What is your stance on development in Coral Gables?
Development has become too dense and lacks sufficient set-backs from property lines.
Residents have strongly expressed their concern about the size, density, increased traffic,
insufficient parking and loss of green/open space resulting from commercial and residential
buildings. This results in a “canyon” effect with reduced pedestrian friendly areas, tree
canopy and open space, and more traffic on surrounding residential neighborhoods and
commuter routes through Coral Gables. Development projects such as the Paseo on U.S. 1
and The Plaza on Ponce de Leon, fail to follow Merrick’s vision of transitioning from
residential to commercial areas. Development should not detract from the quality of life, but
should add to the tax base and the quality of life for all residents.
Too many projects are approved with little, inadequate or no notice to residents. An
example of no notice types of projects are the “as of right” projects such the Aloft hotel, and
projects approved administratively such as the change of the low income
housing/restaurant project in the MacFarlane district to the Wawa gasoline station. The
Aloft project never was reviewed by the residents’ Planning and Zoning Board and no
resident or property owner within 1,000 feet of the Aloft was ever notified of the project
before it was apparent from the excavation of the site for underground parking. On the
other hand, the site plan for the Wawa project was administratively approved without any
input from the residents, the Planning and Zoning Board or a Commission vote. The
Commission and our Boards cannot inform residents and design better projects if their
involvement is administratively by-passed.
As a result, I support of notice and review of all “as of right” projects by the Planning
and Zoning Board after full and clear notice to the residents in plain language with the
physical address of the proposed development and a photograph of the front rendering with
a URL or QR code where residents can review additional documents. In addition, I support
having every commercial and multi-family project featured on the City’s website like it was
before the web-site was up-graded. For instance, if notice had been received on the Aloft
hotel project, rather than leaving only 24 inches of space for pedestrians to walk in front of
the building, the City could have traded a few feet of land from the under-used parking lot
behind the Aloft to make a welcoming pedestrian walkway/corridor on LeJeune, with a
continuous veranda and shade trees. Such a corridor would have improved pedestrian
safety, enhanced the street and building, and encouraged residents to walk to Miracle Mile.
Further, with resident input, pedestrian safety features could have been included at the
cross-walks at LeJeune and Valencia to ensure that all pedestrians can safely cross without
risking being run-over.
In addition, I am in support of modifying the Mediterranean Ordinance/Bonus program
because it gives developers far too much for too little. Mediterranean bonuses reduce setbacks and increase height and bulk (F.A.R.) of a building not otherwise permitted in the
Zoning Code. This is a bonus program, not a property right. Therefore, it can be altered
without risking the City (and ultimately the residents) incurring liability for changing or
reducing the bonuses. During an amendment process of the Med Bonus, I will seek ideas
and comments from residents regarding the features and designs that the residents would
like to promote in buildings and comment on the type of bonuses projects should or should
not receive. Based upon the comments of residents I have received, bonuses should be
geared to higher quality LEED certified buildings that satisfy key efficiency and sustainable
features (green space, additional charge stations, solar panels, etc.).
If you had a vote, how would you vote on the upcoming Zoning changes on
The Commission voted on March 9, 2021. Before this vote, the Zain Friedman Overlay
passed in the 1980s reduced the maximum height from 150 feet to 70 feet. Therefore,
before March 9, 2021, the zoning code allowed a maximum height of 70 feet with a parking
A prior attempt to build a 70-foot tall building occurred on the north side of Miracle Mile
and was adverted by providing additional building rights for properties on the Aragon side of
the block. Currently, property owners have begun purchasing/assembling contiguous lots on
the Mile that could lead to a similar attempt to build a 70-foot tall building, with parking,
facing Miracle Mile. Further, large parcels such as those at the Barnes and Nobel site,
could be paired with tall mix-use buildings on the Anastasia side to achieve a 70 foot tall
building, with parking, on the Mile.
As a result, further down zoning of the height on Miracle Mile is clearly the preferable
option if it can be done without incurring potential liability for the value of lost building
rights on Miracle Mile. In order to determine how much the height of the Mile could be
down-zoned without exposing the City to liability for lost building rights, the City ordered an
Appraisal to determine the possible options. An appraisal completed in February supported
a down-zoning of Miracle Mile to a maximum 50 feet with a maximum of three (3) stories
with a fourth (4) story with a minimum set back of 10 feet (or more) for roof-top activation,
if off-site parking was allowed for all new buildings meeting these requirements. The
appraisal supported this height reduction if the maximum FAR (Floor Area Ratio) was 3.0
without Med Bonus or 3.5 with Med Bonus. This proposal also prohibited use of TDRs
(Transfer of Development Rights from another parcel).
Because this is the only proposal that completely and mandatorily down-zoned the
height of the buildings on Miracle Mile, because a building with similar height and off-street
parking currently exists on the Mile, it was the best option to prevent Miracle Mile from
having 70 foot building facing the Mile. Therefore, I agree with the vote taken on March 9 to
down-zone the Mile.
If you had a vote, how would you vote on the upcoming Zoning changes on the
The upcoming Zoning changes to the Crafts section are in Block 36, which is the block
closest to the San Sebastian hotel, that is currently zoned Single Family Residential (SFR) or
Multi-Family Duplex (MF1), to Multi-Family 2 (MF2) District on all lots of Block 36. I would
vote “no” based upon the comments I sent to the Planning and Zoning Board on March 2, Those comments stated:
Dear Honorable Planning and Zoning Board Members:
With regard to the proposed rezoning of Block 36 the Crafts Section, which is the portion
of the Crafts Section closest to the historic San Sebastian hotel, based upon the view in the
attached photographs, the undersigned submits that the a height of no more than two
stories, with an MF-1 designation, would be appropriate for Block 36.
An MF-1 designation with two story height limitation would be consistent with the new
duplexes in the attached photograph on the east end of the block, would properly transition
for the surrounding residential neighborhood, and would best compliment the historic
Thank you for your time and consideration.
What is your vision for Miracle Mile?
An eclectic combination of restaurants, services, culture offerings and specialized small
retail shops offering a wide variety of goods that attract customers. In order to keep
Miracle Mile an exciting place to visit, the City, the Chamber and the Business Improvement
District will need to partner to attract new brands and businesses.
A multi-faceted approach will be necessary to find the optimum mix of retail, service and
restaurant businesses that will draw pedestrians back to the Mile. The City will need to
identify and consistently communicate with retail brokers. In addition, the City needs to
designate a person well educated on the City’s current retail space inventory to attend the
ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) retail shows where the national and new
brands pitch their companies and monitor retail trends and real estate. In addition, the City
should engage our cultural boards to suggest new programs to attract customers.
In the interim, the Mile must be cleaned up. Trash accumulation and dirty storefronts
will discourage prospective tenants from opening a store or business on the Mile and
customers to return.
Traffic is a large issue in the City. What would you do to address the gridlock?
The existing gridlock may be relieved with the following combination of solutions:
(1) The synchronization of traffic lights on major thoroughfares.
(2) Increasing trolley and Freebie service where feasible.
(3) Pressing the County to expand rail to South Dade, because few individuals will take the
extra time to wait for multiple transportation modalities to reach a destination (drive or walk
to a bus, and then disembark and wait for a train, after which you use Metromover and/or
walk to the final a destination).
(4) Minimize City service trucks from blocking lanes of traffic during peak hours.
How would you address cut-through traffic on residential streets?
With the agreement of the residents, propose the following solutions for the residents to
• Add diverters to prevent traffic coming into your street from a certain direction.
Diverters are available in “T” and “L” shapes. The “T” shapes allow traffic to come in and out,
but prevent left hand turns out and into the street — thereby reducing some of the traffic.
The “L” shapes only let traffic in and out from a certain direction.
• Add speed tables.
• Add curbing on each side of the speed table to prevent drivers from dodging around the
speed tables. Curbing also provides a sense that the street is narrower than it is, which
psychologically causes drivers to slow down.
• Add brick in sections of the street. The smoother the street, the faster cars go. An
example of this is available on the short section of Segovia north of North Greenway Drive
that connects Alhambra Circle to Segovia.
• Ad Rumble strips or narrow medians. If a street is not wide enough for a narrow
median, rumble strips down the center would discourage drivers from taking the center of
the road. Most drivers drive down the center of residential streets when they want to speed.
• Add Traffic Circles where space permits, and/or.
• Add Signs prohibiting entering the street from one end during peak hours. (ie, 7 am to 9
am, or 4 pm to 6 pm).
What is your view on the role of residents in the Legislative process in the City?
Critical and essential. All residents need to receive notice of meetings in plain language,
and all neighborhood associations should be able to register to receive electronic notice.
Notice for development projects should electronically posted and sent at least 14 days
before any public meeting.
How often have you participated in City Commission meetings?
Frequently in the past 6 months, and periodically over the past couple of years.
What will your top 5 priorities be if elected to the Commission?
(1) Development issues described in the first response above.
(2) Budget issues, including reducing unnecessary expenditures and achieving greater work
force efficiency, and facilitating the local business community to recover from the impact of
Covid and revitalization of Miracle Mile.
(3) Expediting the streamlining and modernizing of the on-line permitting.
(4) Improving notice and transparency to all residents of all issues, including all
development projects submitted for review to the Development Services department. All
commercial development projects should be posted to the City’s website like they were prior
to the last website up-date.
(5) Critical infrastructure improvements impacting the sustainability of the City from sea
level rise, including but not limited to, septic to sewer conversion, raising bridges, revising
zoning codes to meet anticipated sea level projections, and promoting and incentivizing
“greener” building practices such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure, solar panels,
and LEED Gold building certifications.
Do you believe City staff is doing a good job?
Staff endeavors to do a good job, but like most organizations, there are areas that need
improvement. Each department needs reviewed, and delays in responding to residents’
inquiries and voicemail messages must be corrected.
The Commission will need to make tough decisions on the City’s financials in the 2021-2022 budget, what changes would you make to address shortfalls?
- Review intergovernmental agreements to ensure the City has received all revenues due
(ie, utility fees, gas taxes, etc.), and if those funds have not been paid in full, pursue
- Examine and implement appropriate impact fees for new construction of buildings that
require increased fire, EMT and police personnel and equipment. The burden of those costs
should not be placed on the existing businesses and residents.
- Examine department organizational chart for opportunities to consolidate redundant
positions for greater efficiency, and
- Examine viability, feasibility and cost savings of utilizing a bond program to address the
We live in Tree City USA, what is your stance on our tree canopy and its preservation?
The tree canopy of Coral Gables is one of the key features that make our City a special place
to live. The canopy must be preserved and routinely maintained. Where feasible,
development should embrace the existing canopy.
What is your stance on climate change and what role do you believe the City can play in curbing it?
- Electric Vehicle Charging: In 14 short years, major vehicle manufacturers will only be
producing electric vehicles. For new construction, the City should require at least 20% of all
parking in new buildings as electric vehicle “Infrastructure Ready” and 20% of all parking in
public parking garages to have Level 2 charge stations. Currently, only 2% are required to
have charge stations and an additional 1% are required to be Infrastructure Ready.
“Infrastructure Ready” only requires providing an working electrical outlet where the
vehicle’s charge cable or an after-market charging unit can be plugged in.
- Electric Fleet Expansion: Electric and hybrid Trolleys and garbage trucks have been
successfully purchased and used by other cities. The frequent stops and starts make them
an excellent option for an electric fleet. For vehicles that must use gasoline, incentivize the
use of carbon neutral fuels, this would help the City reach a zero emissions goal.
- Update the Zoning Code to Address Sea Level Rise. The recent up-date to the Zoning
Code has not addressed sea level rise. For instance, in new construction, underground
parking garages are still permitted. The City must coordinate with Miami-Dade’s Sea Level
Rise Strategy. Currently, the elevation of the land is not currently reviewed for properties
that are not next to the waterways. Our planning must look at least 50 years in advance and
implement the ideas outlined in the County’s draft Strategy. See miami-dade-county-sealevel-rise-strategy-draft-mdc-hub.arcgis.com.
- Septic to Sewer Conversion: The Septic to Sewer conversion must be expedited. First,
all low-lying areas must be identified and prioritized for conversion. Second, we need to
simultaneously determine which type of system will work best for Coral Gables (traditional
Gravity fed which may cease working as sea levels rise and require roads to be excavated
for installation, or vacuum or pump systems that can function with rising sea levels and do
not require road excavation for installation of pipes.
- LEED Building Standards: The current ordinance only requires LEED Silver certification
for buildings 20,000 square feet or more and does not mandate features or off-sets that will
address the CO2 the building creates during construction and during use. LEED
Certification should be incentivized for buildings 10,000 square feet or more. For buildings
20,000 feet or more, a LEED Gold standard should be required. Use of cement with carbon
sequestration should be incentivized to encourage cement facilities to offer that product.
Other federal or state incentives should be encouraged for carbon neutral or negative
products (ie, lower sales taxes for carbon neutral or negative building materials).
Desirable features such as solar panels or participation in the FPL solar program where roof
space or design do not make it feasible to install solar panels should be encouraged.
Capture and reuse of grey water for irrigation and/or toilet flushing should be required. In
addition, rainwater should be reused for irrigation and pools or required to be contained in a
drain field where it can naturally recharge the aquifer rather than flow through streets where
it collects pollutants before discharging in the waterway.
- Planting of Shade Trees in our Central Business District. For many years, discussions
Your response is too large. Try shortening some answers.have been on going about adding shade trees to the Central Business District and barren
surrounding streets to encourage pedestrian traffic and reduce the heat island effect. This
goal must be accelerated. In addition, new projects should be required to add the street
trees to both sides of the street. For trees that die after planting, the developer must be
required to replace the trees or pay a fine that would encompass the total cost for the City to
replace the tree. For instance, after multiple requests for replacement of dead trees on
Valencia, City staff declined stating it was the developer’s responsibility. That development
was completed over 5 years ago. To this date, those dead trees have not been replaced.
What is your vision for the City’s historic preservation?
Historic preservation must remain a priority, because like our tree canopy, it makes our City
special, and attracts customers and visitors. The sole factors in determining whether an
individual has the right to seek historic preservation of a qualified building should not be
limited to only those residing within 1,000 feet of a property. That criteria could result in the
loss of many more of our historic buildings.
What do you believe makes you best qualified for this job?
For 16 years I have passionately addressed development and traffic issues, and served on
the Public Safety, Sustainability and Planning & Zoning Boards. During this service, I
demonstrated the patience to listen and resolve issues, and gained the knowledge and
experience in critical areas impacting the future of our City. My educational background and
broad professional experience provides a perspective that the other candidates do not have.
In my law practice, I have critiqued financial expert reports, and pursued disability access
and pedestrian safety issues. My 33 years of trial and appellate practice have provided me
the experience to critique proposed code changes.
What can be done to improve the state of our City’s pension system?
Continue to pay down the existing debt and examine the feasibility of issuing bonds to
decrease the cost of funding the existing debt. For non-police and fire positions, examine
the feasibility of offering alternative retirement plans.
How can residents learn more about you?
Review my website at RhondaforCoralGables.com, email me at
[email protected], or call/text me at 786-529-8766. I will be happy to
meet with you in person, or discuss issues over the telephone.