Thursday, June 20, 2024

From the Magazine: Coast Guard

It was just supposed to be a six-week gig. That’s how Kristine de Haseth remembers the humble founding of the Florida Coalition for Preservation (FCP). Hastily organized in less than 30 days, in 2007, with the express purpose of fighting a developer’s plans to build up to 10 high-rises in the quiet mobile home community of Briny Breezes, the nonprofit organization will soon celebrate its 17th year as the loyal opposition to the overdevelopment of the coastal communities and barrier islands of the southern Palm Beaches. All have operated under the helm of founding Executive Director de Haseth, whose victory against the acquisition of Briny Breezes inspired a formidable career in environmental preservation.

“We really took the role of educator within the community as to what were the pros, the cons, really trying to tickle out what the developer was planning on doing,” she says. “We had a large meeting and rented out the Crest Theatre in downtown Delray Beach, and bused in people. … The developer ended up walking away, and a lot of it was due to the opposition that we were able to create.”

De Haseth expected the FCP to sunset after its role in saving Briny Breezes. Instead, concerned citizens and local officials approached de Haseth about other projects threatening to disrupt life in other coastal cities. The Coalition’s work on the controversial Atlantic Crossing project near Delray’s beachfront has been another signature achievement. The FCP’s persistence, which included investing in a traffic study, helped result in the shaving off of two stories from the two-city-block development, the restriction of its usage of nearby Veterans Park, and the creation of additional points of ingress and egress.

This example of healthy compromise between growth and protection of resources did not come easy. De Haseth says the battle took the better part of eight years. “Sometimes it’s difficult to keep up the advocacy, because people get tired,” she says. “It’s a long game, and you never know the twists and turns. … It was frustrating for all parties involved. At the end of the day, it was good for all parties.”

De Haseth is a Florida native, and a passion for conservation runs in her blood. Her grandmother was an activist—and a personal friend of Marjory Stoneman Douglas—who would bring De Haseth to her first commission meetings. “I got indoctrinated with a little fire in the belly very early on,” she says.

She attended undergraduate and graduate studies, in fine arts and business, respectively, at the University of Miami. About five years after graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to work for Paramount Pictures as its director of licensing, and then to San Francisco for a similar role at Sony Music. It was during her time in Northern California that she planted the seed for her later environmentalism.

Since moving back to South Florida, and Gulf Stream, in 1993, she remembers being one of two residents who attended her town’s commission meetings. “I didn’t go to complain,” she recalls. “I just went because it’s what I did in California.” When it came time to find the person to lead the Coalition and advocate against the Briny Breezes project, de Haseth was a shoo-in.

Not every project in which the FCP engages goes its way. De Haseth cites the development of a 10-story, 326-rental apartment unit in a former shopping plaza at the intersection of Woolbright and Federal in Boynton Beach.

“Sometimes we get outpoliticked,” she says. “Someone’s running for reelection, and the developer makes heavy contributions to their campaign, and regardless of the evidence, they vote in a different way than we would like to see the outcome.”

De Haseth knows from city politics. Starting in 2017, she spent six years on the Ocean Ridge Town Commission, twice serving as its mayor. “Being on the dais afforded me that one extra look behind the wizard’s curtain.” She was known as the resident environmentalist on the dais, and she steered the town toward its purchase of nine acres of mangroves, among other accomplishments.

“I don’t think you can truly effectuate change if you don’t get involved, ” she says. De Haseth says she didn’t make enemies during her time on the commission, and even most developers tend to view her with begrudging esteem. “I think most [developers], when we are able to demonstrate an improvement to their project, understand the role we play,” she says.

SUPPORT THE FCP

The Florida Coalition for Preservation is funded 100-percent by individual donors. Those interested in supporting its mission can call 561/274-6491, email community@preservationfla.org, or visit its office at 4600 N. Ocean Blvd., Boynton Beach, across the street from Nomad Surf Shop.

This article is from the May/June 2024 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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