Sardinia: Officially, it's Not a Basement


Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Sardinia: Officially, it's Not a Basement:

sunset harbour restaurant's flood claim paid

Being on the groundbreaking side of Miami Beach’s efforts to combat sea level rise has not been easy for Tony Gallo, owner of Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante in Sunset Harbour. But things are looking up.
After living through a long and disruptive construction process that included installation of a new stormwater system and road elevation, Sardinia flooded during a heavy rain in October 2016. At the time, only one of six stormwater pumps in the area was working when the intense rainfall coincided with high tide. Gallo filed an insurance claim which was denied after adjusters saw the newly elevated road in front of the restaurant and determined its location qualified as a basement and was not eligible for reimbursement under the flood insurance program.
The City went into action explaining its resiliency efforts to Allstate’s Flood Department manager and FEMA NFIP staff, at one point sending a 23-page letter with elevation certificates and engineering reports. (Allstate offers flood policies under the FEMA program and must abide by the regulations set forth by NFIP.)
After fourteen months, Gallo – and the City – prevailed. Allstate notified him yesterday it will pay his claim.
The Sunset Harbour neighborhood is one of the lowest areas in the City and the first to have its streets raised and new stormwater pumps installed in an effort to combat flooding from sea level rise. The 2016 flood and “basement” designation were not the end of Gallo’s problems. In August of this year Sardinia (and other businesses) again experienced flooding during a “rain bomb” when precipitation fell at a rate of 9 inches per hour at one point.
While the City made clear that the stormwater pumps are not designed to handle extreme weather events such as a “rain bomb”, it said they are expected to drain the City fairly quickly… if the power stays on.  In the August rainstorm, the pumps failed due to a power outage and when former Mayor Philip Levine learned plans to purchase backup generators had been tied up in what he dubbed “bureaucratic paralysis”, he directed staff to proceed with emegency procurement procedures to acquire the necessary equipment.

Gallo who was frustrated with the pump failures told RE:MiamiBeach today that having the permanent power generators has made all the difference. “We never had floods after that” including during Hurricane Irma, he said. “Hopefully, we continue this way.”
As for the insurance dispute, he said, “We get paid and we have insurance. The process was a long 14 months, but the most important thing is we’ve done it.”
In an email to Commissioners, City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote, “Our staff worked hard with FEMA and their insurance company to educate them on the City’s storm water initiatives and proved to them that these spaces were not basements and therefore still qualified for flood coverage. This will be very helpful moving forward. We will certainly educate the public about this since the initial denial had created some concern in the community."