Residents Roared for West Avenue!

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Dear Neighbors,

Last week our amazing residents roared and made their voices heard. They want the City Administration to do much better and get this project done right for the West Avenue neighborhood. You have my commitment to do everything possible to make this happen as quickly as feasible.

The Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club had an incredible turnout. Over 50 residents showed up to listen to Aris Papadopoulos, a distinguished resiliency expert at FIU and the Chair of the Resilience Action Fund, speak about harmonization and road raising. Our residents engaged enthusiastically and expressed concerns about the West Avenue Project including: loss of 279 parking spots, transparency, lack of harmonization agreements, ballooning costs and most importantly the impact of road raising to their private property. Mr. Papadopolous highlighted the need for a new “Resident City Resiliency Partnership” with full transparency.  He also argued for the City to only raise roads in neighborhoods with more resilient properties, and to Not raise certain roads and allow less resilient properties the time to catch up. Similar to the Alton Road Project (no road raising), all properties would benefit from new pipes, pumps, harden road and other innovative approaches. (See Miami Herald 3.15.22 article for more information.)

Wednesday at the March Commission Meeting our residents once again came together to express both their strong desire and apprehension over the West Avenue Project. The Commission heard from individual residents and organizations including West Avenue Neighborhood Association, NOFNA, Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, Miami Design Preservation League and Miami Beach United on a range of topics. In their March resolution, Miami Beach United stated: “We as a city are at the forefront of climate change resiliency issues and leadership. Thus, it is imperative that we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for different areas of our city which confront different issues and act accordingly. We must also be excellent stewards of the resources allocated to resiliency projects and demand accountability for how they are disbursed, and for results.

At the Commission meeting, these residents spoke at length about the lack of transparency. The residents were mostly concerned that the Administration was not able to answer their questions in a timely and efficient matter and urged the City Manager to designate a West Avenue Project Leader that would provide the residents with prompt information about this intricate and costly project. The City Manager supported by the Commission has agreed that a single senior-level individual should have overall responsibility and accountability for this project. Moreover, the Commission unanimously agreed to address the proposed loss of 279 parking spaces. Finally, the Commission also passed my resolution requesting our Inspector General to expedite his report on the Indian Creek Project to further inform our West Avenue decisions.

While West Avenue was an important focus at the March Commission I am delighted that so many of my items were heard and passed. Below are some highlights: 

✅ PASSED: An ordinance amending residential parking permits by exempting a valid disabled person from the fee requirements associated with residential parking and protecting residential neighborhoods. (R5 H, Co-Sponsored by Commissioners Rosen Gonzalez, Fernandez, Richardson and Mayor Gelber)

✅ PASSED: Referral to the Ad Hoc Resiliency Committee to discuss how to improve information and engagements with residents as it relates to projects that require harmonization agreements. (C4 A)

✅ PASSED: A Resolution directing the City Administration to identify any potential design changes or alternatives to ensure that 279 parking spaces will not be lost because of the West Avenue Phase II project. (R7 F)

✅ DIRECTION: Strong direction fully embraced by our City Manager to designate a West Avenue Project Leader within the City Administration leadership.

✅ DIRECTION: Reiteration of City Policy allowing the City Administration to tailor potential road raising due to concerns with harmonization for private properties. (RESO 2020-31473) 

✅ PASSED: A Resolution encouraging the Inspector General to take all necessary steps to conclude the final report on the Indian Creek Project in order for the Commission to have an informed opinion when making any decisions on the West Ave. Segment II project. (R7 H)

✅ PASSED: Funding of approximately $1.5 million for finishing the Venetian Islands construction project. I want to recognize Commissioner Fernandez who creatively motioned to pass the funding at this meeting. (R9 S, Co-Sponsors: Commissioner Fernandez and Rosen Gonzalez)

Separately, I was proud to second and vigorously support Commissioner Rosen Gonzalez’s request that the Inspector General review an “Apartment Hotel” at 333 Jefferson Avenue. (R9 N)

It is well known that I have a passion for chess and earlier this year I was honored to have donated almost fifty-thousand dollars from my re-election campaign to the City of Miami Beach to expand opportunities for Miami Beach residents to learn and play chess. This has been a source of great pride, and I am thrilled to join Mayor Gelber in announcing that the City will be hosting the Mayors’ Chess Challenge on Sunday, May 15, 2022 from 10 am-12 pm at the Scott Rakow Youth Center. This event will be an “open play” chess event for all ages regardless of experience. I encourage all of our residents to come and join me in a game of chess and some instructions from the pros.

Yours in service,

Mark Samuelian