Community Advocacy / Local Government

Statement on Magic City SAP

March 28, 2019

March 28th, 2019


City of Miami Commissioners

3500 Pan American Drive

Miami, FL 33133


We are Engage Miami, a locally focused youth civic engagement non-profit, and we are writing in opposition to the Magic City Special Area Plan as it currently stands.

In our polling of thousands of young people across Miami-Dade County, affordable housing is consistently named as one of their top issues, with most of the young people we spoke to still living at home unable to afford to move out and rent a house or apartment on their own. They can see the housing crisis we are in. They can see how the development and growth of Miami does not seem to benefit them and their families, but instead investors, developers, tourists and the wealthy. They see how neighborhoods are transformed with little regard for the people who have already been living there. In our conversations with Little Haiti residents, they understand this is what is currently happening in their neighborhood.

A mural painted by local artist King $erge / Serge Toussaint in front of the Magic City site

We are worried the Magic City Special Area Plan will be a massive doubling down of these destructive trends, and that it should not pass until we see more assurances that this will be a project for the benefit of the people of Little Haiti, including 20% or more on-site affordable housing for people whose incomes are at 30%, 60% and 80% of the AMI, as well as guarantees of jobs for locals and contributions to a fund for the betterment of the people of Little Haiti.

Further, as it currently stands the Magic City SAP proposal violates various parts of the Miami 21 code. The SAP section states they are not to “result in development that is out of Scale or character with the surrounding area,” and instead should preserve neighborhood character and fulfill the intent of the Miami 21 zoning code. That code lists affordable and workforce housing as one of its guiding principles, and places an emphasis on avoiding investments that are “isolated in remote single-use complexes” and instead prioritizing the creation of mixed-income neighborhoods. This project is widely out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood (in terms of building heights and incomes of the people it will attract), and with no on-site affordable housing will likely create an island of affluence that can overwhelm the area rather than integrate itself into the community in a cohesive, healthy and beneficial way.

Most importantly, this proposal sets the wrong precedent. Instead of meaningful and transparent community involvement along the SAP process, community engagement and benefit is being reduced to a dollar amount at the end of the process. We need to reform our SAP process to include guidelines on meaningful community engagement and negotiation, guidelines on sustainability, displacement and traffic studies, requirements for on-site affordable housing, a menu of public benefits on which to draw from in exchange for bonus height, and, most of all, enforceability of these commitments from developers.

Magic City and projects like these actually have the potential to bring investment and transform neighborhoods in ways that are beneficial to all, but the current Magic City proposal threatens to end Little Haiti as we know it. We cannot approve the Magic City SAP or other SAPs until we build them in ways that are inclusive of the community and to the benefit of the people of Miami.