Item Coversheet

City of Miami Beach, 1700 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, Florida 33139,

 Item 2.

TO: Land Use and Development Committee

FROM: Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager

DATE: June 12, 2019
On June 5, 2019, at the request of Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman and Ricky Arriola, the City Commission referred the subject discussion item to the June 12, 2019 meeting of the Land Use and Development Committee (Item C4 O).
Under the current regulations of the city code, when an existing building exceeds the current maximum allowable floor area ratio (FAR), the excess FAR is considered legal non-conforming, and no additional FAR may be added. Specifically, under Chapter 118, Article IX of the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) of the City Code, governing nonconformances, a nonconforming building or use cannot be expanded.

In order to amend the code to allow for limited circumstances in which non-conforming FAR can either be introduced, or re-introduced, an amendment to Chapter 118, Article IX of the LDRs would be required. Pursuant to City Charter Section 1.03(c), such amendment would require the approval of the City’s voters:

The floor area ratio of any property or street end within the City of Miami Beach shall not be increased by zoning, transfer, or any other means from its current zoned floor area ratio, unless any such increase in zoned floor area ratio for any such property shall first be approved by a vote of the electors of the City of Miami Beach.

This discussion pertains to a potential ballot question for an amendment that would allow a property to add nonconforming FAR, which would result in an increase in zoned FAR “by zoning, transfer, or any other means” pursuant to City Charter Section 1.03(c).


In order to better utilize and adaptively re-use volumetric spaces within existing, historic buildings, flexibility with regard to current FAR limitations is needed, for those buildings that are currently over the maximum permitted FAR for the underlying zoning district. In this regard, there are limited instances in which the introduction, or in some cases the re-introduction, of non-conforming FAR makes sense from an historic preservation, land use planning and overall policy standpoint. Some of these limited examples include:

New floor area within volumetric buildings such as historic theatres.
In this instance, a number of historic theatres within the City are in need of adaptive re-purposing, such as a conversion to retail or food & dining establishments. However, if the building is legal non-conforming as to maximum FAR, there is no opportunity under the code to add additional floor plates within the structure, even though they will not be visible.

Re-introducing original, historic floors to buildings where the floors may have been removed in years past.
In this regard, if a hotel building had floors removed to create volumetric space, and they seek to re-introduce those floors, this would not be possible under the regulations of the code if the building or building site is legal non-conforming as to maximum FAR.

The City Attorney’s Office is drafting a ballot question, which will be provided under separate cover prior to the June 12, 2019 Land Use Committee meeting. In order to control the scope of the proposal, the following additional qualifiers may be considered, as part of any enabling legislation:

• The regulations shall only apply to existing structures that are classified as ‘contributing’ in the city’s historic properties database, and which are located within a locally designated historic district or site.

• Establishing a maximum square footage on non-conforming FAR that can be added to a contributing building. This could be a fixed amount of square footage, or a percentage of the existing floor area.

• Establishing minimum criteria for restoration and substantial rehabilitation, as well as the long term protection of the structure.

From a policy standpoint, the administration is highly supportive of this proposal, as it will provide much needed flexibility for existing historic properties with excess volumetric space to adapt the spaces to emerging, modern trends in retail, mixed-use, office and food/beverage uses. Additionally, it will provide an additional income source for the retention and preservation of historic buildings, as well as the ability to better adapt the structures for long term sustainability.

The Administration recommends that the Land Use and Development Committee forward a recommendation to the City Commission to place a question on the November 5, 2019 ballot.

City Attorney's DraftMemo