Development Critic Meiner Beats Industry Pick Gongora in Miami Beach Mayoral Runoff

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Miami Beach voters chose Steven Meiner as the new mayor of the city of 80,000 during this week’s runoff.

Meiner won 53.8 percent of the vote, easily beating opponent Michael Gongora’s 46.2 percent. Both men have served on the Miami Beach Commission. Meiner has criticized “overdevelopment,” while Gongora had the support of the city’s real estate industry.

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“I am ready to get to work with our full commission on our shared vision to make Miami Beach the safest, most resident-friendly city in the nation,” Meiner wrote on Facebook after the election.

An attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Meiner campaigned as a law-and-order candidate. He promised to keep the city’s 2 a.m. liquor ban and pledged not to accept campaign contributions from developers.

Meiner said one of his first moves will be to make it harder for the city commission to approve increased density. He has proposed that increased building sizes – “floor area ratios” or FAR – must be approved by six of seven commissioners, instead of the five votes currently required. 

“Let’s ensure responsible development, not overdevelopment,” Meiner wrote on Facebook.

Gongora, a condo board attorney at Becker & Poliakoff, was the clear favorite of developers. Thanks to donations from property owners and hoteliers, Gongora raised twice as much in campaign contributions as Meiner, according to a tally by The Real Deal

Gongora received contributions from the Kanavos family, which co-owns the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Lincoln Road and recently won approval to add a 15-story condo tower onto the oceanfront property after a hard-fought battle. Other donors to the losing candidate included Witkoff Group, which is developing the oceanfront Shore Club condo project; and David Grutman, whose nightclub Story closed earlier this year after the city halted liquor sales after 2 a.m. in the South of Fifth neighborhood. Gongora had promised to repeal the liquor sale restriction. 

Both candidates agreed in their opposition to one contentious project. They said Jesta Group should not be allowed to build a 30-story residential tower at Ocean Drive’s historic Clevelander Hotel. The Canadian developer used a provision from Florida’s new Live Local Act that lets projects override zoning regulations in return for building affordable housing.

Meiner will replace Miami Beach’s current mayor, Dan Gelber, who faced a term limit after six years in office. Meiner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the Nov. 7 election that led to the Nov. 21 runoff, Miami Beach residents elected three new commissioners: Tanya Bhatt, who owns the marketing firm LaunchBrand; Joseph Magazine, a vice president of global financial firm Loop Capital and a member of Miami Beach’s planning board; and David Suarez, a cosmetics executive who has spearheaded efforts to ban short-term rentals.

There was also polling in Miami on Tuesday. Miguel Angel Gabela defeated suspended Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the District 1 runoff, while Damian Pardo beat Sabina Covo in District 2.

Jeff Ostrowski can be reached at jostrowski@commercialobserver.com.