Opponents of Coral Gables’ ban on overnight parking of pickup trucks accomplished at the polls on Tuesday what they failed to achieve in an eight year-court battle: Repeal the 52-year-old law.
Under the referendum approved Tuesday, pickup trucks may now be parked in driveways or on city streets so long as they are non-commercial vehicles — no company labels or markings — and no items in the bed. Also, trucks may also have no more than four wheels. The change takes effect immediately.
Nearly 57 percent of Coral Gables voters who cast ballots on Tuesday agreed to change the ordinance.
Since the 1960s, the city has required pickup trucks to be concealed in garages at night. In 2003, then-resident Lowell Kuvin sued the city after he was cited for parking his 1993 Ford F-150 on a residential street. A three-judge panel of Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal agreed with Kuvin, but the full court reversed, upholding the ordinance. The case concluded last year, when the state Supreme Court declined to hear it.
The city spent $250,000 on legal fees defending its position.
Resident Ani Victoriano also fought to scrap the rule, but she took a grassroots approach, knocking on doors, building a team around her cause, and gathering more than 2,000 signatures earlier this year.
Victoriano says she purposely distanced herself from Kuvin, but both, who had the same goal, wound up delighted with Tuesday’s outcome in the election.
“I can’t really believe that it’s supposedly over,” Kuvin said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s very interesting that the truck ordinance was defeated by a larger margin than the president won the election percentage-wise. I think it’s a decisive victory and sends a strong message. And the message it sends is, ‘Enough already. The sky is not falling.’ ”
“This thing went on for 52 years and we were able to accomplish this in a year-and-a-half. The key thing is we never threatened the city with a lawsuit because we were residents,” she said. “To a certain extent, I fought with the mayor, but he opened doors and Maria [Commissioner Maria Anderson] was helping us with residents who had pickup trucks. [Commissioner Ralph] Cabrera opened the door to the language we could embrace on the referendum, even though he was against this thing. I think we were mature as residents and I am proud of our commission.”
The city had quit enforcing the pickup ordinance during and after Kuvin’s suit, but Anderson, who is in her final term after a decade on the commission, proposed that the Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Department review the ordinance. The Planning and Zoning Board recommended that the rule be modified and the discussion traveled to the commission. The panel, in June, at the urging of Mayor Jim Cason, opted to put the issue before voters in a referendum.
Some, like Anderson and Victoriano, expressed disappointment at the time with that decision. They felt the commission should have voted the matter up or down.
Former mayor Don Slesnick, a staunch proponent of keeping the ordinance, also had urged commissioners to maintain status quo.
Cason celebrated that so many voters opted to be heard on the issue, given that the item was last on a five-page, two-sided ballot laden with state constitutional amendments, along with the presidential race.
“This is what democracy is all about, the voters making their voices heard and Coral Gables voters clearly spoke last night,” he said Wednesday. “Those residents who have, or wish to have, pickup trucks, may now do so legally.”
Anderson responded on election night when it became increasingly clear that support for modifying the ordinance had achieved acceleration as more poll numbers trickled in late into the evening.
“I’m glad folks in Coral Gables thought it was time to update this archaic law,” she said.
Cason said Tuesday’s change doesn’t alter Coral Gables’ basic values.
“Whether you supported or opposed the change, Coral Gables is still the City Beautiful and will always remain so,” Cason said.
Victoriano doesn’t own a pickup truck — her son does — but on Thursday afternoon she was enjoying the victory.
“It felt good driving through the Gables. I smiled when I saw a pickup and knowing we had a big part on this,” she said, adding that there is one more chapter in this long story.
“We’re planning a tailgate party within the next couple of weeks.”
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