planning board: "we've got our eye on you"

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

planning board: "we've got our eye on you":

trash violations under scrutiny

Miami Beach Planning Board member Jeff Feldman has had enough of the unsightly images of overflowing trash dumpsters on the Beach. This week he asked his fellow board members to join him in putting businesses on notice: “They are under our jurisdiction and we have the right to call them on it.” Feldman was referring to the Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) given by the Planning Board to businesses that come before it. He wants to hold them accountable for the cleanliness of their properties.
Feldman was made aware of the issue by Michael DeFilippi, founder of the Clean Up Miami Beach Facebook Group. The group, with nearly 4,400 members, has become a powerful voice for cleaning up the Beach since its founding three years ago. In February, the group was behind the effort to ban floating ads on boats traversing the City’s waterways.

Earlier this week, DeFilippi posted two photos (one of which is above) in front of the SLS Hotel showing trash strewn on the sidewalk along Collins Avenue with this comment: “In front of the SLS hotel was absolutely disgusting last night [March 25]. I showed a manager who really didn't care much that their luxury hotel entrance looked like a dump. I told him it's their responsibility to clean up to the street and he said no the city does it in the morning. It's sad when some of these places don't care about the appearance of our city. I hate the excuses and lack of pride.”
In addition to the SLS, the group has also noted issues with the Faena and restaurants and hotels along Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road. Regarding the SLS and Faena, Feldman said he didn’t think they were “bad operators ... I just think they have some bad habits.”
He told his fellow board members, “We’re not a police department of our own permits but when members of the public come to us or we see something ourselves, I think it’s our responsibility to hold these folks to task.” Commenting on the photos he’s seen of the SLS and Faena, he said, “These are very, very unsightly situations.”
Trash outside Faena Hotel

Calling Faena “a wonderful, highly respected, and top level operator here and abroad,” he said he still wants to hold them accountable. “I think that they need to make an appearance [before the Planning Board] and they need to answer our questions and they need to respond to how this is happening, why it’s happening and tell us how they’re going to ensure that it doesn’t continue to happen.”
Neisan Kasdin, who represents Faena and happened to be in attendance for another client, told the Board he would take their message to Faena’s operators. In their defense he said, “I go to that property fairly often and I think they make a very concerted effort to keep it clean.” He noted, however, ongoing construction to rebuild the 34th Street parking lot and beach end as well as the 35th Street beach end. “They’re doing a lot of work over there and I don’t know if any of these things might have gotten conflated but if you give the specifics to me I’ll certainly address them with them.”
Feldman responded, “My understanding is they had a citation on March 7th and appealed it to the Special Master. They had another one on February 20th, given a couple of 24-hour warnings. It just sounds like, for whatever the reasons may be, an ongoing thing. All I want to do is call it to their attention from us that the people here in Miami Beach are watching and that we are going to continue to monitor it and that we’re going to bring them back here if the situation doesn’t get rectified. That’s all I want.”
Kasden answered, “On behalf of Faena, consider it called to their attention.”
Feldman asked how to get the message to the SLS. Planning Director Tom Mooney said the Board does have a mechanism to bring applicants back for progress reports and could address the issue that way. Several members expressed some discomfort with taking businesses to task that had not received a specific code violation first while also noting the challenges of someone from code enforcement seeing a violation as it occurred.
Chairman Brian Elias suggested sending a letter to the general manager of the SLS stating “It’s been brought to the attention of various members of the Planning Board that they’ve been a little neglectful in keeping their property clean and please keep an eye on it. And if not, it will come back here as a progress report.”
Feldman said, “I think that’s fantastic. Something from the City that says ‘We’ve got our eye on you’ is hopefully all they need.”
The Board also asked Staff to see if the technology used by the City allowed it to connect violations with the CUPs and flag them so that the Board could bring businesses with serious and/or repeated violations in for progress reports and potential action.
Feldman noted the Board sees code violations for applicants when they come before the Board and he’d like to see what, if any, violations occur after approvals are given that need to be reviewed. “If someone has a better idea,” he said, “I’m all ears because I believe it’s a runaway freight train. I believe the Beach is… it’s really disgusting in so many places. It’s very sad. It’s hard to watch and a lot of people are very, very upset about it and rightfully so.” If a report can be generated he said he’d like to see it be part of the monthly agenda “to kind of highlight who the bad actors are.”
Mooney said for single violations that are corrected immediately without subsequent problems, no further action is taken. For ongoing and significant violations, he said the City issues a cure letter and brings businesses in for a progress report. “It’s a big stick and we don’t like to use it unless we absolutely need to,” he said.
The Board affirmed its desire to send a letter to the SLS Hotel and ask Code Compliance to monitor the situation.
Feldman then raised the issue of beachfront hotels rolling their trash dumpsters down the beachwalk to their trash pickup points. “Along the way their trash bins are dripping trash sludge and they smell and they’re dirty,” he said. “They’re loud. They’re unsightly in every way.” He asked if the Planning Board had any jurisdiction there and expressed frustration at catching offenders in the act. “They’re never going to get caught but you know they’re doing it because it’s staining the beachwalk,” he said.
Mooney said Staff would ask Code Compliance to monitor the beachwalk during times of day that trash might be moved, such as the morning hours when the walk is not heavily traveled or when trash pickups typically occur. Deputy City Attorney Eve Boutsis said the Public Works Department should also be notified as they may have objections to the impact of the rolling dumpsters on the beachwalk.
What you can do to help:
If you see issues, contact Code Compliance: 305-604-2489 
Reports can also be sent easily through the City’s eGOV app.
Violations must be witnessed by a Police or Code Compliance officer so it is important you report an issue.

Photos or videos of occurrences can only be used as evidence if the photographer is willing to testify to their contents. Police and Code Compliance cannot attest to their accuracy.
However, if an issue comes before the Planning Board for a progress report and neighbors testify they saw something happening, Boutsis said she believes the Board would be able to use that testimony. The violators may say they don’t have any code enforcement violations “but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use it,” she said.
Bottom line, as the saying goes, “If you see something. Say something.” It matters. The members of the Clean Up Miami Beach Facebook group can attest to that.
Photos: Michael DeFilippi

Inspired to act

Susan Askew
Susan Askew
west avenue resident Shawn Bryant