La Playa residents running out of time

Time and options are running out for residents fighting to save their 1950s-era Sunny Isles Beach condominium complex from being taken over by the developer of a new, neighboring resort/condo.

Article Courtesy of the Miami Herald

Posted July 30, 2005


SUNNY ISLES BEACH -- Residents fighting to save La Playa de Varadero III Condominium have until Aug. 23 to apply for permits to make repairs necessary to bring the complex to code. If they fail to do so, the building will face condemnation by Miami-Dade County's unsafe structures board.

Engineers have said that catwalks that allow access to La Playa's second floor units are rotted and unsafe.

The 56 residents suffered another setback when the developer of the 51-story Acqualina, who last year purchased 51 of the complex's 101 units through affiliate AQ Development, LLC, retained control of the board at its yearly election Friday.

Added to the quagmire, AQ last month switched ownership of its 51 units to a company by the name of LPLA Partners, LP.

Attorney Rebecca Henderson represents the 56 plaintiffs against AQ Development.

''We'll file an emergency injunction Monday to prohibit this board from having any authenticity,'' Henderson said on Friday. Phone calls Monday to find out if she had done so went unanswered.

La Playa board attorney David Rogel acknowledged that the developer of Acqualina doesn't have the best interest of the condo in mind.

''What they're really trying to do is get control of this building and knock it down and build another condo,'' Rogel said.

Residents fighting to save La Playa could be out of punches. Residents need to come up with money to repair the complex, and convince its new board that repairing the buildings is worthwhile.

A 40-year recertification report by Pistorino & Alam Consulting Engineers Inc., says that La Playa's four buildings each need about $1 million in repairs.

''I'm going to continue working with both sides but if they don't apply for permits by Aug. 23 then I'll have to turn it over to the unsafe structures board,'' Sunny Isles Beach Building Official/Administrator Clay Parker said. Parker said the city wants to do more tests but needs residents to cooperate by leaving the second floor.

Alexander Fusco, a unit owner and new board member, said fixing the building and paying lawyers is a combined waste of money.

''The only feasible thing to do is to come to some kind of a negotiation with the developer and get a fair price for the remaining units,'' Fusco said. Units have sold for between $140,000 and $200,000.

Other unit owners disagree.

''We want to pay the correct amount but not $4 million,'' for the repairs, La Playa resident Tranquilino Delgado said.

Fusco believes the people who are complaining about the cost of repairing the building have only themselves to blame and not the city or AQ.

City officials also deny claims by some residents that the building department is against them.

''We have been trying our best to work with them,'' City Attorney Hans Ottinot said. ``We're trying our best to stay out of the fight between them and AQ.''