Latest News From City Hall

At Its Two Meetings in October, the Coral Gables City Commission:

Going Underground

Voted 5-0 for an ordinance requiring that property owners cooperate with FPL’s program to underground power lines to homes, along with getting rid of redundant poles and equipment on poles.

Goodbye Gondola Poles

Voted unanimously to remove the artistically painted gondola poles now on downtown city streets, to make the sidewalks easier to navigate for pedestrians. “They are in the public right of way, so we can remove them” said City Manager Peter Iglesias. The poles, which are the property of various individuals and businesses, will be moved to city storage on 72nd Avenue for retrieval by their owners.

Trash Bonanza

Listened to a presentation by the city’s sustainability officer Matt Anderson on the latest recycling day at City Hall (Saturday, Oct. 22). A total of 10,074 pounds of electronics was collected, along with 2,400 pounds of gently used clothing for Camillus House. Several tons of hazardous waste were also collected. The next recycling day is scheduled for early 2023.

Food Trucks Be Gone

Voted 5-0 to finalize Mayor Vince Lago’s new city ordinance that restricts the deployment of food trucks to 15 minutes in residential areas or construction sites with the exception of schools and churches. Also, none are now permitted with 500 feet of a restaurant.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Voted 5-0 to finalize the city’s new ordinance permitting metal roofs on houses except in historic areas.

Dog Park Progress

Rejected a proposition by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson that the plans to create an off-leash area at Catalonia Park be stopped. Anderson said that other alternatives would soon be available and that large rocks in the park endangered dogs. After a group of citizens supporting the dog area presented a petition by 200 residents in favor, vs. 16 who opposed, Anderson’s fellow commissioners decided not to reverse their previous decision to move forward with the leash-free zone in the park, which could be ready within a month. It will be the city’s first off-leash area, followed by one at 1505 Ponce de Leon Blvd. (by year’s end) and one at Salvadore Park (early 2023).

A New Cuisine

Voted 5-0 to give a lease to Francesco Restaurant for 278 Miracle Mile, former home of Ortanique. The space, adjacent to the Miracle Theatre, will be leased for seven years, with two optional renewals for five years each. Chef Franco, who previously ran restaurants in Lima, Mexico City, and Coral Gables (from 2001 to 2016), will bring a fusion of Peruvian highland and Sardinian cuisine. A $1.45 million build-out will take one year. “It’s something new, not just another Italian restaurant,” said City Manager Peter Iglesias – not that there is anything wrong with Italian food – who recommended the deal from eight submitted proposals.

Pickleball Now

Spent almost a full hour discussing the importance of pickleball for Coral Gables, listening to options from staff to expand the number of courts available (just five, citywide), and to the input from pickleball mad citizens pushing for more courts without delay.

Home Field Advantage

Voted 5-0 to give preference to Gables-based vendors in city contracts for goods and services. Sponsored by Mayor Lago.

The Battle Over the BID

Latest News From City Hall
Vice Mayor Michael Mena

In a rare show of disagreement, split their votes on dissolving the downtown Business Improvement District (BID), the land- lord-funded organization which markets the downtown. Mayor Lago, Vice Mayor Michael Mena, and Commissioner Anderson voted to end it, while Commissioners Kirk Menendez and Jorge Fors voted against dissolution.

At issue was whether the BID’s election process, in which property owners can vote to continue the organization, was impacted by the Commission’s June decision to stop the month-long election two days early. “The BID has done a phenomenal job, year after year,” said Commissioner Menendez, concerned that “residents who had the right to vote, who had the power to vote, were under the impression that they couldn’t.”

But Commissioners Mena and Anderson said the point was moot because the commission has the right to shut down the BID anyway. “It’s ultimately at our discretion,” said Mena, who, along with Anderson, insisted the BID did not have enough votes. Both want to discuss creating a new BID. Commissioner Fors questioned that strategy, asking, “If it’s not broken, what are we trying to fix… this organization that creates all these events we enjoy year after year?” Mayor Lago insisted the city could execute the BID’s holiday events. “I’m sure that our staff can handle a pumpkin patch,” he said. “This is not Disney.”

The funding for those events is the real question, said Mena. City Manager Peter Iglesias wants the BID to finish all its downtown holiday events, then turn over any remaining cash to the city. The commission also voted 3-2 to sue the BID if it did not cooperate. As of press time, these issues had not been resolved.