Become a City of Miami Zoning Administrator

Do you have what it takes to embark on a new career in the highly skilled field of zoning administration? You might possess the special aptitude required to decipher zoning codes and blueprints, to distinguish a C-1 from an R-1 at a glance, to rule on whether a project requires a Class I permit or a Class II...and not even know it!

Do you have what it takes to embark on a new career in the highly skilled field of zoning administration? You might possess the special aptitude required to decipher zoning codes and blueprints, to distinguish a CG-1 from an RS-1 at a glance, to rule on whether a project requires a Class I permit or a Class II...and not even know it!

Now, thanks to the expertise and generosity of Joe Genuardi, renowned and respected veteran City of Miami zoning administrator, you can receive an education in zoning administration without ever having to set foot inside a classroom! Yes, you too can learn to read plans and codes and discover the professional secrets of city zoning, with the amazing new Genuardi Short Course in Zoning Administration. As a zoning administrator you will be on the go. You will do something different almost every day, meet different people, work on different types of cases. The life of a zoning administrator is never dull or routine.

A civil engineer who has sixteen years of City of Miami experience under his belt, 58-year-old Joe Genuardi knows the ins and outs of this complex, rewarding career. First charged with overseeing records, plans processing, and permitting, for the past eight years Joe Genuardi has been responsible for administering and enforcing the city zoning ordinance, a Planning, Building, and Zoning Department position in which he is called upon to make thousands of complex interpretations, clarifications, and decisions relating to the city code. If a question arises that pertains to the zoning code, Genuardi, who was appointed by the Miami city manager, is the man who must come up with the answer.

Just as any worthwhile career involves both highs and lows, Joe Genuardi's $71,572.80-per-year job can sometimes seem like a thankless task. As a high-profile government official, Genuardi has encountered his share of critics. Those who might disagree with a Genuardi decision have fifteen days to file an appeal with the city Zoning Board, and pesky community activists occasionally avail themselves of this right. If the malcontents are unhappy with the board's ruling, they can appeal that decision to the City Commission, and ultimately to the circuit court. In the politically charged atmosphere of city hall, such complaints and appeals are a frequent and challenging part of a zoning administrator's job.

Some of his critics say Genuardi is a master of interpreting the code in a way that allows developers to bypass public hearings before the Zoning Board, a ten-member panel that votes on variances and special exceptions to the zoning code. They're not implying any semblance of corruption; it's merely an issue of greasing the wheels for high-powered developers and their consultants, several of whom are former city employees. "There is this real attitude at city hall that the developer is the client, not the one being regulated," says Tucker Gibbs, vice president of the Coconut Grove Civic Club, a neighborhood organization that's often at odds with Genuardi. "What follows is that their interests are often placed above the public's."

Poppycock, replies Genuardi - he's just doing his job. "I only make decisions that can be justified by the code. That's my job," he says. "I don't make decisions just to make people happy. I've never been political. Some of my decisions the [developer] doesn't like, some of my decisions the public doesn't like. But I'm just concerned with making sure it meets the code. If it's right, I say it's right. If it's wrong, I say it's wrong."

If you possess this same winning combination of qualities, your spirit of adventure, danger, and your self-reliance can lead you to an exciting career opportunity, which will allow you to work in challenging situations, withstanding hardships and making on-the-spot decisions that affect people's lives.

It's simple! This FREE self-test will start you on your way. Just answer the questions below. After you complete the sample quiz, follow the instructions to add up your score and compare it to the scale printed at the end of the test. If your score indicates that you have the potential, you may be on your way to deciding the future of Miami or your own hometown. Armed with a newfound understanding of the mindset of a City of Miami zoning administrator, send for your free information packet, "All About the Genuardi Short Course in Zoning Administration" (soon to be available in videocassette and computer versions), simply by filling out the attached coupon. No investment required; absolutely no obligation. No salesman will call - ever!

SPECIAL BONUS: Sign up for the Genuardi Short Course in Zoning Administration and receive our valuable report, "Make a Fortune Buying and Selling Other People's Throwaways" (valued at $13.95) absolutely free.

DIRECTIONS: Below are encapsulations of a number of actual zoning problems that were resolved by Joe Genuardi himself. The basic facts and zoning codes that apply are included in each description. After reading each question, choose the best resolution to the problem from the multiple-choice list. Outlined after each question is a detailed explanation of how Joe Genuardi was able to solve the problem, accompanied by the correct answer. (Don't peek at the explanation or the correct answer until after you've made your choice!)

There is no time limit for completing this self-test, but bear in mind that a zoning administrator must work as rapidly as possible without being careless. Although each problem has a "right" answer - Joe Genuardi's answer - in many cases other responses can add some points to your total score. Therefore, to maximize your tally, it's better to guess at the answer than to not respond at all.

1. The year is 1989. Manny Medina's got a great thing going with Monty's Market Place, snazzy retail space combined with the famous raw bar and restaurant he bought from Monty Trainer [see photo 1-1]. (Faced with financial difficulties, Medina in March sold the lease on the property.) But according to zoning regulations, he needs to supply 392 parking spaces. Fifty spaces are available at Monty's, 2560 South Bayshore Drive. But where does he find the remaining 342 spaces? Coincidentally, yawning skyward across the street is the 21-story glass-and-steel General Development Center tower constructed by Terremark Inc., Medina's development firm. The building's parking garage has oodles of extra spaces, built in return for bonus square footage granted when the tower was constructed. (As part of a plan to ease the growing parking problem in the Grove, in certain areas the city allows developers extra square footage if they agree to construct more parking spaces than their buildings require.) As zoning administrator, what do you do?

(A) Say, "Sorry, Manny. Those Terremark spaces were meant to ease parking problems elsewhere and we can't just give them up to save you the bother of building a parking garage somewhere else"

(B) Say, "No problem, Manny. Go ahead and use those extra spaces in the Terremark garage to make up for the ones you don't have"

(C) Say, "Let me get back to you on that, Manny," and conveniently forget about the matter

(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: Terremark was allowed an extra 88,200 square feet of space in its commercial tower when it provided 441 extra spaces in its 1090-space parking garage. According to Genuardi, the extra spaces Monty's needed were "made available" in that lot. Grove Civic Club members contended that those spaces were meant to ease crowding elsewhere, and allowing Medina to use them was improper. Not so, argues Genuardi. The parking provision was devised to ease public parking problems for activities in the village center and at Dinner Key. And visiting Monty's is one of those activities. "The City Commission approved Monty's as a benefit to the public, and it is on public land. You can't just lease them the land and then tell them to find their own parking," says the zoning administrator. If you chose response (A), it's time to rethink your attitude. When answering subsequent questions, try to be a bit more developer-friendly - shutting out entrepreneurs translates into the loss of thousands of dollars in permit fees, and it can be devastating to a city's tax base, too! Although response (C) has potential, the correct answer is (B).

2. Since the 1970s, Miami Police Department employees have called it the "Dust Bowl" - an unpaved, city-owned parking lot at Northwest Third Street and Third Avenue [see photo 2-1]. On the north side of the 60,000-square-foot field is police headquarters, on the south side is the City of Miami Administration Building. Despite the fact that section 2017.1 of the zoning ordinance states that unpaved lots are illegal, police department employees regularly use the field for free parking, instead of paying to park their cars in nearby Municipal Garage #5, or any other city-approved spaces. On weekdays up to 125 cars fill the lot. How do you deal with the situation?

(A) Order that the lot be paved or shut down immediately
(B) Negotiate with the police department to correct the situation
(C) Ignore the situation entirely until someone makes you deal with it
(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: Interestingly, the windows in Joe Genuardi's office in the city administration building overlook this controversial site, which was donated to the city with the stipulation that it be used only for training police K-9 units. Although Garage #5 was losing money while employees were illegally parking in the "Dust Bowl," the zoning division did nothing. Meanwhile the Code Enforcement Board was cracking down on Cure AIDS Now, a privately run social services agency, for maintaining an unpaved lot at its headquarters on South Dixie Highway in Coconut Grove. "What can I say?" Genuardi offers by way of explanation. "Sometimes when you're so busy with so many other things, you don't realize the things that are right in front of you. After a while they grow on you." When the matter was brought to his attention, says Genuardi, he took care of it - barricades now block the driveways to the barren lot. Late last week, however, two rows of police vehicles were parked in the lot. Response (B) is plausible, but the correct answer is (C).

3. In 1989 Coconut Grove developer Manny Medina buys the landmark Mutiny Hotel [see photo 3-1], which before sliding into foreclosure was the favorite haunt of Miami's cocaine cowboys and too-hip jet set. In July 1990 Terremark Inc., Medina's development firm, submits plans to turn the building at 2951 S. Bayshore Drive into a 222-room luxury hotel. As part of the renovation, the Mutiny's two-story parking garage on McFarlane Road will be razed and replaced with a three-level garage, complete with two tennis courts on the roof. The zoning code no longer allows parking garages in the Grove's village center, unless they are built behind first-floor shops. Because it is "grandfathered" in, the existing garage can remain, but a new structure would have to include first-floor shops. When asked to review the plans, what do you say?

(A) Require that the new garage be built with first-floor shops
(B) Send Medina to the Zoning Board to apply for special permission to build a new garage without the shops

(C) Give a blanket okay for a new garage
(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: When Willy Bermello, Medina's architect, submitted plans for the renovation of the Mutiny, he described the work on the parking garage as a "reconstruction" of the existing structure, rather than demolition and construction of a new garage. Genuardi reviewed initial plans in April 1990 and decided the plan met the requirements of the zoning ordinance. His department approved the plans in July. Coconut Grove neighborhood activists protested the decision, labeling it "a play on words" and raising enough of a stink to force Genuardi to reconsider. "That case was classic Joe," recalls Tucker Gibbs, of the Grove Civic Club.

At first Genuardi feigned ignorance, saying he hadn't seen the plans. When pressed, he suddenly remembered having looked at them. "When I looked at the file, it came back to me," he says. "They did show me three options for what they intended to do, but I don't recall if there was any demolition being discussed. I believe what I originally approved was different than what they brought in on the final plans, and when that was brought to my attention, I simply made sure it was up to code." Medina subsequently agreed to add shops in front of a new parking garage. The correct answer is (C).

4. In 1986 the owners of a hotel and three apartment houses at the corner of NE Fifth Street and Second Avenue demolish the buildings and begin using the site as a dirt parking lot for downtown shoppers [see photo 4-1]. In October 1987 a zoning inspector cites the owners for violating section 2017.1 of the zoning ordinance, scheduling the case before the Code Enforcement Board on December 9. The matter is deferred when the inspector handling the case leaves the department, and the lot remains unpaved. In June 1988, another notice of violation is issued. Again the owners fail to do anything about the lot, and the case is again scheduled before the Code Enforcement Board. What recommendation do you make to the board?

(A) Fed up with all the delays, demand that the Code Enforcement Board order the lot owners to pave the site immediately or shut it down

(B) Try to stall the board in order to give the owners more time to figure out what to do

(C) Fire the inspector handling the case, allowing it to slip between the bureaucratic cracks once more

(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: Civic activists say Genuardi probably would have liked to ignore the problem altogether - he actually did ignore it for some time - so (C) is an understandable choice. But in the end he could no longer fend off the Public Works Department, which had discovered the lot during a cleanup of the area around Bayside Marketplace. From the time it was deferred in 1987 until Public Works called it to Genuardi's attention again on June 8, 1988, the case vanished. On June 20 of that year, zoning inspector Vicente Sierra issued the lot owners a notice of violation. Eight days later the owners produced a certificate of use that had been granted in error in 1986, allowing the lot to open for business. The owners, Park A Partners and East Brickell Associates, said the paving had since worn away, leaving the lot bare. Again the case disappeared, until September 1988, when Public Works demanded to know what was going on.

Scheduled for the November 9 Code Enforcement Board meeting, the matter was delayed once more - at Genuardi's request - while the owners applied to the Zoning Board for permission to run the lot and for a building permit allowing them to pave the site. Public Works complained once more, saying the owners had been given plenty of time to apply for approval and permits. Genuardi persisted, going so far as to formally reprimand zoning inspector Jo King Reid when she rescheduled the case before the Code Enforcement Board on January 25, 1989. At that time, the assistant city attorney handling the case tried to have it dismissed again at the direction of Genuardi, but the board refused. The owners were found guilty and ordered to pave the lot, although they were given six months to do so. The lot was finally paved, and a final permit was issued on July 27, 1989. The fact that the property owners were represented by former city attorney Lucia Dougherty had nothing to do with his position, maintains Genuardi. "I don't even recall Lucia being involved in that case," he says, despite the fact that letters from Dougherty addressed to Genuardi are included in the city's files. "You can look at case after case in front of the Code Enforcement Board, and the policy is to defer the case and give the property owner time to do whatever is necessary to comply," says Genuardi. "We did nothing differently in this case. We're here to get people into compliance, not persecute anyone." The correct answer is (B).

5. In October 1990, the architecture firm of Sweeny and Associates applies for a special "Class C" permit from the city planning division in order to remodel and add to a building at 2974 Grand Avenue, across from Mayfair in Coconut Grove. They want to transform the structure into Kennedy Studios, an art gallery. In special districts such as the Grove's village center and the Latin Quarter in Little Havana, when property owners wish to substantially change an existing building or construct a new one, they are required to apply for a Class C permit, which imposes certain design criteria. After reviewing the plans, the zoning division signs the Class C permit application, which is sent to the planning division for final review. In this case, a proposed new canvas awning lacks the required five-foot setback from the edge of the property line. On November 1, 1990, Guillermo Olmedillo, deputy director of the Planning, Building, and Zoning Department, asks why the zoning division okayed the plans without the required setback. How do you respond?

(A) Acknowledge that zoning section personnel made a mistake, and send the property owner to the Zoning Board for a variance from the setback requirements

(B) Bristle with indignation and tell Olmedillo that it's none of his business

(C) Scour the code to find something that vindicates the decision
(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: A bellicose attitude is inappropriate for a zoning administrator, which immediately rules out (B). Besides, Olmedillo might not technically be your boss, but as zoning administrator you still have to report to him, so it behooves you to maintain a decent working relationship.

A small portion of the existing structure lacked the necessary five-foot setback to begin with, but because the condition preceded the code, no change was required. In prior cases similar to this one, the zoning division had rejected any change that increased the nonconformity. But that was before Genuardi discovered section 2106.1 in the code: "No such building or structure, or portion thereof, which is non-conforming shall be enlarged, extended, or altered in any way which increases its nonconformity: but it may be enlarged, extended, or altered if the degree of its nonconformity remains the same or is decreased." In his interpretation, issued November 6, 1990, Genuardi states, "The plans were accepted without a front five-foot setback for the addition because the existing building is a non-conforming structure without a front setback...." The key, explains the shrewd Genuardi, "is the degree of nonconformity. The degree of nonconformity is not increased." Although the entire length of the proposed awning would violate the setback requirement, Genuardi argues, it wouldn't encroach any further toward the property line than did the small portion that had violated the requirement all along. "Other people disagree," says Genuardi, but the correct answer is (C).

6. In November 1986, builder Hernando Carrillo applies for a special permit to allow valet parking at a proposed office building at 2701 Day Avenue in Coconut Grove. Availing himself of valet parking would allow Carrillo to set aside less space for parking than would normally be required, because with valet service, cars can be packed in more tightly. One day later, in response to complaints by neighbors that office workers might park along the street or on front lawns rather than elect to wait for someone to fetch their cars for them, the City Commission changes the ordinance. Adding spaces that blocked other spaces would be permitted only after the code's minimum parking requirements had been met. In November 1987, nearly a year after the application is submitted, Genuardi reviews the permit. What should he do?

(A) Reject the permit because the commission changed the rules before you reviewed the situation

(B) Issue the permit because the application was turned in before the change was instituted

(C) Send Carrillo to the Zoning Board to request an exception on the basis of his unique situation

(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: The zoning code requires that a completed application be on file in order that a special permit can be issued. An application is considered complete after the zoning administrator has reviewed and signed it. Genuardi did not review the application until well after the City Commission had changed the rules regarding valet parking at office buildings. But Genuardi approved the permit, even after neighbors, the planning division, and the Public Works Department all pointed out that the plan would create traffic snarls. (Because of the way the lot was to be configured, and because the building was to be located on a one-way street, valets would have to loop nearly a half-mile around the neighborhood in order to make use of all the parking spaces.) Neighbors appealed to the Zoning Board, which upheld Genuardi's decision. They then appealed to the City Commission, which also stood behind Genuardi. Finally, the neighbors took the issue to circuit court, where a panel of three judges overruled Genuardi's decision on the grounds that the permit had not been completed before the ordinance was changed. "It was just a case of people at the city circling the wagons and protecting his decision," says Bob Fitzsimmons, past president of the Coconut Grove Civic Club and the lawyer who represented the neighbors in the case. "But the judges saw through all that." The correct answer is (B).

7. The Grove Hill project is Manny Medina's proposed luxury residential complex of 96 apartments at 2651 South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove. In 1989, when architect Willy Bermello applies for a Class C permit, his plans include an interesting design detail. Facing South Bayshore Drive will be a twenty-inch wall, behind which will be nine more walls, spaced several feet apart along a landscaped incline [see figure 7-1]. According to the zoning code, walls more than three feet high are forbidden within 30 feet of Bayshore Drive. Because of the incline, six of the walls will exceed the three-foot limit. Concealed by the landscaping will be a parking garage, part of which will jut into the 30-foot setback, another violation of the zoning code. If you are Joe Genuardi, what do you do when asked to review the plans?

(A) Send Bermello back to the drawing board
(B) Send Bermello to the Zoning Board for a variance
(C) Find something in the code to allow the walls and parking garage
(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: Leonardo had his Mona Lisa, Michelangelo his David. Joe Genuardi has Grove Hill. The trick here was in determining the point from which the walls were to be measured. Turning to section 2016.1 of the zoning code, Genuardi decided that the three feet should be measured not from the level of South Bayshore Drive, but from the flood-plain level, which at that point is nine feet above the surface of the road. And voila! The walls are legal. The last wall, which was to tower twelve feet above street level, was exactly three feet above the flood-plain level! The parking garage, which seemed to encroach into the 30-foot setback, was to be built entirely below flood-plain level. Genuardi approved it, too, ruling that because it was below the flood plain, the prohibitions in the code didn't apply. Unfortunately, the viewing public will never get the chance to enjoy Genuardi's masterpiece. After various revisions of other parts of the project, Bermello resubmitted the plans this past year. This time the walls and garage had been moved outside the 30-foot setback. Meanwhile, Grove Civic Club members have seen to it that the new zoning code, which took effect in September, reads no walls, fences, and hedges over three feet "as measured vertically from the crown of the road and not from the flood plain." The correct answer is (C).

8. In 1988, Oscar Guardado, the owner of a site at 625 NW 24th Avenue, applies for a Class C permit to add a fifth unit to a building in an area zoned for duplexes. The four-unit structure, which predates the code, is not at issue, and the conversion itself is legal under the zoning code's Schedule of District Regulations. However, the existing units include several additions for which there are no plans or permits on file at the city. Many of the rooftops of these additions extend up to the property line, leaving no setback as required by the code. Do you:

(A) Force Guardado to come up with plans and permits for the additions, and if he can't produce, refer the case to the Code Enforcement Board

(B) Go into business with Guardado, buying half the property and approving the Class C permit, allowing the fifth unit

(C) See to it that plans for the additions are filed in the middle of the night, making it seem as though they were in the files all along

(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: No one has ever accused Joe Genuardi of corruption, not even his archenemies. After zoning inspectors were unable to locate any plans for the previous haphazard additions, Genuardi determined that they were "existing legal non-conforming structures," meaning they didn't have to be corrected to comply with the existing code. City files contain telephone messages indicating that Guardado's development consultant, Laura Tindall-Howell, a former zoning inspector who worked for Genuardi, lobbied the zoning division for a favorable ruling in the case. And Genuardi didn't let down his ex-employee. When zoning inspector Jo King Reid, who was awaiting more information about the case, refused to file a final zoning inspection on March 30, 1989, Genuardi sent her a terse message. "I cannot wait indefinitely until you decide what if anything is not in accordance with the approved plans.... If I do not get an answer by the end of the day, I will sign it off." At 3:25 p.m. that day, Reid replied: "Without complete information, my report will not be written.... If you desire to handle this final [report] yourself, you have the authority to do so at any time." Genuardi proceeded to stamp the final inspection report, saying that nothing was improper at the site. "I didn't think it was fair to keep the property owner waiting," explains Genuardi. "It was reaching the point of harassment of him." So in the end, Tindall-Howell prevailed. The correct answer is (E).

9. Restaurateur Victor del Corral purchases the landmark Studio restaurant on SW 32nd Avenue, intending to turn it into Victor's Cafe, the Miami edition of his upscale Cuban restaurant in Manhattan [see photo 9-1]. But there's one potential hitch: If rebuilding costs exceed 50 percent of a structure's total replacement cost, the new building must meet current zoning requirements. In this case, there wouldn't be enough room for the number of parking spaces required by the code. If the existing structure is remodeled rather than demolished, however, parking does not have to be expanded. In 1988, del Corral draws up plans to remodel, with no provision for increased parking. What do you do when he presents the plans for review?

(A) Allow del Corral to build the restaurant without any additional parking spaces

(B) Come up with a ruling that ensures the restaurant will be built without the parking

(C) Take a special interest in the project, following it through to its conclusion, making sure the parking issue never presents a problem

(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

EXPLANATION: Genuardi's subtle ingenuity in attacking the Victor's project illustrates why he's a zoning administrator and most other people aren't. Del Corral's original plans, approved by the zoning division, called for the exterior walls to be left intact while the interior and roof were to be demolished. During the demolition, sections of exterior walls were torn down, due to their poor condition. With everything proceeding smoothly, an old-timer in the Public Works Department suddenly recalled that part of the Studio was built on city-owned land. As if that weren't enough, Public Works was entitled to even more land on the site. In Miami, if more than 650 square feet of a project are renovated, or if construction costs top $25,000, Public Works can take possession of "zoned right-of-way" - land along public thoroughfares that the department has earmarked for future expansion of streets or sidewalks. Two exterior walls would have to come down and be rebuilt outside the limit of the right-of-way. Arguing that code requirements would be met, Genuardi continued to classify the project as a "reconstruction." (By this time, portions of two exterior walls were all that was to remain of the original structure.) One zoning division employee who requested anonymity recalls: "A lot of people thought that was a serious error in judgment. But everyone just laughed it off. The word going around was that it was communicated to this department by someone of importance - whether it was from the city manager's office or the City Commission, I don't know - that we should be of assistance to the owner of this property. It seems the zoning administrator responded in a way those people wanted." Genuardi counters that his decision was reviewed by Assistant City Manager Sergio Rodriguez (head of the Planning, Building, and Zoning Department) and by the city attorney's office. During one commission meeting, Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez commented that the project "sounds like the most creative grandfathering of a building in the history of Miami." Give yourself partial credit for (A), (B), or (C); but the correct answer is (D).


SCORING: For every correct answer, award yourself ten points. For answers that were mentioned in the explanations as plausible but incorrect, give yourself five points. For any other answer, you receive no points.

85-90: Congratulations! You probably don't need the Genuardi Short Course at all, except perhaps as a refresher before interviewing for a zoning administrator position. Fill out the attached coupon, and we'd be honored to send you a FREE copy of "All About the Genuardi Short Course."

25-85: If your score falls within this range, the Genuardi Short Course in Zoning Administration is tailor-made for you. Fill out the coupon and send for your FREE information packet today!

0-20: Obviously your current standards are far too rigid for a career in zoning administration. But don't be discouraged. Just relax a little! Many Genuardi Short Course graduates started out just like you, ignorant of the finer points of code interpretation. Send for your FREE information packet right away!


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