Election 2019: Miami Beach Ballot Question 6

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Election 2019: Miami Beach Ballot Question 6:

Floor area ratio increase to incentivize office uses along Washington Avenue and Alton Road

At RE:MiamiBeach we don't cover individual political campaigns but we do provide information on ballot questions. This year there are six questions for Miami Beach voters’ consideration. To kick off our coverage this week, we take the last question first.
Ballot question 6: Floor area ratio increase to incentivize office uses along Washington Avenue and Alton Road
The Question from the City’s voter’s guide
(Constraints on the allowable length of the text result in language that can be hard to decipher!)

Floor area ratio (“FAR”) is the measure the City utilizes to regulate overall building size.
The maximum FAR in the CD2 district is 1.5. However, if more than 25% of building area is used for residential / hotel units, the maximum FAR is 2.0.
Shall City adopt Ordinance increasing FAR to 2.0 for buildings in CD2, along Washington Avenue and Alton Road, if more than 25% of the building area is used for offices?
What is FAR?
Very simply, FAR (Floor Area Ratio) measures density. It is calculated by taking the total gross area of a building divided by the gross area of the lot on which it is built. Within the City of Miami Beach, the amount of allowable FAR varies by zoning district. A higher ratio indicates a denser building. In Miami Beach, RM-1 districts, which are residential multifamily, low intensity areas, have a maximum FAR of 1.25. In RM-3 districts, multifamily, high intensity areas, FAR limits range from 2.0 to 3.0.
Why is this question on the ballot:
First, the City’s charter requires that any increase in FAR be approved by the voters.
The question was proposed by Commissioner Joy Malakoff who explained the rationale at the Commission’s meeting in July during which the ballot questions were set.

“There are no Class A office buildings currently in the City of Miami Beach and there really is a need for Class A office space," she said. Malakoff believes having office use would increase daytime activity particularly on Washington Avenue where hotels are being developed as part of an incentive package for hotel and residential development. Those incentives increased the allowable FAR on Washington Avenue between 6th Street and Lincoln Road from 1.5 to 2.0 for new hotels and residential units. Since then, a number of hotels have been approved and/or started construction.
Malakoff said the hotel and residential uses create more nighttime activity. “During the daytime there’s a need to have more people on the streets and going to the restaurants… one way of doing that is having offices.” She said this ballot question gives offices “the same advantages as far as the extra FAR that it does currently for hotel rooms.”
Commissioner John Alemán said the idea made sense to her “because to the extent people’s jobs are in offices here on the Beach, they don’t have to leave the Beach to go to work. That has a lot of ancillary benefits.”
The incentives for Alton Road would also stretch from 6th to Lincoln. 
“I’m in favor of this for Washington Avenue because… I think if we’re already doing it for hotels we should do it for office buildings as well,” Commissioner Michael Góngora said. “I’m less into it for Alton Road… What was the thought process in creating this incentivization to do office buildings there?"
City Planning Director Tom Mooney replied, “It’s potentially another transit corridor so that could be another place for increased density so that would be one reason for it.” The zoning regulations for that section of Alton include the same 1.5 allowable FAR with the additional .5 incentive for residential and hotel development, he said.
The Commission voted 7-0 to put the question on the ballot.
Supporting the measure
In addition to his vote to place the question on the ballot, Commissioner Mark Samuelian reiterated his support in an email to residents writing, “YES - Washington Ave and Alton Road would benefit from additional office space and additional people during the day.  This measure would allow office buildings the same FAR (ie., building size) as hotels/ residential uses.”
Opposing the question
Miami Beach United: “The Washington Avenue Business Improvement District, working together with the consultant hired by the City, Zyscovich Architects, is working on a comprehensive package to incentivize office development on Washington Avenue. Until this consultant, hired by the City, has a chance to engage with property owners and with the community, it seems premature and inappropriate to make this significant of a zoning change without understanding if there is even a need for it.”
Miami Design Preservation League: “The request for additional floor area is not the result of a consensus master plan. We are not clear on the public benefit to a density increase for office uses on Washington Avenue and Alton Road. We are also concerned about the impact on the Art Deco Architectural District of increased development on Washington Avenue.”
Note: We will continue to update this article as more positions in favor and against are issued.
Important election information

For further information about this year’s election, you can find the City’s voter’s guide here.

--Voter registration is now closed.

--The deadline to request a Vote-by-Mail ballot is October 26. To request a mail ballot, click here.

--Early voting schedule is here.

--Election day is Tuesday, November 5. A list of polling places is here.

--Sample ballot is here

Image: Shutterstock.com

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