NOVEMBER 4, 2013


According to Peter Iglesias, the Director of the City of Miami Building Department, there are approximately 900 homes in various stages of distress, abandonment, condemnation and/or waiting to be demolished.

It can be an extremely difficult and time consuming process to get a house like the one in the photo above demolished.  That doesn’t carry much weight for someone who lives across from one of these houses, and when that process has gone through all the stages of abandonment, distress and collapse like the one in the photo above, if you’re the person across the street you really don’t care about the niceties of the process, you just want the house torn down and the street in front of it to quit being used as a community dumping ground.

That was the situation a couple weeks ago when I was contacted by the homeowner across from this house who told me her tale of woe, including the years that she had been engaged in trying to get the city do do something beside stick Code Violation Notices on the property, or driving by and ignoring the trash piling up in the street.

I came, talked with the home owner, accepted the papers she gave me that documented a portion of her years long struggle, took photos, and went to the MRC building to first try and figure out what had happened that it took several years before the house was declared an Unsafe Structure, and then why, even after that had happened, it still hadn’t been torn down.

Several folks were helpful, polite and provided me with information. Then I ended up at the office where Unsafe Structures are dealt with, and things went down hill from there.

Here is a letter to Acting City Manager Danny Alfonso and City Attorney Victoria Mendez, that describes what happened when I showed up.

November 3, 2013

Mr. Danny Alfonso

Acting City Manager


444 SW 2nd Avenue

Miami, FL 33130

Ms. Victoria Mendez

City Attorney


444 SW 2nd Avenue

Miami, FL 33130


Dear Mr. Alfonso and Ms. Mendez:

On October 25th I was contacted by Ms. Catalina Diaz to visit her neighborhood where a house across the street was abandoned and in severe need of demolition.

I went to 567 SW 2nd Street, saw the house in question, took a number of photographs of a house that was literally falling down, and that a yard and street that had been turned into a dumping ground, talked with Ms. Diaz about the situation and the fact that the building on this property had been abandoned for almost 13 years, and the house for at least 2 years and that, to her recollection, both had been the subject of numerous complaints, code violation notices, and finally a determination that this property was an unsafe structure and needed to be torn down.

Ms. Diaz was upset because after all of this, the house and the use of the street in front of the house was still a dumping ground.

I told Ms. Diaz I would go to the MRC building and see what I could find out.

I first went to Code Enforcement where I found out that the house in question had been the subject of 25 separate code violation complaints, and had on numerous occasions be subjected to liens being put on the property.

I then went to the Building Department to see if I could find and speak with Mr. Ray Benitez, the head of Unsafe Structures. Ms. Diaz had been in communication Mr. Benetiz, and in her mind, found his interest in solving this problem less than supportive – to try and find out how far along the way the decision to demolish the house was.

Mr. Benitez was not in, but Ms. Paola Rodriquez, his assistant was. 

I introduced myself and asked if I could speak with her about this property.  I have subsequently learned that somehow Ms. Rodriquez, or the other lady in the office managed, while I was there to communicate to others that I was harassing her, and as if by magic Mr. Peter Iglesias, the Director of the Building Department entered the office and asked if he could help me.

I explained to him that I was interested in learning about the house at 567 SW 2nd Street, and showed him a copy of the Order Of The Unsafe Structures Panel that Ms. Diaz had given me that called for the house to be demolished, and explained that I was just trying to find out how that process worked..

Mr. Iglesias asked Ms. Rodriquez to pull up the document on this property on her computer, and then the three of us proceeded to have a conversation based on the information of the document that was visible to Mr. Iglesias and Ms. Rodriquez, but not to me.

After a few minutes of this conversation, where I was unable to follow what was being said because I could not see the document, I asked if Ms. Rodriquez would print me out a copy of the document that she and Mr. Iglesias were looking at.  She said she would not.

I pointed out that she was the custodian of that document – it being in her computer, etc., and she still refused, and then both she and Mr. Iglesias informed me that Ms. Rodriquez was not the custodian of any documents, and that if I wanted a copy of that document I would need to go the “Microfilm” Office and make my request there.

Now, first of all, I want to address the issue of alleged harassment.  If at any point I had behaved belligerent or engaged in any harassing or untoward language, this would have been the time that I would have done so, because it was clear to me as this was happening, that both of these individuals were engaged in a clear and blatant violation of complying with my legitimate public records request.

Furthermore, it was also clear to me that I was being rope-a-doped, and would have had justification to called both of them on their behavior.  But I didn’t, because I’ve been doing this long enough to know when I’m being set up, and clearly when Iglesias walked through the door I knew he didn’t show up by accident.

If anything, it appears to me that the folks in Unsafe Structures, while certainly having a difficult job in dealing with a lot of folks around the city who are unhappy about the houses and buildings in their neighborhood that need to be demolished, were clearly uncomfortable with a guy like me coming to inquire how they do what they do.

In any event, Ms. Rodriquez, who is subject to complying with the public records law based on Puls v City of Port St Lucie, and Mr. Iglesias, who is the Director of the entire Building Department, and therefore by virtue of that position the de facto Custodian of Records for all documents within that department, engaged in rather dickish behavior by refusing to provide me with the document that they had been using to explain to me why the house in question had not been torn down, and more importantly, why the house had not been on the latest list of houses to be demolished put out for bid.

In fact, that was the question that neither of them would answer.

Going along with the rope-a-dope to see where it led, when I went to the “Microfilm” Office, I was informed that I had to fill out a form identifying the document that I wanted, and that the cost would be $44.00, and that it would take a mandatory 15 days to comply with my request.

So, first of  all the refusal of both Iglesias, the Director of the Department, and Rodriquez, the Assistant to the Director of the Unsafe Structures Office refusal to comply with my request was a clear violation of Florida statute 119.07 (1)(a), 119.07 (4)(a) and 119.07(4)d), as supported by cases Puls v City of Port St Lucie, 678 So 2nd 514 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996), Mintus v. City of West Palm Beach, 711 So 2nd 1359 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998.

Secondly, by telling me that my request would take a mandatory 15 days the City of Miami Building Department was in clear violation of the provisions regarding the imposition of a mandatory time delay in the production of documents: Tribune Company v. Cannella, 458 So 2nd 1075, 1078-1079 (Fla. 1984), Deperte v. Tribune Company, 105 S Ct. 2315 (1985), Roberts v. News-Press Publishing Company, Inc. 409 So 2nd 1089 (Fla. 2nd DCA),  and the Town of Manalapan v. Richler, 674 So 2nd 789, 790 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996), among others. 

Thirdly, the City of Miami cannot turn the production of documents into a money making proposition by charging a mandatory fee of $44.00 for all public document searches. Florida AGO 85-03, states that, “providing access to public records is a statutory duty imposed by the legislature upon all record custodians and should not be considered a profit making or revenue-generating operation.”

In conjunction with this, the fact that the city has chosen to archive much of it’s Building Department material on microfilm does not justify them charging a special service charge in order to comply with public records requests. That decision, like a decision to maintain records off-premises is not a charge for retrieval that the city can pass on to those individual requesting copies of those documents: See AGO 90-07 and 99-41, and Cone & Graham v. State, No. 97-4047 (Fla. 2nd Cir. Ct. October 7, 1997.

Furthermore, EVERY individual public records request has to handled individually on it’s own merits, and not with a blanket approach that treats a request for a single piece of paper the same as a request for hundreds of copies from multiple files and sources.

Therefore, I am making this public records request to you Mr. Manager, as the ultimate Custodian for all the documents in the City of Miami for a copy of following documents.

1.I want a copy of the document that Mr. Iglesias and Ms. Rodriquez were looking at.  I’m sure that Mr. Iglesias will be able to adequately identify it.

2.I want the list of all the Unsafe Structures that the office of Unsafe Structures maintains that have been approved for destruction.

3.I want the list of the 10 houses that Mr. Iglesias and Ms. Rodriquez informed me had been let out to bid at the end of September/first of October 2013.

This request should not take 15 days, nor should it cost $44.00.

To both you Mister Acting City Manager, and you Ms. City Attorney, this is fair notice that the City of Miami is openly and flagrantly in violation Florida Statutes by allowing the City of Miami Building Department to establish arbitrary time delays and engage in the illegal practice of attempting to turn the response of public records requests into a money making operation. These activities violate all of the statutory provisions cited above.

Please conduct yourselves accordingly, and please put an end to these illegal practices immediately.

Thank you

Al Crespo

Cc: Ms. Catalina Diaz

Mayor Tomas Regalado

Members of the City Commission

Mr. Peter Iglesias

The Crespogram Report

What’s really interesting about the fact that the City of Miami supposedly has approximately 900 houses and buildings that have been abandoned or distressed is that none of them are anywhere near the Mayor’s house, or the houses of any of the City Commissioners, or any of the big shot city employees. 

You’ll never find a house that looks like the one above in the Center or North Grove, or Morningside or Belle Meade, or The Roads section of Miami. This is not just because the neighborhoods are more upscale, it’s because they get better and faster service from the city on almost every issue.

It’s only in the poor, working class neighborhoods where these houses and building are allowed to exist for years, and where the streets are used as dumping grounds.

If a house or property in any of these upper-middle or rich neighborhoods even begins to look like it might become a problem, decisions are quickly made to make that problem go away.

The house above was allowed to go from abandoned to falling apart and condemned for almost 13 years.  Here is copy of a portion of the Code Enforcement log on this property that includes 14 of the 25 violations that the property acquired over the years.

This particular property - there are actually two buildings on this property, the other being a storefront of some kind that was built in 1918, and whose roof caved in 13 years ago as evidenced by the size of the trees now growing out of the building - were owned a gentleman named Ignacio Perez Galan, through a corporation that went into administrative dissolution for failure to file an annual report. 

Ignacio Perez Galan died on May 16th of this year, and didn’t leave a forwarding address so the city could contact him about this property.

When he was alive, Perez Galan was reportedly active in Cuban exile politics, and supposedly had been a Senator in Cuba before the revolution.

Even though he’s dead, the City of Miami still lacks the will to do what it takes to tear this house own, although after I showed up at the Unsafe Structures Office, the city sent a crew out to pick up the garbage in the street and clean the yard around the house.

I wonder though what would happen if this house were magically moved across the street from Tomas Regalado’s house, and it was discovered that it was owned by a gringo named Joe Smith.

How long do you think it would take before the city turned the house into tooth picks?

It’s Miami, Bitches!



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