City of Miami Beach, 1700 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, Florida 33139, www.miamibeachfl.gov
|TO: Land Use and Sustainability Committee|
|FROM: Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager|
|DATE: May 6, 2020|
|TITLE:||DISCUSSION PERTAINING TO STRATEGIC INCREASES IN FAR RELATED TO RESILIENCY AND OTHER DEFINED POLICY BENCHMARKS|
Discuss and provide recommendations to the full City Commission.
Provide recommendations to the City Commission for review and referral to the Planning Board.
On January 15, 2020, at the request of Mayor Dan Gelber, the City Commission referred a discussion item to the Land Use and Sustainability Committee (LUSC) regarding strategic increases in FAR citywide. The item was discussed briefly at the January 21, 2020 LUSC meeting and continued to the February 18, 2020 meeting.
On February 18, 2020, the LUSC discussed the options provided and continued the item to March 17, 2020 in order to further develop the following FAR options:
1. Resiliency bonuses.
2. Workforce/Affordable housing.
3. FAR bonus pool (monetary contribution for added FAR).
The March 17, 2020 LUSC meeting was postponed and the item was placed on the May 6, 2020 LUSC agenda.
The maximum square footage (intensity) of a building is regulated by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which applies to all zoning districts except for single-family districts. Floor area ratio (FAR) is a defined term in Section 114-1 of the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) and is essentially a multiplier used to regulate the maximum size of a building based on the lot size. For example, a 10,000 square foot lot with an FAR of 2.0 would be allowed to build up to a 20,000 square foot building.
Floor area is also a defined term in Section 114-1 of the LDRs and provides the specific requirements for the calculation of floor area. Under section 114-1, floor area consists of the gross horizontal areas of the floors of a building, unless such areas are specifically exempted. The only exceptions to the definition of floor area are expressly listed in Section 114-1.
The purpose of the regulation of floor area, including FAR, both in the City of Miami Beach and in other municipalities, is to provide a quantifiable mechanism to control both the size and intensity, as well as the overall exterior mass, of a building. That is why floor area is measured to the exterior face of exterior walls or from the exterior face of an architectural projection. Under the Miami Beach City Code, it is from this total floor area volume that certain areas are excluded.
The current requirements for FAR and floor area have been in place since 1989 (Ordinance 89-2665), and the only amendments subsequent to 1989 have been to the exceptions from floor area.
Any increase in FAR, either through a bonus/incentive provision, percent increase, or additional exclusions, must be effectuated in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, and needs to be supported by a thorough planning analysis. This will promote thoughtful development incentives, prevent unintended consequences related to FAR increases, as well as ensure the continuation of a predictable method of plan review.
The definition of floor area in the City Code, as well as the application of FAR regulations in general, has not been evaluated comprehensively since 1989. In this regard, staff believes that the subject discussion is much needed and well overdue. Additionally, the decisions and recommendations made as part of this exercise will better inform the resiliency code.
In order to provide structure and organization for this FAR discussion, the administration previously provided the following five categories:
1. Bonus FAR/incentives related to resiliency and other defined policy benchmarks.
2. New exclusions from the calculation of floor area to address evolving building and life safety code requirements.
3. Strategic FAR increases within specific zoning districts.
4. The creation of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Programs in specified areas of the City.
5. Removing all exemptions, counting everything including parking, and increasing the FAR across the City.
The following is the analysis of each category provided previously. Staff had previously recommended prioritizing FAR increases that are easier to understand as part of a ballot question:
1. Bonus FAR/incentives related to resiliency and other defined policy benchmarks.
a. Exclusions for the conversion of non-required enclosed parking spaces facing a waterway.
b. Introduction of original floor plates in contributing buildings. Re-introducing original, historic floors to buildings where the floors may have been removed in years past. In this regard, if a hotel building had floors removed to create volumetric space, and they seek to re-introduce those floors, this would not be possible under the regulations of the code if the building or building site is legal non-conforming as to maximum FAR.
Unfortunately, the floor plates of many contributing buildings have been severely modified or removed in order to transfer the square footage of the contributing building to a new building. Only the MXE zoning district restricts the percentage of demolition allowed for interior floor plates of contributing building. This option would allow the re-introduction of original floor plates in contributing buildings.
The administration should note that a ballot measure including a variation of this proposal failed last November. Limiting the types of uses to residential or hotel uses (not including accessory uses), or including some variation of a public benefit, may make this proposal more acceptable. Additionally, the proposal should be contingent on the full restoration of the structure.
c. Resiliency and adaptation bonuses. This would apply to all zoning districts, and the actual bonus number would be conditioned upon tangible improvements that substantially increase and improve the sustainability of new and existing structures. These improvements would go above and beyond minimum code requirements and the bonuses are intended to incentivize such improvements. The actual bonus points would be added to the maximum FAR permitted on the property and would be capped at a fixed number. For example, an RM-2 property, which has a maximum FAR of 2.0, would be able to increase the overall FAR to a maximum of 2.5 with resiliency bonus points.
d. First level interior transitional access for non-residential buildings. This would include stairs, ramps, and lifts required to get from the sidewalk level up to a higher finished first floor level. This would encourage commercial properties to elevate their first floor to be more resilient to flooding, while still providing a transparent, active storefront at the sidewalk level.
e. New floor area within volumetric buildings such as historic theatres. In this regard, there are historic theatres in the City that need adaptive re-purposing, such as a conversion to retail or food & dining establishments. However, if the building is legal non-conforming as to maximum FAR, there is no opportunity under the code to add additional floor plates within the structure, even though they will not be visible.
f. Exempting the floor area of existing contributing buildings which are elevated. Although any demolition is subject to a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Board, such exemption could encourage elevating such structures to ensure their long-term viability, as the added square footage could help offset the costs to elevate these buildings.
g. Bonus for providing affordable and/or workforce housing, as defined in the City Code. The Comprehensive Plan already has increased density allowances for affordable and workforce housing. As such, an FAR bonus for providing such types of units should not require modifying the density limitations of the Comprehensive Plan. This should be limited to rental housing to ensure that the constructed units are available for the long-term.
h. Bonus for providing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) along defined corridors in the City. TOD’s are an excellent tool for promoting development that minimizes the impact of single car vehicles. As TOD’s are located adjacent to or abutting dedicated transit lines, as well as multiple transit modes, they are ideal for end users who do not own or rely on a single motor vehicle. In order to encourage these types of uses, additional FAR in the form of a bonus or TDR is ideal.
2. New exclusions from the calculation of floor area to address evolving City Code, Florida Building Code and Life Safety Code requirements.
a. Bicycle Parking. Exclusions for secured bicycle parking, whether required or not.
b. Stairwells and elevators above main roof decks.
c. FPL Transformer vaults. These vault rooms have becoming increasingly larger, and often include additional infrastructure required by FPL to also help serve neighboring properties. Their location within an enclosed building is preferable to any exterior pad-mounted option.
d. Fire control rooms and related public safety spaces, not accessible to the general public.
3. Strategic FAR increases within specific zoning districts. Existing low intensity districts, such as RM-1, low intensity residential districts, and CD-1, commercial low intensity districts, currently have very low maximum FAR and face challenges with regard to meeting minimum building and life safety code requirements. In the administration’s prior analysis, the areas of stair and elevators consume, on average, about 8% of a building’s available FAR. For an RM-1 zoned property, an increase of 8% would result in an FAR of 1.35, vs the typical maximum of 1.25. For an 8,000 SF lot, the resulting FAR or 1.35 would result in an area of 10,800 SF, vs the current maximum of 1.25 or 10,000 SF.
4. The creation of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Programs in specified areas of the City. Allowing properties, within defined transfer and receiver districts, to transfer some or all their development rights to another property has two significant benefits. First, it does not result in an overall increase in intensity within the larger area. Second. It provides a vehicle for vulnerable and at-risk properties to become adaptation areas.
A process to manage a TDR program would need to be developed, and transfer and receiving districts would need to be established. Transfer districts could, potentially, be limited to lower-density zoning districts such as RM-1, as well as more vulnerable areas on the west side of the City. Receiving districts should be areas with higher intensity and higher density zoning, such as the CD-2 and CD-3 Commercial Districts, and RM-3 high intensity residential district. Additionally, receiving districts should be located within defined transportation corridors.
A cap on the maximum percentage beyond the FAR of the underlaying zoning district would also need to be established, as well as a review of potential height increases to go along with an increased FAR.
5. Removing all exemptions, counting everything within a building envelope, including parking, and increasing the FAR across the City. This would incentivize less parking and more efficient circulation. However, the actual increases in FAR would need to be evaluated on a district basis.
As noted previously, although increases in FAR will increase the bulk and mass of buildings, as well as the intensity, the existing density limitations in the City’s Comprehensive Plan will ensure that residential density would not be increased. Any increase in density would require an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. Additionally, changes pertaining the calculation of FAR will have no impact on single family home regulations or single family districts, as they are regulated by unit size and lot coverage, as separately defined in Section 142-105.
In order to amend the Land Development Regulations of the City Code to allow an increase in zoned floor area, pursuant to City Charter Section 1.03(c), approval of the City’s voters will be required. The following is the language in Section 1.03(c):
The floor area ratio of any property or street end within the City of Miami Beach shall not be increased by zoning, transfer, or any other means from its current zoned floor area ratio, unless any such increase in zoned floor area ratio for any such property shall first be approved by a vote of the electors of the City of Miami Beach.
An increase in zoned FAR includes, but is not limited to, modifications of the definition of floor area, amendments to the exclusions of floor area and a direct increase in the FAR number. All of the potential options identified above would require a ballot question for an amendment that would allow a property to add FAR, as they would result in an increase in zoned FAR “by zoning, transfer, or any other means” pursuant to City Charter Section 1.03(c).
May 6, 2020 UPDATE
Based on the direction of the LUSC at the February 18, 2020 meeting, the administration has prepared a draft Public Benefits Ordinance, which includes the recommended focus items. This includes resiliency bonuses, workforce/affordable housing bonuses, and a FAR bonus pool (monetary contribution). The following is a summary of the draft Ordinance (Attachment “A”) for a public benefits program:
1. Zoning districts established.
a. Included zoning districts and base bonus increases. Applicable zoning districts are identified where additional height and FAR may be permitted. The maximum limits range from a bonus FAR of 0.25 for low intensity districts, such as RM-1, residential low-intensity and CD-1, commercial medium intensity, to 0.50 for higher intensity zoning districts such as RM-3, residential high intensity and CD-3, commercial high intensity zoning districts. Additional height ranges from 10 feet to 20 feet, commensurate with the FAR bonus.
A lower bonus of 0.25 was used for zoning districts with a lower FAR, as an increase to .5 would result in a disproportionally large increase of 40% for example in the RM-1 zoning district. The chart below indicates some base FAR requirements and the percentage increase proposed.
Zoning District Base FAR increase Resulting FAR
RM-1 1.25 +.5 (40% increase) = 1.75 **
RM-1 1.25 +.25 (20% increase)= 1.5
RM-2, CD-2 2.0 +.5 (25% increase) = 2.5
RM-3, CD-3 3.0 +.5 (17% increase) = 3.5
** Not recommended
b. Added bonus for workforce/affordable housing. In addition to the bonus height and FAR noted above, an additional bonus of up to 0.50 FAR and 20 more feet in additional height is available exclusively for workforce/affordable housing for zoning districts where the base FAR for the property is a minimum of 2.0 and which is also located along an established transit corridor.
c. Exempt districts. Lower Intensity zoning districts, zoning districts where FAR is not applicable (such as single family) and other zoning districts are specifically excluded, including properties which recently received an increase in FAR through a ballot initiative.
2. Location of bonus FAR. The only square footage allowed above the maximum height for the underlying zoning district is that achieved through the public benefits program.
3. Monetary option for benefits and establishment of Trust Funds.
4. Criteria for the public benefits program.
a. Affordable/workforce housing.
1. On-site. For each square foot of Affordable/Workforce housing provided on site, the development shall be allowed an equivalent amount of additional Floor Area up to the bonus height and floor area as described in Section 142-3.1
2. Off-site. For each square foot of affordable /workforce housing provided off site, in a location within the City approved by the City Commission, the development shall be allowed 0.5 square feet of additional flor area up to the bonus height and floor area.
b. Trust Fund contributions. For a cash contribution to the City of Miami Beach Benefit Trust Fund, the development shall be allowed additional Floor Area up to the bonus Height and floor area. The cash contribution shall be determined based on a percentage of the market value of the per square foot price being charged for units at projects within the market area where the proposed project seeking the bonus is located. The calculation assumes a land value per saleable or rentable square foot within market area to equate to between 10 (ten) to 15 (fifteen) percent of market area’s weighted average sales price per square foot. The cash contributions shall be adjusted on an annual basis to reflect market conditions effective October 1st of every year.
(Note: the contribution fund calculation is a placeholder requiring further analysis.)
c. Resiliency and adaptation bonuses:
1. Elevating first floor of an existing structure. When the first floor of an existing structure is elevated to a minimum of BFE +1 foot, the development may receive a bonus FAR, equivalent of the FAR of the elevated area only, not to exceed a bonus FAR of 0.25.
2. Seawall improvements. When the entirety of a property’s seawall is improved or reconstructed to a minimum height of 5.7 feet NAVD, the development may receive a bonus FAR of 0.10.
3. Self-sustaining electrical and surplus stormwater retention and reuse. When a development is fully self-sustaining in terms of electrical power using solar power and similar electricity generating devices, and also includes stormwater retention that is over and above the minimum requirements in order to accommodate offsite stormwater, including the reuse of such stormwater through purple pipes throughout the building, the development may receive a bonus FAR of 0.25.
4. LEED Platinum certification. When LEED platinum certification is achieved in accordance with Chapter 133 of the City Code, the development may receive a bonus of 0.15.
If at the time the first Certificate of Occupancy is issued for the Building that received a public benefits bonus for a LEED platinum certification and the LEED certification has not been achieved, then the owner shall post a performance bond in a form acceptable to the City. The performance bond shall be determined based on the value of land per square foot of Building in the area of the City in which the proposed project is located, which may be adjusted from time to time based on market conditions. The City will draw down on the bond funds if LEED certification has not been achieved and accepted by the City within one year of the City issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy for the Building. Funds that become available to the City from the forfeiture of the performance bond shall be placed in the City of Miami Beach Public Benefits Trust Fund established by this Code.
5. Onsite Adaptation Areas. When onsite adaptation areas are provided, which are fully accessible from the public right of way and provide tangible drainage, stormwater retention and related resiliency and sustainability benefits, the development may receive a bonus of 0.10 to 0.35 points depending upon the overall size and level of improvement.
(Note: this option requires further development)
6. Publicly accessible recreation facilities. When active recreation facilities that are available to the general public, and serve a recreational need for the immediate area are provided on site, a bonus FAR of 0.10 points may be permitted, subject to the approval of the city's parks and recreation department.
(Note: this option requires further development)
In addition to the Public Benefits ordinance noted above, the administration would also recommend a separate ordinance (Attachment “B”) be considered for new exclusions from the calculation of floor area to address evolving City Code, Florida Building Code, and Life Safety Code requirements, outlined as follows:
1. Bicycle Parking. Currently required automotive parking is exempt from inclusion as floor area, and up to two vehicular parking spaces may be provided per apartment unit, without counting as floor area. Further, in most districts where the City has reduced the vehicular parking requirements, parking may still be provided in most cases in accordance with Parking District No. 1, which generally has the highest parking requirements. A typical parking space, including half of the abutting drive occupies an area of approximately 250 square feet, whereas the same area could easily accommodate more than 10 bicycles.
2. Stairwells and elevators above main roof decks. The area of two typical stairwells and a typical elevator at one level is approximately 500 square feet. While such area is minimal, its exception from inclusion as floor area would be especially beneficial to existing buildings that are currently over their maximum FAR. While many older buildings may have one stair to the roof, in order to add a rooftop deck or pool, building code and life-safety requirements must be satisfied, which usually requires two stairs as well as an accessible means of vertical access (an elevator). Such an exception would allow these non-conforming buildings to add desirable roof-top amenities.
3. FPL Transformer vaults. These vault rooms, when required, have become increasingly larger, and often include additional infrastructure required by FPL to also help serve neighboring properties. Their location within an enclosed building is preferable to any exterior pad-mounted option. The typical area occupied by such use is generally around 300-500 square feet depending on the size of the project. Such exemption again would be especially helpful for existing buildings undergoing renovations, which may need to remove a hotel room or other space to accommodate for the required area for the FPL vault.
4. Fire control rooms and related public safety spaces, not accessible to the general public. Such control rooms are important life-safety requirements for larger projects and were not standard requirements decades ago. The typical area occupied by these rooms is 300-500 square feet.
Lastly, the administration would recommend that the following continue to be explored as separate, stand-alone ordinances in the future.
1. Exclusions for the conversion of non-required enclosed parking spaces facing a waterway. The City has many non-conforming parking areas facing a waterway, including the ocean. The Code was modified many years ago to require active uses at all levels of a building when facing a waterway. Such existing non-conforming parking areas are typically characterized by blank walls, often several stories high, or open parking structures. Such structures have a significant negative impact on the City’s overall character, especially when viewed from the public beach walk or bay walk. Conversion of such spaces would allow active uses with glazing and architectural treatment that would improve the visual character along the waterfront.
The administration should note that a ballot measure including this proposal failed last November. Additional restrictions and protections may need to be contemplated to limit the area and depth of non-conforming parking to be converted. Such non-conforming areas could be limited to conversion of 10 parking spaces (approximately 2500 SF) or 15 spaces (approximately 3750 SF), both including half of the abutting drive aisle. Converted uses could also be limited to back-of-house uses and/or retail uses, and limited to oceanfront parking structures within local historic districts which also expand public access to the beach.
July 31, 2020 is the deadline for adopting a resolution to place a ballot question(s) on the City’s November 3, 2020 ballot. As such, the City Commission will need to reach consensus on any proposed FAR questions in time for the July Commission meetings. First reading referrals to the Planning Board should be made no later than the May 13, 2020 City Commission meeting, so that such legislation can be considered and transmitted by the Planning Board at their June meeting. This would allow for first reading to occur in July.
The administration is seeking action based upon the modified recommendations noted above. Additionally, the administration recommends that individual, narrowly crafted ballot questions, which are easy to understand, be proposed, as opposed to larger, more cumbersome ballot questions.
|The administration recommends that the LUSC discuss the options presented herein and provide recommendations to the City Commission for referral to the Planning Board.|
|Is this a "Residents Right to Know" item, pursuant to City Code Section 2-14?|| ||Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?|
|Yes|| ||No|| |