Urbanization, Housing, and The Politics of Zoning Reform


[MUSIC PLAYING] ANDREW FREY: Thank you
very much for being here. I’m Andrew Frey, in
case you were wondering. And this is Commissioner
Francis Suarez. We are honored to be here. And the topics of
urbanization and public policy and progressive
political action are near and dear to our hearts. And so Mr. Suarez is going to
talk about Miami matters, why Miami matters to
him, and other Miami matters, such as the
political context, some of the history of
where we’re at, and some of the other policy
priorities that he has. I’m going to then jump in and
talk about a specific policy initiative, the small
building parking exemption, where that idea came from. FRANCIS SUAREZ: The
bigger we’ve gotten, the more issues we have to
contend with, certainly. And as we develop, development
itself becomes an issue. And so we are trying
to create nexuses between growth and development
and transportation, which is a huge issue. Traffic is becoming an enormous
issue in the city of Miami and in metropolitan Dade County. Again, our city is
changing dramatically. It’s changing rapidly. And we, as a government,
have to do everything that we can not to be
behind and not to be so reactive to that
change, but to try to be proactive
and get ahead of it to the largest extent possible. Just because you’re
pro-development doesn’t necessarily
mean you’re pro bigger. And it doesn’t mean
you’re pro more expensive. And I think that is a lesson. If you’re conscientious
about what you’re doing, you can do things that
are pro-development, that are pro real estate,
but that are also progressive and that also help provide
a need at market for those who are less fortunate in our
city and in our community. ANDREW FREY: People feel
threatened by development. Development itself
can be a problem. The perception of development,
the perception of traffic change, bringing
other, different people into the neighborhood– there’s a lot of
opposition to development. And some of it’s bad. And some of it’s well deserved. But this was the sort of
climate that I was operating in as a zoning lawyer is
this adversarial position between developers
and the community. And I always thought, is
there a pattern of development that’s contextual,
that maybe wouldn’t generate so much animosity? There’s great neighborhoods
all over the world that have these characteristics,
that have small increments, dense but mid-rise buildings,
distributed ownership, and adaptable, long
living structures that serve the uses of
the neighborhood as they evolve
over the centuries. So that began to suggest
to me that maybe there was something else that
we should be building or we should be getting
good at in Miami. What is it that drove away
this pattern of development? I began to think
maybe it’s the zoning. That was the last
factor I could think of. And so then I decided to
run through the zoning code and see, OK, what’s
the first– if I’m a small scale developer, what’s
the first obstacle I run into? And at the time,
I’m actually working for one of these very large,
suburban, apartment complex developers. But in my spare time,
I’m trying to think, OK, what product would I
really love to be building? And how can I help that out? So I start, nights and weekends,
running this experiment. If I’m a small scale developer,
what’s my problem with zoning? And the obstacle that I hit
into was required parking. That was the thought
experiment that led me to, OK, we need a small building
parking exemption. Should I do
something about this? This would not have happened
without Commissioner Suarez’s insight into the
political process. So all credit to Commissioner
Suarez, it passed. OK. And then we get to the end
of the movie, the candidate. And we won. Now what? So now what? I had to build a building. So I put this deal
book together– and then just real quick
flip to the last slides– and attracted equity,
attracted debt. I got a lot under
contract a month after the ordinance passed and
closed later that same month. That was November of 2015. I got in for building
permits and broke ground in July of 2016 on an
eight unit small apartment building with no parking. [MUSIC PLAYING]




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