Sea levels loom large for Florida developers


The New Yorker has just published an excellent article on sea-level rise and its effect on South Florida in general and Miami Beach in particular.

In the Dec. 21 issue, writer Elizabeth Kolbert visits Miami Beach, and her report is titled “The Siege of Miami.” She points out that flooding is so common in Miami Beach that one can see for himself just by consulting the calendar.

Downtown Miami hugs the shore of Biscayne Bay. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

Downtown Miami hugs the shore of Biscayne Bay. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

She visited around the time of the “super blood moon” in September and saw water gushing backwards through the storm drains and onto the streets, even though Miami Beach is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to do something about the problem.

Critics, though, say it is only going to get worse, and within a few decades, or less, the anti-flood devices, such as pumps, will themselves be flooded.

My recent article on “The Miami Phenomenon” in the Dec. 14 Herald-Tribune, regarding the city’s ongoing condo boom, did not address the issue, because of space limitations, but I did bring the matter up with developer Jorge Perez of The Related Group.

“Personally I am very concerned with global warming, and it is something we all need to pay attention to,” Perez said in response to my question during a June press conference for the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

But he noted that buyers are not worried that, in 2050 or so, their condominium might be kayak-accessible, only.

“The fact is that if we sell a thousand condominiums, maybe two (buyers) will say, ‘Is global warming going to be an issue for me? Is my apartment going to flood?’ On a short-term basis, it is not something that is affecting us.

“Long-term thinking, it is something we all need to work towards. Anything we can do to bring growth to the urban core and reduce long commutes and waste of resources will help tremendously in reducing (greenhouse) gases.”

Biscayne Bay as seen from the Lincoln Road Parking Garage in Miami Beach. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

Biscayne Bay as seen from the Lincoln Road Parking Garage in Miami Beach. Staff photo / Harold Bubil.

Perez said developers build to code and not in anticipation of higher sea levels.

“We build our buildings with zoning in mind, and zoning should be accounting – our first floors now have to be at a much higher level than they were a few years back,” Perez said. “Those things change as we study. Have we made any adjustments to make the buildings higher than code? The answer is no.

“Global warming will become an issue that is more and more pressing and the world has responded to major problems in ways that are effective. Corporations are understanding that this is not something that is a fad. You are seeing it in electric cars. Companies are working very diligently in reducing the problem.”


Last week’s column on my sudden, and hopefully temporary, role as a caregiver elicited a number of responses, among them:

“Hello Harold, I read your article on caregiving with interest and empathy. My hope for the two of you is that there is continuing progress and a full recovery.

“At the time your wife had this accident, my partner suffered a series of strokes and a heart attack. Each time he was released from the hospital, there was another episode which necessitated 911 calls. In addition to the serious life-threatening nature, this has been terrifying and exhausting. He is now at Plymouth Harbor.

“I have logged on to the site ( and find it most helpful. Thank you for the article and resource.”

— Cheryl Loeffler, Sarasota

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: December 20, 2015
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