Like all residents of Coral Gables, I want the quality of life in Coral Gables to improve and to stop the type of development that will turn Miracle Mile and our business district into another Brickell and clog our streets with traffic.
My involvement with traffic and development issues started in 2004 when the increased development turned my neighborhood into a corridor for speeding commuters. Walking door-to-door with my young teenage daughters and our Border Collie, we convinced the neighbors to demand the installation of traffic calming measures, as well as, the lush, tree-lined median that now exists on Segovia north of Bird Road, at developer expense.
The major issues I wish to tackle for our residents while I serve are listed below:
Concrete Canyons, Parks & Pedestrian Corridors
Miracle Mile, Ponce Circle & US 1
A developer’s dream is to reap more profit from land by building larger, bulkier buildings with minimal or no set-backs, step-backs or public green space in order to maximize square footage and profit. Developers have been trying to turn our iconic Miracle Mile, Ponce de Leon and U.S 1 into another Brickell.
The proposed project at 220 Miracle Mile is an early example of the concrete canyon developer push on Miracle Mile — a building over 83 feet tall with 7 stores, with no on-site parking, and a valet and drop-off in the alley that insured that traffic from the building would back-up on Ponce and Miracle Mile. The recent downzoning of the Mile to a maximum of three stories with a fourth story stepped back will insure that the large sites, like the Barnes and Nobles parcel, do not deface the Mile with an 83 foot tall building.
Another example is the Aloft Hotel on LeJeune – an “as of right” project – which means no residents receive notice and it is not reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board. The original design provided little space for pedestrians on LeJeune Road. After permits were issued and construction started in 2015, I alerted the City that there was only 24 inches of sidewalk space for pedestrians, strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles to navigate. Fortunately, I was successful in requiring a change in the front of the building to provide a little more space on LeJeune, and expanded the width of the sidewalk to add more pedestrian space on Valencia. Better planning, with notice to residents about all “as of right” projects could have resulted in a beautiful pedestrian corridor for residents by moving the building back 10 feet on LeJeune into the half-empty City Parking Lot behind the Aloft. We also could have required improvements to traffic lights and pedestrian walk signals on this busy and dangerous intersection for pedestrians.
The remaining small town feel of Coral Gables will be lost if large projects like The Plaza overshadowing Ponce Circle continue to be built. My plan to stop this type of development is to:
- Amend the Mediterranean Bonus ordinance that developers use to decrease setbacks and increase the height of buildings.
- Eliminate “As of Right” Projects: Residents must be notified of all commercial and mixed use project and the Planning and Zoning Board must review them.
We need to attract people and businesses to downtown with buildings that enhance the experience for residents; not overshadow it with a concrete canyon that makes traffic unbearable and pushes residents away.
Parks and Pedestrian Corridors
Green spaces and pocket parks within walking distance of our homes and businesses increase the value of our property and quality of life. I have always advocated for more parks and dog parks for Coral Gables residents, and where possible, to require developers to provide them.
Pedestrian corridors with wider sidewalks shaded by lush trees and unobstructed with benches, poles and utility boxes, improve the quality of life and help businesses succeed. We need to design and plan for these corridors long before permits are pulled and construction begins.
Police Presence & Enforcement of Traffic Laws
Our world-class police department needs additional resources to properly enforce the traffic laws and provide a presence in all neighborhoods. Traffic laws, without enforcement, do not work. As anyone knows that has driven through areas with a reputation for strict enforcement like Pinecrest, just the signs “You Are Entering Pinecrest” slows down most drivers. Stricter enforcement of our speed limits is long over due.
Police and Fire Department Resources
As our community grows the number of officers, fire fighters and paramedics will need to be increased. Residents in some areas rarely see officers patrolling. While the Public Safety Patrols have provided additional eyes and ears for the police, they do not have the ability to issue traffic tickets or enforce the law. We need more officers present in all neighborhoods to enforce laws and deter crime.
While we are blessed with a world class Fire Department, increased density and traffic will impact their performance. The current number of firefighters we have is insufficient to respond to a fire at large buildings like “The Plaza,” and maintain the same level of service to our residents. We need to ensure that our Officers and Paramedics have all the resources and personnel needed to serve all our residents with the same, high level of service. I am committed to providing the Fire Department the resources it needs so it is a World Class department for all residents.
Our Waterways and Drainage Systems
When my husband grew up in the Gables and when I moved to the Gables in the late 1980s, the Coral Gables Waterway was crystal clear. You could see fish and manatees before they surfaced. The water is now murky, filled with algae and nutrient overload that has killed the sea grasses where it flows into Biscayne Bay. Resolving this problem will take leadership committed to addressing each of the sources of water pollution: poorly designed drainage systems, septic tanks in low lying areas, use of the wrong fertilizers for South Florida, fertilizing at the wrong time of year, insufficient buffer zones between the waterway and golf course fertilized and pesticide sprayed areas, and other sources we can discover with continued water quality testing.
Our drainage systems were not designed to handle the heavy rainfall amounts we experience today. For those that do not live in the higher areas of our City, this is a very serious problem. Solutions must be implemented that consistently work.
Each of these problems requires innovative solutions to provide the funding needed. We will need to work with the County, State and Federal governments to have our fair share of tax dollars returned to support these projects.
Tree Canopy & Historic Preservation
Our lush tree canopy and historic buildings make Coral Gables special. The tree canopy and this City’s commitment to historic preservation are the reasons I fell in love with Coral Gables 33 years ago. I am committed to expanding our tree canopy and preserving and maintaining these gems for future generations to enjoy.
Fiscal Responsibility and Financial Security
Challenges such as hurricanes and pandemics require us to ensure that the budget is closely monitored for wasteful or unwise spending and that competitive bids are obtained for projects and services in a transparent process.