Editorial: Lorena Plaza housing project moves forward. For real this time
By John R. Lott
“I am writing to you tonight to tell you that our goal of building homes for low- and moderate-income Californians is alive and well today. We are building homes for people in our communities. We are not just building homes; we are rebuilding neighborhoods.” – Mayor of North Miami Beach, Philip Levine, in his acceptance speech accepting the keys to the City of North Miami Beach.
It was a long, long day. The sun was beating down on the North Miami Beach Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting. The Board had voted unanimously, and unanimously voted against, an additional $2.5 million from their budget towards the Lorena Lopez Plaza housing development.
The Plaza housing project was on shaky ground for a long time. The City of North Miami Beach had put on for public hearing, and then postponed, on the Plaza development since last October, before ultimately approving it anyway in January, only after a motion moved by Mayor Philip Levine, who had just been elected to that post after an unexpectedly long campaign, in which he had gone from having been the number one candidate to being the mayor.
The Plaza housing project was designed to provide single family homes in a mixed use, mixed income, mixed age area with a mix of income levels, and had been approved by voters through a ballot measure. On appeal, it first went before the County Commission, which overturned it, and then to the local circuit court, which reversed the decision and said, in their opinion, that the City should have gone before the voters on a referendum, not by initiative, and also, perhaps more importantly, that the Plaza housing project was too high to be within the city limits of North Miami Beach, and, by extension, that it violated the city’s charter. The Circuit Court ruling was sent back to the Commission, which voted by 4-1 to stay the decision. Then, on appeal, it went back to the County Commission which, again, overturned the decision of the Circuit Court, but only by a vote of 2-1, which was appealed to the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the County Commission.