In Miami these days it’s about elevation, elevation, elevation.
While some scientific models predict enough polar melting on ice to bring at least 10 feet of sea level to South Florida by 2100, just a modest 12 inches would make 15% of Miami uninhabitable and much of that property by the sea. is among the most valuable in America.
Even now, as more “royal tides” rise through Florida’s porous limestone, pushing fish through sewers and streets, residents are becoming increasingly aware that their city is built on torn shelves, ridges and fossil canyons. seabed.
“The water just goes back to where it flowed centuries ago,” said Sam Purkis, president of the Department of Geology at the University of Miami. “The irony is that what happened 125,000 years ago will dictate what happens to your house now.”
Unstable fluctuations between urban blocks can mean the difference between survival and withdrawal, and the rising cost of altitude causes a noticeable change in community activism and municipal budgets.
Neighbors at Pinecrest formed the first American Association of Underwater Homeowners in the United States (full of elevation signs) and appointed a marine scientist as president.
Miami Beach is spending millions building roads, upgrading pumps and changing building codes to allow residents to raise their mansions by five feet.
But in the working class, immigrant neighborhoods like Little Haiti, annual sea level rise is lost in the daily struggle, and most had no idea they lived three feet taller than wealthy people in Miami Beach.
They found out when the developers started calling, from everywhere.
“They were calling from China, from Venezuela. I’m coming here with money cases!” says Marlene Bastien, a community organizer and longtime resident. “We thought the allure of Little Haiti was the fact that it was close to the city center, close to the airports and the beach. It is unknown to us because we are located at a higher altitude.”
Citing a number of vacant stores, she wrote down the names of a dozen small business owners she said had been pushed out of rent increases, and listed others who she said had unknowingly accepted low offers without understanding the Miami housing crisis. .
“If you sell your home in Little Haiti, you think you’re making a big deal, and only after you sell, and then you realize, ‘Oh, I can’t buy anywhere else.’ “
After her community center and day school were evaluated by three different buildings, she rose from plans to build Magic City’s sprawling $ 1 billion development on the edge of Little Haiti, including an alley, high-end shops, high-rise apartments and represented by a consortium of local investors, including the founder of Cirque du Soleil.
The developers of Magic City insist that they chose the site based on location, not elevation.
They promised to preserve the soul of Little Haiti and give the community $ 31 million for affordable housing and other programs, but that was not enough for Bastien. “This is a plan to actually erase Little Haiti,” she said. “Because this is the only place where immigration and climate gentrification collide.”
She struggled with the development of the protesters and with handwriting that she could collect, but after a debate that lasted until 1 pm, at the end of June, the commissioners approved the resolution with 3-0 votes.
“The area we took was entirely industrial,” said Max Sklar, vice president of Plaza Equity Partners and a member of the development team. “There was no real thriving economy around these warehouses or vacant lands. And so our goal is to create this economy.
“Can we reassure everyone? Not 100%, that’s not possible. It’s not realistic. But we listened to them.”
He reiterated his promise to provide $ 6 million in trust to the Little Haiti community before the land was even disturbed, and as a sign that he had heard at least one request, he acknowledged that the complex would now be called the Little Haiti Magic City.
But while Bastien mourns the defeat, her neighbor and partner Leoni Hermantin welcomes the investment and hopes for the best. “Even if Magic City doesn’t come today, the pace of gentrification is so fast that our people will not be able to afford housing anyway,” she said with a resigned shake of her head. “Magic City is not the government. Affordable housing policies must come from the government.”
“(Climate gentrification) is something we are watching very closely,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told me. “But we still haven’t seen direct evidence of that.”
Suarez is the rare Republican to argue passionately about climate mitigation plans and help win a $ 400 million Miami Forever bond approved by voters to fund actions to protect the city from the ravages of higher seas and stronger storms. .
“We actually set up a sustainability fund in our first tranche from Miami Forever so people could renovate their homes so they could stay in their properties, not have to sell their properties,” he said.
But that fund is a relatively small $ 15 million, which is not enough to erase the housing crisis that is growing with each heat wave and hurricane in a city where more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said there was already evidence of how the climate crisis was affecting the rich and the poor in different ways.
He pointed out that the sick are probably the least responsible. “Conversely, while people in poverty are responsible for only a small fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change and have the least capacity to protect themselves,” Alston wrote last month.