PRESS RELEASE and Video Link-  Frank Schnidman, J.D.; LL.M.     
Bar Admissions: Florida, California, New York, District of Columbia                 
Former Distinguished Professor of Urban and Regional Planning                                        
Former John M. DeGrove Eminent Scholar Chair, Florida Atlantic UniverPRESS RELEASE:   For Release Tuesday, October 2, 2018

In 2017 the Miami City Commission charged City staff with the task of developing an historic preservation program to, in the words of Commissioner Ken Russell in a January 4, 2018 Miami Herald Editorial, “…allow for historic preservation of the last remaining shotgun and wood frame homes that belonged to the original settlers and founders of Miami.” That laudatory goal changed when amendments to the City Code were made and implemented to allow the tool of historic preservation to be abused in a regulatory effort to slow gentrification and address affordable housing needs by forcing historic preservation designation on owners of generic old wooden homes.  

The “historic preservation” target widened to cover “Wood Frame Vernacular Residences of Coconut Grove Village West”—simply old wooden homes that “…reflects the architectural trends within Coconut Grove Village West during the period between 1910s and the 1940s.” No more focus on shotguns, no more focus on Bahamian and African-American original settlers or founders of Miami. Just old wooden home designations fast-tracked with an experiment in “Multiple Property Thematic Designation.”

The myth was circulated in the Village West Community that all these buildings were on the verge of demolition, and a crisis atmosphere was created when unfounded allegations were made that there were “massive and very fast demolitions that are happening every week”. Because of this perceived crisis, the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board (HEPB) acted in July  to designate a list of inadequately researched buildings, without  a plan for preservation,  nor a required program of incentives. In fact, the Bahamian and African-American owners of these and other Village West properties, the ones whose ancestors were the Village West pioneers, were not even consulted prior to the preparation of the Designation List. It was staff and not the Community that created the List 

So, old wooden buildings were designated as “historic resources” of the City of Miami by HEPB without staff having met with the property owners in advance of creating a Designation List, without detailed research on each building being undertaken as required in the designation process, and without the statutorily mandated Community Engagement process required by the City of Miami Code. In addition, the HEPB acted without following the “best practices” guidelines for HEPB Members submitted into the record on June 28, 2018 by the Dade Heritage Trust, a Board Member manual  that stated that: “Are you prepared for each decision on which you vote, having read the application, visited the site, and been present for all proceedings?” For an example of appropriate Community Engagement to identify historic resources worthy of preservation using a thematic framework, see this 90-second video:

 Further, anyone watching the archived video of the July 16, 2018 HEPB Meeting where the designation of over 50 old wooden homes was being considered at one single meeting based on a Designation Report of only 27 pages and an Analysis Report of only 7 pages for ALL 50+ properties, will realize that the Board members were not familiar with the old wooden buildings on the Designation List, and that rather than a professional presentation on the history and rational for including each building, it was a race to get through the agenda, with a mantra of “designate,” “designate,” “designate” without an understanding of each individual property.  (As a point of reference, at the previous HEPB meeting, when considering the designation of a single property, the Designation Report was 25 pages.)

To watch this July 16, 2018 HEPB Board meeting, go to:

For a good introductory comment by a property owner, go to this video at 2 hours and 16 minutes --  for a 3 minute presentation.

And, for examples of HEPB designations of these old wooden homes, go to 6 hours and 14 minutes into the archived video of this meeting to watch the treatment of those old wooden homes that did not have any representative at the HEPB meeting and were designated as “historic resources” of the City of Miami. Interesting discussions include 3603 Charles Avenue at 28 minutes, 18 seconds remaining; 3748 Washington Avenue at 19 minutes, 25 seconds remaining; and 3859 Washington Avenue at 18 minutes, 50 seconds remaining (no tax card available).  You will note the lack of familiarity or any detailed information available in the agenda package or presented about each building—just a list of names from old City directories of who lived in the building.  And you will note that the “tax cards” have no date and are certainly not from when the wooden structure was originally built.

Fifteen of the owners of these old wooden homes are appealing their designation, and the City Commission will hear their appeals on Thursday, October 11, 2018.

Again, the link to the videos is:

Everyone understands that Village West faces severe gentrification challenges, and everyone recognizes the need for affordable housing. However, it is simply an abuse of governmental regulatory authority to use the tool of historic designation to preserve these simply old wooden homes to try and address the issues of gentrification and affordable housing.

For additional information, contact Frank Schnidman, the attorney representing 11 of the 15 properties that are appealing their designations. 

Frank Schnidman, J.D.; LL.M.     
Bar Admissions: Florida, California, New York, District of Columbia                 
Former Distinguished Professor of Urban and Regional Planning                                        
Former John M. DeGrove Eminent Scholar Chair, Florida Atlantic University                     
P.O. Box 11339                                                    
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33339                            
Cell: 954-599-8715

The Saga of "historic" Designation in Miami's Village West