Category Archives: City Issues

Miami Beach issues affecting our island.

Critical Mass rides on this Friday night; plan your evening driving accordingly.

Route for Friday night's bike ride.

Route for Friday night’s bike ride.

The July Critical Mass bike ride is taking a Miami Beach-heavy route Friday night, crossing our neighborhood from Dade Boulevard west across Venetian Way to the mainland.

The ride is scheduled to start in downtown Miami at 7:15 p.m., crossing over the 79th Street Causeway through North Bay Village and then into Miami Beach on 71th Street  before heading south along Indian Creek and then Collins Avenue to Dade Boulevard.

You’ll want to be patient, and planning ahead is the best strategy. Be careful out there.

Venetian drawbridge construction starts soon, and here’s how to learn more about it

With the newest road construction obstacle course underway off Sunset Harbor in preparation for the West Avenue Bridge, another major traffic inconvenience is about to begin.

This one will no doubt be more disruptive. As we’ve reported before, Miami-Dade County has to do major work on the eastern Venetian Way drawbridge span, the one between Rivo Alto and Belle Isle.

The drawbridge has been locked in the closed position since April 2015, due to a mechanical failure.

Some work is expected to start next month, but the biggest issue — the closure of the bridge to all foot, bike and auto traffic — may not happen until November. At one point, the county had said the bridge would be closed to all traffic for a 45-day period.

That’s a huge headache, no matter how you look at it. Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco has told the Venetian Island Homeowner Association he’s investigating engaging a water taxi to ferry people across the gap, but it’s unclear how consistent the demand would be.

How bad will it be? What will be the precise timing?

Miami-Dade has scheduled a community meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the community room at 1000 Venetian Way on Biscayne Island. It will be hosted by the Venetian Way Neighborhood Association, in collaboration with the Belle Isle Residents Association and the Venetian Isles Homeowner Association.

Residents are encouraged to attend.

Yes, the road construction has begun

The barricades are up again.

The barricades are up again.

You’ve no doubt noticed that work began last week on the raising of the Venetian Way/Dade Boulevard/17th Street seawalls near Maurice Gibb Park and Sunset Harbour.

And now comes word from the city that Miami-Dade County, as it prepares to rebuild the drawbridge between Belle Isle and Rivo Alto, will be opening the bridge tonight from midnight to 3 a.m. Wednesday, and Wednesday night from midnight to 3 a.m. Thursday.

This is a prelude to project that is expected to start in September and run through December 2016.

The work near Sunset Harbour involves raising seawalls along the Collins Canal, and is a early step in a process that will ultimately include raising the road and the construction of a new bridge along West Avenue over the canal.

In the face of growing opposition, Sunset Harbour developer pulls project

Proposed mixed use development on Purdy.

Proposed mixed use development on Purdy.

Save Miami Beach targets Sunset Harbour project

Save Miami Beach targets Sunset Harbour project

Neighbors objected to the height variance — 90 feet instead of 50.

Beach Towing tried to derail the parking garage — or extract more than a $1 million.

This week, Deco Capital and developer Bradley Colmer withdrew their application for the Residences at Sunset Harbour, a retail, parking and luxury condo project proposed to be built across from Maurice Gibb Park on Purdy Avenue.

In a letter to the city, Colmer said he’ll return with a project within the existing height regularions.

Belle Isle residents to meet Tuesday to plan opposition to Belle Isle Key demolition

DeformaStudio-Bella Isla3

Rendering shows view from south side of Belle Isle.

A group of Belle Isle residents have scheduled a meeting Tuesday night at Costa Brava to rally opposition to the demolition of Belle Isle Key apartments.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.on the mezzanine level of the condo , 11 Island Ave.

The EuroAmerican Group, which owns the apartments at 31 Venetian Way, has submitted plans to replace the current complex of 120 units in five three-story buildings with 172 apartments in two five-story buildings. The project would also provide substantially more parking — 297 spaces in an interior garage, instead of the 109 spaces that are part of the current complex.

Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Island Ave.

Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Island Ave.

The Miami Beach Design Review Board will consider EuroAmerican’s plan on June 7.

Lawyer Richard Freeman, who lives in Costa Brava and is helping to organize opponents, said he’s trying to marshall a big group to show up on June 7 to voice opposition when the DRB meets.

“The best arguments are not as effective as having people show up,” he sad. “Sometimes numbers seak louder than words.”

At a meeting last week, Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer said the island association would not be taking a formal position against the complex because the height and number of units are allowed under the zoning code.

“You can’t just fight it because you don’t like it,” he said. “It has to have a legal basis.”

A meeting announcement circulated by Freeman says some residents are concerned the project will bring more traffic, construction and block bay views from other buildings.

 

Parents get a second chance: Survey planned on temporary kids playground in Belle Isle Park

Last Thursday night, neighborhood residents were invited to a meeting with Miami Beach Parks and Recreation staff to gauge support for temporarily moving the playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park to Belle Isle while Gibb Park is renovated.

The discussion, part of a regular Belle Isle Residents Association board meeting, was announced by email late Monday afternoon and posted on this blog the next day.

It wasn’t a lot of notice for parents, who usually put little ones to bed around that time. At the meeting, roughly 30 people attended, and those who spoke overwhelmingly opposed moving the playground termporarily to Belle Isle.

We blogged about what was said at the meeting, and many of your have commented — as has Scott Diffenderfer, residents of the residents association.

We thought it would be good to surface some of the comments in a fresh blog post so folks could catch up with the conversation.

Most importantly, we wanted to highlight that the the residents association plans to survey Belle Isle to get a more complete idea of what people think. Diffenderfer wrote:

“We are working on a survey to go out to a much larger group of residents than we reach through email to find out opinions on issues that affect our quality of life. In he meantime, please encourage your neighbors to forward their names and email addresses to us at BIRA@belleisleresidents.org.”

Several people who commented on the blog ost were offended by a remark made by one attendee who said having the playground in the park would attract sex offenders. People also complained it would be noisy and would draw more traffic.

Here are some of the responses:

The reason this was a resounding no was that the meeting was held at an inconvenient hour for parents who are bathing, feeding, and caring for their children at that time. There was a women who actually stated that Belle Isle is a classy place and putting a temporary playground there will ruin it…..but dogs and all their poop are cool, cause she loves dogs:) Can we get real!?!? There are two….TWO…enclosed parks for dogs at Belle Isle, but somehow a TEMPORARY park with, God forbid, children in it will totally mess up the ambiance. Equal rights for dogs and kids!

And sex offenders are alright too, as long as they stay near that other park 1 block away. Get your heads checked!

Now the issue of noise at the park….none of the toddlers I’ve seen are up much past the early bird special time, so I don’t think they’ll be throwing any wild parties in the park late night. This argument is absurd!

And parking…don’t get me started…oh wait, you already did. Have you tried parking there. IT. IS. IMPOSSIBLE. No one is driving to this park. Everyone that comes is walking.

Lastly, if there is no alternative location found, they will STILL come to Belle Isle simply because there is no where else within walking distance to go. But now, instead of just the Belle Isle kids and their nannies (and we all know how much everyone loves those nannies), the Sunset Harbor ones will come, too to take over all of the park benches….mostly the shaded one you wanted to sit on. Why wouldn’t we give them a separate, safe and enclosed space for 1 year to protect America’s future….again, it’s TEMPORARY and then you can go back to hating them.

Belle Isle is a wonderful place to live because of our sense of community. As a community, we need to coexist. Humans (yes, kids too) and pets alike. Today, in Belle Isle we have two parks for dogs, and zero enclosed parks for children. Parents need a safe place for children to run and play. If Maurice Gibb playground closes, that means that our closest playground will be a 1 hour stroller walk away (round trip to Flamingo park). This is nonsense. Please consider TEMPORARILY moving Maurice Gibb playground to Belle Isle.
Let’s start acting like a community of good neighbor’s that we are.
Keep in mind, this playground is not permanent. Additionally, remember that each one of you reading this was at one time in your life a child. Let our children be children, and let them enjoy the outdoors in a safe playground environment.

YourNeighbor

Sad to see such a negative response from Belle Isle Residents. What a wonderful community spirit! But let’s be clear, responses from 30 people is not exactly a basis for drawing any statistically Significant conclusions. It is simply a straw poll. I hope the Cof MB is a little more analytical When they make a decision on this.

dfkellett@gmail.com

I am appalled by the response to allow the temporary playground to be moved to Belle Island. I thought we are a community that helps one another in time of need not some gated older citizens retreat. Please be assured not all residents feel the some way as the ones quoted in your article. I for one would welcome all the children and the play ground equipment to share our wonderful park. There are many residents who may not able to attend some of there meetings . I think there must be another way to reach out to the community for the good of all our neighbors. Sincerely, Ellen Geyer 16 Island Avenue

goodegg1

I will say that people who are opposed to the playground are not necessarily anti-children but in favor of keeping Belle Isle a “passive” park. They are wary of construction in the park and more cars coming to the island. The dog park was advocated for many years ago by dog owners and was part of the master plan for the park. Many dog owners are also parents so this shouldn’t be a dog vs. children discussion. Thanks and please stay neighborly with each other!

Scott Diffenderfer

I would have to agree that I love that Belle Isle is a passive park and the convenience of having Maurice Gibb one block away is close enough…..but, it is going to be torn down, which leaves us parents in a huge predicament. Contrary to what a lot of people say, NO, we cannot just keep them locked in our apartments. Many of us are dog owners, but if you ask any of us with small children and dogs, we will all tell you that we need a playground more. 1000 times more. The children win every time.
No one is impervious to the fact that it would create some minor nuisances while it is being relocated, but to oppose it and hang all the parents on the island out to dry for an entire year is just so incredibly selfish. The inconvenience that the playground would bring pales in comparison to what the parents would face without it. If my only option is to take the kids to the passive park, I have to worry about them running into the street, allllllll the sex offenders they apparently attract, all the dog poop they can step in, no shade, the water fountain they can’t drink out of because people let their pets drink from (I know, I should bring a kiddie cup because the pet owners already called dibs on it 20 years ago when the park was built), and that “anti-children” people who take every opportunity to crush their spirits or huff and puff under their breath when a child actually uses the sidewalk they are on. It is better for everyone if we have separate spaces. I can’t stress that enough.
As for the survey, I appreciate you going to this distance if it is in fact a genuine attempt to seek the communities input. I’ve lived on Belle Isle for almost a decade now and have seen many completely biased and leading surveys go around. I hope that it is an impartial survey and questions are not along the lines of “do you feel an enormous eye sore playground, filled with screaming brats, on our tiny little island, with only 5 parking spots would be a good addition to the island?!” Excuse me for being a skeptic.

MB

Imagine this: a public parking garage behind Epicure topped with apartments

It’s no secret that the South Beach boom of the last 30 years — from new luxury high=rises to retro apartment renovations — has pushed housing costs beyond the reach of many people who work in the shops and restaurants in our neighborhoods.

The issue became even more apparent earlier this year when Boardwalk Properties Inc bought a portfolio of 15 older Art Deco buildings and announced plans to renovate them an market them are much higher rent.

It’s a concern at City Hall, and the city earlier this month began seeking proposals from consultants to help the city develop “workforce / affordable housing.”

As part of that effort, consultants are being invited to investigate seven city-owned parking lots  that could possibly be developed with city parking garages and apartments on top.

Two potential parking garage/workplace housing sites are on West Avenue.

Two potential parking garage/workplace housing sites are on West Avenue.

Two are on West Avenue, just south of 17th Street: the public lot just north of the U.S. Post Office behind Epicure and Ave Hardware, and the circular lot at 1625 West Ave. behind Taco Rico.

Other lots mentioned in the initiative are at Collins Avenue and 13th Street, Washington Avenue and Ninth Street and 10th Street, 2660 Collins Ave., and 830 W. 42nd St.

Consultant proposals wouldn’t come back to the city until mid-summer, and no decisions have been made on whether to actually do this or where to do it, so action is a ways off.

There is commission interest in this matter, though. After the Boardwalk properties purchase, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco wrote a letter to the editor in the Miami Herald in which he said:

“Our tourism and retail employees need affordable housing, and the city needs them to stay. The irony of the recent apartment purchases, and subsequent articles about the gentrification in South Beach, lands squarely at City Hall, where Commissioner Joy Malakoff and I have been pushing for an increase in workforce-housing inventory. Now, instead of increasing available housing for those who work in the city, we’re playing catch up.”