The Mission of for 2018

Infrastructure should not be an afterthought. You don’t need a degree in urban planning or a million dollar traffic study to know that the roads in our City of Boca Raton are overcrowded. Or that our parking facilities are overcrowded. Or that our schools are overcrowded, and that our hospitals are next.

What now? The urbanization of our once quiet residential village by the sea is well underway. Just look around, or try and drive around Boca. The mammoth development projects approved by our City Council in the past eight years have altered our lifestyles as much as our skyline. And if developers have their way, there is much more to come—uptown, downtown, and midtown.

Those who care about Boca’s future clearly need a better game plan for 2018. The key word here is “plan.” We need to ensure that additional development in our city is conditioned on adequate infrastructure being in place: roads, parking, schools, hospitals, water treatment, and emergency services.

You don’t need a degree in urban planning or a million dollar traffic study to know that our roads are overcrowded. Or that our parking facilities are overcrowded. Or that our schools are overcrowded, and that our hospitals are next. All that additional concrete means that our streets and garages flood more frequently. We have built and built, and more and more people are coming. It won’t be long until our emergency services will struggle to cope with Boca’s population boom. We’ll need more police, more firefighters, more fire houses—just like right now we need more teachers and classrooms.

And still there is NO PLAN for coping with all this. Infrastructure should not be an afterthought, it should be an integral part of City Council decision-making regarding development. If we allow this to be built, are we certain that it will not put further stress on our resources and our residents?

So that is the first plank in BocaBeautiful’s 2018 platform: Produce a comprehensive city-wide development plan for Boca Raton before approving any more major development projects. Back in the 1990s, the last time we tried this, it involved a dialogue with the public, the employ of an outside urban planning consultant, traffic engineers, and city government staff who were responsive to the suggestions of the citizenry. After the mistakes of the last eight years, it is critical that the development of any comprehensive city-wide development plan for Boca be an open and inclusive process. And it must focus on infrastructure, as well as density and design elements. We should think about rewriting Ordinance 4035 and making it apply city-wide; we should also think about incorporating elements from the 2010 Downtown Pattern Book into law.

BocaBeautiful’s second objective for 2018 is to find a more creative way to make developers part of the solution to our City’s problems. For openers, the City Council and Community Redevelopment Agency should demand proof that developers have sought the approval of those in the neighborhood of any multi-story, multi-unit construction project. There needs to be good faith negotiation before a project goes before the CAB, P&Z and the CRA for consideration. Even better would be for the City Council to pass an Ordinance requiring a Community Impact Statement prior to approval of major development projects in Boca Raton. Such an assessment would be required from any major project developer seeking City Council approval and would include impact on traffic, parking, core infrastructure capacity, demands on city services, schools, etc. The developer could also include benefits such as jobs, increased tax revenues, scenic enhancement, etc. Most importantly, the developer’s creative team could provide suggestions as to how they or the City might address any quality of life concerns raised by the assessment. Why not get developers involved in helping solve the problems they create?

The developer’s Community Assessment would be reviewed by City staff, outside consultants and the City Council itself as part of the CAB, P&Z, CRA and City Council approval process for new development proposals. The residents of Boca Raton could weigh in with their comments and suggestions. It might mean additional work (and creativity) for the developer, but it would address the concerns of residents and save the City and its taxpayers money in the long run. It could also save a developer time and money by addressing concerns before a project faces a contentious up-or-down vote in the CRA or Council or a disputed development ends up in court. If done honestly and in good faith, such a process could result in a more beautiful and livable Boca Raton. It could help dig us out of the high-rise hole in which we find ourselves.

BocaBeautiful’s final objective for 2018 is to work to elect a more resident-friendly City Council. While we are not a PAC and do not make political contributions or sponsor campaign ads, BocaBeautiful can provide Boca residents information on which candidates up for election in March of 2018 share our views about Boca’s future. Our Mayor, contrary to what she said during the campaign last spring, has decided to run for Palm Beach County Commissioner. Councilman Scott Singer is anxious to take her place. Jeremy Rodgers, who has a mixed record on development issues, is up for reelection. Robert Weinroth, who is the most unabashed supporter of development on the Council, is facing opposition for the first time as he seeks reelection. The bottom line: big changes could be coming to City Hall and these could be good news for Boca’s future.

This is both a positive and an ambitious agenda. As always, it is contingent on the financial support of those who care as much about Boca’s future as we do. Give us that support and we will put it to work for a better Boca.

John C. Gore


Boca Raton Development Updates

We need your donations. The future of Boca is in your hands!

Dear supporter of,
As we begin our 2018 campaign, our coffers are in dire need of replentishment. Over the past three years, we have raised and spent over $135,000 in our efforts to block ugly new buildings in Boca Raton and to educate our city council. We have made progress, but as you will see below, there is much more to be done. Please support our efforts with your generous contribution:

Credit card contribution right here at 

Mail to J.C. Gore
233 S. Federal Highway,
Apartment 721.
Boca Raton, FL 33432. 

The future of and of Boca Raton is in your hands. Without your financial support we could not do what we do. Thank you so much!

Snowbirds returning to our fair city are in for some surprises—some good and some not so good. 

The first should come as no surprise to anyone: traffic is terrible in Boca and getting worse.  Most “urban centers” have rush hours; most major cities like New York have horrible traffic jams to and from their beaches; most have parking problems. Welcome to the developers’ urban vision for Boca Raton. Welcome to what happens when you build buildings without considering the infrastructure necessary to support such rapid development. 

We have seen plenty of development over the last eight years, but no credible studies on the impact of that development.  As they approved project after project, often with many variances, City Council officials were content to rely on 30-year old planning assumptions. Only now are they scrambling to address Boca’s traffic mess, proposing things like a $48 million dollar one way system for Federal and Dixie Highways, or $ millions for “mass transit” that most people will find less convenient than their cars.

You may feel relieved not to see, like in winters past, multiple new concrete blocks darkening Boca’s skyline, other than Tower 155 (a very large building slowly rising on a very small parcel of land) and 327 Royal Palm Way, nine stories of concrete and glass (mostly concrete) which will cannibalize the views of residents in the recently-constructed Promenade building on Palmetto. But the construction respite will be short-lived. Demolition will soon begin for Via Mizner Phases II and III that will result in two more mammoth structures along Federal Highway between Camino and SE Mizner. Just look at the (mostly vacant) concrete block at the corner of Camino and Federal and multiply that times three. In August the City Council gave preliminary approval to the three-block long Mizner 200 project. The good news here is that 1) the developer agreed to significant design modifications and 2) they appear in no rush to build the thing. 

But what is really surprising is the number of major development projects still in the planning stage. If all of these are completed, they will transform the nature of our entire city. 

Here’s what’s in the Boca Raton “progress” pipeline:

  1. A new midtown “urban village” near Boca’s Town Center Mall, with up to 2500 new apartments, restaurants and shops. Traffic would be reduced by providing parking for only 1000 cars. Really?
  2. The complete redevelopment of the historic Royal Palm Place shopping plaza (home of the Saturday farmers’ market) with four 14-story apartment buildings, townhomes, retail space and new parking facilities.  Planning permission is currently being sought to build two of the towers.
  3. Three nine-story condos at 475 E. Royal Palm, overlooking East Palmetto Park Road and the Boca Resort golf course.
  4. A nine-story assisted living facility at 375 E. Royal Palm, between 327 (currently under construction) and the proposed 475 Royal Palm condos.
  5. A seven-story condo on the corner of Palmetto and A1A (already approved).
  6. A nine-story 50,000 square foot office building at 26 SE 3rd Street, just off Federal.
  7. Camino Square residential and retail on the old Winn Dixie site at 171 W. Camino: two eight-story apartment buildings plus 35,000 sq. feet of commercial development on nine acres, with no road improvements planned.
  8. Ongoing development in NW Boca.
  9. Redevelopment of the NW 20th Street corridor.
  10. University Village, a proposed development off of Spanish River Road with a single entry and exit point.

And who knows how many more projects are percolating in the developers’ fertile minds? Just look around. There are plenty of single story properties in Boca that are potential targets for redevelopment. 

Boca’s urban cheerleaders tout these projects as representing progress, a booming economy and the inherent attractiveness of our City. But these proposed developments should raise red flags, for the simple reason that they ignore the demands they will put on our roads; our emergency services; our water, sewer and storm drain capacity; and our schools. 

You don’t have to be Malthus to understand that if you increase the population of Boca Raton by thousands of residents, you will be placing demands on our infrastructure.  We will need better roads, more fire stations, increased emergency services, better healthcare facilities, better storm drainage, and enhanced water treatment facilities. We already need to do something about Boca’s overcrowded schools.  We will need to be better prepared for natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma. And we will need to find affordable housing for our new policemen, firemen, healthcare providers, service industry employees, schoolteachers, etc.  Where will they live? In Pompano?

Putting it kindly, the building boom in Boca of the past eight years is the result of an arrogant and myopic attitude on the part of our elected officials:  “Build it, they will come, and we will address any adverse consequences later.”  

Why not address the consequences of over-development in Boca Raton first? 

Many years ago, when our City fathers actually engaged in an attempt at urban planning and drafted Ordinance 4035, specific infrastructure improvements (nine pages of them) were required before downtown development could proceed.  While the speed and scope of development in Boca may no longer make such a proscriptive process feasible, there are other ways to insure that infrastructure concerns are a prerequisite to any development decisions. 

The simplest—and most obvious—would be to impose a moratorium on major new development projects until the City has certified that our infrastructure is adequate to handle the impact to our community. The politics of Boca is changing, but it has not changed enough to support an approach that the developers and their lawyers would consider draconian.  We may get to that point, but not yet.

A more practical solution would be a better consultation process prior to the approval of any major new development project. 

The 1969 Federal Environmental Policy Act is a good example.  It requires the preparation of a comprehensive environmental impact statement prior to the initiation of any major project requiring Federal government approval.  How about a Community Impact Statement prior to approval of major development projects in Boca Raton? Such an assessment could be required from any developer seeking City Council approval and would include impact on traffic, parking, core infrastructure capacity, demands on city services, schools, etc. The developer could also include benefits such as jobs, increased tax revenues, scenic enhancement, etc. Most importantly, the developer’s creative team could provide suggestions as to how they or the City might address any quality of life concerns raised by the assessment. Why not get developers involved in helping solve the problems they create? 

The developer’s Community Assessment would be reviewed by City staff, outside consultants and the City Council itself as part of the CAB, P&Z, CRA and City Council approval process for new development proposals. The residents of Boca Raton could weigh in with their comments and suggestions. While not necessarily putting the cart before the horse (as in Ordinance 4035) such a process would at least force the consideration of the cart and the horse contemporaneously.  It might mean additional work (and creativity) for the developer, but it would address the concerns of residents and save the City and its taxpayers money in the long run. It could also save a developer time and money by addressing concerns before a project faces a contentious up-or-down vote in the CRA or Council. If done honestly and in good faith, such a process could result in a more beautiful and livable Boca Raton. It could help dig us out of the high-rise hole in which we find ourselves.

Now that would be progress.

John C. Gore

Taming the Monster on Mizner

While most of you were away…

Under pressure from Boca Raton’s City Council/Community Redevelopment Agency and from advocacy groups such as and Boca Watch, the developer of the mammoth Mizner 200 project in downtown Boca agreed to correct the design and reduce the visual impact of the building. The corrections are intended to bring Mizner 200 into compliance with Ordinance No. 4035 and to address many, but not all, of the concerns of the building’s neighbors. The corrected Mizner 200 will remain the biggest building in downtown Boca. But the corrected Mizner 200 will have greater separation from the buildings next door, a more “Mizneresque” design, and a variable roof line that will offer vistas and views where there once was only steel and concrete.

At the August Community Redevelopment Agency Meeting, the developer’s corrections were met with cautionary approval from the project’s two major neighbors: Investments Limited, which owns the Royal Palm Plaza, and the Townsend Place Condominium. Their approval was conditioned on the developer actually following through on what has been promised. Too many times in the past we have seen developers promise one thing (look at the pretty pictures) and then deliver something else. Not this time. We will be watching carefully.

The approval saga of Mizner 200 offers several important lessons for future development projects in Boca:

The first is that it is far better to inform, work with, and win the approval of your neighbors before approaching Boca’s City Council/Community Redevelopment Agency for approval. The developer of Mizner 200 tried to ram through a flawed design that did not even comply with the basics of Ordinance No. 4035 and wasted a staggering amount of everybody’s time and money.   

Only when the City Council/Community Redevelopment Agency put its foot down and refused to approve Mizner 200 as presented did the developer belatedly realize its error. The City Council/Community Redevelopment Agency has the discretionary authority to approve or disapprove the design aesthetics of downtown construction projects. 

What is or is not “Mizneresqe” is in the eyes of our elected officials. Just because the metric requirements of Ordinance No. 4035 are met does not mean the design requirements have been met. Just because the City Staff, City Boards and the City’s Urban Consultant have approved a project does not mean the City Council/Community Redevelopment Agency will.

Second, our elected officials have learned that public outrage over traffic and density in downtown Boca has become a political liability. Those running for office in March of 2018 will be measured on their willingness to disapprove projects that will only increase congestion.  Those who have looked with favor on almost every development project, no matter how egregious, will face tough opposition for the first time.

Third, we have learned that educational and advocacy efforts by non-profit groups such as and Boca Watch can produce salutary results. The amount of time and money invested by concerned citizens can pay quality-of-life dividends.

Fourth, the developer of Mizner 200 waged a dishonest public relations campaign, filled with gross misinformation, in local papers and blogs. The developer hired a high power litigating attorney to threaten the City with a law suit if Mizner 200 as presented was not approved.  These efforts failed in the end. One hopes that in the future, developers will not resort to these heavy-handed tactics.

Fifth, our City Staff, City Boards and Downtown Consultant (The Mellgren Planning Group) need to reflect on their enthusiastic support of Mizner 200 as originally presented. The City Council and the Community Redevelopment Agency took the needed time and extra effort to listen carefully to both sides and then apply Ordinance No. 4035 according to its clear terms.  How did the City Staff, the Community Appearance Board, the Planning and Zoning Board, and the Downtown Consultant get it so wrong?

Finally, we have seen that the battle for Boca’s future is far from over. Massive new development projects, such as for Boca’s Midtown, are on the drawing boards. Barring another recession, developers will press to cram more and more units into the new “urbanized” Boca.  The problems that the excesses of the last eight years have brought us—no places to park, terrible traffic, and concrete canyons where there used to be sunlight and sky—will only get worse.  We need to continue to fight for sensible development in Boca. We need our elected City Officials, City Staff and City Boards to follow the Code. We need to elect City Officials who will protect and improve our quality of life.

This is the mission of With your continued financial support, we are confident that we can continue to be a positive force for change in Boca.

John C. Gore

Opposition to Mizner 200 and building suggestions

Over the past few years individuals and groups have opposed the development of Mizner 200 as it has been planned. We invite you to read the analysis and opinions from two well known sources who have communicated their concerns to the City of Boca Raton and furthermore have issued basic recommendations that could be implemented in order to improve the development issues presented.

Want to see what the proposed design changes look like? Click to enlarge the corresponding drawings of design suggestions. Download the redesign drawings here (pdf).

Analysis from Jorge Camejo AICP

Download PDF Analysis from Jorge Camejo AICP >
Retired from the City of Boca Raton after 28 years, having served as Executive Director of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) and Development Services Director, among other capacities, Mr Camejo provides a complete analysis of the development of Mizner 200 along with a list of recommendations and simple measures that can be taken to reduce the visual and physical impact of the proposed project. From a widening of the building separations at the center driveway, to providing additional architectural breaks along Mizner Boulevard and the south property line.

Analysis from Investments Limited by Robert A. Eisen

Download PDF Analysis from Investments Limited >
In this report Investments Limited (IL) expresses its position regarding the IDA Approval of Mizner 200, focusing on the fact that IL has consistently questioned the absence of horizontal and vertical breaks and separations in the building mass of EL-AD's Mizner 200 along Mizner Boulevard. Horizontal and vertical breaks and separations in building mass are significant Architectural Guidelines serving to harmonize and equalize the relationship of Downtown buildings especially for the few large parcels in Downtown, affording the side benefit of sharing views and vistas throughout.

The challenges faced by Boca Raton today are a symptom of the city's success. East Boca Raton has become a desirable residential market and the CRA should take appropriate measures to ensure that future projects will add value and not detract from the desirability currently enjoyed by Downtown Boca Raton.

Boca's Last Chance


If Boca’s City Council approves the mammoth Mizner 200 project this July it is game, set and match for the over-developers.

It all comes down to this: following approvals by the Community Appearance Board and the Planning and Zoning Boards, Boca’s City Council (sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency) will consider whether to approve the Monster on Mizner on July 24th. It will take three votes to send the project back to the drawing board for further improvements or to send a signal that “anything goes” when it comes to development in our already crowded downtown.

Here are three good reasons why the City Council should reject Mizner 200 as proposed:

  1. The building is too large for the neighborhood in which it will sit. Distinguished local architects Doug Mummaw and Derek Vander Ploeg have written a detailed treatise on this and the other design flaws of Mizner 200. It is well worth reading. As a single building of over 1 million square feet (almost 1000 feet long, 120 feet high and 400 feet deep), it is by far the largest project ever proposed for Boca’s Downtown. In contravention of Boca’s Architectural Design Guidelines, it will block the vistas and views of its neighbors. It should be broken up into three distinct buildings, as was ordered on other large sites, for example the Via Mizner property on Camino and Federal.
  2. Downtown Boca does not have the infrastructure in place to support yet another concrete monstrosity. With most of the new and approved construction in our downtown yet to be finished and occupied, traffic on the five major streets in our Downtown is already intolerable.  There is no place to drive, no place to park. Worse, there is no plan in place to correct this; only plans like Mizner 200 that will make it worse. Why not take a pause in the approval of new construction projects until you have a plan in place to deal with the impact of these projects on our quality of life? Why the rush to gridlock?
  3. Mizner 200 is more than just a big, ugly building (think of the Mark times four). It is perhaps the last chance for our City Council to take corrective action to slow the unfettered “urbanization” of our Downtown. Development is good; overdevelopment is not. New construction should be neighborhood friendly and infrastructure compatible.  Mistakes were clearly made in the development of Downtown Boca over the past 8 years.  Do not compound those errors by approving Mizner 200 as it is currently proposed. You will make a lot of unhappy voters angry, and a lot of angry voters even angrier.


How to make your voice heard by July 24th:

Boca Raton City Council e-mail addresses:

City Council Address for regular mail:

Name of your chosen representative
Boca Raton City Hall
201 W. Palmetto Park Road
Boca Raton, FL33432

City Personnel and Offices:

City Manager Leif Ahnell

City Attorney Diana Frieser  

City Council & Mayor’s Office   

If you don't have access to email or feel like writing, just call the city council number 561-393-7708 and leave a strong message!

Download and read the architectural treatise by Derek Vander Ploeg, AIA, Douglas Mummaw, AIA, NCARB and Robert A. Eisen, JD LLM (PDF).

The pause that refreshes


As the City of Boca grows and grows, The City Council should be asking developers, “Before you build this building, how do you suggest we handle the additional traffic it will generate?”

Dealing with traffic and parking first would actually open the path to more graceful and resident-friendly development in the future. 

Here’s a novel idea for our City Council as they contemplate their agenda for the next two years: Why not take a slight pause in approval of major new construction projects until we have a plan in place for solving Boca’s traffic and parking problems, particularly in our downtown?

Not a moratorium, but a pause, to give our city leaders a chance to put in place some creative ideas for congestion relief. A pause would also give them time to measure the impact of all of the buildings currently under construction or not fully occupied. We won’t fully realize that impact until the snowbirds return next November. The increase in traffic could be dramatic, particularly on Dixie, Federal, and Palmetto and in all those adjacent neighborhoods, as frustrated drivers look for alternative routes.

This is not only good planning, it is good politics. Why pour more gasoline on the fire when Boca residents are already unhappy about overdevelopment? Why add to the problem and approve more massive construction projects like 200 Mizner during the summer when many residents are out of town?

Developers will not like the idea of a pause—time is money, after all. But a pause to get our infrastructure right and make Boca more habitable is better than outright rejection. Dealing with traffic and parking first would actually open the path to more graceful and resident-friendly development in the future. And to make the pause as brief as possible, developers could devote their considerable resources to coming up with creative solutions to Boca’s congestion and parking problems. The City Council should be asking, “Before you build this building, how do you suggest we handle the additional traffic it will generate?” The more creative minds working on this, the better. The quicker and smarter the solutions, the better for all of us.

It’s a win-win. And it’s common sense.

Norman Waxman
Vice President

Paradise Lost or Paradigm Found?

This is a tale of two developers and the future of Boca Raton. 

The first is—or was—involved in a controversial project on Boca’s barrier island. But at the request of City leaders and staff, developer Ramon Llorens agreed to work directly with nearby residents to find a project that would be acceptable to all. The result, a 70-unit condominium called Ocean Palm on the SW corner of Palmetto Park Road and A1A, stands as a model for future development in Boca.

Instead of his originally proposed ten story, 200 room hotel and 70 condominiums project, the developer has agreed to build a six story condominium-only building. There are generous setbacks on all four sides of the building, and every attempt will be made to protect adjacent neighbors from increased traffic flow. Most importantly, the revised project is compatible in style and scale to the other buildings in the neighborhood. 

As a result of the developer’s willingness to talk to affected residents first, the rancor and controversy surrounding his project has evaporated, resulting in a win-win for all involved.

Contrast this with the behavior of developer El-Ad and their proposed ten story, three block long condominium project on SE Mizner Boulevard in the heart of Boca’s “downtown,” where the low-rise Mizner on the Green is now located. 

Dubbed “the Monster on Mizner” by local residents, the 384-unit condo building, called 200 Mizner, is the largest ever attempted in the area governed by Boca’s basic development law: Ordinance 4035. It is significantly larger than the three block long Palmetto Promenade rental building that now dwarfs the north side of Palmetto Park Road between Mizner Boulevard and the Intracoastal bridge. Both in scale and style it is indeed a monster.

El-Ad has been trying to redevelop the Mizner on the Green site for over three years now. It has proposed project after project that to date have been rejected because 1) they required significant zoning variances, e.g. 30 stories instead of ten; or 2) because the proposed building failed to meet other metric or style requirements contained in Ordinance 4035.   

Why has the El-Ad Mizner Boulevard project been mired in controversy and been stalled for over three years and counting? First, because the developer is politically tone deaf. El-Ad assumed that because other developers had received all sorts of variances from Boca’s formerly compliant City Council, it would receive the same treatment. It was international and rich and powerful. But the politics of development has changed in Boca. City officials are now wary of resident backlash, should they bend Boca’s development laws to suit an individual developer or project. “My way or the highway” lobbying is actually counter-productive.

But El-Ad’s biggest mistake has been its refusal to meet with and win approval of its neighbors.  Various stakeholders such as residents of nearby condominiums, powerful landowners who have commercial interests in nearby properties such as Royal Palm Plaza, and various resident advocacy groups such as and BocaWatch have not been part of the process.  They have not been consulted. They have been insulted.

From day one, El-Ad has attempted to play the insider game, trying to advance its latest version of 200 Mizner at each stage of the approval process, making alterations only sufficient to win support of the group whose approval it needs. Their backchannel approach has been evident in their pleadings before the Community Appearance Board. A necessary precursor to achieve ultimate approval by the City Council, the CAB is supposed to be the arbiter of style and taste in Boca. What has been El-Ad’s strategy? To meet privately with each CAB member and receive suggestions how they might best make cosmetic changes in order to win CAB approval.   

As a result, concerned residents have to attend the CAB meetings to get a glimpse of the latest version of 200 Mizner. They then get two minutes each to comment on something which they are seeing for the first time, but which definitely affects their quality of life and property values.  Then, once El-Ad wins over the CAB, they use that approval as leverage with the next review board:  Planning and Zoning. And so on, up the chain, until the Monster on Mizner is before the City Council itself. The system is anything but resident-friendly. No wonder that overdevelopment has become such a hot political issue in Boca Raton.

The twisted tale of 200 Mizner took an interesting turn earlier this year, when asked the City Council to have Boca’s newly-hired downtown consultant take a look at the project.  The Council agreed, and since then the Mellgren Group has reviewed the project and on March 17th delivered a draft report to city officials that concluded that the current iteration of 200 Mizner “does not fully satisfy the design standards included in Ordinance 4035.”  It is nice to have professional confirmation of what nearby residents have been complaining about all along.

El-Ad’s response? Again, the insider game. According to pro-development reporter Randy Shultz, El-Ad has been meeting privately with the Mellgren Group in an effort to convince them that they are wrong. According to Shultz’s source at City Hall, El-Ad has enjoyed some success in its backchannel effort. It is interesting (and depressing) that the first word that any of us get of either Mellgren’s disapproval or the private efforts to reverse it comes from Shultz via some unnamed City Hall official. Certainly from El-Ad’s point of view, the headline Mizner 200 Fails, then Passes is better than Mizner 200 Fails. That’s how development politics in Boca used to work. Fix it before it stinks.   

But as the Ocean Palm project shows, there is clearly a better way to fix things. Sit down with all of the affected parties and work out a compromise.  It is a lesson that El-Ad may eventually learn, as it spends the next three years in a futile effort to build something in Boca’s downtown that almost nobody wants. 

John C. Gore

Boca Raton Election Results

Voters in Boca clearly registered their concerns about over-development and traffic in the March 14th municipal elections, and our new City Council has promised to take notice.

Al Zucaro came within 1200 votes of defeating incumbent Mayor Haynie, despite her enormous developer-financed funding advantage, name recognition and an extremely negative attack campaign against Mr. Zucaro. But judging from her statements during and after the campaign, the Mayor got the message that all is not well in Boca. For his part, Mr. Zucaro will return to his role as civic activist as editor-in-chief of BocaWatch. This is good news for all who are concerned about Boca’s future.

BocaBeautiful’s preferred candidate, Andrea O’Rourke handily won her race, giving us a voice on the Council who will be critical of new development that is not supported by sufficient infrastructure and which violates the design criteria in Boca’s building codes. Scott Singer also handily won reelection.  During the campaign he appeared to heed the concerns of those whose neighborhoods and lives have been impacted by overdevelopment, and from those who are afraid that their neighborhoods might be next. We have hope that Mr. Singer’s experiences of the last three years will make him an advocate for more prudent development. If he continues to listen carefully to the concerns of Boca residents, he will be.

That leaves only one unabashedly pro-developer member of the City Council: Robert Weinroth. When it comes to the concerns of our residents, Mr. Weinroth is often in denial, but even he must feel the winds of change that have started to blow through City Hall.

Thanks to all of you who contributed and voted in this year’s municipal elections. It is startling to realize out of a population of 80,000, Boca’s future was decided by only 11,000 voters. It is comforting to realize that at almost half of them supported candidates endorsed by We shall see if this translates into a change of direction in the management of our City. We will be working hard to ensure that it does.

John C. Gore
President endorses Al Zucaro for Mayor and Andrea Levin O'Rourke for City Council Seat B

Al Zucaro, candidate for Mayor of the City of Boca Raton

Al Zucaro, candidate for Mayor of the City of Boca Raton

Andrea Levine o'Rourke candidate for Boca City Council Seat B

Andrea Levine o'Rourke candidate for Boca City Council Seat B

Al Zucaro has been arguing strenuously for the past five years for orderly, planned development in Boca, hedeserves a chance to practice what he preaches as Mayor of Boca Raton. Andrea O’Rourke can be expected to take a fresh and balanced approach to future development in Boca and to pay immediate attention to our city’s parking and traffic problems—she deserves your vote.

March 14th will be a critical day in the history of Boca Raton. Voters will be presented with a clear choice as they vote to fill a majority of the seats on the five-member City Council. For too long, Boca’s City Council has served the interests of big developers and the Chamber of Commerce. As a result, we have experienced an unprecedented and unplanned for building boom: block after block of concrete behemoths in our square mile downtown, with similar plans pending for midtown Boca. We have seen the unintended consequences: traffic jams, parking problems, and 14-story buildings where the sun and sky used to be.

As Mayor and long-time City Council Member, Susan Haynie must bear some responsibility for Boca’s building binge. She calls now for responsible development and for traffic solutions, and has made some positive moves in that direction. But she has been on the City Council for the past decade and has voted for many of the most unpopular development projects in our city.  Al Zucaro, on the other hand, has been arguing strenuously for the past five years for orderly, planned development in Boca. He has railed against insider deals that benefitted big developers at the expense of our quality of life. His website, BocaWatch, has attracted thousands of loyal readers in its quest for a more resident-friendly government in Boca. He strongly supported a “yes” vote on the Boca Question on last November’s ballot; the Mayor was opposed. The “yes” vote, which was really a referendum on overdevelopment in Boca, carried by 67%. Al Zucaro deserves a chance to practice what he preaches as Mayor of Boca Raton.

Andrea O’Rourke is running for Council Seat B against Emily Gentile and Andy Thomson. A 20-year resident of West Boca and a 17-year resident of East Boca, she has a distinguished record of service to the community, having served as the Chairperson of the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner’s Associations and as Editor of Boca Watch. Unlike her opponents, she is not beholden to either development interests or to the Chamber. Mr. Thompson moved to Boca only six months ago and his campaign appears to be financed by developers and their attorneys. Ms. Gentile is also an unknown quantity, but the fact that pro-development retiring Council Member Mullaugh has endorsed her is a worrying sign. By contrast, Andrea O’Rourke has been active in Boca civic affairs for well over 15 years. During her tenure as Editor of Boca Watch she was a voice of moderation on development issues. She can be expected to take a fresh and balanced approach to future development in Boca and to pay immediate attention to our city’s parking and traffic problems. She deserves your vote.

Scott Singer is running for reelection for City Council Seat A. He has been a deliberative and thoughtful Councilman who has been more than willing to listen to the concerns of residents.  Of late, he seems to have taken those concerns to heart—particularly where development is concerned.  But Mr. Singer has voted for some of Boca’s most egregious development projects during his brief tenure on the Council, and for that reason the Board of BocaBeautiful is unable to endorse his candidacy. However, nor can we wholeheartedly endorse his opponent, Patty Dervishi, due to her lack of government experience. What she lacks in governing experience, she makes up for in her passionate opposition to rampant development. We suggest you make your choice for Seat A based on the credibility of what each candidate says between now and March 14th. Do their words match your concerns, and do you believe them?

So there you have it. If you don’t like what has happened to Boca and would like to see a change of direction at City Hall, March 14th is your chance to make it happen. Vote to elect Zucaro, O’Rourke and either Singer or Dervishi to ensure a more beautiful future for Boca Raton. With your vote, we can secure a resident-friendly rather than a developer-friendly City Council.

The Board of Directors

What has Bocabeautiful accomplished?


As President of, I am often asked “Why do you bother?” or “What have you accomplished?” Looking around Boca as it has mushroomed in the past five years, it is easy to conclude that the battle to save the character and quality of our city has been lost. 

But to give up now is to ignore 1) the dramatic political shift that Boca’s building binge is producing, and 2) the raft of enormous development projects that are still awaiting approval. Make no mistake. The defenders of development are far from finished. There are development projects on the drawing board for downtown and midtown Boca that could result in 50% more construction between now and 2020, and a commensurate increase in traffic, parking, water, pedestrian safety and other problems. The battle for Boca is far from over. There is still time to get it right.

So what have organizations like accomplished with your hard-earned donations?

  • We have highlighted the problems of overdevelopment in downtown Boca Raton. Thanks in part to our efforts, this is now a hot button issue.
  • We have done this through strengthening our media and government presence in our website, with full page newspaper ads in the Sun Sentinel and Coastal Star, in articles and Facebook posts on the widely-read Boca Watch site, in press interviews, through our repeated presence and presentations at City Council and other government meetings, and by coordinating with other concerned residents on development issues such as last November’s Boca Question ballot referendum.
  • Through our efforts we have helped change the political dynamic in Boca. We have provided a channel for the residents to express their anger at what has happened here. As a result, no longer can a developer expect instant approval and zoning variances for any project. The City Council is suddenly wary of public disapproval and of what might happen in the Council elections this March.
  • We have helped delay, for three years and running, the largest development project ever proposed for downtown Boca: 200 Mizner—the Monster on Mizner. The developer is regrouping for another try, and we will be there, urging them to pay attention to residents’ concerns.
  • Above all, we have bought precious time for those who run this City to step back, take a breath, and to do the traffic and infrastructure planning necessary before any more massive construction projects are approved. We have given them a reason to say “no” to the developers who would rob our city of its distinctive style and elegance. We are providing a counter weight to years of developer dominance and developers’ money in Boca Raton politics.

With important City Council elections coming in March, now is not the time to give up the fight, throw up your hands in despair and move to Vero. Join us, and get involved in the effort to save what is left of Boca Raton that is really beautiful.

Want to make a difference?  

Make a donation to on our website or by mail to 500 SE Mizner Blvd. Apt A-109 Boca Raton FL 33432. We will be your voice at City Hall.

John C. Gore



What's wrong with development in Boca Raton?

Developers are losing significant ground as public disapproval of monster construction projects in Boca Raton has been manifested in relevant ballots. This past November a whopping 63% of Boca’s voters approved a measure banning commercial development on city lands adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway. With City Council elections coming up on March 14th, we invite you to vote for candidates that can do better for the City of Boca Raton.

To be blunt, it is just as stupid to characterize those who oppose development in Boca Raton as “not-in-my-back-yard crazies” as it is to claim that those who support it are the “paid stooges of developers”. The 2017 local elections are upon us, and you are going to hear plenty of this.  Vital questions surrounding Boca’s future deserve a more intelligent debate.

Development—or redevelopment—comes in many forms. There are projects, big and small, of quality and taste. One could argue that Mizner Park (although it was very controversial at the time) falls into that category. Then there are projects that look like they don’t belong in Boca.  The Mark and the new budget Hyatt Hotel are examples. Some projects are just too big for the land or neighborhoods they occupy: Palmetto Promenade, Tower 155 (it received a special variance), and the proposed monster Mizner 200 come to mind. Some projects don’t belong in the neighborhoods for which they are proposed: a Walmart on the beach or a museum in a residential enclave. These are all questions of style, taste, quality and suitability.

But the issue of what you build is only part of the development story. Equally important is the question of how you sustain development. Do you have the roads, the parking and other infrastructure in place to ensure that the addition of thousands of new hotel rooms and residences does not impair quality of life? Do you have a vision? Are you working to a comprehensive and detailed plan? This is not rocket science; it is common sense. For if you do development in a piecemeal fashion—one project at a time—you end up with unintended consequences and angry residents.

This is what has happened in Boca Raton. Over the past eight years, our City Council has approved project after project—some good, some bad, some very ugly—without careful consideration of the consequences. To be fair, some Council Members such as Robert Weinroth do have a vision: of an exciting “urban center” where our old downtown used to be. He just does not have a detailed plan of what it is supposed to look like or how it is supposed to work.  He has no plan for parking or traffic, and neither (as of this writing) do his colleagues on the City Council. Like in some urban Field of Dreams, their philosophy is “build it, and they (parking and better roads) will come.” So we have had development in Boca without the necessary foresight or planning. And it is a growing mess.

The resulting problems, traffic and parking and overall congestion, have led to public disapproval. Most recently this was manifest in the “Boca Question” on the November ballot, when a whopping 63% of Boca’s voters—a majority in every precinct, east and west—approved a measure banning commercial development on city lands adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway. This ballot measure, which was vigorously opposed by both sitting City Council members and the Chamber of Commerce, is the clearest indication to date that our civic leaders have not handled development in Boca well. It was a referendum on the quality and pace of development, and the developers lost overwhelmingly.

What’s next? First, there will be a pause in major development decisions, as three of five City Council seats are up for election on March 14th. No politician in his right mind would want to vote for another big construction project until after that date. Then on March 14th, the voters will decide the direction that future development in Boca will take.

Make no mistake. The development and redevelopment of Boca will continue. No sensible person is advocating otherwise. At issue are the quality, character and pace of that development; and whether we have adequate infrastructure to handle it all in place before the buildings are built.

How to decide which of the many candidates running for City Council is best qualified to deal with these complex issues? Here’s a simple test:

If you are happy with what has happened in Boca over the last eight years, vote for the status quo. If you are unhappy and think we could do better, vote for candidates who advocate change.

The future direction of development in Boca is yours to decide on March 14th.

John C. Gore

What's wrong with Boca Raton?

Boca Raton, once our oasis of calm sophistication has become  an undistinguished jungle of enormous concrete buildings. Here are the top 3 things you can do right now to help.

When my wife and I moved here in 2003, downtown Boca was a very different place. It was an oasis of calm sophistication. But look at our downtown now. Enormous city-block square concrete buildings, many of them of undistinguished architectural design (i.e. ugly), block out the sun and sky. When it comes to having a view, beggar thy neighbor, rather than do unto others, seems to be the rule. This is our “urban center” utopia, brought to you over the years by Mayors and City Councils who never met a development (or developer) they didn’t like.

So let’s say you are one of the thousands of residents who are unhappy with what you see?  What can you do about it? Well, you can start attending the meetings of the City Council and the other quasi-judiciary panels like the Community Appearance Board and the Planning and Zoning Board that rule over matters developmental in Boca. At each of these you will be given time (five minutes or two minutes) to express your concerns. You might have to wait two hours, depending on the agenda, but you will get your chance—eventually. And when you do get up to make your little contribution, why is it that the people you are talking to seem so disinterested or condescending? Why does it have to be a confrontation rather than a conversation? Why isn’t our government more resident friendly?

The good news is that some of our government leaders are listening—and you can bet they will be listening carefully as the March 2017 City Council elections draw near. Next March, there is an outside chance that the City Council, which makes all these development, zoning, traffic and parking decisions, could be completely transformed. Out with the pro-development majority, in with a resident-friendly majority. Three out of five seats are up in March, in an off-year local election that usually attracts about 8000 out of 70,000+ eligible voters. You do the math. A dedicated get-out-the-vote effort can swing the results.

In the meantime, here are three common sense suggestions for those in City Hall who really want to reconnect with the voters who put them there:

  1. Try solving some existing problems before you create any new ones. You don’t need statistics to know that downtown Boca has been transformed. Just look around, or try and drive around. We need creative solutions to our traffic problems and parking problems. Solutions that go beyond “walking is good for you” or “just stand by the curb until a Chamber of Commerce jitney comes by.” We need solutions that involve cars and what to do about them. Most importantly, do not approve any more massive construction projects in the square mile downtown until you have had time to assess the impact of what you have already approved. No more new buildings until the ones under construction are fully occupied and functioning.
  2. Take some simple steps to make citizen participation in Boca’s government proceedings easier and more productive. Putting it bluntly, the meeting notification process stinks.  Either you send out incomprehensible blue written notices to the locals announcing life-altering massive projects, or you put up yellow signs with one-inch type that are useless to anyone who doesn’t make a special trip to read them, or you put something on line at the last possible moment. Surprise! As for the agendas of these important meetings, only the insiders seem to know in advance. There should be greater advance public notice of meetings and earlier publication of agenda items.
  3. The format of City Council meetings could also be vastly improved. The current “public comment” period of 5 minutes for each speaker is archaic and inefficient. Petitioners such as big developers are given ample time for slick Power Point presentations. Organized citizens groups such as or Boca Watch should be given the same opportunity. It would save the Council from having to hear 8-10 people say the same thing, with varying degrees of clarity or passion. Or how about when people get mad enough that 100 show up, each demanding their five minutes of angst? That’s over 8 hours of public comment. Our City Council meetings should not be an endurance test.  They should be a constructive discourse. 

If we don’t work together in a more cooperative and constructive manner, we will never solve the problems that Boca now faces.

Three years ago, when I made my first appearance before the City Council as President of, I warned that Boca’s building binge was out of control, that there was insufficient thought given to the effects that all this new construction would have on traffic, parking and infrastructure, and that the anger among Boca’s citizenry was real and growing.  Where are we today? There are still enormous downtown building projects awaiting government approval. Traffic and parking are worse than ever. And public anger continues to grow.

It is not too late for our City Council to do something about it. To solve problems before creating new ones. To make citizen input easier and more welcome. We need to say “enough is enough” before there is nothing left of the Boca we knew and loved.   

John C. Gore

Coming to Your Downtown Boca Neighborhood: Another Monster Construction Project.

MONSTER 200.  Another mammoth construction project.
You thought that Boca’s building binge was over? That developers had crammed about every square foot of concrete they could into our square mile downtown? Think again.

Take a look at what’s being proposed to replace the two-story townhouse development known as Mizner on the Green on SE Mizner Boulevard, just across from Royal Palm Plaza. It’s called Mizner 200. We call it Monster 200.

Proposed design for mizner 200

Proposed design for mizner 200

What you are looking at is one building, three blocks long and ten stories high. A single wall of concrete and glass that will block out sun, sea and sky. It dwarfs its neighbors and the Boca Resort golf course (they will have to put up netting the entire length of the fourth hole). The style of the building does not comply with the Mizner architectural guidelines contained in our City’s building code. The scale of the building is ridiculous—unless you are a developer only interested in selling high-priced golf course or ocean view apartments.

At a time when Boca residents are choking on traffic as a result of Boca’s building binge, it is almost unbelievable that our city advisory boards and City Council are considering approving a building such as this. There is still a chance that sanity and good taste might prevail. They can send Monster 200 back to the drawing board.

The developers of Mizner 200 will be seeking permission to begin construction from the Community Appearance Board, the Planning and Zoning Board and ultimately the City Council. If you agree with us that this monstrosity has no place in what used to be our village, please let our city officials know your feelings. You will find their e-mail addresses below. Send them a message!

Community Appearance Board

Planning and Zoning Board

The Boca Raton City Council

If they chose to ignore you, you can send them another message when we have City Council elections next March.

—John C. Gore  |  President
September 20, 2016

How does Boca Raton's Primary Election affect development and building issues in the city?


If you care about development issues in Boca Raton, your vote in the August 30th Primary Election is important.

First, there are seven candidates running to fill two seats on the very influential Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District. 

Having watched the debate among all the candidates, BocaBeautiful feels that both incumbents, Dennis Frisch and Earl Starkoff deserve reelection. They have the necessary experience and have shown a willingness to listen to the concerns of Boca’s beach and park users. 

For the job of Appraiser, we recommend Dorothy Jacks

One would not think of the job of Appraiser as one with a development angle, but Shelly Vane is running for the post. Residents of the Mizner Trail area remember her as a commissioner who voted to allow development on the site, over their heated objections. Now that she is running for Appraiser, they—and others with overdevelopment concerns—have a channel to express their disapproval. We recommend you vote for Dorothy Jacks for Appraiser.

Check the back of your ballot for 2 important issues

There are two important issues on the back of the ballot. Be sure to turn it over when you vote.

  1. The first would require that replacements to vacancies on the Boca City Council by elected, rather than appointed. Vote YES on this question, as it is critical to ensuring that we have a more responsible City Council on development issues in the future.
  2. The second ballot issue is whether the pay of Boca’s City Council Members should be increased by roughly 300%. Boca Watch has recommended a ‘yes’ vote on this issue.  We at BocaBeautiful tend to look at it as a referendum on the Council’s performance. If you think they have done a good job, by all means vote ‘yes.’  If you are less than happy about the decisions they have made over the past 5 years, vote ‘no.’ Their pay may be poor, but so has been their response to the concerns of Boca residents over what is happening to our city.

Be sure to vote on August 30th.  If you are out of town, you can get an absentee ballot this week from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections at Time is of the essence.

Downtown Development Will Raise Your Taxes

Boca Raton has seen a rash of development in its downtown and there is more to come. Developers frequently cite the increase in taxes that will occur when development is completed as a major reason for the City to approve their plans.[1] The unspoken implication is that the new development will lower your taxes. It won’t! Why? City operating costs will increase by more than City revenue produced by the new development. 

[1] For example see and

FIGURE 1 - Boca Raton CRA Boundaries (click to enlarge)

Where do the revenues go?

Downtown Boca Raton is a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). See Figure 1 for the boundaries of the Area. Revenue increases that result from development in the CRA go to finance public activities needed to allow revitalization of the Downtown.

Other public entities like the City and County receive limited revenue from the development of the downtown. Indeed, a 2010 report by staff (hyperlink Figure 2 to “report by staff”) to the CRA indicated that all types of development in the downtown would result in costs that exceed revenue gains to the City. For example, 100,000 sq ft of apartment development will cost the city $102,000 and will produce only $37,000 in revenue. The implication is that the City will have to find additional revenue, most likely through tax increases, to pay the added cost for City services for new Downtown developments.

Revenues and Cost of Public Services
(after tax increment payment)

Example: Palmetto Promenade (East Palmetto Park Avenue)

This development has approximately 460,000 square feet. Using the City staff data above, the project will cost the city approximately $300,000 more each year than it will bring in in revenue. 

What are the implications?

Your taxes are likely to go up not down as a result of the new development in the Downtown! The Downtown will have more TIF revenue to pay off loans for previous infrastructure improvements and other costs and will have new monies to make further improvement in the Downtown.

The City, the County and other taxing entities will have additional costs that exceed the additional revenue they receive as a result of Downtown development. You the taxpayer are the most likely source of the added revenue the City and other taxing jurisdictions will need!


Everything you need to know about ORDINANCE 4035 in 5 minutes


Boca Raton’s elected and appointed officials are scrambling to explain how so many of the existing and planned buildings in Downtown Boca appear to run afoul of our City’s basic development ordinance.

Perhaps it’s a scandal. We shall see. But giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, it might well be because almost nobody has paid much attention to the 65-page law. After all, it was passed over 20 years ago. So for those who haven’t the time or the inclination, here’s everything you need to know to monitor the upcoming Boca downtown development debate:

Ordinance 4035 is the law.

First, Ordinance 4035 is not guidance. It is the law. It is proscriptive, not suggestive.  Throughout its 65 pages, the words “shall” and “must” appear over and over. The word “guidance” never appears, although the word “guide” is used in the one section relating to architectural design, where the authors attempted to give developers some leeway to modify Mizner’s original designs. But the intent of that section is crystal clear: that all development in Downtown Boca should be harmonious with what is already there. Mizner Park is new, but it does not look out of place. Nor does it change the architectural look and feel of the Downtown.

Ordinance 4035 is written in plain English and it's easy to understand.

Second, Ordinance 4035 is not complex. It is lengthy, not because it is complicated, but because it is incredibly detailed. There are six pages of clear definitions, including ground-to-sky open space. Five pages of development review procedures. Six pages on parking.  Almost nine pages of landscaping do’s and don’ts, including the size and kind of trees you can and cannot plant. Four pages on architectural design, some suggestive, but others quite specific, such as “no more than 40% of the perimeter of a building’s materials shall be composed of glass.” And there are six pages of specific road improvements that must be completed before Downtown development is allowed to proceed. All of these pages are written in plain, unambiguous English. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. A fifth grader could understand the language in Ordinance 4035.

Why do you think the authors of this document in 1992 went to such lengths to include such detail? Probably because they did not feel that developers would get it right if left to their own devices. They understood that profit is a powerful motivator. The temptation to cram every possible square foot of marketable space on each Downtown lot would prove irresistible. And they were right. Ordinance 4035 is not a trusting document. Its authors did their best to protect Boca’s future. If they fell short, it was not for lack of trying.

Ordinance 4035 is a visionary document.

Finally, Ordinance 4035 is also a visionary document. Just look at the section on energy and infrastructure. The authors understood that more development in the Downtown—more people, more cars—was going to stress the few roads that service the area. Therefore, they required as many road improvements as they could imagine PRIOR to letting development proceed. Think about that. They improved the roads before they allowed the buildings. By comparison, the Interim Development Guidelines approved the buildings but said nothing about the roads or traffic. The mantra of the IDG was “Build it and they will come.”  But the corollary might have been “Build it and they will have no way to move around.” 

Boca last took a comprehensive look at its traffic needs in 1992. They should undertake a comprehensive traffic study now, before they allow Downtown Boca to get any bigger. That is one of the most important lessons one can learn from reading Ordinance 4035. 

An OPEN Discussion about “OPEN space” in ord. 4035

The revelation at a December 7, 2015 CRA meeting that for twelve years developers have been planning and constructing buildings in probable violation of the 40% open space requirements under the law, was more of a shock than a surprise.  A shock because of the blatant nature of the abuse; but not a surprise, because we have grown accustomed to seeing developers game the system to their economic advantage.

So we have questions that we think the CRA should urgently address:



First, was the crafting and use of the 7/28/03 Administrative Memorandum a case of incompetence, corruption, or both?

The language in the Ordinance requiring 40% open space is clear. It was included as part of a compromise which was approved by referendum in 1992. Developers admit that they helped craft the Ordinance. Did they also help city staff craft the Administrative Memorandum which according to the City Attorney “is inconsistent with the language of 4035,” which is a nice way of saying “violates the law”. Who wrote the memo and why? Was the modification to the open space guidelines in 4035 ever subject to Council discussion or debate? Why did no one notice the “inconsistency” until now?  How did this happen?

Second, how many buildings constructed under 4035 guidelines are in violation of those guidelines? The Mark? The Hyatt? Palmetto Promenade?  Via Mizner Phase I? How many pending development applications are also in violation of those guidelines?   

Presumably, the City has a way of finding out. Or is nobody paying attention? Is there no oversight? No enforcement?  We’re not just talking about the color of paint here.

Third, what are you going to do to correct the situation? 

You have a number of options, and you don’t need a developer-packed “workshop” to figure it out. You could take the historic pro-developer route and rewrite the 4035 Ordinance to provide amnesty to all illegal buildings and legal cover for projects going forward. Messrs. Gromann and Siemon will no doubt have lots of other ideas how 4035 can be “improved,” once opened to amendment. In other words, you can just sigh and say “never mind” and pretend this never happened.

Or you could enforce the law. You could grant amnesty to completed buildings under 4035—even though legally you don’t have to—but require that all yet-to-be-built projects strictly comport to the language in 4035. As your City Attorney pointedly remarked in your December 7th meeting “no one is ever allowed to rely on an error of law.” If a project is authorized under 4035 it must comply with the provisions of 4035. This is a legal matter, not a question of policy.

Most importantly, this oversight (or scandal) should not be an opportunity for the development lobby to try and get included in the Ordinance what they were unable to achieve when the original 4035 compromise was drafted, or what they tried to accomplish illegally through the now-exposed Administrative Memo of 7/28/03 and subsequent modifications.

This whole affair is an embarrassment to the City of Boca Raton. It is very likely to result in lengthy and expensive litigation, no matter what you decide to do. Having dropped the ball, it would be heartening to see you pick it up and run in a direction that pleases the residents who elected you. March 2017 is just over a year away. 

2015, a very bad year for the City of Boca Raton


The year was a major disappointment as the City of Boca Raton continues to be overbuilt while the City Council ignores the concerns of its citizens.

For those of us who have been arguing that Boca Raton is being cavalierly and callously overbuilt, 2015 was a major disappointment. As the year draws to a close, our City Council and its developer-dominated advisory boards continue to ignore citizens’ concerns over the building binge in Boca, with vote after vote supporting more and more development. 

Examples of building binge in Boca Raton:

  • Approval of two more mammoth Via Mizner buildings, one of which MAY house a Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  Promised by the developer, but no guarantee. For sure we will get two more concrete leviathans. Who the tenants will be is by no means certain. Ask yourself, why would Mandarin Oriental choose to operate a five-star hotel with no beach or golf course access smack on Federal Highway? So guests can walk to Publix?
  • Approval of an additional 500,000 square feet of development just north of FAU, bringing the total to 1.5 million square feet, with NO ASSURANCE of what will be built there and NO IDEA where the traffic will go, other than on to Spanish River Boulevard.
  • A zoning variance for a private developer to build a four-story mega-mansion on a pristine section of Boca’s beach because the developer threatened to sue if denied a variance. Some things are worth fighting for.

We need different outcomes in 2016. Specifically:

  • A moratorium on new construction in the downtown area until we can assess the impact of what is now being built.
  • Creation of a creative traffic plan for downtown Boca, before traffic becomes such a mess that it negatively impacts both commerce and residents.
  • Immediate establishment of an oversight and enforcement mechanism to ensure that developers adhere to the designs that were approved by the CRA and the Council. No more bait and switch!

As activist organizations such as and Boca Watch seek citizen support for our 2016 campaign, we are increasingly being told that what we are doing is too little, too late. True, while we were sleeping, the developers and their allies in government have succeeded in transforming downtown Boca into a new “urban center.”  The look and feel of our village has been irretrievably altered.

The question now is what can be done to protect our quality of life in this new “urban” environment, as well as in the rest of Boca. Can we hold developers to their promises, ensuring that the buildings under construction are attractive and pedestrian friendly? Can we somehow keep 6000+ additional cars from clogging our downtown streets? Can we hold in check runaway development in other parts of our city? Or at least plan for it better?

If we cannot convince our elected officials of the wisdom of our approach in 2016, we promise to work hard to bring new thinking to City Hall in the elections of 2017. The battle for Boca is far from over.


The unpleasant truth about traffic in Boca Raton

Boca Raton, Via Mizner, the first of three mammoth new buildings in downtown Boca.November 15, 2015.

Boca Raton, Via Mizner, the first of three mammoth new buildings in downtown Boca.November 15, 2015.

In a recent article, the Sun Sentinel explored the pros and cons of Boca’s “new look.”  Numerous members of the City Council were interviewed, as were various development advocates, but although the headline touted “citizen concerns,” not one ordinary citizen or citizens’ group such as Boca Watch or was quoted. Nor was there a single word about traffic. Not one word.

A $50,000 “traffic study” by Boca’s City Council has focused on the problems with one intersection, at Fifth and Palmetto, site of the enormously popular Trattoria Romana and the enormously controversial Wildflower development. We learned that in preparation for its conclusions, the well-paid consultants counted cars in the month of September, which is like recording snowfall in July. A similar study of the gridlocked intersection at 5th Avenue and Federal Highway was conducted when the main destination there (Florida’s largest Publix) was closed for renovation. Even if they come up with a brilliant solution for Fifth and Palmetto, that will fix only a tiny piece of the problem.


The root of Boca’s coming traffic congestion crisis is this: too many residential and commercial units are being crammed into the one square mile “downtown” where there are only five main roads. 

The new plans for Royal Palm Place alone call for a 3000 car garage. If all the apartments, offices, retail establishments and hotels are completed, we estimate that there will be an additional ten thousand cars in and around the downtown area by 2018. And that’s just the people who live and work and want to park there.

The developers and their allies tell us that the infrastructure studies done over 20 years ago anticipated all of this, and that we have nothing to worry about. If you are experiencing slower commutes on Glades, Dixie, Federal, Palmetto or Camino, it is not because of the new residents of the downtown (they haven’t arrived yet), but because of the increased traffic caused by people passing through Boca. That’s people travelling from Delray to Pompano or Deerfield and back. Their solution? Maybe we need to build a bypass around Boca’s downtown! The Boca Beltway! 

You’ll also hear lots of talk about how we don’t need to worry about cars because we are building a “pedestrian friendly” downtown. The assumption that people are joyously going to walk everywhere ignores both Boca’s demographics and the laws of human behavior. If everyone’s going to be on foot, why are the developers building all all those parking spaces? To be used as auto storage units? Are people going to travel to and from the grocery store on trolleys or segways? And what about the people who come from out of the area to service all of our new downtown residents? Or the visitors who come and stay in all the new hotels? Perhaps downtown Boca will become the aerobic capital of the world.

There’s a much simpler solution to Boca’s coming traffic mess: 

Let’s pause new construction in the downtown—especially the massive Via Mizner Phases II and III—until we have done an area-wide traffic study, counting traffic in peak periods like February, and come up with a comprehensive plan to cope with the cars of the additional residents, commuters and tourists who will flock to Boca’s new urban mecca. Let’s put the horse before the cart for a change, or more specifically, lets make sure we have the roads before the cars arrive.

That’s what the Boca development debate should be all about. Not the paint job on the Mark or the number of Mizner turrets a developer can put on a concrete pile.

John C. Gore

Keeping Boca Raton as the dream of Addison Mizner


We Need a New Plan for Boca Raton         

We look around at what was once Addison Mizner’s dream and we are angry.  Everywhere we look, what once used to be open space and vistas of sea and sky, is being replaced by concrete behemoths, soon to be filled with more people and cars than our roads can handle or our parking can accommodate. 

Downtown Boca Raton is being converted to a high-rise “urban center” like Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm. Look around. You can see it. Drive around. You can feel it.

How did this happen? 

Scared by the financial panic of 2008 and encouraged by ambitious developers, Boca’s elected officials unwisely adopted “Interim Design Guidelines” for the downtown and a rash of haphazard development schemes for other parts of our city: Arvida Park, the University Overlay District, and various pieces of waterfront property, like the Wildflower property on the Intracoastal. 

The zoning guidelines that had been in place for decades were altered. New construction was authorized using spot zoning and a myriad of variances to the rules. All was done in the name of “progress.” All was blessed by expensive consulting firms and various “advisory” committees packed with those who had a financial interest in the outcome.

Just look at the results. Compare the newly constructed buildings completed under Boca’s historic ten-story zoning guidelines with those built under the “Interim” rules. Compare the Camden Apartments to the Mark. Compare Palmetto Promenade or 327 Royal Palm Road to the enormity that is Via Mizner (and that’s only Phase I).  It’s not hard to identify buildings designed with grace under the old rules versus buildings designed with greed under the new.

Now the City Council is being asked to increase the number of new residential units in downtown Boca from 3000 to 4500. That would base an additional 6000 cars in the one square mile downtown area.

Has the character of Boca Raton been changed irrevocably for the worst? We who live and work here certainly hope not. That is why we created to try and influence what happens next. And what should that be?  First, we need to persuade our City Council to scrap the Interim Design Guidelines and the so-called Pattern Book before any more damage is done. 

Enough is enough.

We need a pause in the building binge to give us time to assess the impact of all of this new construction on traffic, parking and on our quality of life.

More importantly, Boca Raton deserves a new plan—a comprehensive plan—for development.  That plan should cover all of the areas of our City that are deemed ripe for development. Most importantly, that plan should be developed in full consultation with the citizens of Boca Raton.  We therefore call on our City’s leaders to convene a meaningful dialogue with ALL concerned citizens—a comprehensive design “charrette”—to produce a new Master Development Plan for Boca Raton. 

It is time to look at what has been done and to plan anew.  In some parts of Boca, such as the downtown, it is almost too late.

Yours sincerely,
The Board of Directors