Downtown Miami

Downtown Miami residents want to block Formula One and kick out Ultra Music Festival

A Formula One race, like this one in Abu Dhabi last November, could be coming to Miami starting in October 2019.
A Formula One race, like this one in Abu Dhabi last November, could be coming to Miami starting in October 2019. AP

A group of downtown Miami residents is trying to block the city from hosting a Formula One Grand Prix on city streets.

An attorney representing 11 downtown residents sent a cease-and-desist letter to City Hall on Wednesday demanding the city halt negotiations to bring Formula One to Miami in 2019 and stop hosting other "mega-events" in Bayfront Park, such as Ultra Music Festival and Rolling Loud Festival.

The letter, signed by attorney Sam Dubbin, accuses the city of violating its own noise ordinance and asks the City Commission and the Bayfront Park Management Trust, the semi-autonomous entity that manages Bayfront Park, to put an end to large-scale events in the park.

Dubbin writes that extremely high noise levels and late-night operations in the park or on Biscayne Boulevard hurt residents' health, quiet enjoyment of their homes and the condition and value of their property. He also hints at a lawsuit if the commission and Trust don't act.

One of the unique things about the electric Formula-e cars is their sound or lack thereof. Here's what the long-delayed Miami ePrix practice sounded like, March 2015.

"These extreme noise mega-events constitute legal nuisances, and the city and the trust have an obligation to the residents to not allow such harmful activity on public land in the middle of a heavily populated residential community," Dubbin wrote.

The 18-page demand comes with a detailed argument for why the events constitute "legal nuisances," including a sound study attached to the letter that shows noise levels from Ultra are loud enough to cause hearing damage to people in residential towers.

The letter landed at City Hall as administrators negotiate with officials from Formula One, Miami-Dade County and PortMiami on an agreement that would bring a Grand Prix to downtown streets in October 2019. Miami commissioners instructed City Manager Emilio Gonzalez to hash out a 10-year deal by July 1. Commissioners would have to give final approval to such a contract.

Ultra is also trying to secure a multi-year deal to stay in the park. Commissioner Joe Carollo, chairman of the Trust, has met with Ultra representatives and demanded a $2 million fee — more than double what festival organizers have paid in recent years. But the commissioner wondered aloud at the June 14 commission meeting if it's worth negotiating a deal when residents could sue.

"It’s clear to me that the residents are looking to sue because of the noise levels," Carollo said last week. "What good is it if we earn $2 million and then get sued for $2 million?"

Ken Russell, the commissioner who represents the district that covers downtown, said the Trust has a difficult task of balancing events that generate revenue and the quality of life of neighboring residents who want less noise and more access to the park.

"I certainly empathize with the residents," he said.

The residents want both the commission and the trust to approve policies ending big events in the park. Wednesday afternoon, Dubbin said he'd heard from staffers for some commissioners who want to meet and talk.

"The facts are clear. The law is clear," he said. "The city's and the trust's obligations to the residents are clear."

Fans on foot at the inaugural Miami ePrix found themselves in long, stagnant lines at the foot bridges, March 2015.

Miami Herald writer Jacob Sweet contributed to this report.