Driftwood, located on Big Bayou just south of 22nd Avenue South, is a special neighborhood with an incredible sense of place that can be felt as soon as one enters the neighborhood. The homes within the neighborhood include an original 19 homes designed during the 1930s to 1940s by nationally known artist, Mark Dixon Dodd and Archie Parish, an important local architect. All of these homes still remain. The neighborhood plan is an early example of designing with nature. This concept visually unites all of its homes located within a coastal sub-tropical hammock, and yet still retains a dense tree canopy with an understory of lush jungle-like garden landscaping.
Driftwood was once a site used by Native Americans. There may still be prehistoric features and artifacts from the native settlement whose large shell mounds were destroyed in the early 20th century. Driftwood is also the site of archaeological features from the 1800s pioneer homesteads of Abel Miranda and John Bethell who were the first permanent European settlers in lower Pinellas County. It is also the only area in Pinellas County to see armed military conflict during the Civil War with engagement between the U.S. Navy and the settlement of alleged blockade-runners occurring in February of 1862.
The beauty of Driftwood is unmatched and its historical legacy unrivaled in the city. It is, without question, one of the most special neighborhoods in St. Petersburg.
2017: Driftwood neighbors, concerned about future neighborhood development impacts, discuss creating a neighborhood historic district
January 2018: A public meeting is conducted by city preservation staff to answer questions about a potential Driftwood historic district. In February ballots are mailed to Driftwood property owners to determine support for district application submittal (a super majority of residents return ballots in support of designation.)
March 2018: Driftwood residents submit a historic district application.
April 2018: The Gandy Home, also known as the Mullet Farm, located on the edge of Driftwood is demolished. The 1910 home was lived in by members of the Gandy family (builders of the Gandy bridge) for nearly 100 years.
June 2018: City mails second neighborhood ballot to Driftwood property owners. Again a super majority return ballots in support of application submittal.
October 2018: The Community Planning and Preservation Commission ("CPPC") votes unanimously to recommend city council approval the Driftwood historic district application, finding it clearly meets the city's criteria for designation.
March 2019: City Council holds a public hearing and votes 6-2 to approve the Driftwood historic district application. Council received more than 600 messages of support for the district.
May 2019: City Council conducts another public hearing, addresses procedural questions regarding the neighborhood balloting process and votes 5-2 to affirm the historic district designation.
July 2019: Several residents, unhappy with the local historic district designation, seek court review.
March 2020: The court overturns the Driftwood historic district designation, finding the City failed to follow procedural requirements related to date stamping of neighborhood ballots.
October 2020: Court settlements are reached on other challenges to the Driftwood historic district designation and in November the neighborhood historic district applicants ask Mayor Kriseman to have the city initiate a Driftwood historic district designation in accord with previous court rulings.
St. Petersburg is booming, with the city having set records for new construction over the last several years. While city growth and new development is beneficial, such growth threatens historic neighborhoods if not undertaken in a manner compatible with each neighborhood's special sense of place. With the court decision overturning Driftwood's historic district designation, Driftwood has lost one of the most important tools within the neighborhood zoning "tool box" to help it keep its sense of place, a tool that was supported by a neighborhood majority.
Preserve the 'Burg is working to establish Driftwood's Historic District Designation to ensure it is preserved and protected as the city of St. Petersburg continues to grow and evolve. Preserve the 'Burg notes that the court only ruled upon a narrow issue interpreting the city’s historic preservation ordinance requirements for date stamping ballots delivered to the city. The court did not find, nor infer, that Driftwood does not meet the standards for historic district designation. The facts remain that a majority of neighborhood property owners have voted twice to support historic district designation and the vast majority of public comments received by City Council also supported designation and keeping Driftwood special.
We will continue to educate and advocate for Driftwood's Historic Designation in support to the majority of Driftwood property owners who have sought out protection and designation.