Meet the Owner of Miami's Last Floating Home on Biscayne Bay
Fane Lozman took his boat to the Supreme Court and won a landmark case. Now he's living in Miami's last floating house, just off the 79th Street Causeway.
photo by Terrence Cantarella
Fane Lozman wants what everyone in Miami wants: a nice home with a beautiful view and quick access to the water. That real-estate trifecta, however, usually costs a fortune. But Lozman, a six-foot-five former U.S. Marine Corps aviator, figured out years ago how to get those niceties at a fraction of the cost.
On a recent Friday, standing on the front porch of his two-story floating home in Biscayne Bay, moored just north of the 79th Street Causeway near North Bay Village, Lozman explained his approach to waterfront living: "You're talking 10 to 20 million plus 80 grand a year in taxes for a house on Bay Drive or somewhere like that. You can get the same lifestyle out here for a lot less, and it's more fun. It's the ultimate bachelor's pad. And it's on the water."
You might recognize Lozman's name. Long ago, he decided to do some background research on a marina owner and discovered nefarious financial connections between the owner and the North Bay Village government. That research, covered in a 2003 New Times story, yielded evidence of political malfeasance that led to the arrest and removal from office of four elected officials, including Mayor Al Dorne, between 2003 and 2004.
photo by Terrence Cantarella
A year later, Hurricane Wilma blew through town and laid waste to that marina, destroying the docks. Out of some 45 floating homes and houseboats, according to Lozman, only his and three others survived. Seeking a new place for his floating house, Lozman towed it to the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina in Palm Beach County. There he drew the ire of Riviera Beach officials for actively opposing a marina redevelopment plan. They punished him by causing the home to be towed away by federal marshals in 2009 and later destroyed by court order. Lozman sued the city, and his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was decided in a landmark ruling in 2013 that it had been seized unlawfully. He's still fighting in court for reimbursement of $191,000 in legal fees.
Lozman sums up his 12-year floating odyssey this way: "People have been fucking me here. They fucked me in Riviera Beach, and now the courts are fucking me." Elaborating, he says, "Marinas are valuable property. Unknowingly, I stumbled into corruption between marina operators and politicians and developers. That's where all the drama comes from.”
Lozman's current home isn't a houseboat. It's a conventional house that floats and has no motor. Ducking his head through doorways, the lithe 54-year-old shows off his 3,000-square-foot digs. Upstairs, there's a master bedroom and bathroom. The lower level features two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open kitchen, and a bar. Two central air-conditioning units keep the place cool. Outdoor spaces on both levels are big enough for large gatherings. "I've taken it to the Sandbar and had some great parties," Lozman says. "We had a DJ and thousands of boats around us."
photo by Terrence Canterella
Long ago, the home appeared in Lady in Cement, a campy crime drama starring Frank Sinatra. In the most memorable scene, Sinatra is hoisted onto the bar by a burly tough guy played by Dan Blocker and asked to track down "a blond dame" named Sondra.
Back then, South Florida's waterways were lined with houseboats and floating homes like Lozman's. But many municipalities began banning them for environmental and aesthetic reasons beginning in the late 1970s. Of those that remained, many were destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Hurricane Wilma nearly finished the job 13 years later. Today, only Lozman house survives.
Five decades in the subtropics, however, have taken their toll. The home's metal parts are rusty, the wooden parts are weathered, and the place could use a makeover. Also, there are no utilities, which is why the home is sparsely furnished and Lozman isn't currently living there.
He bought the home in 2009 from a terminally ill friend who no longer had a use for it. He got it after his first home was seized, planning to temporarily rent it out as a sales center for a soon-to-be-built condo. But that didn't work out, so he moored his home just north of the 79th Street Causeway, where it stands today.
North Bay Village Manager Frank Rollason says Lozman's home sits just outside the border of his town (whose jurisdiction extends 250 feet into the bay) and outside of Miami-Dade County's mooring field for the nearby Pelican Harbor marina. "I believe he is moored in waters controlled by the Coast Guard and the feds — perhaps the state — not sure," Rollason says.
Jennifer Smith, assistant director of the Southeast District of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, says, "Mooring [in state-controlled water] may require authorization from the department," but "there are many factors to consider to determine the type of authorization (if any) required."
Lozman, however, says no one ever bothers him about his home on the water. It's not clear where he's staying now, but he keeps "a base of operations" on 79th Street a short distance from his floating home, along with several boats that he owns. Yet even if he could dock in a nearby marina, there's still a lingering legal restriction that makes living year-round in a floating home in most Florida marinas impossible.
So he plans to move it north to Palm Beach County. "This baby is ready to roll," he says. "I'm going to tow it out of here by next April. It may be out of here in November. We'll see. By next spring, for sure."
And when he goes, it'll be the end of an era. "This is it. This is the last one," Lozman says, leaning on the bar where a dapper Sinatra once sat. "When I leave town, it's over.”
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.