Boston to Begin Zoning Code Update, Mayor Announces

It’s been nearly 60 years, but the city of Boston is finally ready to do a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning code.

1 minute read

September 14, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

View of Boston from Bunker Hill with statue in foreground

Sean Pavone / Boston, Massachusetts

[Updated: 9/14/20233] The city of Boston will update its zoning code for the first time since 1964, in a historic city that overwhelmingly tends to plan and approve development with the use of variances, rather than with by-right development.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced the project earlier this week, according to a paywalled article by Catherine Carlock for the Boston Globe. The city’s zoning code currently totals 4,000 pages.

“The overhaul will start with restructuring the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s planning department to create teams focused on zoning reform and compliance, with the hopes of relying less on the Zoning Board of Appeal in the future,” reports Carlock.

“The overhaul will be guided by a report from Sara C. Bronin, a professor at Cornell University and founder of the National Zoning Atlas project, which dubs the current zoning code “bloated, outdated, inconsistent, and inequitable,’” adds Carlock for more detail. “Some of Bronin’s suggestions include reversing the city’s “longstanding practice of neighborhood-specific zoning” and culling the code to 500 pages, creating a mixed-use zoning district, and emphasizing growth and additional housing near MBTA stations.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2023 in The Boston Globe

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