Category Archives: City Issues

Miami Beach issues affecting our island.

Miami Beach approves West Avenue bridge; work could begin in 60-90 days

The Miami Beach City Commission On Wednesday approved a $9.9 million contract for construction of new bridge extending West Avenue across the Collins Canal and Dade Boulevard,  linking Sunset Harbour to the West Avenue corridor.The bridge will connect West Aenue over the Collins Canal.

Work could begin in two the three months. The project — and its attendant disruption between the Venetian Isles and the main part of Miami Beach — is projected to take about 10 months. The Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas has more.

The vote was unanimous. In addition to the bridge, the project includes raising part of Dade Boulevard — where the bridge will slope down to Sunset Harbour — as much as six feet above its current elevation.

Sunset Harbour condo-retail project goes to war with Beach Towing

Remember the proposed 90-foot-high mixed-use development on Purdy Avenue across from Maurice Gibb Memorial Park?

It’s landed in a nasty battle with Beach Towing. The Miami Herald has the story tonight.

 

Belle Isle Key fined $20,000 for short-term rentals

codeviolationbMiami Beach has cited the owners of the Belle Isle Key apartments for violating city restrictions on short-term rentals. The offense carries a $20,000 fine.

The Visa Mare website is shut down.

The Visa Mare website is shut down.

The city code compliance division ordered that marketing of the apartment units stop immediately. As many as 12 apartment units in the complex were being booked like hotel suites through the website for Vista Mare South Beach, as well as booking engines Hotels.com, Expedia.com, Booking.com, bookit.com and TripAdvisor.com.

The Vista Mare site, which was run by Jason Mamane, has shut down.

The problem with the short-term rentals was disclosed last month at a meeting hosted by the Belle Isle Residents Association, at which EuroAmerican presented plans to knock down the 120-unit apartment complex and replace it with two new buildings that would include 172 rental apartments and a hidden parking garage.

At that meeting, residents of the existing complex complained about the short-term rentals, which they said reflected onj EuroAmerican’s credibility.

In a followup to the meeting, the BelleIsleBlog.com found the Vista Mare website,\ and spoke to Mamane, who said he had the owners consent to rent the units on a daily basis — and noted that he had been paying resort taxes to the city of Miami Beach, which he considered an assurance the short-term rentals met city rules.

But the  city’s website, under “Vacation / Short-term Rentals” says, “vacation/short-term rentals are prohibited in all single-family homes and in many multi-family housing buildings in certain zoning districts of Miami Beach.”

And Miami Beach Planning Director Thomas Mooney confirmed that 31 Venetian Way “is zoned RM-1 and does not have any special permit or approval to engage in short term rentals.”

Parking is in the left building in the middle under the green.

Parking is proposed to be in the left building in the middle under the green.

BelleIsleBlog.com also revealed Airbnb listings for Belle Isle Key, from a different landlord.Those listings also are no longer available.

After the complex was cited by Code Compliance, records show that Vista Mare South  Beach Inc applied for a short-term rental permit from the city. No action has been taken on the permit. The fines will be reveiewed by a special master.

Meanwhile, EuroAmerican is scheduled to appear before the Miami Beach Design Review Board on May 4 with its renovation plan.

The proposal calls for two five-story buildings. The existing complex is three stories tall.

 

Might the Belle Isle flooding threat be back? It looks bad for Island Terrace.

How a small rise in sea-level would impact 5 Island Avenue.

How a small rise in sea-level would impact 5 Island Avenue.

At a Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce conference on sea-level rise, one of the many scientists in attendance pointed to Belle Isle as a Miami Beach location specifically threatening by seas rising faster than previous believed.

According to the Real Deal, Keren Bolter, research coordinator for Florida Atlantic University Center for the Environmental Studies, said specific buildings on Belle Isle are at particular risk.

Bolter said that in as little as 15 years, flooding in Belle Isle will grow much worse, especially at Island Terrace, a 16-story condo built in 1967. “It’s coming up not just at the sides,” she said while showing Lidar maps depicting future sea-level rise at Island Terrace and Belle Isle. “It comes up from underground.” That’s partly because the limestone that South Florida land is predominately made of us is extremely porous. Because of this, not even sea walls will stop the flow of water, Bolter added.

It’s interesting to look at how the recent project on sea-level rise by Florida International University projects flooding in our area.

It shows Island Terrace flooding with an increase of 1.22 feet of water.

Airbnb, hotel-style short-term rentals are reality on Belle Isle — but isn’t it against city code?

Want to rental in Belle Isle Key like a hotel? Here you go.

Want to rental in Belle Isle Key like a hotel? Here you go.

At Wednesday night’s presentation by the architect hired to design the replacement for Belle Isle Key, the apartment complex on Belle at 31 Venetian Way, tenants at the complex complained that the owner was leasing a portion of the units for short-term rentals.

Airbnb listing for Belle Isle Key

Airbnb listing for Belle Isle Key

The assumption by many at the meeting — including Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer — was that the city of Miami Beach prohibited short-term rentals of less than six months on Belle Isle.

Diffenderfer said he believed the only zoning exception was The Standard, which was grandfathered in.

The city of Miami Beach’s website, under “Vacation / Short-term Rentals” says, “vacation/short-term rentals are prohibited in all single-family homes and in many multi-family housing buildings in certain zoning districts of Miami Beach.”

The map indicates no exemptions on the north half of Belle Isle.

And Miami Beach Planning Director Thomas Mooney confirmed that in an email, “The subject property is zoned RM-1 and does not have any special permit or approval to engage in short term rentals.”

Airbnb listing for Belle Isle Key

Airbnb listing for Belle Isle Key

But residents said that the owners of the complex, EuroAmerican Group, are renting an inventory of units in the complex like hotel suites under the brand Vista Mare.

It only took a Google search to find the Vista Mare website, showing units available. You can book them through the Vista Mare site, as well as through other major travel booking engines.

The website lists Jason Mamane as its contact, and Mamane was very upfront about Vista Mare. He said he and a partner lease a dozen units at Belle Isle Key (one and two bedroom, garden or bay view), and live in two more.

He said “the owners of the complex” reached out to them about running their operation, and as far as he knows, it’s allowed on Miami Beach.

“The property owners came to me,” he said Monday morning. “I have leases for the units I rent. We pay state sales tax and city resort tax on the rentals. Everything we do is above board.”

Other booking engines market the units as well. At hotels.com, four types of units are offered, starting at $195 a night: one and two-bedroom garden, and one and two-bedroom bay view.  It’s also on sites such as Expedia.com, Booking.com, bookit.com and TripAdvisor.com, where it was posted as available by Jason M. in November, 2015. They show lovely exterior photos of the complex and Belle Isle, as well as photos of the units.

airbnbMeanwhile, on Airbnb, a “Superhost” named Kelly Montoya offers Belle Isle Key apartments (pets permitted with deposit) under the heading “So. Beach Condo Island Furnished.” The posting indicates, “one night minimum stay.”

Kelly is profiled as a “superhost: on Airbnb,com with this endorsement: “As the owner of four Miami Airbnb listings, Kelly is a highly-experienced host and is passionate about the services that she provides her guests.”

Mamane said he is aware that some units are marketed by Airbnb, but said those aren’t the ones he controls. “I’m not Airbnb. I’m here doing business the right way.”

At last Wednesday’s meeting, Belle Isle Key residents complained of poor behavior from some of the short-term guests, including a group that partied drunk at the pool late at night “in their underwear.”

Diffenderfer said he believed it was “not acceptable to rent anything short-term, not anything under six months. If it’s true we need to know and we need to have code enforcement on it. It’s not okay.”

Postcard shows Venetian Isle Motel at 20 Venetian Way.

Postcard shows Venetian Isle Motel.

Belle Isle used to be home to a couple of hotels. The site of the Grand Venetian used to be the Venetian Isle Motel.

And the Standard started in the 1950s as the Monterey Motel, and later became the Lido Spa.

 

Venetian Way Neighborhood Association holds annual meeting April 12

The Venetian Way Neighborhood Association, which looks out for the interests of all five Venetian Islands, holds its annual meeting next month.

Among the topics the group will discuss: The reopening of the Venetian, future plans to rehab or rebuild other Venetian Way bridges, and the rush of development at both ends of the historic pathway between Miami and Miami Beach.

We’ve documented the many projects proposed or under way on thee Miami Beach end of the roadway; plans for the former Miami Herald properties now controlled by Genting remain unclear.

The meeting happens Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in the community room at 1000 Venetian Way. That’s on Biscayne Island, the westernmost Venetian Isle.

Belle Isle residents view plans for 31 Venetian Way — and they have questions….

Street rendering of 31 Venetian Way

Street rendering of 31 Venetian Way (courtesy deforma studio inc.)

Lots of questions.

Belle Isle residents Wednesday night previewed the design for the apartment complex proposed to replace Belle Isle Key, the 1931 vintage three-story complex at the northeast portion of our island.

This is the third iteration of a plan to replace the complex, which currently has 120 units in five three-story buildings. The original structures at 31 Venetian Way were used as barracks to house troops in World War II. They were renovated more than 20 years ago.

Rendering shows view from south side of Belle Isle/

Rendering shows view from south side of Belle Isle/

A 2009 proposal from the owner, the EuroAmerican Group, was fought by the neighborhood, scaled back slightly by the Miami Beach Design Review Board and never built. The developer sued Miami Beach to build a little bigger than the DRB would allow– and lost.

We’ll try to dissect the latest plan clinically, and then get back to the questions and objections raised by residents.

— Number of apartments: There currently are 120 units on the site in five three-story buildings. The new design calls for 172 units in two five-story buildings.

— Apartment size: Architect Javier Barrera of Deforma Studio  said the average apartment will be 867 square feet. He said the mix would be 75 percent one-bedroom and 25 percent two-bedroom. There will be no studio apartments.

Parking is in the left building in the middle under the green.

Parking is in the left building in the middle under the green.

–Parking: The existing complex has 109 parking spaces, with overflow using residential permits on the island. The proposal calls for 297 parking spaces, all in a garage hidden from Venetian Way because apartment units wrap around it on the water and street sides. The parking garage is topped by a roof deck. There will be enough spaces for residents with about 39 overflow spaces for guests, Barrera said. There will be 205 bicycle spaces on site.

— Height: The buildings will be roughly 20 feet higher than the current structures — plus what’s on top of the roof deck, which will include landscaping, stairwells and the air conditioning cooling towers.

Rendering shows view from Biscayne Bay

Rendering shows view from Biscayne Bay

— Flooding issues, sea-level rise: The current complex is five feet above sea-level, and Biscayne Bay laps over the seawall during King Tides. The new complex will have to be built from an elevation at least five feet higher, Barrera said, and a recent Miami Beach code change could increase that to eight feet higher (a total of 13 feet above sea level). That will keep the grounds dryer, but also will raise the effective height of the buildings.

–Sustainability: Barrera was asked if the building would be LEED certified, and whether it would provide charging stations for electric cars. He said it would not be LEED certified unless a new city rule requires it to be, though they would try to make it as energy efficient as possible. He said there were plans to include charging stations in the garage.

— Public amenities: The new plan features a bay walk behind the complex, required by the city. An iteration shown last year had, instead, a park-like plaza at the east corner of the property, where the bridge from Sunset Harbour crosses into Belle Isle. The bay walk would be open to the public from sunrise to sunset, then locked.

The project entrance, and "view Corridor" between buildings.

The project entrance, and “view Corridor” between buildings.

— Design: This plan seems less massive than the plan that was proposed in 2009 and ended up in court. There is a “view corridor” between the two buildings (though the 2009 plan also had a view corridor). The renderings show — and architect Barrera promised — much lusher landscaping and the preservation of some, but not all, of the older trees on the site.

— Timeline: If the project moves ahead smoothly, Barrera said, it goes like this: The project goes before the Miami Beach Design Review Board on May 3. If it’s approved, additional design development would take about six months. Then permitting takes about six months. That puts construction starting in May 2017. For how long? At least another year.

We started off by indicating that residents had many questions. About 30 people showed up for the presentation at Belle Plaza. We’ll try and lay out some of the key concerns people raised, and the response from Barrera, the architect. The owner wasn’t present, and there were some questions Barrera could not answer.

The key concerns expressed:

— The buildings are just too high, and the added two stories or trees on the roof decks will block bay views of some Belle Isle residents on the lower floors of buildings on the south side the island.

Response: The code allows five stories, and that is what the owner is entitled to build and what he intends to build. There could be some change in the height of roof deck landscaping (shrubs instead of trees) if the neighborhood prefers.

— The owner could/should do a top-to-bottom renovation of the existing structures, not add units to the island, and make more money too.

Response: (and this is a massive paraphrase by your Belle Isle Blog): No.

— The mix of apartments (75 percent one bedroom, 25 percent two-bedroom) is wrong for our residential island, and more two- and three-bedroom units would fill a gap in the market and fit better with the neighborhood.

Response: The unit mix is based on a marketing study, but the question will be brought to the owners attention.

— A LEED certified building would be better for the environment and easier for the developer to market. And it likely is required by the city’s new rules.

Response: If it’s required, we’ll do it. If not, the building will be made as energy efficient as possible.

— The developer should bury the power lines in front of the property on Venetian Way for aesthetic and hurricane prep purposes.there, along with the response from Barrera and some observations from Scot Diffenderfer, president of the Belle Isle Residents Association.

Response: EuroAmerican is willing to pay for burying the line, but FPL is requiring that all powerlines on Venetian Way on Belle Isle be buried if the lines in front of 31 Venetian Way are buried. And EuroAmerican isn’t willing to pay for the whole island.

Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer asked Barrera to get the cost for burying all the lines so the residents association could explore figuring out how to pay the difference.

— The bay walk leads nowhere and wouldn’t be as much of an amenity as a small park.

Response: The developer agrees, but the city is requiring it.

The Design Review Board meets May 3. Diffenderfer encouraged residents to attend and share their concerns.