Home Content CategoryBoca Viewpoint They don’t have to listen.

They don’t have to listen.

by Alan Neibauer

It is comforting when someone asks your opinion and gives you time to talk, although they don’t have to listen.  Municipalities do this all time. It’s just a façade to give residents an illusion of power. Resident priorities sink to the bottom, rarely if ever, rising to the top of the city’s priority list. And Boca Raton has mastered this illusion.

Boca Raton gets good press with its efforts to listen to the people. It holds meetings to get resident input, but they are strictly moderated to control the issues and questions asked. On January 18 of this year, the city invited residents to share their opinions. They prepared the questions and posted the types of projects on the wall. Then they asked residents to put a green sticker on projects they want, a red sticker on projects they don’t want.

Everyone wanted a skate park

Not included as issues were traffic and congestion, and reasonably priced stores and restaurants. These are issues the city doesn’t really seem concerned about, although they are important to the quality of life.

The issue that received the most attention was the skate park currently at  400 Crawford Blvd. Not only did it get the greatest number of green stickers, it also solicited loud cheers and applause. You can see all of the vote for recreation and sports here.

 Residents were generally against apartment buildings and affordable housing, although they split on residential and retail mixed use projects.

Furthermore, they were against sports stadiums and a convention center.

Almost everyone liked mom and pop

They were against major retail stores and office buildings. Mixed on bars.  But favorable to coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, and “pop and mom” local stores.

How high will these resident desires rise in the city’s list of priorities?   

When it comes to mom and pop, they don’t listen

Boca has never seemed to favor mom and pop stores. Take the Sanborn Café on 1st Ave in Sanborn Square. This quaint little café has been at that location for years. According to the owner, however, the city dealt it a major blow during COVID. It would not allow it to have a free pickup parking spot in front. Just pulling over to pick up an order would earn a ticket. Or they would have to feed the meter. So sales plummeted. Yet, the city allowed multiple free pickup spots at restaurants in Mizner Park. 

There is a narrow alley next to the restaurant. But a patron would be blocking the alley, causing conflict with the owner, Alfred Aletto. What’s more, the final blow will probably be construction of Aletto Square next to it. The street blockages and construction dirt and noise will drive away patrons and drive the final nail in its coffin.

Another example is the row of small useful shops on NE 2nd St, next to the downtown post office. That will be replaced with the block long Mizner Hotel. True, the hotel will have retail shops.  But shown in the rendering are shops such as Louboutin, Hermes, and Cartier.  Not exactly convenient mom and pop shops that residents need to make downtown livable.

Contrary to resident wishes, large office buildings are popping up all over Boca. And the downtown has become a bee’s hive of multimillion dollar condominiums and expensive luxury rental.

It is clear that some resident priorities are unrealistic. And others will just never be seriously considered . Boca will never stop building offices and apartment buildings. But if Boca really cared about, and listened to, its residents, it would seriously integrate resident wishes in its plans. That is, if there really is such a plan.

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