April 17, 2013

Shorecrest fight to remain in Upper Eastside gets new support

Hanging by a thread just a week ago, Shorecrest’s fight to stay in same district as other Upper Eastsiders was bolstered by the support of Miami’s mayor and a city commissioner.

As Miami commissioners near a final vote next week on a contentious redistricting plan, a late pushback to keep the neighborhood of Shorecrest within the Upper Eastside is taking shape.

Commissioners, expected to vote to formalize the new city boundaries next week, seemed to be falling in line with a plan proposed by consultant Miguel De Grandy that would have shifted Shorecrest, a small neighborhood in Miami’s north end, from Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s District 2 to Michelle Spence-Jones District 5.

The move, De Grandy said, was necessary to balance populations between ballooning District 2 and shrinking District 5. Every decade after a new Census, federal law mandates that districts in municipalities must be rearranged so populations are within five percent of each other, without radically changing the demographics.

This week, Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Francis Suarez — both running for mayor in November — said they will side with Shorecrest’s wishes. Regalado said he will veto any vote that separates Shorecrest from the rest of the Upper Eastside, which extends from Northeast 87th Street south along Biscayne Boulevard to 36th Street, and Suarez said he’s likely to do the same.

Commissioners were set to vote on the issue last week but deferred the item at the request of Regalado, who was out of town.

“They are very engaged with many things that have to do with quality of life issues. If you cut [the Upper Eastside] in half, they’re worried about having less power,” said Regalado.

“I feel like if everyone is flexible with their boundary, they can make it work,” Suarez said.

District 2, which runs along the bay, from Coconut Grove north to Northeast 87th Street, now has more than 90,000 residents. District 5, which runs from Overtown north into Little Haiti and up into Liberty City, is down to about 67,000 residents. Shorecrest, a squarish neighborhood at the city’s north end that runs from the Little River to Northeast 87Sth Street and roughly Biscayne Boulevard to Biscayne Bay, has a little over 12,000 residents.

Sarnoff, who hasn’t been fighting publicly to keep Shorecrest in his district, said the deferral will give him more time to listen to a new plan from Shorecrest Homeowner Association President Ken Jett.

Jett, who among other issues said he fears a drop in real estate values if Shorecrest moves to District 5, is now suggesting moving all of the Upper Eastside to District 5. It would mean shifting some community redevelopment property in Spence-Jones’ district adjacent to downtown into Sarnoff’s district.

“I think the roads will get worse and people will be allowed to violate code,” he said of moving Shorecrest into District 5.

His fears, though, are allayed if the entire Upper Eastside moves together.

“The easiest model is to put the Upper Eastside in D5. Does it still concern me personally? Of course it does, but there’s strength in numbers,” Jett said.

Spence-Jones declined to comment for this story.

Shorecrest and the rest of the Upper Eastside have been in a pitched battle with Miami officials to remain united since the redistricting plan was made public around the new year. The neighborhood encompasses the historic Miami Modern, or MIMO, district, which runs along Biscayne Boulevard from 54th to 77th Streets. It’s a combination of art deco and Mediterranean, and its glitzy shops and diverse eateries have made it one of the city’s hippest enclaves. Shorecrest, just north of MIMO, is fighting to have Biscayne Boulevard north 79th Street included in the MIMO district. .

During several public meetings, most of the homeowner associations of the Upper Eastside have stood arm-in-arm, arguing that the city should move the whole neighborhood, or none of it.

Grace Solares, president of Miami Neighborhoods United, an umbrella group that represents about 20 homeowner groups in Miami, said the organization supports Shorecrest and the entire Upper Eastside.

“They don’t want to be split up,” she said. “They want to have a solid voice.”

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