Saturday, December 30, 2006

Farmers Market Day

A visit to the downtown Farmers Market brought a pleasant surprise - there seemed to be more vendors providing fruits and vegetables, those things you expect from a Farmers Market.

The picture shows a few of the numerous varieties of heirloom tomatoes offered by one of the vendors. A good addition as these are locally grown.

Recently the Downtown Partnership took over the management of the Farmers Market. The addition of more fresh food vendors is welcomed.

An interesting sidelight: I usually park in the city hall parking lot on Saturday mornings as there are almost always spots available. When I left I decided to check the Whole Foods Parking lot. As expected, only a few of the public spaces were occupied. While many people talk about the lack of convenient parking in downtown Sarasota, this particular lot remains unused.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Recent News of Interest

We are happy that the County Commissioners are taking a look at the school board decision to demolish Riverview's Paul Rudolph buildings.

The Trust for Public Land will be working with the county to identify specific parcels of land to purchase for the Environmentally Sensitive Lands program. TPL is an excellent organization. Examples (case studies) of their "Greenprinting" program can be found here.

Someone is asking questions about the fertilizers and pesticides we put on our lawns and what effect these chemicals have on the bay.

Sarasota County has purchased 3.9 acres on Longboat Key that fronts both the gulf and the bay. The land will add to exosting park l;and on Longboat Key.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An Invitation

DAR Tour and Luncheon Benefits Historic Preservation:
Sarasota Architectural Salvage Tour and Luncheon
Saturday January 27, 2007 10am-2pm
10th St. and Central Avenue/ Sara De Soto Chapter House

The saved architectural treasures of Jesse White's Architectural Salvage Co. will be on view as he conducts a fascinating tour of Sarasota Architectural Salvage Company from 10 - 11am.

View treasures of the past waiting to be rediscovered! Afterwards, you'll have time to wander through the 18,000 sq. ft. warehouse on your own. Then take a short stroll through historic Pioneer Park to the DAR Chapter house (just around the corner) for a lovely lunch at 12:30pm.

This exciting affair is also an important Chapter fundraiser for historic preservation projects, open to all.

Please join us! Send the form below along with your check, and names of guests to: Nancy Johnson, Treasurer, Sara DeSoto DAR Chapter, 6469 Indigo Bunting Place, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202-8246.
Registration DEADLINE 1/20/07
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _



Please select your level of participation below.
__$20. general admission __$30 Donor __$50 Sponsor
__$75 Patron __$Other

Monday, December 18, 2006

Is Revitalization Necessary?

While "revitalization" may be a buzzword in government circles these days, it's not always what it's cracked up to be.

On the surface, the word and all it conveys sounds great. Encourage investors to tear down dilapidated buildings in residential neighborhoods and replace them with modern condominiums. Encourage investors to build chic restaurants in old commercial districts to draw business and traffic.

Out with the old, in with the new. Encourage investors.

With government help in the way of special taxing districts, grants and zoning changes, it's happening all over the country.

Redevelopment consultants cite various success stories as blueprints of what to do at their next stop, which could very easily be your neighborhood if your house or place of business is more than 30 years old.

This is the opening of Eric Ernst's recent column in the SHT. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

When people think about their own neighborhood, Ernst says:

People see a unique place, with distinguishing elements from one block to the next. They see real people, living real lives. And for the most part, they must like what they see or they would not live there.

That's not to say they object to improvements. They simply want those improvements to build on what's there, not alter their surroundings to an unrecognizable form.

Residents of older neighborhoods can always point to eyesores that would make good targets for razing. It seems, though, that government-initiated revitalization often leaves the dumps standing and tears down the more tolerable properties, which appeal to investors.

The "revitalization concept" is too often sold in broad, nebulous terms indicating it will be "good for the community". There are projects where revitalization makes sense. But when the community pays too high a price in terms of the loss of sense of place or unwanted height and density that lead to trafic, loss of openess, loss of green space, then it becomes a question of community value vs developer profits.

Decisions are tough when these are pitted against each other. Developers throw out terms such as NIMBYism and "fear of change" as ways of discounting the community interest and feelings about a project.

If developers cannot find a way to show that a proposed project is indeed a benefit to the community - and in doing so, is able to get community approval - then more work needs to be done.

The project that Ernst was relating to was the recent Englewood proposed "revitalization" of a trailer park. The county commissioners determined that the particular project was too intense and that other options were available. They then turned down the request for zoning change.

Stakeholders and Special Interests

An interview with Michael Romanos, professor of planning and economic development at the University of Cincinnati offers this bit of wisdom: Much is being made about the importance of ’stakeholders’ these days. What is your understanding of the role of 'stakeholders' in terms of sustainable development planning: Is the term undemocratic, revealing special interests & corruption, or an acknowledgement of how things are done since "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others"?

Professor Michael Romanos: The whole idea of sustainable development is to create a synergy among environmental, economic and social goals. Environmental and social justice are at the heart of sustainable development, so the concept, far from being undemocratic, is a vehicle to achieve more participatory democracy and more democratic planning and development.

In this sense, then, stakeholders are the beneficiaries of the plans and the development programs, and since these plans and programs advocate resource conservation, resource management, controlled growth, conservation of land, nature-friendly life styles, and several other similar principles, their interests are not ”special” interests, but rather those of society as a whole.

Now, special interests may intervene in the sustainable development/planning process in order to insert their own goals and priorities, but these are external agents, and the plans would not be partial to their concerns. If the process is carried out fairly, sustainable development planning will not favour these special interests but rather the stakeholders that who constitute the communities for which the plan is produced. It is up to the special interests to join the ranks of community stakeholders or not.

In the Santorini plan, for example, most of the professional organizations participated in the planning process as stakeholders. But some special interests objected to the direction of the plans, because they
[the plans] were advocating limits to rampant growth, management of the land and other natural resources, protection of the landscape, and regulations for construction. These special interests could join the ranks of stakeholders, and be part of the planning decision process, but in this case they felt that their personal and business interests deviated from those of the rest of the community.

The interview can be found here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Arcades Revisited - A Letter

From Dec 10 issue of SHT (letter to editor):

Impact of missing sidewalk air rights is shocking

I have lived here since 1950. I went to school, married and raised my family here, and I have always loved Sarasota. My wife's family moved here in 1932 and had a store right next to Ernest Smith and Sears and Roebuck in downtown Sarasota.

Last weekend I went to watch the Christmas parade with my daughter and grandchildren at the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue, and was I shocked to see a building that was over the public sidewalk on both streets.

Question: Who gave away our air rights to the 1350 Main project?

I hope people know which city commissioners to blame so we can be sure not to vote for them if they seek re-election.

Raymond Shmalo

Note: the arcade and public space over the side walk has been one of the major issues that SOS has taken a position on. We also believe this was a mistake and as a result worked hard to get the use of arcades over public sidewalks removed from the city code.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

DeMarcay to Rise Up

After three meetings the city commission decided the developer of the proposed DeMarcay project would be given the added density requested under the city DROD.

This has been a particularly contentious process because of the on-going, construction caused business disruption to the merchants along Palm Ave. Dirt, dust, noise, much reduced parking, lane closures and full street closures have rightfully exasperated the merchants. The developer of the 1350 Main project has also complained about loss of views, shading of his pool and added traffic.

While the DeMarcay developers say they have much improved construction techniques that will do a much better job at minimizing disruptions, the merchants are not convinced. many of the merchants' livlihoods depend on having a pleasant, normal street.

Some of the more interesting comments made by the competing lawyers (lawyer for the DeMarcay proposal and lawyer for the 1350 Main building next to the DeMarcay):

From the 1350 Main point of view (they do not want views and shading from the new building):
  • This is not adaptive historic rehabilitation, it is "facade-ism" - commenting on the incorporation of the facades of the two historic buildings (DeMarcay and the Roth Cigar Factory) that occupy the property
  • This will result in the destruction of the Palm Ave neighborhood - the 1350 Main has a 4 story arcade over the sidewalk on Palm

From the DeMarcay point of view:

  • 1350 Main is a massive building, extending its base out to the curb (over the sidewalk) has increased its massiveness
  • 1350 Main took the light away from everyone
  • We are bringing "sophisticated growth" to downtown
  • Vast majority of people support the downtown code that was approved

Harvey Hoglund of the city planning staff noted that both historic buildings have interiors that are not worth saving (at least from an expense point of view). He noted that if the DROD is not given to the developers, a building of the same scale could be built under existing codes that may include commercial or hotel uses. Neither historic building would likely be saved as there is no real protection for these buildings.

In the end, three commissioners voted for the proposal and one against.

Commissioner Palmer indicated the proposal did not meet the requirements of the DROD (emphasizing the requirement for broadening the range of housing options - ie., prices). She also indicated the intensity, the density and the heights are simply too great for this area.

Commissioner Shelin said he was committed to new urbanism and reducing sprawl - this project does that. He said he has lived in 4 different large eastern cities and knows there are ways to save historic resources and allow development.

Commissioner Bilyeu said he loves the arcades at 1350 Main and the construction issues are the result of a learning experience - the city has not built arcades on Main before.

Commissioner Atkins said he saw no evidence why he should not support the proposal.

Commissioner Servian had previously recused herself from the hearing because she had bought a unit in the 1350 Main project when it first went on sale.

The SHT story on the DeMarcay decision article is here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rosemary Community Garden

The issue with the city decision on the Rosmary Community Garden and the process used continues to stir deep feelings.

Jono Miller has written an excellent op-ed piece in the SHT. In part he says:
On Nov. 6, without bothering to notify any of the four dozen directly affected gardeners, or any neighbors or other stakeholders, the Sarasota City Commission held a 10-minute discussion to consider what is now the Rosemary Community Garden as a site for workforce housing. The commission was acting to seize an opportunity -- a grant with a mid-December deadline and the allure of $5 million.

No one asked if density could be moved off the garden site. No one asked how it did or didn't match up with the Rosemary District Neighborhood Action Strategy. No one asked what role the garden was playing in the Rosemary community or the city. No one asked if the gardeners should be notified and allowed to speak. After 10 minutes, the commissioners all voted to apply for the grant, which, if awarded and accepted, will mean the end of the Rosemary Community Garden. They had exercised their long-held right.

There are three problems: the first is why the affected stakeholders were not notified of the process. The second is the potential loss of the garden, and the third is the collateral effect on public opinion if people come to conclude that if this approach (destroying social capital, not consulting community plans, eliminating greenspace, ignoring assets, expunging a community garden, and not informing stakeholders) is representative of how advocates plan to treat the public in reaching community housing goals.

People are still debating how and why the gardeners received no notification of the discussion that could doom the garden. However that happened, it was wrong.

This lack of process and reactionary decision making is an issue that has come up again and again with the city commission.

The community garden has inherent community benefits that have not been given due consideration. This is also an on-going issue with the commission. How do we value the needs and desires of the entire community, how can we find solutions that satisify a broader segment of our community? These questions do not get asked by the commissioners and of course they are then not answered.

Sarasota's Canopy Meg

An article in todays SHT mentions a Smithsonian Magazine interview with Meg Lowman - New College professor and noted canopy researcher. The link to the Smithsonian article is here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Keeping Our Character

Our history tells our story. The history of a town tells about the hopes and aspirations of those that have lived there.

When we came to Sarasota, as nearly all of us did, we brought along with us our personal stories. Now we have a different setting for these stories to continue to unfold. Many of us have not had much of a chance to consider Sarasota's history - instead we look at what is here today and maybe try to change it into what we brought with us (our own past). Or maybe we fall prey to the extensive lifestyle marketing that shows what a perfect life can be like, if only we buy into the latest and greatest luxury development.

But Sarasota does have a unique story. When we read about its history, look at historical pictures and places and wander around all the different neighborhoods we begin to get a stronger sense of why this place is unique. Losing this character has been a frequent issue in the past few years and we face challenges today as we try to retain our character. The pressure to demolish the old and replace with expensive (but profitable) new buildings has been tremendous in Sarasota.

When people say "Sarasota is not the same old small town resort", that is not exactly true. There have been changes, changes that many would say are detrimental. But the history and the underlying character remain. The stories are still told and they still beckon new arrivals. A small town in a wonderful place with unique character is hard to beat.

But bit by bit the economic force of profit continues to exert pressure on Sarasota's character.

An editorial in the Palm Beach Post tells about efforts in Stuart to preserve some of that town's heritage.
Owners of historic homes have problems. The cost of keeping up old wood frame houses can be prohibitive. But just when the situation seems hopeless, along comes Mac Stuckey with a great idea.

Stuart voters approved another of Mr. Stuckey's great ideas on Election Day, when they made Stuart submit any plans for developing city-owned waterfront to voters for approval. "We need to encourage people to leave historic buildings right where they are," he said. "We should give people who have historic properties a tax assessment reduction and other incentives to keep their property exactly like it is."

Mr. Stuckey served on Martin County's Historical Preservation Board for three years, but said the county ordinance doesn't give a private landowner enough incentive to preserve historical structures on land that is rapidly growing in value. The law gives a "designated" historic building a 10-year moratorium on taxes attributable to restoration, but gives no help for homes already restored or for the land itself.

Instead, Mr. Stuckey suggests a 50 percent reduction in the assessed value or millage rate for the initial assessment, along with a yearly cap on increases, similar to the 3 percent Save Our Homes cap. Owners would be invited, but not required, to designate their properties as historic. Both the county and Stuart would have to approve separate historic preservation laws.

Developers won't like this plan; owners would have as much incentive to preserve as to sell their property. "I want to keep the good things about Stuart," Mr. Stuckey said. "I don't want it to look like every other coastal town. I want it to look like Stuart." His idea could make that possible - in Stuart and elsewhere in South Florida.

Instead of demolishing the historic structures that tell the story of our past, finding ways to keep them in place allows our heritage to remain with us. We came here because of the climate, the natural and cultural amenities, the small town atmosphere. This unique atmosphere has a powerful draw. We need to allow these stories to continue to unfold as this is the essence of the unique Sarasota that drew us here.

Turning character into concrete is not why we came here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ringling Museum Opens Education/Conservation Center

Over the weekend the Ringling Museum hosted an open house at its newest building, the Education / Conservation Building. This new building adds space for classes, the library, the conservation lab, the vault and much needed office space.

Public tours of the new building were held over the weekend. The building looks nice and the views from inside are spectacular.

While the conservation lab and the vault are "industrial" looking, they obviously fulfill the needed function for which
they were designed.

According to the tour leaders and Dr. Wetenhall, this building provides state of the art vault (critical, since the Museum is located near Sarasota Bay, and in hurricane country) storage for the museum's collection as well as provides arguably the best conservation lab in North America.

Next up for the Museum: an opening in early spring of the new exhibition wing.
Added note - based on the comment below, the Education/Conservation Building is on the south side of the Museum Complex, mostly on what would be considered New College property. It is sited west of the Sainer Pavilion. A map show the location.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

U-Plan for Local Development

Here is a concept that could have good use in a lot of places - even here in Sarasota.

Land-use planning for the masses
Design center allows public to try hand at shaping key corridor
BY LAURA YUEN Pioneer Press

On St. Paul's University Avenue, you can order Cambodian noodles, buy a secondhand mannequin and replace the muffler on your old Buick.

And starting today, you can create your own streetscape.

A do-it-yourself urban design center offering equipment, software and technical expertise to the public will open today at 1956 W. University Ave. The storefront office, called U-Plan Community Planning Studio, is a land-use wonk's dream, but it is already generating some grass-roots interest.

With big-box retailers sniffing around and a light-rail line on the horizon for University Avenue, supporters say it gives the little guy a new weapon in the ongoing battle to reshape the Central Corridor. In the center's sparse storefront office, interested groups can equip themselves with GIS mapping software, design tools and mega-size printers designed to help them create their own development blueprints along the avenue.

For a district council or neighborhood group engaged in a development issue, those resources usually aren't easy to come by, said Kristen Kidder, executive director of the Thomas-Dale/District 7 Planning Council. "At the neighborhood level, we're to some degree playing catch-up," said Kidder, who also is a member of the new center's management team.

"We're not on the cutting edge. This provides us the ability to be a little closer to that cutting edge." The scramble for every developable inch on University Avenue already has begun. Community activists and design enthusiasts already have lost key battles over recent bricks-and-mortar projects, including a CVS, Aldi discount grocery and Wal-Mart.

Opponents of those developments contend they discourage pedestrians and transit riders and have no place on the future home of light rail. Another big fight, at Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue, could soon erupt over a proposed Home Depot and Best Buy.

To get the design center going, community planning group University United received $125,000 from the Minneapolis Foundation, which University United says will go toward its goal of operating the U-Plan studio for at least four days a week over the next two years.

All services are free, at least in the initial stages. Participants will be able to use the mapping software while analyzing area demographics, traffic counts, property values and other characteristics along the Central Corridor, said staffer Julia Burman, who has applied some of those tools through her work at the Northeast Community Development Corp. in Minneapolis.

Seeing that kind of data plotted on a map allows folks to better grasp the bigger picture of their communities, Burman said. District councils that use the center also might find it easier to visualize the kind of development they want to see, with the use of software that can create images of buildings of various heights and sizes in relation to the existing streetscape.

Some of the community councils have expressed interest in using the center as they rethink uses for the Unidale Mall site as well as an upcoming redevelopment project on North Snelling Avenue. Two private property owners also have signed up to use the studio, said University United's Brian McMahon.

McMahon has enlisted GIS support from students at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas.

Starting next spring, architects with the American Institute of Architects-Minnesota will share their expertise at the studio at workshops designed to envision new development along the avenue by individual blocks.

Tim Griffin, of the St. Paul on the Mississippi Design Center, will oversee the program.

With many development issues facing both the city and the county, this kind of tool would seem to be particularly useful. Maybe our city and county planning departments could look into the feasibility for such a center in Sarasota.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Community Garden

The protest of the city's Community Garden decision is growing a life of its own. At the Monday commission meeting, 19 speakers gave their views on changing this 11 year garden old site to affordable housing. Much emotion and obvious close ties to the garden plots was expressed. The community that has formed around this endeavor has deep roots indeed!

The latest SHT article about this indicates the city will help look for a suitable alternate site for the garden - not exactly what the gardeners are looking for.

Had the city's plans to convert the property been better communicated before a decision was made, city commissioners don't think there would have been as big an uproar.

"Communication has always been our Achilles' heel," said Commissioner Mary Anne Servian. "That information didn't get out to all the gardeners."
This is exactly the issue that so many citizens have pointed out to commissioners in the last couple years. No plan is in place to help guide decisions, the commissioners react to specific proposals that are "put on the table" with little or no citizen input until after the decision is made. Reaction instead of planning will always be problematic.

This is more than a communication issue, it is a process issue. Lack of a clear process that is followed will result in citizens that react negatively - rightly so.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More On Siesta Density

The Siesta Key density decision that was described yesterday was covered more extensively in the Pelican Press. Their article is worth reading as it focusses on the difference Joe Barbetta has made on the BCC decisions. Joe brings many years experience and solid decision making to the county commission.

Dumb Growth, Smart Name?

John Thaxton has written an excellent op-ed piece in today's SHT. The subject is how the "smart growth" label is often used incorrectly and the result is more sprawl.

He concludes with the following thought provoking summary:

Smart Growth should be the way we build new development, not the reason. "Smart Growth" in the wrong location, or done without a financially feasible infrastructure plan, is nothing more than dumb growth with a smart name.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

County Votes Against Adding Density

A message from our neighbors in the county:

Congratulations Siesta Key residents and thanks to Siesta Key Association for fighting and defeating Sarasota County proposal (RU-136). This county sponsored proposal would have legalized construction of duplex housing on undersized, non-conforming lots on Siesta Key.

Although commissioners Mills, Mercier and Staub had previously voted in favor of this proposal (Patterson & Thaxton voted against), SKA’s research into county records, and hiring of attorneys to fight the county, showed proposal would be illegal under county law.

All commissioners (5 to 0) voted against RU-136 despite objections by special interests.

It is a shame that citizens’ groups such as SKA need to hire lawyers and do research the county itself should have done and that citizens need to persuade elected officials not to vote in favor of special interests and contrary to the greater good.

Thanks to all sensible growth supporters who emailed county commissioners in opposition to RU-136. It made a difference. Commissioners received 400 emails on this issue.

If we don’t want irresponsible, destructive growth and catering to special interests, citizens need to step up and be heard and, unfortunately spend time and money fighting Sarasota County’s special interests.

There are some excellent advice in this message. Citizens need to get involved to protect the quality of life we came here for.

The SHT article on this County Commission decision gives some County Commissioner comments.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Community Conversations - Value Judgements

A week ago the city commission was asked to donate land that has been used for a community garden for the last 11 years so that affordable housing could be built instead. The request was based on the need for temporary artists visiting Sarasota as part of the cultural venues that Sarasota is noted for. The group that asked for the land indicated that they could fund a building but could not afford the land. They suggested that the Community Garden land on 6th and Central.

A number of gardeners asked that this particular lot be kept as a community garden. They argued that it not only provided green space within the city but that the gardener community crossed social and economic lines and provided a unique and wonderful sense of community. The gardeners have been working this plot of land for more than 11 years. The city has described the land as being in a "land bank" for future use.

Jono Miller, New College environmental professor argued that while affordable housing is important the community garden in Sarasota was also important. We should not have to give up one to get the other. Later he wrote the following e-mail on the subject:


Things happen. You meet someone and agree it doesn't make sense to have a serious relationship and 36 years later you're leaving a City Commission meeting to drive together to Tampa to pick up your soncoming back from college. A friend leaves an abandoned puppy with you for a weekend while she finds someone to take it permanently and fourteen years later you're wondering if house guests can smell the pee from your old incontinent dog. You pick a place to go to college and find, for whatever reason, it might be a place to live.

I'm sitting here with the most recent copy of the New College student newspaper, the Catlyst.

The lead story relates how student efforts to vote were thwarted. How after decades of being able to use the college address to vote, this year students had to use arcane dorm addresses (and re-register if they changed dorms!). Then on page four there is a story about two students who tried to vote for Jennings and when they got to the review page, their vote was gone.

Things happen. But these are our young people, many voting for the first time and this was their first experience with local government. That has nothing to do with you. Except imagine that context and then coming to your first public hearing.

Imagine being told not to get excited because nothing had been decided only to hear moments later that two weeks previously something HAD been decided, without any notification of the people being affected.

Imagine hearing the City Manager say he will always bring matters to the Board before letting those who will be affected know about it.

Imagine hearing the land was vacant, which it probably is from a real estate point of view, but certainly not in the sense of being abandoned or neglected – it is probably the most nurtured and fawned-over two thirds of an acre in the City. Imagine it is the first, and maybe only place where you feel safe talking with strangers in Sarasota because you share a common bond.

Imagine hearing that providing temporary residences for a couple dozen of out-of-town artists is apparently more important than the needs of about fifty people who live here in the City right now. Imagine being told it was play when it feels like work, or that people who speak on its behalf are elitists, or that it is about flowers and not food. Imagine elected officials who can only see it as they did many years ago, as a nasty sandspur patch, when the students experience it as a vital third place, where people from many walks of life meet and interact. For some, this month has seen their first vote and their first hearing.

For whatever reason, many New College students want to learn togarden. Its not really down the center line of what one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country is supposed to be doing.

But it is important to them. And I support it, not because I think they willbe feeding themselves, but because working in the soil is an act of faith, because it fosters humility, and because, usually, they have little idea what they are doing. Nowadays they are likely to sit intheir dorm rooms and Google "vegetables" and "Florida" and come across some list made by someone in Gainesville and then they find an online seed company and order seeds. I don't need to tell you how that works.

There is a garden on campus outside my window. But here students arejust talking to themselves.

I tell them they need to forget the computer and go downtown and find someone who knows what grows and talk to them. We are raising a generation that is not learning how to find real people who know something and ask for guidance. Sending them to Sixth Street has been one part of the antidote. If you want to call them elitists, that's fine --- some probably come from wealthy families and head to WholeFoods after struggling in the garden. But I'm telling you their"playing in the dirt" is just as important as moving off campus and"playing house" or being on a team and "playing Ultimate Frisbee" –all this playing is preparing them to be responsible engaged adults that can take care of themselves and their community. And while most of our students graduate and take off for graduate school or whatever,some stay, despite the housing situation and make Sarasota a morevibrant place to live. They fill any number of roles from waitresses and house sitters to teaching or selecting the films you'll be seeing at the Sarasota Film Festival.

I'm not asking you to set aside your affordable housing agenda so New College students can play in the dirt. (I think they may only have one plot anyway). I'm just telling part of the story of one of the 28 plots. I think it is obvious you decided several weeks ago what you wanted to do with this land without hearing any of the other stories. (Or consulting the Rosemary District neighborhood plan?)

That is flawed public process and if there is any way you can back up and do this right, I think you should. I think you owe it to the people you cut out of the process. You should have to listen to the other 27 stories before you vote to take this away or even to relocate it.

Relocation pits gardeners against park users, who will justifiably argue "their" park is being nibbled away. People take ownership and fight for things they care about. They get emotional.

Your comments last night reveal that you have set on this path without knowing all the facts, or at least without hearing all the stakeholders. Plain and simple, that is wrong and I think most of you can see that now. I expect more from my City Commission. I won't ask you to open your hearts, but I will ask you to spend some time in the community garden. I haven't been there since January, so don't take myword for it. See for yourselves.

And I will ask you to open your minds. We were told this entire site is about one acre. We all know you/we aren't going to scratch the surface of the affordable housing need with this one acre effort. This is about getting started. But you need to ask if you want to start by destroying community and alienating a broad cross section of this community. Less than 2/3 of an acre is the garden. Why aren't we talking about putting some units on the parking lot site and transferring the remaining units elsewhere to city or private property?

I can't remember ever heading downtown to oppose more units downtown.

I support downtown growth and affordable housing. I will show up to support rezonings if that what it takes. What's more I think a lot ofpeople would support adding a few units here and there in the RosemaryDistrict if it means we can and leave the garden. Instead of hiring landscape architects to design "green space" citizens have created it for free by themselves (with some mulch and water).

I know that eleven years ago you or your predecessors didn't intend for this to happen --for people to get attached to the "temporary"garden. But things happen. People have created a specialized densely-used "micro-park" where diverse citizens not only come to re-create but to have social interactions they can't have anywhere else. No one expected that.

But things happen. Go see for yourselves and be open to rethinking this. That's all I'm asking.


The SHT has an extensive article about the community garden in today's paper.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Request For Your Help

A message from the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA):

CONA member, Siesta Key Association, needs your help to oppose a change in county law allowing much higher densities on Siesta Key and elsewhere in County. CONA’s board has taken a position opposing this proposal, now it’s your turn.

Do something to help Siesta Key residents stop destructive, neighborhood unfriendly, dumb growth by:

· Attending hearing to speak against RU-136, (Dec 4 at 1:30 1660 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota) or

· Email county commissioners today to tell them you oppose RU-136:

Paul Mercier:
Jon Thaxton:
Shannon Staub:

At the last vote on RU-136, only Nora Patterson & Jon Thaxton voted against increased density. Commissioners Mercier, Staub & Mills voted in favor of RU-136 changing law to allow much higher densities.

Message & details from Siesta Key Association below:
The proposed change, labeled RU-136, will be heard by the Board of County Commissioners next Monday, December 4th after 1:30 PM. Sarasota County Government Administrative building, 1660 Ringling Blvd, 1st floor auditorium.

Recently, Sarasota County staff and developers have focused their attention on the number of homes that will be built on Siesta Key. Of course, the County staff will claim that if the new change to the law is approved, the number of additional housing units will only be 35-48 units.

However, SKA's research finds this number to be too low and has estimated the increase to be about 350 additional housing units.

This estimate does not include parcels that are 'partial' lots which are even smaller than the old platted lots now under discussion. These partial lots, which the Zoning Administrator recently advised may be buildable, can add hundreds of more units to SKA's estimates.

The Siesta Key Association urges you to attend this important meeting and let the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners know of your concerns with the proposed amendment to allow increased density.

In the meantime, please email the Commissioners with your comments and concerns on RU-136.

Thank you for your support. From the Directors of the Siesta Key Association.

For more information, contact Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key Association

CONA -- Sarasota County Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, Inc. Neighbors helping neighbors since 1961.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Winter Reading

Are you up for some serious reading during the long night time hours we are experiencing?

Planetizen, a web site all about planning and development news, has recently published a "top 10" list of planning books. Some of the titles are intriguing. Take a look.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bayside Moves Forward

Last night the Planning Board reviewed the proposed Sarasota Bayside (Quay) development. After lengthy presentations and questioning of each other by lawyers for the Hyatt and Sarasota Bayside, the recommendation for approval of the street vacation and site plan was approved.

The developers, Irish American Partners, presented the vision of "compact, cultural seaside town. The scale was compared to Cannes. The problem their designers faced was that downtown is detached from the bayfront.

They indicated that 65-75% of the retail would be national chains with the remaining being local. At this point, since there is no schedule for the proposal there are no commitment from retailers. However, the developer is confident that the commitment will come.

Everyone that testified indicated that the proposed project was great and would do wonderful things for Sarasota. But issues of traffic, the effect of construction and the lack of an agreement over details with the Hyatt were the focus of most of the discussion.

While Sam Freija, city traffic engineer, has determined that the proposal complies with the TCEA requirements (apparently determined by calculating what the current Quay allowance would be) testimony submitted by a traffic consultant for GWIZ disputed the data. In neighborhood workshops, residents of 888, 988, Beau Ciel and Marina Towers apparently raised traffic concerns as the most important issue for them. The issue of not considering the impact of all the proposed projects together was also raised - there is great concern that when all the projects that have been approved along the 41 corridor (including downtown buildings that will also pull traffic) are built this section of 41 will have major traffic problems.

The Hyatt raised a number of issues that could affect their daily operation: truck access (loading dock area), potential noise and construction activity. The Hyatt also noted that the proposed buildings would be higher (260 - 270 ft) than any building currently approved in downtown - 90 ft higher than Five Points building - and that their pool would be shaded during at least a portion of the day from November to March. The Hyatt representatives said "we do not want this to become another 1350 Main", referring to the horrendous construction issues that Palm Ave merchants have faced during the long construction of that building.

The Hyatt noted that the model that the model of the proposed project that Sarasota Bayside produced "has been very helpful in trying to understand the project."

Some of the public benefits of the proposal would be; the Belle Haven will be saved, there will be public water front access, new sections of the MURT will go through the project, the large "piazza" will be excellent public space, the "pedestal" design of the building complexes will allow stepbacks for the towers thus making the pedestrian experience more "human scale", and the design and architecture is quite strong - much different than the downtown buildings we have seen so far - and present a much needed new look. The Bayside group is actively looking for ways to provide better connectivity across 41 to downtown.

Bottom line: everyone agreed it would be a good project for Sarasota, but like all projects the devil is in the details. There could be many devils with this project but at least the Planning Board agrees that it should move forward.

The SHT story about the meeting is here.

Report on the Citizen Academy

An attendee of the recent City of Sarasota Citizens' Academy had an excellent experience. This program has been run twice and received rave reviews both times. We would urge everyone to consider participating in this progream to see how the city works and meet many of our great city employees. Getting involved is the best way to make sure Sarasota is the city we all want it to be.

With twenty four other people, I have recently completed the study of Sarsota city government at the Citizens' Academy sponsored by the Neighborhood Partnership Office of our city. It was a marvelous experience to learn of the various areas of supervision and how they work.

I have wondered what was to happen and when in Payne Park; now I know, and I've wondered about all the people at City Hall and exactly what they do in the capacities they serve. They really care. We learned of the huge number of services provided by the city available to people who are in a quandary because of problems that overwhelm.

Public Works and Engineering offered incite into the basic physical structure of Sarasota, as well as the great number of services it affords. At the Police Academy we observed in action the equipment available to maintain a safe community eg.a robotic capable of disarming threatening devices. The Planning and Redevelopment Board was an eye opener.

Now I understand why the sign for the Publix sign"opening soon" on 41 has been there for five or six years. The process to achieve a new structure is mind boggling.

Finally, we visited the Van Wezel and the complexity of that "jewel" is amazing physically and culturally. The programs it promotes for Sarasota's children are simply outstanding.

Over and above all else, it was wonderful to see the pride and dedication for our city evidenced by every single person we met.

What an opportunity this was! The next class of the Citizens' Academy will be in February. Try to be a part of it.

Patricia Barkhuff

Monday, November 27, 2006

Listening to Citizens

More on not listening:

Residents and their attorneys have lined up to challenge county commission-approved growth plans that state planners said fly in the face of growth-management laws.

A group of suburban West Palm Beach residents, the growth management group 1000 Friends of Florida and environmental activist Rosa Durando filed paperwork with the state this week to participate in negotiations to settle the fate of four county comprehensive plan changes approved by commissioners in August.

The state's Department of Community Affairs last month ruled that the four comprehensive plan changes, as well as a fifth one, were out of compliance with county and state growth laws.

This is from the Palm Beach Post and reflects what citizens are being forced to do as developers use their muscle to get commissioners to over extend growth.

Throughout meetings this year, the residents said that project was too dense, compared with the one-acre lots in their community. The city of Greenacres also opposed the project, and county planners had recommended that commissioners deny it approval.

The commissioners "need to review what the professionals in planning have done," resident Jim Harangody said. The association hired environmental and land-use attorney Jane West to represent them.

This is similar to what has happened here with the School Ave. proposal. Planners and citizens opposed the proposal because of height and traffic. Commissioner passed it anyway, then the DCA had an objection. Now it appears the city may look at changing its growth requirements to allow this proposal anyway.

Why do we have no accountability to citizens - no desire for consensus building?

Another Good Read

Local author, Stan Zimmerman, has recently published his second book - A History of Smuggling in Florida: Rum Runners and Cocaine Cowboys. Check out Bob Ardren's comments.

From Amazon's description:

Who does this smuggling? Well one Florida governor and the wife of another, for starters. Hardscrabble commercial fishermen, Spanish explorers, Mafia mobsters, crew chiefs for fruit pickers, respected attorneys, just about everybody in Florida is a smuggler.

Smuggling touches every major episode in Florida's history; its discovery and settlement, the Seminole Wars, and the Civil War were shaped by smugglers. The state's repeated land booms-including today's-are heavily influenced by smuggler profits. Today's business economy is warped by the manipulation of smugglers laundering their profits.

Stan Zimmerman means neither to vilify nor glorify these entrepreneurs. Nor does he intend to leave any stoned unturned or suitcase unopened. With stories of drug runners and prostitute pushers along side the exploits and follies of Florida's elite, we are able to see why throughout its long history, Florida has always been a true "smuggler's paradise."

Stan will be signing books at Circle Books on Dec 3, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 and at Borders on Dec 9 from 1-3 PM. Stan says that Carl Hiassen will be signing his new book at Circle Books following his stint.

Please, no contraband copies allowed!

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Quote To Contemplate

Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of planetary ecosystem as it is of gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive. - Pardot Kynes

The above quote was on page 1 of the 1975 Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan.

Sarasota has gotten off track over the last few years, with you, Nora and Jon, we can get back on.

Sent to Joe Barbetta by:
Lourdes Ramirez
President - Siesta Key Association

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Promise To Consider

Having grown up in Kalamazoo, I couldn't pass up this article. The program started about 2 years ago and is highly successful. Something for Sarasota to consider?

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—When economists and civic leaders discuss ways to revive this economically buffeted state, the talk quickly converges on the need to dramatically increase the number of high school students who continue their education and graduate from college.

Thanks to a group of anonymous donors, no place in Michigan, and perhaps no place in America, has achieved that goal as quickly and effectively as this mid-sized, post-industrial city. The donors' novel philanthropic fund pays up to 100 percent of the college tuition and fees for graduates of Kalamazoo’s three public high schools—as long as they attend a community college or university in Michigan.

Last June, in the first year of the program, known as the Kalamazoo Promise, 400 students graduated from the three schools and 80 percent took advantage of the offer.

Many other links are available. Wisconsin is also looking at a variation of this.

Providing education for everyone, all of our children, is a requirement for success. Providing a college education for all our children is a community asset that is unparalleled.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To Listen or Not...

Palm Beach County's planning director told county commissioners Monday that he and his staff would not "compromise our professional integrity" by supporting commission development plans with which they disagree.

This is the lead paragraph from a story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The story about sending a plan proposal to the DCA continues:

"First of all, it makes us look ridiculous, because we've approved something and you sent up all the reasons we shouldn't have," Commissioner Mary McCarty said. "I think it puts us in a very bad light. ... You need to take out and reword staff's part of it, to support what the commissioners are saying when they're making their votes."

Maybe the question should be why have a staff if no one listens. In a council - manager form of government the concept is that professional staff are hired to make sure issues are well researched and presented fairly. When there is pressure to disregard the staff findings, then staff is not needed. This would be something other than a council- manager form (dictator?).

Have we ventured down this road in Sarasota in some of our decisions?

Joe Barbetta Takes Office on Today

From Sunday's SHT article on Joe Barbetta:

Controlling sprawl

Barbetta made suppressing urban sprawl a focus of his campaign. Days before he takes office, he still talks about the same subject.

He supports plans for the Florida Institute for Integrative Land Use on Fruitville Road. The institute, a joint venture of New College of Florida and the University of Florida, would study methods of managing growth while protecting the environment.

On the subject of traffic, he says he doesn't "want to see huge road widening projects just to accommodate cars."

He also made public transportation a key theme in his campaign. SCAT General Manager Anthony Beckford expects more emphasis on busing. Beckford, whose department already received a 40 percent budget increase in 2005, said Barbetta understands public transportation is "very good for the county in terms of not only growth management but land management."

Paying for growth is becoming much more of an issue these days as large projects have been built and announced, particularly in Manatee County.

Traffic remains a big issue in Sarasota also. The county turned down the big Bendeson proposal at University and I-75 - anyone who has tried to travel on University east of I-75 knows to allow lots of extra time as you wait for light changes several times before getting through each intersection.

And the City of Sarasota has seen the DCA send back two recent land use proposals because of lack of acceptable traffic management plans. In our view the city has not yet seen the light with regard to infrastructure needs that accompany downtown growth. At times it seems that the city is emulating North Port in its growth policies.

County commissioners in both Sarasota and Manatee know this.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What Is Planning?

Planning is the art of helping communities define and realize a vision of the future that anticipates community needs but does not unduly constrain future generations from successfully addressing needs and aspirations we can't foresee today. Planning is all about reaching community consensus about the character, quality, design, and location of new development and redevelopment and the conservation of valued environmental and cultural resources. It is also about fostering social and economic equity and local access to public services and amenities. It is about making communities better places to live, work, visit, and invest in.

This is from an interview with the Director of Planning for Oklahoma City. They face many of the same issues that we face.

We would highlight the comment "Planning is all about reaching community consensus...", something we have struggled with recently.

The interview is well worth reading.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I was wandering around Island Park looking for ways to depict Sarasota's skyline - but those pesky boats kept encroaching on the view.

When I looked at the boat names I noticed that some of them seemed to be commenting on the landscape around me. You might even consider the following photos to be self captioned.

Exactly what they are saying and to whom they are saying it to is up to the viewer.

[You may need to click on the picture to get a larger view.]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PACS and Local Elections

From a recent SHT editorial:
More than $20,000 from a political action committee helped John Simmonds get re-elected to the Venice City Council last week.

Simmonds received the campaign contributions from Citizens for Quality Government, which was formed in 2000. Since then, all the City Council candidates supported by the group have won. In other words, CQG is 10-0.

This is one of the reasons that the City Charter Review Committee was reluctant to endorse an elected mayor. A number of citizens raised this issue: PACS can put large amounts of funding into local elections and their advertising (truthful or not) can sway voters.

The Charter Review Committee also recommended limiting individual donations to candidates to a maximum of $200. This is the amount allowed in the county elections.

Latest on Ed Smith

Here is the latest (as of 11/15/06) plan for the proposed new baseball park in Sarasota. It was presented by Pat Calhoun at a meeting this evening.

The deal seems to hinge on whether an acceptable agreement can be found with a "partner", namely a hotel operator that would allow generation of about $10M. This would likely be in the form of a long term lease.

Since current parking is being used for the new structure, the city would look for additional parking across Tuttle in the current youth athletic park. This would require one of the three "stakeholders" (likely the BMX track or the football league) to move to a different site. A site identified as a possibility is on 17th, further east.

Bids from potential hotel developers are due by 2 PM on Thursday.

Looking For a Roofer?

These guys were tied up on the pinnacle roof above 1350 Main.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

DCA Finds School Ave Proposal "Not In Compliance"

The State of Florida DCA has issued a statement of intent to find the proposed School Ave Land Use Amendment to be “not in compliance” with state requirements.

Once again transportation issues are at the center of the denial.

The report was issued by the state today and can be found at the City website. It includes remedial action necessary.

DeMarcay - Round One

The battle of the development lawyers began last night as the DeMarcay proposal was attacked by lawyers for the yet to be finished 1350 Main project and defended by lawyers from the DeMarcay side.

The 1350 Main construction "techniques" have caused severe disruption on Palm, with both parking and access. The thought of continuing this disruption for another couple years has the Palm merchants very unhappy as they contemplate losing their businesses. The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported:
The city commissioners delayed any decision Monday about giving increased density for the project. The merchants will have to wait until a meeting next week to sound off, and some of them plan to.

"It's a bad neighbor," said Brian J. O'Connell, owner of Hodgell Gallery on Palm Avenue, after the meeting. "It's greed."

O'Connell said that merchants on Palm have lost 40 percent of their business in the past year because of construction on the street.
There is disagreement among the development lawyers concerning compatibility of the project. According to the SHT article on the meeting consultants and lawyers for 1350 Main contend that the DeMarcay is incompatible with the rest of Palm Avenue. They say that it will cause traffic problems and be dangerous to pedestrians.
"It is too much building on too small a lot," said attorney Robert Lincoln, who represents the developers of 1350 Main. Lincoln defended the 1350 Main project to commissioners.

Developers of The DeMarcay were seeking a density increase to make the project work. The project, built on the site of the former DeMarcay Hotel, will be a "sensitive contributor to the renaissance of Palm Avenue," said attorney Ronald Shapo.
This project has been in the spotlight for a while now. Issues of construction methods, disruption of merchant activity on Palm, the parking system for the DeMarcay and its wffect on Palm traffic flow and the effect of the DeMarcay towering over the adjacent 1350 Main building are all under consideration.

The debate will continue next Tuesday at 6 PM in City Hall.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Historic Preservation

There was an interesting article in the SHT concerning a proposed redevelopment on Cedar Key. The proposal includes an historical rehabilitation. The rehabilitation is being directed by Bradenton based preservation architect Linda Stevenson. She was one of the lead people working on the Ca d' Zan restoration at the Ringling Musuem.

From the article (see the sidebar):
"There are four sets of guidelines," said Stevenson.

"Preservation, which is stabilizing and keeping the components of the building as they are in this moment in time.

"Restoration, which is when you pick a period to take your building back to; for a museum-quality restoration, you would take your building back to 1880 and take away modern additions and that sort of thing.

"Rehabilitation, which is the most common thing that is done; you preserve the historic character and features, but you make it workable in today's environment and make some interior changes. You might renovate some spaces and change the use.

"Reconstruction, which is when you have enough evidence to rebuild something that has disappeared.

The Crocker Church and Bidwell-Wood structures in Sarasota will be restored to a specific time period (to be determined).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Historic Church and House Settle into Pioneer Park

The Crocker Church and the Bidwell-Wood House House are on foundations.

Saturday's dedication was attended by about 50 or so people. Harold Bubil, from the SHT was excellent as the master of ceremonies.

Many of the people that were instrumental in getting the buildings moved to this park were recognized - included were Arnie Berns, Chris Blue, Thorning Little and many others. The organization behind this effort is the Historical Society of Sarasota County.

An audio discussion of this project can be found here.

The Bidwell-Wood House is the oldest Sarasota building that still exists. It was built in the late 1800's.

While the foundation is in place, much work and funding needs to follow as these important historic resources are restored. If you are interested in helping, the Historical Society would love to hear from you.

New Blog on the Block

Well maybe an extended block - it is from Tampa.

Anyway, check out My Florida History. The description fo this new blog includes:
My goal for this blog is to increase awareness and appreciation for the great people, ideas, and places that create Florida. My work and personal research interests tend to focus on the built environment -- how and why people use and change the land. You can expect this blog to includes stories of buildings, farms, bridges, hotels, etc., and the people who made them along with tales of Florida art, culture, and lore.

This sounds quite interesting.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Decision: No Elected Mayor

The Charter Review Committee voted tonight against a proposal to change the Sarasota Charter to have a directly elected mayor.

Two members of the 7 person committee voted in favor of an elected mayor and the other 5 voted against the proposal. Members Shelton and Luzier voted for the elected mayor proposal.

Until tonight's action, all the preliminary votes had favored changing to an elected mayor.

During the charter review process, many citizens had spoken against having an elected mayor, citing a variety of reasons. Similar proposals had been voted down by the electorate three times in recent years.

Recent issues with negative ads, "dirty politics", issues concerning listening to residents as opposed to developers, probably all played a role in the decision.

One member of the committee indicated that community members spent significant time speaking with the Charter Review Committee and gave many arguments for their beliefs - primarily that Sarasota should not have a directly elected mayor. This input was discussed openly and critically. The discussions lead to the decision that was ultimately reached.

In this case the process worked well. There was good citizen input, the committee members listened to the input, they applied their own personal knowledge and expertise and made a decision based on all the input. The decision was made in the interest of the community.

Thanks to all those that worked long hours on this process: committee members, staff and citizens. Your service and commitment to making our city an excellent city is appreciated.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Negative Ad Loses in Sarasota

Maybe Sarasota has seen a breakthrough.

Wednesday morning the local election news had stories about voters that were really negative about the negative ads. (Two negatives make a positive, right?)

Keith Fitzgerald commented that he believed his opponent's negative ad was an element of his victory. Here is a Democrat, first time political office candidate, in a heavily Republican district that refused to run a negative ad even though his opponent did so. He did have harsh words about his opponent's use of false statements in her ad. But he stuck to the promise he made - he would not run negative ads.

In the end Fitzgerald won a close contest.

We hope that other negative ad producers take note of this result and think long and hard in future Sarasota political campaigns.

New College Plans For Future

In mid September New College had a groundbreaking ceremony for the new dormitory buildings they are constructing. These buildings are on the east campus.

The New College campus is on Sarasota Bay.

Currently they are working on a campus master plan that should serve to guide their expansion over the next 50 years.

New College has been a strong positive influence on Sarasota for many decades. Their plans for the future promise many positive decades to come.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sarasota Skyscraper Scene

Condos and office building on Gulfstream facing the bay.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Van Wezel Light Dimmed?

Last week the Director of Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was fired. John Wilkes had been the Director for about 12 years (2 time periods) and has generally been acclaimed as being the artistic and business force behind the success of the hall.

Recent newspaper articles have described the problematic areas of the Van Wezel Hall.

Reading "between the lines" would suggest that the probability of poor communication and "loose control" lead to the termination of Wilkes' contract. Whether the firing was justified and whether it will cause damage to Sarasota's reputation as the center of "Florida's Cultural Coast" will be debated.

The Van Wezel has been a great success story for Sarasota (not withstanding the infrequent but significant budget issues). Keeping it as a strong player in Sarasota's cultural scene must be continued. Anything less would be a tragedy.

More about this at the city manager's blog site.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dicey Pineapple?

In the November issue of Sarasota Magazine, Kim Hackett has an interesting article about Pineapple Square.

Apparently funding from the project bankers requires 99 paid condo reservations before the project can begin (financed). At press time for the magazine, Simon was "only a third of the way there."

While the project is scheduled to begin construction in January, Simon has indicated that if residential units are not sold, construction may be delayed.

Many new condos are under construction and not many buyers are available. Added into the mix are the Benderson proposal on Main, the Sarasota Bayside (Quay) project, the Grande Sarasotan (recently opened their sales office) and the DeMarcay on Palm, all of which are in the planning approval or pre-sales process. Following close behind is Michael Saunders' project on Orange. A number of townhouse projects are also under construction in Burns Court and Laurel Park. And we should not forget the 5 unsold units at Marquee en Ville on Fruitville.

Lots of competition for Pineapple Square.

In today's declining real estate market (with the speculators back in the closet) the competition for real buyers is getting tougher and tougher each day.

Mr. Simon has a tough row to hoe,
in order to get his Pineapple to grow.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

DeMarcay Comes to City Commission

The DeMarcay proposal for a hi-rise on Palm will come to the city commission for approval (or not) on Monday, Nov 13.

Several issues have been debated concerning this proposal.

The developers will save the facade (or a replica) of the DeMarcay Hotel on Palm and the Cigar Factory building on MiraMar Ct. The developers also propose an 18 story building on the narrow site and have asked for the downtown residential overlay density bonus - an increase from 50 u/a to 200 u/a in exchange for 3% of the selling price of the extra units.

The height will shade and allow views of the pool area of the 1350 Main building just north of the proposed building.

Palm Ave. business disruption has been horrendous during the 1350 Main construction process (it still continues). This has resulted in severe strain on the Palm merchants for two+ years as their customers have not ventured onto Palm. Some merchants have closed or moved.

Parking at the proposed DeMarcay has also been an issue. An elevator will be used and concern about "staging" cars to be parked is questioned. Will these cars cause congestion on Palm, i.e., when a Van Wezel performance ends and many residents return to their condo at the same time?

SOS would propose that if the DROD is given and the height is allowed, the developer be required to absolutely not interfere with easy travel and parking on Palm. There should be no additional consequence for the Palm merchants. There should be no interference on MiraMar Ct with the Methodist church and day care access and safety. Additionally the developer should be required to ensure that there will be no traffic blockage due to car staging on public streets; room in the building must be available (even if it requires a loss of some business or residential space) or an off site staging area must be secured.

Construction and parking in larger cities are accomplished with no disruption to surrounding businesses and traffic. The developer has said they have experienced construction companies in place that can accomplish this. Requiring this should not be an issue.

If the developer cannot meet these requirements then the proposal should not be allowed as submitted.

Concerning views and shade, the developers of the adjacent buildings can argue this issue capably. It will be interesting to see the arguments that are used and which are listened to by the commissioners.

Monday, October 30, 2006

More on School Avenue

About 50 interested people attended a "workshop" sponsored by developer Ron Burks in an effort to find common ground for his proposed project on School Ave.

The workshop was facilitated by Jerry Sparkman, architect at Totems Inc. The meeting tonight was described as the first step in a three phase process: community outreach, design charette and implementation.

Introductory remarks focused on recent examples of density with good design as noted in the principles of new urbanism. Five examples (several by noted designer Stefanos Polyzoides) were described that showed densities ranging from 35 to 80 units per acre that consisted of buildings of 2 to 4 stories in height. One example showed a 100 u/a project with 7 to 8 story heights. The Spanish Oaks apartments in Laurel Park was also shown as an example of 50 u/a. Here are some pictures, like the ones shown, that indicate what various densities can look like.

Nearly all the participants indicated that these projects showed good design and could work here: they were not shear, block buildings, but consisted of a variety of building types that looked more like single family housing. The low height was also a significant factor.

Concern was expressed about the traffic that would result from this proposal. Even though the traffic study showed no level of service degradation, the "cut through" streets in Alta Vista were not included in the study. This is the concern expressed by the neighbors.

Connectivity of the surrounding neighborhood to Payne Park was discussed. Pedestrian access through the proposed project would help this. It was pointed out that a major element of new urbanism is connectivity.

Burks indicated that his goal was to get as many ideas as possible on the table, he would include as many ideas as was possible.

Near the end of the evening, when the ideas were being summarized, Burks indicated that height and density had already been approved by the commissioners and were not part of the discussion. These are required to get affordable housing.

A discussion of the affordable housing indicated that building 4 would contain all affordable housing and would have the same floor plan as the other two large buildings.

Comments were made that today’s view of affordable housing projects includes mixing them with all of the market units; the days of stand alone "Cabrini Green" type projects were no longer acceptable. Even the redevelopment of Sarasota’s public housing will mix market rate rentals and home owner units with low income public housing and subsidized units.

It would seem that the size of the affordable units in the School Avenue proposal could be adjusted so that these units could be mixed with higher priced units and achieve lower overall project heights. The reason that the developments pictured at the beginning of the evening were 2 to 4 stories is because the units were smaller in square footage.

Stefanos Polyzoides has indicated that:
Affordable housing and workplaces should have the following characteristics:
1. Building type should be indistinguishable from market rate housing or workplaces.
2. They should be provided in a variety of building types.
3. They should be provided in smaller increments.
4. They should be mixed with market rate housing and workplaces

These are the ideas that were articulated tonight, they need to be creatively addressed if common ground is to be found for this proposal.

The ball is back in Ron Burks' hand. He has indicated he would open the process up, ask for input and evaluate the ideas. If he insists on keeping the same height and density with the same block face design not much will have been accomplished. However, the opportunity is available to use some new thinking to creatively find a solution to the issue. Can community input and developer good faith result in a well designed project that the entire community can support? We will find out.

We hope the process continues and that many of the ideas presented can be worked into the project and the result is a project about which everyone can say "This turned out to be a wonderful project for our city."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Negative Ads and Integrity

In September we commented about the negative tv ads that were placed by people that hid their identities. The ads were directed at Joe Barbetta and were placed by a group of developer special interests that were identified after the election.

We have become inured to all the negative ads during the current campaign. It seems that both candidates for many positions are slinging mis-truths and half-truths around like crazy.

Another ad has appeared that is a little different.

Laura Benson has recently started running negative ads in the race for District 69 State House. Her opponent, Keith Fitzgerald, stated in a Tiger Bay forum that the ads are lies. He has pointed out that his 1996 book, apparently referred to in the ads, is a policy study that clearly says that uncontrolled immigration must be controlled or our country will face many serious difficulties. He has also pointed out that immigration policy is a federal government policy issue according to the U S Constitution, not a state policy issue.

What is disturbing is that while both Fitzgerald and Benson signed pledges with the Civic League that they would not engage in negative ads, Fitzgerald has kept his pledge, but Benson has not.

SOS does not endorse candidates. However one of our mission principles is that we "preserve, enhance and promote integrity of public management". We have difficulty with a candidate that pledges not to use negative ads then goes ahead and runs negative ads anyway.

Can an elected official maintain integrity during the term of office when they obviously show a lack of integrity while running for office?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Charles Gwathmey Visits Rudolph's Riverview Building

Members of the Save Riverview group met with Charles Gwathmey on Oct 26 at Riverview High School.

Shown are Carl Abbott (architect), Charles Gwathmey, Guy Peterson (architect), Richard Storm (architecture critic) and Lee Byron (former Sarasota School Board member).

Gwathmey was visiting Sarasota to participate in an awards ceremony honoring Abbott, Peterson and other architects. One of his current projects is restoration of Paul Rudolph's School of Art and Architecture Building at Yale University.

Gwathmey had previously written to the Sarasota School Board urging them to reconsider the decision to demolish Rudolph's Riverview High building.

Gwathmey said in his letter : "Riverview High School is a historic building and modernism is now a critical and legitimate period in the continuum. The architectural legacy of the "Sarasota School" is a laboratory for students and architects, and Riverview is a pertinent, iconic representative work.

The building also pioneered "green architecture" initiatives, that were both intuitive and visionary, that could be restored, refined and reinforced as examples of environmental awareness and sensitivity."

We continue to urge the school board to review their decision. In addition to the world wide architecture community urging rehabilitation for historic reasons, it is becoming more and more apparent that the cost of saving the building (the steel, glass and concrete) will be a significant savings compared to current estimates for a new building.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Free Plants at Garden Club

The Sarasota Garden Club is having their annual PlantShare event this Saturday - Oct 28, from 9 to 12.

The Garden Club members will be giving free plants to anyone that visits the event. There is no charge for this and you can get free advice how to plant and care for you new plants! This is a deal you cannot pass up.

You can also wander around their beautiful grounds while you are there. Why not take this opportunity learn a bit about the Sarasota Garden Club and add some greenery to your yard?

The Garden Club is located at the corner of 41 and Blvd of the Arts in Sarasota.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bozos in Sight

Some of the characters in Sarasota's "Clowning Around Town" fund raising project, presented by Tide-Well Hospice. These are all near Five Points. A few others have been installed further from the center of town and apparently not all have been installed.

We hope people will find them interesting and that Tidewell will raise funds to help continue their great service.