Finally, in late February, Rodriguez and his business manager, Jose More, sat down in Friedman's study to discuss the problems. A-Rod apologized for the late-night pool party and was conciliatory, Friedman recalls. But More was brusque. "Everything we do is legal," he said. "I understand you had an empty lot next door for years, but now you have a neighbor. That's the way it is."

When Friedman later drafted a document asking Rodriguez to limit filming to five days a month, More balked. "I called and called, but he didn't answer," Friedman says. (Neither More nor Rodriguez's agents returned New Times' requests for comment.)

Shortly before baseball season began, Friedman was walking his Labrador when he spotted A-Rod pulling out of his driveway. Rodriguez stopped to joke that he must be doing something right because he hadn't heard from Friedman in weeks. "C'mon, Alex. Your partner isn't calling me back," Friedman replied. "I've got no choice but to try to change the city code."

Rodriguez smiled at him and said, "Irwin, go for it."

So Friedman unleashed his lawyers. Lobbyist Alex Tachmes convened meetings with city commissioners and submitted a plan: Residential permits would be restricted to five days a month — or twice as many with neighbors' consent — and a total of 75 per year. The Neighborhood and Community Affairs Committee rejected the idea, painting the conflict as a simple spat between neighbors.

"The movie industry keeps saying that Irwin Friedman has a personal problem with his neighbor," Friedman says. "But plenty of other people on Miami Beach have this on their minds."

To prove it, he recruited more than half a dozen Miami Beach homeowners' associations to back his plan. When the issue arose again in September, he was ready for war.


It was reality television at its finest. Four beautiful, busty, barely clothed women perched precariously on the trunk of a gleaming red Ford Mustang. The sumptuous shot was perfectly framed by the palm trees lining the Venetian Causeway. Too bad the locals didn't see it that way.

As cameramen hung out the back of a white minivan to shoot the French TV series Les Anges de la Télé-Réalité (The Angels of Reality TV): Miami Dreams, a line of cars piled up behind the film fiasco. Finally, an annoyed driver had enough. He swerved into the other lane, only to find an oncoming car barreling down. Cars screeched to a halt, inches from a collision, as French models clung for dear life to the Mustang.

The April 19, 2011 incident was one of ten complaints in the past 18 months involving Miami Beach filming. Police confiscated Les Anges's permit on the spot and Winick scolded permit-holder Sassoum Niang in an email.

But such complaints only hint at a bigger problem that goes far beyond Friedman's spat with A-Rod. Dozens of Miami Beach residents are locked in a bitter battle with rich, often famous neighbors who abuse city code by running de facto film studios out of their private homes. In some cases, the studios aren't even being run by people but rather by mysterious shell companies.

"It's a pain in the neck," says Cesar Valdesuso, a San Marino Island resident who is surrounded by houses rented out for film and photo shoots. "We have complained to the city bitterly about it, but these movie people have the attitude that they own the world."

Records obtained by New Times show which Miami Beach addresses have received the most permits in the past three years. The list is a virtual who's who of celebrities on the island, from Rodriguez to reality TV stars to professional athletes' wives, and includes homeowners with suspect financial records.

1137 North Biscayne Point Rd.: French owner and fashion photographer Francis Milon, one of the founders of mega-nightclub Mansion, has obtained 13 permits.

4358 North Bay Rd.: In less than a year, Alex Rodriguez has gotten 20 permits and hosted more than a dozen photo shoots, a Victoria's Secret commercial directed by Michael Bay, and four days of filming for The X Factor.

420 East San Marino Dr.: Marita Stavrou, ex-wife of former NBA star Reggie Miller, has rented out her house 21 times to crews from The X Factor, Ebony magazine, and Victoria's Secret.

4821 Pine Tree Dr.: Villa Vecchia is currently Miami Beach's most sought-after location, with 25 permits for everything from Magic City and Iron Man III to Telemundo telenovelas.

6396 North Bay Rd.: This beachfront mansion is currently owned by Miami Heat star Chris Bosh, but all of the 30 film permits here — including shoots for Kohl's, Chadwicks, and H&M — date to before he bought the house in 2010.

Many of these most frequently rented houses have sparked neighborhood battles, with allegations of illegal short-term rentals and code violations. Villa Vecchia, for example, was owned for nearly 20 years by perfume importer Luis A. Quintero. But neighbors say he was rarely there, instead opening the $20 million mansion up to raucous private parties and endless movie shoots.

"They would rent it out for all kinds of commercial enterprises: parties, weddings, anything they could make some money off of," says next-door neighbor Lewis Levey. "It is illegal to rent your house like that, but if the city gets some money, they'll let you do anything."

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7 comments
miamisun2222
miamisun2222

Key Biscayne has a film permit ordinance.  Bottom line is these are residential neighborhoods - not film studios or commercial districts.  Building perrmits cost thousands of dollars and take all sorts of red-tape.  Yet studios show up and city staff are so eager to accommodate and give away the rights of the neighborhood to peace, quiet, and residential character.  So much for zoning. 

mywonderjam
mywonderjam

Oh the melancholy of the rich. Sigh, Sob Sob....

run.randrand
run.randrand

IN A BROKE CITY-WITH AN EVAPORATED TAX BASE, AND SLUM-LORD POPULATION--YOU WILL GET TAGGED AND TAXED-AND TAXED AGAIN--THEN GET A TRAFFIC LIGHT CAMERA TICKET!!!

Constanza Maute
Constanza Maute

It's insane: new regulations could strangle our industry

Juan R. Pollo
Juan R. Pollo

He was never in a concentration camp. Are you saying that all Jews that survived WW II are Holocaust survivors?

al004
al004

What Film Renaissance? Obviously this notion is one only believed in by people's whose only knowledge and experience with the film industry is buying movie tickets.  This problem has long been in the making, and the singular reason is the greed by a handful of folks in the film industry who believe that they have a special entitlement to do whatever they want because "it's the film business."

 

Back in the 80's when Vice first started filming, a lot of folks thought it was "cool" to have a film crew wake them up at 6 in the morning, park trucks on their swale and driveways, and generally create bedlam for a day or 2.

 

Those days are over, and unfortunately there are still folks in the industry who believe that they should continue to behave like that because it's easier for them to continue to use the same properties - as attractive as they might be - instead of going out and finding other locations..

 

I attended the first meeting, and made a suggestion that Miami Beach, like cities like New York, need to establish hot zones, where specific houses, businesses or even neighborhood that have been subjected to repeated, and often daily use, need to be put on this hot list that would mean that these locations couldn't be used for a period of time to let the neighbors cool down from the constant irritation of film crews in their neighborhoods.

 

The Mayor thought my idea was the best suggestion made, and I still think that this is one, although not the only, suggestion that might relieve the pressure that is caused by this continued use of a handfull of houses.

 

As to A-Rod's house specifically, the guy who represented him at the meeting, when a decision was made by the Mayor and Commissioners to continue to think this through, couldn't wait to tell everyone in the room that that meant that the A-Rod house was still available for filming, and for anyone who was interested to call him.

 

This was an asshole thing for this guy to have done, and it was roundly booed by many film folk in the room.

 

I've been in the film business for close to 30 years, and used houses on Miami Beach and all over the county, and after all that time, if I had a neighbor who thought that he could turn his house into a film studio, either to make money, or to try and get laid, I too would be pissed, and be chewing on the City Commission to put a stop to it!

 

Al Crespo

wordladydjg
wordladydjg

@al004 ... Exactly  Al.  Now translate that same dynamic to gov't surveillance and how they 'take over' a community. 

 
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