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Monday, August 26, 2013

A cause for city corruption?

The following comes from Hector Roos, local activist, his reasoning for so much city corruption in large land parcels is very interesting:

To my neighbors who read those long email chains about important yet under appreciated subjects like public land deals:

We have seen many public land deals over the years such as African Square Park, Crosswinds (Overtown), Virginia Key, Watson Island, Lummus Park Landing, the Marlins' Stadium debacle, and many others including the Grove Harbor development project.

Allow me to pose a question: Why do these projects come about at all, why so often and why are they so costly?\

First, you should already know that our City has a problem with corruption but its not what you might think. There is mostly a conspiracy of silence. The obvious and most easily remedied problems with the City are hidden from public view. There is little pressure to fix things in a long term sense because of internal politics.

Second, these policy shortfalls that continue despite our good intentions for reform only permit large scale development in the City.Since development follows financing, the only developments that qualify for financing are those that have public funding involved or are sufficiently large and thus profitable to cover the costs such as impact fees and developing public infrastructure (i.e. streets, sidewalks, water and sewer). These are "bankable" projects and qualify for financing.

Third, because of the self-imposed limit caused by current policies the only way to make money from developments is to go BIG. This means out-of-scale, disproportionate developments that lack any resemblance to the surrounding neighborhood.

I have had the opportunity to speak with some of you personally but I think writing how I feel on the one subject like Grove Harbor is insufficient. We have to examine root causes.

With that said, I acknowledge that Grove Harbor is a bad deal as is. Once you build on that vibrant piece of open land (even if it is mostly a parking lot now), you can NEVER get it back... the building is there permanently and even more so with a long-term lease (which is required to qualify for financing).

There is so much up-potential for development in the City and for the profits involved but not just in the form of projects like Watson Island or Grove Harbor. Look at Wynwood. That did not require special permits or land lease deals. Just vision and work. Much of the underdeveloped parts of the City resemble Wynwood in fact so imagine the possibilities.

SOLUTION: Reform City policy to encourage development on smaller parcels.

The current business model advocated by City policy requires that a developer sit on vacant or underutilized property for years assembling enough parcels to apply for a bigger "bankable" project. Those years of vacant, under-used land means immediate blight.

Change policy now. Make it easier for development to take place elsewhere and the pressure on well-established neighborhoods will diminish because it'll be that much easier to build elsewhere and make money. This does not automatically mean up-zoning, although that may be required in specific instances. This does mean a focused approach on lobbying for a change in permitting practices by County and City building departments, advocating for improved "customer service" from the City and making "strategic" infrastructure investments to open new markets for development where it is actually needed the most.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although well intended you offer no real or valuable info to act upon. For example, most public corruption revealed by investigative reporters provides names, dates, addresses and the subject corruption in great detail so that the public can talk intelligently to whomever in order to get results. It took me about 3 years and cost only $350.00, in federal court to have a corrupt attorney and 2 code enforcement employees fired, and nothing short of a horrible experience. Please, who or what is being corrupted; names, dates, addresses and more details.

August 26, 2013 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, after reading that I have a clearer understanding of why over the past few decades the City has embraced a habit and culture of letting properties like the Convention Center fall into ruin and disrepair so that it can be demolished with the excuse that it was falling apart anyways. That and a habit of asking forgiveness instead of permission or breaking the laws and just paying the fines. Fines are now just factored in as part of the price of doing business.

I fear we in the Grove are going to be forced into either a chrome and glass mall with multi story parking lot with some astroturf covered common areas or, best case scenario, an astroturf covered front yard for the Ritz-Carlton and whichever new condo/hotel gets erected in that area across Bayshore.

Really Marc, what's up with the astroturf fetish?

August 26, 2013 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post makes a great point. Miami has development and re-development all wrong. Developing neighborhoods we let slip through the cracks is a better, smarter investment than filling every inch of a few neighborhoods with the highest density possible. Wynwood is a great example, and the best part is that it was done with many smaller investors and a vision of what could be - not the blind following of an outdated corporate roadmap.

August 26, 2013 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hector, excellent point, red tape and over regulation keeps small businesses out of the game, the system has been rigged for hundred million dollar projects. Read Hernando De Soto Polar's research in this matter, specifically his land mark "The Other Path" he will one day receive the Nobel Economic Prize for his research in red tape taxation, constraints and impediments to economic growth and the informal economy.

August 26, 2013 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Stephen Murray said...

Mr. Roos,

Unfortunately, I think you've really missed the marc [sic] here. Your letter actually is quite misinforming and I feel compelled to point out why.

First of all, Miami's plague of corruption is far more complex of an issue than you think it is. Miami does not have a conspiracy of silence. Corruption is what results when apathy, greed, deception, power are provided the opportunity to co-mingle. It is made up of the following:

1. Developers who are trying to make more money
2. Politicians who use their power to help developers with zoning, funding and legislation and in return are given various kickbacks by those developers (including campaign contributions, vacations, etc.)
3. Law Enforcement, under the direction of the State Attorney, who is also an elected official and has the exact same donors and gets the same type of kickbacks, and intentionally ignore crimes committed by politicians
3. The Media, including newspapers and T.V., who either choose to either not report or misreport stories about what politicians are doing and are motivated in large part by their need to generate advertising (think about how much advertising is real estate in the Miami Herald)
4. The Electorate, who vote locally at a disgustingly low rate of below 5-10%, choosing to live in ignorance instead of holding the politicians and State Attorney accountable by being informed and voting. THIS is reason why nothing changes; it is because people would rather wait 10 hours in line for the newest iPhone than to spend five minutes voting.

Secondly, I don't understand how "policy shortfalls [...] permit large scale development in the City" and how that is somehow tied to financing. Your "solution" to the problem has been happening under your nose for the past decade. It is called gentrification. Parcel by parcel and block by block, the line dividing the Center Grove from the West Grove has shifted. Many of us take issue with pro-gentrification policy and I'd be happy to explain why.

Nor does the "current business model advocated by City policy require that a developer sit on vacant or underutilized property for years assembling enough parcels to apply for a bigger 'bankable' project." The reason in many cases why developers are 'forced' (read: choose to) sit on so many parcels is because they cannot get one of the owners of a single parcel to sell. This has nothing to do with policy. Why should the woman in the West Grove sell the house her mother grew up in if she doesn't want to? This land is almost NEVER publicly owned, and if it is the City happily bends over backwards to sell it below market value (1814 Brickell Park ring a bell??).

Hope this helps to clarify the issue.

Stephen Murray

August 26, 2013 6:00 PM  

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