BALANCE SHEET BLOG – HOLLYWOOD, FL


Hollywood Playhouse
October 14, 2012, 4:28 PM
Filed under: Development, Historic Preservation, Neighborhoods, Residents

“…a growing body of research suggests that the arts can be a valuable engine of civic renewal….The arts can nurture social capital by strengthening friendships, helping communities to understand and celebrate their heritage, and providing a safe way to discuss and solve difficult social problems.”  Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The Hollywood Playhouse, a successful community theater for 50 years, fell victim to poor planning and developer greed a decade ago. The property is in foreclosure with bank and  City engaged in litigation over its future.  The City Attorney is recommending a settlement that would allow the bank to sell the property to a private party, with the stipulation that the City be allowed to use it for public purposes at least four times a year.  This would be a sad end to our community theater. At 5 PM on Wed., Oct. 17, the City Commission is scheduled to vote on this proposal.

A Better Alternative

Hollywood Resident Rene Barrett is a strong advocate for saving the Hollywood Playhouse.  She says “It takes a village!” to save our community theater.  To launch such a project would take more than talk, more than deploring mistakes from the past.  We residents would have to donate our time, our skills, and our money to make it happen.

Can we do it?  Read Rene’s article posted below.  It is followed by a few thoughts of ours to help you answer this question.

Hollywood Playhouse – by Rene Barrett

The Hollywood Playhouse is very special.  We can’t lose it.   I think it  has the potential to prove to be the best resource this city could ever have.

HP was self-sustaining and successful for 50 years.  In its heyday we had busloads of people coming from condos in the tri-county to this easily accessible facility.  The history of success is immense.  It included recognition by the Kennedy Administration in the early 1960’s.

We need people who are willing to roll up their sleeves.  What makes community theatre successful are the associations that can be made with the community by providing opportunity for a diversity of uses, such as for universities, community education programs, children’s theatre, community arts programs; creating a teaching venue for dance, music, voice, stage craft, etc., etc. Look at the successful Inside Out Theatre in Weston. The Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theatre has been in business for 60 years.

There are so many ways to utilize this renovated building that has office space, kitchens, a large rehearsal hall, dressing rooms and several large rooms for multiple purposes.  As a 501C 3, just as one example, we can apply for grants from United Way to give music and dance lessons to Hollywood children. Hollywood Playhouse could provide a venue for touring plays as well as mounting its own productions.  Parks & Recreation and the Art & Cultural Center could utilize this facility.  An established production company might like this for their home.

A question has been raised that the demographics have changed in Hollywood, and indeed they have.  They have improved.  Hollywood now boasts a diverse cultural population that would provide a mission for this theatre to create a venue where various groups can have their artistic cultural events.

There are many ways that you can help. The first is to sign the petition at: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-the-hollywood-playhouse.html

Come to the next City Commission meeting on Wednesday, October 17th at 5:00 pm. If you are willing, please step forward and speak from your heart. If you belong to a neighborhood organization or to an art or theater organization, think about what value this little Theatre facility could have for your organization and let the Hollywood City Commission know.

If the City Commission agrees to demonstrate the leadership needed to secure the Hollywood Playhouse, we will need to begin to raise funds to restore the facility. Donate; help to run the fundraising drive; write a grant; help us to organize. We will need to paint, refurbish and restore the theater. Theaters need carpenters, electricians, etc. Would you volunteer to make this happen? What are you good at? We need very active community support. 

If we don’t try, this mini-Shubert Theatre will be lost forever. We can only do.

Editors’ Thoughts

Will Hollywood residents pull together to take the lead in creating a public-private partnership to purchase the property from the bank? We can do this if we choose.

Will we raise significant dollars? (If 3,000 Hollywood residents would contribute $10.00 per month for a year, we would have $360,000 to put to the cause.)

Are you willing to donate your time, skills and $10.00 a month to reclaim Hollywood’s community theater?

Bottom Line:  If we want to save the Hollywood Playhouse, it’s up to us to do the job.  It’s not governments that save community theaters. It’s communities!

 

 



West Hollywood Corridor Pilot
May 22, 2012, 5:42 PM
Filed under: Corridors, Neighborhoods

New Role for Civic Associations

The Johnson Street business corridor between 56th Avenue and 441 is about to meet the Hollywood Council of Civic Associations’ Neighborhood Pride team.  A resident-driven pilot project to help rejuvenate the corridor is in the works. If successful, this project can be replicated in other Hollywood neighborhoods.

Johnson Street Business Corridor

Decades of neglect have taken their toll on this three-block stretch that runs through the newly organized Hollywood Gardens residential neighborhood. Many useful services and stores populate the corridor. Some well-maintained properties are located here, such as Mimi’s, Gino’s, Hispanic Unity and a few others. But in general the corridor looks like a run-down hodgepodge of properties badly in need of refurbishment, with vehicles parked every-which-way.  Many vacancies exist that could provide space for companies forced to relocate as 441 is widened. But its current appearance may not provide much attraction for businesses moving from 441.

The Neighborhood Pride team is organizing community and city support, in the form of in-kind services, from local schools and community groups as well as city staff, to help the businesses improve the curb appeal of  their properties.  In addition, somewhat similar to Superior Small Lodgings on Hollywood Beach,  the group is creating a Neighborhood Pride Award to be conferred in 2013 on businesses that clean up and beautify their properties. The award will focus only on exterior appearance:  business facade, signage, cleanliness, landscaping.

Over the summer, residents from the Neighborhood Pride team will be walking door-to-door on the corridor to meet business owners and tenants, learn more about their particular needs, and seek ideas from them about corridor enhancements.

Representatives from the following civic associations are steering this pilot project: Highland Gardens Civic Association, Hollywood Gardens Neighborhood Association, Hollywood Hills Civic Association, Hollywood Lakes Civic Association, and Lawn Acres Civic Association. If you have ideas or would like to participate in this pilot project, contact the Neighborhood Pride team at the following address:  board@hccacentral.org



Neighborhoods Challenge
November 9, 2011, 12:34 PM
Filed under: Neighborhoods, Taxes

Hollywood’s Great Neighborhoods Challenge

Our City’s economic decline is visible everywhere.  City staff has pondered how we can accomplish dramatic and positive change, given the City’s very limited financial resources.  That’s where the Great Neighborhoods Challenge comes in — a 120 day city-wide property improvement contest, with cash prizes, that begins December 1, 2011.

It’s a collaborative effort among the City, residents, business owners, and organizations with an interest in working together to make all Hollywood neighborhoods better. For purposes of this contest, Hollywood is divided into 15 geographic areas that cover the entire city. The Challenge has both a private and a public property component.

Private Property Challenge

The City has launched this four-month Challenge to inspire property owners to take a fresh look at their home or business to see what exterior improvements would spruce up the property.  Not only individual homes, but also condos and other multifamily buildings as well as businesses are eligible to enter the Challenge.  Tenants, also, may participate, provided their landlord agrees.   Perhaps a fresh coat of paint is in order, or the landscaping needs attention. What about cleaning out that carport, or removing that broken-down fence? What can you do to add some curb appeal to your property?  Only exterior improvements visible from the public right of way are eligible.

Enter the contest, make the improvements between December 1, 2011 and April 1, 2012, and you may win a prize.  Thirteen prizes will be awarded to the winners in each participating geographic area that submits a minimum of 25 improved properties ($2500, $1000, and $500 as first, second, and third prize, plus $100 gift cards for ten honorable mention winners). The prize money is coming from the City’s Tree Fund (or from the CRA if a winner’s property lies within CRA boundaries). As a Challenge participant you’ll get to know your neighbors, improve the look of your neighborhood, and help raise its property values, as well as having a shot at the prize money.

Prior to December 1, each of the 15 areas will be organizing a Neighborhood Action Committee (NAC)  to coordinate the Challenge and line up at least the 25  participants the NAC needs to enter the contest.  Hopefully more than the minimum will participate in order to achieve a greater impact in the neighborhood.   Until the NACs are organized,  you can express your interest in participating and/or get more information about the Great Neighborhoods Challenge by calling the City of Hollywood’s Community Development Department at 954-921-3381 or visiting its website.

Public Property Challenge

Each NAC that achieves the minimum 25 improved privately owned properties is also eligible to submit a design for improvements to a publicly owned space in its neighborhood.  The Public Space Challenge has three or four winners city-wide.  The City will do the work on the winning designs.

The rules for the Great Neighborhoods Challenge and much more information about the contest is available on the Department of Community Development’s website.




Neighborhood Inequities: Gaps in the Wall
February 6, 2007, 1:37 PM
Filed under: Neighborhoods

February 6, 2007

Back in April 2006, the Balance Sheet reported that the two Emerald Hills residents then on the Hollywood City Commission (the Mayor and Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom) successfully pushed a capital improvement project in their district to the head of the line: $600,000 for a wall for the Lakes of Emerald Hills.  And the Commission voted to borrow the money for this project in response to highly effective advocacy on the part of the neighborhood.

The Mayor and Commissioner Wasserstrom had tried to get funding for this wall included in the general obligation bond but could not overcome opposition from the city’s bond counsel.  The wall was explained as essential for safety and a sound barrier because of the increased proximity of the Tri-Rail tracks caused by the double tracking project. The proposed wall was not included in the City’s five-year capital plan — as is required of all the other capital improvement projects that have awaited available funding for years.

Now, there is a complication that calls into question the very justification for building the wall. At the time the City Commission approved spending the extra money for the wall, a continuous 1900-foot wall was contemplated. But now, some of the affected property owners are refusing to grant easements for the wall. This means that “there may be a gap in the wall system that will extend across one, two or three adjacent single family residential parcels.”

Due to this potential gap, community residents are seeking additional easements from property owners to the south but it is not clear that the city will be able to obtain these easements either.

The matter is on the City Commission agenda this week for clarification. Two questions come to mind:

Is funding a sound barrier-safety wall with multiple gaps a good use of city money?

Now that District 4 does not have a commissioner, would it not be better to postpone this agenda item until after the February 13 election when Emerald Hills will again be fully represented?

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Quality Small Inns
September 24, 2006, 8:24 PM
Filed under: Beach, Neighborhoods

September 24, 2006

Quality Small Inns Endangered … and Why It Matters

Hollywood Beach’s small inns and motels — those charming 4-18 room inns that give a special character to our beach and provide a welcome alternative to the national chains — are losing ground to the big motels and hotels.  They may soon be a thing of the past unless Hollywood finds a way to address their future.

Many of Hollywood Beach’s small inn proprietors are allowing their properties to run down, just hoping and waiting for a windfall sale.

Others, however, have improved their properties and want to continue contributing uniqueness, quality and charm to the Hollywood beach scene.  These are the ones that need a special kind of help to stay in business. 

A recent panel discussion led by experts in the field presented findings that only establishments of 30 or more rooms could survive in this business climate.  Skyrocketing taxes and property insurance are the chief culprits:  out-of-control operating costs that cause even the best small inns to lose money.

Why does it matter to tax-paying residents whether these motels and inns survive?  Consider that they usually offer a more moderate room rate for our visiting friends and family.  They are the places that provide the character and neighborhood-based, family atmosphere we’ve tried so hard to keep on our beach in the face of ever more high-rise
establishments.

  They are part of Hollywood’s history — history that anchors our city and creates that family-friendly, casual, barefoot, tropical feel we love.

If they disappear completely, we will see instead more of the enclosed resorts and walled private residential buildings that are already replacing them at an alarming rate.

It is true the Beach CRA has no ability to change tax or insurance rates, but there are other types of assistance that the Beach CRA and the City could provide to help out.

Gary Isaacson, who owns a small inn on Hollywood North Beach, provides the following suggestions to our city and CRA, as possible approaches to offset the huge jump in taxes and insurance that is putting our small motels and inns out of business.

Do you have additional ideas?  Please write to the Balance Sheet and let us know your thoughts.

Short-Term Ideas

  • Help those motels and inns that plan to stay on the beach to qualify as Superior Small Lodgings (SSLs).  Several are already SSL members and we understand that the Beach CRA is now exploring with SSL whether it can establish Hollywood as a Superior Small Lodging Beach. SSL is a membership of inns and motels that are quality-controlled by an unannounced inspection each year.  They are graded yearly for their appearance, cleanliness and appointments.
  • Enforce the code.  Code enforcement focused on property maintenance and landscaping is probably the most critical service the City and CRA can provide.
  • For those establishments that qualify for SSL membership, offer help with ongoing service such as (a) a centralized booking system, (b) landscaping services, (c) rubbish removal, (d) housekeeping services, and (e) centralized purchasing.

Long-Term Ideas

 

  • Advocate for lower insurance rates for those small inns and motels that improve our beach neighborhoods.  Lobby at the state level. Engage a consultant to find the lowest insurance rates.
  • Advocate for decreased taxes for the small quality inns that improve our beach.  Engage a professional, who can write legislation and lobby the state, county, and city for a fairer tax appraisal.
  • Require deteriorated properties to pay higher taxes.  Develop a fair system of evaluation toward this goal.

We urge the City and CRA to move their sights beyond the mega-hotel-resorts, and consider innovative ways to help small quality lodgings on the beach survive.  The contribution that these small inns make to the special character of Hollywood Beach cannot be over-emphasized.

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Affordable Housing: 2006
March 6, 2006, 4:35 PM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Development, Neighborhoods

March 6, 2006

Last month, Neal Herst, Hollywood’s Director of Housing and Community Redevelopment, held a workshop on affordable housing for our city commission.  Also included were members of Hollywood’s Community Development Advisory Board and the Hollywood Housing Authority.

This was Affordable Housing 101 for our elected officials who on the whole did not seem well informed.  Mr. Herst made it clear that the term “affordable housing” does not refer to housing for poor people.  It is housing that our workforce can afford:  our teachers, nurses, librarians, and so forth.  The mayor lamented at length, not once but twice, that cities like Weston and Parklands have double and triple the median income of Hollywood and therefore the burden of creating affordable housing falls heavily on Hollywood while the wealthy cities get off virtually scot-free.

Mr. Herst maintained a positive can-do tone throughout.  He gave an excellent presentation that began with a definition of “affordable housing” (below), followed up with statistics to document the tremendous need for this type of housing in Hollywood.  He then presented eight possible strategies for solving the problem.

Affordable Housing

Housing is considered affordable when the monthly cost of rent plus utilities (or a mortgage plus taxes and insurance) is less than 30% of the household’s monthly gross income. This definition applies to households whose income falls below 120% of the area’s average median income. For a family of four, 120% of the median income is $72,000.  A household earning this amount could afford a $200,000 mortgage at current interest rates.

He noted that 59% of Hollywood’s tenants and 39% of Hollywood’s homeowners are paying more for housing that they can afford (cost burdened households).  These figures track almost exactly the numbers for Broward County as a whole (58% of renters, 38% of owners).

The workshop included data showing that median household income in Broward County has remained almost flat since 1993, while the cost of housing has risen sharply.

The range of possible solutions to our housing crisis presented by Mr. Herst include the following;

  • Incentivize new housing units
  • Land banking (community land trust)
  • Streamline the development process
  • Change development regulations
  • Maintain existing units
  • Develop new funding sources
  • Create a dedicated local funding source
  • Require inclusionary zoning

To date, with one exception that we know of, the city has incentivized market-rate but not affordable housing units. Its one venture into incentivizing affordable housing lies on Adams Street and the carrot being offered there is free land. Two developers are in the running to build this project (Gary Posner with Victory Housing or MG3 teamed up with Cynthia Berman Miller) but to the best of our knowledge, the selection process has not yet run its course.  Posner proposed initially to create 60 affordable townhouses, while MG3 offered a mix of affordable and market-rate townhouses on the site.

As for land banking, the city is in the process of bringing a community land trust into being through Henry Graham of LES, Inc. Mr. Graham’s organization is the sole organization in Hollywood that qualifies for certain federal funds as it is a recognized community housing development organization (CHODO). In addition, it has traditionally received economic development funding from the city’s share of CDBG funds.  As a result LES receives from the city some $200,000 or more annually.  Exactly how LES spends these funds was not discussed at the workshop, but it would be interesting to know. As the home of a land trust, LES will qualify for additional funding, though eventually the land trust should be self-sustaining.  The details of this project are yet to be finalized.

Streamlining the development process and changing development regulations to make it easier to build affordable housing could involve allowing greater density for affordable housing, granny flats, smaller lots, reduced or waived permit fees, for example.  These strategies were raised but not discussed in any detail at the workshop.

Maintenance of existing units was recognized as a problem.  For example, the affordable housing on Adams Street is to be built on land that formerly held deteriorated affordable housing, so there is little net increase in the number of units, though the quality will improve.  As the city is gentrified, affordable housing is lost to higher-cost dwellings. City commissioners seemed to understand the need to pay attention to maintaining and improving existing affordable units.

Mr. Herst presented the idea of creating an affordable housing trust as a dedicated source of funding to assist affordable housing projects.  Also so-called inclusionary zoning was discussed:  a market rate project that is required to include a percentage of affordable units.  They mayor was opposed to this approach because she felt those in the affordable units would not be able to keep up with the monthly maintenance fees as they increased over time.  She told of a senior citizen who lost his home under these circumstances.

With information presented at this workshop on the severe shortage of affordable housing in Hollywood, plus a range of strategies for mitigating the problem, the City Commission must now make some decisions about how to proceed.  If you have any ideas, you should let the City Commission know.

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Neighborhood Inequities: CRA
March 6, 2006, 12:07 PM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Neighborhoods

March 6, 2006

[Editor’s Note:  The letter below calls attention to the growing inequity between conditions in Hollywood’s CRA districts and the rest of the city.  Read the letter and let us know what you think about this issue.]

Dear Balancesheet Editor:

Reading Bringing Hollywood Beach Vision Home on your website, in particular, the middle of the 2nd paragraph where it says: “Two code enforcement officers are being hired to work the CRA district exclusively who report directly to the CRA office.” — Started me thinking . . . .

I remember a letter Sara Case, president of Hollywood Council of Civic Associations (HCCA) at the time, sent to city manager C. Benson. The letter was a follow-up to a meeting HCCA held with Cameron Benson on October 20, 2003 regarding needed improvements to code enforcement.

Twelve items were addressed in the letter. One item titled “Enforcement Equality” went like this: “Code enforcement overhaul should be the same throughout the city, so we do not have a ‘Sistrunk- Las Olas’ effect. In addition, the many services the city has to offer with respect to home repair, painting, etc. should work in tandem with code enforcement so that homeowners who may not be able to afford needed repairs are promptly assisted when they receive a violation notice.”

The problem I have now is two code enforcement officers exclusively for the Beach CRA. It STINKS!  Three code officer positions [for the rest of the city] were cut when our city manager reorganized the code department. This is not fair to the other neighborhoods city-wide. It hurts my neighborhood, Highland Gardens.

HW Decker
Highland Gardens

Following up on Mr. Decker’s letter…

March 15, 2006

Thank you, HWDecker, for so passionately and clearly stating the problem we are faced with. Yes, the CRA holds funds that would normally go to the entire city.  In our particular situation, the CRA is in neighborhoods that are poised to produce some of our greatest tax revenues.  The increased taxes will be spent within the CRA boundaries only.

It is clear that central beach is in need of improvements, but it is also very obvious that there are many, many more Hollywood neighborhoods that are in desperate need of improvements as well.  Where are the funds for these improvements to come from?  I suspect that officials will tell us that once the beach and downtown areas are revitalized, the city will gain as a whole from our “new and improved” business and residential neighborhoods which will lead to an increase in tax revenues all around.  However, that is down the road a piece and, I believe, the CRA holds these monies separate for approximately another 18 years!

I encourage you and all residents of Hollywood to continue to examine and raise these important issues with our city officials and with our neighbors.  This is the best way I know of to improve our quality of life here in Hollywood, as well as, of course, by voting in local elections.

Laurie Schecter
Hollywood North Beach

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