The overwhelming numbers are a blowout win for preservation, but in the City of Coral Gables, when it comes to preservation, the game is tied
By Dr. Karelia Martinez Carbonell, Local Preservationist
It is ironic, that precisely this month of May, as historic preservation is being celebrated throughout the world, the City of Coral Gables could be at the brink of losing yet another historic property—the 1930s Pancoast-designed, one-of-a-kind home at 1208 Asturia—or it can exercise its power to preserve it.
An appeal to the City Commission to overturn the Historic Preservation Board’s vote to deny designation of the property will come back for a second vote today, May 26th, at 10am.
Whether one has been following the Pancoast issue or not, the game should have ended back in March with a blowout win for the preservation side. “Something does not add up,” a neighbor observed.
Preservation deserves a win in its corner. Today, the powers that be can break the tie and win the game.
By the numbers: A blowout win for preservation
1 unique 1930s custom-designed home
1 maverick architect Russell Pancoast
1 well-researched expert report recommending designation by city preservation staff
3 designation criteria met (only 1 required) under city historic preservation ordinance
4 historic board members accept criteria [5 historic board members deny criteria]
1 citizen appeal [after city manager declines his own staff’s recommendation to appeal]
5 local and state preservation groups support designation and appeal
60 letters of support for designation received before historic preservation board
35 letters of support to city manager for city to appeal (he didn’t)
60 signatures in support of appeal fee waiver
60 emails in support of commission to overturn the historic preservation board decision
11 speakers support appeal at commission meeting
4 commissioners/1 recused mayor
2 commissioners vote to overturn [Mena, Keon]/2 commissioners vote to affirm [Fors, Lago]
1 article published in a nationally acclaimed publication by well-known author on Pancoast highlighting the genius of the architect and the revolutionary architectural features incorporated in this particular house. (See: http://tropicmagazine.uberflip.com/i/1247760-tropic-may20-issue-emag/41?m4=)
Preservation is not a zero sum game. It should not be weighed against how many buildings are saved versus how many are sacrificed. Each place matters, and today, preservation deserves a win.
COMMISSION MEETING MAY 26TH ZOOM PLATFORM. APPEAL TO BE HEARD AT 10AM
Karelia Martinez Carbonell is President of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables
YES, as a Certified Local Government, the Decisions of the Quasi-Judicial Historic Preservation Board of Coral Gables Must be Defensible and Justifiable
By: Vicki Cerda
How is historic preservation in Coral Gables governed? Or better said, how should it be governed? This came up as part of the appeal for 1208 Asturia when it was mentioned (at least twice) at the last City Commission meeting that to not designate the qualified property at 1208 Asturia would put in jeopardy the Certified Local Government status of the city and have major repercussions in terms of credibility and grant funding.
Coral Gables is a city governed by the federal legislation put forth by the National Historic Preservation Act first enacted in 1966. The NHPA sets the federal policy, and the City of Coral Gables, has adopted it. The city employs the Secretary of Interior’s standards with every intervention on historic property in the city and which is cited in every certificate of appropriateness., It also established how we assess historic significance and historic integrity which are the key factors of every designation that the city preservation department puts forth before the Historic Preservation Board. The Act also launched the Certified Local Government program.
The CLG program is a voluntary certification process that a municipality can achieve. Through the CLG certification, historic preservation becomes public policy with the passage of historic preservation ordinances, and for projects involving federal funds, the city must abide by the federal guidelines. For all other projects, it’s a local ordinance that takes precedence.
Coral Gables passed its first preservation ordinance in 1973. Through the ordinance, the Historic Preservation Board was established (with the late Arva Moore Parks as its first chair) as well as its makeup and functions. Through the CLG process, the city stated its commitment to historic preservation through the ordinances and through the establishment of the quasi-judicial nine-member Historic Preservation Board whose mission is to “preserve and protect historic or architecturally worthy buildings, structures, sites, quaint neighborhoods and artifacts which impart a distinct historical heritage of the City.”
Another component of the CLG is an agreement by the municipality to commit to telling their WHOLE story, meaning how the community evolved over time and is representative of all populations. Thus the city has a commitment as a CLG to preserve the FULL story of its character in the ongoing story of Coral Gables
A major CLG benefit is that the city qualifies for better and higher access to grant funding. For example, the city received funding for the Merrick House in order to do that restoration. Another grant example was the restoration of the Coral Gables Museum.
But certification requires that the proper process is followed, ensuring that the public and property owners are involved in preservation at the local level, and that the local government is providing substantive and procedural due process. CLG performance is reviewed annually and in-depth every four years. CLGs are required to submit annual reports, copies of meeting agendas and minutes, notifications of new board member appointments, changes to historic preservation ordinances, and updates on local historic designations. A failure to supply this information can result in a determination that a community is not in good standing.
The Historic Preservation Board needs to follow public meeting best practices, including providing defensible justification for all Board decisions recorded in the meeting minutes. Motions on applications before the board should CLEARLY state the board’s findings of FACT, the applicable STANDARDS, and the board’s decision in the matter. This will make it clear how and why the board reached their decision.
Aside from losing credibility as a CLG, the City of Coral Gables, could also lose funding by defending a Board that was not in compliance. No time is a good time to face financial uncertainty. It does not cost anything to designate the already qualified property at 1208 Asturia Avenue, but it will cost plenty to lose CLG backing and funding.