Miami Beach Considers New Demolition Rules After Building Collapse

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach Considers New Demolition Rules After Building Collapse:

Controlled demolition of 5775 collins avenue goes horribly wrong

After the building being prepared for demolition at 5775 Collins Avenue collapsed this week critically injuring one worker, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora sought to strengthen the City’s demolition policies. 
Calling it a “terrible tragedy”, Góngora who lives across the street told his fellow Commissioners at this week’s Commission meeting, “When I left for work Monday morning I saw the demo that was about to go down and I thought as I drove by, if I weren’t running late to work I should pull over and take pictures because it was a little alarming to me how many people there were and what seemed to me how close they were to where the demolition was going to take place.” 
Given the number of close-up cell phone videos that have emerged, there were many people watching what was supposed to be a controlled demolition. Góngora said he asked his condo association to see the notice it received about the work. “The notice the condominium association and the neighboring buildings received was super innocuous about what was happening,” he said. “It just kind of said a demolition is commencing and is going to be taking place over this period of time.”
While noting the upcoming investigations are the “proper venue” to determine what happened, he said he wanted to “learn as a Commission what we can do better.”
He raised three specific issues. First, he said, “We don’t allow implosions but we allow demo permits, and it appears to me there’s no requirement for the developer to then tell the City more specific information about how and when that demolition is going to take place. So, I would like to see us tighten that requirement up.” Since the collapse, the City has confirmed the developer applied for an implosion permit and was denied.
Second, Góngora said, the notice given to neighboring buildings was “a little innocuous and vague. I believe we need to tighten up the notice to neighboring buildings.”
Finally, he suggested having the fire department or other appropriate departments “look at how roped off the area is supposed to be when this happens, how close people are supposed to be allowed, and perhaps we can create an ordinance that takes them further away.”
“We’re lucky, quite frankly, this time there weren’t more injuries considering how the building went down,” he said. “Hopefully we can learn from this and carve out some new regulations to prevent it in the future.”
Building Official Ana Salgueiro said, “We are getting together with all the departments to review… and we are discussing different safety measures and different things that can be done moving forward.”

Some of the items might be Commission items and some are “just going through safe practices… and adding to what’s already done in our reviewing of the demolition by adding safe distances as part of it,” Salgueiro said. 
Mayor Dan Gelber instructed the Administration to “Come back and tell us everything” that can be done through ordinances, internal guidelines, and public outreach, using Góngora’s suggestions as a starting point.
“Someone got gravely hurt and may die,” Gelber said. “I think that should be a neon light to us that we ought to look at all aspects of this.”
Góngora said the issue is timely as “we are going to see more demolitions with North Beach Town Center… so I think it’s really a good time to start this conversation and make sure we have a better process in place.”
Commissioner Micky Steinberg said, “I want to hold those responsible accountable. That’s important because what happened is not okay. I also went by there… It’s one thing to see it on TV, it’s another thing to be there.”
City Manager Jimmy Morales noted all departments have been ordered to track their costs from overtime to repairs and anything else as a result of the building’s collapse. He also commended first responders and City staff. “To think that that building collapsed onto Collins Avenue at 10:14 in the morning and by 4 pm the southbound lanes were wide open and by 5 pm the northbound, just tremendous work by all the agencies involved in that effort. Again, it’s a tragedy, but we were ready for it and I think now, as Commissioner Góngora says, we need to be better prepared for it.”
Photos: Still photos from a video taken by construction workers across the street of the collapse


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