What is Zoning?

The Boston Zoning Code is the set of rules by which the City’s neighborhood planning is implemented and dictates the allowed shape, density, and use of development in a given area. It protects Boston's distinct neighborhoods from the development of buildings or uses that do not harmonize with their surrounding context.

Fifteen of the Boston's twenty-six neighborhoods were once separate towns (or neighborhoods of separate towns). As the years passed, these neighborhoods were slowly annexed by the City of Boston. To this day, many of these neighborhood remain unique in their look and feel compared to the rest of the City. The most recent edition of the Boston Zoning Code, enacted in 1964, has evolved and adapted to accommodate the unique character of these places and it includes many separate maps and amendments.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency's role is not to enforce or manage zoning code and requirements. Rather, the BPDA helps to shape zoning code. After public planning processes and dialogue, the BPDA may petition the Boston Zoning Commission (BZC) to adopt changes that reflect the neighborhood planning goals. The BPDA also reviews development projects which are so large or unique that they cannot be reasonably approved using the existing zoning code. When this occurs, the BPDA uses tools such as Article 80 Project Review, Institutional Master Plans (IMPs), and Planned Development Areas (PDAs) to determine shape, density, and use guidelines.

Zoning maps for the City of Boston may be obtained at the Boston Planning & Development Agency's Planning and Zoning Department during regular business hours. Boston Planning & Development Agency staff members are available during regular business hours to assist you with questions about the zoning process, the Zoning Code, and zoning maps.

To look up common terms related to zoning, please see the BPDA's glossary.

To find the zoning for a particular site, use the Zoning Viewer online tool to learn how it’s currently zoned and use the links to the Zoning Code and Tables to see what rules apply and to the Assessor for information about ownership.

For more information, please contact Bryan Glascock, Deputy Director for Regulatory Planning & Zoning.

  • Boston Planning & Development Agency
  • One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201
  • Tel: 617.722.4300  Fax: 617.248.1937
  • © 2021 Boston Planning & Development Agency