Visualizing Zoning and Equity: The Case of Miami


As a first test of the then new practice of zoning, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Amber Realty Co. in 1922 provided the legal foundation for municipal control over land use. With this, zoning became a tool to regulate development by legislating what kind of properties can be built on certain lands. However, these emerging land-use powers would also be used by cities in the early 20th century to maintain segregation, even after the U.S. Supreme Court declared a Louisville, Kentucky racial zoning ordinance unconstitutional in 1917.

To circumvent this ruling, in the 1920s, Miami's city commission designated most of residential "Colored Town" (Overtown) as "industrial", the outline of which is shown here with the dashed red line. This designation restricted new residential construction in the neighborhood. In the 1930s, the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) oversaw the drafting of citywide "Security Maps," which rated'neighborhoods' risk-levels for mortgage lending. The agency's assessors graded communities on an A to D scale, with 'A' areas categorized as "best" (coded green) for having the lowest level of lending risk and 'D' areas as "hazardous" (coded red) for the highest level of risk. 

These maps also helped to determine the future urban growth of many of Miami's neighborhoods, evident in the stark disparity of height allowances between the formerly redlined neighborhoods and the new luxury developments in zones of generous height limits along the Miami coastline. However, with the reconstruction of the new I-395 highway, the area is undergoing changes, which can be a renewed opportunity to address historic imbalances in the urban environment. (Link)