News: City Says No to Stopping Historic Designation Process

In yet another twist to the saga of 42 Star Island, came Wednesday afternoon, when Commissioner Jonah Wolfson asked his fellow commissioners to step in and end the lengthy battle that has kept the Hochsteins from demolishing the 1925 Walter DeGarmo designed mansion.

Currently in a state of limbo as preservationists move to involuntarily designate the building historic, Wolfson felt the couple were being wrongfully targeted.

In a voice vote, the commission chose not to intervene and allowed the process to continue. Commissioner Jerry Libbin asked to have language drafted so the issue could be placed on the November ballot to allow residents to have a voice, but Commissioner Micheal Gongora voted against it citing that the home was “too important” to Miami Beach.

Commissioner Deede Weithorn then asked city staff to create a contingency plan if a home in a historic district is demolished, that any future construction would gel with area.

At this point, the fate of the house is at a standstill while city staffers compile 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.

Mayor Matti Bower, an unapologetic preservationist, apologized to the Hochsteins for putting them through this, but ended with that as long as she is on the dais she would vote against demolition, period.  - Frank Maradiaga contributed to this article

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