Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Vote to reject SoHo bar expansion a small step in the right direction

The neighborhoods scored a belated but important victory last month when the Tampa City Council rejected a bid to expand a popular bar on South Howard Avenue. The decision reflected tensions between residents and Howard bar owners that were years in the making, and while the council got it right this time, the city still has more work to do in better balancing the interests of the businesses with the rights of nearby homeowners. The city also needs to learn from this experience as it works to manage the entertainment district taking shape along the northern bank of the downtown riverfront.

The council rejected a proposal to expand Yard of Ale on S. Howard into a former chocolate outlet next door. An expansion, Council Member Yvonne Yolie Capin said, seemed like overkill, and she captured the frustration over the raucous party district by pointing to the cumulative effect of having so many outdoor bars along the tightly packed street.

BACK STORY: Tampa rejects expansion at SoHo’s Yard of Ale

Residents, not surprisingly, were elated, and saw council’s move as a step toward "taking back our neighborhoods to make them safe places to live again," as the vice-president of Parkland Estates Civic Club put it after the vote. One resident told council he was assaulted along so-called SoHo last year by a large group of drunken partiers after he took a photo of the group banging on parked cars. His experience was extreme, but hardly shocking in a stretch of South Tampa where young people flock to drink and socialize into the wee hours before drifting back to their cars in the neighborhoods, where some stop to urinate on porches and garages; others have been found passed out on lawns. "This has become nothing but a binge-drinking corridor," said Greg Subero, the area resident who was attacked.

To be fair, Yard of Ale is not the only target of criticism and it certainly didn’t start the problem. The free-for-all in SoHo has been a decade in the making. And fault doesn’t rest entirely with the bars. The city turned a blind eye to parking, security concerns and nuisance complaints until they spilled beyond the breaking point. They heralded SoHo as a measure of a town on the move when in reality they had no idea how to manage the mixed-use environment. And the city failed to create space for residents and business owners to search for common ground. The explosion of apartments and lack of mass transit also worked in its usual fashion to make matters worse.

Whether the council’s vote marks a new level of vigilance or merely reflects the upcoming election season remains to be seen. SoHo business owners are not entirely tone-deaf; many see the problem and the self-interest — if not the responsibility — to be more proactive in addressing security and nuisance concerns.

The council needs to stay on this issue, and work to resolve the circus atmosphere in SoHo in a comprehensive manner. It also needs to work with city staff to ensure that a similar headache is not in the making in the fast-emerging entertainment district on downtown’s northern end. That area is vastly different from SoHo; it is geographically spread out, has fewer residents nearby and has more parking, a greater mix of bars and restaurants and better traffic flow. But it is also a red-hot destination, and without adequate planning, Tampa could find itself struggling again to protect the character of another historic neighborhood.

The residents need to keep up their advocacy. It took too long, but it pays to participate in the civic process. The businesses and residents have a common goal in ensuring SoHo is attractive and safe, and a destination for home and entertainment alike. Mixed-use districts should be just that — a healthy balance of live-work-play that builds pride and value in the neighborhoods.

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Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

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Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

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Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

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Published: 08/07/18
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Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

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Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

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A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season — when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18
Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

The St. Petersburg City Council has listened to the concerns of constituents and forged a compromise on where to install a signature public art piece in the new Pier District. Plans had called for an imposing aerial net sculpture to soar above Spa Be...
Published: 08/06/18
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Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

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The Rev. Al Sharpton misfired when he suggested Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was influenced by racial considerations when he decided not to arrest Michael Drejka for shooting and killing Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot ...
Published: 08/06/18