“Miami Beach stands for a lot of things: We’re very pro-environment; we really care about wildlife and all the animals,” says Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who sponsored the resolution. “And I don’t think having dead species like alligators and sharks — some with the label ‘Miami Beach’ on them — is consistent with that.”
“One of the things that is most striking to me is that even when the red light camera is not there, in the nearby intersections people are maybe aware of it and think more about it and there are safety benefits there,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian. “My leaning would be to look at expanding based on these results.”
It’s about 97 percent complete, but Miami Beach celebrated its new Convention Center with a ribbon cutting and the opening of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair.
Art Basel was one of the key considerations in an unusual construction schedule which included points where the building was opened up for a limited schedule of small events and then cleared completely for the annual December art fair while creating the illusion (as best as possible) that the building was not actually in various states of completion.
“What we want to do is to continue to let this very much growing activity flourish,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who sponsored the legislation. Samuelian said the new rules were developed with input from local kiteboarders to “make sure this wonderful activity happens in a way that is not disruptive.” The proposed rules passed unanimously during an initial vote in September.
November 13, 2018 | Miami Herald | As kiteboarding grows in popularity, Miami Beach proposes rules to regulate the sport
Instead, they were more interested in the other components of the agreement such as size of the park and the hotel use. Planning Director Tom Mooney said City staff believed nine hotel units “is much more manageable” than the Planning Board’s recommendation of 60 units or 20% of total units whichever is less. Prior to second reading, he said staff could get “an idea of what the operation of those units will be.” Gelber and Commissioners John Alemán and Ricky Arriola said they would support well defined “amenity units” with Alemán suggesting a provision that the number couldn’t increase over time. The other four members of the Commission, Mark Samuelian, Micky Steinberg, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, and Michael Góngora said they opposed any hotel uses so, for now, the provision was not included.
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “First, I believe that this perception of increased crime – and I think we’re all on the same page – is a serious concern. People have to feel safe and we’re getting more of this than we like. That’s why we need to do something and I think what the Chief laid out is a potential path forward.”
He acknowledged the UCR crime data which consists of victim reported violent crimes is down double digits, a rate that is “almost identical to Miami and Florida.” While he said, “one is too many,” he noted the “serious reported crimes are down but we’re also hearing more from the community.”
“I think the focus on the Entertainment District and Ocean Drive is appropriate,” Samuelian said. He echoed Rosen Gonzalez that he didn’t want to take officers from other areas but said, “I like many of the ideas that I heard.”
Mark Samuelian, the other Commissioner named to the group, has spent a lot of time focusing on Ocean Drive since his election along with Gelber. “I’m really excited about what we’re doing on Ocean Drive and where we’re heading and I think this Panel is going to be a very important contributor. I think it’s fair to say that what we want to do is really enhance the overall experience and environment on Ocean Drive.”
Samuelian also cited progress including the adoption of his menu ordinance requiring disclosure of restaurant meal and drink pricing prominently displayed. “That has really, I think, begun to elevate the game of some of the operators. Some of the operators with problems with customer service are no longer operating or are not operating with sidewalk cafés,” he said.
He also noted the off-duty police program operated in conjunction with the Ocean Drive businesses for a pilot period, the recent noise ordinances sponsored by Gelber, and the plans for the Business Improvement District.
“All those things are steps in the right direction,” Samuelian said, “but I still think we have more to do.” The new panelists, he said, will consider ideas that have been considered before as well as “some new ideas about how do we take Ocean Drive and bring it back to its glory,” a place where tourists have a good experience and that residents want to frequent.
Like Arriola, he noted the potential of the G.O. Bond to infuse significant investment into the area to upgrade the infrastructure and improve public safety.
“I think Ocean Drive really is the heart of Miami Beach in a lot of ways. It’s certainly the place that’s recognized, that a lot of people come to. I recognize the importance of it.” That said, Samuelian added, “I was not comfortable with the experiences that certain customers were having. I saw it with my own eyes and ears. I heard it. And I saw it online and I was not comfortable… We have a lot of good operators on Ocean Drive but I think it’s fair to say we had some bad apples.”
“For better or worse, probably worse, something was said to the community where 125 feet got locked into,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian.
“Unfortunately, that is in the public mind. Having said that, we have to do now what we think is best.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said he thinks it is important that all projects contribute to a public benefit fund. He said he supported some incentive, but maybe through a discounted fee to ensure all projects contributed. He also said he wanted to “raise the bar” and require an “elevated” level of stormwater retention rather than offering that as a public benefit contribution.
Samuelian said he can see discounts to the “public benefit as a catalyst” and said he was open to “land on a number at 3 plus” per square foot. “If we do want to have incentives for development it seems rational to me that you pay less. I think that’s a big lever to get stuff going, to reduce the amount of the benefit.”
As the discussion wound to a close, Samuelian said, “One thing people said is they want us to move forward.” He proposed increasing the public benefit fee recommended by the consultant and to use a “discount as a catalyst” to move development forward. He also reiterated his desire to have more robust requirements for stormwater retention and reuse.
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “Public safety is job one.” Noting the Commission has committed additional resources, he said, “Obviously, what I’m hearing is a concern and I look forward to continuing the discussion and specific policy ideas of how we address it.” Whether it’s additional funding, changes in the traffic or pedestrian environment, he said, “I’m open to ideas but this is top priority.”