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In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Pinecrest Gardens Hosts First 'Underwater Homeowners Association' Meeting

A newly created 'Underwater Homeowners Association' held its first meeting in The Village of Pinecrest Wednesday. The group is made up of residents who want to tackle the issue of sea level rise as a community. It is also the finishing touch on a piece created by environmental artist Xavier Cortada.

“Today is the day where I conceptually sign the painting,” Cortada said.

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Credit Andrew Quintana / WLRN
Xavier Cortada's art hung on the walls inside of Pinecrest Garden's Hibiscus Gallery where the Underwater Housing Association took place.

Cortada's dream of creating a community that is able to discuss the threat of sea level rise began months ago with colorful street art scattered about Pinecrest. Homeowners repurposed yard signs and drew on sidewalks, visualizing how many feet of sea water must rise before each property goes under. Cortada’s ultimate goal was to create the homeowners group.

“Some people sculpt with clay. In this case, I’m sculpting with people.”

The meeting was held inside the Hibiscus Gallery of Pinecrest Gardens. Attendees came from all over Miami-Dade, and they had diverse relationships to the rising water. There were bloggers, politicians, scientists, and even college students in the audience, with properties as high as 18 feet and as low as 2 feet above sea level. One by one they voiced their concerns.

Carlos Garcia, a fisherman who regularly launches his boat out of Matheson Hammock, told the association that he’s witnessed firsthand areas that used to be dry now overrun with water.

“There are places that are unrecognizable,” said Garcia, who lives in Coral Gables. His biggest fear is erosion from the rising tides will cause damage to necessary infrastructure.

University of Miami professor Natalie Barefoot, who focuses on environmental justice, said its important to also include renters in the Homeowners Association. 

“When you talk about homeowners associations you’re missing a lot of the vulnerable population that are actuality renters,” Barefoot said.

At the end of the meeting members were sworn in. The next meeting is still to be determined.