Coral Gables’ City Commission discussed valet parking in the downtown area, a possible new look for garbage pits throughout the city and voted to allow a resident to split a residential lot into two, which is not a common occurrence for a city with strict land-use regulations.
Last month the Commission voted 4-1 to allow architect Stetson Glines and his wife, Jane Wooldridge, a Miami Herald editor, to split a lot into two building sites, each 73 by 105 feet after they won the approval of at least 50 neighbors. The property is located on the west end of a block fronting onto Maggiore Street between Savona Avenue on the north and Caligula Avenue on the south, a block north of Hardee Road and currently 210 by 73 feet. The Coral Gables couple, who have a larger home nearby on Hardee Road and wish to downsize, plan to demolish an existing single-family residence and garage structure on the purchased property and build two houses — one for them to live in and the other to sell.
The vote, on second and final hearing, passed with no discussion, with Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk Jr. dissenting.
Commissioner Pat Keon called for a discussion of the minutes of a September Parking Advisory Board meeting in which that five-member board talked about looking at other valet providers and how valet spaces were allocated within the city. The city’s Business Improvement District supervises a contract for valet services which has been in existence for eight years. Keon is concerned that as the city gains new restaurants in the downtown area, more spaces would be devoted to valet in the downtown area and she would like the parking department to review the process.
“We have a culture that likes valet,” she acknowledged, but said she wondered whether it was appropriate for restaurants who face each other on corners, such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Caffe Abbracci on Aragon Avenue, should siphon metered spaces for valet. She asked for a look at the process by which restaurants secure valet parking.
The process usually originates with a request from the restaurant to have valet spaces. The BID and city staff review the request before an approval can be granted. City Manager Pat Salerno urged that an outside firm conduct an overview of the process.
“I understand it’s important to have valet parking but there is an opportunity to recapture some metered spaces,” Kerdyk said.
The Commission unanimously agreed to a change of zoning to allow for the construction of a 4,200-square-foot Chase Bank with drive-through on the southeast corner of Le Jeune Road and Bird Road across the street from Coral Gables High School. The zoning change allows for vehicular access to change from Laguna Street to a public alley on site.
Another new Chase Bank, on U.S. 1 in the old Spec’s Music space next to Swensen’s restaurant is nearing completion.
In other business, Commissioner Vince Lago asked about the status of a plan to install polyethylene plates to line the bottoms of the garbage pits on neighborhood swales to improve city street appearance and reduce maintenance costs to repair the earth and stone pits which sustain wear as garbage truck machinery hauls trimmings and other materials from them.
The city is about to discuss the purchase of the plates with several manufacturers, Salerno said. “I’m not aware of any other community that has done what we are attempting to do so this gave us challenges. There’s no track record or history to find out what the strength should be and the look. That process is ongoing.”
Mayor Jim Cason celebrated the city’s designation as one of the world’s “most livable cities” in its size category of 20,000 to 75,000 residents in a United Nations-sanctioned competition. Cason announced that the Gables, the only city in the United States in contention, won the silver prize in an awards competition run by LivCom, a London-based nonprofit organization that recognizes cities for livability. LivCom's international jury voted earlier this month in China among the 13 finalists, and the mayor was in attendance as the city made its 35-minute presentation.
Although a city in Lithuania ultimately took the prize, the mayor, clutching a plastic bag with a slice of swine from China (“We brought home the bacon,” he joked) called the competition “tremendous” and City Manager Pat Salerno singled out Cindy Birdsill, the city’s economic sustainability director, and city staff for the work that brought the Gables the international honor.
“When we use the words ‘world class’ to describe the city we now know these words have real meaning and the rest of the world agrees with us,” Salerno said.
LivCom looked at areas like enhancement of natural and built environments, arts, culture and heritage and community participation.