Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thoughts on Beach Casino Building RFQ Responses

Regular readers here know that I believe the rehabilitation of the existing casino building is a flawed strategy.  This conclusion is based upon the following reasons:
  • The building as it sits now - in all it's International style glory - is actually worthy of preserving.  It is reflective of an identifiable style, it was designed by local architect and public official and has been an important icon and institution in the minds of our residents.
  • Problem is - few people like the existing design of the building.  So, the existing style, while historically important, has few fans and the community prefers the "original" iterations of the building over the present one.
  • Re-doing the existing building in a "historic" style - more Mediterranean Revival is not "restoring" anything.  The original building was much smaller and the only remnants of the "original" design can be seen on the generally inaccessible western side of the building.
  • The existing building's footprint is seaward of the coastal construction line.  Not only is it questionable public policy to invest money to improve a building that could be impacted either by coastal erosion or catastrophic hurricane damage due to its location, but its location triggers certain coastal construction structural requirements that would likely "kick in."  It is certain that the improvements proposed would exceed the threshold for "grandfathering" status.  This would result in a large portion of the project budget going towards the meeting of the new requirements and not toward making the building more aesthetically attractive.  The same can be said for the structural requirements needed in order to meet the coastal 140 mph wind standard and imposition of ADA accessibility standards.
  • Working around the existing tenants creates logistical problems.  How long will they be required to be shuttered during the reconstruction and can safe entry be provided for the public during construction?
  • Given the unknowns in the building and the amount of deterioration present, it will be difficult if not impossible to get a fixed price on the project.
  • A new building starts with a clean slate.  You have more flexibility with the ultimate design of the building, can easily incorporate green construction techniques and allows for improved functionality of the building - rather than the need to work around existing structure.  It also allows for the complete footprint to be landward of the coastal construction line.  And it allows the existing tenants the possibility to remain in the old building until the new one is ready - with minimal interruption to their operations.
  • Without a fixed location represented by the existing building, you have more flexibility to be creative with the site plan.

Now, I will tell you that I was very surprised about the large number of respondents to the RFQ.  People from about four firms either talked or met with me to see what I thought about the project.  I basically told them the issues identified above.  Two that I talked to did respond and two did not respond.  I was about to do a post such as this during the process, but I decided to not as I did not want to unduly change the level of responses to the RFQ or influence the contents of the responses.  Of course, any could have stumbled upon this blog and get a sense of some of the issues.  

It is no news that we have been through a ferocious downtown in the economy, especially revolving around the real estate and construction industries.  I imagine that architectural firms are hungry for projects to maintain quality staff and bring revenue into their firms.  The state of Florida has been hit particularly hard.  In fact, I have heard more than one architect comment that if it wasn't for cities, non-profits and religious institutions, they still would be scrapping by.  So one of the reasons for the high number of responses (15, with 3 Lake Worth firms) is surely a product of the recent and current economic conditions.

Another reason might be the nature of an RFQ.  An RFQ is basically a waving of the hand indicating interest in the project, selling your firm and your expertise and proposing an approach to proceed.  Regardless what you think about the merits of the project as currently planned, it will be interesting reading to see how the firms expect to deal with some of the unique situations present here.
So, it's not time to jump up and dance about the number of respondents.  It is time to study the contents of the responses and be open to altering the approach to this project so that the best process for the residents - in terms of time, money and quality - is achieved.  This needs to be done with an open mind and without the tenants of the building occupying the driver's seat.

This is a PUBLIC building after all.

Can Lake Worth take a lesson from our President?

Especially about the importance of debate and the end of demonization occurring on both sides.

Public owns these pockets: Lake Worth should retain access to Intracoastal

Click title for link to PB Post editorial.  This is the response that I posted on their website:

"Again the Post editorial board doesn't let the facts get in the way of making their opinion. The "Old Bridge Park-ing lot" was not going to be "given away." It was going to be sold for millions of dollars which would have gone to improve/ create parks in the western portions of Lake Worth. While Loretta Sharpe ran for a commission seat in the past, her most recent campaign was for Mayor. Public access can be a good idea, but only where area property owners agree to it and will help police it."

Lake Worth State of the City Address by Mayor Rene' Varela

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

7:00pm - 10:00pm

Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth, FL 33460

Friday, January 29, 2010

Obama's boost for rail; is it big enough?

Click title for link to Tampa Herald Tribune article.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beach Casino Building Request for Qualifications (RFQ) - Opening of Responses

Today was the deadline and opening of the responses for architectural firms. The responses come from the RFQ the ciy issued late last year related to the rehabilitation of the existing casino building.  A small group gathered in the "Pioneer" conference room (where did the pioneers go - the list that was on the west wall?) at 2 p.m.  Purchasing staff made multiple trips delivering what turned out to be fifteen responses to the conference room table.  All were found to be "responsive" - meaning that they meet the criteria and requirements of the RFQ.  Three of the firms responding were Lake Worth architectural companies:  Gestalt, Living Designs Group and West Architects.

The contents of what was submitted will be available on the city's website sometime in the near future - most submitted digital versions of their responses.

Below are the sheets used by staff to list the respondents and check off whether they satisfied the demands of the RFQ.

Some thoughts on the implications of this later.

Michigan Tourist Propaganda Film circa 1949

Interesting, albeit dated film, of scenic Michigan during the mid 20th century. Michigan cherries, featured in the film, are generally very tart and usually are not eaten directly from the tree as shown in the movie.  They are best used as pie filling.  I've always thought it a coincidence that the only two states that I have lived in are the only states that are peninsulas.  In Michigan's case, two of them.

The state motto of Michigan is "Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice" or "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."

New Look to City's Website

Seems to be limited to font, font size and color changes.  There is also some degree of consolidation of headings in the left hand column.  For example, volunteer boards are now found under the broad heading "Residents."  Slightly more visually appealing, but hoping for more and better functionality in the future.  Can we get a search function that works and one that scans all documents posted under agendas and minutes of the City Commission and volunteer boards?

All in all, this represents an improvement from a "D+" to a "C-."

Fools' Errands and related varieties...

A fool's errand is a task that cannot be accomplished because of fate or because it is a joke. It comes mainly in two varieties: trying to find something that does not exist, or trying to accomplish an impossible task. Others who are aware of the prank will often redirect the victim to several different places.
The prank often involves the use of jargon, where the immediate meaning is not obvious. It can also depend on a new recruit's unfamiliarity with the business, such as being sent on a search for an ID10T form (IDIOT).
In carny, a type of fool's errand is known as the key to the midway.
[edit]Common items
Homophones: long stand, long weight (wait), or a long felt want, shoreline. In the Air Force, some activities such as gathering "flight line" or a bucket of "prop wash" have similar purpose, sending someone out for a bottle of "K9P Lube" (Canine Pee).
Machinery parts that sound real, but if considering the actual machine, cannot exist: muffler bearings, diesel engine spark plugs, piston return spring, canooter valve, headlight fluid, or a top/bottom radiator hose for a Volkswagen Beetle (which happen to be air cooled and therefore have no radiator).
Tools that do not exist, such as a metric adjustable wrench, 3-foot metre stick, shelf-stretcher, board stretcher or left-handed versions of usually achiral tools (wrench, hammer, or screwdriver), or tools made out of unlikely materials such as hammers made of glass. Often times this is switched to where the tool to be used is real but the task is not, such as the Army prank of making the object of the joke tap armor on the side of a vehicle with a hammer to check for 'soft spots' by sound.
Fetching a quantity of something that can not be contained, for example, a bucket of vacuum, a bubble for a spirit level, steam, flight, or shore line, striped paint, prop wash, or sparks (especially sparks from a grinder).
Things that have no physical existence, such as telling an orchestra member in whose part is written tacet to "go find the tacet" as if it were a musical instrument.
Items that are patently ridiculous (such as striped/camouflage paint, dehydrated water, or a box of nail holes) or figurative (such as elbow grease).


February's City Meetings

Some headlines from Florida newspapers...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Florida Business and Labor leaders come together to oppose amendment; officially launch "No on 4" campaign

(Tallahassee, FL - January 26, 2010) Florida business, civic and labor leaders gathered in Tallahassee on Tuesday to hear the report of a top Florida economist showing that Amendment 4 - a proposed change to the state constitution - would lead to heavy job loss and higher costs for Floridians.

"The losses of Florida jobs under the 'Most Likely Scenario' are very high," reported Tony Villamil, economist for Washington Economics Group, the organization that conducted the study. "Amendment 4's passage will have potentially devastating consequences to Florida's economy at a time when the economic situation at both the state and national levels is uncertain and at a time when attracting new businesses to Florida is essential for the future recovery and prosperity of the state and its residents."

The study considers a "Modest" and a "Most Likely" economic impact scenario. The study does not predict a "Worst Case" scenario. According to the study:

Under both scenarios, Florida's economic dynamism is lost. This would permanently impact the economic growth potential for Florida, causing a steady decline in the standard of living of all Florida residents. Further, permanently impacting employment and growth within major industries and job-generating activities.

"If you like the recession, you'll love Amendment 4," said Mark Wilson, President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "This amendment will cost jobs, hurt taxpayers and make it more expensive to live in Florida."

In an unprecedented show of unity, labor and business leaders agreed to jointly oppose Amendment 4. To read more - 

To learn more about the No on 4 campaign, please go to - 

To read the economic study, please go to - 

Florida consumer confidence has unexpected surge

Click title for link to St. Petersburg Times article.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FY 2009 Financial Results and Related Information

The last item on the City Commission's work session agenda what seems to be a very through report from the  interim finance director.  Click title for link for complete back-up material - really a must read.  Here are some highlights of the report showing some of the reasons for the deterioration of our General Fund reserves.
The table below is very helpful in tracking where the actual budgets amendments were made and their impact on what line items in the budget.
 Below is a chart that we can see the cumulative effect of these amendments.

The staff pledges to come back and work with the Commission in the coming weeks to address the coming shortfall in the FY 2010 projections.  The whole memo and the potential for conversation about this is a good omen and beats Bates' babble.  Let's make sure we make conservative assumptions about the valuation of the property in the city this coming year.

Groucho Marx

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.

A California Bay Area community crows about its redevelopment - building on its past with culture as its future...

Click here for a link to the Redwood City's website.   

Note the quality look of the website and easy 

Two for One Special - City Hall Tonight

In addition to the CRA meeting that I mentioned in a previous post, the City Commission is having a work session at the same time

(Note to readers:  I have a new program "Snag-it" that I'm breaking in that will allow for arrows, highlighting etc on images like above)

First of all, let's talk about the scheduling of these two meetings. In the not so recent history, work sessions of the City Commission were scheduled during the day - usually around 1 p.m.  The 6 p.m. time for this meeting tonight represents an improvement in terms of potential for working people to either listen or attend the meeting.  However, it is pitted against the regular CRA meeting scheduled for the same time.  The CRA agenda indicates the location of its meeting being in the Commission Chambers.  One is left to assume that the City Commission meeting will take place in the City Hall "Pioneer" Conference Room - although not indicated on the agenda itself.

These meetings taking place at the same time create some situations which could be prevented if they took place at different evening times.  While the City has the ability to stream audio from each room, I don't think it has the capability to stream two meetings at the same time.  This means that hearing a live stream of either meeting will come down to who flicks the switch first?  Besides the public having to choose between the two meetings and what they want to hear, members of the City Commission or the CRA cannot attend each other's meetings.  One would think that would be a concern as the City Commission's attempted takeovers of the CRA usually come down to a discussion of coordination and knowing what the other body is doing.  These are two bodies, one appointed and one elected, that have the power to spend money and more access is better than a conflicted access.  Can we take more care that this sort of scheduling conflict not happen again?

Now let's get on with the subject matter of the meeting.  The first item in the work session (no voting) concerns the possible separation of the Planning and Zoning Board from the Historic Preservation Board.  This issue dates back to April of this year, but has roots which stretch back a few years.  In fact, click here to be taken to a thorough discussion of the separation idea from the earlier days of this blog.  The referenced post comes from a time when I was Chairman of the PZHRPB and many of the same points apply today.  Surprisingly, staff is not recommending the separation of the boards.  They have sound reasons including the limited amount of people available to staff a separate board, budgetary considerations, etc.  It should be noted to that the City Commission recently followed the staff recommendation to NOT update our existing historic districts east of Dixie Hwy and NOT re-survey the area west of Dixie Hwy. for future historic districts - even though the City received a matching grant to do the work from the state of Florida. (A flawed decision, by the way.  We should have gone ahead with the update of our existing districts.  This has been needed since the time I was on the board)

The impetus for the separation comes primarily from Annabeth Karson - the political operative with common ties to Commissioners Jennings, Golden and Mulvehill and now in charge of the Census Complete Count Committee. Ms. Karson has always wrongly thought that there is an inherent conflict of purpose between the two boards. Click here for the staff back-up on the item and kudos to Mr. Bergman for using so many multi-syllabic words!

The next item for discussion is about the formation of a Finance Advisory Board. Click here for the staff back-up.  This would create a seven person board with six residents appointed by the City Commission and one by the City Manager.  The ability of the City Manager to appoint a resident to a board is more than a bit odd.  The overall concept for this type of board here is good as it involves residents in the budget preparation process and provides another venue for the public to participate in meetings.  Who is appointed to the board and the types of skills/backgrounds would be key.  One would hope that previous or current government experience or an accounting background, as well as lay people, would be included.

Seth Godin

If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Downtown Lake Worth Events

Act I Tuition Ages 5 to 7 Years Old
Monday, Jan 25 8:00p
at Lake Worth Playhouse, Lake Worth, FL
Act I Ages 57 Monday's, 4:30 5:30 pm. Jan 25 April 19 Lake Worth Playhouse Rehearsal Hall Space is Limited! Lake Worth Playhouse cultural arts classes teach kids the fundamentals of live theatre performance. Classes focus on the three disciplines of theatre performance: acting, stage movement and voice.

South Shores Tavern
Open Mic Comedy Hosted by Hemp 8pm

Lake Worth Playhouse Emerging Cinemas;
No Impact Man 2pm
House:  4pm

Les Beans Coffee 410 2nd Avenue North, Lake Worth, FL
Coffee and a movie you've probably never seen
Curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch a movie you've never seen before. No, this isn't your living room, it's Les Beans and they promise to show you "thought provoking documentaries and film you won't see on TV or theatres" during their Tuesday movie nights.

Paradiso Ristorante
Wine Dinner Pairing with Italian Winemaker Angela Velenosi!;

Lake Worth Playhouse Emerging Cinemas;
No Impact Man 2pm
House:  4pm

Les Beans Coffee
410 2nd Avenue North, Lake Worth, FL
Game Night at Les BeansHead to Les Beans on Wednesday nights and play classic group games like bingo, trivia and more with fellow coffee lovers.


Lake & Lucerne Avenues;

FRIDAY 01/29

Hoop So Fly Hoopdance for Beginners! Fridays DOWNTOWN DANCE 6pm!


 Friends of the Library Book Sale
 9am to 3pm
City Annex Cultural Plaza, across the street from the library.

Lake Worth High School Flea Market
Proceeds from the flea market provide scholarhips for needy students
1701 Lake Worth Rd.
Lake Worth, FL

Lake Worth Playhouse Emerging Cinemas;
Killing Kasztner 1:30pm 5:45pm
The Girl on the Train 3:45pm  8:00pm

SUNDAY 01/31
Lake Worth High School Flea Market
Proceeds from the flea market provide scholarhips for needy students
1701 Lake Worth Rd.
Lake Worth, FL

Lake Worth Playhouse Emerging Cinemas;
The Girl on the Train 3:45pm
Killing Kasztner  1:30pm, 5:45pm


Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lots coming up on the CRA's 1/26 agenda...

One of the more interesting items on the already full agenda is the potential acquisition of 1000 Lake Avenue through a lease/purchase option. This is the property and building immediately west of the City Hall parking lot at the corner of H Street and Lake Avenue. The proposal calls for the acquisition of the property by the CRA from the current owner with payments staggered over a four year period. The total amount of the payments would equal $850,000. Rehabilitation costs are estimated to be a little under $350,000. Staff is suggesting that the CRA undertake the rehabilitation work.

At one of the last meetings while I was on the CRA, we talked about picking up a building on the west side of the downtown as an Exhibition Project - showing what could be done with a historic building in our downtown and holding the possibility of using part of it for the CRA's offices -thus saving its current lease expenses. It also controls the building's ultimate use as the CRA could determine which "end user" of the property would be the best fit for the downtown, the CRA district and the city's brand - Palm Beach County's cultural destination.

Click title for direct link to back-up material on 1000 Lake Avenue.

Here you can see the building (right) as it looked during the pre WWII period. Note the shuffleboard courts in the area where the present City Hall parking lot is located.

Promising program to battle issues facing children living in poverty getting a start in West Palm Beach

Harlem's "Children's Zone" tackles issues block-by-block

Click title for link to Sun Sentinel article by West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell on the adaptation of the Harlem Children's Zone to West Palm Beach. This is a good example of an elected official looking to follow the success of groundbreaking programs designed to halt the slide of our most challenged communities.

Speaking of redistricting...

Click here for an interesting map dividing the United States into 50 states of roughly equal population based on 2000 Census data.

Welcome to the State of Everglades!

Click here for link to listing of State of Florida Ballot Measures - November 2010

Total of six (6) initiatives, including Hometown Democracy (Amendment 4)

Here is an article from the Gainesville Sun on Amendments 5 and 6 concerning redistricting.

Does Obama's visit to Florida signal cash for rail?

Click title for link to Orlando Sentinel article. I've followed the prospect for a high speed train system in Florida since moving here in 1989. I was the point person to monitor the issue while with the City of West Palm Beach. The current extent of the proposal would include a high speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa - serving various airports and Disney. Previous incarnations of the proposal included a route from Miami to Orlando, with stops in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It even made it on to the state's Constitution for a while as something that "must be done" - it was eventually removed.

The fact is that we have to improve our basic transportation infrastructure in this country so that we will be able to compete with other economies, especially the European Union. Our geography is a bit different as there are long distances between major metropolitan areas and any effort such as this would represent multiple billions of dollars over a number of years.

To have this route be the first in the nation would be a boon for the Florida economy and also signal that in many ways we continue to live in a "bellweather" state.

Special Treat - Puppies!!

Online video chat by Ustream
Tune in daily to see the cutest Shiba Inu pups... EVER! ;)

The five Shiba Inu pups (3 boys and 2 girls) were born on Saturday, January 16th, 2010. This is the second litter by their mom, Kika.

This is the birth order -

Girls (both red):
- Bella
- Beni-Bara (Bara for short)

Boys (1 red and 2 cream):
- Bonsai (the red bot)
- Bento (the biggest cream boy)
- Byakko

First photos of the new litter -

For more information on the Shiba Inu dog breed go here - or2.pdf