This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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June 2, 2017
To: Honorable Mayor and City Council of Boca Raton:
Please request the following from City Staff so you may have a better understanding of residential occupancy and its effect on the downtown. Applications for more residential units must be viewed in context with what currently exists and what will exist at current build out. My goal is to help you make a considered decision on any new residential applications.
1) What is the total number of completed residential units in the downtown as of June 1, 2017?
2) What is the current number of inhabited vs vacant completed units in the downtown? Please list all projects: i.e. Palmetto Promenade, Via Mizner etc. We must understand the effects of what full occupancy will mean to the downtown community.
3) What is the total number of residential units currently under construction and/or permitted to begin construction in the downtown as of 6/1/2017?
4) Total lines 1 and 3 and show the % of line 1 makes up of line 3. This will provide a numeric visual of what we can look forward to upon completion of all buildings in the current queue.
5) What known or proposed projects are entering the process i.e. Mizner 200 (+/- 130) and Royal Palm Plaza (+/- 1,000) and how will their cumulative totals affect the % of increase over the totals provided on line 4.
I believe our elected officials and the public have no illustrative way to interpret the possible effects of current in plan and what future development will have on the downtown.
An accurate accounting now will help plan future development and allow for a reasonable developmental pace moving forward. Ask yourselves, will the public accept a 30%, 40% or 50% increase over what we experience now regarding traffic and parking?
The notion: “Because we can, we should build.” is lunacy.
Just because a building follows code does not mean it should be approved, were that so, there would be no end to building. A developers future opportunity will be there if and when it is determined all aspects and elements of a proposed project WORK for our community.
I am not suggesting Mizner 200 should not be built only that we need an accounting of where we are to date so the COMMUNITY is more able to accept the numbers and their effect on the whole of the downtown. Once concrete is poured there is no turning back.
I ask that the Council wait to have all the facts before a decision is made on ANY future project. The most important FACT will be what we experience from the effects from complete and inhabited buildings.
Determining future acceptability cannot be made out of a book. Let’s take a break for the betterment of everyone.
The golden rule in real estate generally is ‘location, location, location’. In downtown Boca Raton real estate, an additional element exists; to wit: ‘timing, timing, timing’. Over the last few week, there has been some controversy over the upcoming July CRA meeting to approve or not the Mizner 200 project. Issues such as traffic impact, parking, safety, shadows, and vistas are the voiced concerns. Mizner 200 is a 384 unit condominium increasing the current unit total by 134 units. Cautions have been raised that a redevelopment of Royal Palm Place will substantially increase impacts for the traffic, parking and safety concerns.
Tomorrow, the first submittal for a Royal Palm Plaza redevelopment at 194 Southeast 1st Ave. is set for a preliminary review under the Interim Design Guidelines amendment and Ordinance 5052. This submittal will consist of two (2) new residential buildings with a total of 289 units; 15,716 SF Retail (High) and structured parking. The maximum height of both towers are not to exceed 140 feet with additional architectural features not to exceed 18 feet 6 inches. Per the submittal, the building is designed per the IDG requirements and meets the dictates of Ordinance 4035 volumetric requirements. Seriously folks, you can’t make this stuff up. Timing for bringing this forward could not be more appropriate for a full debate and understanding of the arguments for denial of Mizner 200.
It is as though the author of this article has little or no knowledge of the process for review of developments that are proposed and advanced in a state legislatively approved Development of Regional Impact (DRI). Every single question that was proposed is already part of the fundamental DRI review and approval and is codified in the DRI by Ord. 4035 and updated and modified through the required monitoring and verification requirements of the DRI/4035.
It should be noted that the DRI approval process, back in the early 90’s, was significantly more comprehensive and restrictive then today. Our current Governor is an advocate of “Because we can, we should build.” If The Downtown DRI was proposed today, “anything goes” would be the norm, contrary the development ordinance in place today.
The essence of this article is about traffic congestion. Fortunately, if you are a developer, the adopted Level of Service (LOS) by the DRI/4035 is “E”. And therein lays the rub. When we voted on 4035 most voters didn’t know what a LOS of “E” would mean in terms of traffic congestion and how much development vs traffic generation was included in that minimum LOS of E.
If the DRI/4035 included a LOS of “B” as a minimum performance standard for traffic, one of two things would have happened; we would have many more traffic lanes in downtown; six lanes of Federal Hwy and Palmetto Park Rd. and Dixie Hwy. or the development rights in downtown would be reduced by two thirds.
It can’t be simpler, if we want to limit traffic congestion by development, change the minimum traffic level of service standards.
Thank you for your comments – all in City Speak – do you really feel residents can make any sense out of what you contributed in an effort to be helpful? WE, the people who must live with what the City hands us, DO NOT KNOW what lies before us. And, maybe if we did, we would voice our concerns more actively.
Tax paying residents have no single page visual showing where we are to date or where we are going. One can see a glass as it fills with water – its visual. You worked for the City, you know its all about numbers and can easily put them in context. The average citizen has not a clue what they mean until they feel it living in the results or see it in graphic form to reach an educated opinion. Look at the picture of Royal Palm Place’s first two towers in the Publishers Comment above. Don’t you think that says a whole lot to people about what is in store for them? And there will be 3 more towers if these two are blessed.- It’s visual.
For you the norm is City Government Speak and that’s understandable. The City needs to know its audience because we pay the bills. You might think it’s spoon feeding but it is necessary. My attempt here is to, once again, suggest the City “inform and educate” those who pay/paid for their and your valued service to the community and now your retirement, We could use your experience and knowledge so why not help out vs criticize – Tony? The Downtown City Manager should and most likely has her finger on the pulse of what is going on. Is it too much to ask that she provide a patient friendly report vs. a pile of numbers?
By the way, I learned the City does not track condo or apartment vacancy levels. Those numbers would be telling. We don’t feel the full extent of the pain because residential units remain empty so we continue to build – reminds me of the frog in a pot of cool water rising toward a rolling boil.
While I share Mr. Zucaro’s concerns about overdevelopment, I do not understand his rationale for giving a pass to the Monster on Mizner. He seems to be comparing it to the start of the proposed 10-20 year redevelopment plan for Royal Palm Plaza. To argue that Mizner 200 is not so bad because it is not as massive as the plan for Royal Palm Place is to miss the point. Approval of Mizner 200 will be a key step in the total urbanization of Boca’s Downtown. If you can build that, you can build anything. So let’s focus on one bad idea at a time. Mr. Hendry makes a simple, rational argument for pausing any further Downtown development decisions until we have taken stock of the effects of what has been build and what is in the pipeline. Mr. Puerta is extremely knowledgable and good with acronyms. Can you just give us the numbers that Mr. Hendry requests? You say they are available for all to see. It would be a great public service if you could enlighten us. And while you’re at it, can you tell us how to turn those traffic grades (E,B) into meaningful congestion relief? We don’t need civic lectures, we need civic improvements.
No one is giving Mizner 200 a pass. What has been pointed out is that there seems to be little to object too. All the arguments have been made; all the evidence offered. The City Council will be the final arbitrator for this project; a project in process for over 3 years now.
I remember the early days….where dozens of residents convened at City Hall for the first Planning Advisory Session to object to Mizner 200. All property owners have rights. Mizner 200 will be developed…The question is when and what. This morning, 6/6/2017, the first submittal for the redevelopment of Royal Palm Plaza was reviewed; two (2) 160 foot towers with 289 rental units. Unlike the early days of Mizner 200, there appears not to be the same intensity or objection for this proposed redevelopment of Royal Palm Plaza; a redevelopment that will contribute more to traffic; to parking shortages; to congestion; and to the disruption of views and vistas of near-by residents, current and future. If the fight is truly to prevent ‘total urbanization’ of Boca’s downtown, the fight does not start with Mizner 200 nor does it end there. Yes, get out the troops; yes,raise community awareness; yes, continue the fight to stop over-development. However, be consistent…fight every project with the same passion and determination regardless of how it directly affects any individual community; after all this is about the entire community, isn’t it?. You can bet that the Royal Palm Plaza submittal will move forward within the system and this first phase is not a 10-20 year redevelopment. This first submittal will be out of the ground in the near future. Please understand me…I am not suggesting to give up the fight…I am suggesting that Mizner 200 is a battle in what is part of a greater war. The only thing that will change outcomes is to change the rules; to make them less intrusive. The only way to do that is to replace our elected leadership with ‘resident friendly’ voices. March ’18 is the next critical date. Remember your vote is your voice….Let your voice be heard in City Hall with any and every development project but especially let your voice be heard at the ballot box next year….Al Zucaro
It is my opinion that the major flaw in Ordinance 4035 is the ‘Office Equivalency’ calculation. Equivalency formulas are not uncommon. However, the 4035 formula adopted by Boca Raton lends itself to extreme bias and tendency to favor converting retail space to residential units. It is worth mentioning that a search of Equivalency formulas does not seem to render a standard and 4035 has its own unique formula. Whether by design or happenstance, the formula is now manifesting itself in a massive overbuild of residential units in the downtown. Reasons 1 and 2: That is where the $$ is and the internet and social trends have lessened the need for office space. The development community will defend this situation by claiming it was all considered when the Ordinance was created. My common sense antennae indicates otherwise.
As originally conceived Ordinance 4035 allotted 8,043,440 office equivalent units part of which was allotted to 1,346 residential units in the downtown (aka DDRI) a specific geographic area. We are well beyond 1,346 units with many more on the drawing board and more surely to come. Here’s is the rub; the formula allows a developer to convert every 1,000 office equivalent units into 2.4 residential units. I have maintained for some time now that this formula was way too generous in favor of residential. Experts claim that this is based on the level of impact on infrastructure that each outcome produces.
I will never win the argument against industry experts who are mired in a classical educational point of view. I do know that what has been coming out of the ground in downtown Boca, coupled with what is yet to come, is extreme. I also know, because I was here, that what we see now is a far cry from how it was ‘sold’ to the residents in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
A final note: Further exacerbating the impact has been the ability to transfer office equivalent units from one area of the downtown to another (there are seven distinct sections of the downtown). This is leading to a concentration of development in areas not originally intended by Ordinance 4035. Yes, the right to transfer units is part of the Ordinance, but it has been abused by an accommodating City Council that has not been forward looking when granting approvals.
Per ITE, peak hour office trip generation rate is 1.49 trips per 1,000 SF. Per ITE, for multi-family the peak hour rate is 0.62 trips per unit.. 1.49 divided by 0.62 = 2.4. Therefore the amount of traffic for office and multi-family when applying the equivalency factor is the same.
As far as “transfer” goes, the city requires a Traffic Impact Assessment Analysis for each project in the downtown that either converts within its subarea or transfers in from another subarea. This is separate from the IDA Site-Specific traffic analysis that each project must submit and looks at the impact the conversion/transfer has on the entire downtown area (7 subareas). This process was part of the DDRI and must be followed and there are no exceptions or exemptions to the process.
We need to identify & get behind the right candidates for Boca City Council NOW, so we can put together a solid & well run campaign, and to offset the smear campaign funded by developer friendly candidates, as we’ve so clearly seen in the past. With the growing tide of resentment towards the direction our recent council members have taken this city, I’d say we have a damn good shot of turning this thing around in the next election. We did it with Andrea & if we can do it with a couple more good people, we’d have a fighting chance against the greed that’s fueling the over-development of the beautiful, yet fading city we all love so dearly. We simply have to vote them out.
Thank you for the explanation for the conversion formula. It is informative and revealing at the same time. Perhaps a little more detail would help.
If I am not mistaken, the baseline statistics you quote, are an average from across the country with a bias toward large metropolitan areas which already have population concentrations and existing multi-modal transportation of various sorts already in place.
Boca Raton exhibits a much different demographic than the ‘average’ community and a markedly different climate than most of the country. Therefore, I maintain that the residential buildout in Boca has a greater negative impact on infrastructure than the ‘average’. There is, and will continue to be, a greater dependance on individual modes of transportation in Boca than the ‘average’.
Mr. O’Rourke I am happy to provide the detail you requested. I appreciate you explaining your thought process as opposed to some who tend to lay a blanket statement about traffic or parking without any substance to back up their position.
Back to your comment, the rate used is an average for all areas. This rate is used for apartment buildings in all traffic studies not just in Boca Raton but all of Palm Beach County.
By contrast, if you were to use the specific trip generation rate for apartments where there are already heavy population concentrations/large metropolitan areas the rate drops to 0.35 to 0.39 trips per unit, significantly less than the 0.62 trips per unit used in Boca. That significant rate difference being the existing multi-modal transportation opportunities you outlined above.
I have a question for all of you…who rides their bike to work, to shop, to take some to the doc? Tony, George, John, Al?
Are YOU using the bus, Uber, taxi?
NO MORE BUILDING SHOULD TAKE PLACE UNTIL ALL TRAFFIC ISSUES ARE SOLVED.
All members of city council MUST be riding bikes to work. REQUIRED. NO decisions without PERSONAL experience.
They personally must be TIMING their driving experience when traveling from place to place.
Enough lip service.
Some good points Linda. I get sick to my stomach when I see a debate like the one above that prioritizes engineering standards over the customer experience. I’m a graduate engineer and have observed that a big difference between successful and failed projects is the extent to which customer requirements are factored into design. Instead of discussing traffic engineering standards as it pertains to the Boca traffic situation, the conversation should focus on what Boca residents are saying. Quality is a customer perception!