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 Miami's Zoning History


Looking Back
Miami 21 and its Zoning Code provides a new vision and plan for the future of Miami.  Before looking forward, it is important to contextualize this code and look at Miami's zoning history.  Miami, the Magic City, has always grown rapidly.  Our biggest challenge has always been precisely how to encourage and manage growth, while managing growth and conserving our neighborhoods and collective history. Today, the issue of zoning issue continues to be a highly contentious one.  The battle for zoning reform shows some of the same patterns and obstacles that have been encountered in Miami's 73-year zoning history. 


Downtown Miami East Flagler Street, 1935

1915 >> First proposal for a Master Plan for the City
A proposal was made at a City Council meeting to begin the creation of a comprehensive, citywide plan for future growth. Councilman H.G. Ralston argued that several major cities had adopted similar plans, and with Miami growing with great rapidity, such a plan was absolutely essential to avoid growth in a "hodge-podge" way. He received no support from the Council, which thought city planning was premature and was even opposed by the City Attorney. Apparently, the City could not afford the cost of the Master Plan: $1,500. Read the entire article from the Miami Daily Metropolis, February 19, 1915.

1922 >> Support for Zoning Regulations in Miami
Support for zoning regulations in Miami go back as far as 1922 when the Miami Chamber of Commerce published an article on zoning which strongly endorsed the creation of a zoning code in Miami. In 1929, support for a zoning ordinance was strong and was considered by then Mayor C.H. Reeder as "one of the most important propositions confronting the Commission." Many public hearings were held throughout the City and received great support from the community.

1926 >> Hurricane of 1926

1934 >> Adoption of Miami's First Zoning Ordinance
August 8 of 1934, the City of Miami Commission adopted this first zoning ordinance.  The effort was led by Frank Stearns, a realtor and a staunch proponent of planning and zoning in order to create orderly cities.  Stearns later became the City's first zoning and planning director.  Records indicate the ordinance was amended about 5,000 times during its 26-year existence.  The amendments created a hodge-podge, meaningless ordinance, similar to what Miami is experiencing today.

1960 >> Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance
In 1960, a new zoning ordinance was introduced, which repealed the 1934 Ordinance.  The 1960 Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance which re-zoned the entire City, divided the City into nine sections, and affected over 30,000 properties.  The ordinance contained many new rules regulating form and types of buildings, as well as uses.  Hundreds of people objected to the new plan.

1982 >> Adoption of Zoning Ordinance 9500
The City of Miami adopted Zoning Ordinance 9500 repealing the ordinance of 1960. This ordinance introduced the concept of mixed-use and its innovative approach received an award by the Gold Coast Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) and was used as a model ordinance by many other cities. A huge undertaking, zoning Ordinance 9500 took eight years to write. Despite all the acclaim and high regard by fellow planning professionals, 9500 was widely regarded by residents and developers as incomprehensible when it was first introduced.

1990 >> Adoption of Zoning Ordinance 11000
Almost a decade later, Zoning Ordinance 9500 was replaced by the current zoning ordinance-Zoning Ordinance 11000-to simplify the ordinance and address issues with parking and setbacks for residential homes. Zoning Ordinance 11000 increased parking requirements for new apartments and doubled the minimum lot size to handle extra parking. The new code also revived a provision that allowed developers to raze abutting residential property to provide for additional parking for their businesses. Additionally, it increased the setback for front lawns of new homes from 10 feet to 20 feet. Of particular interest at the time, was an incentive to developers to seek Commission approval to increase their project's size by up to 25 percent by paying a special one-time fee. In return for the size increase, developers would have to contribute $6.67 for each extra square foot toward a City fund for subsidized housing. At the time, planners and Commissioners did not expect developers to use the bonus because the zoning code was very permissive, allowing projects as large as the market can support. Today, it is widely known that most developers take full advantage of this incentive.

Amendments to Zoning Ordinance 11000
Zoning Ordinance 11000 has been amended innumerable times and has become a hodge-podge without regard for smart growth and quality of life. Similar to the Zoning Ordinance of 1934, amendments and variances to the code have demonstrated the need for a complete overhaul of the outdated regulations which fail to address the current and future needs of the City as a whole.

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