In less than a week, on March 31, Miami Beach’s finance and economic resiliency committee will meet to consider an ordinance from the mayor, Dan Gelber, that would allow a politically connected married couple to double the value of their property.
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The ordinance proposes to separate a residence from the historic Altos del Mar area and make it a commercial area. At the upcoming meeting, two appraisals of the property will be presented: one by the committee and another by the owners.
The ordinance, proposed by Gelber and preliminarily approved at the Oct. 26, 2022 commission meeting, reached the Land Use and Sustainability Committee (LUSC) the following month. There, council members Ricky Arriola, David Richardson, Laura Dominguez and planning director Thomas Mooney discussed the idea of the city buying the property.
“My husband [Rudy] and I want to do what’s best for the community,” Betsy Perez told the committee that day. “We have seen how the Beach has evolved, the people have evolved, and we want the sector to evolve as well, I think a boutique hotel would bring a lot to this community.”
The home in question is located at 7605 Collins Ave. The Perez’s bought it in 2001 for $510,000. Today, it is only a three to five-minute walk from the property to the sea through the recently designed Altos del Mar park, which adjoins a library and a play area with access to the beach, showers and toilets. Zillow lists the estimated value of the property at $3.47 millon.
Committee members said the property, which is bordered on the north by the new park rather than single-family houses, no longer belongs to Altos Del Mar. Therefore, it does not need to abide by the restrictions of the historic district.
Some experts question this, citing the law, historic documents signed by the city, and the commitments acquired by the city of Miami Beach with the State of Florida when it was ceded several parcels of Altos del Mar for the nominal value of $100.
Luis Guillermo Córdoba, a real estate agent, said Miami Beach’s codes and regulations make land use changes in a historic district very complex — requiring notifying and consulting residents.
“By saying that the parcel is not part of Altos Del Mar, they no longer have to be restricted by what the association says, or consult the residents,” he said. “The decision will be clearly up to… the city.”
The county property appraiser’s office, which registers the titles and tax values of properties in Miami Beach, places the Perez residence in Altos Del Mar. The city, for its part, has included the parcel in the neighborhood since 1987. On this date, as the State of Florida — following the city — designed a planning study that would preserve the residential and historic character of the area, one of few dominated by single-family homes on the seashore.
Backed by this decision, Miami Beach applied in 2003 to the state to “buy” or, rather, accept the cession of about four acres, between 76th and 77th streets, from Collins Avenue to the beach, for $10. A stipulation in the deed advises that the property should be used as a park or returned to the state.
The Pérezes and the Mayors
For their part, Pérezes managed to expand their garden in October 2021 with a “gift” of 750 square feet. Gelber, as the representative of Miami Beach, signed the quit-claim deed, confirming the assignment of 750 square feet corresponding to the 30 feet of what until then had been the Airoso [Atlantic] Way alley, for the symbolic cost of 10 dollars. Thus culminated a process that had started in 2016 under then Mayor Philip Levine and the old guard of commissioners.
A year earlier, Levine had backed Betsy Perez for a commission seat against Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. Despite more money and support from the political elite, Perez lost.
Even so, Perez did not abandon her interest in being part of the circle of influence of the city of Miami Beach. Currently, according to the city page, she is the vice president of the North Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).
When consulted, an Altos Del Mar resident who requested anonymity said she disagreed with the idea of converting the Pérez residence into a hotel. In addition, he said that owners had not been been consulted,
“At the end of the day, what Betsy does with her house is her business, as long as it’s done honestly,” he indicated. “If she wants to sell her house, she must sell it for what it is, a single-family property. We are not against the evolution of the community, but the Altos Del Mar park is just that, a park, and it is also a historical sector… and it should continue to be so.”