CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Founded in the 1920s as a fantasyland of Mediterranean architecture, this affluent Miami suburb has a long-standing reputation for zealous aesthetic policing, ruling over everything from hedge heights to what colors residents may paint their homes.
Now a guy in a pickup truck has upset the social order.
Lowell Kuvin, 44, wound up on the wrong side of the local code one night four years ago when he parked his forest green 1993 Ford F-150 outside the house he was renting.
The city defines pickup trucks, even those for personal use, as “out of character,” and forbids parking them overnight within city limits. He got a $50 ticket.
“I thought, ‘Now how silly is this?’ ” he recalled.
Now the fight over that citation, which Kuvin stubbornly pursued to a state appellate court, is raising ticklish questions about whether some of the city’s longtime interest in municipal decor stems more from snobbery than aesthetics.
The central question has become: Are the city ordinances targeting pickup trucks, or are they trying to exclude the people who drive them?
City officials say it’s merely a matter of community appearance, and the City Commission voted unanimously last week to pursue enforcing Kuvin’s ticket.
“We are trying to regulate the look of the neighborhoods,” Mayor Don Slesnick said.
But Kuvin, now backed by an appellate court, disagrees.
“This has to do with a certain class of people they don’t want in the city – people they see as being inferior – the blue-collar guy, the laborer – those people,” Kuvin said.
The trouble with the ordinances, according to the state’s Third District Court of Appeals, arises because, in part, pickups are not inordinately uglier or even larger than other vehicles that can park on city streets.
“Could Coral Gables forbid the parking of military-looking, right-angled vehicles, or any car which has not been washed and polished within the previous 24 hours?” the judges asked rhetorically.
“Perhaps Coral Gables can require that all its houses be made of ticky-tacky and that they all look just the same, but it cannot mandate that its people are, or do,” the judges wrote.