September 17, 2013

Welcome Developments in São Paulo’s New Master Plan

Praca da Bandeira

Densification, mixed use, and parking are finally on the City of São Paulo policy agenda. São Paulo’s Master Plan, recently proposed by Mayor Fernando Haddad, promotes land development along metro, train and bus corridors, and incorporates many components of transit oriented development. By embracing sustainable, pedestrian-friendly development, the movement is a bold step forward for São Paulo, and builds momentum for similar policies across Brazil.

The new Master Plan calls for increased development on land within 400 meters of a train or metro corridor, or 200 meters of bus corridors. Within these zones, new buildings can be taller, and mixed use development will be encouraged, with residential units above commercial spaces on the ground floor. In addition, sidewalks will be wider, and a parking cap for off-street parking spaces will be set, changing the present legislation that requires a parking minimum. These changes will create a more dynamic, accessible street space and improve the quality of urban life for São Paulo’s residents.

According to Urban Development Secretary Fernando de Mello Franco, “the central idea is to match mobility and development. It is not possible anymore to think of a city for cars. Our priority is public transport.” (source)

The new Master Plans focuses new developments along mass transit corridors. Credit: Karl Fjellstrom.
The new Master Plans focuses new developments along mass transit corridors Credit Karl Fjellstrom


As a city of 11.2 million inhabitants spread over 1500, coordinating transportation and development goals is crucial to São Paulo’s growth. Around 35.5% of the population lives in the east zone, where only 9% of the job opportunities are located. In contrast, 60% of the job opportunities are concentrated in the central and west zones, where only 13% of the population lives. This uneven distribution results in many people traveling more than 60km daily to go to work.

ITDP has been working with the City of São Paulo since 2006, sharing best practices in sustainable transportation and urban development to improve the city’s livability. The new Master Plan is well-aligned with ITDP’s ”eight principles” , promoting vibrant, sustainable cities. Through workshops, the new TOD Standard, and Our Cities Ourselves (OCO), ITDP has shared strategies and ideas for how to move São Paulo forward.

Workshop with ITDP, Gehl Architects and city officials. Credit Luc Nadal.
Workshop with ITDP Gehl Architects and city officials Credit Luc Nadal

In 2007, ITDP, Gehl Architects and City officials worked together to produce a study on revitalization São Paulo’s urban center at Anhangabaú and Quadra das Artes. Through workshops, training sessions with City Hall staffers, and the report, ITDP worked to develop local capacity for sustainable development. More recently, ITDP’s OCO campaign has focused on developing a plan for Praça da Bandeira, a former plaza in the center of São Paulo converted into a bus terminal. With land developers association Secovi, ITDP launched a design competition between São Paulo architects, urbanists and universities to apply ITDP’s principles for sustainable transportation to Praça da Bandeira.

São Paulo’s last Master Plan was approved in 2002, and made mandatory by the Law 13.430/02. The city will send the new Master Plan to the House of Representatives this month. A success in São Paulo could lead to similar policies on a national scale. If it happens in São Paulo, it can happen in other Brazilian cities, too.


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