Miami 21's Final Act?

Mike Lydon's picture

After more than four years of public meetings, new drafts, extensive revisions, debate, and controversy, Miami 21 is finally scheduled for its first City Commission reading on August 6th. For all who have, or continue to work patiently and dilligently on the groundbreaking zoning code, this is exciting and relieving news.  

During the hearing this Thursday, Miami 21's proponents will offer words of support, while its proponents will heir their greivances. It will be the City Commission's job to adopt the code as is (unlikely), recommend a second reading after the implementation of prescribed amendments (likely), or outright reject the code (doubtful). It is believed that, if neccessary, a second reading will probably take place in October.

If you are unfamiliar with the project, or for those who simply forgot about what was once a very hot topic in the planning world, Miami 21 is a total re-write of the city's existing zoning code. Long criticized as creating an unpredictable and patchwork city, the undeniably opaque Euclidean zoning code is set to be replaced with the largest known application of form-based code. As such, the proposed regulations emphasize the creation of a vital public realm, provide for better transitions between neighborhoods of varying densities, and allow Miami's corridors and commercial nodes to be retrofitted into walkable, transit-oriented urban centers. To accomplish these smart growth goals, the following six elements were folded in to the code's visionary foundation:

1) Zoning regulations (form-based code)

2) Economic Development

3) Historic Preservation

4) Parks and Open Spaces

5) Arts and Culture

6) Transportation

While reading through the code is not something that you readers are likely to do by Thursday, I do encourage anyone interested in the propagation of smart growth to tune in this week for what promises to be the intriguing final act of a truly modern-day planning drama. Indeed, the past four years have been full of all the challenges associated with planning on such a large scale, and within a very open and democratic, but politically complex framework.

If Miami 21 is enacted into law, it will not only only join more than a hundred other municipalities already implementing such regulations (Montgomery, El Paso, Taos to name a few), but set a smart growth precedent for other large American cities. In my opinion, such a feat could instantly transform Miami into what I call a pattern city, a role often reserved for known progressives like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. 

While Miami 21 is certainly not a perfect code (is there such a thing?), and its original form has been altered over the years, it will likely thrust an auto-centric and unsensitively planned city into the 21st century, where converging public health, economic, energy, and climate catastrophes loom ever closer. This alone makes it worth following. 

I will be sure to report more after Thursday's hearing, but in the meantime you may learn more by visiting the project website (linked above), or simply use the search term 'Miami 21' in the upper right hand corner of this page. You will find a plethora of Planetizen links and even a 2007 interview that I conducted with Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk covering this subject and others. 


Mike Lydon is Principal of the Street Plans Collaborative and co-author of Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Actions for Long-term Change (Island Press, 2015).



Support Miami 21!

Miami 21 needs the vocal support of those who believe in Smart Growth, the potential of livable large cities and the importance of holistic planning processes. If you are willing to voice your support, please email or the Mayor directly at Thank you!

I Emailed Miami

I sent them email from California, emphasizing that this plan is drawing national attention and would be a model for the nation.
And they responded by saying I should also forward to the commissioners:

Charles Siegel

They Blew it

Well, those commissioners had a chance to make a little urban planning history, but apparently they let some petty political issues get in the way. How many $millions have been wasted on this thing?

Jane Jacobs told us what we did wrong, now even 50 years later we can't get it undone. Is it because City Planners screwed things up so royally that we don't trust today's 'more enlightened' planners?

By the way, things are NOT going smoothly for Peter Park in Denver. Stay tuned.

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