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There’s plenty wrong with Miami Beach’s sea level rise mitigation: property owners

"If you destroy the historic neighborhoods, you are not making real progress," says Scott Needleman
By Francisco Alvarado | April 18, 2018 12:30PM

Sea levels at Miami Beach (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Miami Beach’s $400 million effort to address rising seas and chronic flooding is having a negative effect on commercial and residential properties, according to residents who aired their grievances during a public hearing on Tuesday tied to an Urban Land Institute panel’s study of the city’s projects.

Among the issues, Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board member Scott Needleman said Miami Beach officials did not take into account how to make the raising of 11th Street seamless with properties in that area of South Beach. “The harmonization efforts between raised roads and adjacent properties was an afterthought on the city’s part,” Needleman said. “There was no consistency there.”

Needleman also implored the ULI panel to take into consideration the character of historic neighborhoods when evaluating the best solutions Miami Beach can implement to address flooding and rising seas.

“It is important for you to understand our historic neighborhoods and what is important to the residents there,” he said. “If you destroy the historic neighborhoods, you are not making real progress.”

Andres Asion, founder of Miami Real Estate Group who lives in Miami Beach and owns two investment properties on Palm Island, said the raising of streets has made privacy fences basically useless. “The raising of streets has turned a six-foot fence into a three-foot fence,” he said. “When people are walking or driving by, they can look over the fence into the property.”

Judith Frankel, owner of a $5.3 million waterfront estate built in 1957 on North Bay Road in Mid-Beach, claimed she and her neighbors have been getting the runaround about what measures the city is implementing in their neighborhood.

“For the last five years or more, our homeowners association has had many meetings with city engineers,” Frankel said. “We have heard everything from a catch basin to swale lines to having been told ‘rebuild your house.’ That is not a good statement for a neighborhood with one of the highest tax brackets in the city. Some of us are not inclined to rebuild our houses.”

The community meeting was part of an intensive, three-day evaluation of the city’s sea level rise and flooding mitigation initiatives. The review is being conducted by a ULI panel of volunteer engineers, market analysts and other experts.

“Taking an opportunity to revisit vital details of our plan with industry leaders is essential to the success of any large-scale, innovative project,” said Mayor Dan Gelber. “I’m looking forward to receiving their feedback as we look to solidify the foundation of our resiliency strategy.”

In addition to hearing from residents, the panel is going on tours of Miami Beach’s completed and ongoing projects, convening in-depth workshops and conducting interviews of city officials and consultants involved in combating flooding and rising seas. The panel will present its initial findings during another public hearing Thursday, but it won’t issue a final report until the summer.