Miami Beach 2020 Ballot Question 6

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach 2020 Ballot Question 6:

Regarding calculation of floor area ratio


Complete 2020 Voters Guide here


Miami Beach 2020 Ballot Question 6

Ordinance excluding certain areas of a building from calculation of “floor area” 
“Floor area” is used by City to regulate the overall size of a building. Any increase to a property’s maximum floor area requires voter approval under City Charter Section 1.03(c). Shall City adopt an ordinance excluding the following areas from the calculation of a building’s floor area:
  • Secured bicycle parking spaces,
  • Stairwells / elevators located above main roof decks,
  • Electrical transformer vault rooms, and
  • Fire control rooms / related life-safety equipment? 

Explanation:
Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is used to measure and regulate building size or density. Any increases in FAR require voter approval.

According to the City’s Voters Guide, “The term ‘floor area’ generally means the sum of the horizontal areas of the floors of a building. Any exclusions from the calculation of a building’s 'floor area' are expressly listed in the City’s Zoning Ordinance.”

This ballot measure asks whether the City should adopt an ordinance excluding the following areas from the calculation of a building’s floor area: 
  • Secured bicycle parking spaces, 
  • Stairwells / elevators located above main roof decks, 
  • Electrical transformer vault rooms, and 
  • Fire control rooms / related life-safety equipment. 

By including those areas, as is currently City law, there is less “habitable” space in a building. By excluding them, there is greater floor space for residential or commercial space. Of course, it also means a building would be bigger by the amount of space the above items occupy.  

“The purpose of this measure is to incentivize property owners to provide secured bicycle parking, and account for evolving City Code, Florida Building Code, and Life Safety Code requirements,” according to the Voters Guide.

For existing buildings, the City says, if approved, owners would be able to comply with new Code requirements when a building is being renovated, for example, even if the property currently exceeds the maximum permitted FAR. 

Details from the City’s Voters Guide on the areas that are proposed for exclusion:

Secured bicycle parking spaces: Currently, required parking for motor vehicles, which is enclosed in a building, is excluded from the calculation of a building’s floor area, including up to two parking spaces per apartment unit. A typical parking space, including half of the abutting drive, occupies an area of approximately 250 square feet—an area which could accommodate more than 10 bicycles. This ballot measure would exclude secured indoor bicycle parking spaces from the calculation of a building’s floor area. 

Stairwells and elevators located above main roof decks: The area of two typical stairwells and a typical elevator at one level is approximately 500 square feet. In order to add a rooftop deck or pool to an existing building, Florida Building Code and Life Safety Code requirements must be satisfied, which usually require two stairs, as well as an accessible means of vertical access (i.e. an elevator). Because many older buildings have only one stair to the roof, such buildings may not have enough FAR to construct required stairwells and elevators to the roof. This exclusion would permit buildings with no available FAR to exclude from the building’s floor area calculations any required stairwells and elevators associated with the construction of rooftop amenities. 

Electrical transformer vault rooms: The typical area needed for an electrical transformer vault room is 300-500 square feet, depending on the size of the building. Electrical transformer vault rooms, when required, have become increasingly larger, and often include additional infrastructure required by FPL to serve neighboring properties. This FAR exclusion would be most beneficial to existing buildings undergoing renovations, which may otherwise need to remove a residential unit, hotel room, or other space to accommodate the required area for the vault room. Currently, if a new transformer vault room were required in a building with no available FAR, a property owner would have two options: (1) existing space within the building would need to be converted to a vault room, or (2) a large transformer would need to be installed outdoors. This exclusion would permit a property owner to enclose the transformer vault within the building or create a new enclosed space, without counting against the building’s FAR. Enclosing a transformer vault within a building promotes the resiliency of the building, and reduces the amount of utility equipment that may be visible from a street or sidewalk.

Fire control rooms and related life-safety equipment: The area of a building typically occupied by fire control rooms and related life-safety equipment is approximately 300-500 square feet. Over the past few decades, the Life Safety Code has been updated to require additional fire control and life-safety equipment for larger construction projects. This FAR exclusion would be most beneficial to existing buildings undergoing renovations, which may otherwise need to remove a residential unit, hotel room, or other space to accommodate the required area for fire control rooms and related life-safety equipment. If the measure is approved by the City’s voters, a Second Reading and Public Hearing on the Ordinance will be scheduled before the City Commission. 

For additional information, including a copy of the proposed Ordinance, click here or contact the Office of the City Clerk at 305.673.7411. 

Organizations that have taken positions:

Yes:
Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce

No:
Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL)
Miami Beach United (MBU) 


 

Voters Guide to the 2020 Election and Miami Beach Ballot Initiatives


Susan Askew
Susan Askew
Six local questions on the ballot this year