Above, Hallandale Beach/Broward County civic activist Csaba Kulin on Friday afternoon on the sidewalk near the western foot of the Intracoastal Bridge/SR 858 and the intersection of Hallandale Beach Blvd. and S.E. 26th Avenue, standing near one of the city's Public Notice signs about Wednesday night's City Commission meeting.
Visible in the background are the iconic, multi-colored HB Water Tower and the three towers of The Beach Club, three blocks away on the beach on State RoadA1A/S. Ocean Drive. June 2, 2012 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Over the past week, as the important upcoming vote on Wednesday night regarding the future of the The Related Group's controversial 31-story waterfront Beachwalk project in Hallandale Beach and the give-away deal for the city's North Beach property and parking garage has approached, my friend and fellow Hallandale Beach/Broward County civic activist Csaba Kulin and I have been busy.
Busy not only reading the minutiae of the proposed deal and taking note of what is and is NOT fully spelled-out on its pages, but busy walking the properties involved and the affected neighborhoods, and busy taking photographs so that I could share them with you here to give you a perspective you won't get elsewhere.
Busy, too, speaking with and listening to concerned and angry Hallandale Beach taxpayers, residents and homeowners, of whom there are many, who wonder how and why it could be that with less than a month until he retires, City Manager Mark A. Antonio and the HB City Commission have chosen NOW as the time to push this crucial vote, given that it's common knowledge in this city that lots of residents leave for the summer, or at least for weeks at a time.
(Just as is true in neighboring Aventura and Hollywood.)
But then this is hardly the first time that these characters have pretended not to know something they actually did, because to do otherwise would be to make what they were attempting to do even more transparent and calculating.
The fact that many people who live here have other homes, whether the original homes they and their families lived in before they moved here permanently, or, like Mayor Cooper and her family, a vacation home -in her case, in Colorado- is just something that everyone takes for granted.
It's one of the least surprising things about this area and this city, given how brutally hot and humid it gets here in the summer, despite the fact that we're an ocean-side city.
(Plus, to be honest, the constant vigilance about prospective hurricanes really wears you out after awhile each summer.)
Nobody-but-nobody begrudges any other Hallandale Beach resident getting away from here for a while in the Summer, and people like me who don't have a second/vacation home up in the mountains of Carolina or on some lakefront near Tahoe or upper New York State, certainly wish we had one.
Especially on brutally hot summer days when there is no breeze to speak of, and walking even a few blocks between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seems to sap all the energy out of your body, no matter how much water you drink.
Trust me when I tell you, NOBODY brags about being here for the entire summer!
(Which is why, at least as of now, my plan is to be in Scandinavia for a few weeks this Summer, mostly in Sweden, and then hit Iceland on the way back to Ft. Lauderdale.)
So, to recap, that people living here flee the city/area during the Summer is a well-known anecdote, rather it's a certified fact.
A fact that is nowhere more true than the neighborhood most directly affected by the prospect of a 31-story building and its attendant traffic appearing in their midst.
(Here's a link to a pro-South Florida development website that has a rendering of what The Beachwalk would look like as a 31-story bldg., looking west from the Intracoastal Bridge/State Road 858. http://exmiami.org/threads/
View Larger Map
March 2011 image is from Google Maps' Street View.
But because many of these HB residents are not here during the summer, due to the scheduling of this meeting, which could easily be postponed for three months until after Labor Day and the first Commission meeting of September, they are now unable to appear in-person to have their say at the City Commission meeting about how it affects their most valuable investment, their home.
It doesn't just seem unfair to me, it seems downright cravenly opportunistic.
To give you all a better sense of what's really going on and what's being attempted on this issue, I'm posting two emails that Csaba has already written and sent.
The first is to the HB City Commission asking them to do the right thing and delay the vote, and the second is to HB residents offering his perspective on what the deal would do to this community, based on his actually having read all the documents.
Farther down in this blog post, I've posted some of the photos I took last week on two separate visits to the sites under scrutiny to better capture what's what.
Above and below, Csaba Kulin on the scene, on S.E. 26th Avenue next to the property in question, and at the city's North Beach Park. Like me and almost anyone else around here who pays attention, we're dismayed at the junk and debris, large and small, that remains on the city's public beach for months and years at a time: mounds of cigarette butts swallowed by sand but still there, next to state-protected plants that have been missing ropes on their poles for years, alcohol bottles, condom wrappers... That also includes a prime example of what looks to be 1920's-era Soviet agricultural machinery, which the city, apparently, used to use to comb the beach. Now, rusty and likely full of germs you don't want to even think about, it's NOT moved in years and is thus an eternal eyesore. And trust me, when you are that close to it, you can practically taste the decades of rust. June 2, 2012 photos by South Beach Hoosier.
Email was titled, "Please Postpone the Beachwalk Decision"
June 4, 2012
Honorable Mayor, Vice Mayor and City Commissioners:
During the May 2, 2012 City Commission meeting, City Manager Antonio mentioned that The Related Group's Beachwalk development project would be placed on the May 16, 2012 City Commission agenda. At the evening portion of the meeting, I asked that in the interests of fairness, the Commission postpone any final decision on Beachwalk for a few months until the majority of the homeowners most-affected by it would have the opportunity to make their concerns known to everyone.
It only seems reasonable that people living within a block or two of the site should be able to weigh-in when they are facing the possibility of permanently having what could be a 31-story building located that close to them.
While I received no direct answer, Minutes of the meeting indicated that the Beachwalk proposal will NOT be put on the agenda “until ready.” I've interpreted that to mean be decided sometime in the fall, after Labor Day.
To be fair to all three parties, I believe that the developer, the City and the residents must all have an equal opportunity to state their case the best way they can, in-person, BEFORE a final decision is made that'll permanently transform that neighborhood. Along with many other concerned HB residents, I believe that if the City Commission goes ahead and makes a decision this Wednesday evening, even if it is “only” the First Reading, the majority of the actual homeowners most-affected by it will NOT be heard.
Even the City’s staff has admitted that the Beachwalk's paperwork is NOT yet completed but “will be completed” by whenever the second reading.
Given these facts, what is the reason for the rush now?
If the Commission proceeds as currently planned, rather than wait three months, many of the 1,460 registered voters of Precinct 7 -and the rest of the residents of the neighborhood- will be shocked to learn upon their return from Summer their input vacation that the City Commission has gone ahead and made a critical decision THEY will have to live with forever –without their input.
I do not want to talk about the complete and total surrender to all the demands/requests of the developer at this time, since I hope you will see my point and wait until the residents will be back from summer vacation. Many of the most-effected homeowners were present at January's P&Z meeting and there's no reason to think they wouldn't be as well for a City Commission meeting on this matter after Labor Day, given a chance.
Why would any of you be against city taxpayers and residents having a fair chance to speak about this issue?
The proposed new development on the Intracoastal Waterway, along with the addition of an operating contract of the public North Beach and the operation of the city's public parking garage under The Beach Club, to the same developer for the next 30 years, is beyond comprehension to me.
I believe that your consideration of giving a contract to any party to operate a full-service restaurant, as well as manage the public parking garage, that'd serve not only the Beachwalk's customers and the general public, but residents/visitors of The Apogee, just north of our public beach -also being built by The Related Group- and the eventual residents/visitors of whatever is eventually constructed immediately north of the HB Water Tower/North Beach Building, without any competitive bidding, is too much to ask Hallandale Beach taxpayers and residents to swallow.
To me, even the thought of considering a major 30-year commitment to any party there WITHOUT more input from the residents, experts and other interested parties is completely irresponsible and bad public policy.
Most HB taxpayers and residents I have spoken to, once they know the true facts of what is being considered, while supportive of the idea of a nice and reasonably-priced full-service restaurant in that area, believe that should be completely de-coupled and considered separately from building a 31-story condo/hotel blocks away on the Intracoastal.
While people can certainly understand why The Related Group might think this is a very good idea for themselves from a marketing perspective in selling units, those same residents I've spoken to do NOT see why linking them together would in any way be a good idea for them and their family's ability to enjoy the city's public beach, which they ALL believe needs drastic, rapid improvement now, NOT in five more years.
I strongly urge you to table this development item until the paperwork is not only 100% complete, but until the residents and homeowners most-affected by the proposal can be present at any HB City Commission meeting where a final decision is being made.
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
While many of you are away on summer vacation, the Hallandale Beach City Commission is planning to make a decision on the Beachwalk project this month.
I've tried to persuade the Mayor and the City Commission to wait until after Labor Day based on the idea of basic fairness, and have enlisted others to try as well, but realistically, I do not expect that we will be successful in getting them to delay for three months so that the most-affected taxpayers and residents can actually participate in-person about a decision that may well result in a 31-story building being constructed in their neighborhood.
Taking a ride through and walking around that neighborhood late this past Friday afternoon, I noticed very few cars parked in the condo/apts parking lots on Diana Drive at 4 p.m. That is very telling to me, since that proves that many of you have already left for the summer, whether visiting children, grandchildren or other family members.
Even if you are here, there is a remarkable and almost shocking lack of knowledge on the details of the agreement between PRH-2600 Hallandale Beach, LLC (the developer) and the City of Hallandale Beach.
I read the 50-plus pages of documentation line-by-line after printing it out, and as they say for good reason, “the devil is in the details.”
I'm going to spend a few moments now to reduce these documents to a few pages, so that you can better understand the main points and also be able to talk about it with your friends and neighbors.
If you are interested in reading the entire document, they are in the June 6, 2012 Agenda under Items 9 F and 9 G, and 12 A1 through 12 A4. Here's the link to the city's website for your convenience:
I strongly support anyone willing to develop a piece of property according to the current zoning assigned to that property. When a developer wants and insists on exceptions or variances, though, just like you, I want to look at the overall benefits to the City and to its current residents.
I read the material carefully and have asked myself if it seems to be good or bad for the residents of that area.
If the neighborhood's property value or Quality of Life is clearly going to be adversely affected, as this one seems to be, I have to ask a lot of tough questions.
In this case, though, not only are the residents closest to the proposal adversely affected, but the entire City is as well.
The reason for that is that this proposed condo/hotel tower off the Intracoastal is directly-tied into the future of our small North Beach Park.
This project has two major flaws.
The first flaw is that the project is simply far too large and out-of-scale for the less than two-acre site.
The density of 50 units per acre is not allowed and is not good public policy.
The second flaw is that the proposed parking solution is unacceptable, being roughly 167 parking spaces deficient, and each parking space is too small. Tandem spaces are not allowed and it may limit the future use of the garage. The only way to remedy the situation is to reduce the intensity of the proposed project.
ITEM # 12.A.3 Applying the Planned Development Overlay District (PDD).
The current zoning of the property does not allow any residential units to be included.
In order to include condominiums, the City first has to designate (rezone) the site to “Planned Development Overlay District (PDD)”.
This provides an optional zoning procedure to permit site design flexibility and greater land use intensity and density. The Planning and Zoning Board recommended denial of the assignment of PDD. This assignment of PDD is extremely important and valuable to the developer. Once the PDD is granted, it cannot be taken back even if the developer decides NOT to go forward with the project.
By approving the PDD designation, the City has significantly and irrevocably increased the value of the Beachwalk property.
That is the reason why any promises made by the developer MUST be tied to this approval, not to something that may or may not happen five (5) years from now. The City has been burned by other developers in the past, where zoning changes and other concessions were given and kept by the developer, but the promised “improvements and contributions” by the developer never happened or were negotiated away later. Therefore, approval of the PDD designation MUST be contingent upon the City receiving “iron-clad” assurances, possibly thru a performance bond, that the North Beach Park Improvements money of $2,500,000, promised by the developer to the City, will be available whether the project is completed or not.
ITEM # 9.F. Assigning 84 Residential Flex Units.
Once the Planned Development Overlay District (PDD) is approved, the next step is to assign residential “flexibility” its to the project. The number of units given depends on the availability of flex units and the site’s maximum population density.
The City's code allows a density of 35 dwelling units per acre on a site less than 2 acres. The Beachwalk site is 1.68 acres, therefore only 58 residential units should legally be allowed, not the requested 84 units. The developer is actually counting on the 0.39 acres the City is willing to vacate on Old S.E. 26th Avenue for the maximum dwelling unit calculation.
By providing 58 flex units, the City conserves flex units and reduces the shortages of parking spaces needed.
There are a total of 11 modifications the developer is asking for. Some are minor and no problems, but some are definitely deal-breakers and MUST not be allowed.
In the Development Agreement, Exhibit “E” deals with the North Beach Park Operation and Management Agreement.
It is totally unacceptable to me to tie the Beachwalk project to the future North Beach Park operation for the next 30 years, including the 91 public parking spaces of the adjacent property, The Beach Club.
I do not think there was sufficient public discussion of the future use of North Beach.
Do the residents want a full-service reasonably-priced restaurant on the beach?
(Perhaps, but first, HB residents want to actually have the benefits of the clean and inviting public beach area they've already been paying taxes for for years but not been receiving from the city.)
If a majority of the city's residents clearly want a restaurant, we need to properly advertise nationally via a competitive bid, and not simply make it a part of the deal for the condo/hotel property that few of us will ever have any relationship to.
And honestly, for the city to even consider 30 years as the “initial term,” making us their guinea pigs -and it's already our public beach?
There is no logical reason for any HB citizen to want to get rid of something that is already ours, merely to help the bottom line of a large developer.
I hope you all agree that we are in no way even close to making a long-term commitment, given the complete lack of public discourse on such an invaluable and irreplaceable property to this city.
I hope this will better help you understand what's involved in this project, and urge you to attend the City Commission meeting Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m., or, at the very least, contact our City Commissioners with your comments and watch it or listen to it online at
- Commissioner Dorothy Ross 954-457-1317 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Commissioner Keith London 954-457-1320 KLondon@hallandalebeachfl.gov
- Commissioner Alexander Lewy 954-457-1350 email@example.com
To increase size of photos, move your mouse over the photo and click the size you want. One of the reasons these photos are not quite what I hoped for is because at this point in the afternoon, it was becoming more overcast by the minute -and it was already hazy to begin with. Don't even think about "borrowing" or otherwise using these photos of mine without asking for my permission.
Looking west on Diana Drive & S.E. 26th Avenue, with The Beach Club towers in the distance, three blocks away on the beach. Almost all the condos on this side of the bridge near the site -upper left of photo is SW corner of proposed project- are low-slung and four-story or less. June 2, 2012.
Looking north from Diana Drive and S.E. 26th Avenue towards State Road 858/Hallandale Beach Blvd., which is a mandatory Left Turn corner, which means you'd have to go east and cross the bridge and go over to the beach. Across the street on the north side of East HBB is the area's very popular Walmart and three small shops. This area pictured, the site of the former Manero's Restaurant, would be the western perimeter of the project. June 2, 2012
Looking northwest from Diana Drive & S.E. 26th Avenue. June 2, 2012
Looking northwest from Diana Drive, with Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, and Trump Hollywood in distance over on the beach in Hollywood. June 2, 2012.
Looking west. June 2, 2012.
Looking west from the public sidewalk on the north side of the property, which parallels the Intracoastal Bridge and then goes under it to access the north side, adjacent to the Walmart parking lot. Tip of the HB Water Tower and The Beach Club towers in the distance.
June 2, 2012.
Where that public sidewalk meets the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, beside the bridge. June 2, 2012.
Looking south on the Intracoastal from the edge of the public sidewalk. June 2, 2012.
The path less traveled... under the Intracoastal Bridge. June 2, 2012.
Looking west from E. Hallandale Beach Blvd. & S.E. 26th Avenue. I actually waited until most of the traffic had passed before snapping this, since traffic in this area is so terrible. June 2, 2012.
Csaba Kulin standing on the sidewalk at North Beach Park, next to the city's public parking garage that City Hall wants to practically give away as a sweetener to The Related Group as part of the terrible Beachwalk deal.
He's standing at an area that, logically, should be where a direct route is available for handicapped access to the beach. But this being Hallandale Beach, the underground garage -under The Beach Club's northern-most tower- doesn't have an elevator, so when you emerge at the top of the garage ramp and are now outside, the corner of the sidewalk closest to you, which used to be ADA-compliant, isn't any more. Why?
So now you have to push yourself or be pushed over towards The Beachside Cafe to get on the sidewalk. But from there you have to deal with the sand, since there are no trails to make it easier for you. June 2, 2012.
Public beach as public ashtray: Sometimes it's hard to ignore the low-hanging fruit when it's there all the time and DPW just keeps ignoring it. This is just a small patch compared to the hundreds of others I've seen over the past eight years. June 2, 2012.
So this is where our tax dollars go to die? Csaba Kulin, perhaps wondering when we're FINALLY going to get the clean and inviting public beach that Hallandale Beach residents believe we're entitled to but have never received under Mayor Cooper and her Rubber Stamp Crew. Instead, we get rusty pipes in the middle of the beach and garbage cans on the beach -without lids- at the windiest place in the entire city.
And a public building across the street from the beach that the public can't use for free but which city employees can -for their holiday parties. June 2, 2012.
Reminder: The city's election is 22 weeks from Tuesday.