Hooray For Hollywood!
Talking with Hollywood attorney Alan Koslow is like trying to net a butterfly. You bob and spin in circles trying to follow him as he nervously paces, looking and acting like Tony Curtis as the frantic show-biz agent in the film Sweet Smell of Success. There's a constant stream of interruptions from cell phone calls. "It's Yossi? Patch me in," he says excitedly into a new palm-size handset, which he proudly describes as "the ultimate in smallness, almost Dick Tracy-size." He retreats to a corner, murmurs into the phone, gesticulates. Then he's back to you.
"I've got big deals all over, not just in Hollywood, that you'd love to know about," he teases. "But I can't tell you. It's not soup yet." Then he gets another, less welcome, call. "Tell him to shove it up his ass. He can't blow it by me like that." Koslow is juggling six balls and giving each his undivided attention -- for one nanosecond.
At the moment the 44-year-old Koslow is the go-to guy for Hollywood real-estate development. Along with his law partner Bernie Friedman at the heavyweight firm of Becker & Poliakoff in Hollywood, he represents the developers of most of the current big-deal projects in town, including a proposed hotel called Turtle Nest Suites.
But it doesn't look like Koslow has a prayer of winning approval for the project. His client, Miami developer Tibor Hollo, wants to build a $24 million, 12-story hotel that would face North Beach Park, home of several endangered sea grasses. It would stand on a 1.2-acre lot less than 300 feet from a hatchery for endangered sea turtles and just across the road from the Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park, a swampy sanctuary for threatened mangrove trees, crocodiles, snook, herons, and egrets.
The hurdles are formidable. Almost 200 residents who live in the surrounding area of two- and three-story buildings have signed a petition opposing the project's height. The city's planning director has advised against changing the land-use designation of the site from residential to business to make the proposed density of 193 rooms possible. The state wants Hollywood to curb beachfront construction, so as to ease storm-evacuation problems. Some environmental experts say the project will threaten the endangered turtles the hotel is supposed to celebrate. And local politicians are still smarting from a recent brawl over another high-rise hotel planned for the beach.
But these seem like insurmountable obstacles only if you don't know Koslow. He's a master at manipulating the city's real-estate code to win exemptions, formally known as variances, from planning and zoning rules, and he knows how to work the hidden levers of money and politics. While the Hollywood City Commission has practically ground to a halt because of bitter disagreement over how to redevelop the city's ramshackle two-mile Broadwalk along its beautiful beach, Koslow continues to win approvals for variances on height, density, parking, and other requirements, thus making real-estate deals more lucrative.
Hollywood's political polarization has actually helped Koslow. Developers need him now more than ever to get through the treacherous labyrinth of the approval process. He gets paid well, win or lose, and sometimes earns a handsome bonus when he steers a project through successfully. "It's gotten more difficult to do real-estate development since the last election, and that's enhanced my practice," he says with a shrug. By the way, he'd rather not be called a lobbyist. "I lawyer," he protests, unconvincingly. "I don't lobby."
Watching Koslow in action over the last three months has offered insights into how real-estate deals are struck in Hollywood -- and why many ocean vistas are now obscured by high-rises. One thing's for certain: No matter what happens to Turtle Nest Suites, Koslow and lobbyists like him will continue to profit from South Florida's love-hate relationship with real-estate development.
Back in January, Koslow's biggest challenge was to persuade beach residents and city officials in Hollywood to let the Turtle Nest Suites project proceed to the next bureaucratic stage. Hotels in that area are not supposed to exceed five stories and 50 rooms, and Hollo wants to build 12 stories. But that was just a pesky little detail when Koslow went before the Hollywood Planning and Zoning Advisory Board on January 25. The board's approval is crucial because its recommendations guide the city commission in making the final decision on requested land-use changes. Dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, his black hair slicked back smartly, Koslow set the tone of the meeting by having Friedman, who is also Hollywood's paid lobbyist in Tallahassee, shake hands with each of the nine board members. The members were appointed by the city commission, and Friedman, according to Hollywood politicos, is a major campaign fundraiser for the three commissioners who make up the pro-development majority.
But hand-shaking alone wouldn't do the job. At the start of the meeting, city planning director Laurence Leeds pointed out that a 12-story hotel is incompatible with the surrounding low-rise community and does not meet state storm-evacuation standards. Koslow fought back by stressing the developer's strong credentials and the tax and tourist dollars the project would provide. He introduced the high-powered design team working on the project and presented a slick slide show. The capper was a short speech by Hollo himself, a courtly, 72-year-old, real-estate titan who's made and lost fortunes building high-rises in South Florida over the past 50 years. Charming the board with his Hungarian accent and Old World manners, he promised to build a hotel made of "environmentally sensitive" materials for families interested in nature-oriented vacations. Lectures and tours of nearby nature areas would be the featured attractions.
Koslow packed the room with supporters, many from places outside Hollywood. But opponents also drew a good turnout. For the next three hours, both sides offered impassioned testimonies, pro and con. The board members were obviously torn. Then the lobbyist made his move.
Koslow knows what his listeners want to hear, and he's willing to say whatever it takes to win them over. He knew his only hope was to fudge the height and density issue. Admitting that Hollo ultimately would seek permission to build 12 stories and 193 units, he reminded the board that, tonight, it was only voting on a land-use change. (Of course the primary reason for the land-use change is to allow the hotel to exceed a 50-room limit -- which, in turn, requires a height variance.) "This is not about height, this is not about height," Koslow said in rapid, Brooklynesque cadences. "This is all about leadership. It's about a vision for what this beach should be."
Board vice-chair Steve Werthman blasted the argument as "double talk." But Koslow won over most of the members, who were searching for a way to OK a promising beach development project without facing up to disturbing details. "Height is an issue," said chairperson Patricia Asseff, a realtor. "I'm not totally in favor of building what you suggested, but we should be honored that Mr. Hollo wants to build here."
A motion to deny the land-use change failed by a five-to-four vote. Board members then debated whether they should approve the change while urging the city commission to nix any subsequent request for a height increase. When a city attorney told them they had to decide on the issue without attaching any condition, the board voted in favor of recommending the land-use change, six to three.
Steve Welsch, who heads a group of neighbors opposed to high-rise development, said after the meeting: "Their attitude is, 'It may kill a thousand sea turtles and destroy an entire community, but doggone, if it raises property values, then it accomplished something.'"
Despite the board's recommendation, Koslow realizes he still faces a long, hard fight. A daunting series of city, county, and state hearings on Turtle Nest Suites looms in the months ahead.
He knows all this cold because he worked as Hollywood's chief counsel for three years, until he was forced to resign in disgrace in 1993. While working as city attorney, he negotiated the settlement of a sexual harassment complaint filed by a city secretary. What the commission didn't know at the time was that Koslow was having an extramarital affair with the secretary -- a clear conflict of interest. Later he lied under oath about the affair to the state's attorney's office, which was investigating charges that the settlement was improper. The Florida Bar suspended Koslow's law license for 45 days.
Becker & Poliakoff gave him a second chance by hiring him shortly after his resignation. He made the most of it, steadily rehabilitating his reputation through legal and charitable work. He's built a busy practice representing hotel, gambling, racetrack, film, TV, and real-estate interests. "Entertainment -- when you think about it, that's the common theme of what I do," he says in a moment of epiphany. As chairman of the Broward Alliance Film and Television Commission, he dreams of building a major production studio in the area. He's already planning a golf tournament to raise money for a financial-impact study. "People ask me why I don't live in Hollywood, California," he says. "I tell them I'm trying to bring that Hollywood to this Hollywood."
Koslow has established an extensive political and social network by joining the boards of several civic organizations and participating in many fundraising campaigns. He uses these volunteer activities to build personal relationships, which constitute the wellspring of his lobbying effectiveness. In March he helped organize a dazzling black-tie dinner at the Hollywood Art and Culture Center to honor one of his most important clients, Tom Driscoll, president of the 1000-room Diplomat Hotel, which is under construction in south Hollywood. Dapper in his tuxedo, Koslow thrived in the eye of the social whirl, schmoozing Hollywood's movers and shakers, including Mayor Mara Giulianti and maverick commissioner John Coleman. Although the $200-a-plate dinner raised $105,000 for the center, art took a back seat to business as a topic of dinner conversation. Last year Koslow and his co-counsel persuaded the city to allow his friend Driscoll to build the Diplomat 11 stories taller and with about 150 more rooms than otherwise permitted. "Alan is the best," Driscoll gushed after the dinner. "You say you've got a problem, he finds a way to get the job done. I have no idea how."
"I don't look at civic activities as a quid pro quo to get more business," Koslow says. "It's all about making a difference in the community. That's what I like to do -- put two and two together and get five."
Koslow specializes in finding out where the action is, then jumping in, invited or not. When he heard last month that Joe DiMaggio's attorney had rejected the chamber of commerce's idea of renaming Presidential Circle for the late Yankee slugger, Koslow proposed having the art center commission a statue of DiMaggio. And when he recently learned that the city wanted to preserve the mansion of Hollywood founder and master planner Joseph Wesley Young, Koslow offered to help on a pro bono basis. "I can acquire the Young mansion for the city for free, at least for no cash," he claims.
Koslow's relationships with Hollywood's city commissioners, some of them established while he was city attorney, are the keys to his success. At a recent meeting of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which consists solely of the five city commissioners, Koslow sat in the front row next to his client and kibitzed with the commissioners, laughing at their jokes. Without debating they approved the request of his client, a large Maryland real-estate company, for a $100,000 "incentive" from the city to subsidize renovation of a downtown building. "Good, I didn't even have to say anything," Koslow said to his client as they left.
"Persistence is how Koslow succeeds," says Coleman, who opposes Koslow on Turtle Nest Suites and has clashed with him on other beachfront projects. "He's always popping in your office and asking if we could change just a few little things," he adds, rolling his eyes.
Money, of course, plays a big role in the approval process, too. According to Coleman and two prominent political consultants who didn't want to be named, Koslow's law partner Bernie Friedman has solicited campaign contributions from many clients for the pro-development members of the city commission -- Mayor Giulianti and commissioners Dick Blattner and Cathy Anderson. Coleman and the consultants say Friedman and Koslow also provided guidance to the campaigns of the three commissioners and Guy Roper, Coleman's main opponent in the election last June.
Becker & Poliakoff gave Giulianti $1000 for her reelection campaign against Coleman last year, according to city records. Two Koslow clients, the Diplomat Properties and developer Gus Boulis, chipped in another $1500. Blattner also received $1000 from B&P, as well as a total of $1000 from the Diplomat and Boulis. Anderson, who has been the swing vote on development issues, received $922 from Koslow's firm and $200 from Boulis. Coleman and commissioner Sal Oliveri, who have consistently voted against high-rise beach development, got nothing from B&P or its clients, city records show.
Although Koslow denies that he or his firm raises funds for campaigns or consults on a paid basis, he suggested that Friedman does so as a "volunteer." Friedman, who didn't return several phone calls for comment, has also been criticized by Hollywood commissioners and the city manager for conflict of interest, because he serves as the city's lobbyist in Tallahassee while lobbying the city on behalf of private clients.
"Just because you raise money for candidates doesn't mean they vote for you," Koslow says. "In Hollywood and elsewhere, commissioners vote their conscience."
That's bunk, says Welsch, the beachfront activist. "Koslow and Friedman have such an inbred relationship with the commissioners that I expect to hear them play 'Dueling Banjos' any day now," he quips. "You can see the two of them at commission meetings giving high signs to the commissioners on how to vote."
Asked whether his close relationships with some of the commissioners help his lobbying efforts, Koslow replies, with a straight face, "I present my arguments to the commissioners, and they consider them on the merits."
While Koslow's firm supports Mayor Giulianti, who's serving her sixth two-year term as mayor, Giulianti is sometimes more hindrance than help to him.
In fact, on a cool, bright morning last December, Giulianti, who is well-known for being blunt, made a remark that galvanized opposition to Turtle Nest Suites. Emilio Benitez had just emerged from his beachfront townhouse to watch Hollywood's annual Candy Cane Parade on the Broadwalk, the 30-foot-wide sidewalk along Hollywood beach. Benitez spotted two city commissioners and asked them about the rumor that a high-rise hotel was planned for the lot behind his house. Then he spied the mayor. He expected her to offer an open ear, because he had worked on her reelection campaigns. But he was in for a surprise. "The beach is for tourists, not for residents," he recalls her saying. "If you don't like that, move to Emerald Hills [a residential section of north Hollywood]."
She told New Times something similar. "The people living on the beach are really lucky," she said. "But people all over Hollywood pay taxes, and it's their beach, too. Working people here think those people living on the beach, who want to deny others an opportunity to build something that's more than a couple of stories, are just selfish."
Benitez, a criminal defense lawyer, was livid. "For her to say that to me, a 15-year resident of the beach who's invested a lot of money in my property, that was the wrong thing to say to the wrong person," he fumes. Afterward he researched Hollo's proposal and compared it to the city and county comprehensive land-use plans and the city's beach master plan. He soon organized his neighbors and arranged meetings with city and county commissioners. "It's almost a blessing that happened," he says of the encounter with Giulianti, "because otherwise there would probably be groundbreaking ceremonies for the hotel any day now."
Even Koslow gingerly concedes that the mayor's big mouth may have hurt his cause. "Mara always does what she believes is in the best interests of Hollywood," he says, choosing his words carefully. "It's how she sometimes say things that are misinterpreted or become overly aggressive."
Coleman, who was elected on a planned growth -- many would say anti-growth -- platform, couldn't believe his luck in finding a skilled, committed beach resident opposed to the planned 12-story hotel. "I told my people not to let Emilio out of their sight, because he was too valuable," he says.
Benitez led the opposition at the January planning and zoning meeting with a well-researched, 15-minute speech arguing against the project. Building a high-rise hotel less than 20 feet from North Beach Park, he said, would violate the beach master plan mandate to protect the park's dunes system and fragile vegetation. The master plan, he noted, lists 15 endangered or threatened species in nearby parks, including three kinds of sea turtles, but the developer's proposal fails to address the potential impact of the hotel on these species.
Benitez lost that round, but Koslow realized he would have trouble getting approval for Turtle Nest Suites if he didn't address the neighbors' concerns. So he accepted Benitez's invitation to meet with them and asked the city commission to delay a vote on the land-use change. On March 18 half a dozen beach residents met over deli sandwiches with Koslow, Friedman, and Tibor Hollo's son Jerry at the Becker & Poliakoff office on Stirling Road.
That closed session produced good will but little agreement. Jerry Hollo explained that Turtle Nest Suites wouldn't be profitable unless it was operated by a national hotel chain, and that the company with which he was working -- Hawthorne Suites, a Hyatt affiliate -- wouldn't be interested unless there were about 200 rooms. He said his firm could possibly reduce the number of stories from 12 to 10 if the city agreed to an off-site parking arrangement, which would eliminate the need for some garage space. But the neighbors said that any hotel would have to stay within the 50-unit, five-story limit set for the entire north and central beach area.
No deal, Tibor Hollo said two weeks later. As president of Florida East Coast Realty Inc. in downtown Miami, he has a large corner office with a grand view of Biscayne Bay. He proudly pointed out an article about himself on the wall. The headline: "Edifice Complex." "I like to build big buildings," he said. He politely but firmly rejected the idea of building a smaller hotel on the Hollywood beach property, which he bought two years ago for $650,000, according to county records. "That's not a realistic business," he said.
If the city turns down the Turtle Nest proposal, he added, he'll sit on the land and wait. Ten stories is his final offer. "The area is rundown and has no life," he said, momentarily forgetting the plant and animal life he wants to market to tourists. "This is a perfect way to bring families to learn about nature and have a beach vacation at the same time. But if the community at large, not just two or three people, don't want it, fine. I'm not in a hurry. In my business you can never be in a hurry."
Hollo chides beach residents for their obstructive tactics, but he's not above doing the same thing when his property is affected by adjoining development. Last year he challenged a Brazilian firm whose proposed 67-story twin condo towers on the bay in Miami would block views and sunlight for two apartment buildings he planned to build. He hired a zoning lawyer and planning expert to oppose construction of the towers, claiming that Miami officials were bending city codes in their eagerness for new tax revenues. The dispute has yet to be settled.
Koslow, ever the appeaser, hastens to soft-pedal his client's hard-line position. "If we can get agreement on something between six and ten stories, I plan to twist Mr. Hollo's arm on that," he says. He holds out hope of achieving a "creative solution," one of his pet phrases. "We're looking for a way to allow Mr. Hollo to pay the city for off-site parking at otherwise unused meters. That would reduce the height -- not much, but some. Enough to make the difference."
Some beach residents say leasing city parking spots to the hotel is a bad idea. Weekend beachgoers can't find parking even now, the residents claim, and local businesses need those spaces. But Koslow may have found the perfect negotiating counterpart in Benitez, who, to the dismay of some beach residents, seems open to compromise. "Ten stories won't cut it," Benitez says, "but somewhere in between, yeah. I don't see a problem with six."
"Mr. Hollo says ten, Emilio says six -- that sounds to me like the makings of a deal," Koslow says, grinning. "It could be a 'win-win' for everyone, or at least a 'lose less.' Then the commission would feel more comfortable that we worked with the neighbors."
But a compromise is anathema to commissioner Coleman. "Emilio wants to Balkanize the beach," he says. "I look at it holistically. The issue to me is we've got to stop giving out variances. If you're zoned for five stories, you get five stories. Sticking to that increases everyone's property values. But Emilio's a lawyer, and Koslow's a lawyer, and lawyers are always looking to cut a deal."
"Once you allow one density increase," warns Steve Werthman, vice-chair of the planning and zoning board, "another developer comes along and asks for the same thing. The next thing you know, you have a wall of high-rises along the beach."
The battle to control development has a long history in Hollywood. The city was founded in 1925 by Joseph Wesley Young, who designed it as one of Florida's first planned cities. Young wanted to avoid other cities' mistakes by ensuring that beautiful vistas weren't marred by what he called "an unsightly hodgepodge of ill-assorted buildings." Young created the Broadwalk to rival Atlantic City's then-famed boardwalk, hoping Hollywood would become the "Atlantic City of the South."
But between 1960 and 1970, Hollywood's population tripled to more than 100,000, and development spiraled out of control. In the early '70s, the city imposed controversial density caps and then a moratorium on new construction. In 1974 and 1975, the county and state respectively passed the first land-use planning laws, which required each city to establish comprehensive land-use plans.
Hollywood beach has been a particular focus of controversy, a war zone for conflicting visions of paradise. Some see it as a quaint, charming place unblemished by the excessive commercial development found along most of Florida's coast. Others have long complained that the beach is seedy and that the city is wasting its huge potential as a commercial and tourist area.
Today the north and central sections of the beach, from Dania Beach Boulevard in the north to Hollywood Boulevard in the south and from A1A to the Broadwalk, still consist mostly of small apartments, condos, and mom-and-pop hotels catering to French Canadians, inexpensive restaurants and bars, and a few single-family homes. There is only one name-brand hotel: an 11-story Howard Johnson, built before the stricter density and height rules were established.
Everyone agrees that the beach area could use improvement, but battles over what kind -- green versus glam -- have increasingly dominated Hollywood politics. After months of angry debate, Gus Boulis' 18-story Diamond on the Beach hotel project was shot down by the city commission in February, after Boulis couldn't secure financing. Last year beachfront residents' anger over the construction of the 17-story Renaissance on the Ocean twin condo towers helped propel Coleman, a beach resident, to an upset victory in his run for a commission seat.
Koslow seeks construction of some larger hotels that draw affluent Europeans and Americans, in order to "upgrade the quality of the tourist on the beach." His model is South Beach. Hollywood beach "doesn't have to be all high-rises," he says, "but now it's almost embarrassing that there's no hotel you can send your family and friends to."
Coleman's model is Key West. Walking the Broadwalk one night, the tall, ruddy-faced commissioner points excitedly to a tiny black child in a stroller being pushed by her mother. "Mara [Giulianti] doesn't want that kid here," says Coleman, an intellectual motor mouth with a residual Rhode Island brogue. "She wants four-star restaurants where she and her Emerald Hills friends can dress up and dine. I want to keep this beach for the people of Hollywood, not for rich Europeans."
He thinks the city could attract upscale small businesses to the beach and encourage renovation by existing business owners simply by spending more on infrastructure, lighting, and landscaping and enforcing the building code more strictly. "The beach is a dump," he concedes. "But where are the city inspectors? I could walk into any of these places and find a dozen violations.... Why do we need high-rise hotels? Rich people don't stay in them. They go to Nantucket. There are no high-rises there." But when Coleman was asked what he'd like to see built on the Broadwalk, his only idea was a water slide for children.
Some beach residents, like Welsch, advocate a middle ground: mid-rise development combining residential, hotel, retail, and offices, like Mizner Park in Boca Raton. But that idea draws little enthusiasm from either Giulianti or Coleman.
To resolve this conflict, the city commissioners recently agreed to hire a consultant to help them develop a new city master plan by next year, with the beach as the first order of business. Coleman says Turtle Nest Suites and other projects that require variances should wait until the planning process is completed. Giulianti hesitantly concurs.
But Koslow is impatient. "Yes, a beach master plan is a good idea, if it's fast-tracked," he says. "But developers get turned off by having to wait too long. You must seize the moment.
"Coleman can't just continue to say, 'No, no, you can't build anything on the beach because we don't know what our vision is.' He has to stop playing games and say, 'Here's a project I could support.' It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Turtle Nest Suites is the type of ecotourist project that's right for the beach."
But convincing officials and residents that Hollo's hotel is nature-friendly may prove Koslow's greatest challenge. The proposed hotel would sit across from two ecologically sensitive nature preserves, the 56-acre North Beach Park and the 1500-acre West Lake Park, which environmentalists waged an 11-year battle to save. Realtors saw the land on which the parks now sit as one of the most lucrative undeveloped parcels in South Florida. But a lawsuit by the city against the owner, Hollywood Inc., to enforce its density limits forced the realty firm to sell the land to the county for parkland in 1985.
In North Beach Park, three species of endangered giant sea turtles climb up on the sand from late April to early September as they do on beaches throughout South Florida, scoop out holes with their flippers, lay about 100 eggs per nest, then carefully smooth out the surface to make the eggs undetectable to predators.
But development has greatly reduced nesting and hatching, because turtles are highly sensitive to human activity and changes in the beaches, says Bill Margolis, project manager for the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program at Nova Southeastern University. Moreover, lights from buildings and cars confuse both mothers and hatchlings, which rely on moonlight reflected off the ocean waves to orient themselves.
Margolis and his colleagues comb the beaches for nests, collect the eggs, deposit them in caged enclosures for protection, then release the babies into the ocean after they hatch, to increase their slim chances of survival. One such hatchery cage is located less than 300 feet northeast of the proposed Turtle Nest Suites site.
Hollo says Turtle Nest Suites will organize lectures on turtle nesting and other natural subjects and arrange tours of the hatching site and West Lake Park for guests. He's agreed to spend money to improve the natural habitats and has hired a Miami environmental consultant, J. Fredric Blitstein, to coordinate the ecotourist program. Koslow and Hollo say Blitstein contacted county park officials, who liked the ideas.
But Jim Davis, manager of West Lake Park, says he's never been informed of the developer's plans. Nor has his boss, Sarah Perkins, superintendent of the southeast district of the Broward County Parks Division, or Gil MacAdam, environmental administrator for the parks division, who directed the West Lake Park restoration. Ditto for Margolis, the turtle conservation manager. Blitstein failed to return phone calls for comment.
Koslow argues that because the proposed hotel would be set back about 100 feet from the beach, it would not affect turtle nesting and hatching. But critics say the construction and operation of a 12-story hotel so close to ecologically sensitive areas is bound to have an impact. "An ecotourist hotel is a nice way to educate people, but more people and more lighting will affect the sea turtles and hatchlings," Margolis warns.
Despite such concerns there's no requirement for a study of the impact the hotel would have on park and beach property, city and park officials say. That's because the hotel is too small, and none of the endangered species lives on the hotel site itself.
Ironically, Turtle Nest Suites guests hoping to see turtles on the Hollywood beach would be better advised to look elsewhere. While there were 112 nests last year in Hollywood, the beach there has the fewest of any beach in Broward County, Margolis says. "Hollywood is pretty well developed, with houses and condos all up and down," he explains. "And there are lots of people out on the beach all night" -- when turtles lay their eggs.
Coleman mocks the idea of a hotel calling itself an ecotourist facility at such a sensitive location. He points to a bare-chested man in shorts, ambling barefoot across the proposed hotel site to the beach, with a beer in hand. "There's an ecotourist now, out enjoying the beach," he deadpans.
Koslow was in the audience earlier this month when city commissioners argued furiously over whether to evict businesses from the old city-owned Casino building on the Broadwalk at Johnson Street and tear it down. The issue turned into yet another donnybrook, with shouting and recriminations, over how to redevelop the beach. "The city should show these meetings on pay-per-view TV and make some money," Koslow quipped.
During a break Cathy Anderson, a 25-year veteran of the commission, spoke of a recent conversation she had with pet terrier Goldie. "I told her to get in the car and we'll go bye-bye, but she had sprained her back and couldn't get in," the commissioner said. "She has her own bed, but she likes to come and sleep with me and the cats."
A dedicated animal lover, Anderson is president of Animal Birth Control, an agency she founded to help reduce the number of stray cats and dogs in and around Hollywood. She collaborates closely with another animal fancier, Cindy Martin, whose group, Cat Pals of Hollywood Beach, neuters and feeds the large colony of feral cats in North Beach Park. "Cathy calls me about the cats all the time," Martin says.
As politically connected as Koslow is, Martin is a formidable lobbying foe in the Turtle Nest Suites battle. She's opposed to the hotel because she believes more development will further displace wildlife in the park. And she has Anderson's ear. "I try not to make myself a pest by calling Cathy, but I told her I'm totally against Turtle Nest," Martin says. "I'm really worried that the natural area will be ruined. I'm tired of seeing dead animals every day."
Commissioner Sal Oliveri, who usually votes with Coleman, told New Times that he won't support the requested land-use change, because he objects to granting a height variance. If Giulianti and Blattner back the developer's request, as they often do, that makes Anderson the swing vote once again. And what's her position, after hearing from cat-pal Martin and many other beach residents? "I won't vote for it," she says without hesitation. "It's just too much."
But Koslow isn't down for the count yet, despite a last-minute hook to the jaw. To comply with storm evacuation rules, the city commission voted last week to cap hotel density for designated commercial properties in the north and central beach area at 50 rooms per acre, or 100 with special commission approval. Always creative, Koslow figures that the Turtle Nest Suites lot actually totals 1.5 acres -- if you consider that the property extends to the centers of surrounding streets. That would enable Hollo to build 150 rooms, if the city commission were to grant a special allowance. Koslow hopes Hollo and the neighbors will be able to compromise on that density.
After repeated delays the commissioners are scheduled to consider Hollo's requested land-use change at their May 5 meeting. Asked whether that vote is critical, Koslow pauses, then says: "I don't predict votes. So many things could happen that could make a difference."
Koslow won't confirm or deny reports that, if he loses that vote, he'll try to convince Hollo to build Turtle Nest Suites on a city-owned golf course near Young Circle -- which, of course, would require more favors from the city, including a favorable lease and a height variance.
But one beach hotel more or less won't make much difference to Koslow, who gets paid whether or not a project goes through. His attention is already wandering to other deals.
"By the way," he says, fidgeting with his cell phone, "did I tell you that it looks like DiMaggio's representative is going to approve my proposal for a plaque of Joe swinging the bat?"
Contact Harris Meyer at his e-mail address: Harris_Meyer@newtimesbpb.com
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