In yet another unusual turn of events regarding 42 Star Island, Commissioner Jonah Wolfson tried to rally his fellow city commissioners behind a measure to stop the historic designation of the 1925 Walter DeGarmo designed home.
Wolfson, who added a late item to the agenda of last Wednesday’s City Commission was not at the meeting when the item came up for discussion, so the other commissioners and Mayor Matti Herrera Bower chose to table it after agreeing it was not fair to add it to the agenda last minute. The mayor and commissioner Ed Tobin agreed.
Currently, the fate of the house is at a standstill with both sides hoping for a win. At the April 9 meeting of the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board they opted to accept the Miami Design Preservation League’s petition to designate the home as historic. Now, city staffers are compiling a report that will determine the historic value.
This whole saga started last year when 42 Star Island, a faded Walter Degarmo-designed, mansion on Star Island was bought under foreclosure for $7.6 million by Leonard and Lisa Hochstein — he a plastic surgeon known as “The Boob God,” and she a cast member of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami. The couple thought they had found their dream house, so they promptly hired local architect Kobi Karp to turn the faded mediterranean revival manse into the house of their dreams, complete with ionic columns, parapets, balustrades and garland moldings. Once plans were submitted to the Miami Beach Design Review Board for approval they caught the attention of a member of the MDPL who filed a request to designate the house as historic to help protect it from demolition.
What followed was a tug of war between preservationists and the Hochsteins that played out over three months and had both sides sniping at each other over issues. Lawyers battled, paperwork was misplaced and unfilled, city employees took sides, petitions were created, experts weighed in and the local media took private tours. But, ultimately the Hochsteins came out on top when the Miami Design Review Board granted them the right to bulldoze the 1928 mansion.
Then, to add to the drama Leonard Hochstein filed a lawsuit against the city that claims that the city illegally gave the Miami Design Preservation League the right and the power to ask for historic designation on their home. Hochstein also claims that because of this pending designation he is unable to get his permits approved and that his constitutional rights are being violated. The city feels that the case is without merit and will be dismissed.
But now, as city staffers do their thing there are ultimately three ways this can play out:
Option 1: The MDPL’s petition is denied. Outcome: The Hochstein’s order in the wrecking ball.
Option 2: The MDPL’s petition is granted. Outcome: The house cannot be demolished until historic designation is decided.
Option 3: The City Commissioners can overturn the Historic Preservation Board’s final determination.
But back to last Wednesday’s meeting, The mayor moved to add the item to the May 8 city commission meeting. Bower stated that this would open the discussion to beach residents to participate. Commissioners will vote on the measure at a time-certain of 5pm.