A day of delays: No Miami Commission votes on redistricting or Miami River development plan

Miami commissioners spent about a half hour discussing redistricting Thursday, but once again held off on a making a decision about how to rearrange voting districts.

The redistricting issue became contentious several months ago when lead consultant Miguel De Grandy offered a plan to move the neighborhoods of Shorecrest and Palm Grove from Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff’s District 2 to Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones’s District 5.

During several public meetings, residents from all over the Upper Eastside expressed a preference that either the entire neighborhood change districts, or there be no change at all.

Commissioners on Thursday told De Grandy’s consulting partner, Stephen Cody, to come back in two weeks with two or three alternatives. They also listened to a plan from Shorecrest Homeowner Association President Ken Jett that would move all of the Upper Eastside, from Northeast 36th Street to Northeast 87th Street, from Sarnoff’s to Spence-Jones’s district.

“The Upper Eastside would be happy with any plan that keeps us together,” Jett said.

Before the meeting Suarez said he likely wouldn’t vote for a plan separating the Upper Eastside, and Mayor Tomás Regalado said he would veto any such plan.

Miami is trying to balance its voting districts, a federal requirement every decade after a new Census. Federal law mandates that district populations remain within 5 percent of each other and reflect the city’s demographics.

Spence-Jones voiced concern about a possible loss of federal grant money should any part of the Upper Eastside move to her district, because it is a wealthier neighborhood than the Overtown, Little Haiti and Liberty City areas she now represents.

The day was full of deferments, including votes on:

• A proposed large, mixed-use development in the Civic Center neighborhood along the Miami River. River Landing Development would like to spend $150 million to build more than two million square feet of commercial, retail, restaurant and residential space on more than eight acres of property where the Mahi Shrine is, just west of the Richard Gerstein Criminal Justice Center and north of the Miami River.

The item was delayed until May after lobbyist Vicky Garcia-Toledo told commissioners it had only recently been unanimously approved by the city’s planning board, and more time was needed to avoid a possible appeal process.

When complete, River Landing would have 444 residential units, 1.6 million square feet of commercial space, 2,418 parking spaces and a landscaped river walk.

• A proposal to eliminate pay phones on city streets. Activists are complaining some new phones have been installed on Florida Department of Transportation rights-of-way along Biscayne Boulevard. They say they clutter the landscape and exist primarily for advertisers — not phone users.

Sarnoff has requested a study to determine how often the phones are used. The city will also study whether it has the last say when it comes to advertising on the pay phones. The matter will return to the commission in 60 days.