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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is County not in favor of affordable housing?

From our District Commissioner Xavier Suarez:

Today Mayor Gimenez’s office has released the mid-year budget adjustment ordinance, and it is sorely deficient.  Whereas my colleagues and I unanimously approved $10 million for the Affordable Housing Trust fund in the current budget year, the administration has been able to identify only $387,000 for affordable housing.


Because the item came up on first reading (which means the commission was not able to discuss this), and because the item entailed more than $40 million in mid-year budget adjustments, I voted favorably on first reading and saved my criticism for second reading.

It is evident that the administration does not agree with the commission on the importance of affordable housing.  As an excuse for not funding even a reasonable fraction of the $10 million, they point to the Zika outbreak and other non-recurring budgetary abnormalities, such as the backlog of two years in Value Adjustment Board (VAB) appeals.

This is not acceptable, and it shows how distant the road is to the full funding of the Affordable Housing Trust.  We must ensure that in the next budget year the allocation is not conditioned on “carry-over or excess funds,” but that it is an integral part of the budget.
“I urge all advocacy groups, and anyone who cares about the housing situation in our community, to voice their dissatisfaction and to continue putting pressure on the administration so that we can ultimately fund, not $10 million, but the full $50 million which is only 1% of our operating budget,” said Commissioner Suarez.

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How to subscribe

People viewing the Grapevine on their cellphones don't see the subscribe link, but they would like to subscribe. If that's you, please email me (editor@coconutgrovegrapevine.com) with "subscribe" in the subject line and I'll put your name on the list.

But before you receive the Grapevine via email, you will receive an initial email asking for your permission to put you on the mailing list. If you don't respond to that, you won't be subscribed.

Then each day, between 3 and 4 pm, closer to 4 pm, I think, you'll receive the Coconut Grove Grapevine in your inbox. It's only once a day and no spam involved, just a list of the stories for that day and a link to them.

Please keep in mind that even though the Grapevine comes to your email at that time, we start posting stories at 4 or 5 am, so you can read us at any time and don't need to wait for the email.

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Sign this petition; no more lot splitting

This is an excellent idea. A group of neighbors is trying to stop the destruction of a home on Hibiscus by opposing a Warrant (2017-0002/3600) by sharing a petition signing for the whole community to participate in.

Stop by the Woman's Club of Coconut Grove any time between 5:30 and 7 pm on Wednesday, January 25 (tomorrow) to sign.

The developer wants to split one lot into three. Greed!

Stop by, let's help the neighbor who doesn't want this built next to her in her quiet neighborhood. Let's get these developers on the run.


The Woman's Club is at 2985 S. Bayshore Drive.

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Keeping it historic

I enjoyed the Housing Summit on Saturday. The church room was set up sort of like a workshop, there were quite a large number of people there and a large number of long tables. I sat at a table where I knew a couple of people and then I met others at our table.

One guy I met asked me to come over to his house after the meeting, he was proud of it and he wanted to talk. I walked over and met his wife and kids and we talked about everything really. As I was walking back to my car at the church, about a half hour or 45 minutes later, a lady driving by started yelling out to me. She said, "This neighborhood is historic! We're not giving it up so easily!" and she kept driving, so I couldn't hear the rest.

I realized she saw me carrying my pad and pen, which I had in my hand since the meeting, and perhaps thought I was a developer scouting the neighborhood. This I liked. It showed me that people do care and they are starting to stand up for themselves.

But what I learned from someone that day is that the City of Miami really doesn't care about preserving anything. If you want to make your house historic they nickle and dime you to death, it costs you thousands of dollars, just for prep-work in order to get the historic designation going. Rather than support or credit the person trying to preserve history, the City costs them lots of money.

The laws need to change..


At the meeting, the Grove pioneer EWF Stirrup's House was brought up, and people are bitter about the way the house is being rebuilt and not restored. The house is being rebuilt to look historic and is turning into a bed and breakfast (See that here). I was also curious as to why the building was being rebuilt and not restored, until I realized that the house just sat and rotted for years, termites and lack of care hurt the house (look at it here).  It's costing more to rebuild the place as being historic, than it would have been to just renovate the old house, if it has been kept up. That's where the city should step in. In my neighborhood they come after you if you don't mow the lawn, why are old, historic houses allowed to rot without the city fining someone?

And the Mariah Brown house. It's just a shell. This old, historic Grove house is like an old western movie set, just the outside is there.

And of course there is the ACE Theater, which has been run into the ground for years. So while I do feel and care about everyone that is affected, why not at least try to keep things in good condition?

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Atchana's Homegrown Thai is open for dinner

Atchana's Homegrown Thai is open this week for dinner. It's a soft opening week. Lunch will start being served also, next weekend.

They are located at 3194 Commodore Plaza, a long time coming.

The location is perfect, the restaurant is beautiful. There is plenty of seating inside and out.

You all may remember Siam Lotus, the restaurant in the green building, that was on US 1 in South Miami for so many years. Well they brought all that flavor and feel and authentication to the new Atchana's. 

This door at the new location is the actual carved front door from Siam Lotus. It was carved in Thailand and they saved it from the old restaurant all these years.

The restaurant has a lot of personal touches. Steve Capellini, co-owner, told me that he will be making his own Sriracha hot sauce from his own grown peppers. He plans on growing the peppers himself, along with herbs and lemon grass right in the restaurant and also out front. 

Most of the restaurant features reclaimed wood, from Coconut Grove docks. Most of the material in the place is recycled. They have a perfect location at the corner of Commodore and Grand and I know from past experience that their food is perfect. 

I got a sneak peek at the menu and there are house favorites like Lobster Pad Thai, Whole Snapper, Crispy Duck, Rib Eye Thai Style and Fresh Spring Rolls, Tom Yum Goong and Tom Kha Kai soups with Wonton and Tofu Soup, too.

Curries include Beef Massaman Curry, Green Curry Pork, Panang Chicken Curry and Chicken Yellow Curry. Noodles and rice include Pad Thai, Kuay Teaw Pad, Pineapple and Shrimp Fried Rice, Pad Woonsen and so much more.

I love the Thai Doughnut Holes for dessert along with Thai's Cream Sandwich, Tropical Fruit Sorbet and Mango and Sticky Rice.

They have lots of greens and lots of starters like Bangkok Wings and Satay and Thai Beefy Jerky.

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US Sailing World Cup back in town this week

The US Sailing World Cup is in Coconut Grove this week for the 28th edition. Established in 1990 by US Sailing, Sailing World Cup Miami Presented by Sunbrella annually draws elite sailors, including Olympic and hopefuls from around the world. The regatta features high-level racing and often serves as a National Team or Olympic Team qualifier for many countries. The world cup will be here from January 24-29, 2017.

This photo is from last year's event, by Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/World Sailing.  Last year, more than 780 sailors were competing across ten Olympic and two Paralympic classes. 



On the first stop of World Sailing's 2017 World Cup Series in Miami, USA, a home nation favorite will make a return in an attempt to add to her already jam packed trophy cabinet. Two time Rolex World Sailor of the Year and Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe will join 452 sailors in Regatta Park to take on the Laser Radial fleet with the experience of not only sailing, but of another determination and endurance filled sport behind her.


The men's Laser fleet also looks strong with the close training group of Rio 2016 silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic (CRO), 2016 Sailing World Cup Final winner Pavlos Kontides (CYP) and Ireland's youngest Olympic helmsman Finn Lynch not only taking on each other, but fierce competitors like Germany's Philipp Buhl who has won multiple Sailing World Cup titles and 2015 and 2016 Laser world champion, Nick Thompson (GBR).

Other young guns on the start line will be Spain's Jordi Xammar, who begins life with new crew Nicolas Rodríguez García-Paz and Austrian helm Nikolaus Kampelmühler who has teamed up with Olympian Florian Reichstädter.


The Finn fleet will feature 2016 World Cup Miami winner Jorge Zarif (BRA), 2016 World Cup Final winner Jake Lilley (AUS) and France's Fabian Pic who has ambitions of claiming the French #1 spot with Jonathan Lobert taking a break from sailing. Pic won a race at the 2016 Finn Gold Cup in Takapuna, New Zealand in a strong fleet last year so has shown signs that he is more than capable of carrying French hopes.

Miami’s newest waterfront public space, Regatta Park, welcomes anyone interested in watching the racing or learning more about the sport of sailing to come to Regatta Park and participate in this unique, spectator-friendly experience. The Fan Zone will be broadcasting live action from Biscayne Bay on a large video display in Regatta Park on Friday, January 27 through Sunday, January 29. On Saturday and Sunday, you can also catch the final rounds of racing for each class and the champions’ celebrations broadcasting live as they return to shore.


Ceremony at the water's edge in Coconut Grove. 

Photo by Carmen Hidalgo. 

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An Open Letter to Commissioner Ken Russell

Ken,

As the Landscape Architect serving in Parks Administration for the City of Miami, Department of Parks and Recreation, I generally avoid commenting on issues of a political nature within the City of Miami, and so seldom express a view on a subject as "delicate as the potential for modifications to "Miami 21," the City's current zoning/development code. However, as a resident of this community for almost 50 years, I have observed changes - many positive and some negative - in how our community uses and manages its natural and man-made resources.Far too often, such decisions are made on the basis of personal benefit and gain, and not under the umbrella of benefit to our community and our neighborhoods.

While I understand that there are flaws and weaknesses in almost all rules, regulations, and codes, the overwhelmingly positive intent of "Miami 21" is to ensure an orderly process that addresses the desires, wishes, and needs of the majority within our community. So, when a real estate speculator, or a developer, seeks to modify an aspect of "Miami 21", one must ask rhetorically: "Does such change benefit the community at large, and the neighborhood that will be directly impacted?" Or, in the alternative, "Is such a proposed change beneficial - financially and in other ways - to one (or a select group)?" Most often, the answer is obvious.

Rules on setbacks and height restrictions within "Miami 21" fundamentally recognize the inherent right to use one's property to the "highest and best" purpose, without burden. However, the lengthy process of review, discussion, debate, and resolution accorded the process of adopting "Miami 21" has manifest extensive and detailed community involvement from among significant numbers of Miami residents. for some to argue now that - for example - a setback of fifteen feet is too burdensome, but a setback of nine feet is appropriate, seems to border both on the disingenuous and the egregious.

Each and every citizen resident of the City of Miami resident had the opportunity to be heard throughout the nurturing process of drafting, refining and adopting "Miami 21," which is equitable for all parties - absent the regular "assaults" on its objectives and its integrity.

I would certainly appreciate hearing your thoughts on the issue! Thank you for your continued interest in and dedication to our community and neighborhoods.

Ted Baker, FASLA
Landscape Architect

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

6th annual Maine Lobster Feast for a cause

The Sixth annual Maine Lobster Feast will be on Thursday, February 23 at Coral Reef Yacht Club. This is a fundraising event for the Woody Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for the spinal cord injured community. The feast starts at 6:30 pm.

“Feb. 23, we gather to support the Woody Foundation as it continues to improve the quality of life of those living with paralysis,” said Anthony Poppe, co-chair of the Maine Lobster Feast. “The 2017 Maine Lobster Feast will build upon the great success of past year’s events, and is certain to be a wonderful evening dining along Biscayne Bay. We are eager to see you all there and appreciate the support your attendance will bring to the Woody Foundation”

Now is your opportunity to become a “Friend of the Woody Foundation” by pledging to a sponsorship package for the annual dinner. With your support, the Woody Foundation can achieve its fundraising goals and foster a partnership towards raising money and awareness for the spinal cord injured community.

The Woody Foundation Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization formed in 2011 to raise funds for the recovery of spinal cord injured persons. The namesake of The Foundation, James “Woody” Beckham, suffered his spinal cord injury making a rugby tackle in January 2011. Since then, the foundation has raised over $1.5 million to help those with paralysis. The mission is to transform the quality of life of those living with paralysis and their caregivers.

Early Bird tickets are on sale now for $175 per person, which includes the lobster dinner and champagne toast. Get them here.

For more info: 305-586-3107 or info@woodyfoundation.org

Coral Reef Yacht Club is at 2428 S. Bayshore Drive.

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Housing summit left more questions than answers

I attended the Housing Summit on Saturday, at the Christ Episcopal Church on Hibiscus Street in Village West. While it was a long meeting, about three hours, I am not sure that anything got resolved, but just the fact that it was a full room was a great start. The Coconut Grove Village Council along with the office of Commissioner Xavier Suarez hosted the event. Word was that the City of Miami did not have anyone there representing the city; I don't think anyone was present from Planning & Zoning or any other city agency. Commissioner Suarez was not there himself. To his credit, City Commissioner Francis Suarez was present, he was there to participate and not represent the city.

Village Council chair Kate Callahan introduced speakers and Javier Gonzalez, vice-chair, had real estate answers to questions. Ed O'dell, former tv newsman and long-time Grovite, served as emcee.


The main issue was the displacement of Village West residents; 52 so far. What I loved at the meeting was that the Village West residents don't call their neighborhood Village West, they call it Coconut Grove, after all, that was Coconut Grove from the beginning. And maybe that's what we all need to be doing and I think I may just start that now, except I need to refer to Village West down below in this story, to differentiate it from South Grove to make a point.


A lot of the displaced people were sent to Homestead or Liberty City or other places, sent away from their Coconut Grove homes, churches, schools, family and friends. All this in the name of progress.

Perhaps if the slumlords were reigned in by the City, things would not be allowed to deteriorate. It's ironic to note that some of these boarded up buildings are housing squatters now, just like the Playhouse did for years. Oh by the way, there is a pipe spewing water all over the roof of the Playhouse right now. Does anyone know? Does anyone care? This is how our City feels about history.



Ms. Frederika filling out the question form.
When a landlord has his building fall into disrepair, why not report it, anonymously if you must. The sad part is that, all of those renters did not have leases, and they were asked to vacate in 15 days, which is legal if there is no binding contract. Ed O'dell said, "When you come to the Grove, you see what history is all about." Really? Where?

Ideas were thrown around at the meeting, but no solutions were found. I and others found it odd that there were County workers from organizations like the South Florida CLT (Community Land Trust) discussing how buying a house would ease their problems. I thought at this point that it could be a waste of time, but I was informed that there are programs that ask for small down payments and low mortgage payments. One issue brought up was having neighbors buy up the buildings, rather than developers, sort of like a co-op. I think there should be agencies somewhere in the area, that would help people navigate this in an easy manner.

The bottom line is that government is not serving the interests of the people, but how can you force landlords not to sell and perhaps not have leases on their properties? I do think it's an easy fix to have them upkeep the properties, but the city neglects doing anything about that and they would prefer new buildings and tax bases rather than help people with what is there now.

Javier Gonzalez mentioned that there are 200 empty lots sitting in Village West as opposed to only one in South Grove. What does this mean? Are the lots abandoned? Are they awaiting buyers? Why is this the case? I know that some years back, apartment buildings were knocked down in the name of progress and the lots still sit empty all these years later. Is that progress or just the elimination of neighbors who lived there?


One business owner, Barbara Mills, discussed how it is effecting business in the area. Little by little as people are forced out, businesses will not have customers in the neighborhood. Next it effects churches and then schools and as residents vacate, the memberships and numbers go down.

There is a fund that will help displaced people find a home for a short period of time, the number to get information on that is 305-446-5150.

In the words of EWF Stirrup, an early Grove pioneer, "Every family here should have a home." And I don't think that refers to quick buck developers, but if they are the ones renovating, gentrifying and making old new again, what is the solution? What they are doing does bring property values up.

Many of the properties up and down Grand Avenue that are old and decaying are not historic, it's the people who are part of our history, some have been here for generations and they want to stay. And that's a major problem, is it too late to save the buildings? What about the people? 


It's very admirable that the Village Council has opened the dialogue. People need answers. And help. Now.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Preserving nature and character of Coconut Grove

The Grove Watch Group is holding a community meeting on Preserving the Grove on Wednesday, February 8 from 6 to 7:30 pm at Plymouth Church, 3400 Devon Road. 

Many of you attended a similar community meeting held last April at Plymouth Church where they discussed issues of concern, many related to tree canopy, lot-splitting, code enforcement and architectural compliance. As an outgrowth of that meeting, Grove Watch Group was formed by concerned neighbors. They would like to continue the dialogue--and give an update and all that has happened in the last few months. They will offer support to empower neighbors and supply information which will help us all work together to preserve the nature, character and heritage of our community. 

If you did not attend the April meeting, here it is.

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Are they circumventing the public process?

A Committee has been Formed to Propose Changes to Grove Zoning

However you are not invited to participate in that effort.

David Villano founder of Grove 2030 has apparently taken it upon himself to circumvent the public open process of Grove 2030 , to form a small exclusive group or committee to propose changes to Miami 21 Zoning as it pertains to Coconut Grove. Once again YOU are not invited to participate.

The group or committee which was formed without any community involvement or knowledge includes:
Two Residential Developers - Andy Parrish and Marcelo Fernandes
One Real Estate Salesman - Javier Gonzalez
Two Lawyers - Elan Gershon and Miriam Maer
One "businessperson" - Johannah Brown
One Veternarian - Ruth Ewing
One Architect - Thorn Grafton of Zyscovich Architects

At least one of the developers has been building oversized "McMansions" in the Grove for a some time and has proposed "relaxing" the restrictions governing residential construction in the Grove. i.e. "reducing setbacks, increasing FAR (Buildable Area), increasing Height"  and the like. The "committee" is currently entertaining those suggestions.

The "businessperson" plans to compile a list of the restrictions that some builders find onerous and would like to see more flexibility with...."

Other items under consideration by this "select" committee are basically ways to make larger, taller (40' suggested)  and more omnipresent houses in the Grove easier for developers to build.

I object to this "committee" proposing Code Revisions to COMMISSIONER RUSSELL AND  the Miami City Commission on a number of grounds.

1.) Any review of the Zoning code MUST be done with the full knowledge and input of this community. Any process like this that will effect every Grove Resident must be OPEN, TRANSPARENT and INCLUSIVE..The manner in which this committee was formed, and is operating, does not meet those requirements.

2.) Any other review of the Zoning code MUST include knowledgeble professionals  such as Planners, Landscape Architects and Historic Preservationists, who know Coconut Grove, who possess a working knowledge of the Code, and can visualize and articulate the impact of any proposed changes to Grove Zoning.

3.) NO one on this committee should have a clear conflict of interest..i.e. developers and or Real Estate Sales people who's goals may conflict with that of the community.

4.) At this time from what I have learned the intent of at least some members of this "committee"  is to make the Grove a better place for "investment". I do not believe that to be the primary goal desired by the Grove residents I have spoken with..I do believe perserving the Residential Grove to the greatest extent possible and stopping overdevelopment is the real priority of this community.

5.) At this time I have yet to hear any cogent identification of where specific  "problems" exist in the Zoning Code..They committee has NOT identified what those "problems" are or who is affected by them..BUT this committee is now proposing solutions to those yet unidentified 
problems.  

I do not object to a review of Zoning. HOWEVER I believe that in order to address the problems and issues that so many of us are troubled by that any committee formed to do so, MUST do so with the involvement and consent of the community.

By way of this letter I ask Commissioner Russel to totally disavow this group or any proposed Zoning changes they may present, to him, or the City Commission.

Charles Corda
Coconut Grove


RESPONSE:

Charles Corda’s letter is wildly inaccurate. There is no "group" from which he or anyone else in being excluded. What he refers to is a handful of people mostly working on their own, as volunteers, who are studying the Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) zoning overlays with the idea of making recommendations to Ken Russell's office and to the City’s Planning & Zoning department for making them better. Mr. Corda’s suggestion that this effort is developer-driven is fanciful. Andy Parrish, for instance, is looking at things like increasing set-backs and reducing FAR (floor-area ration) allowances; I am looking at ways to better promote the tree canopy and for ways to encourage historic preservation. And none of this is a secret. The commissioner’s staff and P&Z staff are aware of these efforts, and it has been announced at least twice in Village Council meetings. Javier Gonzalez, on behalf of the Council, sent out multiple emails requesting community input (we got quite a bit); and a lengthy letter was printed in the Grapevine in November explaining this project. Mr. Corda, in fact, was individually approached, in writing, not long ago asking for his ideas, as an architect, for making the NCDs better. He declined, choosing instead to pursue one of his wild conspiracy theories that sadly, have become his signature.

Ironically, Grove 2030 was founded as a vehicle for moving beyond the inane civic ranting that has long dominated the public discourse here, by giving people a meaningful opportunity to engage in substantive steps -- real action, like reworking the NCDs -- at making the Grove better. Visit us at Grove2030.org and on Facebook.

David Villano
Grove 2030

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Chocolate Festival at Fairchild for the weekend

Indulge in artisanal chocolate and sweet treats at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s 11th Annual International Chocolate Festival. Celebrate Fairchild’s sweetest event throughout 83 acres of tropical paradise with artisan chocolatiers, interactive chocolate making displays, sweet samples, and cooking demonstrations. The three-day festival runs from Friday, January 20 – Sunday, January 22, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm each day.

After sampling delightful treats from dozens of acclaimed chocolatiers, learn how chocolate is produced from the seeds of the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao), an ancient crop from Central and South America. Take a ChocoWalk and stop by the interactive Living History of Cacao and Chocolate Tent to learn from horticulturists, scientists, and chefs about the rich and fascinating history of cacao, this year featuring the chocolate harvesting and production methods of Ecuador. Be sure to visit the Rainforest and Tropical Fruit Pavilion to see how real cacao pods grow on trees. For ultimate relaxation, get pampered at the one-of-a-kind ChocoSpa, or experience the latest fitness craze by joining us at the Allee and Overlook for our Pure Barre Popup Class. 

Wrap up your visit by taking home your very own cacao tree or Oncidium “Sharry Baby” chocolate-scented orchid. 

The International Chocolate Festival is sponsored by United States Department of Agriculture, Pacari, Johnson & Wales University, Kind and Pure Barre.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156. Admission to the festival is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up, $12 for children 6-17, and free for Fairchild members and children 5 and under. Eco-discounts and military discounts are available. 

For more info, please call 305-667-1651 or visit www.fairchildgarden.org/chocolate

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Village Council meets Friday night

The Coconut Grove Village Council meets Friday, January 20 at City Hall at 6 pm.

On the agenda:

Treasury & Budget Update (764.82)
Police / Net Office Report  

Discussion Items
2017 Election Resolution
Frankie Shannon Rolle / Platform 3750

Playhouse Garage
Tree Ordinance

Old Business
CGVC Housing Summit (Jan 21, 2017)
D & O Insurance
NCD Review

City Hall is located at 3500 Pan American Drive.

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2017 Arts Festival poster unveiled at party

It was like old home week at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival poster party. For a good many years, I seemed to be on every committee in town and at Thursday night's event, so many familiar, friendly faces showed up, some I had not seen for a long time. As was the case in 2011, this year's Arts Festival poster is by prolific Florida artist Guy Harvey, known for his fish images. This is the 2017 poster for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival which runs February 18 through 20, this year.


The event always starts with a live shot on the Channel 6 news, here Roxy Vargas, reporter, does the count down on live tv for the poster unveiling, which always takes place at the Sonesta Coconut Grove. Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Ken Russell were both part of the fun.
Ken Drodvillo with Guy Harvey in front of the poster.
Lorna Owens and Lisa Remeny, local artist.
Tony Albelo (yes, that Tony) and Javi Zayas of Swarm event agency; Chef Paulette Bilsky and Chef Alvin Bergolla.
The Barnacle group: Alyn Pruett, Katrina Boler, Louis Del Borrello, Teresa Sorrentino.
Police Commander Mike Gonzalez flanked by his wife, Mercedes at left and Peggy Quattro.
Monty Trainer, president of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival and Lilliana Dones, president of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce.
Richard Issa and Marshall Steingold.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

New gym taking Gardner's Market location

Social media has been buzzing about the Crossfit gym relocating to the former Gardner's Market at 3117 Bird Avenue.

Noticed activity in there a couple of weeks ago. There is no opening date, things are still under reconstruction. There is lots of room and they plan on having a boxing area, lifting area and spinning classes.

A Run Club and a Kids Program on the back patio are planned.

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Food Truck Thursday?



I see that Ms. Cheezious will be at Mercy Hospital for lunch today, January 19, from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. I'm going are you?

It's interesting to note that Ms. Cheezious was at Vizcaya the other night and Mercy today, are they moving closer into the Center Grove? I miss Food Truck Friday. Remember that?


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Youth Empowerment Summit

The 3rd Annual Youth Empowerment Summit is January 28 from 3 to 6 pm at Peacock Park. Coconut Grove Youth are stepping up to the plate and leading the conversation stations this year to better serve and relate to their peers. 

The conversation stations featured will be:
Welcome to My House – This station will encourage youth to be empower themselves with information about home ownership and weigh out the pros and cons of renting and owning, mortgages, loans and budgets.

The Youth Empowerment Summit is designed to educate, movitate and celebrate the youth of today to become leaders of tomorrow.

OMW Lead by Mya Wright, Ransom Everglades student, this station will feature live convo about Mya’s unique and inspiring journey as she plans for college next year. 

WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK- Edward Leonard will lead this conversation and share details about his strategies to employment and career planning. Resume building will be a key focus here. 

Formation – This station led by Terrence Hudnell will provide other youth the opportunity to share their own personal experiences and how that has shaped their lives and their outlook. They will discuss how their community has helped form their view of the world. This station will give the opportunity for youth to create and take home a special gift. 

All Youth Middle and High School participants will receive Community Service Hours. 

If you would like to register a group or students please visit http://goldenandgoldengat.wixsite.com/yes2017

If you would like to volunteer or contribute, please call 305 993 8570

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Comedy Festival is this Saturday

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Coconut Grove Comedy Festival is Saturday, January 21. The shows benefit the St. Stephen's AIDS Ministry. Cost is $25 per person online in advance and $35 at the door, also $65 for early bird foursome.The event is put on by Comic Cure, which "uses the unifying power of laughter to engage the community and develop promising, local talent." They produce live comedic events showcasing this talent to raise awareness, funds and volunteers for local charities. 

The shows are at 7 and 9 pm.

On the program:

7:00 PM Show
Host: Mary Smith
Feature: Ben Zieper (Winner of the 2015 & 2016 Brickell Comedy Festival, 2015 Wynwood Comedy Festival)
Headliner: Freddy Stebbins (2016 Miami NewTimes Best Comedian)
Additional Performers (alpha order):
Amy Isherwood
Annette Gallagher
Cal Verduchi
Carlos Fernandez
Javi Carrion
Julie Baez
Khalil Phillips
Larry A
Luis Diaz
Marc Huppman
PauL P
Regina Castañeda
Shana Manuel

9:00 PM Show
Host: Alex Morizio 
Feature: Cristian Munarriz (Winner of the 2016 Latin American Comedy Festival, Brickell Comedy Festival, Coral Gables Comedy Festival)
Headliner: Jamal Hattar (Comedy Central)
Additional Performers (alpha order):
Ben Evans
Danette Rodriguez
Danny New
Desiree Cendan
Fasil Malik
Gabe Spain
Hanz Rivero
Jen Hellman
Jessica Fernandez
Jhovany Diaz
Joey Albano
Lindsay Glazer
See No Evil
Sherrani Glass
Tim Kirby

Get tickets here.

St. Stephen's is at 2750 McFarlane Road.


For info, Email Ben@ComicCure.com or call 786-564-2291.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Vizcaya seeking volunteer guides

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is seeking volunteers to lead guided interactive tours for its visitors. An information reception for anyone interested in becoming a Volunteer Guide is taking place on Thursday, February 9, at 6:00 pm, in the Courtyard of the Main House.

The Volunteer Guides Program has been in place nearly as long as Vizcaya has served as a public museum. It began in 1954 as an independent volunteer group and is currently among the most sophisticated docent training programs in the county, offering an extensive 30-hour certification covering learning theory and local history as well as a mentoring component partnering newcomers with veteran guides.

RSVP is required by February 6. RSVPs can be submitted online via Eventbrite. You can also download the Volunteer Guide application form and submit it by the given deadline via email to volunteerguides@vizcaya.org or by fax to 305-285-2004. 

Now is an exciting time to become a Guide as Vizcaya celebrates its Centennial. For more information, please contact Guiding Programs Manager at mark.osterman@vizcaya.org

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They're resisting Trump as president

On Sunday, 126 activists met at St. Stephens's Church to plan "The Trump Resistance." Many people can't get used to the idea of having Donald Trump as president.

They call themselves "Progressive Miami" and this was their third meeting. District Commissioner, Ken Russell was the keynote speaker. Here he is shown, addressing the group. The group's spokesman, Glenn Terry, said. "Most voters did not choose Trump to lead the country, we are a small part of that group. We plan to be a thorn in his side for the next four years."


Already the group has organized e-mail campaigns and congressional office visits. This Saturday half of them will be at  the Women's March on Washington in our nation's capitol.

The others will be attending the "sister march" here in Bayfront Park downtown, called the "South Florida Women's Rally." Both events are free and open to the public. Their Facebook pages can give you needed information.


For more details on the Grove-based Progressive Miami group, contact Glenn Terry at bettermiami1@yahoo.com. Their next meeting will be on Tuesday, January 31, 6 pm at St. Stephens Church (2750 McFarlane Road).

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gardens of Moonlight at Vizcaya

Vizcaya recently hosted the Gardens by Moonlight,  which offered guests the rare opportunity of exploring the historic Vizcaya Village at night. This one of the first to come which celebrates Vizcaya's centennial, the perfect opportunity to reflect on the rich past of this National Historic Landmark and its unique role in South Florida's history. 

Guests ventured into an unseen portions of the estate-the historic Vizcaya Village- which is a natural extension of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, located across South Miami Avenue from the Main House and Gardens. Referred to as the Farm Village, also, a large area of that side of South Miami Avenue was where the house got it's food and produce.

The historic Village was part of the original 1916 estate, and consisted of more than a dozen buildings with the intent of making Vizcaya virtually self-sufficient. This idea evoked the spirit of European country villas while, on a practical level, compensating for the limited services and merchandise available in early twentieth-century Miami. The Village included staff quarters, an automobile garage, workshops and an array of barns.

Vizcaya's 100-year anniversary coincides with the development of an ambitious Master Plan, which will breathe new life into the Vizcaya as a South Florida asset. This plan outlines a strategic approach, expanding Vizcaya's programmatic potential for locals and visitors and relating its full history through the restoration of land and historic buildings at the Vizcaya Village.

Guests enjoyed live musical entertainment by The Wilson Slayers, FUN, Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling Strings Band, and Three Sheets to the Wind band. They also experience installations from the Lost Village exhibit. Part of Vizcaya's Contemporary Arts Program (CAP), Lost Village retells the untold stories of this space through works by local artists, which include: Gaby Suarez, Bill Burke, Jacek Kolasinski, Donna Torres, Robert Chambers, Mette Tommerup, David Almeida, Sterling Rook, Michelle Barros, Camilla Canchon, Alex Narus, Michael Gray, Guido Mena and Karol Contreras. 

Food was available for purchase from local food trucks, including Ms. Cheezious, BC Tacos, and others.






Photos by Manny Hernandez

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Appealing in the name of the NCD-3 Code

The City Commission will be hearing the appeal of the Historic Environmental Preservation Board (HEP) on Thursday, January 26, regarding the splitting of the property at 3701 Park Avenue into two single family sites.

For over 100 years, the site has been the location of one house. It was built for the Pollard family and owned and occupied by them for over 40 years.

According to the Save the Grove group, "The ancillary accommodation, attached to the 4 car garage, was originally occupied by a driver, Percival, and from 1946 by the widow of Mr. Pollard, as the second generation of Pollards occupied the primary home. From 1956 to 1997 the home was occupied by the Graves family and from 1997 to 2002 by the Kingsbury family. In 2002 the house was bought by Roger Treese who retained the property until it was purchased by the development company in 2015. The house and ancillary building is constructed of Dade County Pine, noted for its resistance to termites and other superior properties as a building material . By most accounts the buildings are in good shape with the possible exception of the ancillary  building’s  sleeping porch. Here's an article on Dade County Pine called "The Wood That Would Be Steel."

"After designating the Primary and Accessory building as Historic, HEP approved a waiver to divide the single family site into two single family sites, waive the lot width requirements for a large lot, demolish Mrs. Pollard senior’s cottage with attached garage, and reduce several setback requirements. The sleeping porch of the primary home is also to be removed. Neighbors appealed the waiver. The appeal will be heard on January 26 by the City Commissioners." 

Also from Save the Grove: "There have been two new warrant applications in Coconut Grove to divide single family building sites into multiple building sites. We believe that approving them would be a violation of the NCD code which requires that warrant applications be reviewed according to the intent of the appropriate transect. Since the NCD-3 code has a very clear intent which precludes destroying the diversity of lot sizes, splitting of single family sites regardless of the number of component lots making up a single site, canopy, and lush landscaping; it cannot be construed that placing sub-divisions derived from single family sites where very large houses are being built in our neighborhood is allowed.  In any case, threats to the integrity of our Neighborhood Conservation District neighborhood continue to emerge, and while good progress has occurred, we continue to have serious threats with which to contend."

Save the Grove's mission is to protect the nature and character of Coconut Grove’s low density, tree canopied neighborhood. We seek to accomplish this through advocating for thoughtful enforcement of our Neighborhood Conservation District, NCD code and to enhance that code by reasonable requirements for green space and lot to building ratios.

Please be aware of posted notices and notices sent to your house, Please share them with Save the Grove by emailing a copy to savethegrove16@gmail.com. Please send them asap, as there is only certain number of days to appeal.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Last surviving Cocaine Cowboy to speak at Rotary

Mickey Munday
The guest speaker at this week's Coconut Grove Rotary luncheon is Mickey Munday, actor, writer and the "last surviving Cocaine Cowboy" from the Rakontur documentary, Cocaine Cowboy. The luncheon is on Thursday, January 19 at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club (2990 South Bayshore Drive) at 12:15 pm. The cost for lunch is $20.

Mickey is an American former drug trafficker and former associate of Colombia's Medellin Cartel during the growth phase in cocaine trafficking, 1975–1985. Internationally renowned for his abilities to circumvent law enforcement's efforts to capture and arrest him by boat or airplane during Miami's cocaine epidemic, Munday was often referred to as the "MacGyver" of cocaine smugglers.  

First Luther Campbell and now Mickey Munday, the Rotary Club is getting edgy these days.

Mickey was born and raised in Miami. His father, George "Sunny" Munday was a professional football player, who played four sesons in the NFL (with the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians).  When Mickey was 13 years old, his father put him to work at the family-owned concrete business, M Block. There he learned how to manufacture and design concrete ventilation, benches, tables, fences, and stepping stones.  

The sudden death of a close friend, in 1978, left Mickey responsible for removing unwanted contraband from his friend's warehouse before the man's grieving parents found it. Having thought it was only 2-10 pounds of marijuana, Mickey was shocked to discover 2,000 pounds of marijuana inside a locked room. After clearing out the room, Mickey gave the pot to a friend, who sold it and gave Mickey $165,000 from the sale. After careful consideration and extensive planning, Mickey purchased his first plane, a 680 Aero Commander and began transporting marijuana from South America to the US, devising methods of avoiding unwanted attention from law enforcement agencies along the way. In 1980, Max Mermelstein an American associate of the Medellin Cartel was introduced to Jon Roberts, who was in need of a direct supplier of cocaine into the United States. Mickey introduced Roberts to Rafael "Rafa" Cardona Salazar, a high-ranking member of the Medellin Cartel and Pablo Escobar's American connection.

Max Mermelstein was arrested in 1985 by Miami Police as a multi-kilo dealer, and was implicated by a California trafficker who gave information to the DEA in exchange for a lighter sentence. Mermelstein turned state's witness against the Medellin Cartel after his arrest and provided information that led to the subsequent raids on Mickey's properties on September 20, 1986. Mickey, a step ahead of law enforcement, had held agents at bay by opening the gas tank of a cocaine-laden plane and pointing a flare gun at several 55-gallon gasoline drums nearby. Federal agents were noted as saying it was a standoff, and Mickey escaped fleeing into the Florida swamps.  Mickey managed to elude capture for several years until he was arrested in Richmond, Virginia.  He was sentenced to 10 years in a federal correction facility and was released in December, 1999.  

Mickey now makes his living as an actor, writer, speaker and storyteller. He also works occasionally as a resource for SOUTHCOM (US Military's Southern Command)'s research partnership with FIU.  In that capacity, he has twice been invited to speak to members of such crime-fighting agencies as the DEA, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard, police, and armed forces, to share information helpful to counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism strategies.

Please join the luncheon. RSVP at coconutgroverotaryclub@gmail.com.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Historic designation for Village West?

I had asked Commissioner Ken Russell, what he could do to help those that are struggling in Village West. He sent me this response today.

The biggest change has been the incredible amount of community interest and political will to fight displacement and create housing options.

When I first came into office, much of Coconut Grove seemed very concerned with cleaning up the crime and poverty that was present on Grand Ave. While that is very important and must be addressed, the narrative has shifted with a stronger empathy for the families that live in the area and their wish to continue living in the area. Prior to this, any form of development, gentrification, and cleanup may have been acceptable. I have worked very hard to stand with the residents and give a voice to their concerns. Anyone who has been attending city commission over the past few months has seen that Village West has found a voice of its own. Residents and advocacy groups have been coming to hold us accountable, introduce new ideas, and weigh in on our votes and expenditures. This is the type of presence that I will need to convince fellow Commissioners to vote in favor of the big initiatives that we introduce. When I asked the Commission to agree to $3 million to negotiate purchase of the trolley garage, I received unanimous support. When I allocated $300,000 to create an emergency rehousing fund for the over 100 residents facing eviction on Grand Avenue, every Commissioner agreed. They have even agreed with me in directing the City Manager to examine government owned properties in the West Grove that could be developed for affordable housing, including the former site of the municipal incinerator “Old Smokey” that is our current fire college.

The six blocks on Grand Avenue are still for sale and are not being maintained properly. I have initiated a law suit by the City to force these owners to bring the properties up to code or assist in the relocation of the residents. The conditions are deplorable. The City has stepped up its enforcement of violations but the condition of some of the buildings is beyond repair.

Historic designation of the Coconut Grove Village West is one of my intentions. While there are not enough remaining historic homes to warrant a historic district under our current definition, I will be introducing legislation to allow for new types of historic designation that will preserve and protect the remaining wood frame and shotgun homes and tell the story of a very culturally significant neighborhood.

These changes don’t happen overnight. I know that there is much frustration amongst residents that more has not happened up to now. This month begins my second year in office. Now that we’ve identified the issues and generated awareness and support, I look forward to 2017 and things to come.

Kind Regards,


Ken Russell
City of Miami Commissioner
District 2


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