Opa-locka, Florida

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Opa-locka, Florida
Opa-tisha-wocka-locka (Seminole)
Opa-locka City Hall
Opa-locka City Hall
Official seal of Opa-locka, Florida
Location in Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida
Location in Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida
U.S. Census Bureau map showing city limits
U.S. Census Bureau map showing city limits
Coordinates: 25°54′06″N 80°15′03″W / 25.90167°N 80.25083°W / 25.90167; -80.25083Coordinates: 25°54′06″N 80°15′03″W / 25.90167°N 80.25083°W / 25.90167; -80.25083
CountryUnited States of America
IncorporatedMay 14, 1926
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • MayorVeronica Williams
 • Vice MayorJohn H. Taylor, Jr.
 • CommissionersSherelean Bass, Chris Davis, Audrey Dominguez
 • City ManagerDarvin Williams
 • City ClerkJoanna Flores
 • City4.48 sq mi (11.61 km2)
 • Land4.31 sq mi (11.16 km2)
 • Water0.17 sq mi (0.45 km2)  3.13%
7 ft (2 m)
 • City16,463
 • Density3,821.49/sq mi (1,475.60/km2)
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
Zip Codes
Area code(s)305, 786
FIPS code12-51650

Opa-locka /ˈpəˌlɒkə/ is a city located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 15,219.[2] The city was developed by Glenn Curtiss. Developed based on a One Thousand and One Nights theme, Opa-locka has the largest collection of Moorish Revival architecture in the Western Hemisphere,[3] and streets with such names as Sharazad Boulevard, Sinbad Avenue, Sabur Lane, Sultan Avenue, Ali Baba Avenue, Perviz Avenue, and Sesame Street.[3] Opa-locka has an area of 4.2 square miles (11 km2; 2,700 acres) and is located in the northwestern area of Miami-Dade County, Florida.

The name Opa-locka is an abbreviation of a Seminole place name, spelled Opa-tisha-wocka-locka (or Opatishawockalocka), meaning "wooded hummock" or "high, dry hummock."[4][5]


Opa-locka was founded by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss in 1926. Curtiss developed the city with a Moorish architecture theme. While the 1926 Miami hurricane badly damaged the city and brought the Florida land boom to a halt, several Moorish-style buildings survived.[6][7] Twenty of the original Moorish Revival architecture buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Opa-locka Thematic Resource Area.[citation needed]

Amelia Earhart launched her historic trip around the world from Miami Municipal Airport, just south of Opa-locka.[8] The German dirigible Graf Zeppelin visited Naval Air Station Miami, which later became Opa-locka Airport, as a regular stop on its Germany-Brazil-United States-Germany scheduled route.[9]

In the 1950s, the airport—specifically Building 67—became the site of a large CIA operation, PBSuccess, run by operatives including E. Howard Hunt.[10] The operation helped launch the U.S.-led coup in Guatemala in 1954 and was a precursor to the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. The airfield center then served as a listening post for Cuba until the 82nd Airborne took over Opa-locka Airbase during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[11]

In the 1980s, Opa-locka transitioned from majority white to majority African-American and was seen as a pioneer in black empowerment in northern Dade County[12][13] where neighboring cities (North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, and Golden Glades) were undergoing a similar racial shift. In 1943, Opa-Locka hired its first Black police officer.[13] In 1972, the first Black City Commissioner was elected, Albert Tresvant,[14] who then went on to serve as the first Black mayor of Opa-Locka in 1975.[15]

The city was the first community in the United States to commemorate the first African-American President of the United States. A mile-long section of Perviz Avenue—from Oriental Boulevard to Ali Baba Avenue—was renamed Barack Obama Avenue on February 17, 2009.[16]

In addition to the unique buildings, Opa-locka has a large general aviation airport, three parks, two lakes and a railroad station which is currently the tri-rail station. The city is a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial zones. The city was the backdrop for the making of movies such as Salesman, "Living Dreams", Texas Justice, Bad Boys II and 2 Fast 2 Furious.[16]

2016 financial emergency[edit]

On June 1, 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order Number 16-135, declaring the City of Opa-Locka to be in a state of "Financial Emergency" under Florida Statute Section 218.503. According to the Executive Order:

  • The Opa-Locka City Commission had met on the same day, requesting that the governor declare the financial emergency.
  • The state and the City of Opa-Locka were to execute a State and Local Agreement of Cooperation, which binds the city's actions.
  • The government would appoint a Financial Emergency Board.

On the same day, the Miami Herald reported that "Millions of dollars are in arrears as the city teeters on the edge of bankruptcy" and that "city officials remain under an FBI corruption investigation".[17] The article also reported that this financial emergency was the second declared for the city since 2002.[citation needed]

Just over a week earlier, Opa-locka Commissioner Terence Pinder apparently drove his SUV into a tree at high speed, killing himself. He was scheduled to turn himself over to prosecutors the next day, having faced bribery charges.[18]

On June 10, Governor Scott named the Financial Emergency Board, consisting of:[19]

  • Melinda Miguel – Florida Chief Inspector General, Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott
  • Christian Weiss – Policy Coordinator, Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott
  • Kim Mills – Director of Auditing, Florida Housing Finance Corporation
  • Andrew Collins – Chief of Financial Monitoring and Accountability, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • Angela Knecht – Program Administrator, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Marie Walker – Director of Auditing, Florida Department of Revenue
  • J.D. Patterson, Jr. – Former Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department (Retired)
  • Vernita Nelson – Assistant City Manager, City of Miami Gardens
  • Frank Rollason – City Manager, North Bay Village

The City of Opa-locka does not have an Audit Committee to help select the public accountant to perform the independent audited financial statements, as required by Florida Statute 218.391 (2)


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.5 square miles (12 km2). 4.3 square miles (11 km2) of it are land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (3.13%) is covered by water.[20]


Climate data for Opa-locka, Florida (Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport), 1991–2020 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 76.7
Daily mean °F (°C) 67.8
Average low °F (°C) 58.9
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.81
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 8.6 7.2 7.2 6.7 11.5 17.0 18.2 18.0 17.9 12.7 9.5 9.4 143.9
Source: NOAA[21][22]

Surrounding areas[edit]

  Miami Gardens
  Miami Lakes Up arrow left.svg Up-1.svg Up arrow right.svg Golden Glades
Unincorporated Miami-Dade County Left.svg  Right.svg Golden Glades
  Hialeah Down arrow left.svg Down arrow.svg Down arrow right.svg North Miami
  Hialeah, Westview


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[23]
2010[24] 2020[25]

2020 census[edit]

Opa-locka, Florida - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race Pop 2010[24] Pop 2020[25] % 2010 % 2020
White (NH) 323 317 2.12% 1.93%
Black or African American (NH) 9,336 8,227 61.54% 49.97%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 21 15 0.14% 0.09%
Asian (NH) 27 40 0.18% 0.24%
Pacific Islander (NH) 1 2 0.01% 0.01%
Some Other Race (NH) 21 66 0.14% 0.40%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 82 192 0.54% 1.17%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 5,378 7,604 35.34% 46.19%
Total 15,219 16,463 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race

2010 United States Census[edit]

Opa-locka Demographics
2010 Census Opa-locka Miami-Dade County Florida
Total population 15,219 2,496,435 18,801,310
Population, percent change, 2000 to 2010 +1.8% +10.8% +17.6%
Population density 3,535.8/sq mi 1,315.5/sq mi 350.6/sq mi
White or Caucasian (including White Hispanic) 27.7% 73.8% 75.0%
(Non-Hispanic White or Caucasian) 2.1% 15.4% 57.9%
Black or African-American 65.8% 18.9% 16.0%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 35.3% 65.0% 22.5%
Asian 0.2% 1.5% 2.4%
Native American or Native Alaskan 0.2% 0.2% 0.4%
Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
Two or more races (Multiracial) 2.1% 2.4% 2.5%
Some Other Race 3.8% 3.2% 3.6%

As of 2010, there were 5,966 households, out of which 14.8% were vacant. In 2000, 41.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.4% were married couples living together, 35.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% were non-families. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.97 and the average family size was 3.52.

In 2000, the city's population was distributed as 34.6% under the age of 18, 12.3% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 17.7% from 45 to 64, and 8.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.1 males.

In 2000, $25,000 was the median income for a family. Males had a median income of $22,347 versus $19,270 for females. The per capita income for the city is approximately $15,000. About 31.5% of families and 35.2% of the population are below the poverty line, including 42.3% of those under age 18 and 40.8% of those age 65 or over.

As of 2000, speakers of English as a first language accounted for 68.45%, while Spanish made up 28.30%, French Creole 2.78%, and French was at 0.48% of the population.[26]

As of 2000, Opa-locka had the 46th-highest percentage of Cuban residents in the US, with 9.58% of its populace.[27] It had the forty-ninth highest percentage of Dominican residents in the US, at 2.59% of the city's population,[28] and the fifty-second highest percentage of Haitian residents in the US, at 2.90% of its population (tied with four other areas, including Palm Springs, Florida).[29] It also had the forty-third most Jamaicans in the US, at 3.00% (tied with Margate),[30] while it had the nineteenth highest percentage of Nicaraguans, at 2.22% of all residents.[31]


The city of Opa-locka was incorporated in 1926 and operates under a commission/city manager form of government. The city commission consists of the mayor and four commissioners, who are responsible for enacting ordinances, resolutions and regulations governing the city; and appointing the members of various advisory boards, the city manager, city attorney and city clerk. As chief administrative officer, the city manager is responsible for the enforcement of laws and ordinances, and the appointment and supervision of the city's department heads.[32] Municipal services include police, sanitation, water and sewer services, storm water services, maintenance of streets and infrastructure, and recreational activities. The financial reporting entity, under which the financial statements are prepared, includes all the activities and functions for which the city is financially accountable.

The federal government has been investigating the city's government since at least 2013. In 2014, auditors reported that basic bookkeeping was non-existent. The Miami Herald reported the mayor and other officials were using city funds for their own benefit. In 2016, the city manager and public works supervisor were arrested, charged with extortion of money in exchange for city permits.[33] Both quickly pled guilty.[34] The city's water system had been used by city workers as means of collecting money for their own use. In August, 2016 the city asked the county to take over the system.[35]

In 2022, the city hired Broward County law enforcement officer Scott Israel as its Police Chief, replacing acting police chief Michael Steel, who had been in the position since Steve Barreira resigned in late October 2021 after just months on the job. In 2019, Israel In a 2013 editorial, the Miami Herald called the city "crime-plagued" and the police department "deeply troubled". Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially suspended Israel from his Broward County position in 2019 (replacing him with Gregory Tony) citing Israel's responses to the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.[36]


In 2004, Opa-locka had the highest rate of violent crime for any city in the United States.[37] Calvin Godfrey wrote, in a 2009 Miami New Times article, that Opa-locka was "mired in crime and sinking fast."[38] He wrote that the police department, whose headcount had decreased from 50 to 16, had been "steadily deteriorating" for the 20-year period leading up to 2009. The Miami New Times received memorandums that, in Godfrey's words, "reveal an agency rife with controversy".

In January 2005, after negative Florida Department of Law Enforcement evaluations of the Opa-locka police force surfaced, the Miami-Dade Police Department sent county commissioner Barbara Jordan a report that projected it would cost $7 million per period to take over the Opa-locka police duties. In 2005, Opa-locka allocated $3.5 million to its officers. Jannie Beverly, Opa-locka's city manager, fired police chief James Wright in January 2008 after he had been accused of corruption.[38] In a 2013 editorial, the Miami Herald called the city "crime-plagued" and the police department "deeply troubled".

According to press reports in late 2011, local officer German Bosque led the state in the number of complaints and internal investigations of his activities. In 18 years, he had been the subject of 40 internal investigations, 16 for excessive force. During his career he had been fired five times and arrested three times.[39]

Opa-locka crime statistics reported an overall downward trend in crime based on data from 12 years, with both violent crime and property crime decreasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Opa-locka for 2013 was expected to be lower than in 2010.[40]


Miami-Dade County Public Schools serves Opa-locka.

Dr. Robert B. Ingram/Opa-locka Elementary School is located in Opa-locka.[41] North Dade Middle School in Miami Gardens[42] and Hialeah/Miami Lakes Senior High in Hialeah serve the city.[43]

An Arab-inspired plaza entrance
A building with Moorish features


The Opa-locka Branch library is one of the 50 branches included within the Miami-Dade Public Library System. This branch is open to the public on weekdays offering an After School Club and Storytime for children.[44]


Opa-locka had 30 houses of worship in 1996. During that year, Oscar Musibay of the Miami New Times said, "Like South Beach has hotels, Opa-locka has churches."[45]


The modern Opa-Locka Tri-Rail commuter station, next door to the former Opa-Locka Railroad Station built by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and now on the National Register of Historic Places

Opa-locka is served by Opa-locka Executive Airport, owned and operated by the Miami-Dade County Aviation Department.

Additionally, Opa-locka is served by Miami-Dade Transit buses and by Tri-Rail via the Opa-locka Station.

In popular culture[edit]

Notable people[edit]


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  2. ^ "UNITED STATES QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Quickfacts.census.gov. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "History of Opa-locka Architecture".
  4. ^ Hailey, Arthur (November 1, 1990). The evening news. Corgi Books. ISBN 9780552137133 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Miller, Mark; Raterman, David (2008). National Geographic Traveler: Miami & the Keys. National Geographic Books. p. 66. Nijman, Jan (2010). Miami: mistress of the Americas. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0812207026.
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  9. ^ Miller, Alicia Momsen. "From Rio to Akron aboard the Graf Zeppelin, 1933". Archived from the original on February 12, 2003. Retrieved April 8, 2006.
  10. ^ Chardy, Alfonso. ""Opa-locka field was once the site of secret CIA base", Miami Herald, 20 April 2013". Miami Herald. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Gleichauf, Justin F. ""Keeping Up on Cuba: A Listening Post in Miami," CIA Library, Center for the Study of Intelligence - Studies Archive Indexes. Vol44,No5, 08 May 2007". Archived from the original on April 26, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  12. ^ Fiedler, Tom; Marques, Aminda (March 6, 1989). "City Government Access Builds Stable Community - page 1". The Miami Herald.
  13. ^ a b Fiedler, Tom; Marques, Aminda (March 6, 1989). "City Government Access Builds Stable Community - page 2". The Miami Herald.
  14. ^ "First Black is Elected in Opa-locka; Pierson, Bowers, Tresvant Lead Vote". The Miami Herald . April 19, 1972.
  15. ^ Brecher, John (April 17, 1975). "Mayor Maps New Opa-Locka". The Miami Herald.
  16. ^ a b "City of Opa-locka History". OpalockaFL.gov. City of Opa-Locka, Florida.
  17. ^ Sallahand, Michael (June 1, 2016). "Governor declares financial emergency in Opa-locka". Miami Herald. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  18. ^ Rabin, Charles (May 24, 2016). "Facing bribery charges, Opa-locka commissioner rams SUV into tree, killing himself". Miami Herald. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
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  24. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Opa-locka, Florida". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  25. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Opa-locka, Florida". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  26. ^ "MLA Data Center Results of Opa-locka, Florida". Modern Language Association. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  27. ^ "Ancestry Map of Cuban Communities". Epodunk.com. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  28. ^ "Ancestry Map of Dominican Communities". Epodunk.com. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
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  39. ^ Anthony Cormier and Matthew Doig, "Tarnished Badge, Flawed System", Miami Herald Tribune, December 4, 2011.
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External links[edit]