Crespogram, Coconut Grove, and Charles Avenue

Those who follow me on social media know I love to share the heat from the Crespogram Report.


FULL DISCLOSURE: A while back I recused myself from commenting on Miami politics because I am currently writing the biography of Ken Russell, Commissioner in Miami’s District 2, now running for Congress in Miami’s District 27. Therefore, take whatever I write with however many grains of salt you need in order to make this post palatable.


Let me first put a fine point on it: While Al Crespo is — hands down — the best of the Miami muckrakers, his post of this morning is a total misfire.

What I have always loved about Crespo is how he backs up his accusations with facts and the official documents. He publishes them to prove his assertions and prove that Miami politicians are lying scumbags.

Not today.

Today he published a letter from Guillermo de la Paz and says about it:

It’s pretty self-explanatory, and raises a very serious question about how Andy Parrish stays on the City of Miami’s Planning and Zoning Board if, in fact de la Paz’s accusations are true.

If true.

Remember, it was only last week people were saying “If true, Roy Moore should step down.”

If true!!!

It may very well be true. I don’t know and I don’t really care. I’m not concerned with that.

Here’s what I do know: Guillermo de la Paz is lashing out because he’s been under continued scrutiny and criticism ever since he built his block-busting Big White Box on Charles Avenue. He’s referencing an article in the Miami Herald and his letter quotes several people out of context on what they think of the Big White Box style of domicile.

The only thing left of the designated historic E.W.F. Stirrup House is the roof. Every other stick of wood in the structure was replaced after a rapacious developer allowed it to undergo nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

Longtime readers of Not Now Silly will remember my 8-year failed attempt to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House — the oldest house on the oldest street in Miami — from DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. Charles Avenue was once called Evangelist Street and was laid out by the very same E.W.F. Stirrup on a slight angle because he was not a surveyor. It was designated a Historic Roadway by the city of Miami in 2012. Even that was not enough to save the Stirrup House and keep de la Paz’s Big White Box off Charles.

Let me state up front that de la Paz didn’t break any laws or build anything without the appropriate permits. The argument is whether Miami’s Planning and Zoning department dropped the ball in allowing any of this to happen in the first place. Charles Avenue is in the NCD-2 [Neighborhood (sic) Conservation District overlay #2]. The NCD-2, as opposed to the NCD-3 (on the opposite side of Grand Avenue, f’rinstance), calls for architecture with a Bahamian feel to reflect the rich history of this unique enclave.

There’s nothing Bahamian about the Big White Box that de la Paz built. FULL DISCLOSURE #2: That’s what its detractors call them, and I count myself among them. In fact, I call them dentist’s offices. They are cold and sterile and I don’t understand the esthetic that finds these structures beautiful. However, taste is subjective. The NCD-2 shouldn’t be. It’s all black and white, no pun intended.

I call Guillermo’s house a block-buster because it was the first Big White Box on Charles. Now there are others that came later and more are proposed. It opened the door for anyone to now say, “If he can build one, why can’t I?” It’s the very definition of block-busting, if you discount the definition of blockbuster bombs dropped in WWII.

Ironically, it’s not the racially weighted historic definition of days gone by either. That’s when a real estate agent — seeing opportunity and dollars — would sell a house to that first Black family in order to bust the block. White folks would suddenly sell out in droves and that real estate agent would generally reap the profits. But I digress.

I was talking about the Big White Box, which in all its various formations are cropping up all over Coconut Grove and elsewhere in Miami. Architects tell me they are inexpensive to build, heat, and cool. They’re just ugly.

I quoted Crespo’s article’s 2nd paragraph above which “raises a very serious question” about Andy Parrish, if true, if true, if true. However, here’s the first paragraph in which Crespo takes gratuitous slaps at Ken Russell:

I’ve not written a lot about the goings on in Coconut Grove as it relates to the battles between developers, self-entitled rich folks, what’s left of the Black folks from the Bahamas who traditionally considered the West Grove to be their little piece of America and the lying weasel dick City Commissioner Ken “Selfie Boy” Russell, who shuck and jived a lot of those Black folks into thinking he was not going to be another in a long line of lying white politicians, when in fact that’s just what he turned out to be, but I got a copy of this letter that a guy named Guillermo de la Paz, sent on on Sunday night.

SHAKE SALT HERE: I’ve been writing about the shady Planning and Zoning department in Miami for years. However, I stopped chasing that story when the former District 2 Commissioner, [allegedly] corrupt Marc D. Sarnoff, was termed out and his wife lost the election to the aforementioned Ken Russell. [Maybe I should revive my Freedom of Information request that I hand delivered to the Planning and Zoning Department. I allowed it to go unfulfilled when I was unable to land my Great White Whale: Sarnoff.]

Crespo’s ire should be directed towards towards the Miami Planning and Zoning Department and/or Andy Parrish, if true, if true, if true.

Al Crespo has behaved like a spurned lover ever since he caught Russell failing to document gift baskets sent to the Commissioner in his first few weeks in office. Long before signing a non-disclosure agreement in order to write this biography, I said as much to anyone who would listen. [More on this topic will be explored in the book. Stay tuned.]

Regardless, unlike Crespo I have written a lot about the “goings on in Coconut Grove as it relates to the battles between developers, self-entitled rich folks, what’s left of the Black folks from the Bahamas who traditionally considered the West Grove to be their little piece of America…” What I have documented at Now Now Silly is how that little piece of ‘Merka that the Bahamians owned made it a unique community because Coconut Grove once had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in this country.

For a number of decades systemic racism kept these property values low because: Black neighbourhood and all that it entails. Other socioeconomic circumstances [read: institutionalized racism] kept the owners wages low and the possibility of home loans to fix up their properties merely a pipe dream. The neighbourhood continued to deteriorate as families passed these houses down the generations, like White families pass down the family jewels.

Now that Coconut Grove has become one of the most desired communities in South Florida, that historic Black community is being chipped away by gentrification. These folks have now become land rich, but cash poor. They are selling out and people are buying the properties to knock down the historic homes — many of them built by E.W.F. Stirrup himself — to build Big White Boxes.

Guillermo de la Paz is the poster child for the Big White Box style of gentrification that is currently roiling the neighbourhood. And, he’s become more and more defensive about it.


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Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.