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Miami 21 Vs Zoning 11000


Mayor Manny Diaz and Commissioner Johnny Winton present the cities master plan, Miami21.

On Thursday, August 6th, 2009, at Miami’s City Hall a plan to overhaul the existing zoning code was rejected. Named Miami 21 (Miami in the 21st Century) the proposal called upon the internationally recognized urban planners Duany and Plater Zyberk. Elizabeth Plater Zyberk, the head of the consultant team for Miami 21 is also the Dean of Architecture at the University of Miami. The plan, which stood to affect the entire city of Miami, utilized DPZ concepts of new urbanist Smart Growth Planning.

Smart Growth is a national movement consisting of the application of a series of principles to planning and public space administration strategies in support of development that is environmentally sensitive, economically viable, community-oriented, and sustainable. Its origins are as an anti-sprawl movement in the 1970s.”

Duany and Plater Zyberk, pioneered New Urbanism as a movement for their planning principles that strive to create pedestrian friendly neighborhoods and return a ‘sense of place’ to American communities. Two good examples of their previous projects are Seaside, a Floridian boomtown made famous by its function as the set for The Truman Show starring Jim Carey, and Celebration, also in Florida, which was featured on yesterday’s The Sunday Video.

Principally, New Urbanism uses existing ‘great cities’ such as New York, Paris and London, as models for informing future community developments with the goal being architecture that interfaces with streets and sidewalks in a way that inspires people to be outside and interact with each other – for example the relative size of buildings, the distance of those buildings from the streets, parallel parking, landscaping, public spaces, pedestrian friendly business etc.

The concept of a ‘sense of place’ is important as it has been the goal of planners and architects to return the value of public space to the American people. The ‘sense of place’ is a phrase that encompasses the different goals of planners that are in opposition to developments of sprawl and zoning ideas that are essentially car centric, socially controlling, and business and politically oriented.


Animated gif showing development of pedestrian area of Miami.

Smart Growth translates New Urbanist principles to the various scales of a city by promoting predictable development patterns with form-based codes versus unregulated private development. Form based codes define the formal qualities of the architecture and public spaces in order to control the image of the development within a community. Miami 21 transforms Smart Growth’s transect model into a type of dot and smear diagram. The dot is a node planned analogous to a town center where higher levels of business takes place and housing is densified while the smear is the adjusted transect model which blend a variety of housing sizes and types with various degree of integrated commercial and public uses between nodes.


Transect Images: How the city center blends into other land uses.

Whether Smart Growth can fulfill its goals of “development that is environmentally sensitive, economically viable, community-oriented, and sustainable” for all inhabitants of a city is unproven at this point. New Urban Projects have proven to be largely mid and high-income communities that thrive from providing an amenity of urbanism to a suburban model. The irrelevance or danger of Smart Growth for a city as variegated culturally and economically as Miami shouldn’t be misunderstood. Miami 21 proposes an overall development scheme with regulated architecture and public spaces modeled after various cities for a type of healthy urbanism in a post-suburban suburban American culture.

Diaz, who used Miami 21 as a central aspect to his 2005 Mayoral reelection campaign, said Miami 21 would spur the city to become walkable, with wide sidewalks for pedestrian activity and would make planning neighborhood-centric, instead of a patchwork of out-of-scale buildings.

The Miami 21 Zoning Code incorporates time-tested planning principles into the zoning regulations of our city. These are the principles that make for better neighborhoods, open spaces, civic spaces, revitalize areas, and foster economic growth.”

After the vote to reject Miami 21 Diaz was noticeably disappointed and anyone can be forgiven for assuming that ultimately this grand project, which would have left an indelible mark on Miami, was Diaz’ last bid for immortality. Ironically out of the four who were asked to vote on the plan it was the two main mayoral candidates, Commissioners Joe Sanchez and Tomás Regalado who voted against it, with Commissioners Marc Sarnoff and Michelle Spence-Jones voting in favor. As ever, the majority vote controls all questions coming before the board, but on this occasion, what should have been a board of 5 commissioners was only 4 as Commissioner Angel Gonzalez was not present.

In the end it seems that the scale of Miami 21, which was described by the website of the office of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company as being “the largest-known application of a form-based codewas its undoing, or in other words that making Miami 21 a reality asked a for commitment over and above that which either Sanchez or Regalado were prepared to make. And so Miami 21, a plan whose passage Diaz had given priority in the hope of getting it approved before he leaves office this year was rejected by those who imagined they would eventually be responsible for its implementation.


Promotional image for The Truman Show. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

One could argue that the ideas contained in Miami 21 are more than a little contrived, but until the right business owners have settled in and until areas have naturally adjusted to the changes – essentially until we suffer the time it takes for a patina to develop – they are going to be contrived, and when compared to what Miami is at present they could certainly have been implemented positively in countless situations, not least in the case of Miami’s art galleries. However, when one compares Miami 21 to other such plans in action, the horrors of Seaside and Celebration for example, then perhaps the biases together with the unexpected, unfortunate, mildly suspect and determining absence of Commissioner Angel Gonzalez were for the best.

Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s meeting it is good to see the transformation of the image of the New Urbanist project by Miami 21. With it criticism of the architectural nostalgia of New Urbanism has finally been separated from the essence of New Urban planning. In many ways this project is an advancement for urban planning in America, but because of Joe Sanchez and Tomás Regalado’s rejection of it, Miami is momentarily situated to be just one more city where such advancements might not begin [.]


For more information please visit Manny Diaz’s blog.

This post was contributed by Cassidy Fry.



  • valdes is coming

    the closet thing the Miami area has to that is coral gables, and have u seen how many business’s have closed due to the staggering economy? wow

  • swampthing

    Go Tall or Sprawl?

    The decisions made way back in the days of swampsales were fueled by greed with no regard for the everglades.
    Today Miami is like a young LA. We hustle an urban lifestyle in an suburban setting.
    People like what they are used to.

    New Urbanism’s shiny promise is like an expensive bandage for an old wound that will likely never quite heal.

    If there is one lesson to be learned, it is that to be considered an expert one need only know just a bit more than the others.

  • Puppy Cat


    Would you talk more about the bandage and the wound? I agree with you and am very interested to carry the analogy further.

    What body is wounded, the city, the land, the environment? Is the wounded body something to do with our culture? types of inhabitance? lack of instinctual behavior?

    I see New Urbanism like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. A thing of weak character that can use ideas and images to make his community believe in magical utopia. Seaside is Oz, Celebartion is Oz, Disney is Oz.

    Is disney a wounded body with a bandage? Does America represent a place to come view damaged bodies? That type of thing or place makes a lot of money.

  • Jen's tark


    Miami is a concrete jungle and needs more plants and awesomeness.
    I don’t get the Truman show image….wasn’t that like 10 years ago?

  • Zitmeds

    I love how your argument is not even consistent. You leap from point to point with no real substance. What is your vision for Miami? You want to keep things exactly the same, spotty zoning that allows for Mercy hospital condos or do you want to roll this back to the 1960’s?
    Let’s be real, Miami 21 is a huge improvement over existing policy.

  • Stop Miami Danny

    After countless hearings and debate, Miami 21 is dead. The citizens have spoken, and Sanchez and Regalado spoke for the citizens when they voted it down. This has nothing to do with New Urbanism or whatever-it has to do with trying to shove new zoning that would benefit a few developers and property owners down everyone’s throat. And because both Joe and Tomas are running for mayor, they were forced to do the right thing this one time.

    Perhaps, just for your readers’ edification, could the author cite one or two concrete examples of how Miami 21 would have used ‘form based codes’ to enrich our lives? Thank you.

  • Puppy Cat

    Since I know the author I will speak for him.

    The post is not an argument, pros and cons of both sides are presented. The author’s vision for cities is radically different than anything spoken about in City Hall past and present.

    For SMD, what citizens did Regalado and Sanchez speak for, not Zitmeds? Therefore, your request regarding the reader’s edification is difficult to fulfill because, it is unclear, how you would define enrich for anyone beside yourself.

    Although I did quickly find a bits of text and an architectural example that I think help explains the proposed nature of concrete in New Urban architecture. You requested information on Miami 21 but I could only find concrete use discussed for the construction regarding monopoles and I am not familiar with monopoles well enough to site how their form will enrich our lives.

    Literary -”These developments appeal to the paradoxical, nostalgic American desire for a simulacrum of tradition (and its associated values), while living in a brand new home built with the latest petrochemical simulations of materials.” taken from pg 59 of THEORIZING A NEW AGENDA FOR ARCHITECTURE, editor, Kate Nesbitt.

    Architectural – “A concrete obelisk bears a plaque with the history of the plant.”
    From pg 53, THE NEW URBANISM by Peter Katz

    Miami 21 is not dead, “At this time, we are unclear as to next steps. It is possible that the administration, or the commissioners, will decide to revisit this issue in the future. However, at this time, nothing has been concluded.” taken from Miami

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Miami 21 Vs Zoning 11000