Sign Code Modernization

a photo of a Boston city street showing stores with signs


The BPDA’s Zoning Reform and Urban Design teams are launching a joint initiative to update Boston’s sign code. This initiative will be developed in collaboration with Boston residents and other City Departments, and will propose a zoning text amendment to the City’s sign code as well as a set of updated design guidelines for signage throughout the City.

Boston’s sign code is found in Article 11 of the Zoning Code. The regulations of Article 11 were initially adopted in 1972. Since then, only minor amendments to its contents have been made, with the bulk of the Article remaining largely unchanged. Fifty years later, those regulations are now severely outdated, and are misaligned with how the city has grown and evolved since. The existing Article’s confusing structure and lack of clarity/specificity on regulation have also created a permitting process that is difficult to interpret and over-reliant on one-off review.

Updates to Article 11 are needed to alleviate these issues. Those updates will seek to modernize the regulation and review of signage, streamline the way signs are permitted, and improve public accessibility to these requirements.

The recommendations of the Sign Code Modernization will be collaboratively crafted between Boston residents, the BPDA, and a variety of City Departments, including the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion (OEOI), Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture (MOAC), Mayor’s Office of Early Childhood, Public Improvement Commission (PIC), and Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC). BPDA staff will also be consulting additional resources in our analysis, including sign codes from other cities (ex. Somerville - Section 10.9), publications from established sign researchers (ex. Sign Research Foundation), and published City of Boston signage guidelines (ex. Downtown Crossing Signage Guidelines), among other items.

We’re only at the beginning of this process, and want your feedback!


A graphic showing the tentative timeline of the Sign Code Modernization zoning initiative

Phase 1: February – March (analysis & engagement)

  • Gather feedback from residents, sign venders/designers, and other City Departments
  • Review publications on signage research and best practices
  • Conduct analysis of the peer city sign codes 
  • Host public meeting for project kickoff

Phase 2: April – May (draft release, public comment period, revisions)

  • Publish draft zoning amendment
  • Host public meeting to present draft zoning recommendations
  • Open public comment period
  • Hold public office hours
  • Revise proposed recommendations

Phase 3: June – July (BPDA Board & BZC Adoption)

  • Close public comment period
  • Publish final draft zoning amendment
  • Host public meeting for project closeout
  • BPDA Board for approval
  • BZC for adoption

Upcoming Engagement

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Previous Engagement