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  • 11/06/2019 11:15 AM | Anonymous

    The article below was published from USA Today on November 2, 2019.

    Airbnb bans 'party houses' after 5 die in Halloween party shooting at home rental

    Airbnb is banning "party houses" after five people were killed and several were wounded in a shooting at a Halloween party at a Northern California home rental.

    "We are redoubling our efforts to combat unauthorized parties and get rid of abusive host and guest conduct, including conduct that leads to the terrible events we saw in Orinda," CEO Brian Chesky announced in a series of tweets Saturday.

    Chesky said the company would be expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations, creating a dedicated “party house” rapid response team and taking immediate action against users who violate guest policies.

    Chesky also said he has directed an Airbnb executive to oversee the rapid response team and initiate a "10 day sprint" to implement the new safety initiatives.

    Police in Orinda, a suburb of San Francisco, were called to the house twice Thursday evening regarding a noise complaint. Just as an officer was headed to the home to investigate the calls, reports of a shooting came in, according to Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

    Officers arrived at "a highly chaotic scene" to find gunshot victims, injured partygoers, and numerous people fleeing the house. Three people were pronounced deceased at the scene, and two later died of injuries at the hospital.

    According to the sheriff's office, more than 100 partygoers from throughout the Bay Area attended the Halloween event, which was advertised on social media. The "Airbnb Mansion" party was scheduled to open at 10 p.m., and guests were asked to bring their own booze, according to local KTVU-TV.

    “Our whole neighborhood heard it, and then people were screaming and fleeing,” a neighbor, Chris Gade, told the San San Francisco Chronicle. “We could see from our windows. There were a lot of people walking around who were hurt.”

    Michael Wang, 58, who owns the property, told the Chronicle that the party’s host rented the house through Airbnb and claimed she was holding a family reunion for 12 people. Wang said he called the police on his own house when he began receiving noise complaints from neighbors and noticed large crowds in his security camera.

    Authorities identified the five victims as 22-year-old Tiyon Farley of Antioch, 24-year-old Omar Taylor of Pittsburg, 23-year-old Ramon Hill Jr. of San Francisco/Oakland, 29-year-old Javin County of Sausalito/Richmond and 19-year-old Oshiana Tompkins of Vallejo/Hercules.

    "This will barely make the news today. That's how numb we have become to this," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday on Twitter. "Our hearts are aching for the victims and all those affected by this horrific tragedy."

    Newsom called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass gun reform to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

    The investigation is ongoing.


    To read the full article visit the link below:

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/11/02/california-halloween-shooting-5-killed-airbnb-bans-party-houses/4140691002/

  • 10/31/2019 12:23 PM | Anonymous

    Annual Meeting Minutes

    October 29, 2019

    Beach Community Church

    Introductions

    Pensacola Beach Advocates President, Terry Preston, opened the meeting at 5:30 p.m., welcomed the membership, and introduced board members Peter Nemeth, and James Crittenden.  Board members Ben Clabaugh and Lauren Campanella were unable to attend. She also introduced guests Angela Crawley, representing Commissioner Robert Bender; Tim Tolbert, CBO, Escambia County Building and Animal Services; Wes Marino; Pensacola Beach Public Works; Robbie Schrock, SRIA; and Jason York and Chip Simmons, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

    Annual Report

    Terry listed the accomplishments of the Pensacola Beach Advocates since our last annual meeting, including a collaborative effort with the SRIA, County and Sheriff’s Office to return Pensacola Beach to a family-friendly Spring Break destination; participating in Lease Workshops with the SRIA; injecting truth and clarity as often as possible into the false narrative of the “Save Pensacola Beach” campaign; adding protective language to the eventual beach ordinance that was recently passed; sponsoring the Sea Turtle Baby Shower, Sea Turtle Soiree, and collaborating with the Beach School and Ocean Hour on collecting plastic bottle caps to recycle into benches.  All efforts will be listed on the website.

    Board Elections

    No early nominations were submitted; however two members Charlie Rotenberry and Rhonda Dorfmann were nominated at the meeting. Charlie is not eligible due to residency and/or ownership restrictions in our Bylaws, but he agreed to join the Government Affairs Committee and request a review of the Bylaws to perhaps make them more inclusive with an At-Large board position for an off-beach member.  Since the only board member not running for re-election was Terry Preston, Rhonda and the returning board members were elected by voice vote.

    Committee Updates

    Terry gave the updates on both committees.  The Governmental Affairs Committee intends to continue to pursue a collaborative effort to ensure that Spring Break visitors enjoy a safe, legal vacation.  They will also continue to follow and support a lawsuit that the SRIA is pursuing regarding violations of lease restrictions requiring the lessee to occupy their leasehold property.  They will continue to draw attention to the number of businesses posing as single family homes, not following noise ordinances and not registering events of over 35 people with the SRIA.  They will also continue to remind the Escambia County Commission of the $9,000,000.00 in taxes and fees per year that Pensacola Beach contributes to the county over and above expenses.

    Terry also updated the Beachkeepers report, mentioning that for the second year in a row, over 1,000 people participated in the Sea Turtle Baby Shower, which is a great way to inform and educate in a fun, family-friendly environment!  She also encouraged members to contact Lauren Campanella  if they wish to participate in the Surfing Santa Beach Parade or the Sea Turtle Soiree.  Other initiatives may be underway as well, which we’ll update members on when they are planned.

    New Business

    Terry opened the floor to discussion and suggestions for issues that members are concerned about.  Discussion ensued regarding “hometels” and illegal duplexes renting, the fact that residents are tasked with enforcement, which is not supported to the degree that we would prefer, and traffic management plans including roundabouts, which we do not support in their current form.  Chip Simmons stated that the Sheriffs now how a properly calibrated sound meter; however they had no trained officers to operate it.  HE is sending two officers to training soon, so we can expect sound complaints to have a more proactive response from Law Enforcement in the future.  Tim Tolbert corrected our misunderstanding that multiple kitchens are the deciding factor as to whether a house is a single family home or not.  Tom Campanella said that some leases actually allow duplexes in neighborhoods that are zoned as single family, and encouraged everyone to read their leases.  He also said that the illegal Air BnBs that do slip through the cracks are due to nobody at the SRIA being assigned to specifically research these.  Terry mentioned that almost every SRIA meeting has at least one petition to allow a pool install in the setback areas due to the “house” taking up the entire buildable area.  These are routinely granted.

    The meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.


    Click HERE to view the minutes in PDF format. 

  • 08/23/2019 9:21 AM | Anonymous

    After two years of obfuscating information, outright lies and misrepresentations, bullying and obstructing the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners from doing the job we elected them for, a totally bogus petition, and a referendum that was misunderstood by most of the voters, the "Save Pensacola Beach" folks complained that since the wording in the proposed county ordinance that the SRIA voted in was not exactly what they asked for, they would not support it, and, in fact, would sue everyone they could because it was obviously collusion or worse. I guess if you spread lies long enough you forget what you were asking for.

    CLICK HERE TO READ THE ORDINANCE 

    The good news: The SRIA added a requirement for a unanimous BoCC vote to change the building cap, and prohibited any trading of capped units between properties. At least these two PBA-suggested provisions will actually SAVE Pensacola Beach.

  • 08/06/2019 10:46 AM | Anonymous

    Recent discussions with both leaseholders and other county residents have unfortunately shown that the "Save Pensacola Beach" efforts to mislead the public as the what the SRIA lease system actually does have been largely successful. 

    These are the FACTS: Under the terms of ALL leases, Escambia County is the owner of all land and of improvements of a permanent character erected or placed on the county-held land. Additionally, all leases contain clauses requiring lessees to repair or rebuild any damaged or destroyed improvement, and lessees are prohibited from removing any permanent improvement; no lease contains any clause granting an option to purchase either the land or the improvements; and leases provide for different renewal periods. Leases on more than 600 parcels contain no renewal provision. Some provide for renewal on terms that are subject to negotiation or “renegotiation,” and some require a written notice to renew; and, no leases are automatically renewable or perpetual in duration.

    In short, YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR HOME, BUSINESS or the land or which it sits, and if it is destroyed, you must rebuild it.  Additional lease provisions might also surprise you.  Many leases require that the leasehold be the primary residence of the leaseholder, while others roll all of the rules of the homeowners' association at the time of issuance into the lease language.  IF you haven't done so, READ YOUR LEASE.  You might be violating it and not even know it.

    The SRIA continues to grapple with how to equitably charge the leaseholders who do not have equitable ownership on their land for the services they receive.  This and the proposed ordinance preventing us from ever owning our taxed leaseholds will be discussed at a workshop at the SRIA building at 4:00 p.m. on August 14th.  We recommend that all interested leaseholders attend!

  • 07/11/2019 6:57 PM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates were well-represented at the SRIA Lease and Ordinance Workshop!  Thanks to all who came to the meeting to show that more people than just the "yellow shirts" care about the beach! Our suggestion to streamline lease renewals and not put the financial burden of drafting the renewal language on the leaseholder was well-received. Unfortunately, when the SRIA's attorney delivered his amended ordinance from the County Commission, he took out the one section that both we and the yellow shirts wanted: namely the prohibition of sale or lease of any unleased properties on Pensacola Beach, especially those already designated for recreation, public access and conservation.  They did, however, respond positively to our proposal to require the Commission to have a unanimous vote before allowing increases to the building cap or trades of capped units from one property to another.  We'll continue to monitor this as they prepare for another workshop!

    Please join us for the Sea Turtle Baby Shower on Saturday, August 10th from 11am-2pm at Landshark Landing!  This event is always a great family day with activities for all ages and lots of great information on our unique winged and flippered visitors!

  • 06/25/2019 3:43 PM | Anonymous

    The Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) is delighted to announce the arrival and deployment of Mobi-Mats on Pensacola Beach.

    Mobi-Mat is a portable rollout, non-slip matting that is temporarily or permanently laid down on the ground to provide non-slip and traffic resistant access for all wheelchairs, strollers, and pedestrians on sand, grass, or other soft and unstable surfaces.

    Funded by the SRIA and deployed by Escambia County Public Works, the mats will be located on 5 beaches along the island:

    · Casino Beach

    · Park West North Beach

    · Moms Beach

    · Boardwalk Beach

    · Baby Beach

    An additional feature will be found at Casino Beach and Moms Beach: a Mobi-Chair, which is an amphibious wheelchair that will provide the user to access the Gulf or the Sound when conditions allow its safe use.

    A ribbon cutting of the Casino Beach Mobi-Mat will be held on Friday, June 28 at 10 a.m. on Pensacola Beach.

  • 06/24/2019 9:46 AM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates look forward to participating in the SRIA lease workshop on Wednesday June 26th at 3:00 p.m.  Since the "Save Pensacola Beach" group abdicated their supposed efforts to ensure preservation of existing recreation, conservation and public access areas in favor of attempting to prevent any future efforts at obtaining title to ALREADY LEASED properties, the PBA is working on drafting an ordinance that will accomplish preservation of these areas.  We'll be ready to present something at the workshop, and we encourage all of our members to attend!

    We believe that before passing any more ordinances, the Board of County Commissioners and the SRIA need to ensure that any proposed ordinance is in line with their stated mission, accomplishes something positive, and is enforceable.  We already have several ordinances specific to Pensacola Beach that are not enforced at all, or are only sporadically enforced.  Adding another just to appease a disruptive group of protesters is not reasonable. 

    We are proposing an ordinance that will prevent LEASE or SALE of any UNLEASED properties on Pensacola Beach, and will require a unanimous vote of the Board of County Commissioners to increase the current building cap and/or allow transfer of units from one property to another under the current cap.  This will prevent overdevelopment of the island, preserve public properties and accesses and maintain our community the way that it currently exists, with a well-designed mix of commercial, multi-family and single-family units.

    We are also advocating for a more streamlined lease renewal system, especially for leases that are 99-year auto-renewing leases.  Currently, the leaseholder is required to draft the renewal, and then submit and record the document after the SRIA signs off on the renewal.  This process is costly to the leaseholder since it requires them to engage a lawyer familiar with this specific leasehold law and has already resulted in adding even more changes to the myriad types of leases that are on the island. We will propose that the SRIA develop a boilerplate 99-year auto-renewing lease that leaseholders could use for their renewals by simply filling in the blanks.  Renegotiable leases are open to change in language and terms, but a boilerplate for those leases could also be developed.

  • 06/11/2019 6:49 PM | Anonymous

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates joined the SRIA, the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce and Commissioner Robert Bender recently to thank the Sheriff's Office and first responders, who teamed with us to make Pensacola Beach Spring Break more family-friendly and safe!  This year the public information campaign, coupled with enhanced law enforcement presence during Spring Break helped to prevent some of the mob-like gatherings experienced in previous years. There were over 1000 interventions, 42 arrests, and fewer evictions than in 2017 or 2018.  We look forward to partnering with these folks again in 2020!

    During a recent Pensacola town hall, Representative Matt Gaetz answered a question from Dianne Krumel, organizer of Save Pensacola Beach (SPB). She asked Gaetz where he stood on fee-simple in the wake of the 2018 Escambia County referendum, where more than 80% of voters supported a policy to protect public access, conservation and recreation lands and prohibit selling unleased land on the island. Gaetz responded that due to the effective misinformation campaign that Ms. Krumel's group and the Pensacola News Journal conducted, he did not intend to re-file the legislation this term. Without companion bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, this issue is essentially tabled until after the 2020 election.

    In the meantime, the SPB people have stated that they are not interested in preserving access, recreation and conservation areas, but rather only want to prevent fee simple title. They presented the SRIA and Escambia County Commission with a draft ordinance that would prevent the Commission from ever endorsing fee simple legislation in the future.  The SRIA will be discussing this proposal at a workshop currently scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26th. 

    The Pensacola Beach Advocates, however, are still interested in ensuring that our wonderful beach remains accessible and that future development doesn't turn us into a condo canyon.  To that end, we will be introducing our own draft ordinance to protect public access, conservation and recreation lands and require a unanimous vote of all Commissioners before the Pensacola Beach building cap could be increased, in hopes that the beach can really be "saved" just as it is!  

    The other notable development in the last week was that the First District Court of Appeals, unanimously AFFIRMED the ruling by Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Scott Duncan that the Escambia County School District lacked standing to challenge the Constitutionality of Fla. Stats. Section 196.199(2)(b) governing taxation of leases on government-owned land.  This ruling lets stand the trial court’s ruling that the land beneath Santa Rosa Dunes at Pensacola Beach belongs to the County, and is thus immune from ad valorem taxation.  The original ruling prevents land parcels that have negotiable or less than 99-year leases from being taxed. Most of the condominiums on Pensacola Beach have leases that require some negotiation at the time of renewal, and therefore, are not required to pay taxes on the land under their buildings.  This ruling did not change the status of those properties with what is called an auto-renewing 99-year lease.  Those properties pay taxes on both the leased land and buildings.

  • 06/02/2019 9:08 PM | Anonymous

    Florida's First District Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court's decision denying the Escambia County School District's standing to intervene in a dispute between Pensacola Beach leaseholders and the county's property appraiser. 

    Thursday's ruling involved a case brought by owners of condominiums in the Santa Rosa Dunes Complex.

    Ed Fleming, an attorney who represented the Santa Rosa Dunes residents and who has represented hundreds of other beach residents in tax cases against the county, said the ruling should put an end to legal questions about whether leased land underneath condominium complexes should be subject to ad valorem taxes.

    "We are obviously pleased with the ruling," he said in a released statement.

    Malcolm Thomas, superintendent for the Escambia County School district, questioned the ruling.

    "It is mysterious to me that they would say we do not have standing because the school district has millions of dollars at stake from all properties in Escambia county, not just the beach," he said.

    Thomas said he did not know what next steps the district might take. Thomas has previously said the district had $6 million in a reserve account created to hold disputed taxes. More than 30 condominium homeowners associations have filed lawsuits questioning the collection of taxes on leased land.

    Pensacola Beach is unique because it was deeded to Escambia County, along with much of the rest of Santa Rosa Island, in 1947. The deed agreement prohibited the county from selling the beach land and stated that the land must be used in a way that benefits the public. 

    The county decided in the 1950s to develop the beach to bring in tourism revenue and set up a system of 99-year leases to encourage commercial and residential development on the island. The county advertised "tax-free" beach land in publications nationwide. 

    After Pensacola Beach was heavily developed in the 1980s, the county turned to the beach as a source of property tax revenue. The move prompted a long series of lawsuits that continue today. 

    Complicating the issue is that language in the leases has changed over the decades. Some leases are open for renegotiation after 99 years and others are perpetually renewable. The courts have ruled that the perpetually renewable leases are tantamount to outright ownership and can be taxed, while the renegotiable leases are not.


  • 05/30/2019 6:56 PM | Anonymous

    The First District Court of Appeal, in an opinion released today, has unanimously AFFIRMED the ruling by Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Scott Duncan ruling that the Escambia County School District lacked standing to challenge the Constitutionality of Fla. Stats. Section 196.199(2)(b) governing taxation of leases on government-owned land.  This ruling lets stand the trial court’s ruling that the land beneath Santa Rosa Dunes at Pensacola Beach belongs to the County, and is thus immune from ad valorem taxation.

    The issue was before the First DCA on an appeal by the Escambia County School District which sought, at the behest of the Escambia County Property Appraiser, to challenge the constitutionality of the controlling tax statute.   All of the judges on the three-judge panel acknowledged that controlling precedent supported the trial judge’s granting of summary judgment against the school district.  In a concurring opinion, Judge Bilbrey wrote that while he disagreed with the broad restrictions placed on standing by public officials, that he agreed the panel was bound to follow such precedent.   He pointed out that the First DCA had previously upheld the constitutionality of the challenged statute, concluding that “even if the District had standing to sue, we would be correct to affirm…”

    “We are obviously pleased with this decision,” said Ed Fleming, who together with Todd Harris, represented Santa Rosa Dunes.  “This puts to bed the last avenue for challenging the earlier wins for Pensacola Beach leaseholders in Island Resorts v. Jones, and Beach Club v. Jones.”

    Harris said that more than half of the pending cases with the Property Appraiser concerning valuing improvements only, recognizing the immunity of publically-owned land, have been resolved; and he and Fleming are optimistic that the remaining cases can be resolved as well.


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