Have you seen the PAS Memo "Dynamic Densities" by Ken Hughes (2/1/2002)?
The summary reads: "What are the common qualities among these seemingly disparate places: Amsterdam, Brussels, Edinburgh, London, Luxembourg, New York City, Miami Beach, Park City, and San Diego? Each of them expresses a sense of dynamic density, a sense of the human scale. This PAS Memo provides a brief snapshot of elements of each city, and talks in more depth about their commonality."
I've been to a few of these places, and it seems to me the density was critical to creating the dynamism. But Amsterdam, London and NYC all had something else going for them.
There was a sense of history and a feeling of discovery. I don't think the design standards described for San Diego (mandating facade changes every 50') can create the same sense of progress and change you get from having intact buildings that are 100, 500 or 800 years old still in use. And there's the variety of uses both traditional and adaptive.
Is there any way to compare Miami Beach and Edinburgh? I've never seen either, so I'm just asking.