In State of the City Address, Mayor Wu announces ambitious agenda for growth
Jan 26, 2023
Mayor Wu outlines plan to advance a green and growing City, takes action to elevate City planning, streamline Article 80 approvals, and rezone square and corridors Citywide
Mayor Michelle Wu today announced a series of reforms to advance growth and ensure that the City’s planning and development resources are directed toward addressing the City’s greatest challenges of today, including climate resilience, equitable growth, and housing affordability. Mayor Wu made a portion of this announcement in her 2023 State of the City Address.
Mayor Wu will establish a City Planning and Design Department operating under the direction of Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison and create a Citywide Planning Advisory Council to increase coordination between City departments. The Mayor also committed to update Boston’s zoning code to create thousands of additional housing units in Boston’s squares and corridors and reform the Article 80 process to increase speed and predictability for development. These steps will ensure accountability and transparency in the City’s work to shape and encourage inclusive growth.
“As we look to the year ahead, our administration is focused on building a green and growing city for everyone,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Under the leadership of Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison, we’re charting a new course for growth, with people as our compass. Together, we can all build a Boston where the things we build inspire—but don’t define—us and where each generation shines brighter than the last.”
“The transformation of planning and development announced today will help us build trust in our communities and provide a predictable, comprehensive vision for the growth of our city,” said Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. “Today’s zoning code needs to be modernized. The Mayor’s announcement is a step toward realizing our vision for completing new and existing plans, rezoning our city, and implementing a development review process that prioritizes making Boston more resilient, affordable and equitable.”
City Planning and Design Department
Under the Mayor’s proposal, the BPDA board will continue to approve development projects, promote affordable housing and community development through the use of real estate powers, and develop resilience infrastructure to adapt to climate change. Over the coming months and years, current staff of the BPDA will integrate with the City Planning and Design Department. Many cities across Massachusetts and throughout the United States have quasi-governmental redevelopment authorities or agency boards that hold real estate powers and are staffed by city employees.
Boston Planning Advisory Council
The Boston Planning Advisory Council (PAC), which is being created by an Executive Order signed by Mayor Wu today, will establish a coordinated Citywide vision for Boston’s future and create accountability for delivering on that vision. The PAC will be composed of Cabinet officials, including those overseeing housing, parks, equity and inclusion, arts, and transportation, to ensure that long-range planning includes those perspectives.
The PAC, which will be staffed by City employees who report to the Chief of Planning, will break down silos between City departments, tie planning efforts to the City’s capital budgeting process, and serve as a central authority for initiating, reviewing, and implementing Citywide planning. The PAC will take responsibility for improving interdepartmental engagement in planning efforts, creating transparency with community members, and ensuring planning efforts support those who have historically not been represented in the planning process.
Zoning Reform and Planning Direction
As the first step to grow to Boston’s former peak population of 800,000, Chief Jemison will build out a team focused on evaluating and modernizing the zoning code, enabling equitable growth across Boston neighborhoods. Planners will complete all ongoing neighborhood plans so they can be codified into zoning and launch a Citywide plan to rezone and enhance squares and corridors, creating the opportunity for thousands of new housing units, and neighborhood small businesses, retail, and jobs. The goal is to make the development process more predictable for community members and developers, and to reduce the number of proposals that require relief from the Zoning Board of Appeal.
Second, Planning and Urban Design will work with Parks and Recreation to launch a new civic and green space master plan to support the growth of our City. They will also launch a Citywide design vision to ensure that new development and growth in the city reflects the diversity of the people of Boston. Zoning and design policies will be updated to reflect the design vision in order to ensure that Boston continues to maintain and build upon its unique architectural character.
Third, Chief Jemison will build out the nation’s first Coastal Resilience Delivery Team, which will act immediately to protect Boston from climate change through the implementation of climate resilient infrastructure. To help achieve this goal, the agency will be empowered to participate in the real estate market to acquire land to protect against flooding.
Article 80 Reform
In the coming weeks, the City will create a stakeholder advisory group to work with the BPDA to improve the Article 80 development review process, make it more efficient and predictable for communities and developers, and leverage design as a tool for advancing the City’s agenda around affordable housing, resilience, and equity. This process will include the creation of a scorecard that ties evaluation of projects directly to how the proposed development contributes to the City’s resilience, affordability, and equity goals. Projects that advance these priorities will be eligible for tools and assistance to help them begin construction more quickly. The review of Article 80 will also seek to establish greater transparency and predictability in community engagement, mitigation and community benefits, process milestones, and the review timeline.