No really, there's money in Hollywood. It's just that it's concentrated on Hollywood Beach, where a Community Redevelopment Agency launched in 1997. In the years since, the agency has been flush with tax increment financing -- all the tax money collected in its area beyond the base year 12 years ago. So it can afford to build and to beautify.
But it still has to do that in smart fashion, and competence has always been a struggle in this city's government. A few years ago, when city planners were touring the neighborhood touting a beautification project, they had lots of pretty pictures -- but there was something missing: a place for cars.
"I remember going to these meetings -- we said, 'It looks beautiful, but don't take away our parking spots, because we already have a problem with that,'" says one business owner on the beach, who asked to remain anonymous. "They never made it clear that the city doing this project was going to mean a loss of half the parking spots."
Palm trees have replaced parking spots on the street, causing traffic to flow toward the garages, like the one pictured above on Garfield Street, which fits 350 cars and which our source in Hollywood Beach says is the most congested spot on the beach. In a phenomenal feat of shortsightedness, the city made the garage exit onto Garfield, whose intersection with Ocean Boulevard doesn't have a traffic light. In fact, it doesn't even have a no-left-turn rule. So on weekends, all it takes is for one driver to insist upon making a left turn across the four-lane road and traffic will be backed up into the garage and along side streets as well.
Residents who've requested a traffic light or at least a sign have been ignored by city officials. Same for a request for a traffic cop to help at that intersection during special events like the upcoming Red, White and Bluegrass.
This is the district of Commissioner Patty Asseff, and one would think with her background as a real-estate agent, she'd appreciate the harm traffic gridlock can do to a business district. Instead, says the source, Asseff is just happy the beach has visitors.
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But many of those are what beach businessowners call "day visitors." People from Hialeah or North Miami who stay for a weekend afternoon before driving home. They're taking parking spots from the overnight visitors who frequent the beach's small hotels. And not only can those hotel guests not find a spot for their rental cars but they now have patio views that will remind them of their freeway commutes, replete with honking horns and swearing drivers.
Says the source: "The beautification project is a worthy one, but I'm not sure how well they looked at the big picture. There have been lots of unintended consequences."
Considering the traffic nightmare, one's almost glad for the epic collapse of the Marriott Ocean Village at A1A and Johnson Street. The massive, $100 million project was too fragile to weather the economy. That site will now become a park.
Expect these issues to come up at a meeting of the Hollywood Beach Business Association tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Ramada Hollywood Beach Resort.