Our positions on the Mayor’s 12-Point Plan for the Art Deco Cultural District

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The following was submitted to the Mayor and Commission of the City of Miami Beach on May 11th 2021

Dear Mayor and Commission:

Please see below our positions on the Mayor’s proposed 12-point plan for the Art Deco Cultural District. This was fully reviewed, discussed, and voted on at the last MDPL Board of Directors meeting.

Miami Design Preservation League responds to Mayor Gelber’s ADCD 12 Point Plan

Mayor Gelber’s proposed 12 points are listed below in black text, and MDPL’s positions can be seen below in blue

1. Liquor license Reform – [Ballot item if necessary] – There is no reason our City needs 170 establishments able to sell liquor all night long. All it does is project to the world that we are a place that embraces hard partying. We should consider a 2:00 am last call in this district; and a late-night nightclub license only for those establishments with sufficient security and stellar records of compliance (e.g., hotels). While this applies to this district, we could consider extending it to nearby commercial corridors to avoid migration of these challenges to other parts of our City. Further, we need to focus on policy and hours of operation for liquor stores and drug stores offering beer and wine. No single serve products should be permitted at retail. Sale of bottled liquor of any kind in the evening hours creates profound enforcement challenges. 

MDPL Position: Miami Design Preservation League is generally supportive of this proposal, provided that it is extended “to nearby commercial corridors to avoid migration of these challenges to other parts of our City,” particularly those corridors which are within the boundaries of designated local and national historic districts. 

2. Elimination of noise exemptions – [Ballot item if necessary] – Our police make the point that all the places we allow for excessive noise, mainly on parts of Ocean Drive, become a center of much of the challenging activity. There should be no exemptions for excessive, unreasonable or unnecessary noise from any source. Further, various types of rental vehicles (i.e., mopeds, slingshots, golf carts) promote both dangerous driving behavior and are equipped with sound systems that are often as disruptive to our community as our stationary clubs. They also create meaningful police enforcement challenges. We must sharply reduce or eliminate their presence in our streets. 

MDPL Position: MDPL favors the elimination of noise exemptions, particularly on Ocean Drive between 9th and 11th streets, where the noise emanating from clubs interfere with our walking tours and our other tourist-targeted activities, which are a major contributor to the cultural branding of Ocean Drive envisioned in the Art Deco Cultural District. For the same reason, we also favor the elimination of noise from vehicles. 

3. Update our land regulations to encourage Live-Work-Play – [Ballot item if necessary] – Right now there is a perception that this area is only an entertainment district, even though it is home to a number of full-time residents. It needs to be a true Live-Work-Play area rather than an entertainment district. The business model of this area needs to support other uses, including residential, office, wellness and tech uses. In addition to upgraded hotels, we should be promoting urban residential living, boutique offices and other emerging and compatible uses to give businesses an opportunity to locate here. Also, promoting and incentivizing unique residential living will allow for residents to be a part of the fabric of the area by having more eyes and ears on the ground. This would then create an incentive for more daytime uses. And, while we need to keep our postcard, Ocean Drive, intact in every way, we should be exploring development models that give structures on Collins and Washington Avenue the ability to upgrade. By providing more incentives along Collins Avenue, we can encourage and incentivize better connectivity with Ocean Drive via the alley (Ocean Court), as well as incentivize investment in Live-Work-Play uses. This same strategy is also applicable to Washington Avenue, as a better mix of uses would complement the area and allow for a more appropriate transition and connection to the Flamingo Park residential area. There is no doubt in my mind that we can do this and still preserve our historic architecture. 

MDPL Position: We have long been supportive of appropriate development in the ADCD which is compatible with the existing historic nature of the neighborhood and which results in the preservation of historic structures. Adaptive reuse is a commonly used tool in the preservation community to encourage the preservation of historic buildings. The office development at 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue is an excellent example of this concept. We support the emphasis on “urban residential living, boutique offices and other emerging and compatible uses,” provided that contributing historic structures are preserved and restored in the process in a manner which improves their sustainability into the future.

4. Heightened code of conduct for café operators – [Ballot item if necessary] – We can establish a minimum standard of operation with regard to Ocean Drive operators who use café tables. While we have done this with “hawking” we should consider a minimum standard of conduct that includes banning oversized drinks and Hookah pipes, requiring uniform café tables within each establishment and uniforms for staff, and the banning of deceptive advertising and other practices that have degraded the quality of services. For those operations that are willing to adhere to this high standard we should offer “opening” incentives or rewards for uninterrupted high-quality service (e.g. temporary discounting of café table fees). Further we must explore policies to hold the landlords of buildings with bad operators to account by establishing penalties for insufficient oversight. Finally, we should consider the implementation of performance bonds to further focus operators and landlords on their management responsibilities. 

MDPL Position: We applaud these proposals, which will result in attracting tourists and locals to the ADCD, where they will be exposed to the unique architectural heritage of Miami Beach. Such a mixture of local residents and tourists are more likely to be receptive to the educational and promotional offerings of the Miami Design Preservation League, including our tourist information center, our museum, our tours and our store. 

5. Enhancement of policing – Although we have increased the size of our force over the last few years, the need for more constant patrols requires a larger full-time force especially since it would be unfair to simply reposition police from other areas of the City. Further considering that South Beach is a regional economic resource, we should request more regular deployment of Metro-Dade resources (e.g.. Miami Dade Special Events to assist on any large-scale events, enhancing Goodwill Ambassador Program) We should also renegotiate leases in South of Fifth so we can require the Marina and Smith & Wollensky to include off-duty policing obligations as terms in the marina and park leases. We can also amend our Code to require off-duty policing as a remedial requirement for alcoholic beverage establishments with code violations involving crowd control and treat promoted events with an enhanced notice and off-duty police requirement and security plans. Residential areas in South Beach need to be protected so police need to provide more park & walks and enhanced patrols, specifically in and around city parks and adjacent residential and commercial areas. Further, if communities adjacent to this area would like to raise funds to enhance policing, the City should help them to do so. 

MDPL Position: We believe that these enhanced policing initiatives are essential to restoring order and security in the ADCD and attracting tourists and residents to this area. We also believe that foot patrols are essential to attaining the goal of increased enforcement in the ADCD. We suggest that these efforts should be continuously monitored to ensure that they are appropriate and effective. As the reimagining of the ADCD takes hold, these measures should be reviewed periodically to determine whether they continue to be necessary. Once the Mayor’s vision for the ADCD becomes a reality, some of these measures may no longer be required. 

6. Dedicated code enforcement unit for South Beach – South Beach has unique challenges so we should designate a unit of code inspectors for only this area. They should know all the local proprietors so that they can make clear what the rules of the road are. Good businesses should never be caught flatfooted; they should know what to expect and precisely how to comply. 

MDPL Position: Strong code enforcement is essential to the preservation of historic communities. Historic buildings require careful maintenance in order to remain viable, safe and attractive. Effective code enforcement would also go a long way toward preventing “demolition by neglect.”

7. Better preparation for high impact moments – While curfews and causeway closures shouldn’t be the norm, we need to better inform and prepare the public when they are necessary. Giving the public and businesses more notice, letting so-called Spring Breakers know what to expect through aggressive social media campaigns, and providing easier transit on the causeway through use of resident decals, is critical. 

MDPL Position: This is not a historic preservation issue, per se. However, MDPL is of course supportive of any initiative which provides residents and visitors with the information they need to be safe during high impact events.

8. Regulate the pesky toys that degrade quality of life – Scooters, slingshots, golf carts, outlaw jet ski rentals have all infiltrated our community and challenged our quality of life and endangered their operators and other motorists and pedestrians. Further, these rental vehicles promote both dangerous driving behavior and are equipped with sound systems that are often as disruptive to our community as our stationary clubs. While we have passed some ordinances limiting rentals and the legislature has preempted much of what we can do, we need to sharply reduce or eliminate their presence in our streets. 

MDPL Position: MDPL is supportive of any initiative which contributes to the safety of our City’s visitors and residents, thereby increasing their interest in the ADCD and their willingness to spend time in our historic environment. We believe that prohibiting the use of these toys on our sidewalks and enforcing illegal jet ski rentals are necessary elements of this strategy.

9. Increased technology deployment– Technology is a critical tool if we are to be successful going forward. Continue to build on the established LPR enforcement efforts and focus on weekends and high impact periods (e.g. Spring Break, 3-day weekends), and continue to accelerate the deployment of cameras that have already been approved by the G.O. Bond, and completion of the Real Time Crime Center recently approved by the Commission. Do a better job of using social media to deter visitors with bad intentions by letting them know that conduct is videotaped. 

MDPL Position: Again, MDPL is supportive of any initiative which contributes to the safety of our City’s visitors and residents, thereby increasing their interest in the ADCD and their willingness to spend time in our historic environment. 

10. Pedestrianization of Ocean Drive – Make Ocean Drive a principally pedestrian promenade designed at grade, with convertible use for traffic as may be needed. This would be controlled by the installation of permanent, operable and decorative bollards at all side streets. We have an opportunity to begin immediately to improve the signage and lighting necessary to make OD and the ADCD more pedestrian and neighborhood friendly. This was approved by the Commission over a year ago and needs to be implemented now. 

MDPL Position: The future configuration of Ocean Drive is currently under study by the Mayor’s ACDC Panel and its architect, Bernard Zyscovich. MDPL reserves judgment on this issue until a proposal for Ocean Drive is available for study and comment.

11. Increased budget for year-round cultural festivals and sporting events – We need to increase our cultural budget substantially so we can support cultural festivals programmed throughout the year (e.g. World-class art shows, Summer Classical & Jazz Music Festival, enhanced Art Deco Festival). Regular, modest and well curated activations consistently produced have the potential to favorably impact the conditions in our streets Further, we need to make sure we give our cultural anchors incentives to remain here as we are with Miami New Drama and the Miami City Ballet. 

MDPL Position: Of course, MDPL supports the enhancement of Art Deco Weekend. We believe that other cultural festivals at various times of the year will increase the visibility and popularity of Ocean Drive and the conversion of the MXE district to an area which promotes culture, historic preservation and tourism. The provision of permanent electrical connections along the east side of Ocean Drive would be a big step toward encouraging that kind of activation. All such shows and festivals must be conducted in a clean, safe manner which attracts residents as well as visitors.

12. Explore approaches to controlling transient lodger abuses – The legislature has severely limited our ability to regulate the abuses of online home-sharing platforms notwithstanding our best efforts. We should explore other approaches, including regulation of room capacity and requirements for on-site supervision. 

MDPL Position: Again, MDPL is supportive of any initiative which contributes to the safety of our City’s visitors and residents, thereby increasing their interest in the ADCD and their willingness to spend time in our historic environment.

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