April Talk of the Town

Goodbye Power Lines, Illegal Golf Carts, and More

Last month, the City of Coral Gables and Florida Power & Light (FPL) began undergrounding power lines as part of the company’s Storm Secure Underground Program. The program aims to strengthen the power grid of vulnerable neighborhoods across the state that are prone to outages from storms and hurricanes, like Coral Gables. Mayor Vince Lago negotiated the deal between the city and FPL that will underground about 40 percent of Coral Gables’ lines. The $240 million project will be paid for by FPL.

April Talk of the Town
A demonstration of the undergrounding process by FPL workers near Maggiore Park in March.

At a recent kickoff event, the mayor highlighted the peace of mind this project will bring residents, especially the elderly and sick who depend on uninterrupted electricity. He also said it’s a win for the city’s aesthetics. “When you talk about the City Beautiful, you’re talking about our lush, gorgeous tree canopy,” he said. “That’s something that’s constantly affected by having to prune it back [for] the power lines. When you underground, you can allow the canopy to grow to its natural splendor.” 

FPL is starting with 15 percent of the power line “miles” in the city, focusing first on the connections between homes and utility poles. Program director Robert Gaddis is hopeful the projected timespan of 10 years to complete the project will be accelerated if it stays on track and continues to gain approvals from the state’s Public Service Commission. 

FPL is also reassuring residents concerned about construction. Representatives are sending out letters and going door-to-door with information about the process months before each home is affected, and the company is trying to minimize impacts on properties during the removal of backyard power lines and the installation of transformers in front yards.

Free Baseball Tickets

If you’ve ever wanted to go to a University of Miami sports game but bemoaned the price or the lack of tickets, you’re in luck. Thanks to an agreement between the City of Coral Gables and the U, Gables residents can now receive free tickets to the university’s games. In Spring, that means baseball.

Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the War Memorial Youth Center with up to four tickets available per household. You must show proof of residency and pick up your tickets in-person.

Contact parks@coralgables.com or 305.460.5620 for more information.

Available upcoming games are: Tuesday, April 4 at 6 pm vs. Central Florida; Tuesday, April 25 at 6 pm vs. Florida Atlantic; and Friday, May 19 at 7 pm vs. Duke.

Golf Carts? No. Low Speed Vehicles? Okay.

Residents owning golf carts should be aware that there is a firm distinction between a low-speed vehicle and a golf cart, the latter of which is not permitted on the streets of Coral Gables. Low-speed vehicles go a maximum of 25 mph, are registered with the state, and can travel on city roads with speed limits up to 35 mph. Golf carts, however, are unregistered and only go a maximum of 20 miles per hour.

“If the golf cart is registered and has a license plate, with seatbelts and turn signals, then it is considered a slow-moving vehicle. It can park and be on a roadway, except [on higher speed roads],” Police Chief Ed Hudak said in a recent city commission meeting. 

Golf carts are not permitted partly because there is no way to ticket them or enforce parking fees. They can also be dangerous. “We see children driving these, and we have seen in other jurisdictions traumatic accidents with kids out on the streets,” said Hudak.

Saving The President

Chef Donatella Arpaia (left), former President Bill Clinton, and Dr. Allan Stewart during Clinton’s visit at The Biltmore Hotel.

In 2004, President Bill Clinton had life-saving heart surgery, a quadruple bypass performed in part by Dr. Allan Stewart, the chief of cardiovascular surgery at Mercy Hospital. Steward also happens to be married to Donatella Arpaia, the celebrity chef of the recently opened NOMA Beach at Redfish.

In a show of gratitude, the former president recently made a visit to Coral Gables to celebrate 19 years post-operation with Stewart and Chef Donatella at Fontana, the beautiful courtyard restaurant at The Biltmore Hotel. But why not NOMA Beach? It turns out the Secret Service vetoed the location due to its inability to be secured – probably something to do with the fact that the entire outdoor patio is directly connected to Biscayne Bay. Chef Donatella found another way to bring her personal flavor to lunch, however, presenting President Clinton with a personalized vegan chocolate cake.

Housing Trends Beginning to Normalize

As professionals and young families look to make the City Beautiful their home, Coral Gables’ housing market continues to be tight — but it may be steadying compared to last year.

Looking at February 2022, the city had about one month’s worth of housing inventory, with an estimated 120 single-family homes and condos available for sale. As for February 2023, that number had grown to 211 homes for sale, about two and a half months’ worth of inventory, despite the demand for homes still being high. 

According to Patrick O’Connell, the senior vice president of business development at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty, the housing market ideally needs six months’ worth of inventory – somewhere in the 400 to 600 range, where it was prior to the pandemic. 

“The longer we go where the inventory is below that six-month mark, we’re going to continue to see an increase in pricing,” he says. While the city continues to have a historically low level of available homes, O’Connell emphasizes that it’s not as concerning as it was a year ago. “It’s moving in the right direction in terms of balancing the market,” he says. It is still, however “a very good time to be a seller in Coral Gables. It’s a challenging time to be a buyer because there’s just so little to buy.” 

Shelter from the Storm

In late February, the Coral Gables City Commission voted unanimously to accept a $1 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for the Last Mile Transit Stop Improvements Program, which will upgrade the city’s trolley system. The money will go toward making trolley stops compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s standards and will add roofs to some of the stops.

The city will have to pick up the remainder of the tab, but the grant covers 55 percent of the total cost. “It’s a fantastic improvement to our system,” said City Manager Peter Iglesias, adding that about 1.25 million people use the trolley system in Coral Gables each year.