Miami Beach will buy a house in Altos Del Mar after tossing out a controversial requested zoning change.
The current owners, Rudy and Betsy Pérez, who bought the house at 7605 Collins Avenue in 2001 for $510,000, had sought a zoning change for their nearly 0.2-acre property. The Collins Avenue house is surrounded on all sides by the oceanfront Altos Del Mar park, which includes a library, a large public parking lot and a playground.
Amid heated opposition to the zoning change, the commission voted unanimously this week to negotiate a price to buy the home and incorporate it into the park.
Rudy Pérez is a Grammy-award winning music producer, and a longtime Miami Beach resident. His wife, Betsy Pérez, is active in the community and made a run for city commissioner in 2015. She lost in a run-off election against current commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, according to the Miami Herald.
When the Pérezs bought the home, it was surrounded by other single-family homes that were torn down and converted to a park that opened in 2019. The couple was seeking a change in the zoning that would allow for uses including townhouses, office, retail and restaurant — a move which many neighbors attending the meeting staunchly disapproved.
Opponents of the zoning change said it would increase the value of the property at the cost of the park and its users. In a dramatic hour of public comment, dissenters questioned the homeowners’ motives, invoked images of the 1960s Freedom Flights and accused city commissioners of eroding democracy.
“This is egregious and it’s something that should not be done,” commissioner Rosen Gonzalez said of the requested zoning change.
Commissioner Alex J. Fernandez moved to retract the proposed zoning change, saying he was unaware of the Pérez’s intention to sell the property prior the meeting.
In her final public comment, Betsy Pérez said she did not initially intend to sell the property. The yearlong process to pursue a zoning change had incurred so much venom from her neighbors, she felt she had to sell.
“This is a cautionary tale,” she said. “I will accept your amendment because I can’t live there anymore.”
Commissioner Ricky Arriola called the public treatment of Pérez “unfair and gross,” and noted that the zoning change’s primary opponent on the board was her former political rival, Rosen Gonzalez.
With the city commission agreeing to negotiate the price of the home, commissioner David Richardson raised concerns about the appraisal of the property obtained by the city, which valued the home at $4.2 million.
“That property is worth a lot more than $4.2 million,” he said.
A price negotiation for the house will follow in the months to come.