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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Playhouse Parking Problems Proliferate

Coconut Grove Playhouse panorama
As I told my newest BFF, Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority, I don't go to Miami to find problems with his parking lots. That just seems to happen whenever I go to Coconut Grove.

As you may remember from our last exciting epsiode, EXCLUSIVE: Are Valet Companies Stealing From Miami Taxpayers?, I reported how Paradise Parking was illegally parking cars on the Playhouse Parking Lot, contrary to its agreement with the City of Miami. Paradise Parking rents 45 spaces from the Miami Parking Authority at $6.00 per space per day, but those spaces are immediately behind the Playhouse, not the main MPA parking lot to the north of the building.

Copy of Art Noriega's letter
When I reported this skulduggery to the Miami Parking Authority, Art Noriega jumped into action and sent out this letter, which reads in part:
May 7, 2015

Dear Mr. Radrizzani:

This letter is to follow up on our conversation with Mr. Victor Rosario (Senior Manager of Operations) on Monday May 4, 2015 in regards to Paradise Parking valet staff parking vehicles outside of the designated area at the Playhouse Lot. As explained in the conversation, this conduct or practice will not be tolerated and Paradise Parking staff needs to adhere to the current policies effective immediately.

If for any reason this or any other issue occurs, the current agreement will be terminated immediately.

[...]
 

Art Noriega,
Chief Executive Officer
Some of the 25 spaces reserved for valet parking on June 6
Just a month later, on June 6, I parked in the Playhouse Parking lot again. Ostensibly, I was attending another Coconut Grove Drum Circle, but I couldn't help notice that the entire middle section of the Playhouse parking lot was cordoned off with caution tape and reserved for valet parking.

Because this seemed contrary to my understanding of the parking lot rules and the letter of understanding, I spoke to the security guard on duty, who knew he was talking to a reporter. Lionel Pichel, of Security Alliance, told me that the spaces had been rented for use by valets for MAC Parking, a Florida company with headquarters in North Miami. It was his understanding the spaces were reserved for a private party at a private residence on the east side of Main Highway. However, that's as far as his information went.

An interesting thing happened while I was standing there talking to him. Twice valets from Paradise Parking, who confirmed to me later they were working an event at the Cruz Building on Commodore Plaza, pulled in wanting to use the spaces reserved for MAC Parking. Pichel told them the spaces were reserved for someone else and they drove off, to park behind the Playhouse. I'm not sure if an attempt to park where they're not allowed would vitiate the contract with the Miami Parking Authority, but "If for any reason this or any other issue occurs, the current agreement will be terminated immediately" seems pretty all-encompassing. Pichel told me that the valets always try to park in the main lot and they always have to be chased away. He said he was glad I had already confirmed the rules to him.

These spaces were empty all night long.
Shrugging my shoulders, I went off on my merry way, first to dinner and then to the drum circle, which is right across the street from the Playhouse parking lot. Before hitting the drum circle, I returned to the parking lot to get my stuff out of my trunk. I couldn't help but notice that every space reserved for valet parking was still empty.

I talked to Mr. Pichel again. He was surprised the valets hadn't arrived yet and told me that I should be seeing guys with white shirts running around soon. However, all night long I kept popping back over to see whether anyone had parked in these spaces reserved for MAC Parking. Eventually all the other spaces in the lot were occupied and, just like in May, customers would pull into the lot, find no available spaces, and leave again. Yet, the center core of the parking lot, 25 spaces in all, remained empty.

I didn't stay overnight, but when I left at 11 PM these spaces were still unoccupied. Subsequent research informs me they were empty all night.

The MPA confirmed that MAC Parking rented 25 parking spaces, at $10 per. However, that was THE PREVIOUS WEEKEND, not on June 6th. That means there was an internal communications SNAFU that cost the city of Miami an untold number of dollars on Saturday night. Because it was FAM Night in the Grove, every one of those 25 spaces would have been filled. Furthermore, who knows how many times each would have been turned over during the course of the night?

I'm told that the MPA people who messed up will be dealt with. However, as a result of my initial inquiries, the MPA said it will no longer rent spaces for valet parking in the main Playhouse parking lot after the end of June.

However, that's only one problem solved. I filed a Freedom of Information request to learn the name of MAC Parking's client, the person (or company) who had the juice to reserve public facilities for a private function. However, I have been told that the MPA has no way to compel MAC Parking to reveal the name of its client as it is a private company not subject to Florida's Sunshine Laws.

I have suggested that this is a serious gap in the information the MPA collects on behalf of the public it serves. It's more important to know who is using taxpayer facilities than who contracted for said facilities. The argument I made was, "What if my name is Al Capone and I hired a valet company to park the cars of all my mobster friends? Should I be able to hide behind a 3rd party private contractor?" In essence, I was told, yes. As long as the parking spaces are being used for lawful purposes, the city has no interest in who contracted MAC Parking to use public facilities. I told the MPA that we'll have to agree to disagree, while I investigate that aspect of the FOIA act a bit further, because that just don't sound right to me.

Meanwhile, there is still the issue of valet parking traffic on Charles Avenue, which was one of those 11 questions I asked of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, on December 19th of last year. Sarnoff refused to answer my two attempts to get a reply, punting to the Miami Parking Authority instead, even though some of those questions were outside of the MPA's bailiwick. Here's a question [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff never answered:
2). When neighbours complained previously that the 45 valet parking spots rented from the MPA would bring additional traffic, they were assured there would be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue as a result. This is clearly false. Why has this been allowed to continue for the past year despite occasional complaints by the neighbours?

Read: The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part II for the full list of questions that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff refused to answer on behalf of his constituents. Then join ABT - Anybody But Teresa, the facebook page that openly scoffs at the notion that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff is trying to get his wife annoited in his seat after he's been term-limited out on his ass.


On Saturday night I happened to run into a resident from Charles Avenue, someone with whom I've spoken to previously about the parking fiasco. When I explained that the Paradise Parking valets are now forced to go in and out using Charles Avenue, they reminded me the City of Miami promised that that wouldn't happen. I reminded them that I was told by the city that the residents should be happy that it's less traffic than when the Playhouse was open, which is hardly the point.

I have a fix for this problem if the MPA is willing to listen, and from what I know of Art Noriega, he will. Whether he acts upon it is another story, but it would solve several problems. If I were the Parking Czar, here's what I'd do:

1). Allow the parking valets in and out privileges on Lot 6, the main Playhouse Parking Lot, as long as they don't park there;
2). Where I've drawn a yellow line is a white arrow painted on the ground. Paint over it;
3). At the yellow line place a sign that says Valet Parking Only, just like the sign currently on Charles Avenue, and allow the valets to use this for parking cars;
4). Where I've drawn a red line is a gate to Charles Avenue where the Valet Parking Only sign is. It used to be closed and locked before the MPA rented the space to Paradise Parking. It should be closed and locked again.
VOILA!!! 
 The valet traffic on Charles Avenue is reduced drastically. Both the valets at the Cruz Building and the restaurants on the ground floor of the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums can use the Main Highway entrance and exit..

Then, if not for the valets racing in and out of the Regions Bank parking lot, there would be no valet traffic on Charles Avenue at all. However, Aries Development has contracted with Regions Bank to use this parking lot when the bank is closed, regardless of how dangerous it is to have valets zipping in and out where families walk.