Miami Beach may reduce parking for hotels, with special rule for project 17th Street and West Avenue

Miami Beach commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday on new parking rules that would reduce the number of parking spaces required for hotels in historic districts.

The proposed change, as approved by the city Planning Board, would only apply to the retention of historic buildings — with an exception specifically designed to enable the construction of a new hotel on the north side of 17th Street and West Avenue.

What’s so special about this hotel? A good question for the city commission to answer. Because the parking rules on the agenda for Wednesday seem to be written with that one project in mind.

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Some background: The Miami Beach Housing Authority owns the pie-shaped sliver of land south of the Collins Canal and just east of the proposed West Avenue bridge, which would extend West Avenue north across 17th Street, the canal and  Dade Boulevard, linking with the Sunset Harbour neighborhood.

The Housing Authority has a contract to sell the land to the Finvarb Group — a company headed by Robert Finvarb that owns and operates a slew of Marriotts in South Florida and across the country.

Finvarb has proposed building a five-story Residence Inn by Marriott on the property.  Designed by architect Kobi Karp, it would have five floors, 116 rooms and only 66 parking spaces in a mechanical garage.

The land sale is contingent on the approval of the hotel project.
And the hotel project can’t go forward without the change in the city’s parking rules.

The developers have repeatedly asked the Planning Board to defer consideration of the hotel because the proposed number of parking spaces assumes the city will lessen parking requirements.

And the parking ordinance analysis the city will vote on Wednesday actually singles out the Finvarb project to be exempted from the requirement that the reduction be “only applicable to retention of historic buildings.”

There are areas where the parking reduction won’t apply at all, because of concerns about parking shortages and traffic congestion. One is the neighborhood south of Fifth Street. Another is the West Avenue corridor, which they city contends ends at the doorstep of the Finvarb property — at West Avenue and 17th Street.

The Housing Authority/Finvarb property is across the street from the West Avenue corridor (and you could argue, that when the West Avenue bridge is built, it will be on the corridor.

Nevertheless, specific  language in the staff recommendation to the city commission mentions Finvarb and this exception to the rule: the proposed hotel would get the .5 space per unit break as long as the hotel agrees it will not have a restaurant, pool, bar or special events open to the public.

The Residence Inn’s restaurant and pool will only be used by hotel guests.

The Belle Isle Residents Association, the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association and and Miami Beach United have opposed the new parking rule, and the new hotel. They argue that 17th Street between Alton Road and West Avenue is one of the city’s most congested areas, and adding the hotel — in fact, creating special rules to accommodate the hotel — just makes no sense.

In a letter sent Monday to the Miami Beach mayor and commissioners, Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer asked that a decision on the parking rule be deferred so the city’s Transportation and Parking Committee could review it.

Diffenderfer is a committee member, and noted that the group typically reviews ordinances that would change parking requirements.

“I have been a member for five years and I am insulted that an amendment as important and controversial as this has not been presented to us,” he wrote. “There is clearly a breakdown in the process.”

The Belle Isle residents group has been seeking a presentation from zoning lawyer Michael Larkin for months. Larkin has met with selected island residents, but not in an open meeting that anyone could attend.

“Many residents have expressed outrage that the City would even consider reducing parking requirements to allow this type of development on that tiny piece of property which is mere feet away from 17th Street and Alton Road – one of the most congested and dysfunctional intersections in our city,” Diffenderfer said in his letter to the city commission.

16 responses to “Miami Beach may reduce parking for hotels, with special rule for project 17th Street and West Avenue

  1. One other issue is that the parking ordinance change will require the City give back MILLIONS of dollars we already have to hotel developers and will forgo millions in the future. This is money that can be used for mass transit, pedestrian and bike amenities, garages and even the Baywalk. The City has not explained how it will recoup the money.

  2. Fellow bells island residents, don’t allow others to speak for you. Get ALL the facts regarding this project. Just because we live on belle island does not mean we all agree. I have viewed all the discussed uses for this space and this hotel makes the most sense and less traffic impact than a drive through or pharmacy. We have looked at this garbage dump of a space long enough. The renderings of this hotel are beautiful and take into account all the restrictions opposed by the city’s planning department. What I see happening over the last year or so, folks forgetting we live in a city, not a suburb. Living in any city comes with a certain amount of give and take to make it special ! What concerns me is we are starting to constantly see the same people saying NO to everything which requires development and improvement. I’m also concerned neighbors of mine want the city life style and value to their real estate but the slowness of a suburb neighborhood This is South Beach not Century village!

    At the end of day, get informed and get ALL the facts before allowing others to speak on your behalf.

    • Loves Miami Beach

      I notice how this is taking on an ageist tone which is discriminatory and very nasty tack to take. None of us are against development. We are against the wrong kind of development. Too bad you couldn’t make your argument without resorting to stereotypes and stuck to the facts.

      • No ageist tone. Not discriminatory either. Just stating some facts and trying to allow others to see from another perspective and not always from the naysayers point. I was told from a West Ave association member this was “none of my business ” as I live on belle island! Point being these neighborhood associations tend to speak on everyone’s behalf, when in fact we all have different opinions.

      • And question. Why is this the wrong kind of development? What is the correct kind of development you recommend one to do on this plot?

  3. It is interesting to note that a joint effort of Miami Beach United, Lincoln West Neighborhood and WAVNA (West Avenue Neighborhood Association collaborated on a resolution to commission to create the current West Avenue boundaries that would not allow for any reduced parking in the area for hotel development. The northern line as we all drew it was Dade Boulevard. When it got to the city Land Use committee, they immediately squashed that line down to the south side of 17th Street – purposely eliminating the 17th Street Hotel from that resolution. Ever since, the powers that be have been working diligently to give the 17th Street hotel a 50% reduction of parking. What is equally incredible, there are twin ordinances coming to the commission tomorrow. One for a 25% reduction for all other hotels, and one just for the 17th Street hotel for a 50% reduction.

  4. Jason Bason Banana Fana Wason

    I laugh a lot! You know what causes most of the problems in the City of Miami Beach???? The stupidity factor! Change the timing on one light (Alton and Dade) and it screws up traffic even 2 blocks away at West and 17th and beyond. Anyone else notice that? It happens a lot. Development is good. But we shouldnt get carried away!

    I remember a few years ago, the neighborhood was against a 21 unit condo, too much traffic. BUT…….The commercial space that is going in there instead……IDIOTS!!!!!

  5. Perry,

    I am from WAvNA and we never said it wasn’t any of your business. As you will note from Scott’s comment the developer actively avoided the Belle Isle Resident’s Association entreaties to meet. Instead, he and his lawyer cultivated a group of people with misinformation who are now lobbying on the developer’s behalf. We don’t like your insinuation that anyone against the project is an old biddy and nothing more than a killjoy.

    Describing residents’ misgivings about a project’s impact as being nothing more than a concern of a 55+ community is indeed discriminatory and ageist. You blithely write off the impacts by saying, “It is South Beach!” Are you suggesting that people on South Beach, YOUNG and old, are not allowed to expect the City to protect their interests? To fight for their quality of life? To ensure their property values remain stable or increase? To work with with the Housing Authority of the City of Miami Beach, a non-profit with a Board appointed by the Mayor and that receives money from the City and the Federal government – that is how the land was purchased in the first place, money from HUD – and is tasked with providing housing on Miami Beach, to find means to address the issues raised by residents?

    The developer said at the beginning he would consider a condo if he didn’t get the parking waiver. We applauded that because this had much less impacts than any other type of project and would have the added benefit of bringing residents of the same frame of mind – homeowners.

    Our main concern has always been about traffic and quality of life. We have seen what a nightmare Washington and Collins Avenue have become. To this, we advocated for development that supports the character of the surrounding communities – they are highly residential. Hotels have deliveries that require large trucks and need valet, especially as a result of parking reductions. They bring in constant stream of traffic from taxis and visitors with cars. The developer has tried to convince people that condos would have more impacts than a hotel which is laughable at best. He has NEVER presented any other scenario for the site to any other than you. The developer seemed certain along the way he would get the waiver on the parking so dug in his heels and has actively sought to lobby any person to accept the project.

    Our other concern was about the entire ordinance and the impacts on all of Miami Beach. The parking ordinance change means the City forfeits MILLIONS of dollars that could be used to support transportation projects that would have positive impacts on quality of life for residents. The City never adequately explained how it would offset the loss of those millions of dollars.

    1) the original traffic study was woefully inadequate and we actively urged the City to reconsider the project’s impacts on one of the most “dysfunctional” intersections on the Beach.
    2) WAvNA’s involvement curtailed some of the most egregious traffic impacts because we pushed back so hard on the project.
    3) we objected to the the hotel industry’s self serving study of parking needs of a variety of hotels around the Beach.
    4) hoteliers have not been honest about their parking needs so as to court votes on the Commission. Valet service adds to the City’s congestion as we have seen from the Standard – each valet trip adds one or two additional trips. Many hotels on the ocean have their valet service on the other side of the Beach. This does not reduce congestion, it adds to it.

    We have argued that residential development would have some other tangential benefits including:
    1) property taxes from condominiums would be available for direct use by the City to provide services for residents, pay for infrastructure repairs or offset our growing pension liabilities. Resort taxes do not have the same applicability.
    2) residential development would improve the property values of the entire community. This conceivably would have the ripple effect of helping homeowners who are underwater with their mortgages.

    • caspar mctaggart

      I see the greater issue here being the suspicious motives and methods of our officials in breaking, bending or abandoning the law to benefit those with vested financial interests, rather than following their mandate to serve the interests of the community at large.

      Political corruption is so endemic to Miami Beach, sometimes I feel it, too, deserves to be protected for its historical significance in defining our distinctive cultural landscape.

  6. I can’t even begin to comment on this. And you really took what i said to another level and added your own words. I was simply making a reference and you have me Against seniors. I will not comment further here. Oh but ill be happy to show you the email from a west ave association member who told me to mind my business! I still have it! Best of luck to you.

  7. The Standard is a perfect example of a responsible hotel who is building parking spaces that will benefit the neighborhood since the 3-car-trip for every car that is valeted will now be eliminated with a new hotel parking garage. The situation with the hotel on 17th Street is the EXACT OPPOSITE, developer intends to change the city ordinance to avoid building parking spaces.

    The developer announced at our homeowner association meeting that if the reduced parking ordinance (which reduces parking by half) does not pass, then the developer would instead build apartments or condos. And that is exactly what neighbors prefer. I am sure a condo complex will be just as beautiful. Would a condo at that location be acceptable to you?

    • The standard hotel has a resturant and bar open to the public which creates more vehicle traffic. The hotel in question will not have an resturant or bar. The only vehicles besides employees will be the guests which many don’t have a need for a vehicle and will take a taxi from the airport. Those who choose to rent a car will park it and in most cases stay parked while here in south beach.

      My point from the beginning is we are a city evolving and we all have different opionions and unfortunately many residents don’t even know what’s going on until after a decision happens. These associations speak as they are speaking for all of us and we all don’t share the same views. How come as an average resident not usally politically involved I and many others were never aware of this ? i came across the topic by accident speaking with a realtor. So once I heard I thought it was important enough to learn more and get involved with others that support this project.

      I made a comment and next thing one of your members has words twisted that I’m ageist. Anyone that knows me, knows that is a joke! I do more than the average person to assist my fellow neighbors (senior), shop, etc…

      To answer your question, I would not mind a condo in lieu of a hotel. Wouldn’t a condo create even more vechicles? Multiple vechicles per unit coming and going at different hours of the day? Plus more commercial vechicles which would be on going?

      Lastly, I would have personally arranged a meeting from the developer here on belle island and he is and still willing to present.

      Bottom line we all have different opinions and no association should have the right to speak for an entire neighborhood when all the neighborhood has not been fully informed.

  8. I have to admit , your enthusiam for this hotel is suspect.

  9. Lol! I have no vested interest. If this does or does not get approved does not ultimately effect my life. However, My enthusiam as you call it, is after many years of seeing a dump multiple times a day! Yes I pass the site at least 4 times a day, I’m hoping to see a beautiful structure that will serve me and some of our neighbors with an affordable option for our friends and family who visit. That’s it!

  10. Pingback: 17th Street hotel developer to meet with Belle Isle Residents Association | Belle Isle Blog

  11. Pingback: Belle Isle leaders push for green space for 17th Street, not hotel | Belle Isle Blog

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