Demanding a Plan
Dear City of Sarasota,
I write today and offer up this short list of my heart’s most pressing burdens and worries, my fears for your future—a future mirrored in the past.
You have not now, nor have you ever had a plan for protection of our historic structures and properties. We have lost to the wrecking ball too much that is precious—not one, but two train stations, the Ringling Towers, the Bickel House, the Hover Arcade, the Lido Casino, the Mira Mar and on and on, and in the next year without a plan, we will lose the DeMarcy, Cigar Factory and very likely the Bell Haven.
The Burns Court area, south of Pineapple to Mound, is your most intact, overlooked, untouched, coalesced example of old Sarasota and must be protected at all costs. But again, there is as yet no plan, nor will, nor leadership to develop or enforce one. The same holds true for Laurel Park. The ironclad, outmoded land development regulation (RSM9) defines upwards of 80 percent of the neighborhood’s National Historic Registry properties as “non-conforming.” Without a plan, not even the 1924 perfecto plantilla, for multi-family housing, the 24-unit Spanish Oaks Apartments could either be saved from demolition or replicated in Laurel Park today.
Spanish Oaks Apartments
We lack sufficient units of housing of all types, not only for the well off but also for everyday working stiffs and fixed income retirees. You need a plan. And for those so-called leaders who refuse to consider a “come as you are shelter” but instead insist the answer to homelessness is “housing first,” well then you better get to building that quick quick! But again, without a plan and the courage to stand up to the fears of those who decry any progressive initiative toward change as an act of aggression against them personally, it’s not going to happen.
And finally, the distain and indifference you have demonstrated toward our police officers has been and continues to be shameful—unforgivable really. We demand they protect us, our lives, our property and your civic image, but you offer them little to no protection in return. You’ve consistently excluded them from participation in devastating decisions made unilaterally, impacting the financial and physical health and future of on-the-job disabled and retirees, as well as officers who currently serve, and then wonder why morale is so low. And yet they do their jobs and we are safe despite ourselves.
There is so much more to say—about your step child, the North Trail, about parkland at risk, about potential loss of momentum in developing a form based code, about your pitiful cracked sidewalks and potholed streets and your just awful teeth-grindingly dysfunctional government structure—but I’m tired for now of thinking about you, talking about you, worrying about you.
Perhaps it’s true the people get the government they deserve, but Sarasota, the place, deserves so much better—it deserves the best. It’s time for you to make a plan.
Sincerely, Diana Hamilton
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.