Miami Beach’s Road Raising, Stormwater Climate Adaptation Plan Reviewed

Climate adaptation is something the city of Miami Beach, with regular street flooding like this image of Lincoln Road in July 2018, had to move on. But that plan could be better, according to ULI.
Image: Facebook

Miami Beach had to move on climate adaptation with streets flooding on sunny days. ULI convened a panel and gave the city a report on what could be better.

The city of Miami Beach faces regular street flooding inundations — on stormy days and on sunny ones. Climate adaptation would have to happen, so the city embarked on ambitious $600 million stormwater management program almost as an emergency operation — raising roads and adding stormwater infrastructure to address sea level rise as quickly as possible.

Despite the city’s resilience website, Rising Above, not everyone understood the plans. One business, Sardinia, a restaurant located at 1801 Purdy Avenue, became involved in an insurance dispute in October 2016 when the restaurant flooded after heavy rainfall, according to RE: Miami Beach. With an elevated road in front of it, the insurance adjuster said the restaurant qualified as as a basement under FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.

“My thing is that I’m a little upset because this type of work should have been done before it started… do some homework on what would happen to the property … We as a small business owner have to solve for this because you didn’t do your homework,” said Sardinia owner Tony Gallo of the city of Miami Beach.

Others recognized that raising the roads changed their neighborhood:

There were also numerous complaints and misunderstandings about the aesthetics of stormwater pumps, if they were actually pumping sewage straight into Biscayne Bay (no, it’s not sewage) and the fact that the pumps lacked power backup.

In April the Urban Land Institute (ULI) convened a panel of land use and urban development experts through a partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) to advise municipal leaders on the city’s plan to mitigate frequent flooding — every facet from how the city communicates with residents, governs stormwater decisions and the types of stormwater infrastructure being implemented.

Residents reportedly unhappy with the road raising policy elected Commissioner Mark Samuelian as a lead voice reviewing resiliency projects and slowing some down.

Samuelian reportedly found that he supported City Manager Jimmy Morales’ goals to include permanent generators on stormwater projects, finish projects underway, fix issues on completed projects and integrate alternative solutions like green, blue and grey infrastructure.

The ULI report released last week, available to review and download below, praised the city for swift action but detailed numerous strategies for infrastructure, placemaking, governance, financing, regulations and communications to reorient the city’s stormwater management program, according to the announcement. The report addresses the following objectives in great detail:

  • Integrate flood management within the greater resiliency strategy – embrace the resilience brand in the through the concept “living with water”
  • Enhance public trust, trusting the public and increasing transparency – better integrate public comment and outreach into the decision-making process
  • Elevate public aesthetics and function – build from a culture of arts, heritage and placemaking
  • Actively use green and open spaces – including golf courses
  • Increase long-term financial and comprehensive protection – be strategic about approach to risk

The panelists agreed that the city’s stormwater management strategy, although a good start, is not currently sufficient to address the extent of the risk faced by the city and does not reflect its cultural leadership,” according to RE: Miami Beach’s comprehensive review of the report.

And there were comments to address water quality, live at the event:

And in the report:

“Pumped systems including a traditional grid, sand trap and vortex have a tendency to underperform and fail during extreme events. Moreover, the citizens and stakeholders of Miami Beach are clearly concerned about water quality and the potential water quality implications of the pump system. Going forward, the city should implement state-of-the-art treatment systems through green infrastructure that will absorb pollutants while increasing flexibility. Upstream green infrastructure should be a key aspect of the living with water plan but also include outlets with cleansing biotopes for treatment and polishing of water quality by filtering, sorption and sedimentation.”

The panel was chaired by ULI member Joyce Coffee, founder and president of Chicago-based Climate Resilience Consulting, and included Juanita Hardy, senior visiting fellow for creative placemaking, ULI, Washington, DCJeff Hebert, vice president for adaptation and resilience, Water Institute (former New Orleans Chief Resilience Officer); LouisianaPhillip Kash, principal, HR&A, Washington, DCGreg Lowe, global head of resilience and sustainability, Aon,  London, UK; Walter Meyer, founding principal, Local Office Landscape Architecture, New York, New York; Christian Nyerup Nielsen, global service line leader, Climate Adaptation and Flood Management, Ramboll, Copenhagen, DenmarkMark Osler, associate vice president, coastal science and engineering, Michael Baker International, Alexandria, Virginia and Greg West, president and CEO, ZOM, Miami, Florida and ULI Southeast Florida/Caribbean chair.

Review and download the report:

ULI Advisory Services Panel Report for Miami Beach, Stormwater Management Program by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Explore our previous coverage of Miami Beach’s road raising work:

Miami Beach & Sea Level Rise: "We Have No Handbook"

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.