Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Burns Court

Burns Court is a small section of downtown Sarasota that is a real gem. Located a couple blocks south of Five Points, where Orange and Pineapple converge, it is a walkable, friendly, interesting area that is a visual treat. Historical buildings, neat and trim landscape with trees and "human scale" make this very pedestrian friendly. The unique shops, art cinema and restaurants can keep you engaged for a delightful morning, afternoon or evening.

Denise Kowal, building owner, proprietor and community leader is working to increase Burns Court's visibility and unique character.

A recent project is inlaying decorative mosaics in the sidewalk, giving this area a new twist of character.

Fanciful designs including stars and undersea looking creatures make you look down at the art work.

Denise is part way through her project and has several new sections of sidewalk targeted for the next installment.

Take a walk around and enjoy the offerings in this unique area.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Seems Like It's Warmer

Worried about global warming and rising ocean levels?

Here's a site that shows you a map or a satellite view of your street if you assume a given sea level rise - for example 3 meters (sorry, but the site gives only metric units, but a meter is close to 3 ft).

You get to choose the sea level rise you want to check, then see whether you have waterfront property or not.

Technology can do most anything these days.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Red, White and Blue

This home on Bayshore Rd in Sarasota shows off patriotic colors - look closely to see the red roses around the arbor.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Habitat for Humanity and the Neighborhood

Recently the Alta Vista Neighborhood sent a protest letter to Habitat for Humanity concerning the process used to join with a developer at the last minute (just 2-3 hours before the commission hearing) and submit a plan that lacked any published notification, analysis or review by the city staff. Their letter part:

It was with great dismay and shock that we were notified at 12 noon this past Monday, April 24, that Mr. Ron Burks’ proposal that we had been studying since July of last year and vigorously defending against since December of 2005, had been dramatically changed due to a last-minute partnership formed between Habitat for Humanity and Mr. Burks’ Quincy Investments. First you have
to be aware of where we come from. We (all) have been made a victim of a STUNT! The dignity of the City Commission, City expert staff, the carefully crafted process put in place by past City Commissioners, the dignity of the City itself has been violated by this stunt . . . which you (unwittingly or not) were a party.

Second, we know where you were "coming from". We understand you were motivated, as we read in the latest issue of Habitat Magazine, by a Study program prepared on your behalf of housing models applicable for housing relief in high density urban environments. The Study focused on problems of the West Coast, not at densities as high as 50 families per acre, but you naturally were motivated when Mr. Burks offered you the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this late-breaking project.

Without one word or the slightest bit of outreach in consultation to our neighborhood as to why we have been so unanimously opposed to this development, Habitat jumped into the pond with Mr. Burks and proceeded to give more than half of the 15 minute presentation before the City Commission on the new project. From the 3 City Commissioners’ comments on why they voted for the proposal, it was glaringly clear that Habitat was the green seal of approval that carried the day. Beyond this, Mr. Jacobson’s depiction of our members’ 50 x 100’ lots as prehistoric in the "trolly age" and, by implication – "move over to make way for destiny!’ – is simply wrong and another example of the subtle cracks leveled at concerned neighbors.

Needless to say the Alta Vista Neighborhood, as well as many other city neighborhoods were shocked and dismayed at the speed with which this happened. By denying the public the opportunity to fairly review a major proposal (including denying the staff opportunity to review) sends a chilling message to the citizens of Sarasota.

Habitat for Humanity's mission and purpose can be viewed here. The Habitat for Humanity web site gives the following information:

Why Habitat for Humanity Is Needed

Millions of Americans face a housing crisis. In fact, 5.1 million American families have "worst-case" housing needs, forced to pay more than half their income for housing, endure overcrowded conditions and/or live in houses with severe physical deficiencies. While the number of families in poverty is growing, the number of affordable rental units is shrinking, and most families who qualify for government housing assistance aren't receiving any aid.

Worldwide, the need is even greater. Some 2 billion people worldwide live in poverty housing. More than 1 billion live in urban slums, and that figure is expected to double by 2030. Many of these people earn less than US$2 per day.

Housing problems have far-reaching consequences. The high cost of housing leaves low-income families little money for other basic necessities like food, clothing or health care. Substandard housing can endanger the health and safety of its occupants, erode their hope and self-worth, and impair their children's ability to succeed in school.

Habitat for Humanity is changing lives. Working in partnership with low-income families to build decent homes they can afford to buy, Habitat helps to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. By the end of 2005, more than 1 million people worldwide will live in decent, affordable Habitat for Humanity houses.

We are not sure how this mission connects with the Sarasota Habitat for Humanity Chapter decision to partner with a developer to build housing for families with income ranges of 60% to 120% of the Median Income for the Sarasota-Manatee area.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How Not to Trim a Tree

Sarasota County is in the process of developing a new and tougher tree ordinance.

Part of the new law will require shade trees in parking lots and training for tree trimmers.

Check the "butcher job" in the picture above. While these are exotic "punk" trees. It still makes you wonder when you see this kind of trimming. Picture was taken today in the city of Sarasota.

According to the SHT:

Commissioners approved Wednesday a "master plan" that called for tougher laws and that found 25 percent of the tree canopy in the unincorporated part of the county has been lost in the past 30 years.That approval included orders to develop a more stringent system of fines for certain harmful methods of tree-trimming.

Commissioners also favored proposals to require parking lots to have shade trees and to possibly develop educational requirements for tree-trimming companies.

County staffers and lawyers were told to develop the new laws and bring them back for possible public hearings.

Commissioner Jon Thaxton complained that most trimming jobs he sees are "butcher jobs." Tree experts say that improper cutting can eventually kill a tree.

This picture shows a "hat racked" Jacaranda - picture taken in Aug 2005 in the city of Sarasota

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Decision On Parking

Where are the city commissioners taking us on the road to a "vibrant downtown." The SHT editorial in Sunday’s paper indicates that more free parking could disappear as a result of Pineapple Square insistence that they needed dedicated parking for the upscale restaurants they want to bring to downtown Sarasota.

In two city-owned lots in downtown Sarasota, public parking -- nearly 200 spaces' worth -- is free after 6 p.m. But next year, instead of parking there, be prepared to hand over your keys, your car, and an undetermined amount of your cash to a valet service under a developer's control.

If that prospect displeases you, tell the city commissioners. Their 4-1 vote Monday, to hand control of the lots over to Pineapple Square, is the latest in a series of decisions that have put significant public resources toward the big retail/condo project -- without getting many concrete commitments from the developer.

Don’t expect much of a response, though. As we have experienced lately the commissioners are not inclined to listen to anyone with a different view, especially the residents. One city commissioner (Lou Anne Palmer) and city staff had indicated we should wait until the Pineapple Square public parking was open before giving the State St lot to the Isaac group. Four commissioners disagreed and gave the developers control of the lot, for use by a valet service.

We pointed out the untenable situation at Bayfront Park where many parking spaces are unused yet reserved for Marina Jack’s customers. Meanwhile there are no parking spaces available for the public. The decision to let this happen as well as the current decision indicates little regard for the taxpaying public while catering in this case to Marina Jack’s business.

The editorial continues:

The public expects a fair return on its investment, but the commissioners -- in their eagerness to secure Pineapple Square -- have made some questionable decisions in that regard.

The clearest example of that was their decision, months ago, to OK the sale of the city's State Street property to Isaac Group at far under its market value. Last week, further concerns arose. As City Attorney Robert Fournier told them Monday, the developer has not yet finalized a third-party lease that is crucial to the entire project.

Who is making the decisions for Sarasota? The commissioners certainly listen intently to the developers and business interests. When will they listen to public.?

Monday, May 22, 2006

SAVE Riverview Petition

This SAVE Riverview petition can be printed, signed by people and then returned to Sarasota James Bowen at:

Bowen Architecture
513 Central Ave
Sarasota, FL 34236-4965

The petition can be downloaded here.

The petition could also be scanned and e-mailed to James Bowen at

Take the time to print it, sign it, have your colleagues sign it, and return it to James. Your support will help save this building. Thanks!

Also take a look at the new blog site for SAVE Riverview.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sarasota's Season of Sculpture 2006

A few pictures from the Season of Sculpture. Treat youself to a walk around this bayfront exhibit if you haven't already. It's great! But hurry, it ends soon.

Here is a link to a picture and description of each sculpture.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bird Flu Strikes in Florida

Go ahead. It's OK to laugh.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A New Plan for Five Points Park

The Downtown Partnership has submitted a new plan for Five Points Park.

Despite the overwhelming majority of city citizen survey results indicating the park should be designed for passive use with grass and trees, the DTP plan shows large areas of hardscape (brick or concrete?) devoted to "vendor area" with the grass area mostly removed. The submitted plan shows a large fountain as well as restrooms.

Apparently the DTP wants to provide another area in downtown to accommodate street fairs and festivals.

At the March 30 meeting to present the survey results, the following was presented:

Clear Majority Views

  • Generally Passive Use -Occasional Events
  • Maintain & Increase Green: Grass, Trees…
  • Brick Pineapple and 1st with no Curbs
  • Remove "Memory Path"
Despite the survey of the people that attended the city sponsored meetings to take public input and present designs based on that input, the DTP chose to present their own design. None of the public respondents that attended the meetings wanted more brick area - other than for walkways across the park. Virtually every respondent indicated that the same or an increased amount of green, grassy area, or flowers was desired.

The DTP has stated that their proposed design was meant to keep the discussion going and to prompt other ideas. Tony Souza, DTP Executive Director has indicated "It is but one example of what could be done with Five Points Park and we would like to have a world class designer engaged to start with the survey results and come up with a plan."

The respondent's preferred design is shown to the left. All the designs presented and discussed can be found here.

Many respondents specifically indicated that only occasional festivals should be held at this park. Instead it should be a relatively quiet, passive, green area.

One block to the east of Five Points Park is the Lemon Mall. This area was specifically designed for festivals and fairs. Downtown doesn’t need two such areas in close proximity. A passive design will bring a much needed green space for all downtown visitors and for those that live there.

Save Our Sarasota does not believe we need more brickscape downtown, especially when it covers green grassy areas enjoyed by everyone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Parking Questions

At the City Managers blog, under the topic of the State Baseball Tournament, a number of posters are asking questions about Monday's latest parking deal give away. This time the commissioners agreed (again) with the developers of Pineapple Square and the DTP to give the First Street lot (across from the City Hall parking lot) to private interests - the Isaac Brothers group. John Simon said this will only work if the lot is in private control.

I guess this means that there is not much need for the public retaining public property and managing it for the public good. Apparently the Isaacs and John Simon now determine what is best for the city.

Recently we have seen many examples of the commissioners not listening to citizens and we concluded that these commissioners believed they knew what is best for the rest of us. Now it turns out that the Isaacs and John Simon apparently know even better what's best for us.

So how well does private control of public parking work?

On Saturday at about 2 PM I took visitors to Bayfront Park to see the Season of Sculpture exhibit. There were no empty parking spaces in the entire bayfront lot (excepting that under Marina Jacks control) and there were at least 20 cars circling around looking for places. I finally parked across 41, near Ringling.

Meanwhile the parking spaces reserved for Marina Jacks were less than half full. In their parking area was an empty flat bed trailer, a car covered with "custom dust cover" and a number of trash bins with trash strewn around. Further, at the south end of this restricted parking area was a saw horse across half of the parking entry way that said "LeBarge Parking Only".

Isn't it nice that the citizens who pay for this park and the parking area are excluded so that a car can be stored long term under a cover, someone can store a trailer there, Marina Jacks has a close by area for trash storage and they don't bother closing the lids or pick up trash blown around, and parkling can now be saved for LeBarge customers. The lease calls for some level of parking for the restaurant. These uses are ridiculous - especially when citizens cannot find parking spots yet many are open behind threatening signs.

We do not need any more private control of public parking! And we do not need a 20 year lease extension with Marina Jack that will give us 42 more years of this nonsense!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Naples Development Issues

From Naples News

County rejects change limiting affordable housing
By Gina Edwards

In the face of strong business community opposition, a majority of Collier Commissioners approved a zoning restriction today that critics say will effectively kill any future development of affordable housing in the coastal areas west and south of U.S. 41.

But with Commissioners Jim Coletta and Tom Henning siding with business leaders and affordable housing advocates, the restriction is one vote shy of the supermajority needed to overcome a final state hurdle.

Commissioners Fred Coyle, Donna Fiala and Frank Halas also shot down an affordable housing incentive that would give developers bonus units by right, with all three saying the public shouldn’t be kept from weighing in on affordable housing projects.

Proponents said the incentive is needed to remove red tape for developers and give them some guarantees that they won’t get shot down after a lengthy approval process because of not-in-my-backyard neighborhood opposition.

Commissioners are debating the series of growth management proposals that advocates said could jeopardize the future development of affordable and lower-cost housing in the county.

It is nice to see some of our neighboring government officials listening to their constituents. While the issues are complex, commissioners are elected to listen to all the citizens then weigh the evidence presented.

If they don't even listen, the citizens become angry and alienated. Alienating citizens just brings more grief. After all, citizens choose government representatives to represent the will of the people.

Recall the statement by our Mayor at the May 1 City Commission meeting when 10 neighborhood leaders signed speaker slips to speak to the commissioners. While waving the 10 slips in the air he said in no uncertain terms: "I have 10 slips here. The answer is NO, but you can come up and speak anyway". Nice way to be treated by your elected officials.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Black Monday was mourned by 175 residents of Sarasota on Monday night.

These citizens mourned the loss of their voice as the city commissioners no longer listen to the voters who elected them... commissioners who were elected to represent the citizens of Sarasota.

The protest was organized by the Alta Vista and Laurel Park neighborhoods, but many neighborhoods were represented in the protest. Lido Key, St Armands, IBSSA, Bayou Oaks, Hudson Bayou, Central Cocoanut, Tahiti Park, Terrace Gardens, Janie Poe Residents Association, Gillespie Park, Downtown Condo Association and others joined in the protest.

Protesters wore black and many covered their mouths with black tape symbolizing the loss of their voice. After gathering by the Jack Cartlidge sculpture "Nobody's Listening" the protesters marched around city hall carrying protest signs. Commissioner Bilyeu was interviewed by a radio announcer in the midst of sign waving protesters.

The protesters then silently marched into city hall chambers about 5 minutes after the evening session opened, stayed about 25 minutes then silently marched out.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Riverview in the News

Save Riverview Group Organizes Supporters

With the future of Riverview High School hanging in limbo, a group of architects and preservationists are organizing their cause to convince school board members, parents and students that the 48-year-old Paul Rudolph buildings on campus are worth saving. An initial task force has been meeting with school officials for several weeks, and yesterday about 30 people met to organize a larger community effort to save the buildings. In April, the school board asked for further analysis of the existing buildings and stalled an earlier recommendation to demolish them. That analysis, along with input from the Florida Department of Education, is expected to be presented to the school board in June. “It hasn’t left the station, but the train’s already running,” said architect Guy Peterson of the time-sensitive situation. Members of the task force explained several of their key points for saving the Rudolph buildings. First, they say rehabilitating the buildings would likely reduce the total cost of the project to rebuild Riverview, currently estimated at $90 million. That claim is based on the high cost of construction materials and the likelihood that that a restoration and retrofitting project would qualify for grant money because of the historic status of the buildings.

Architect James Bowen pointed out the international interest in the issue. He said major architecture publications such as Architecture Record have reported the plans to demolish Riverview and that a petition to save the Rudolph buildings is now circulating among architects worldwide. “It’s one of the first really important modern schools around the world,” said architect Carl Abbott. Part of the group’s goal is to bring that knowledge and energy to local residents. Tearing down the historic buildings would be a “black eye” to a community that purports to be a cultural center, several people said.

Rather than destroy the buildings, the group is asking that the school district tie its new buildings into that original campus, which was the first high school built in Sarasota County outside city limits. The buildings allow flexibility and can be adapted to current needs of students by moving internal walls and adding all the latest technologies and amenities of a state-of-the-art facility.

“We have to teach the children that it’s not OK to tear down these buildings,” Abbott said.

[From SRQ Magazine's Page One Newsletter]

Picture shows architects Carl Abbott, James Bowen, and Guy Peterson.

Wanna Buy a House or Condo?


The real estate market in Sarasota sucks. So it says in Harold Bubil's latest article, an article that analyzes the recent sales and listings data.
When asked to describe the market, one Realtor said "shucks." Or something that rhymes with that. He called the market's malaise a "perfect storm" -- climbing mortgage rates, investors leaving the market, and long-time owners who don't want to give up their Save Our Homes property-tax protection. It all equals fewer buyers.

According to the numbers, the supply of houses, at the current rate of sales, averaged 21 months for the last 3 months data.

Likewise, the supply of condos is about 18 months.

And the trend is not down.

It certainly looks like buyers have come to their senses (probably mostly speculators that have kept bidding prices up over the last few years) and are sitting tight waiting until prices return to a more reasonable level.

People that buy a home to live in, because this is where they live and work, are a bit more cautious than an "invester" that is looking to make a quick buck on a rising market.

Heck, we may even see some reasonable rentals as the speculators scramble to get or keep some cash flow.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Milestone

The first posting of this blog was on March 7 of last year. In mid December, 10 months later, 10,000 "page reads" had been recorded.

In the 5 months since that milestone, another 10,000 page reads have been recorded.

Visits to this site originate from all over the world - I have not kept track, but visitors have come from at least 25-30 (through search engines like Google) different countries.

Locally there are 30-40 returning visitors each day (visitors that have read previous postings).

Thank you to all that check in on what we are saying and to those that participate in the discussion by leaving a comment.

I believe that all of us want to make Sarasota a better place to live and want to retain Sarasota's charm. To be sure, we have different ideas about how to make this happen. But the passion is there.

I look forward to the next 20,000 reader visits!

Friday, May 12, 2006

City Neighborhoods Plan Citizen Protest at City Hall - Monday, May 15, from 5:30 to 6:30 PM

Dear Friends,

Several city neighborhood groups have become concerned by recent City Commission decisions that have gone against the recommendations of the city's planning staff, the vote of the city's Planning Board, and the concerns raised by affected citizens and neighborhood associations.

Additionally, they, and we at SOS, are alarmed by circumvention of due process and public participation in decision making.

These neighborhood associations are planning a silent protest during the first half hour of the City Commission meeting which begins at 6 PM on Monday evening. They are asking concerned citizens to dress in black and meet at 5:30 near the "Nobody's Listening" statue located on the south side of City Hall, at 1565 First Street.

Some members of SOS will be attending and we encourage other interested citizens to also consider participating. The following are examples of recent Commission votes that have generated this protest:

  • Changing Burns Court height limits to 10 stories, at the last minute and without public input, after years of work on our shared community vision---The Duany Plan---that capped heights at 5 stories for buildings next to single-family neighborhoods.

  • Voting to increase the number of units allowed from 162 to 470 units on the old Scotty's property by Payne Park next to single-family neighborhoods. The developer submitted major changes to his proposal just hours before the Commission hearing, leaving city staff, the Planning Board, adjacent neighborhoods - and even Commissioners - with insufficient opportunity to study the terms.

  • Voting to proceed with a plan to quadruple condo densities, from 50 to 200 units per acre along the bayfront and downtown and double them in selected neighborhoods in exchange for only 10% of the units being priced in an "affordable" range. We appreciate your continued participation in our civic activities.

SOS Steering Committee

Protest Gathering


May 12, 2006 - Frustrated by a repeated pattern of votes that completely ignore the guidance of City Planning Staff, unanimous decisions by the City Planning Board, and popular opposition by City neighborhoods, Payne Park neighbors from Alta Vista, Terrace Gardens and Laurel Park neighborhoods will descend upon City Hall Monday evening in black, mourning the death of Citizen voice before the City Commission.

With complete disregard for all concepts of logical growth management; sustainable inclusion of workforce housing in-step with million-dollar condos; traffic, sewage, and environmental management related to these gargantuan projects, our City leaders ignore Citizen surveys and sentiment and just plow ahead with breakneck speed to turn Sarasota into Gotham by the bay.
Kathy Kaminski, a 20-year resident of Terrace Gardens and local health care worker who now faces the prospect of 7 stories of 474 condominiums in her back yard reflects, “I come from Philadelphia. This never happens in Philadelphia. There’s respect for neighborhoods and there are logical transition zones. I never thought I’d see this day in Sarasota. I never thought that I would have to protest our local government.”

At 5:30 p.m. this Monday, Payne Park neighbors, dressed in black, will gather in front of the late, Jack Cartlidge’s “Nobody’s Listening” sculpture at Sarasota’s City Hall for a silent protest lasting thirty minutes. The Citizen mourners will then file into City Hall silently and respectfully take their seats in the Commission chambers for an additional thirty minutes of mourning. All other Sarasota citizens who are equally disturbed by the current direction of our City are encouraged to attend in black as well.

Beyond the protest, the group will press the Commission to include neighborhoods in involved, constructive processes that allow all of us to say ‘yes’ to the future development and progress of our City. We will formally request the Commission to create:

A Citizen’s Workforce Housing Initiative that will be tasked to work with City Planning Staff and the Planning Board to assess needs, create long-term solutions for permanent workforce housing stock, and produce public/private partnerships that build units. The initiative will be focused on

  • smart infill development of housing
  • neighborhood compatibility
  • inclusionary workforce housing

Kelly Kirschner

Kate Lowman,

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sarasota County Urban Forestry Receives Two Tree City National Awards

The Urban Forestry Division of Public Works has received two national Tree City awards from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Sarasota County was named a Tree City USA. This is the 15th consecutive year the county has received this award, which recognizes the county's commitment to its community forest. Sarasota was the first county in Florida to receive this award.

The county also received the distinguished Tree City USA Growth Award for demonstrating progress in its community forestry program in six areas: education and public relations; publications; literature distribution; youth education; partnerships; and engineering/forestry coordination.

The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service.

Recent educational outreach efforts by the Urban Forestry Division include a new Web site,; teacher workshops; community presentations; and an April 28 daylong Arbor Day celebration that included a series of workshops for students at Pine View School. The division also was recognized for its street tree and neighborhood tree programs, as well as an expanded initiative for progressive street and sidewalk design with treescapes.

The Urban Forestry Division of Public Works is the steward for the urban forest, representing trees found in the wild, in parks, on beaches, in the county rights of way, medians and thoroughfares, along waterways and canopy roads. The division manages about 54,000 trees throughout the county.

For more information about the Urban Forestry Division, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at (941) 861-5000.

Congratulations to those in the Urban Forestry Division for receiving this recognition!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

SAVE Riverview Community Meeting

Dear readers:

You are probably aware of the Sarasota School Board’s plan to renovate the Riverview High School Campus. The current proposal calls for a phased demolition of essentially the entire campus followed by construction of new buildings.

You are also probably aware of the architectural and historical significance of the Paul Rudolph designed buildings at Riverview - a building that would be demolished under the current plan.

A group of local architects has established a task force to see what could be done to save the main Rudolph building. This group now includes several community members that have this same interest. The group has met twice with the School Superintendent and School Board President looking for a path that could meet the school system’s requirements yet save the Rudolph building.

We are still pursuing options that seem acceptable.

The school system leadership has challenged us to show community support for this objective.

To this end we have scheduled a meeting to tell the community what we have been doing, why we think this is important and to ask for support.

Readers of this blog are likely be supportive of this effort. Thus we would like to ask you to attend the meeting if your schedule permits. Feel free to invite a colleague or someone else you know that might be interested in helping find a way to save this important community building.

The task force includes architects Carl Abbott, James Bowen, Joe King, Guy Peterson and Mark Ramaeker; community members include Mollie Cardamone, Dick Clapp and Janice Green.

We have a meeting scheduled for 8 AM, on Thursday May 11 at the new Sarasota Herald Tribune building (Main St) Community Room. We will be telling our story and looking for you support. Please attend if possible.

Information about the school board proposal and the Rudolph building can be found at these links:
Riverview in the News
Save Riverview Update
SAVE Riverview High School

Thank you and we hope to see you on Thursday!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Affordable Housing

The Naples News has an excellent series about what that community is doing about affordable housing.

A few snippets from this series:

If Collier adopts the ordinance unveiled April 13 to the Affordable Housing Commission, 15 percent of homes in a new development would be affordable. The developer would get a 15 percent increase in the number of units. That means a 50-acre community at four units per acre would increase from 200 units to 230 units. The additional 30 must be affordable.

Collier builders say inclusionary zoning doesn’t work.

“Talk to people in Montgomery County, Md. They all dislike it,” Zichella said.

Montgomery County, a bedroom community of Washington, D.C., was the first in the nation to adopt inclusionary zoning in 1974. Just like Naples, its firefighters, teachers and nurses couldn’t afford to live in the high-priced community.

Since the 12.5 percent affordable housing requirement was adopted, it has produced 11,000 affordable units, said Scott Minton, executive director of the Housing Opportunities Commission in Rockville, Md.

The ordinance was controversial at the time. Now, developers like Nanci Porten, of the Maryland National Capital Building Industry, say otherwise.

“It works,” said Porten, who added that the details are what make or break it.

Incentives determine whether developers will build affordable homes or take their business elsewhere. In Davidson, N.C., where affordable housing has been required for three years, officials are matter-of-fact about the developer impact.

“It’s the price of admission,” said Kris Krider, city planning director, who said that some builders left after the ordinance was adopted but new ones arrived.


Efforts to solve Collier County’s affordable housing crisis have stalled in the past year because county commissioners have resisted sacrificing their most sacred political cow — adequate roads.

“I voted for a road, not against affordable housing,” Commissioner Donna Fiala said of her February vote against an affordable housing development off Collier Boulevard.

Roads are at the center of the affordable housing debate between Collier commissioners and developers who are clamoring for regulatory and fee relief.

Developers say Collier’s checkbook-style traffic management system, which aims to make sure roads can handle new development before it occurs, is the state’s toughest. Collier’s building industry has gone to court to fight the county’s impact fees on new development, which are among the highest in Florida.

Commissioners are expected in May to finish a round of impact fee hikes that will raise the fees on a 2,000-square-foot home from $17,000 to $29,000. Such steep fees are enough to put housing out of reach for teachers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, builders say.

Impact fees, regulatory costs, zoning policies to restrict new development — all of these tangle up the debate over affordable housing and all have brought Collier commissioners and the building industry to a political standoff.

It’s not just affordable housing that’s on hold.

Commissioners Fred Coyle and Fiala formed a voting bloc to create a de facto halt to all new development approvals. Four of the five commissioners must vote for a rezoning approval.

Both believe Collier’s building industry lobbied behind the scenes last year for state growth management legislation that undermines the county’s 2-year-old traffic management system to make sure new development can’t go forward on clogged roads.

Al Zichella, president of the 1,500-member Collier Building Industry Association, denies it.

Now, Coyle says he won’t approve rezonings until he knows whether the Legislature will restore Collier’s authority to impose stricter development rules than the state’s.

The stalemate is hitting developers where it hurts. Land broker Ross McIntosh said he lost a $20 million deal in recent months because of the uncertainty of zoning.


A speculative real estate bubble hasn’t burst in Naples, but it’s brushing against a sharp pin.

How much a market correction may ease Naples’ affordable housing crisis is still unclear. The uncertainty adds another layer to leaders’ murky task of assessing workers’ housing needs.

“It’s like trying to grab air,” housing industry analyst Mike Timmerman, of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, said of assessing the affordable housing need. “All we know is there is a demand.”

Could the market slide back to prices that middle-income workers here can afford? Real estate industry watchers believe a market correction will help affordability.

Fundamentally, though, there’s a shortage of worker housing in Naples — a market best known as a luxurious winter playground for CEOs, a place that saw a $25 million beachfront estate fly off the market in 2005 in less than a week.

No easy answers but even Naples is looking hard. It seems that the commissioners are trying their best to make development pay for the added cost (of roads, etc) and that inclusionary zoning will be a key part of a community solution even though developers oppose it.

Other parts of the series discuss inclusionary zoning in California where many communities are relying on this tool:

The March median home price in northern Santa Barbara County was $461,700 while median income was $65,000. Countywide, median home prices are $750,000, up $137,000 from 2005. The county is among 107 California communities with inclusionary zoning. It mandates, depending on the part of the county, that 20 to 30 percent of homes be affordable to people making a certain percentage of the median income. Developers are required to build 5 percent of homes for very-low income, 5 percent for low-income, 10 percent for moderate-income and 10 percent for work force housing. However, in 10 years, inclusionary zoning produced only 263 affordable units. Officials say the developer’s opt-out fee was too low. In November 2004, the opt-out fees increased to $80,000 for the very-low income home, $110,000 for low-income, $183,000 for the moderate income and $423,000 for the work force home. The county added the incentive of one additional market-rate home for each moderate- and work force home. Now, 450 affordable homes are under construction and another 245 are coming later this year.

Aspen, CO is mentioned as having a 50% inclusionary zoning requirement.

All this makes our "10% affordable units give you a 400% density bonus" formula look like developer dream come true.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Recent Riverview High Pictures

These are current pictures of the Paul Rudolph designed building at Riverview High School. While changes have been made to the original building, the basic design remains true.

More pictures can be seen here.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Nirvana: Living Above Your Drugstore

Oh my, there is some wickedly good writing out there on the web. Consider this excerpt:

Then came -- and it's still coming -- our sad lust for gated communities. Somewhere between 5 and 10 million American households are now locked behind some sort of fence or wall, something requiring a security pass code and a swipe card and a disgruntled security guard and a weird sense that you have sold part of your soul in exchange for a thin veneer of security and cleanliness.

Gated communities are a sign. They are part of our devolution toward ... I'm not sure what. Communal self-loathing? Quivering mistrust of the universe? Fear of anything beyond our own driveway? Someone should write a book. Or two.

But now there is a new mutation. There is a burgeoning trend, a bizarre and nefarious hybrid lifestyle movement wherein the upscale urban living experience is being completely and utterly subsumed by and folded into the larger context of the consumer experience. It is frightening and beautiful and, in the age of co-branded, co-opted everything, makes perfectly terrifying sense.

Witness, for just one example, the hip, ultramodern outdoor mall in San Jose called Santana Row. Enormous. Five or six full city blocks (558,000 square feet), all contiguous and all carefully preplanned to look like some sort of idyllic "natural" Euro-American village, with benches and grassy areas and trees, all carefully placed but not a single stitch of it evolving organically, fluidly, as a real community develops. Oh my no. That would be, you know, crazy.

Santana Row. It combines all the best/worst/most cliched aspects of the American nouveau rich-wannabe yuppie life into one massive sprawling skillfully designed orgiastically moneyed complex: 70 shops, 20 restaurants, six movie screens, five spas, a four-star hotel, mini-gardens, courtyards, terraces, nice lighting, scented clouds, imported Guatemalan midget slaves, liquid Prozac in the drinking fountains, soul-numbing music, nose jobs and Botox like a requirement, snooty oddly asexual hottie blondes like a rash. It is positively lovely. (Wanna see? Here, take a swell video tour.)

But here is the most amazing part: The entire complex is overlaid with more than 500 pricey housing units, whereby you can actually dump 500K to $2 million of your tech-job money on a very precious and only modestly claustrophobic 1,000-square-foot box and actually live directly in the mall, staring out your giant loft window at either the mall parking lot or the interior of the massive shopping plaza itself (your choice) and casually watch the shoppers 15 feet beneath you across the courtyard meander through, say, the Tommy Bahama store. Joy.

They have done it. They have actually managed to seamlessly fuse life with commerce, eliminate the line separating home and shop, individual and commodity. You no longer live miles down the road from Restoration Hardware. You live above it. You no longer leave your home nestled in your cozy quirky neighborhood to go to the park or go to yoga or go to Pottery Barn to pick up some flatware. You walk out your front door and you are already in the store.

It is the final collapsing of the two tenuous American identities: discrete individual and mass consumer. Why gaze out your window at a raw city view or a tranquil nature view or even just the scarred brick wall of the funky old 1922 apartment building across the street? Better to open the window and breathe deep the inky scent of raw American cash flow, stare down at people spending their paychecks at Cole Haan and Best Buy and Sunglass Hut. Nirvana!

The "rest of the story" is an excellent read. You can find it here.

It seems that our own little Pineapple Square has aimed a bit low when they tried to remake downtown Sarasota into an upscale urban-consumer experience. We are stuck with only a couple blocks, no movie screens and hardly any talk of "imported Guatemalan midget slaves, liquid Prozac in the drinking fountains" and the like. Not to worry though, I'm sure we will learn how to get by with what we have.

After all it is comforting to know that Mr Simon and company were in talks with CVS, trying to bring this storied drug chain to Pineapple Square. The missing link for a complete downtown experience, you know. It's like, who wouldn't want to plunk down $500k to live in a 1000 sq ft box above a drugstore? Sarasota's own version of nirvana.

Watch out California, here we come!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Question of Accountability

Leaders from a dozen neighborhoods spoke to the City Commissioners on Monday saying that the decision to approve a land use change proposal for the School Ave./Scotty’s property was faulty and asked that it be rescinded.

The neighborhood leaders said the proposal was not reviewed by staff (there was no time for this), it was rushed to the hearing (literally introduced to the commissioners only 2-3 hours before the hearing), it was not complete (formal agreements with Habitat had not been approved by their board nor had any agreement been signed) and the process violated required city procedures.

Mayor Atkins opened the public comment portion of the evening session by waving the 10 yellow speaker request slips and saying in a stern voice "Your answer is no! But you can speak anyway."

This behavior exactly typifies what has the community so alienated and upset with the current commission.

From Bob Ardren’s article in this weeks Pelican Press:

Kate Lowman, president of the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association, said she was trying to help her neighbors in Alta Vista. Lowman asked the commission to "respect the Duany Plan" and reverse their earlier vote on the project.

Likewise, Suzanne Atwell, a Bird Key resident and former commission candidate, asked for reconsideration. "You’ve disenfranchised a neighborhood," Atwell said, "and undermined city staff. This decision was governance at its worst," Atwell continued. "It’s time to take a look at who’s running the show here."

"Process is what keeps us from being a mob," attorney Susan Chapman told commissioners. The decision "shows a disregard for the planning board and the planning staff," Chapman said. "Without process, personalities and public relations rule. I wonder what happened to disconnect this commission from the public?"

And long-time civic activist Dick Sheldon put it simply: "I won’t be coming down here [to the commission table] anymore," he said. "That neighborhood got a bad shake and just like the name of the sculpture outside City Hall, we can only conclude, ‘Nobody Is Listening.’"

All together, more than a dozen members of the Alta Vista neighborhood and its neighbors appeared asking for reconsideration at Monday’s city commission meeting. No reconsideration was even considered. After many months of meetings, changes and compromises with the Alta Vista neighborhood over the impact of his proposed 450-unit condominium project to be located on the old Scotty’s lumberyard property facing Payne Park, developer Ron Burks appeared at the public hearing on the project two weeks ago with a largely brand new plan and with new partners.

A motion by Commissioner Lou Ann Palmer to send the new proposal to the city planning board for review – "This is not fair to anyone," Palmer said – was defeated three to two with only Commissioner Mary Anne Servian joining Palmer.

Mayor Fredd Atkins, Vice Mayor Danny Bilyeu and Commissioner Ken Shelin voted to support sending the needed comprehensive plan amendment to Tallahassee for approval.

It is time that these commissioners be held accountable for their actions.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Riverview in the News

This item appeared in the Apr 20, 2006 of Preservation Online. It is reprinted with their permission.

From Preservation Online, the online magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Sarasota Plans to Demolish Paul Rudolph School

Story by Margaret Foster / Apr. 20, 2006

A 48-year-old Florida high school designed by modern architect Paul Rudolph could be torn down for a parking lot.

Riverview High School, located in Sarasota, Fla., was the first important commercial building designed by Rudolph (1918-1997), the father of the Sarasota school of architecture. Owned by the Sarasota County school board, the steel-frame structure's concrete sunshades were removed years ago, and the flat roof was replaced with a metal hip one.

Last week, after a meeting with preservationists and architects, the county school board agreed to hold off on voting on the final design for the new 3,000-student high school that will be built on Riverview's 42-acre site. But the board has already voted to destroy the 1958 structure.

"We have a vested in in history and preserving what we can preserve," says Carol Todd, county school board chair. "The building has been modified many times. It's a complex issue. It's balancing what we can afford with our students' needs."

A new school will cost $80 million, half of the school board's annual budget, Todd says.

"[Last week's] meeting was very cordial and friendly, but the superintendent really has a clear idea of what he wants to do, and it doesn't include keeping the old building," says local architect Joe King, a member of the month-old group Save Riverview and author of the 2002 book "The Florida Houses."

King's group wants the school board to incorporate the old building into the new school, and next week it will present the board with alternative architectural plans. Other architects also have urged the school board to consider other options.

"Tearing it down and replacing it with a parking lot is a travesty of the significant contribution that Paul Rudolph has made to your community," writes Vivian Salaga, president of the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects, in an Apr. 13 letter to Todd. "Riverview's significance warrants finding an alternative use for the building and not relegating it to demolition for the construction of a parking lot."

The online version of Preservation has excellent stories about preservation news and issues.