Pavilion from the Ocean

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Condominium Elections, Rules and Official Records/Board Member Certification

Hosted by the City of Miami Beach and presented by the Department of Business and Professional Regulations, Division of Condominiums, Bureau of Compliance.

Monday, May 9, 2016
3 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Miami Beach City Hall
1700 Convention Center Drive
3rd Floor, Commission Chambers
Miami Beach, FL 33139


CONDO CONFIDENTIAL: Miami mayor criticizes condo project backed by Venezuelan oil funds

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado blasts developer of Morningside condo tower

Miami is a “fragile community of exiles,” Regalado says

Venezuelan oil tycoon Gerardo Pantin is backing the $100 million condo project, called Boulevard 57

A planned condo tower in Miami backed by an oil tycoon who’s done business with Venezuela’s socialist government poses a “moral problem,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Tuesday, but the city can’t stop the project.

“Miami has become the home for exiles that have been disenfranchised from Venezuela,” Regalado said. “There should be a moral stigma when you do business with the government in Venezuela while the people suffer and then come here to do grandiose projects.”

Venezuelan oil man Gerardo Pantin Shortt has been quietly backing the development of a luxury, eight-story condo tower near Miami’s Morningside neighborhood, the Miami Herald reported over the weekend.

This is a fragile community of exiles. Tomás Regalado

Pantin’s name doesn’t appear in public records for the project, called Boulevard 57. Pantin told the Herald he stayed quiet about his involvement because of safety concerns in Venezuela, where he says family members have been kidnapped. A lawsuit filed by a former partner in Miami-Dade County claimed Pantin was trying to keep the project secret from the Venezuelan government.

His family company won nearly $1 billion in contracts from Venezuela’s state oil company between 2008 and 2015 — but also worked with the state firm before Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. The Pantins have never been accused of corruption.

Regalado, a Cuban exile, compared working with Chávez, who died in 2013, and successor Nicolás Maduro to doing business with Cuba.

“This is a fragile community of exiles,” he said.

There’s no American embargo on commerce with Venezuela, as there is for Cuba, and major companies from around the world have signed contracts with the government there.

But its state oil company, PDVSA, has come under fire from U.S. prosecutors for corruption.
Regalado said he has no power to block the project. Boulevard 57 is an “as-of-right” development, meaning it falls within current zoning codes and doesn’t require approval from the city.
Pantin, through a spokeswoman, said he had no response to the mayor’s comments.

Doral has attracted many Venezuelans fleeing their home country’s insecurity. One in five residents have Venezuelan ancestry, according to U.S. Census figures.
The city’s mayor, Luigi Boria, left Venezuela in 1989. He said he had no opinion on Pantin’s business activities.

Miami condo owners confused by election monitor

Mónica Hidalgo was banned from portraying herself as state-appointed

Some owners believe she's sent by state agency that regulates condos

She's been hired as a private election supervisor, claims she has not deceived anyone

When elections monitor Mónica Hidalgo turned up Nov. 20 to watch over the 2015 balloting for the board of directors at the Los Sueños condominium, many of the owners breathed a sigh of relief.
They believed Hidalgo had been sent by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR), in reply to their request for a monitor to supervise the controversial elections at the Hialeah complex.

Hidalgo's presence was welcomed by both board members who were seeking reelection and their opponents. Members of both factions say they gathered signatures on petitions seeking the presence of a state-appointed monitor who would guarantee the transparency of the process and report conclusions to the DBPR.

“We asked for her. Yes, of course, we collected signatures for that,” said Arelys López, who was reelected president of the condo association in the balloting.

But what López and others involved in the election did not know was that Hidalgo is not a monitor appointed by the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman.

In fact, since 2010 that office stopped assigning Hidalgo as an election monitor after stating that she “blatantly ignored” instructions prohibiting the delegation of responsibilities, misrepresented not being at a meeting and other issues. The Ombudsman concluded the March 31, 2010 letter by stating, “your actions, lapses in judgment, and inattention to duty… have seriously undermined and diminished the trust and confidence placed in you and reflects adversely upon the election monitor program administered by this office.” Her identification badge was revoked.

And in 2012, after at least one condo owner complained, the Ombudsman's office demanded that Hidalgo stop promoting herself as a monitor assigned or certified by the state and warned her that her actions amounted to consumer fraud.

Hidalgo told a team of reporters for el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 two weeks ago that she does not represent herself as a monitor assigned by the state.

“I never say I am certified. I always say I was certified. Little words that are specific and powerful in any court,” said Hidalgo, who owns Luminary LLC, a company that supervises condo and co-op elections. “And I never introduce myself as sent by the DBPR. If someone says that I am sent (by the DBPR), that's up to them, but that never comes out of my mouth.”

Condo owners say there's no clear way to determine whether a monitor has been assigned by the state or privately contracted by an association's board of directors. The issue reflects the lack of regulations on condo election monitors, who are not state employees and do not have licenses or certifications. The state also stopped issuing identification badges for the monitors it approves.

The Condominium Ombudsman can appoint an election monitor only after receiving a petition signed by at least 15 per cent of the condo owners.


Hidalgo said she was contacted directly by Sunshine Management Services, the company that manages the Los Sueños complex, to monitor the election there. She added that she is always paid for her services by condo associations.

Sunshine representatives however initially told el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 journalists that Hidalgo had been sent by the state as an neutral party to monitor the balloting. They added that Hidalgo had accepted the use of notarized affidavits by owners as guarantees of the validity of their votes, a system designed by Sunshine to avert electoral fraud.

Sunshine's public relations agent, Helena Poleo, in a later email to journalists, wrote that the company had provided information about Hidalgo that it believed to be correct but then appeared to add some nuance.

“It is widely known that Mrs. Mónica Hidalgo has been certified by the DBPR to monitor elections and owns a totally legal company for those activities,” Poleo wrote. “She has been sent by the DBPR to monitor elections in many associations. It is our understanding that her certification remains valid.”

However, A DBPR spokesperson said that Hidalgo refers to a certification “which does not currently exist. In essence, Ms. Hidalgo has created a non-existing title.”

Poleo's email added that the journalists “have decided to focus on technicalities.” She did not clarify whether she referred to Hidalgo's role in the elections, or a previous report about the irregular notarization of the affidavits used in condo elections.

The previous report quoted several owners at Los Sueños and The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park condos as saying they did not sign the affidavits in the presence of notary Carmen Aslan, whose seal appears on more than 230 of the affidavits.

Some condo associations seek the help of monitors in elections, to ensure that they follow state guidelines and avert fraudulent votes and other irregularities. Although election monitors appointed by the Ombudsman are required to send the office a report on the process and results of each election, private monitors like Hidalgo only report to whoever hires them.


Roxanna Domínguez, the Sunshine employee who manages Los Sueños, said she worked with the board of directors to collect signatures for the petition of a DBPR monitor. After obtaining the required number of signatures, Domínguez added, she wrote the petition and delivered the documents to Sunshine’s offices in Miami Lakes so they would be forwarded to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman's office told el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 it never received the petition from Sunshine.

Poleo's email said that although sufficient signatures were collected to request a monitor for the 2014 elections at Los Sueños, the number of signatures for the 2015 balloting fell short.
“And the association directors made the decision to contract the company of Mónica Hidalgo, which is legally established for that process,” Poleo wrote.

That version contradicts the statements of association president Arelys López and Domínguez, the Sunshine employee, who told reporters they gathered enough signatures to request a monitor in 2015. Even two weeks ago, when they spoke with reporters, both said they were convinced that Hidalgo had been sent by the DBPR.

It's not the first time that happens.


In August of 2012, Ombudsman Bruce A. Campbell wrote a letter to Hidalgo telling her to stop promoting her business as having been “qualified or appointed by the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman.”

Campbell issued the warning after an owner at the Doral Oaks condominium had filed a complaint that June alleging that Hidalgo had been introduced during a condo election “as a representative of the Ombudsman's office.”

Two months later “the board members of Doral Oaks Condominium were advised of” Hidalgo’s credentials as a “State of Florida Certified Election Monitor,” according to the letter.

“I am not concerned that you may run a business conducting elections, but you may not advertise a relationship with the Condominium Ombudsman, or imply it with reference to an election monitor certified by the State of Florida,” Campbell wrote. “To obtain employment based on such representations constitutes consumer fraud.”

Hidalgo nevertheless insisted last week that she can continue to portray herself as a monitor certified by the state, just as her business cards state. She said that she received a certificate in 2009, after taking classes at a Broward college.

“That's like any other profession,” Hidalgo said. “I paid for my education, got my degrees. And who's going to take them away? Nobody.”

Hidalgo sent el Nuevo Herald a copy of a document that states she is “duly appointed” as an election monitor “pursuant to the provisions” of the Florida statutes that regulate condominiums. The document was issued Jan. 1, 2009 and has no expiration date.

DBPR spokesperson Chelsea Eagles said the agency does not currently certify election monitors. In the past, she added, the agency issued badges and certificates. But it stopped doing that “in response to an influx of misuse by election monitors presenting badges [and] certificates at elections in which they had not been appointed by the Ombudsman,” Eagles wrote.


Just 14 months after Hidalgo was “duly appointed” as an election monitor, then-Ombudsman Colleen Donahue informed her that she would not be assigned to supervise any more elections because of complaints of irregularities filed by two condo complexes.

“The identification card issued to you by this office is revoked and you are requested and instructed to return it immediately,” Donahue wrote.

The complaints against Hidalgo date to January of 2010, when the manager of a Hollywood condo wrote to the DBPR's condo division alleging that on the 19th of that month Hidalgo had turned up at the association elections with her ID badge, even though the association had not petitioned the presence of a monitor.

Hidalgo “did not behave as an impartial observer but on the contrary, made all the owners present aware that she was siding with a candidate,” the manager said in the letter, obtained under a public records request. “She made every effort to find faults and irregularities in the way we handled our elections.”

That same day, according to Donahue's letter, Hidalgo had been appointed by the state to monitor an election in another condo. Instead of going, she sent a representative who was not even on the list of state-assigned monitors.

The letter adds that Hidalgo denied having been present at the Hollywood condo election, but contradicted herself in a telephone conversation with Donahue. “Several times during our conversation you talked of yourself being present at the election,” Donahue wrote.
Hidalgo blamed the DBPR for the complaints. She told reporters that the Ombudsman's office had sometimes assigned her to work several elections on the same day and hour, and instructed her to send a representative to the ones she could not attend.

Hidalgo said she had always conducted condo elections in a neutral manner and following state regulations, and that she has kept abreast of changes in the condo election laws and regulations.
“I am recognized and praised for my work … I don't even have to advertise,” she said. “I was the best monitor DBPR ever had, and am still the best monitor in the state of Florida.”



By Eric Glazer, Esq.

Some justice was done in an Orange County courtroom last week. The firm’s client was sued by her association because she started a website that included the name of the association in the website address. The website was also critical of the association and the Board. Other members of the community had the opportunity to post what they thought as well.

In retaliation, the association sued our client under the Registration and Protection of Trademarks Act for simply unauthorized use of the association’s name, libel, slander and tortious interference. After the court repeatedly dismissed the case, the association wouldn’t let go and proceeded to file a forth amended complaint. In response, our firm filed what’s called a 57.105 motion. Basically, it’s a motion that puts the other side and their counsel on notice that they filed a frivolous claim and that if they don’t dismiss the claim, we will be seeking prevailing party attorney’s fees against not only the association, but the association’s attorneys as well.

A few days after we filed the motion, the association dismissed all claims. However, our office argued that under the very statutes that our client was accused of violating, we were now still entitled to an award of prevailing party attorney’s fees and costs. Of course the association fought against our client’s entitlement to fees, so the court was required to hold a hearing. At the hearing, our firm requested approximately $26,000.00 and the court awarded us almost $23,000.00, pretty close to everything we asked for.

Think about what an association can do with an additional $23,000.00. That may get a building painted. It may get new carpeting in the hallways or even a new deck for the pool area. At this condominium however, it is being used to pay the attorney’s fees to a unit owner who had the audacity to criticize the members of her condominium’s board of directors.

Here’s the bottom line for those of you who volunteer your time to serve on the Board. Thank you for your work. We know you don’t get paid for it and no matter what you do, there are people that are going to be critical of you. However, you know that going in. If your feathers are going to be ruffled each and every time someone says you stink, you will always be miserable and on the defensive. Instead, simply do the right thing, which is your best. And, quickly get used to the fact that we still have a first amendment in this country that lets people voice their displeasure with those they elect, all the way from the President of The United States to the President of the condominium’s Board of Directors.

Response from Miami Beach Commissioner's Office - URGENT: Construction debris found in our beach

From: Chiroles, Erick []
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 12:28 PM
Subject: RE: URGENT: Construction debris including small fragments of glass found in our beach

I just wanted to follow up about the beach projects. There are two separate projects to be completed. One is a remediation that will include the portion of 56th Street. The project should be completed by the end of May. There is a separate beach nourishment project that will improve the surrounding area and will be conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The ETA for that program is by the end of 2017. I am attaching a document that addresses the remediation project in your vicinity.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.


Erick Chiroles, Aide to Commissioner Arriola
Office of the Mayor and Commission
1700 Convention Center Drive, 4th Floor, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Tel: 305-673-7000 x6274

We are committed to providing excellent public service and safety to all who live, work and play in our vibrant, tropical, historic community

In luxe Miami condo tower, Venezuelan oil tycoon with state ties chases capitalist dream

Despite working with the regimes of Hugo Chávez and his successor, Venezuelan oil man Gerardo Pantin Shortt has turned to a uniquely capitalist enterprise

He’s developing a condo tower in Miami called Boulevard 57

Pantin’s family company has won hundreds of millions in contracts from Venezuela’s state oil company

Gerardo Pantin Shortt and his family have won hundreds of millions in contracts from Venezuela’s state oil company since the 1980s. The relationship continued to flourish when Hugo Chávez — staunch ally of Fidel Castro, arch-foe of American capitalism — came to power in 1999.

Now Pantin is quietly using his fortune to fund a uniquely capitalist enterprise: developing a $100 million condo tower in Miami, the beating heart of anti-chavista feeling.

You won’t find Pantin’s name on any glossy sales brochures — or in corporate records of the firm developing the tower.

A lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County by a former partner alleges Pantin hid his involvement in the project through shell companies and front men.

The reason, according to the suit, was that Pantin feared “the Venezuelan government will not look favorably on his investing in Miami, which is considered illegal flight capital, and if they were to learn of such investments, may seize his company located in Venezuela and block the payments.”
Pantin also spent millions on ultra-luxe homes, including a waterfront mansion in Miami Beach and condos in Aventura and Sunny Isles Beach.

He launched his South Florida development career in 2014, when a company he controlled behind the scenes took over a stalled condo project near Miami’s leafy Morningside neighborhood. A bad economy and neighbors upset at living under the shadow of a 14-story complex had scuttled a previous developer’s vision during the recession.

The project, rebranded Boulevard 57 by Pantin’s team and shrunk to eight stories, is back on track. It has begun selling pre-construction units and opened a sales center at 5700 Biscayne Blvd.
Units aren’t for the masses: They start at $600,000 and top out at $2.65 million.

In a written response to the Miami Herald, Pantin confirmed he is the director of the development group behind Boulevard 57. He said he moved to the United States in 2012 and began looking for opportunities in Miami’s booming real estate market. He denied using shell companies or front men to conceal his role in the Miami project. “My corporate structure through holding companies are typical and meant to group all of my business ventures under one umbrella for purposes of protecting me from liability,” he wrote.

Pantin also said safety concerns led him to list his associates in public records instead of himself. His sister, brother-in-law and mother had been kidnapped in Venezuela before he moved to the United States, he said.

His family has no involvement in politics, Pantin added. “Our relationship with the government is strictly commercial,” he wrote. Between 2008 and 2015, the family firm had signed contracts worth $991 million with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, he said.

And he pointed out that other companies such as Halliburton, Chevron and Shell have also worked with Venezuela’s government.

Our relationship with the government is strictly commercial. Gerardo Pantin Shortt
But the oil magnate’s involvement in the Miami project — and the stealthy nature of his investment — give a glimpse of the unseen forces shaping South Florida’s real-estate boom.

Cashfrom wealthy foreign nationals, including people linked to corruption, is pouring into local real estate, according to a Miami Herald analysis of secret offshore documents known as the Panama Papers. Locals can’t compete for homes as prices rise while wages stagnate.

“Miami is an international gateway city,” said Andrew Hall, a Miami litigator who specializes in international asset recovery. “There’s a lot of cash floating around real estate here. … The question is transparency. Can you figure out who is behind the money?”

Pantin does not appear in the Panama Papers. He and his family have never been accused of corruption.

Family affair

In theVenezuelan news media,Pantin is often portrayed as a creature of the Bolivarian Revolution — owing his wealth to government contacts. But his family had been in the oil industry long before Chávez.

Cementaciones Petroleras Venezolanas, or CPVEN, was started in 1981 by Pantin’s father, Eduardo Pantin Pérez, and specialized in high-pressure pumping services and the cementing of wells.
It was very much a family affair. In 2000, when the company was profiled in an academic journal, Pantin’s three sons were executives: Eduardo Pantin Shortt was vice president of operations, Carlos Pantin Shortt was vice president of finance and administration, and Gerardo was a regional manager.
A receptionist at CPVEN said Eduardo is now the executive president and Gerardo is a director.

After seeing its heyday around 1997, the company fell on hard times. By 2000 the family was considering bankruptcy, according to the profile.

But the Pantins learned to work with the Chávez administration, becoming a regular contractor for state-run PDVSA oil company. Their firm continued to work with the government after Chávez’s death in 2013. It also does business in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, the United States and Kuwait, according to a company brochure.

Juan Fernández, a former PDVSA executive who was ousted during politically motivated layoffs in 2002, said Pantín’s company has a reputation for being very well connected.

And while Fernández underscored that there’s nothing wrong with Venezuelans investing abroad, he said U.S. authorities need stricter controls to make sure the sources of those funds are legitimate.
“It’s not illegal to have a company in Panama or invest in Miami, but you have to make sure it’s legal money,” he said.

Federal prosecutors in the United States have targeted corruption at PDVSA.

In 2011, the U.S. District Court of Connecticut found Venezuelan-American Francisco Illarramendi guilty of building a Ponzi scheme using hundreds of millions in funds from PDVSA’s pension accounts. In that case, there were also allegations that tens of millions of dollars went to PDVSA officials in the form of bribes and kickbacks to tap the funds.

Earlier this year, in Houston, a Venezuelan living in Florida and four other people pleaded guilty to paying millions in bribes for PDVSA contracts.

One of the bribes was a $15,000 stay at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.
Fernández said the allegations suggest PDVSA isn’t being run like a serious oil company anymore. “It’s more like a mafia operation,” he said.

Under the radar

There are good reasons Pantin might want to fly under the radar in Miami. Chávez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro, often speaks of South Florida as a breeding ground for coup and assassination plots against him. And those who do business in the community are often painted in state-run media as anti-revolutionary traitors.

A source close to the family says Venezuela’s state oil company, which is suffering from plunging global oil prices, has stopped paying the Pantins for past work. It now owes them about $200 million, the source said and Pantin confirmed it.

Jaime Guttman, a lawyer for Pantin, said in an email that “personal security” led his client to stay quiet in Venezuela about his involvement in Boulevard 57.

“In Miami, however, he has been public about the project in a low-key manner,” Guttman wrote. “He was introduced during the launch gala a couple of months ago. He has met personally with people in the industry, financial institutions, etc. in the Miami area. His involvement is certainly not a secret here.”

Boulevard 57 is managed locally by a company called Unitas Development Group. The firm’s manager is listed in Florida public records as Javier Sanguino, Pantin’s right-hand man, according to the Miami-Dade lawsuit.

Carlos Cuevas — a former partner in the venture who met Pantin when they attended college together in Venezuela —filed the suit last year.

In the suit, Cuevas claims Pantin owes him at least $10 million for work on Boulevard 57. He also said Pantin told him of earning revenues worth $600 million from state oil company contracts between 2004 and 2010.

Cuevas himself is dealing with several lawsuits and a foreclosure. Miami investors currently suing him say he swindled them out of a $300,000 stake in a company called Recyclable Planet. He allegedly used company money to pay for personal expenses such as golf equipment, restaurant meals and a $27,000 Cartier watch.

The allegations are similar to what Pantin says of Cuevas today.

In a legal response to Cuevas’ complaint, an attorney representing the oil magnate wrote that Cuevas “through a series of misrepresentations induced Mr. Pantin [who represented a group of investors] to invest” in the Miami condo project.

The lawyer said Cuevas misappropriated corporate funds for his own use and that Cuevas had been removed from the project after allowing it to fall 21 months behind schedule.

Univision investigative journalist Casto Ocando tweeted that Pantin was backing Boulevard 57 after the Herald published a story on the project earlier this year that didn’t mention his involvement. Freelance journalist Alek Boyd has also reported on Pantin’s ties to both the Venezuelan government and Miami.

In an interview, Unitas’ chief operating officer, Hector Torres, described Pantin’s role
“He’s the main person running the day-to-day,” said Torres, who added that Pantin leads a group of investors from around the world. “I know he’s a minority investor. I don’t know the exact percentage.”

Torres said he doesn’t know the identities of the other investors. He also said he wasn’t sure why Pantin’s name was left off corporate documents.

Of Cuevas’ lawsuit, however, he is certain: “It’s extortion. It’s a smear job. Cuevas is a con artist.”
Cuevas’ attorney, Carlos Trujillo, dismissed those claims.

Cuevas, he said, “is a longtime upstanding member of the community whose reputation speaks for itself. Like many business people, Carlos struggled during the economic recession. It doesn’t surprise us that Pantin is desperate and is trying to tarnish Carlos’ name.”

Luxury homes

Pantin hasput his money to work in South Florida.

Property records show that in 2012 a company managed by his associate Sanguino spent $12.9 million on a 9,800-square-foot mansion on Sunset Island I in Miami Beach.

Pantin’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on the documents. But he told the Miami Herald he is the owner.

Pantin also owns other South Florida properties, including a pair of condos at the Bellini tower on Williams Island in Aventura.

The Aventura condos — bought for $2.75 million in 2013 — are owned by Offshore Services Management, an anonymous shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Corporate rules in the Caribbean offshore haven allow owners to stay secret. (The company does not appear in the Panama Papers database.)

In 2014, Miami-based Sabadell United Bank issued Pantin a $9.25 million mortgage for the Sunset Island and Aventura properties. Unitas used those funds as part of a $15 million deal for the 2.1-acre Boulevard 57 site.

Property records also show that last year a Delaware shell company controlled by another Pantin associate, Irisliz Castellano, spent nearly $4.3 million on two condos at the ultra-luxury Mansions at Acqualina in Sunny Isles Beach.

Pantin signed his name to a mortgage document for the homes.

In addition, Pantin paid $1.4 million for a condo at the Millenium Tower in Brickell two years ago, a deed shows. The same day he bought the two-bedroom unit, he transferred it to a Florida company that has been inactive since 2011, according to corporate records.

Secrecy in real estate can be a problem, said Thomas Lehman, a Miami attorney who does work for clients trying to identify the buyers of South Florida condo units.

Green is more important than clean. Thomas Lehman

Lehman said many buyers list addresses that seem to have no actual relation to them. Others list shell companies that don’t exist in public records or have been inactive for years. Some pay for the units with offshore accounts registered under a different person’s name.

“It appears that for some developers and their in-house sales agents, the urgency to sign up buyers … means that for their projects green is more important than clean,” he said.

In today’s slowing market, it might be tough for Boulevard 57 to get off the ground. Sputtering economies in Latin America have dried up the buyer pool that has driven Miami’s market since 2011.
Recent reports show luxury home sales across Miami-Dade faltering.

And while residents of Morningside generally support the plans for Boulevard 57, which is scheduled to open in 2018, Pantin’s business dealings might change that.

“It does put a sour note on the development,” said José Trujillo, who left Venezuela as a child and has lived in Morningside since 2007. “I stay away from gas stations that I know sell gas from Venezuela because of what it stands for.”

To Live "Comfortably" in Miami, You Need to Make $77,057 ($46K More Than the Median Income)

According to a financial rule of thumb, a person should spend about 50 percent of his or her after-tax income on necessities. That includes things like rent, food, utilities, health care, and transportation. Another 30 percent should be spent on discretionary purchases, and the remaining 20 percent should be stashed away in savings. 

That sounds fine and dandy, but it turns out it's nearly impossible to follow that rule in Miami.
According to a new analysis from Go Banking Rates, to comfortably budget like that here, a person would need to make $77,057 a year. It's a bummer than that the median income in Miami is just $30,858.

The analysis takes into account things like median rent and local cost of living. To simply pay for necessities, an average Miamian should make $38,529 a year. That figure was doubled to come to the ideal level. Of course, it seems these estimates are modeled for single people living alone.

Miami's ideal comfortable living outcome isn't shocking when compared to some other large cities. In Seattle, you need $72,092; in L.A., the magic number is $74,371; and it's $87,446 in New York. San Franciscans need an estimated $119,570 a year to live comfortably, by far the most.

Here's what makes Miami unique, and depressingly so: The difference between the estimated ideal income and what the average person makes is $46,199.

No other city, even San Francisco, has as high a difference between the ideal salary number and the real number.

Of course, people can still find living situations that fall well below the median rent (even if they aren't ideal), and thrifty shoppers can find other necessities on the cheap. People obviously do and can get by on far less, but it's questionable whether they're really living comfortably and saving enough for the future.

However, in a city noted for its income inequality and where half the residents make less than $30,858 a year, this finding isn't a surprise. The question is whether anything serious will ever be done to fix it.

Breach of Fiduciary Duties: Condo residents sue developer over faulty robotic garage

Condo association of 385-unit BrickellHouse suing its developer and Harvey Hernandez, head of the company

Automated parking garage promised an efficient system but took more than two hours to deliver cars at peak hours

Garage shuttered in November 2015, two months after condo was turned over by developers to the condo association

The robot era is here, and the residents of BrickellHouse are none too pleased.

The condo association of the Brickell building, where the average unit costs $465,000, has amended a lawsuit filed in January against the developer of BrickellHouse over the tower’s faulty and subsequently shuttered robotic parking garage.

Residents of the 385-unit building at 1300 Brickell Bay Drive are suing for breach of warranty. Among the complaints:

▪ Lack of a contingency plan when the automated system failed in November 2015.

▪ Breach of “fiduciary duties,” after residents were forced to arrange and pay for alternative parking in the densely populated Brickell area.

▪ “Damages,” to finance the repair or replacement of the system.

The developer and his affiliated provider essentially used the buyers at BrickellHouse to fund a research and development project for the viability of this technology in the marketplace. Helio De La Torre, attorney

Promised a convenient and efficient way to park their cars, many residents were lured by the automated garage. Soon after the building opened in November 2014 and move-in began, however, glitches surfaced.

“[The robotic garage] has never worked properly or as promised since its inception, with waits as long as two hours during peak times, and now the owners and residents have been left without parking,” said an email statement by attorney Helio De La Torre of Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, the firm representing the condo association. “The developer and his affiliated provider essentially used the buyers at BrickellHouse to fund a research and development project.”

The defendants listed are the entity formed for the development of the project, BrickellHouse Holdings LLC, and its principal, Harvey Hernandez, head of Newgard Development Group.
Newgard Development Group issued a statement saying that it is “working diligently with the condominium association of Brickellhouse, which [since September 2015] owns and controls all aspects of building management including the parking garage, to help bring a resolution to the unfortunate matter pertaining the building’s robotic parking garage.”

The statement attributes the failure of the garage to “a confluence of factors,” including the “unexpected” bankrupty of Boomerang, the New Jersey-based company that built the robotic system, its first ever.

According to the lawsuit, one of Boomerang’s affiliates in the project was Parking Source, a company controlled by Hernandez.

“So not only was he aware that the system was the first of its kind but had an intimate relationship with the manufacturer,” said attorney Lindsey Lehr, who is working alongside De La Torre on the lawsuit.

Earlier this year, Newgard broke ground on a luxury condo project in Fort Lauderdale dubbed Gale Residences. No word yet on whether it will feature a robotic parking garage.

Home prices see highest increase since 2007 - Prices increase by about 17%

Home sellers in March sold their homes for an average 17% gain, or $30,500 more than the purchase price, making it the highest average monthly price gain for home sellers since December of 2007, according to RealtyTrac’s March and Q1 U.S. Home Sales report.

Of the nation’s 125 metropolitan areas with at least 300 sales in March, the largest gains occurred in San Francisco with a 72% gain. This was followed by San Jose, California with gains of 60%, Boulder, Colorado with 53%, Prescott, Arizona with 51% and Los Angeles 48%.

Although home sellers may be rejoicing at these increases, in some markets, the increasing home prices are actually stalling the market. In California, increased home prices have caused a slower start to the Spring homebuying season, with a decrease of 4.7% in home sales from March 2015.

“Home sellers in many markets are now seeing average price gains close to or above what home sellers experienced during the last housing boom,” RealtyTrac senior vice president Daren Blomquist said. “That should encourage more homeowners to take advantage of the prime seller’s market and list their homes for sale this year.”

“Banks are already taking advantage of that market as evidenced by the uptick in the distressed sales share over the last two quarters,” Blomquist said.

He cited increasing home prices as the culprit to the faltering home price appreciation occurring in some markets.

“Given that bank-owned homes are selling at a median price that is 40% below the overall median sales price nationwide, the uptick in distressed sales combined with affordability constraints are contributing to faltering home price appreciation in some markets, most notably the bellwether markets of Washington, D.C. and San Francisco,” Blomquist said.

On the other hand, home sellers sold their home for less than the purchase price. Among the markets that experienced a loss in the sale price versus purchase price were Rockford, Illinois with a 11% loss, Winston-Salem, North Carolina with a 10% loss, Cleveland Ohio with an 8% loss, Columbia, South Carolina with a 7% loss and Wilmington, North Carolina with a 5% loss.

About 36% of markets reached all-time price peaks in the past 15 months. The seven markets that reached new price peaks in March 2016 were Boulder, Colorado; Denver; Portland; Fort Collins, Colorado; Austin, Texas; Greeley, Colorado and Cincinnati, Ohio.

A total of 17% of markets had annual declines in home prices.

Mexican congressional leader calls for investigation into Miami condo deals

Quezada Salas and his family spent $8.2 million on #Miami condos between 2004 and 2008

The leader of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies says Quezada Salas should be investigated

A Mexican congressman who — along with his family — spent $8.2 million on South Florida condos should be investigated, the leader of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies said Monday.

Bernardo Quezada Salas, a former official at Mexico’s powerful and allegedly corrupt teachers’ union, and his close relatives bought 11 Brickell condos on a single day in 2005, the Miami Herald reported over the weekend.

Quezada Salas has not responded publicly to the report. Nor has his political party, the New Alliance, which was founded by the leaders of the National Education Workers’ Union.

“Deputy Quezada should come out and clarify what is the situation with his assets and clear up all that has come out in the last few days,” said Jesús Zambrano Grijalva, the leader of Mexico’s lower house of Congress, in a statement published online. “There should be an investigation. ... He should come forth and bear the consequences.”

Zambrano, who belongs to a leftist opposition party, said public money from the teachers’ union could have been involved in the deals. He called for the federal comptroller’s office to investigate. Quezada Salas’ party is allied with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The ousted leader of the union, Elba Esther Gordillo, was arrested in 2013 and charged with embezzling as much as $200 million.

Quezada Salas, who held several positions of power in the union starting in 1986, has not been accused of taking part in the alleged scheme. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies last year.

The Mexican lawmaker and his wife also paid $1.9 million for luxury units in Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach, in addition to the $6.3 million spent on Brickell. Experts on Mexico’s educational system consulted by the Herald questioned how a union official and his family could afford such expensive homes.


By Eric Glazer, Esq.

Last week we blogged about the association’s ability or perhaps inability, to limit the number of rentals in the community. We also discussed the differences between the condominium statute and the HOA statute regarding same. This week, let’s focus on a related topic, short term rentals.

Most governing documents contain clauses that require leases to be for a minimum term, i.e. not less than six months or not less than ninety days. The clear intent of these provisions is to prevent the community from becoming transient in nature. You don’t want the place to in effect become a hotel, with people constantly moving in or out, by the month, week or even by the day.

Here’s the problem. Lots of people have figured out that they can make a lot more money renting out their condo or home by the day, instead of by the month. Your ocean front condominium for example may rent for $2,500.00 per month, but can also be rented for $200.00 per day or $6,000.00 per month. But what do we do about those pesky restrictions in the governing documents that say I’m prohibited from renting my unit for a term less than ninety days for example?

The most common scam is that the unit owner says that “I’m not renting the unit. Those people are not my tenants. I have a large family and they are all family members.” Now don’t get me wrong….. diversity is wonderful. But when the alleged family is made up of Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Whites and Koreans, excuse me for being a little skeptical. I just don’t buy it. The problem is however, how do you prove the owner is lying? Since governing documents also usually contain language indicating that the unit may be used by the owner and his or her family members, technically the association must let the family members stay.
Some other owners take the position that “I’m not charging these folks anything to stay in my unit, so that means they aren’t my tenants, they are my guests.” The documents allow me to have “guests” so leave me alone. Of course “guests” don’t wind up paying money to stay in your home, but proving that these “guests” are actually short term “tenants” and that they pay money, is often times impossible.

So, how do we catch the bad guys who completely ignore the short term rental restrictions in your community? One way may be to simply set them up. You heard me – set them up. So many of these owners are brazen enough to advertise their units on a multitude of short term rental websites. When you see these advertisements, print them out and save them. Then call them and try to reserve it for a night or two. I would have no objection if the association even had to pay for the room for a night or two in order to catch the owner in the act. And when you find out and can prove which unit was advertised and actually rented to you for a night or two, you sue the owner and get an injunction and your attorney’s fees assessed against him or her. And afterwards……. you publicize the hell out of it in the community newsletter as a warning to everyone else who thinks the Board members and management are dumb enough to believe that you have that many family members who actually like you enough to come visit.

There may be another way to at least slow down the law breakers. You can severely limit the term “family” in your governing documents to only include “children or parents of the owner.” Everyone else will be considered a “guest.” You then take it one step further and amend your documents to say that “guests” can only occupy the unit if the owner is present. If you can prove that the guests were occupying the unit in the absence of the owner, go get your injunction.

There is no perfect solution to this problem. As we all know, every time a process is put in place to catch bad guys, the bad guys figure out a way to get around it, or make a valiant effort. Doing nothing and ignoring the problem is certainly not the solution however. I’m all ears if any of you have dealt with this issue before and have figured out a way to combat it.

Miami-Dade leaders to tackle condominium fraud in Tallahassee

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez says he will travel to Tallahassee during the legislative session to support a group of state lawmakers from South Florida who will seek to reform state legislation in order to crack down on a wave of condominium frauds.

The initiative that will be submitted in November by State Rep. José Félix Díaz, as leader of the county's delegation to the state legislation, aims to make substantial changes in the state regulations for residential complexes.

“I am going to support the proposals of Rep. Díaz when he goes to Tallahassee to fight for these changes in the laws on condominiums and home owners associations,” Giménez told el Nuevo Herald. “I will go with him to give him my full support and make sure these proposals can pass.”
Giménez' decision was applauded by a dozen residents who attended a meeting Thursday at the county police headquarters in Doral to discuss the growing allegations of condominium fraud.
A series of investigative articles by el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 published last month has revealed a string of scams and irregularities affecting Miami-Dade condominiums.

After the stories were published, residents of several condos around the county have organized protests demanding action by local and state authorities. During the meeting Thursday, condo owners announced they would march in downtown Doral Saturday, starting at 11 a.m., to demand changes in the state laws that regulate condos.

Also attending the meeting at county police headquarters were Díaz and state prosecutor John Perikles, who heads the financial crimes unit in Miami-Dade, as well as detectives from the county police's economic crimes unit, a representative of the state department that regulates condos, known as DBPR, and residents of condos in Doral, Fontainebleau, Hialeah Gardens and North Miami-Dade, among other areas.

“When I discovered that my signature on a vote in my condo elections had been falsified, I complained to the DBPR but was told they could no longer investigate because 60 days had passed,” said Fabio Peñaloza, resident of the Las Vistas condo in Doral.

“I went to the Doral police and they told me they did not have the resources to investigate this type of crime, and that I should go to the Miami-Dade police,” Peñaloza said. “There, a detective … told me the case was complicated and the investigation could take a year or two.”

“But what we have found is not an isolated case. It is a major pattern of fraud,” he added.
Other owners at the meeting also complained that authorities do not investigate allegations of electoral fraud, irregular bid processes and financial mismanagement in the condos.

The problem is especially prevalent in Miami-Dade, which has 22 percent of all condos in Florida and is the source of the vast majority of the hundreds of complaints received by the DBPR each year.
“The police tell me, 'that's not our problem.' The prosecutors tell me, 'this is not our problem.' So, who's problem is it?” said Jose Rosario, a resident of the Samari Lakes condominiums in Hialeah Gardens.

Miami-Dade police Assistant Director Freddy Ramirez replied that the department recently ordered its agents to file reports on any complaints about condos received. Condo owners have complained that police departments usually handle their allegations as civil matters and refuse to document them.
County police opened an investigation last month of The Beach Club in Fontainebleau Park after el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 published articles showing a massive falsification of signatures on votes for a board election, as well as the allegedly fraudulent award of a $5 million-dollar contract to a roofing company.

Ramirez, Gimenez and other officials at the meeting insisted that current laws limit the capacity of police and prosecutors to investigate condo cases. Residents, for their part, complained that the DBPR — Department of Business and Professional Regulation — often claims it does not have the jurisdiction to investigate some types of complaints.

Díaz noted that after meeting with condo owners and analyzing the fraudulent schemes uncovered by el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23, he decided to propose that the Miami-Dade delegation urge the state legislature to adopt condo regulation reforms as a priority. He has tried at least twice to make some changes in state laws that regulate condos without success.

“We have real and systemic problems, and they are not all the same,” said Díaz. The solution is “a combination of the DBPR, state prosecutors and police. And there must be a more profound examination of what activities must be categorized as crimes.”

Díaz said part of the reforms will include categorizing as crimes some of the activities by companies that manage condos, and strengthening the rights of owners.
The legislative proposal, he added, also will seek to clearly define conflicts of interests that wind up bleeding condo coffers for the benefit of a few people.

“We have seen that there are companies in different Miami-Dade condominiums that do business with other companies they are linked to, but are charging extremely high prices,” said Díaz.
“It's difficult to regulate private businesses, but what we can do is to make sure that condo owners can know the true bids” for condo contracts, he said, “and not allow cases like The Beach Club, where there are allegations of a fraudulent bidding process.”

UPDATE Construction debris including small fragments of glass found in our beach

This is the email we sent to Commissioner Arriola of Miami Beach.  As of this writing we have not received an answer.

Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:50 AM
To: ''
Cc: ''
Subject: URGENT: Construction debris including small fragments of glass found in our beach

Dear Commissioner Arriola,

Please, see our posts below.

I just found out that our portion of the beach on 56 and Collins is not getting new sand as other portions of the beach are  getting.

Our area will get sifted contaminated sand.

Why is this?  The current sand is a disgrace for the City of Miami Beach.

Please, see what you can do for us.

Related Group completes One Ocean, its eighth new condo project this cycle

A 10th new condo project — One Ocean — has been completed in the internationally known barrier island city of Miami Beach during this current South Florida real estate cycle that began in 2011.
Developer sales in the One Ocean condominium project that features a pair of eight-story buildings with a combined 49 residential units and nearly 130,000 square feet of sellable space began to be recorded on March 31, according to Miami-Dade County records. It is located in the one hundred block of Ocean Drive in the South-of-Fifth neighborhood of Miami Beach.

Developed by the Related Group, led by Jorge Perez, at least a dozen units in the One Ocean project located at the beginning of Ocean Drive have traded for a combined $44.3 million, which works out to a price of about $3.7 million each, for an average of nearly $1,335 per square foot as of Monday, according to government records.
Individual units in the One Ocean project have transacted at prices ranging from $2.1 million to more $5.1 million each. On a price-per-square-foot basis, individual condos have traded from less than $1,030 to nearly $1,700, according to government records.

Currently, two units in the One Ocean project are listed for sale at an average price of more than $4.7 million each, for a blended rate of more than $1,930 per square foot as of Monday, according to data from the Southeast Florida MLXchange and government records.

The completion of the One Ocean project comes less than six months after the nearby Marea South Beach condo project in the 800 block of South Pointe Drive was completed in October 2015.
To date, the Related Group has completed eight new condo projects composed of 11 buildings and nearly 1,500 units east of I-95 in the tri-county South Florida region of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach during this cycle, according to the preconstruction condo projects website (For disclosure, my firm operates the website.)

Overall, the Related Group has announced plans to build at least 39 new condo buildings with more than 9,800 units east of I-95 since 2011.

Currently, 15 new condo buildings with more than 4,550 units are under construction and 13 additional buildings with nearly 3,800 units are in the planning and presale phase of development.
In coastal South Florida, developers have announced plans to build at least 417 new condo towers with more than 51,000 units east of I-95 as of Monday, according to

The market of Miami Beach — a popular destination for foreign investors and domestic buyers alike — is the seventh most active area east of I-95 in the South Florida region based on nearly 2,125 total units announced during this cycle, according to the data.

To date, 16 new condo buildings — including the One Ocean project — with at least 550 units have been constructed in Miami Beach since 2011. An additional 15 buildings with about 370 units are currently under construction, according to

Combined, the number of new units completed and under construction represents about 43 percent of the total pipeline of new condos slated for development during this cycle in Miami Beach.
At least 22 new condo buildings with more than 1,200 units — some 57 percent of the total pipeline announced — are currently in the planning or presale phase of development in the Miami Beach market, according to the data.

Aside from the pipeline of new condo projects, the Miami Beach market currently has nearly 2,660 units being marketed for purchase at an average asking price of nearly $1.3 million each or more than $815 per square foot as of Monday, according to the Southeast Florida MLXchange.

In the first quarter of this year, buyers acquired nearly 500 condo units at an average price of more than $638,300 each or nearly $535 per square foot between January and March, according to the data.
Based on the 2016 resale transaction pace of about 160 units trading monthly, Miami Beach currently has nearly a 17-month supply of condos available for purchase, according to the data.

A balanced market is considered to have about a six-month supply of units available for purchase. More months of condo units available for purchase suggests a buyer’s advantage, and less months indicates a seller’s advantage in negotiating transactions.

The unanswered question going forward is whether Miami Beach’s allure will be powerful enough to attract the number of buyers needed to purchase all of the pricey condo units that are currently available for purchase in this playground for jetsetters at a time of a slumping global economy, weak foreign currencies and growing concerns about a U.S. recession. 

In split vote, Bal Harbour Shops expansion rejected

After hours of contentious debate Wednesday night, the Bal Harbour Village Council killed a plan to sell Village Hall to make way for a $400 million expansion of Bal Harbour Shops.

The council members voted 2-2 — effectively a No vote — on a plan to sell Village Hall after a lengthy meeting at the Sea View Hotel, 9909 Collins Ave., that featured multiple presentations from the developers, their architects and attorneys — and hours of public comments from dozens of speakers.

Mayor Martin Packer and Assistant Mayor Patricia Cohen voted against selling Village Hall. Council members Seth Salver and Gabriel Groisman cast yes votes. Councilman Jaime Sanz was not at the meeting due to a conflict of interest. He is a Neiman Marcus employee and the store is one of the largest tenants at the shopping center.

Residents that opposed the expansion said they worried about the increase in traffic and the potential for years of construction along Collins Avenue and 96th Street. Some said they wouldn’t mind seeing the shopping center expand but wanted smaller growth.

“If it’s a moderate expansion, I think many people would like it,” said resident Sybille Holder.
The council’s decision will require Bal Harbour Shops to reconsider their proposal if they plan to move forward. Had the council approved the sale of Village Hall, it would still have had to go to a referendum for voters to decide.

Matthew Whitman Lazenby, the president of Whitman Family Development, said he was disappointed in the council’s split vote. Bal Harbour Shops has insisted that the Village Hall land is key to the expansion plan. The Whitman family owns the mall.

“If the people don’t want [the expansion] they don’t want it, but if people want it I can’t understand why an elected official would want to keep that from them,” Lazenby said.

Residents that favored the expansion plan said it would give the village a notable new municipal center — the developers has committed to building a new Village Hall — and would make the village competitive in the high-end retail market.

The often contentious meeting caused Packer to bang his gavel several times and chastise members of the audience who called out, clapped or booed throughout the meeting.

The meeting also included additional claims against Cohen, who was accused of bias against the expansion project by the developer’s attorney, John Shubin.

Shubin presented comments Cohen made at a meeting discussing the project in November and emails that Shubin said showed her opposition to the project. The developers asserted that Cohen’s friendship with members of the Soffer family, the developers of Turnberry and owners of both Aventura Mall and the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, might have clouded her judgment.
Village Attorney Richard Weiss allowed Shubin to proceed, but said he considered Shubin’s portion of the presentation as “personal attacks on Councilwoman Cohen.”

The expansion calls for increasing the size of the shops by about 400,000 square feet and relocating Village Hall. The developer’s design includes larger sidewalks, outdoor fountains and the anchor of the state’s first Barneys New York store, along with new stores, restaurants and facades. The plan for the shopping center, which turned 50 last year, has been in the works for about five years and the design was finalized last October.

The potential agreement called for the developer to contribute $1 million a year toward parking and transportation improvements, pay $250,000 a year for police patrol, give the village ownership of land that has a bank as a tenant (the village would collect $700,000 in rent annually) and build a new waterfront public park spanning about two acres.

Bal Harbour Shops estimates the village’s benefits would total about $127 million, mostly from taxes, the bank’s rent and the new village hall. The mall’s expansion would take place on the current Village Hall site, along 96 Street, and on the site of the former Church by the Sea. The 70-year-old church which was demolished in December despite some efforts to designate it as a historic building. Construction would take an estimated six to eight years.

Miami Beach could pursue re-imagined convention center hotel in same spot

City Manager Jimmy Morales recommending the city hold a public survey and use results to alter current plan
Miami Beach would then renegotiate public land lease with same developer — assuming there’s still interest
City Commissioners will talk about it Wednesday

A month after a plan to develop a hotel adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention Center failed at the ballot box, officials want to salvage that proposal and use public input to tweak it enough to satisfy more voters.

But it has to be in the same location, on public land behind the Fillmore Miami Beach, and the city would have to move fast to get it on the November ballot with the presidential election.
The pressure’s on as a majority of the City Commission, along with local business and tourism leaders, want to see a hotel approved as soon as possible. They say a hotel next door is crucial to the success of the convention center, which is currently undergoing a $600 million renovation and expansion.

The previous plan failed to get the required 60 percent approval necessary to lease public land in the convention center neighborhood, with only 54 percent in favor. Many voters felt the hotel would worsen already-congested streets in South Beach. Others opposed the size of the project.
So City Manager Jimmy Morales is recommending the city survey voters on what elements of the existing proposal they want to see changed. Then a public meeting would be held with hotel opponents and proponents to discuss the survey results.

In May, the city would use feedback to renegotiate the lease it had worked out with Portman Holdings, the Atlanta-based developer who had proposed to privately finance a $400 million, 288-foot tall hotel with 800 rooms at the corner of 17th Street and Convention Center Drive.
Business and tourism leaders in the Beach are clamoring for a headquarter hotel. Officials from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association all stumped for the project, saying the kinds of big conventions that they wish to attract won’t come unless there’s a hotel attached to the convention center.

Jack Portman, vice chairman of Portman Holdings, joined these organizations in campaigning for the hotel before the March 15 referendum, touting the projected local economic benefits of attracting citywide conventions that require a headquarter hotel.

It is unclear just how interested Portman is in going through another referendum. The firm was part of a team that pursued a previous proposal to redevelop the convention center and its surrounding neighborhood — a plan that was completely scrapped in favor a new approach to separate the convention center renovation and the hotel. Portman Holdings spent $1 million in political advertising for the failed referendum.

On Friday, Portman declined to elaborate on Morales’ memo.

“Portman Holdings is not in position to comment on the City Manager’s memo,” he said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “But we continue to believe Miami Beach is an exciting city and will consider any future opportunities at the appropriate time.”

Many voters opposed the hotel because they believed it would make traffic in South Beach worse.
Morales and his administration propose an aggressive schedule in order to make the Aug. 9 deadline for submitting a question for the Nov. 8 ballot.

In order to avoid starting over with a new lease, a process that would take too long to make the November ballot, the city would have to keep the hotel on the same 2.65 acres where the previous plan was proposed.

The city’s consultant, business and tourism chiefs all insisted that a headquarter hotel needs to have at least 800 rooms in order to bring in lucrative citywide conventions. Beach officials have a tall order if they want to see a hotel approved — to propose a building that is the right size and convince voters that traffic won’t get worse.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Morales said that he is not ruling out any alterations to the current hotel plan.

“We are currently investigating any and all possible options,” he said.

The City Commission will discuss the issue Wednesday.

Possible Cuban Consulate in Miami Beach

I have more questions than answers on the issue of the Cuban consulate in Miami Beach.

·         How many consulates are now located in Miami Beach?

·         Who paid for Mayor Levine and Commissioner Arriola trip to Cuba?

·         What does Mr. Levine opine on Carnival Cruise’s ban on Cuban American to Cuba?  He is very close to this company

In my opinion, Mr. Levine’s political ambitions, well beyond Miami Beach, are making him to take the eyes off the ball.

Next election we will vote accordingly.