Sunday, November 29, 2015

The difference between a statement of "public purpose" and a "pitch", the trivializing of the land use regulatory process in Lake Worth, and so much more

Our current beat reporter from The Palm Beach Post, or one of his editors, uses the word "pitch" in describing a zoning/land use attorney's presentation before the Lake Worth Historic Resource Preservation Board (HRPB) on November 18th. You can watch attorney Bonnie Miskel's presentation for yourself here. Wikipedia defines the word "pitch" in this manner, related to a trip in an elevator (refer to the link for footnotes):
     An elevator pitch, elevator speech or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a process, product, service, organization, or event and its value proposition.
     The name 'elevator pitch' reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin.
To reduce a justification of a zoning change to calling it a "pitch" trivializes the land use regulatory process. It also assumes that the entity who is the target of the pitch, the HRPB, are just a group of unsuspecting people that are being sold something. That something, you see, wouldn't have been on their radar were it not for the person standing in front of them giving the "pitch." I use the word pitch now and then to make a point and note that it's not used in the most flattering of ways.

If you own a piece of real property (land) it is your right to petition for a rezoning of that land. This is a common practice that happens all the time across our great state and nation. There is a lot that goes into an analysis of whether a rezoning would be consistent with a city's Comprehensive Plan and whether or not it would be considered "spot zoning". Again, from Wikipedia, this is part of what goes into the analysis of a rezoning request (refer to link for footnotes and references):
     Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel or parcels of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning is usually at odds with a city's master plan and current zoning restrictions. Spot zoning may be ruled invalid as an "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable treatment" of a limited parcel of land by a local zoning ordinance. While zoning regulates the land use in whole districts, spot zoning makes unjustified exceptions for a parcel or parcels within a district. The small size of the parcel is not the sole defining characteristic of a spot zone. Rather, the defining characteristic is the narrowness and unjustified nature of the benefit to the particular property owner, to the detriment of a general land use plan or public goals. 
     For example, a small zone allowing limited commercial uses such as a corner store within a residential area may not be a spot zone, but a carve-out for an industrial use or a night club might be considered a case of spot zoning. In the first case, the differing land uses are mutually compatible and supportive. In the latter case, the residential nature of the area would be harmed by a conflicting land use. When the change in zoning does not advance a general public purpose in land use, courts may rule certain instances of spot zoning as illegal.
So, in order to be a valid request and one worth considering, a rezoning request must advance a public purpose that is greater than any potential impact and the possible granting of such a request to the property owner. In her presentation before the HRPB, Bonnie Miskel, Esq. talked for approximately 27 minutes about this zoning requestmuch longer than an elevator ride. She emphasized how the rezoning request was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. There are also characteristics of the property, its history and the surrounding built environment, which she explained make such a rezoning both compatible with the area and also one that furthers a public purpose.

Note that the "dollars and cents" referenced in the Post article was a small part of the larger presentation and was only mentioned towards the end.

What is that public purpose you ask? That public purpose is the City's need to have an active and vibrant hotel on one of its main downtown streets that's next to a large waterfront park for tourists and visitors. There are no more prime locations than the one occupied by the Gulf Stream hotel. And that structure at this prominent location is on the National Register of Historic Places. Beyond the use of this building as a hotel, both the building and property have played important roles in the history of our city and region. It has had a troubled past, being closed eight of its first ten years of existence as a result of the Great Depression and damage done by the hurricane of 1928. It has been closed for the past ten years, mostly under other ownership, and is not serving its intended purpose for the community.

What led to its current closure are a series of events which developed over a long period of time. One of those, from the early 1970s onward, is the combination of changing needs and desires of tourists, visitors, and business travelers that made the hotel not competitive in the market and unable to be an economic success. Remember, the hotel was originally built to accommodate visitors arriving by train, well before the domination of the automobile. Another reason is the small room sizes compared to newer tourist destinations and venues. To address this room sizes in the existing hotel need to be made larger.
Original floor plan of the Gulf Stream Hotel. 
Larger rooms mean a smaller room count in the historic hotelin order to maintain its established footprint that would mean going from the original 130 to around 87 according to the presentation given at the HRPB. We also learned that a hotel with that number of rooms isn't economically desirable to hoteliers in this day and age and that additional rooms are needed, along with other hospitality amenities like conference rooms and ample/accessible parking spaces. What is very compelling is that these changes will fix the property's current economic obsolescence and also boost the City's downtown which has lagged due to a structure that is now serving no public purpose at all. That, ladies and gentlemen, is further proof that a broader public purpose exists beyond the interests of any particular property owner.

What we need to hear from our leaders is why a functioning, historic hotel in Lake Worth's downtown hotel is a compelling public purpose. It is one that goes far beyond past, current or any future owner(s) of the property. In the end this property is emblematic of Lake Worth. As its fate rises and falls, so does the City's. In my experience this case is one of the more obvious cases where this public purpose exists.

Faced with such a compelling public purpose, many local governments choose to originate their own rezoning of a property. This would have been what is called a "city-initiated" request and it would have been entirely appropriate to handle this process in such a manner. Doing so would underscore how the public would benefit from the rezoning. It is already consistent with the City's future land use map in its Comprehensive Plan. In many ways it can be seen as addressing an apparent inconsistency.

For that to have happened we would have had to hear this public purpose being enunciated from our City leadership, its staff and elected officials. To a large degree, we have not heard this and it places the onus on making the case on the current owner of the property. The property owner gets the slings and arrows which is just fine with politicians but that's not leadership. It's time to change this going forward. I am hopeful that when this request appears before the City Commission we will hear more about the public purpose behind this proposal and that The Palm Beach Post takes a more professional approach to this very serious matter before the City.

On the last point I don't have much hope we'll ever see much better from the Post. If the past election cycle is any indication we're certain to see many more "pitches" to come, especially from their editorial board.

What was that "#BlackFridayParking" thing all about? Good question

A very short answer: I direct you to Jesse Bailey and his blog Walkable West Palm Beach who explains the reason for #BlackFridayParking quite well. This is an excerpt:
If you’re looking for something more constructive to do on Black Friday than the typical big box consumerism binge, join us for Black Friday Parking. It’s a nationwide effort to call attention to the destructive nature of minimum parking requirements. These requirements hurt small businesses by raising the barrier to entry. They favor the large big box model, hurting our municipal finances, and spreading out our land use pattern to further subsidize driving at the expense of other modes.
Donald Shoup and his book, “The High Cost of Free Parking” is mentioned in the blog post and would strongly encourage you to read more about that.

The City of Lake Worth also has many issues when it comes to parking. Parking at the Lake Worth Casino, for instance, isn't free as opposed to most of the parking in the downtown but the Casino has it's own unique set of problems. It was designed for "peak parking" and this is how the lower western lot looks like most of the time:
But it has to be this way, right? To accommodate the peak parking requirements of beach-goers? No. The organizers of the Street Painting Festival last year solved this problem by having visitors park at Palm Beach State College and the Tri-Rail station and it worked out quite well. How well? They're employing a new and improved version for next years festival in February. Stay tuned.

Airbnb, eco-tourism, hipster cred, and shipping containers: What they all have in common

Jeff Ostrowski at the Post has this interesting article about retired shipping containers getting re-purposed. These containers, if you didn't know, are those large containers that get placed on tractor trailers and trains for distribution of commodities, products, etc. throughout the country. You'll also see these containers used by companies for storage, temporary and permanent, on back lots and work sites.

As you'll read in the article three of these containers were purchased (for $3,000 each) and made into an Airbnb rental, an amazingly creative idea. But before you get all excited check the zoning code first before diving ahead. More likely than not this type of structure is prohibited where you live. For instance, you couldn't build this in Lake Worth or most other cities in the county. 

Here is an excerpt from the article:
In a feat he calls a first for Palm Beach County, Jupiter entrepreneur Rick Clegg has built a house from old shipping containers.
     The utilitarian structure in Jupiter Farms [see the rental unit on Airbnb], located just across the Loxahatchee River from Riverbend Park, is a vacation rental for ecotourists.
     Containers, a symbol of consumer culture and global trade, have gained hipster cred [defined below] as an alternative building material.
     “I like the compactness, the low carbon footprint, the simplicity of it,” Clegg said.
Read more about Rick Clegg and see more pictures of his Retreat On The Loxahatchee River. Unsure what a "hipster" is? I do my best to define that term here.

Lake Worth, FL, Then and Now—Evelyn's Apartment Court: 709 South Dixie Highway

Image circa 1960.
The same address today via Google Maps Street View.
When I first moved to Lake Worth, I lived at 714 South H Street which is just behind, to the left, of this motel. These motels were common back in the day and lined much of Dixie Hwy. through Lake Worth. Typically Mom and Pop operations, they served middle class tourists driving down U.S. 1, which was the primary route through south Florida traveling by automobile. There are a few, like this one, that still survive. Most have gone through a multitude of changes. Here you see ways to accommodate more vehicles with the addition of pavement instead of the lawn area during the middle part of the last century.

When non-local, long distance traffic moved to the then-newly constructed I-95 in the early 1970s many of these motels were demolished and became some of the used car lots we see today along this stretch of road. In many ways the City is still adjusting to this shift of traffic from what used to be the only road through south Florida.

Some old-timers think the City of Lake Worth has never fully recovered from the effect I-95 had on the City and I think there is some truth to that. Another problem unique to Lake Worth is the City doesn't have an exit off I-95 taking you directly into the downtown. You either exit I-95 north or south of the downtown due to the location of the high school and the electric plant.

West Palm Beach and the roll-out of their new eco-friendly bucket trucks

One of these days check out the city of West Palm Beach's Newsroom. The city of Lake Worth has something similar with their Worth Noting Newsletter which you can sign up for here if you haven't already. What's interesting about West Palm's approach is when you click on the Newsroom tab on the website you have many choices to find out what is happening all in one place: Headlines, City Administration, CRA, Events, Parks and Recreation, and others.

At the bottom of the list is this, West Palm TV:
Now, about that new eco-friendly bucket truck West Palm is rolling out:
(West Palm Beach, FL) – In its latest move to practice what it preaches in leading efforts to make government more environmentally responsible, the City of West Palm Beach has started replacing its fleet of maintenance bucket trucks with new, eco-friendly hybrid bucket trucks.
     Unlike older trucks that require the diesel engine to idle all day while the bucket is being used, new trucks use electricity and don’t require the engine to run at all while in use. You can shut down the engine as soon as you get to where you need to go, and operate the bucket using electricity.
West Palm Beach, like Lake Worth, is also on Twitter. Both cities do a good job of keeping the community informed of current events:

Florida Governor LeRoy Collins responds to legislature: SCOTUS' Brown v. Board of Education decision, 1957*

Below is Governor Collins' response and it's interesting in light of a present perspective. There still remains anger from certain groups following the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage and that's not unexpected. Even in Lake Worth, a small city in Palm Beach County, FL, some small but vocal crowds have expressed ire with the SCOTUS decision. For some perspective though this angst pales in comparison to what happened after SCOTUS' Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1957. Imagine for a second if then-Florida Governor LeRoy Collins caved to the radicals and declared Brown v. BOE "null and void"? It could have happened—but it didn't.

Were it not for Gov. Collins would the history books have a chapter on America's Civil War II? A frightening thought. But Gov. Collins didn't cave and we moved on as a society and most people can agree for the better. The year 2015 is a lot like 1957 in that there are still those easily "whipped up by the demagogues"; only this time it's about gay marriage. Now though the 'demagogues' have a bigger arsenal: the Internet, slick PR firms, and 'church planting' in their bag of tricks to name just a few.

Meet Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins:
Image from Wikipedia.
In 1957 the Florida legislature wanted to declare the Brown v Board of Education decision "null and void". Gov. Collins stood up to the legislature's 'interposition' which was "whipped up by the demagogues". Gov. Collins did not agree with the decision by the Supreme Court but he rightfully saw the role of the court and each state's responsibility under the Constitution. Here is an excerpt from the State of Florida archives:

"I feel that the U. S. Supreme Court has improperly usurped powers reserved to the states under the constitution. I have joined in protesting such and in seeking legal means of avoidance. But if this resolution declaring the decisions of the court to be 'null and void' is to be taken seriously, it is anarchy and rebellion against the nation which must remain 'indivisible under God' if it is to survive. Not only will I not condone 'interposition' as so many have sought me to do, I decry it as an evil thing, whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion, prejudice, and hysteria. [emphasis added] If history judges me right this day, I want it known that I did my best to avert this blot. If I am judged wrong, then here in my own handwriting and over my signature is the proof of guilt to support my conviction.

LeRoy Collins, Governor."

May 2, 1957.

[My thoughts: This incident in Florida has been mostly lost in history, relegated to a footnote, not unlike the hysteria over gay marriage will be in ten years.]

*From Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida.

Two videos: Zoning/land use attorney's "pitch" in Lake Worth much more than just "dollars and cents" vis-à-vis the Gulf Stream Hotel

Below are two videos of Bonnie Miskel's presentation before the Historic Resource Preservation Board on November 18th; here is the agenda from the City's website.

Some day soon The Palm Beach Post will publish this article in the print edition (Sunday edition?) by Lake Worth's beat reporter Kevin Thompson. This is about the HRPB meeting on November 18th vis-à-vis the Gulfstream Hotel. Suffice to say, for now, that Bonnie Miskel's presentation was much more than just about "dollars and cents". You have to get almost to the end of the second video when:
"Miskel spoke in a language all board members — and city officials — understand: dollars and cents."
The presentation was approximately 27 minutes long and in no way can be characterized as a "pitch". Here are just a few of the issues addressed:
  • An explanation of the site and the difference between DT and MF30 zoning.
  • Why "no site plan required" at this HRPB meeting.
  • Lake Worth did a "great job" adopting its last revision to the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Talked about commercial corridor, the unity of title, and many other topics.
  • Why, in today's hotel industry, 120 rooms is the minimum "sweet spot" and is essential to the success of the Gulf Stream Hotel project.
  • The "severe parking challenges" and the parking garage considered part of the overall plan.
  • "Preserving the old and addressing the new".
Check back later to this blog for more on this very important subject. Here are the two videos (the first one is 17 minutes and the second is 10 minutes long):

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Visit Lake Worth, Florida, a quirky City with the World's only 'recovery' church in a bar!

If you haven't heard, pastor Olive and his "Common Ground (no 's')" recovery church hold their prayer service in a bar, the Bamboo Room in downtown Lake Worth. This is NOT A JOKE. It's the absolute truth. They put up a sheet so the flock can't see the bar stocked with liquors, spirits, mixers, and cold beer. A sheet.
Remember church service attendees: Stay behind the curtain and don't forget to tip your server.
Here is the broad and eclectic adult beverage selection at the Bamboo Room. If you would like to rent the venue for weddings, anniversaries, or any other special event use this link to get more information. The Bamboo Room is an iconic Lake Worth establishment and we're all excited to have them back up and featuring live music once again.

You can follow the Bamboo Room on Twitter (@TheBambooRoomLW):
This might be a good topic for a Sunday Sermon by the 'Common Ground' (no 's') church:

Boca Raton P&Z board member experiences anti-Semitism first-hand

This is a news segment from Brian Entin at NBC5/WPTV from November 25th. A few in the community there aren't happy about their soon-to-be neighbor, the Chabad of East Boca and My Israel Center, which has been a vacant lot for quite some time. The Chabad has a Facebook page if you want to send them a supportive message and welcome them to south Florida.

Here are two excerpts from the news segment at WPTV:
     A Boca Raton Planning and Zoning committee member says he was attacked through social media and email for supporting plans for a Jewish synagogue and museum in Boca Raton.
     "It was disconcerting. It was something I had not experienced before," board member Glenn Gromann said.
[and. . .]
     Neighbors who did not want to appear on camera told WPTV crews they are not against Jewish people, but instead, worried about too much development in the coastal area.
     They've placed [red and white] "save our beaches" signs in their yards.
     "Save Boca beaches from what? From the synagogue? From Jewish people? That sends the wrong message," Gromann said.
     Chabad of East Boca Rabbi Ruvi New believes the plans for the new center could be connected to a hate crime over the weekend.
Below is the video from WPTV:

Remember to Shop Local TODAY! For example, at Chafin Music here in Lake Worth. . .

Click here for a link to Chafin Music's website. You can find them at:

Esteemed German soccer clubs coming to Florida in January

From PR Newswire is this news that will delight all the soccer fans here in south Florida:

     Two of the most esteemed clubs in the German Bundesliga are heading to the United States this winter to face off against teams from around the world in the 2016 Florida Cup. The tournament, which has expanded from four clubs in 2015 to nine in 2016, will take place in the Orlando and Fort Lauderdale area between Jan. 10 and 20.
     Bayer 04 Leverkusen is competing in its second Florida Cup, while FC Schalke 04 is a newcomer to the tournament. Additional clubs participating include Brazil's Corinthians, Fluminense, Atlético Mineiro and Internacional; Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk; Colombia's Independiente Santa Fe; and the Fort Launderdale Strikers of the United States.
     The clubs representing the Bundesliga in the tournament are two of the most storied in German soccer. Since their stunning UEFA Cup championship in 1997, Schalke has risen to one of the league's premier teams.

Time for Giving in Lake Worth: Employee Food Drive, Bike Give-Away, and Other Ways Too

This information is from the latest City Newsletter, Worth Noting. To sign up for the newsletter use this link. Here is the news on the employee food drive:
Total Collected by Lake Worth employees: 503 pounds. Recipients of the collected food were the food pantries of 1st Congregational Church in District 2 and New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and New Life Zion Temple in District 1.
And about the bike give-away:
     As part of the Holiday Parade and Santa’s Workshop held each year, the City of Lake Worth “raffles off” new bicycles. The first 300 kids that attend the event receive a FREE raffle ticket. Last year, fifty (50) bicycles were raffled thanks to local businesses, sponsors, and donations. The Leisure Services Department would like to exceed last year’s number by raffling even more bikes this year. The target goal – 100 BRAND NEW BIKES!
     Time is short – the 50th Annual Parade & Santa’s Workshop is on Saturday, December 12th. If you would like to contribute a new bike or money towards the purchase of a bike, please contact the Leisure Services Department at 561.533.7363. Checks should be made payable to City of Lake Worth.
See you at the parade!

"Point of View" in the Post today: Benefits from investment in biomedical research

It's just a coincidence this Point of View appeared in The Palm Beach Post today (11/28), being that the "Week of Resistance" by EEF! just began yesterday in Palm Beach Gardens protesting biomedical research. No one wants to get them any more excited than they are already. Your last chance to register for the Week of Resistance ended yesterday (11/27), but you can still check out the protest activities and stop by the mall for some Christmas shopping in PBG:
     Everglades Earth First! [EEF!] is excited to host a Week of Resistance starting Friday, November 27th ending with a mass demonstration organized by the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition on Saturday, December 5th.
Here is the Point of View by Laura Niedernhofer, an associate professor in the Department of Metabolism and Aging at The Scripps Florida Research Institute; an excerpt:
     Adjusted for inflation, the NIH budget has declined by more than 25 percent in the past decade. The huge decrease has slowed the pace of discoveries that will allow people to enjoy healthier lives.
     The United States was once the world leader in funding biomedical research. But today, other nations are investing far more. In fact, many of our top scientists are being recruited by nations that are making biomedical research a priority. We are allowing other countries to surpass us within the next 10 years.
     This decline in funding comes at a time when the U.S. faces its largest-ever population of individuals over 65 years. More than 75 percent of Americans will have at least two chronic diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer, as they age.
In case you missed the article in the Shiny Sheet (aka, the Palm Beach Daily News), there is other recent news about Scripps here in Palm Beach County.

When I choose dish soap I choose Dawn and so should you

About the video below: "Dawn Dish Soap is teaming up with wildlife rescue workers to create a safer environment for ducks, birds and other wildlife affected by disasters like oil spills. By using Dawn to help clean and rehabilitate them, rescue workers open up a second chance on life for these little guys."

Learn more about Dawn Saves Wildlife. Remember, it's tough on grease but gentle too.

Today is Shop Local Saturday in Lake Worth. Go to any other local grocer and buy Dawn. Shop Local and help to save the environment at the same time!

Podcast: Big Potential For Tiny Houses

This is a recent program on the tiny house movement, and it seems to be a thing. And you can't help but think that our collection of historic cottages in our City of Lake Worth that are readily available to meet the demand. That is one of the reasons behind the Cottages of Lake Worth, the group that is promoting the existence of our small beach cottages, most on 25' wide lots. The program is about tiny houses and the housing market changing. Tastes are changing and technology is helping downsize our lives. The program talks about the environmental impetus behind the movement, along with lifestyle and economic changes.

Zoning implications related the new "mobile" nature of the current design for these super-tiny home on wheels are discussed. If you have the time, check out the podcast.

If you're interested in learning more about the Cottages of Lake Worth, below is my radio interview with Allan Mason at WBZT last year: