Escape from Miami: The Belle Meade and Coral Gate Gated Communities

Last night I attended the Belle Meade Homeowners Association meeting at Legion Park. Approximately 30 residents and a handful of public officials were present at the meeting from both the City of Miami and the County Public Works Department. After an unfortunate home invasion in Belle Meade about a year and a half ago, the board of directors of the Belle Meade Homeowners Association has been trying to persuade the City and the County to build a fence along NE 6th Court in an attempt to make Belle Meade safer. The HOA went door to door and gathered signatures to support a fence around Belle Meade and ninety-two percent  of the residents voted in favor of the fence (I did not).

The petition was presented to the City of Miami and the County Public Works Department quickly weighed in saying that a fence could only be erected if it did not obstruct the movement of pedestrians and it also had to adhere to ADA requirements. This essentially meant that if a fence were to be erected, at the very minimum, a non-locking gate must be included in the scope of the project. The County Public Works Department even went a step further and said that a gate wouldn’t be allowed. Essentially there would be a fence with an opening where the fence meets each sidewalk. The County and the City will meet next week to discuss the issue. I have a feeling the County will concede and allow a fence with a non-locking gate.

Edward Blakely, co-author of “Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States,” spent the past two years researching gated communities. According to Planetizen:

Based on his extensive research across the country, and the statistics of local police departments, Blakely upends the supposed benefits of gated communities — that they are more safe and more neighborly than other suburban communities. Aside from reduced rates of car theft, Blakely has found that, “gated communities do not have less crime than the suburbs from which they’re walled off.” He continues, “For many, the guards at the gate provide an artificial sense of safety. In our surveys of more than 1,000 residents of gated communities, many said they chose to live there because they traveled or worked long hours, so they had no time to meet neighbors and used the guards as their home security system.”

Let’s put aside that fact that there isn’t any convincing evidence to support that gated communities are safer than non-gated communities. At this point the County and City have rightfully said “no” to the complete fencing-off of Belle Meade. Yet the Belle Meade Homeowners Association still wants a fence (with gapping holes in it) with the false expectation that “something is better than nothing”.  The fence will cost at least $60,000; essentially our tax dollars are going to pay for a white elephant of a fence that will do absolutely nothing to make Belle Meade safer. We need to do more to strengthen the entire community, not erect obstacles that criminals will simply walk around

Coral Gate to Privatize the Wall?

About two years ago the community of Coral Gate decided to erect a wall around their neighborhood, cutting off access to the public streets. Last year the County Public Works Department asked the City of Miami to remove the wall and restore public access.  Needless to say the City has not done so. Instead, according to a representative from the City of Miami’s Capital Improvement Program that was present at last night’s meeting, the City is now looking into privatizing the real estate where the wall crosses the public right of way.  The City would then turn it over to the Coral Gate Home Owners Association, which would then have to maintain the wall. Talk about finding a creative (and sneaky) way to keep the wall erected.

I sincerely hope that the CPWD holds their ground and does not allow the public right of way to become obstructed in Belle Meade.  I also remain hopeful that they will force Coral Gate to restore the public right of way. The City of Miami should not try to “game the system” by privatizing the wall.  They should do what is right and restore pedestrian access to Coral Gate. After all, there is no evidence that gated communities are safer than non-gated. Something is not better than nothing-the research speaks for itself.