Following a city commissioners vote on Thursday to repeal the law that permitted the construction of an art museum’s jumbo digital billboard, the city of Miami appears to be seeking its demolition.

The original legislation passed in 2023, permitting the Peréz Art Museum of Miami (PAMM) to construct the jumbo digital billboard which currently remains in compliance with city regulations. The legislation, however, effectively doubled the size previously permitted for advertising signs in certain downtown areas.

Thursday’s vote came in with commissioners in agreement 4-1 in favor of repealing the law, however, they agreed that removing the ordinance from Miami’s code would not effectively compel PAMM to eliminate the sign. Commissioner Manolo Reyes held the single no vote.

Commissioner Damian Pardo, who launched the effort to repeal the 2023 law that permitted the construction of the 1,800-foot billboard by PAMM in early 2024 said, “We can’t revoke a permit.”

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After gaining approval on Thursday evening, a part of the legislation marks a new risk factor for the PAMM billboard. Specifically, Miami lawyers were reportedly instructed to decide if the museum was acting in violation of a current city lease when they initially erected the advertising structure. 

PAMM is a nonprofit that leases the waterfront property from the city of Miami — the public property where they constructed the sign. According to Pardo, PAMM did not seek nor were they granted permission from its landlord (Miami) to authorize any construction on the property, which would put its construction in default.

Pardo stated, “There is a path to bring down the PAMM sign through our lease.” He continued, “It should come down. That is what residents are demanding.” Pardo’s district includes the Miami waterfront where residents of many high-rises, specifically, condemned the enormous billboard as unsightly.

Communications Director of PAMM, Alexa Fera, stated “We have not received a default notice, so we cannot speak to the specifics of the notice.” She added, “However, we are in full compliance with our lease and have followed every obligation required under our agreement.”

The sign has been authorized by the city of Miami twice, and commissioners pointed at the museum in the 2023 law permitting larger billboards in some downtown locations, which included Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Bayfront Park. With Pardo’s legislation, the destiny of the sign hinges upon whether a third government agreement was required.

Reyes openly opposed passing the legislation, which at its forefront, allows the billboard to remain. “My vote is a protest,” he stated.

Now, following Thursday’s vote, the fight over the PAMM billboard has shifted to the courts after months of debating the repeal, which was sponsored by then-commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who was later apprehended for bribery.

Commissioner Miguel Gabela defeated Diaz de la Portilla, while the incumbent was suspended last November due to his arrest. “My predecessor, who was under indictment charges at the moment, created this mess.” Gabela continued, “The gentleman ruled this dais with an iron fist.” Orange Barrel Media — the company behind PAMM — effectively helped bankroll Diaz de la Portilla’s unsuccessful reelection effort with a sizeable contribution of $225,000.

Pardo introduced the repeal at the beginning of this year, but it was delayed through five earlier meetings before the vote was finally held on Thursday. Residents of downtown apartment buildings professed that their quality of life has been pushed aside for the sake of advertising dollars.

“I want to let you know just how upset downtown [residents] are about these signs,” stated one resident who owns a condo in a high rise, Kristen Browde. Browde lives only a few blocks from PAMM and told commissioners, “We want to support the arts, but we don’t want to destroy our neighborhood.”

Another resident, Sharon Kirby, who lives nearby on the Venetian Causeway connecting the city with Miami Beach, said, “We pay a lot of money. We pay a lot of property taxes for where we live. We do not need this visual pollution looking back at us when we look at downtown Miami.”