Tourism & Cruises

Beach hospitality workers want discounted parking. Commission wants hotels to pitch in.

Everyone agrees Miami Beach hotel workers need a discount on parking. But not all agree on who should front the bill.

At a commission meeting Wednesday, city leaders considered a proposal to sell hotel workers 200 permits at $100 per month for a parking lot just north of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the city’s largest hotel. These prices, while still expensive for Fontainebleau employees who make the minimum $11.49 hour, are considerably less than the $20 per day parking passes currently available.

But some commissioners asked why the hotel isn’t pitching in.

“You have a private employer who is getting a tremendous public benefit by us subsidizing their operations because they refuse to either pay market rates for parking or pay their employees more,” said Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who voted against the measure. “We’re essentially subsidizing a billionaire — I’m not sure that’s good public policy.” Most commissioners echoed his concerns Wednesday.

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Miami Herald file

More than 80 percent of the workers employed in Miami Beach don’t live there. Low wages and high rents have forced them out, and finding affordable and reasonable transportation to the beach each day is a challenge. Many opt for the bus, spending 2-6 hours on several different buses each day.

For those who drive, Miami Beach already offers discounted monthly parking permits and free trolleys from the many of the city’s lots. But the lot in question is the closest to the hotel and right in the city’s burgeoning mid-beach area — prime beach parking. Arriola would like to see the hotels buy the passes from the city at $150 or $200 per month and sell them to employees for $100 per month. That would cost the Fontainebleau $10,000 to $20,000 per month, respectively.

The proposal considered Wednesday includes 100 overnight permits and 100 daytime permits at $100 per month in the designated mid-beach lot and 400 more permits at underused lots further away with free trolly service for $70 per month.

Last year the union proposed an initiative that would require hotels to provide monthly transit passes or equivalent credits for ride-sharing services for employees. The initiative would apply to employees who work an average of at least 10 hours per week and who aren’t offered parking by their employer. The union has not yet begun to gather the required signatures for that initiative.

Vice President and General Manager of the Fontainebleau Mary Rogers said the hotel already provides parking for some of the hotels 2,000 employees. She said the hotel is willing to consider more parking benefits in their next round of union negotiations in 2022.

“We truly believe we are a generous employer,” Rogers said. “Our employees are our number one resource and we value them so very much.”

Commissioners will hold a final vote on the measure on Feb. 13.

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Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.