February 4th, 2016 5:04 PM by Nour Ailan
After years of complaints about out-of-control noise, petty crime and sidewalks crowded with tables and oversized umbrellas, Miami Beach is taking steps to clean up Ocean Drive.
The city’s land use committee, made up of city commissioners, on Wednesday heard from members of the Ocean Drive Task Force, a group of business owners who approached the city about a year ago with complaints of deteriorating conditions on the iconic street.
The task force submitted about 30 recommendations, calling for upgrading lighting, increasing police presence, banning music from golf buggies and other vehicles and having restaurant and bar owners scale back the size of café umbrellas that many complain have created “a tunnel effect” along sidewalks in front of many businesses.
Commissioners approved sending the recommendations on to the full city commission but some expressed doubts about measures in the task force report to reduce vehicular noise, noting that police have had difficulty in the past enforcing noise control measures. While they said they supported efforts to reduce the “tunnel effect” created by large multi-colored umbrellas in front of restaurants and bars, commissioners said operators on the street should not be forced to use a uniform color for their umbrellas but have a selection of “pastel colors” from which to choose.
Commissioners also agreed to start a pilot program to move restaurant tables on sidewalks closer to businesses, even if that means some table space might be lost.
The steps follow a Miami Beach City Commission vote in May to ban alcohol sales on the street from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Jonathan Plutzik, the owner of the hotel the Betsy South Beach on Ocean Drive and the chairman of the task force said he’s encouraged that commissioners seem ready to move quickly on the proposals. “Some items can be moved quickly and others will take some planning,” he said. “All of us agree that it’s tremendously important that we show progress this year on beginning to make Ocean Drive special again.”