Flamingo Park Street Cleaning Program Remains on Hold

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Flamingo Park Street Cleaning Program Remains on Hold:

City and residents continue to discuss least disruptive method of implementation

Nearly three dozen Flamingo Park residents crowded a small meeting room in the Flamingo Park Tennis Center last week to vent their frustration over a proposed street cleaning program. For 90 minutes, Miami Beach Assistant Public Works Director Jay Fink patiently fielded a barrage of questions and sometimes angry comments about the City’s motivation for implementing a program that would require them to move their cars once a week between the hours of 9 am and noon for street sweeping. 
Following the results of the 2019 Resident Survey which indicated cleanliness of neighborhood streets is a top priority and in need of improvement, the City announced it was rolling out two cleaner streets pilots – one in North Beach from 67th to 73rd Streets between Collins Avenue and Indian Creek Drive and the second in the Flamingo Park neighborhood. As the City worked to close a budget gap prior to the new fiscal year that begins October 1, the cleaner streets program also provided the opportunity to cut $100,000 from the budget by eliminating the need for sanitation workers to blow debris out from under cars and hand shovel what remains out of the gutters. Without the parked cars, the street sweepers can get all of the debris more effectively and efficiently, Fink told RE:MiamiBeach when the program was announced.

But after neighbors raised concerns at a City Commission meeting, the program was put on hold pending last week’s meeting of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association. It remains on hold after residents continue to object to the “opposite side of the street” parking plan.
Among the many concerns, potential fines for and towing of cars left parked in a spot while its owner is out of town and unable to move the car. Fink said the City will take calls from residents who need to leave their cars and provide information on where it is parked to ensure they don't get a ticket. Longer term, he said the City plans to create an app to make that notification easier. 
Others worried about depressing property values in an area that already has very limited parking and creating a situation of “have and have-nots of people who have spaces and those who don’t.” One woman who owns rental properties in the neighborhood said she was concerned that adding a requirement to move cars once a week to an area that has always lacked for parking would make it “more difficult to rent my apartments.”
Another resident called it a “money grab” with the City profiting from “$340 tows.”
Fink assured those in attendance that the City’s is “not looking to tow vehicles. This is not meant to be a punitive program, it’s meant to be a program to clean streets.” In North Beach where the program is underway and showing some good results, he said, the City has been issuing courtesy notices while people get used to the program. 
Some residents felt they were being “punished” and asked why them and not the wealthier South of Fifth area or West Avenue where the buildings have parking garages. Fink said due to an upcoming drainage project South of Fifth and the West Avenue construction scheduled to start soon, Flamingo Park was the choice for the pilot.
Concerns were raised about the number of restaurant and hotel workers who live in the area because it is more affordable. These are “not people who are up at 9 am,” one resident said. With parking being difficult to find at the times they come home, the service workers park wherever they can find a space and if that space happens to be in an area where street cleaning is taking place the next day, it is those lower paid workers who would bear the brunt of any fines or towing costs if they didn’t move their cars prior to the 9 am start time, residents said.
Several grumbled that the signs noting street cleaning days and times were already posted indicating the program was “a done deal.”
Fink and representatives of Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioner Ricky Arriola who also attended the meeting said the program would not move forward until concerns had been discussed further and potential solutions presented.
Monica Beltran, Assistant Director for the Miami Beach Parking Department, said she understands street cleaning “hasn’t been a way of life that I know of in the Miami-Dade County area. This is totally new for everyone and we want to be able to work with you.”
Among the solutions residents suggested, parking further from the curb (though that wouldn’t eliminate hand sweeping), reduced hours, free parking in garages during the street sweeping, and monthly cleaning versus weekly. 
Perhaps the biggest support was for raising parking permit fees by $20 to continue the hand sweeping. Permits now cost about $55 annually. “There’s your $100,000 which I’m sure everyone here would rather do,” one resident said.
“$100,000 savings feels like nothing,” another said when you consider the “social costs and real estate values.” He told Fink the City should “encourage property values to go up to fix your budget shortage.”
Fink said he would take the ideas to City Manager Jimmy Morales but noted that at a recent City Commission meeting to discuss the budget, “Commissioners pushed back on raising fees.”
Scott Needelman, president of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association said he had received emails on both sides of the issue. “Some say 'It’s a crazy idea,'” he said. Others said, “'It’s about time,' so not everybody is against it.” He encouraged residents to email and call elected officials to express their opinion. “There are a lot of issues,” he acknowledged.
Following the presentation, the group unanimously passed a resolution indicating “The Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association is opposed to the Flamingo Park neighborhood street cleaning program as currently envisioned. While we appreciate the attention the City is giving to cleanliness of streets, we do not believe the adverse effects the parking restrictions will place on neighborhood residents justify the current proposal. We urge the city to work with residents to develop a mutually agreeable means of street cleaning that does not put undue hardships on residents.”
Jack Johnson whose initial pleas to the City Commission and Mayor’s office resulted in the first postponement of the launch in Flamingo Park, told Fink, “We’re not opposed to cleaning streets. We’re opposed to opposite side of the street parking. Please don’t give up on us. Come up with alternate solutions.”
After the meeting, Liz Bello-Matthews, Public Information Officer for the Public Works Department, shared photos of recent street cleaning on Lenox Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. Those photos accompany this article. “It took two guys almost three hours to sweep, scrape and shovel the material that has accumulated in parking spaces under vehicles,” she noted. She also pointed out that dirt that accumulates under cars “cannot be reached by sweepers and they also run the risk of damaging cars by trying to sweep or shovel near them.”
The search for a solution continues. In the meantime, the program is operational in North Beach but will remain on hold in Flamingo Park.
UPDATE: August 23, 2019... Neighbors reported this week that the "No Parking" or risk being towed signs for street cleaning days have been removed. City spokeswoman Melissa Berthier confirmed the removal of the signs and provided us with this update: “The implementation of the Alternate Side Parking for the Flamingo Park neighborhood has been delayed while we work through the valid concerns. The signage has been removed to avoid confusion. We will keep providing advance notice and additional public outreach prior to any further actions. While keeping our city clean is of utmost importance to all of us, we are committed to doing so with minimum disruption to the quality of life of residents.”
Meanwhile, things continue to go well with the North Beach street cleaning pilot according to Berthier.

Photos: City of Miami Beach
The City's current street cleaning efforts involve hand blowing debris from under cars followed by a street sweeping truck.

Debris at the curb is hand shoveled and placed in a trash can.

Some debris remains trapped under cars, unreachable without damaging vehicles.

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