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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It's about breaking the law

I like the big white box houses. I think they are sleek and modern and tidy. But many people don't seem to understand what is being said about the overbuilding and tree canopy destruction. It's not about excluding people. There's one rude person who keeps leaving comments that have nothing to do with the story at hand, she keeps talking about young families and how great it is to have so many restaurants and things like that.

I doubt the young families can afford these $4 million white box houses. And even so, I like the houses, I really do, I just don't like four on a single plat of land that had to be mowed down of every tree in sight to make room for them. I don't like beautiful historic houses being torn down for no other reason than to cram more and bigger houses onto the property. And I doubt the large houses at these high prices are doing any good for the young families moving into the village. Rather than the standard houses on the plats, they now have mega houses at very high prices. I really doubt that many of you in a single story ranch would like a big three story house built a foot or two from your bedroom window, taking all the shade and privacy away so that some greedy developer can make a few bucks and then skip out to the next house.

That's the argument here. To ask people follow the law is not depriving people of their property rights. This involves traffic, sewage, water and history. Miami's Planning & Zoning Dept. is not doing their job. It's all about filling the City's coffers with big new tax money.


This wanton destruction of Coconut Grove has been going on for years, but it's gotten so bad now that you can't help but notice it. If a house is taken down because it is falling apart and there is nothing that can be done, that is fine, there's a good example of that on Tigertail at 17th Avenue. A new white boxy house was built on the site of what could be called a shack, the new house is shown here. Every time the wind blew, I half expected to see that old house collapse on its own, it was ugly and had no historic value, or architectural value, and wasn't a safe structure for what I could see. So that makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is a developer - a stranger - coming through the village, buying something because of the land value and knocking down the structure without even knowing its history or its condition and this is the problem we are upset about. And in many cases they take a whole slew of mature trees with the house. That is all about greed. Nothing else. They aren't building affordable housing or a decent size house that fits the lot, they are cramming as much as they can onto one small lot in order to make the most that they can. Then they are off to the next lot and so on and so on. 


When someone mentions not being able to afford to live in the Grove and not wanting to pay $800,000 for a townhouse, how does that have anything to do with those five $4 million box houses down the street that destroyed all the trees to fit into a small lot? Apples and oranges. One person wants affordable housing, the other doesn't see anything wrong with cramming as much as possible onto one lot and charging high prices for the houses.

Affordable housing would be perfect in the Grove, but not four or five buildings on a single family plat. That is what this is all about.

Perhaps I should stop saying white boxy houses because it's not about that. And I don't think there is a housing shortage in Coconut Grove, so the excuse that we need to keep building for the future doesn't cut it. 

What we need is for people to follow the law. What we need is for strangers to stop coming here and seeing our village as a money machine. They aren't here because they love the place and want to be a part of it, they are here to capitalize on lax laws and lack of enforcement and that is what this is all about. Making the laws stick. 

And to that rude anonymous person who keeps touting that fact that the restaurants are full and young families are here and all is great with the world, in answer to your question - yes, we want all the developers to vacate the premises, unless it's their own houses they are renovating in the proper lawful way. 

A big story will be dropped soon about the Center Grove business district, seems like those who claim to love the Grove are all in it for the money. Buy low, sell high and flip is their motto.

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not the "rude woman", but isn't it all the development over that past years that brought in wealthier people who can afford all those expensive restaurants and basically brought interest back to the Grove? It certainly wasn't the aging hippies. Not sure I agree it's apples and oranges - could be more connected than that. It all comes down to $$$. Is that a surprise to anybody??

And, I don't think we need affordable housing. If you want to live in the Grove with it's great location, you need to pay. This is an age old gentrification argument which is a waste of breadth - look at Brooklyn. You can blog all you want on this topic but the money will win.

May 10, 2016 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been written in the Grape by knowledgeable sources once a permit has been issued the construction permit is legal due to warrants and variances. So, if the argument is about legality, this construction is LEGAL. Is the Grove another Opa Locka who's citizenry can't rule their own community what does that say about the Grove community? Fact is many communities throughout this planet ( Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, for example) modern communities have been partially destroyed due to green trees turning into violent almost unstoppable walls of fires. French drains were installed throughout the Grove & many septic tanks were flooded. And all those yard maintenance workers who blow all that crap and garbage into the road to be ground down by traffic plugs up that $25-M project, which allows salt water to move towards our drinking water drain fields. In the 70'd & 80's the Grove was a magnet for drugs, loose sex and $100.00 bills, where the prize was scoring. Today the score is in real estate; and the dollar still rules. Jobie Steppe

May 10, 2016 8:19 AM  
Blogger Your Neighbor said...

The danger to health and welfare of the current residents of the Grove comes from greater density with an infrastructure designed and built over 100 years ago. Contrast this with the Brickell ave area it is zoned for 500 units per acre. They have sanitary severs,proper storm drainage, wide streets, and mass transit. We were zoned for 2-5 units per acre no sanitary sewers, little or no storm drainage, streets designed when cars were rare, and poor mass transit. Now the city has zoned us for 18 units per acre; if we have a serious hurricane with power outage for over a week we already run a serious risk of disease from the aerobic septic systems which require electricity to work. So we are on the cusp do we try to protect the status quo or do we decide to disrupt the stable neighborhood widen streets,install sanitary sewers put in pumping stations (we will also need to improve the treatment facility which is overburdened) oh yeah and cut down a lot (most) of the trees

May 10, 2016 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big White Boxes are not seen all over the Gables. Wish the Grove also had a Design Board. Wish we protected historical structures, did not have the infestation of luxury condos that’s turning us into Brickell South. Wish we could impose much greater penalties for cutting down old growth trees. But alas we live in Miami and not the Gables.

May 10, 2016 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So anon #2 because a permit that should have been illegal was given out and now it's legal through a technicality, that's ok? Dumb argument.

And arguing that trees are dangerous/worse for a community due to fires?! I hope that's satire.

May 10, 2016 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that the Grapevine loves to talk about illegal activities that are happening in the Grove. Can you please cite specific instances where the letter of the Zoning Code is not being enforced? There are no zero lot line houses in the Grove - as a zero lot line means that the house is built right on the property line and I have never seen a single family house anywhere in the Grove or even in the City of Miami built with zero setbacks. Multiple houses are not allowed to be built on a single lot. If the lot was a double lot that was originally platted as two lots, then you are LEGALLY allowed to split the lots into two and build two houses each with the appropriate setbacks. If you are referring to townhouse developments, the Zoning Code allows for multifamily development in certain locations.

If you are trying to incite the masses, at least do a little research into what is specifically happening and give real examples of "illegal" behavior.

You also continue to complain about the greedy "stranger developer" coming in to "your" neighborhood and changing it (for the better), but what have your cohorts done besides bitch? Have you renovated the old "historic" houses, have you bought a retail building in Center Grove and brought in new stores/restaurants, have you done anything to better the community?? And as someone mentioned last week, the Developers only are buying the land that "Groveittes" are selling them ... at a much much higher price then they could have gotten a couple of years ago. I don't see you calling the sellers greedy.

Please before you continue with you rants, do a little research to collaborate your claims.

I hope this comment isn't too "rude" for you to post......

May 10, 2016 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ANON 7:52AM, is "wealthier people" the only thing that matters and Coconut Grove is about? Some "wealthier people" in Grove are also the most imbalanced, intolerant, vile with meaningless lives that are defined by really nothing, not even their own families well being matters to them when it comes to your "$$$". What happened to good? Some of the "wealthier people" are doing a lot of bad because they can afford it.

May 10, 2016 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. That's the point. The sooner you accept that you no longer live in a bohemian enclave and that the draw and location of the Grove has attracted those with money who have different ideals then the better. That is gentrification. I know it sux for the people who were here first...but it's happened all over the country and will not stop here. You should be complaining about all your neighbors that are selling out...but it won't stop anything.

May 10, 2016 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:34 I am gonna bet a large Coconut you are one of those who would build a wall around the area after what YOU want happens.

May 10, 2016 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because the demographic of the Grove is changing and has been changing over the years from the Hippy Village to the College Hangout to now where wealthy Professionals are moving in doesn't mean that these people are bad and are breaking the law. Yes, we all agree with you that people must be held to the standards of the Zoning Codes and that trees should not be removed....but you want the Grove to magically transform itself back 20-30 years into what??? I've been reading comments by your "rude people" whenever you post a story such as this asking what exactly you want the Grove to become and all we get in return is silence and then a couple of days later another posting about how things are so bad and you want "the Developers to vacate the premises".

Tom ... please this is getting tiresome. We appreciate all that you do...but if you are going to continue with these rants then let us know what your vision is for the future of the Grove if you get your wish and all the money pulls out of the Grove.

May 10, 2016 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Ellen Foss said...

I don't want the Grove to be "turned into" anything. I want the canopy to remain, beautiful old cottages and houses with some sort of architecture be it Spanish revival or Florida Modern (by the likes of George Reed and Rufus Nims)and codes not be broken or ignored by greed and graft. If I could afford to move home, I would. Here on the coast of Maine, historic buildings and areas are preserved. New construction reflects Colonial or Victorian styles.The Grove should look and feel like the Grove - a graceful, eccentric, eclectic, grand dame with an enormous sense of wit humor, who makes all her children feel special.
Good job, Tom. I post all this to Facebook and my "friends" get tired of me, too.

May 10, 2016 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Andy Parrish said...

Separate the two issues: A. Protecting Trees and B. Preventing Lot splitting and overly large and "ugly" new houses. You can see from the above that there is relative consensus only on protecting the tree canopy. A. is doable, economically and politically and quickly. Resolving the issues presented by B. is none of those.

The good news is that doing A will go a long way to resolving B.

Andy Parrish

May 10, 2016 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be the pro/anti "gentrification" divide, but some of us don't have any real problem with the gentrification per se, but just the fact that in our neighborhood it seems to be accompanied by wholesale destruction of the thick vegetation that is arguably our primary distinguishing feature. At least when hipsters move into somewhere like Detroit they make efforts (albeit often ineffectual) to preserve their neighborhoods' key traits rather than completely rebranding them.

If I could afford to build a $4 million ultra modern house in the grove I would do it in a heartbeat, but not if that required cutting down all the trees on my lot and building my house to within an arm's length of the neighbors.

I understand that to many of our newer neighbors the vegetation and other traits may be irrelevant, and it's simply geographically convenient. You can't really hold that against them, but it would be nice if someone was paying more attention to how many almost identical homes are being built about 2 feet from each other. I'm not out there with a measuring tape, but I just have a very hard time believing some of these houses are built to code.

May 10, 2016 4:11 PM  
Blogger Jim Pierce said...

Tom, a quick not to express my appreciation for your engagement, views, contributions, and concern for our little corner of the world. I read your blog daily, obtain value from your posts, and have a keen interest in the comments of my 'neighbors'. Keep doing exactly what you have been doing; it is appreciated and valued!

Related to the anonymous poster from 10:00am who asks "if you are trying to incite the masses..." I believe the anonymous poster is underestimating the intelligence of The Grape's readers. Grove residents are either bothered by what is transipiring in their community, or they are not. If they are concerned enough, The Grape's blog might just motivate them to publicly engage via the many resources and meetings, having the knowledge that they are not alone in their views and/or concerns. If additional details or specifics are required, I am quite confident they will be drawn out in due course.

Lastly, the 10:00am anonymous poster seems very comfortable providing direction to Tom, stating "at least do a little research into what is specifically happening..." This is a blog, not an investigative news resource or research site. In the spirit of unsolicited advice and direction, I'll share a suggestion. If you are going to provide direction, question, or challenge a community contributor who takes a very public stand by sharing his views and opinions, you might consider respecting yourself by having the courage to 'own' whatever you share publicly, versus hiding behind anonymous. If you cannot 'own' your assertive public comments, are your actions really principled and worth sharing?

Jim Pierce
Coconut Grove

May 10, 2016 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wealthier people...rude people...$$$"
It is a simple discourse about zero lot, multistory, boxy, treeless houses being squeezed in the middle of lush tree lined neighborhoods without any regard for density, architectural, natural and infrastructural uniformity of the neighborhood. There needs to be line drawn on how far new development can push the legal and local envelope in Coconut Grove.

May 10, 2016 4:42 PM  
Blogger Vic said...

Keep it up, Tom. Thank you for continuing to shine a light on the tragedy that is the unfettered pillaging of our village by shameless developers.

May 10, 2016 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get real folks, we live in a very desirable neighborhood. Let's stop beating ourselves up about it. If you own a home here, you've seen your home value rise as Miami grows and morphs into a world class city. The challenge is to make sure development doesn't run amok, i.e. the construction of condo towers, walled-in communities, desecration of trees, etc. Home design should not be part of the conversation UNLESS it doesn't conform to our current zoning laws. I, for one, am happy that the equity I've invested in my home has increased over the years. Way back when I bought my house, everyone wanted to live in the Gables or Pinecrest. Downtown Miami was dead. There was no Wynwood. Now they want to live in Coconut Grove. Yippee!!!

May 10, 2016 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:15pm Who are Zero Lot houses desirable for?

May 10, 2016 7:10 PM  
Blogger Bruce said...

A lot of invective.
A couple thoughts.
- "You've seen your home value rise..." Rising home values may be a nice bonus for our kids when we get dementia or die, but that isn't why most of us chose to live here. We chose the Grove for its quality of life, and if it is destroyed by denser zoning, more traffic and fewer trees -- well then you will be proved right. Lots of us old homeowners will abandon the Grove, and most will take an offer from the high bidder/developer. A few may work to list their homes as historic, but if development chases people out of the Grove, those people won't have qualms about selling out to that development.

-"I have never seen a single family house anywhere in the Grove or even in the City of Miami built with zero setbacks." I watched 2 houses go up side by side on a former single lot on Royal Palm. They each had "5 foot setbacks" on the sides. But each had 4 foot overhangs on the roof eaves. And shutters, fences... So Anon 10:00, you can say that there are no zero lot lines, just like you can say there is a minimum FAR for a given lot size. But how those ratios and setbacks get calculated differ from what most (non-developer) people would consider reasonable. For example, in calculating the maximum square footage allowed to build on your lot, you don't actually use the sq ftg of your lot. You get to measure your lot out to the center line of the street. And if your have a corner lot -- HALLELUJAH -- you get to base the calculation on the measurement to the center line of BOTH streets. Which means a 50 x 100 lot becomes an 8400 sq ft lot for zoning purposes.

These are some of the reasons developers and zoning attorneys say, "We ARE following the rules." And for these same reasons, the long time homeowners who fought to preserve their community cry out, "how do these new homes get approved?? I thought we had laws to limit oversize development in our neighborhood!"

May 10, 2016 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce, "gross lot area calculations" (adding to the crest of the street into the depth of your lot) has been long gone since Miami 21 came into effect. Just an FYI

May 17, 2016 3:08 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Levine said...

I am one of these 'new young professional homeowners' referred to time and time again within these posts. Recently, we purchased a 1920s Spanish Revival and have already begun the process of updating this home. We moved to The Grove because of our appreciation of its natural hammock, its foliage, its fauna, its beauty, its central location and its high ground. We estimate that our improvements will bring significant value to our home, all while preserving its rich history and distinctive landscape.

However, this cannot be said of our lovely "white box" neighbors who staunchly disagree with our perspective. Throughout our brief residency in The Grove we have witnessed the disappearance of several oaks and banyans. Trees that have stood the test of time and natural disasters. Trees that are much older and taller than us. Trees that provide a safe canopy against the hot sun and a home to some of the world's most beautiful wildlife. As a "newbe" to The Grove, this disaapoints me. If oversized treeless lots is what one desires then why not move to areas that celebrate this such as Doral?

I fear this ethnocentric concept of "what I do to my home will not affect the overall landscape that makes The Grove unique," will soon spread like wildfire until our hammock has been destroyed beyond repair and The Grove is no longer recognizable.

Anyway, I really appreciate your blog and the conversations that have transpired as a result of it. While I may not agree with all of your opinions, this is one that I am passionate about. Gentrification is to be expected, but its direction should be spearheaded by its local taxpayers.

May 25, 2016 10:29 AM  

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