Could Little Haiti soon be known as Little River?

Overloaders! Little Haiti in Miami may be disappearing before our eyes. According to the Miami Herald Little Haiti is one of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in the nation today.

When Haitian refugees were released from Krome detention center and other centers around the United States in the late 1970s, they settled in the area now officially recognized as Little Haiti. The newly arrived refugees worked two or three jobs, scraping together minimum wages to buy their dream homes. While actively participating in the fight for equal treatment and due process, they built their communities by opening restaurants, bookstores and health clinics, transforming a blighted, drug infested and underserved area into a dynamic, culturally rich neighborhood.

Fast forward to 2019 Speculators are quietly buying every available space, raising rents and throwing tenants and longtime business owners to the curb. Homeowners, facing pressure to correct minor code violations, are pressured to sell. 

FANM — the Family Action Network Movement — tries to assist, but it is a frustrating process with few avenues for relief under Florida’s inadequate tenant-protection laws.

Two major developments, Eastside Ridge and Magic City, applied for rezoning as Special Area Plans — SAP — in Little Haiti to build high rises up to 25 floors, fancy hotels and luxurious apartments, without a single unit of affordable housing on site. In a little over a year, Magic City has sped past regulatory steps. The proposal is going in front of the city of Miami Commission Thursday despite refusing to engage in public discussions with residents to resolve community concerns. The Magic City developers have worked hard to divide the community and shut doors on groups asking for accountability and a fair process.Magic City is a mixed-use project on 17.75 acres of land estimated at 8,164,140 sq of total development that will forever change the character of the neighborhood and spell Little Haiti’s demise. The process is flawed, and serious defects in the project have not been addressed. Developers with new projects are already attempting to rebrand Little Haiti as Little River, as more residents are forced out daily.

Until the process is fixed, the city should impose a moratorium on Special Area Plans. A functioning process wouldn’t just auction off the future of Miami to anyone who can cobble together parcels of land in low-income communities, nor would it reduce what should be community negotiations to last-minute deals. It would weave together the insights of residents and private investors to develop a comprehensive vision on where and how to build a resilient Miami for the next generation. 

That means saying No to developments that just don’t make sense and demanding more from developers who seek lucrative deals from the city.

In addition to changes in a proposed revision that was taken off the agenda in December, there is low-hanging fruit the City should incorporate into Miami 21:

Residents, including renters and small business owners, should be notified and have the chance to meet with prospective developers.

Expectations of minimum community benefits for all SAPs should be laid out. On-site housing that is affordable to the surrounding community is key to stemming the tide of displacement. Failure to require it in neighborhoods like Little Haiti runs afoul of the promises of the Fair Housing Act. Job training and support for small businesses in the area are also fundamental

Along with traffic and environmental studies, studying and mitigating the impacts of displacement, particularly on communities of color, should be a required step before approval.

Developers should not be able to rewrite the code — there should be defined limits on what text can be altered. For example, bonus height ratios should not be altered, and a benefit cannot count more than once in order to get bonus height.

Above all else, transparency in the process and enforceability of any community-benefit negotiations must be baked into the process.

The city of Miami has thus far failed to do its job in planning for the future of Little Haiti. It should develop a comprehensive masterplan for the area involving all sectors. SAPs should be assessed collectively to determine the impact on residents, small businesses and the infrastructure.

Once this SAP is approved, there will be no turning back. We’ve got to get this right. That is why FANM, Little Haiti businesses and residents, and a collective of organizations will stand united on Thursday to say No to Magic City.

Little Haiti is unique. We have a responsibility to preserve it. The question is, who will stand alongside us?

Source: The Miami Herald


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