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.