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Wednesday, October 30, 2013


         We spent Sunday afternoon talking with people heading to Miami's City Hall to vote early.  Francesca and I stood between the voting precinct and Scotty's Landing, ground zero in this contentious Coconut Grove issue.
   Jimmy Dawson has lived on Thomas Street for thirty-five years.  As he headed to the polls I said "hello", pointed to Scotty's and asked him how he'd be voting on the Grove Bay issue.  He had no idea what I was talking about. 
    Many voters are still unaware of the Grove Bay proposal.
    When I explained that the City wanted to tear down Scotty's and build fancy restaurants and shops he was incredulous.  Mr. Dawson replied, "Why would they do that?  That place is filled with happy people",  and it was.   
     Jimmy told me he'd been fishing at Dinner Key since the 1980's.  He doesn't want his quiet place destroyed by development. Among other things, he thinks it will chase away the fish.

   The  gentleman behind us, fishing on the shrimp boat agreed.  He too, had no idea the City was planning to add retail shops and more restaurants to his quiet vista. He promised he'd be telling his neighbors to vote "No".

   Earlier I headed over to Scotty's restaurant.  Seeing it packed with happy people and I kept wondering, "Why is the City messing with this?".

    I walked around and handed out "Vote No" fliers.  The people eating there Sunday afternoon had the same reaction as Jimmy and the fisherman.
   The said they love Scotty's casual, outdoor, dining experience.  The City of Miami's plan to replace it with a Shula's Steakhouse, said one patron, "Makes me want to gag.  It's stupid. Some greedy bastard's idea of progress". 
    Most Miami voters don't have a clue about what they'll be voting on next Tuesday.  If they knew about "Grove Bay", they'd probably gag too. 

    Jimmy Dawson is doing more than getting upset.  He asked for fliers and when I saw him last, he was handing them out to potential voters.

    Join Jimmy in this important causeVote "No" on Grove Bay and ask your friends to do the same.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Miami Herald
Letters to the Editor
by David Villano
October 27th, 2013

Great cities invest in great public spaces As a steward of publicly owned land, the city of Miami has flopped badly. The downtown waterfront, once a postcard-worthy stretch of parks and green space, is now a sea of concrete and glitter — Bayside Marketplace; a parking garage; AmericanAirlines Arena (which hasn’t shared the profits city leaders expected); and Museum Park, with its promised greenspace component greatly reduced. Nearby, the waterfront Jungle Island theme park is years behind in lease payments. And not far away, on land provided free, Marlins Park sits largely empty, its promise as an economic catalyst as elusive as a winning season. It’s no surprise Miami ranks last among metropolitan areas in public park land, per capita.

This sad legacy of botched and misinformed land deals frames the pitched battle in Coconut Grove over the fate of seven areas of waterfront property on historic Dinner Key. City officials say the Grove Bay Investment Group’s development will revitalize this gritty tract of working waterfront with new restaurants, shops, enhanced marina facilities and a multi-level parking garage. The group pledges to invest $18 million and pay the city $1.4 million annually for at least 50 years. Opponents are skeptical. They say the long-term lease — negotiated with the project’s only bidder — remains vague on specifics. Indeed, officials acknowledge that conceptual plans and drawings remain just that — conceptual, with changes permissible to the design, tenants and usage.

Equally ephemeral may be the development team itself, which secured a provision to sell the lease at any time. Residents have grown cynical over the bait-and-switch land-use game practiced so often in Miami. But such arguments misdirect the debate. Voters should consider the Grove Bay development plan not as an alternative to Coconut Grove’s existing waterfront, but as an alternative to a grander vision for what could be, and should be, within what is arguably one of the most coveted public parcels in America.

Great cities invest in great public spaces, building vibrant, shared meeting grounds for residents and visitors alike. It’s hard to imagine how another Shula’s Steakhouse can be part of that formula. Sadly, Grove Bay reflects a consistent policy for managing under-utilized public lands in the city of Miami: lease it to developers, trading the responsibilities of stewardship for quick money. But as history shows, such agreements rarely meet expectations. Let’s start over with a more inclusive, visionary process for bringing life to this irreplaceable seven acres of waterfront land in Coconut Grove.
Voters should vote No on Nov. 5.

- David Villano, 
  Community Coalition, Miami

Sunday, October 27, 2013


When my son attended college in Sarasota, our visits would always include its beautiful shoreline.  The happy, 20-foot couple above is a part of the annual sculpture show there.   
    The west coast city has a half-mile of greenery along the shore where  world-class art is displayed.   The rest of the year you can wander along the curving bay walk surrounded by trees and glistening water.

  Blanca Mesa is there this weekend.   She sent this photo and wrote,

    Sarasota's shoreline park is terrific. There is easy, free parking and people can walk along the shore to enjoy the bay or watch a sunset.  There are plenty of benches, open areas, and a small playground.
    Everyone's welcome.
Having places like this makes you feel good about where you live, makes everyone happier. We need more of this in Miami.
    In ten days citizens will vote on the Grove Bay proposal.   What do you want, 
a mini-Bayside or more open, green spaces
on Biscayne Bay? 

I like Sarasota's answer.


Friday, October 25, 2013


Ron Beasley used to live in Coconut Grove where he produced a great little Grove newspaper.   He now lives south of us and writes for South Miami's Community Newspaper.
Someone asked Ron for his opinion on the proposed  "Grove Bay" development .
Here is his response,

     I lived in Coconut Grove for many years.  I will always love its charm and character but I am no longer a Grovite. I am so far removed from the Grove now that I hesitate to comment on this issue.
     As an interested observer from afar though, I would say that we as a community have so little bay front left and we now have an opportunity to expose more of it to the people, why not just tear down the existing restaurants and leave the working boat yard and historic hangars?
    Put in some sod and make a park.  Let people wander over and see the bay and picnic on a grassy area by the water.
    Let someone like Captain Dick come in and open a little beer and bait shack operation.   That's my opinion and we both know it ain't gonna happen.
     The City of Miami money grubbers like Mayor Regalado and his cronies want to maximize the dollars they can squeeze from the property and build a "world class destination resort". And that fool Sarnoff just wants to enhance his legacy.
     And so it goes, more political BS. More screw ups for our waterfront with, once again, the people getting the shaft.  And I really have trouble understanding Michelle Niemeyer's total cave in on this matter. I have always respected her opinion and thought she was a Coconut Grove conservationist.   She has really gone over the edge on this issue. I applaud Glenn Terry and his friends for taking up the baton and leading the fight to stop this incredibly stupid redevelopment plan.
    So, you asked, and that's my opinion. 



Wednesday, October 23, 2013


     Last night I attended Marc Sarnoff's one-sided presentation of his Grove Bay shopping center at the Grove Isle Hotel.  Our commissioner, as usual, was full of hot air saying things like, "Grove Bay will cost taxpayers nothing!"  
     What shopping center adds to your taxes?  What it does is require taxpayers to give 7-acres of public land on Biscayne Bay to developers for 80 years.  Do you want that?
    Former school board member Janet McAlilley
stood up to ask, "Why do you want to build all this glass and steel?  What you're proposing is not the Grove at all and I am voting 'no' ".
   Marc's dog and pony show was over in an hour.

    Grove journalist, David Villano, has a loftier view, far beyond Sarnoff's "most bang for your buck" proposal.
He suggests on the Stop Grove Bay website,


A Coconut Grove waterfront where people of all ages, interests and backgrounds can meet, mingle and enjoy the beauty of nature.

A view of the bay, a patch of grass to sit and relax, and a tangible link to a moment in time.

A place where the currency that matters most is the quality of your character.

Miami’s Dinner Key waterfront can be more than it is today, and much more than yet another development on the bay.

Imagine, dream, realize a truly great Coconut Grove waterfront.

Vote “NO” on November 5. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


  Tom Falco is a major voice in the Grove.  He writes daily on his Coconut Grove Grapevine blog.

He responded to the Miami Herald's front page (Sunday) article on the proposed Grove Bay project. 
 The Herald article closed with one of the developers essentially saying "there aren't enough people enjoying my Coconut Grove marina" (which is next to the Grove Bay site). 
Tom responded with this,

  It's like saying Matheson Hammock is just too quiet, let's bring in retail to bring more people, or, "Hey, that golf course is too quiet, let's stick a restaurant right in the center to bring more people."   Aren't other cities' waterfronts like New York, Boston, Baltimore and others open?

A friend and I used to lament 20 years ago, how in Miami, every piece of green has something built on it. We can't have nature here.

Pittsburgh has more green than Miami.

     You can see Tom's entire article at (Oct. 20) or read it below,

Is it about bringing people to the waterfront? 

                                                               by Tom Falco

Today's Miami Herald has a front page story on the Grove Waterfront Plan, the Grove Bay project.
I read it more than once because the first time I felt the Herald was biased toward the plan, but the second time I read it, I felt Andres Viglucci and Charles Rabin, the reporters, were fair. We're mentioned in the article, here's the paragraph: "The opponents have also lashed out furiously at City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, a Grove resident, who has actively championed the project, directing insults at him and Grove Bay supporters in public meetings, in e-mail blasts, and in comments posted on the Coconut Grove Grapevine blog. The blog, written by Tom Falco, who opposes the plan, has become the site of warring, sometimes blistering comments both pro and con from Grove residents."
Ouch. Maybe we can all be less blistering in our comments. You know what they say, people who speak low and calmly get more respect and attention than those that scream and yell.
One thing that I did not like in the article was from one of the Grove Bay principals, Jay Leyva who said, “Our goal from the beginning was to bring people to the waterfront. Our offices are right here, and I look out every day and see there is no one out there. We want to open it all up to the public."
This is the last sentence in the article.
But I ask Jay, Why? Why take a sleepy little waterfront and bring the masses, other than money I mean? Why not have a peaceful, quiet place that people are enjoying now. And there are plenty of people there now already. If you cared about people and the waterfront, you would ask for a park or something, not a bunch of restaurants and who knows what else. The Herald article mentions a convenience store on the first floor of the garage. A 7-11 or what? What does that mean?
It's like saying Matheson Hammock is just too quiet, let's bring in retail to bring more people, or, "Hey, that golf course is too quiet, let's stick a restaurant right in the center to bring more people." I'm trying to think,  aren't other cities' waterfronts like New York, Boston, Baltimore and others open?

A friend and I used to lament 20 years ago, how in Miami, every piece of green has something built on it. We can't have nature here. Pittsburgh, PA has more green than Miami.

It makes no sense to hand over the public land to a company for up to 80 years, and give them the submerged land as part of the deal and allow them to flip it at will. For example, what if Genting, the casino company, comes in and offers them $1 billion? Will they flip it? Then what? If you think our city commissioners will not vote in favor of whatever a future developer (or casino owner) with deep pockets wants, I have a baseball stadium to sell you, oh wait, you already own it.
Vote No on November 5. Enough with giving away public land for private enterprise. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Miamians love their boats. I've had a few
myself and its always been great to work on 
them at the Grove Key Marina, next to Scotty's. 
It is a true "boatyard", one of the few places  
that you can haul your vessel out of the
water to work on it.
    The proposed Grove Bay development will
get rid of the Grove Key Marina.  If it passes in
the November 5th election, it's roomy southern
hanger -now used to store boats- will 
become a collection of retail stores. 
     Just north of Grove Key is the Grove 
Harbour Marina.  Under the proposal, the 
northern half of Grove Key will be absorbed into 
Grove Harbour.
     The Grove Harbour Marina is more  
expensive.  It caters to upper-class boaters, 
people who would never dream of working on  
on their own boats, and, if you did, such 
working-class behavior is now allowed there. 
If you need work done on your boat at Grove 
Harbour, you must hire their workers to do it. 
    Going from two marinas to one will,
-Create a marina monopoly 
-Make it harder, and more expensive, to have
  boats repaired, and
-Reduce the boat dry storage space in the 
  Grove, and,
-Double the waiting time to have your stored 
  boat launched.
    Even it you are not a boater, these things 
should concern you.  Our connection with
the sea is huge.  It has always been a big part 
Miami's of the Grove's history, heritage, and
    The Grove Bay proposal will eliminate the
Grove Key Marina.  It will replace it with a
Grove Harbour monopoly, and, just what the
Grove doesn't need, more places to shop.
    I hope you'll join me in voting 
"No" on November 5th, on the Grove Bay
proposal.   Don't let them destroy what we love
in the name of "progress". 
-Glenn Terry, The Grove guy


Friday, October 18, 2013


A dream came true for this Trader Joe fan.    I stopped by South Florida's first "TJ's" when it opened today near Dadeland Mall.   The parking lot was crazy and the store, packed with happy shoppers.

 These clerks were decked out in Hawaiian shirts while others,
 wore t-shirts and smiles.
 There were mountains of "Two Buck Chuck" for celebrants to take home.  

When stocks ran low wine warriors brought out more.

   Trader Joe's will be open every day from 8am to 9 pm.
The crowds will die down soon.  Go there and have some fun. 


    The group opposing Grove Bay held a protest demonstration on South Dixie today.  They honked, we waved.  All went well.  They last time I did this one fellow was so happy to see us he ran into the car in front of him.


   The Edward Waters College Choir will perform in the West Grove tomorrow night, Saturday, October 19.   It will take place at the Greater St. Paul AME Church, 3680 Thomas Ave.  The concert begins at 5 pm.  Tickets are $20. 


    We've waited years.  We wanted it bad enough to travel hundreds of miles to buy groceries and now, at last, Miami gets its first Trader Joe's.  It opens in two hours.   
     Will it be mobbed?  Of course!  Isn't the Super Bowl?  Even more reason to go. 
    On South Dixie, across from Shorty's and Dadeland, a new era of eating begins.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Glenn Terry shows his sentiments 

(Great article in today's Huffington Post)

                       By Tom Falco
The Coconut Grove community is fighting mad about a project that is planned for the small village's waterfront. They feel the city is selling out the property to the highest bidder and turninga small, quaint area into a mini-waterside mall.

A couple hundred residents showed up at a local bar on Wednesday night for the "Stop Grove Bay" kick-off rally. The objective was to collect money and to inform the public of the sham being perpetrated on the Coconut Grove waterfront by Grove Bay, the developers of the project, along with elected officials, who have plans for an over-sized project on the Scotty's Landing and Chart House space.

 The new oversized project is called "Grove Harbour." Speakers included activists Glenn Terry, Grace Solares and the man who started the campaign Charles Corda. Many neighbors were interested in knowing how the plan was changed or different from the original "Sasaki Waterfont Master Plan" for the area.   They were given an earful from how the retail/restaurant space went from the original 6,000 to 7000 square feet of space to 100,000, to how we have a district commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who cares more about himself than his voters. And of course they spoke of the ever-changing garage which is connected to The Grove Bay (The Harbour) project.
The consensus is that the majority of Grovites are against the project, yet the commissioner and others are pushing the project through. There is a vote for or against the project on November 5.  Knowing that the Grove residents are against it, they are now pushing the project on other neighborhoods in the City of Miami to get the approval vote.    This makes Grovites suspicious. Why?
One large aspect was the fact that the ballot question really does not address the issue and this may be cause for lawsuits. Another interesting aspect is that the Grove Bay Investment Group, which will build the project if voters approve it, can easily flip the project the next day if they care to. There is also mention in the plans of a casino, it only takes 3 votes on the City Commission for that.
Here is the wording in the November 5 ballot:
Proposed lease of city-owned waterfront and submerged lands in Coconut Grove Shall the City be authorized to lease approximately 7 acres of waterfront and submerged lands in Coconut Grove to Grove Bay Investment Group, LLC, providing for 1) a minimum of $1.4 million in guaranteed annual rent and 2) approximately $17.9 million of privately funded improvements to redevelop an existing marina and public baywalk, construct restaurants and, partially fund a public parking garage for a 50 year term with two 15 year renewal options?
This is not much for such a large and important project. It doesn't mention the exact area itself, it doesn't mention if a casino or 90-story high-rise can go in, it doesn't say much. It just asks if the City should hand the land over to a developer. Should they? Should the developer have carte blanche, which is what this vote is doing, giving them the authority to do whatever they please?
Many present felt that people are not getting a clear understanding of the project. There have not been any real public meetings to discuss things and to get questions from the public. 

It makes sense to Vote NO on November 5, that is number 401 on the ballot. Why vote for something that is so vague,so shady?
As for voting, if you are not going to be in town, you can get an "absentee ballot here."
You can get more info on Stop Grove Bay "here."

Saturday, October 12, 2013


grove-at-grand-bay-5.jpg  Starchitect Bjarke Ingles has designed two twisting towers for Coconut Grove.  The Terra Group is building, "The Grove at Grand Bay" on Bayshore Drive, across from Dinner Key.  They created a slick 4-minute video to sell their condos by selling the Coconut Grove we love.  Check it out to rediscover why you moved here (or, with all these condos shooting up, why you may want to leave).  Also, you can read the comments of your former neighbors, Tennessee Williams, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Robert Frost.  Using their words to sell real estate may have them twisting in their graves.        


      Marc Sarnoff, Coconut Grove's city commissioner, is desperate for love.  In the last six years he has disappointed us with the Marlins Stadium, Trolleygate, dog parks, and toxic parks.  Now he wants us to accept him, and his parting gift,  the Grove Bay Shopping Center.
   Ain't gonna happen.
Lately he's been bombarding us with propaganda that include his smiling face and distorted renderings of "Grove Bay".  This week he send out his version of the "Grove Bay Facts" which are anything but.
   Grove businessman, Stephen Kneapler, was Coconut Grove's representative on the 5-member selection committee that approved of the Grove Bay lease.  He was the only one to vote against it.  This week Kneapler responded to Sarnoff's latest "facts" with this letter,

   Once again you are up to your usual shenanigans.  I just received your latest piece on the "Grove Bay "facts".   Talk about distorting the facts, you should be ashamed!  
   The referendum language (albeit deficient in information needed by the voters) pertains to Grove Bay, not the bayfront master plan! Further,

-The number of restaurants is not correct.  Neither are your comments on outdoor seating.
-The parking space calculations called for in the RFP are either distorted or ignored.
-The footprint of the proposed restaurants is more encumbering that the existing facilities.
-The existing asphalt you complain about is being replaced with concrete,  boat racks and much bigger restaurants.
-View corridors?  There are none.  That water view from Bayshore Drive?  Impossible with your planned restaurants, buildings, and 7-story boat racks.
-Historic Pan American Drive?  Your latest plan turns it into a parking lot. 

    You are our representative. Do the math and do what is right for the citizens of Miami.  Don't do what is convenient for you, your advisers, and the people you have made commitments to.

   Sure, you are a smart guy but so are many of the politicians, dictators, and other leaders who sold out their constituents.

There is is, Marc.  Anytime you'd like to sit down and discuss "the facts" as well as the truth, let me know.  Let's not do it at a commission meeting where citizens like me are given two-minutes to speak.

   Our offices are two blocks apart. Let me know when you are ready for an honest discussion of "the facts" about your Grove Bay proposal.

Steve Kneapler

PS: Do you have a copy of "The Citizens' Bill of Rights" which I suspect you are not aware of?  If not, I can send you a copy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


"Scotty has joined the Dark Side?  Say it ain't so!" - Phone call from a neighbor tonight

   Stopping the Grove Bay development on Biscayne Bay is a tough fight.  The investors are smothering their campaign with money and sadly, they just cut a deal with the owner of Scotty's Landing restaurant, Scott Wessel.
  Today Wessel agreed to sell the "Scotty's" name to the Grove Bay developers and to endorse their
 Site of the proposed "New Scotty's" 
plans to build a shopping center on Dinner Key.

    If they win in the November 5 election, they will tear down his restaurant, build an ugly box behind it (off the water, see above) and call it "Scotty's Landing". 
In the Grove Bay proposal, "Hanger 49" is now the "New Scotty's Landing" (Did they steal this design from Farm Stores?)
 They may let Wessel and his staff run the place as well.

Here is Scotty's water view now,

If Grove Bay succeeds, here is what the water view will be from the "New Scotty's",


      The Scotty's fight was never about Scott or his future.  It was his restaurant's special relationship with the water.  It has been the rare spot where you can enjoy a casual beer, a burger and "touch the bay".
      At the "new Scotty's", you'll be surrounded by concrete, some thirsty plants, and have with the distant, dubious water view above.  
     If the measure passes, Scotty's will be replaced by a monster Shula's Steakhouse.
It's like Home Depot comes to the Grove all over again.

    Scott's restaurant was always a small part of the Grove Bay fight.  The real battle asks, "Do we want a Bayside shopping center on the Coconut Grove waterfront?".   If your answer is "No", keep fighting the fight.  

   Rest assured that "Stop Grove Bay" continues to have two good chances to win.

    More and more people are joining the opposition to this misguided effort (  Over 130 people came to the rally last night to kick off the "STOP" campaign.

   Grove businessman, Steve Kneapler, stepped up to the mike to announce that he had filed a second lawsuit against the City of Miami to stop the bayside development.  
Steve was on the RFP selection committee and told us, 

"The whole process stunk to high heaven.  We can't let the City continue to ignore its own laws and rules".

   If Steve wins, we all win.  Then we'll begin  the RFP process again, one that is more fair and open to decide the 7-acre's fate.

    Scott Wessel and his wife, Kate, are good people. I guess they are doing what they can to stay in the game. I am sure the decision was not easy for them.  No matter what happens, they come out ahead.

   If Grove Bay wins the election -and the court fight- the Wessels will sell beer from Scotty's Farm Store in the parking lot.  
If the Grove Bay developers lose, the Wessels get to keep their place on the water until someone comes up with a better idea. 

    Call it "Scotty's Landing", "Sarnoff's Landing", or "The Laughing Developer".  It'll be interesting to see how The Dark Side tries to foil us in the next few weeks.

  In the mean time,

            May The Force be With You.    

  Why not join The Force?  Make a donation.  Maybe Darth Sarnoff will wake up, announce, "What was I thinking?", and vote "No" on November 5.
He would if he cared more about Coconut Grove.

   You can contact The Force at their website, .

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


  I was riding my bike through the Coconut Grove Convention Center and saw an exciting, new sculpture in the distance.

When I got closer I realized it was just a pile of debris,  the beginning of the long-awaited demolition of the Center.
 As I walked around admiring it, I realized I was right the first time. 
 It was a sculpture,


not all that different from the "real sculpture" -an expensive pile of jumbled concrete- fifty feet away.

    As Miami's city hall was at my back, I gave it a name, "Detritus (Remains of Soaring, Political Ambitions)". 
   See this local classic before it gets hauled away.  Nothing lasts long in Miami.