Nightly Rentals in Laurel Park …….

Walking home from work each day I’ve become aware of a noticeable change in the people walking through Laurel Park.   They are nearly all new faces, changing daily,  most of which do not even respond to a smile let alone to a polite greeting.  Where are these people coming from?  Why so many new faces?   Are they staying in these places offering nightly rentals in the district?


Columbia Court

In the Laurel Park National Register Historic District there are in excess of 400 rental units.  The numbers are based on the 2007 NRHD survey and application.  These rentals are located in apartment buildings, 4-plexes, duplexes, cottages and garage apartments.  Until very recently the rentals were nearly all yearly rentals with tenants often remaining for multiple years.


 525 Rawls Avenue

Today we have a growing number of these rentals being used without consideration for a city ordinance.  Nightly and weekly rentals are increasing rapidly in the district.


Oak Street

 “There are no residential zone districts which allow for nightly or weekly rentals. Bed and Breakfast or hotels are the only nightly rentals and they are allowed in a variety of commercial zone districts by conditional or provisional use permit. Residential dwelling units can be rented out for 8 days or longer.”              Planning and Development Director, City of Sarasota – June 25, 2013                 Has this ordinance been changed since 2013?


Cherry Lane


Lafayette Court


Oak Street

540 S

Osprey Avenue


Devonshire Lane


Hawkins Court


Laurel Street


Ohio Place


Ohio Place


Laurel Street


Ohio Place

What sort of impact will this have on the neighborhood, the historic district and to the city’s overwhelming need for moderately priced housing in our downtown core?

New Construction in the Historic District………

A rendering of the first home to be offered (pre-construction) in the Homes of Laurel Park development between Devonshire and Alderman Streets east of Rawls Avenue.

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At the corner of Osprey Avenue and Laurel Street a project begun before the building slump has resumed building again.  Here is the first of 4 more homes to be built on the site of a former motel.

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These new homes have not tried to replicate an existing style of architecture in the neighborhood.  They stand apart and are easily identified as something new in style to the district.

Modern design is absolutely encouraged by preservation professionals for infill in historic districts to enrich the architectural fabric of the district.  Respecting what was built in the past is important.  Adding to it, generationally, creating more layers to preserve in the future is equally important.



Apartments in the district………..

Laurel Park has a few commercial businesses and a particularly large number of multi-family buildings throughout the National Register Historic District.

Louise Apartments

One of the multi-family buildings was the Louise Apartments on Laurel Street.  It is located halfway between Orange and Osprey on the north side of the street.  The building has been repurposed as part of the condominium complex called The Villas on Laurel.

Laurel -louise

The Louise, The Sperry, The San Juan, and The Embassy were just some of the district’s large apartment buildings constructed during the 1920’s building boom.   Dozens of duplexes and four-plexes were added in the 1940’s providing much of the housing for residents working in the downtown and for seasonal visitors wishing to be in the heart of Sarasota.

Why Laurel Park’s design standards are not perfect…….

Updating post…………

One of the design requirements for new construction in Laurel Park’s zone district –    RSM-9 was not adhered to during the site development for the new homes on Devonshire, Alderman and Rawls streets.  Each lot was mounded up with fill to provide a “platform” to build a home on without the necessity to elevate construction.



The developer had crews on site removing the tons of fill that was trucked in only a month ago.







Already the land is looking more like the city blocks they started with.   New homes built here will have to comply with all of the design standards adopted by the city for the RSM-9 zone district.



It is sad that so much money and energy was wasted on this.


The RSM-9 zone district and design standards were adopted decades ago for Laurel Park, well before a portion of the district became a National Register of Historic Places District and without consideration for the area of Laurel Park located in a flood zone or the varying size of the rights-of-ways that exist throughout the neighborhood.  As a result, the standards for redevelopment in Laurel Park have not always produced the results they were intended to accomplish.


Redevelopment on properties within the flood zone are required to meet the FEMA regulations ( The Federal Emergency Management Agency of the Federal government) as well as the RSM-9 design standards.

For some properties this means building the first floor as high as 6 to 7 feet off the ground. This can and has become awkward for maintaining a comfortable scale and balance in a district that is made up primarily of bungalows and cottages that are rarely higher off the ground than 18 inches.


RSM-9’s front yard setbacks can also be challenging for new construction in the flood zone.   Steep front steps are difficult to avoid constructing especially on properties that have no right-of-way extending beyond the curb and are required to build within 20 feet of the property line.


For the development of the homes on Devonshire within the flood zone, tons of fill has been trucked in creating a subdivision in the middle of Laurel Park’s traditional downtown city blocks.  The finished grade of the land is well above the surrounding neighborhood – an apparent disregard of the RSM-9 design standard “f.”

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In recent years the design standard for front porches has had to be rewritten to correct a wide interpretation of this standard after some new homes were built with porches facing side yards rather than the desired front porch.


Over the past decade planners and urban designers have designed far more effective tools to help build better, more comfortable, sustainable neighborhoods.  Form-base codes is one of these successful tools that has been applied throughout our country in some of the most desired cities, towns and neighborhoods.  Form-based codes are more flexible and adapt to the specific characteristics of each individual district, neighborhood and block so that all land issues are taken into account as well as the architectural fabric and relationship to the street.

The RSM-9 zone district design standards do not adequately fit the nature of all of the district.  Laurel Park and all of Sarasota deserve codes that do the very best to sustain our city’s unique built environment.

Read more about the City of Sarasota’s existing zoning code for RSM-9 and the 6 design standards below ……………..

As with all residential zone districts the intent of the City’s zoning code is:

“To create, maintain and promote the development and redevelopment of these neighborhoods while preserving their existing residential character. The regulations promote desirable residential areas by addressing aesthetically pleasing environments, safety, privacy, and recreational opportunities. The site development standards allow flexibility of development while maintaining compatibility within the City’s various neighborhoods. In addition, the regulations provide clarity to property owners, developers, and neighbors about the limits of what is allowed.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 5.43.31 PM The area of downtown Sarasota known as Laurel Park* is zoned RSM-9 (Residential Single Multiple 9 units per acre.)   The zoning category is unique to Laurel Park and includes six design standards that must be adhered to when building in the zone district.

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Move the City Election to November………

Thank you Diana Hamilton!

Published this morning, February 7, 2015


Vote Like You Are 18 Again

The United States in 1965 began sending troops to fight against the North Vietnamese and by 1969 young men—boys really—were, based on a lottery system, being drafted straight out of high school, even college. At the time no one under the age of 21 could vote in the democracy they were being sent to die to defend. But then in March of 1971 the Constitution of the United States of America was amended to allow 18-year-olds the right to vote. I was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Tennessee and as quickly as a voter registration line formed in the Student Center I was in it.

“Old enough to fight! Old enough to vote!” was the rallying cry that got me my first voter card, and as I raised my hand swearing to uphold the Constituent that day I knew this change, this 26thAmendment, had passed not because we on line in that safe place had earned it or maybe even deserved it, but they did. And it is to them, those thousands of young others slogging through the mud of Vietnam, that each time I go to vote I remember to pray a quiet thank you.

Here in the City of Sarasota, our City Commission elections are held not in November with it’s 75-percent turnout but every two years in March. These March elections are uninspiring, nearly invisible. They cost $129,000, and even in a City packed with folks—Baby Boomers—who are survivors of that time when voting cost so much, turnout is rarely above 20 percent, closer to 15 percent.

So, why hold the voting in March? Good question.

Sarasota has for some time been held in thrall to a particular crowd who have managed like junkyard cats hunkered over a piece of stinky fish to fight any change that might undermine their system and that especially includes moving the elections. Savings of a million dollars over 12 years and guaranteed increased turnout falls flat against brilliant arguments such “it’s too hot for candidates to campaign then” or “no one lives here in November.” And then there’s my favorite, ”The Commission elections will be lost at the bottom of the ballot.” Hmmm really? In November 2012 there were 10 not-all-that exciting City Charter amendments presented at the end of a four-page ballot. Of the 70 percent of city voters who voted that November, 85 percent of them managed to vote all the way to the very last issue on the ballot. No lie, it’s on the public record.

Those who have the power want to keep their power. Some folks may be okay with that, however around 2,000 City voters signed petitions past year to revise the City Charter weren’t. One of the revisions, and by far the easiest sell door–to-door amongst the four changes being suggested, was moving the vote. It’s common sense. We were raised voting in November. It’s in the Constituent, just like that other Amendment that gave me and you and the rest of us Boomers the right and responsibility to vote when we were 18.

We used to have the courage to fight for democracy. What happened? I urge you to vote this March for candidates who are not afraid to take a stand for commonsense and progress. Ask the question “Will you support moving the vote?” And then vote for that person who will.

SRQ Daily Columnist Diana Hamilton, after living 35 years in Sarasota, labels herself a pragmatic optimist with radical humorist tendencies and a new found resistance to ice cream.

Laurel Park’s Representation…………….

PLEASE NOTE: My apologies to all who read my post yesterday stating that Laurel Park’s Historic District is divided in 2 voting districts.  The result of the redistricting by the Florida Legislature in 2012 has ALL of Laurel Park within  District 2.

March 10, 2015 is Election Day for City Registered Voters

District 2 candidates are Liz Alpert and David Morgan and Eileen Normile. Click on the candidates names to learn more about them.


Laurel Park’s Historic District is currently represented by Eileen Normile.   She was not elected to this seat.  She was appointed by two of the three City Commissioners in November 2014 to serve out Paul Caragiulo’s term.

Some facts:

  • The last election for district City Commission seats was in 2011.
  • The last City Commissioner elected to the District 2 seat was Paul Caragiulo  who received 1726 votes.
  • 3,438 votes were cast for the District 2 seat in 2011.
  • 16,200 registered voters in District 2 
  • 34,249 registered voters in the City of Sarasota.

____________________ . __________________________

Last day to register to vote in this election is February 9, 2015  Click here to fill out the application or go to the SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS OFFICE at                    101 S Washington Blvd to register to vote.

To request an absentee ballot click here.

Early voting is at the Supervisor of Elections, Terrace Building, 2001 Adams Lane, Sarasota:  Monday March 2 – Saturday March 8 from 8:30 – 4:30

On Election Day – Vote at the precinct polling place – FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHUCH 2050 OAK ST.  SARASOTA , FL 34237                                                          from 7:00am – 7:00pm

Map of the City of Sarasota Districts


 The City Commission is the government body that is responsible for the oversight of the City of Sarasota.  Please take the time to learn about the candidates and vote early, vote absentee or vote at precinct 209                           on March 10, 2015.


“The City of Sarasota is governed by a “Commission – Manager” form of government. There are five City Commissioners, two are elected at-large and three are elected from single-member districts. All elections are nonpartisan. In April of each year the Commissioners select a Mayor and Vice Mayor from among their members. The City Commission appoints a City Manager, a City Auditor and Clerk and a City Attorney, who are known as “Charter Officials”. The City Commission meets the first and third Mondays of each month at City Hall and the public is welcome. Further information regarding the City’s form of government can be found in the City’s Charter”  Excerpt from the City of Sarasota Website

Sarasota’s Circus Roots……

A quick posting for throwback Thursday…………


John Ringling’s decision to move the winter quarters of his circus to Sarasota in 1927 forever changed the community.   Individuals connected with the “Greatest Show on Earth” made their homes here, raised their families here and added an array of new professions to the young city.


It wasn’t long before Sarasota became known world-wide as the home of the circus.

elephantclownrabbitHappy Thursday!