Heartbreak Hotel

It's the end of an era on Hollywood Beach, where small, cheap motels are all that stand in the way of another playground for the wealthy

Instead, Martinez pitched them on the city's Hotel Improvement Plan, through which the city would match one dollar to every two dollars that a hotel owner put toward renovating his building. But Miller can point to cracks that have sprung in the building's foundation since the Hollywood Grande started driving home its pilings, and all of the windows are lined with the dirt that goes airborne from the construction site. Miller asks, "Why would I paint this place when they're covering it in dust and filth?"

Woods, like many other small-motel operators, doesn't have money for the city to match — even if she thought improvements could save the Sun & Surf. And since she's defaulting on her existing loans, she can't exactly approach the bank for new ones.


Commissioners Anderson and Bober (following image) have broken from Giulianti's pro-development bloc.
Commissioners Anderson and Bober (following image) have broken from Giulianti's pro-development bloc.
Bober
Bober

At the moment, Hollywood Beach finds itself locked in a stalemate. Motel owners are just one among several groups fighting among themselves, each convinced that it's getting screwed worst.

Business owners grumble about how the Broadwalk improvements and construction on east-west streets has slowed business at the same time as they've seen their property taxes and insurance rates go way up. The new developments on the beach have put more strain on the area's infrastructure, but since the CRA has been collecting all the new tax revenue generated since its creation ten years ago, businesses haven't seen the upgrades in infrastructure that usually accompany new development.

For these reasons, businesses consider it an outrage for the city to expect them to pay for half the costs of "undergrounding" utilities, a measure that would protect against hurricanes but at considerable cost — $3,000 to $50,000 per beach address. All this at a time when, to existing businesses, it appears that incoming businesses get whatever they ask for.

"We've been forgotten," says Audrey Joynt, a board member for the Hollywood Beach Business Association. "And so to turn around and say, 'You need to spend 50 percent of undergrounding of utilities,' that's crazy!"

Condo owners of Hollywood Beach are waging battles on multiple fronts. Facing high costs not just for taxes and insurance but for the maintenance of their buildings, residents are rushing to put their units on the market. Only they're finding stingy buyers. Paul Pop, of Beachfront Commercial Realty, is trying to unload three condos at 1500 S. Ocean. "Most of the people calling are expecting sellers to just give their units away. They talk about, 'the bubble, the bubble, the bubble,' but nobody is really buying, and nobody is really selling."

The situation is particularly stressful for condo owners like Marion Reed, a resident of the Crystal Towers, who lives on a fixed income. She has interrupted her retirement to take office jobs and to work as a teller at Gulfstream Park. "We take any work we can find to get us over the hurdle," Reed says of her fellow retired condo owners.

But unlike motel owners, the condo owners have time to organize. They've been vocal critics of city efforts to bring luxury high-rises and midrises to the beach, and they've succeeded — to the consternation of developers.

Condo owners at the Quadomain persuaded Hollywood officials to pass an ordinance effectively blocking a 19-story condo development in south beach, on the site of the former Driftwood Motel. The same ordinance was the basis for denying building permits to another south beach development by Luis Stabinski, owner of what used to be the Greenbriar Beach Club, a 47-unit motel complex that took severe damage from the hurricanes and that Stabinski now wants to turn into a 15- to 19-story condo.

The DuPont family of Massachusetts, developers of the Driftwood site, filed suit against the city in 2003, and last month, Stabinski joined that suit. Stabinski, an attorney, says that the law and the market are both on his side, even if the condo owners are not. "They can stop it for six months or for two years, but they can't stop it forever," he says. "It's the force of economics."

City officials aren't in any position to referee this battle royale. The pro-development consensus that Mayor Mara Giulianti enjoyed a year ago has crumbled, with Commissioners Sal Oliveri and Cathy Anderson having suddenly joined Commissioner Peter Bober in being skeptical of every developer who would promise a glossy new building in exchange for a few incentives and a bending of the zoning rules.

And the CRA is in particular flux, especially since last month, when Bober and Anderson announced their intentions to scale back the CRA's freedom to spend tax money and to force its private negotiations with developers into the open.


For the past 32 years, Hollywood Beach has been the province of Commissioner Cathy Anderson, who this March may face her toughest reelection campaign yet.

Anderson knows all about the predicaments faced by Miller and Woods. When pressed, she can offer no suggestion other than the Hotel Improvement Plan. As to other motel owners who are being driven out of business by high taxes and insurance rates, Anderson sounds an optimistic note: "I don't think they'll go up that much next year," she says. "Insurance and taxes have reached a plateau."

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