In a letter released today, Gelber referenced the recent study by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and the Urban Land Institute audit which included experts in multiple disciplines from around the world “to ensure our efforts are not misguided and your tax dollars not misspent.”
“Both studies confirmed that our program was credible and necessary to preserving the integrity and value of our properties,” he wrote. “But both studies also made suggestions as to how we could do this better. Additionally, we have discovered ways to improve our program from our own experiences in the projects we have already undertaken.”
“We are fully committed to continuing this program. The seas are still rising, the rain events are intensifying, and if we do nothing or simply kick this can down the road, we will put our homes and properties in peril,” he wrote. (The bold emphasis was part of the Mayor’s letter.)
“This isn't 'pausing' our program, it's a reorientation,” he said. “We have simply done what any mature government should do, which is seek the most informed perspectives possible and incorporate them into our plans so our residents and businesses receive the benefit of the best available thinking.”
He noted a list of recommendations being proposed by City Manager Jimmy Morales which will be discussed at the next Commission meeting on June 6. Quoting from the Mayor’s letter:
- Integrate green, blue and gray infrastructure into our storm water plan through dynamic modeling and design criteria. This will involve the issuance of an RFQ in July to identify a multidisciplinary firm that can take the completed AECOM engineering models and create an integrated neighborhood improvement plan. This firm will also work with City staff to prepare the design criteria package for each neighborhood project moving forward (including the La Gorce neighborhood project).
- Finish existing projects that are underway (including Indian Creek) and complete the citywide modeling work currently being done by AECOM;
- Fix any issues that have been identified with completed projects;
- Move forward with the West Avenue project. In order to do this, we will be announcing next week a collaboration with a major research university that has proposed a demonstration “Acceleration” project that will take the existing plans and update them to integrate green, blue and gray infrastructure at no cost to the City (including the best practices as identified by Harvard, ULI and other sources). The revised plans will be presented to the Design Review Board for approval before actual construction commences.
At the last Commission meeting, the proposed stormwater improvement project – which included elevating roads – for upper North Bay Road in the La Gorce neighborhood was put on hold while a new Request for Proposals is drafted to include blue and green infrastructure (e.g. using greenspace as retention areas and more landscaping) rather than award a contract now under the current RFP and add those new ideas in by working with the winning bidder. Public Works Director Roy Coley told Commissioners that due to a Florida Department of Transportation project on Alton Road scheduled for 2020, the La Gorce project may be delayed as much as six years with a new RFP process.
Two Commissioners, John Alemán and Ricky Arriola, voted against scrapping the process saying the City could not afford a “pause” in its program.
Following the meeting, Alemán penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald with some strong words about the vote and the Commission’s commitment to its resiliency program:
Noting current flooding in low elevation areas, she wrote, “While some residents experience regular flooding, their neighbors derailed the project because they don’t have flooding in their own homes.” At the Commission meeting she noted many areas were dry because of the City’s $1m expenditure on temporary pumps in areas that are waiting for a permanent solution.
At the same time, Alemán said, the “80-year old systems are failing” causing inadequate water pressure and unsanitary sewer backups.
She wrote that she was even more disturbed that her proposal to move on to the next project in the queue was approved only by a narrow 4-3 margin with Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Góngora, and Mark Samuelian voting against it.
After Gelber sent his letter today, Alemán said, “I’m very reassured especially after last week’s meeting where I would have expected to see a unanimous vote to continue forward with resiliency as our number one issue for the City. I’m thrilled to see the Mayor establish a plan forward that we can all get behind that leverages what we’ve been doing well and addresses the things that we need to get better on."