) small technical gatherings,

(2) a limited groups of Coral Gables government staff and outsiders,

(3) advisory committees made of specially-selected highly-motived interest groups of architects, builders and lawyers, but not “average” citizens,

4) employ of highly technical and obtuse specialized language only understood by practiced specialists in zoning codes and direct users of the code such as architects, builders and attorneys. The City itself had to contract a consulting firm to help make the zoning code modifications.

(5) meetings held at odd hours of the day inconvenient to most residents. Also, the average citizens cannot sit through the largely stodgy, long technical sessions of the Commission and read, understand and analyze the significance of complex legalistic legislative documents on the spot.

Even Commissioners themselves evidenced some remaining questions and doubts about the purpose and contents of changes in the zoning code. Similarly, the Commissioners did not attend the many small technical decision making meetings, let alone the wider community.

And what can anyone say about the more than 500 pages of the zoning code!

The Commission and Management should be prepared to explain and interpret the likely impact of their decisions and the changes in the zoning code on future construction and development on Miracle Mile, the Crafts section, and North Ponce for community livability, the environment, transportation, access, size of structures, density and commerce.

In other words, how will the areas evolve and look like in the future and how will current residents in the areas and the wider community be affected?

MIRACLE MILE REDEVELOPMENT (Coral Gables): The Mayor’s Vs. the Vice Mayor’s Vision

Our residents have a plethora of options including Merrick Park, Brickell City Center, the Design District, Aventura and others, not to mention on-line shopping on Amazon. Miracle Mile is on a downward spiral. Just recently I drove the four- block stretch and was shocked to count 40 empty storefronts. Our leadership is required to ensure that this spiral doesn’t become permanent. Miracle Mile needs to be revitalized.

I believe that the best way to bring this four-block stretch back to life is by bringing back foot traffic to enjoy amenities. While we work with the Business Improvement District (BID) on projects such as Murals on the Mile that we hope will help bring foot traffic, it is by having multi-use development including residences that will ultimately revitalize Miracle Mile. We need to attract residents to the Mile; not only to patronize our shops and restaurants but to live in our city center as well.

Let’s bring Miracle Mile back to life | Miami’s Community News

A few comments are due here:

  • The Vice Mayor has questioned whether the code change will affect the future of Miracle Mile and its small town look and ambience.
  • The Mayor recently drove along Miracle Mile to count the empty store fronts. There have been empty store fronts for a long time because of two factors: COVID-19 and associated unemployment recession; and the long time construction of the so-called Streetscape. Prior to that we can list the housing recession of 2006-2009.
  • A “Midtown Model”: The redevelopment of Miracle Mile with the construction of multi-story hotels and residences of up to many (say 10) floors would indeed repopulate Miracle Mile, but it would lead to many fewer store fronts and wider buildings, leading potentially to the introduction of national and international store chains in the form of min-box stores a la Midtown. This would be the end of the idea of Coral Gables as a “small town.”
  • Business culture: Miracle Mile balances toward medium to small businesses and independent operators and entrepreneurs. The eventual accelerated development might lead to homogenized min-big box stores and tramsient chains of a lesser quality.
  • Building residences: Merrick Park area residences are not leading to actual new store front models or large increases in shopping traffic. The Merrick Park shopping center area has serious financial problems now and any expansion of Miracle Mile will surely hit against Merrick Park shopping and financing.
  • More causes of Miracle Mile decline: The City of Coral Gables has added to the woes of Miracle Mile by promoting Merrick Park shopping and many multi-story apartment buildings. Also, the addition of large development along Dixie Highway near Merrick Park and near the University of Miami will expand an already big traffic problem there attract away business from Miracle Mile. It is understood that rezoning would complement and continue the strong redevelopment and tall buildings along Dixie Highway between Red Road and Douglas Road. This already is hitting and degrading residential areas. Let the traffic be damned!
  • The City of Coral Gables has been preparing and revising its zoning code, one of the famously most tough, complicated codes in South Florida requiring a small army of bureaucrats to enforce.
  • Shifting shopping areas: Only the City of Coral Gables can be blamed for the decline of Miracle Mile. It has expanded large-scale construction away from the Mile in Merrick Park. The Streetscape project has killed off good street parking and the long construction period caused stores to lose money and fail.
  • Transportation and parking: The local transportation hub and busses run away from the center of Miracle Mile toward Dixie Highway along Ponce de Leon. This has been no help to Miracle Mile.
  • Participation: The Mayor asserts in this article that the community has had more than enough time to review the proposed revisions that have been under review for four years. Let it me known that the average interested resident doesn’t know anything about the code changes and only development companies, professionals and owners who understand and have a commercial interest in the complex implications of the code have followed the proposed changes.

FINAL COMMENTS: The “free market” will not resurrect Miracle Mile. Just as the city and its residents were prepared to spend on the Streetscape, the city should be ready to look for financing to shape a significant development plan that keeps the idea of a more scaled down city, small business and a place to bring residents and visitors to participate in excellent culture, dining, shopping and community interaction. These various elements will have to subsidized for them to work. Otherwise, we will be faced with more uncontrolled large-scale development, which is the pattern in Coral Gables in recent years.

Coral Gables–Future of Miracle Mile

The rewrite of the zoning code might allow for an increase the scale of the unique area through the height of the building and a thereby a change in the nature of the activities there. Miracle Mile is long known throughout the country and quite recently the city, resident and commerce have financed a upgrade in the streets, side walks and parking at considerable cost to the community.

I attach information from a recent newsletter on the rezoning code.

Vice Mayor Vince Lago’s November 2020 Newsletter Zoning Code Rewrite:

Making Changes While Preserving Our History

As we consider proposals to make changes to the Coral Gables Zoning Code, it is important to strategically plan for the long-term development of the downtown area, especially Miracle Mile.

What makes the City of Coral Gables special is its small-town feel and charming streets like Miracle Mile. Although it is important to incorporate thoughtful planning measures to ensure economic longevity, I do not believe that we should compromise the controlled height that makes Miracle Mile so iconic.

Source: Newsletter Vice Mayor Lago.

The City Commission will organize open meeting about the subject of the zoning code changes, and it was been requested that a internet meeting be held to allow participation of the Coral Gable community.

Please check the City of Coral Gables agenda items.

Neighborhood Light Pollution: DOCTORS HOSPITAL VALET PARKING

This is the existing night time light contamination from Doctors Hospital, penetrating through the city-owned valet parking lot and penetrating through a very dense green buffer along the Coral Gables Waterway. The alternation, removal and installation of new landscaping may very significantly increase light contamination to the neighbors. Also, it is not known at this date if the city will allow for additional lighting on the future expanded parking lot after it is sold to Baptist Health, as planned.

Endangered Green Area: Overview

This is a satellite view of the Doctors Hospital (Baptist Health) parking lot leased from the City of Coral Gables showing the lot and the green barrier between the lot and the neighborhood streets (Granada, Carillo, Pisano).

The City of Coral Gables plans the sale of the parking lot and the green area to Baptist Health for an estimated $3.0 million.

The green buffer hides views of the Doctors Hospital building, traffic and parked cars from the area residents and supplies numerous environmental benefits.

It is worrying that Doctors Hospital will re-landscape the area with the subsequent loss of the environment and local property values.

The City of Coral Gables should require that no buildings or other construction (walls) be allowed on the property and that the green buffer be fully retained or significantly improved.

If the City of Coral Gables cannot ensure the permanency of the dense green buffer then the land sale may be questioned.