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How the Zoning Board of Appeal works

How the Zoning Board of Appeal works

We inspect and review buildings for zoning compliance. The board regulates the rules behind what you can build and where you can build in Boston.


Zoning laws regulate construction and how you can use land in the City. The laws also regulate the size and boundaries of private property.

Codes keep developers from creating buildings that don’t fit a neighborhood, or would cause disruptions. For example, zoning code allows a homeowner to build an addition, but doesn’t allow an auto body shop to open in a residential area.

City officials created the Boston Zoning Code in 1964. There are now 14 neighborhood codes and 18 codes for downtown Boston and the waterfront. Learn more about zoning and how it might affect your project at the next Zoning Clinic. You can also find the zoning for addresses in the City.

Still have questions? Contact:
Inspectional Services
1010 Massachusetts Avenue
5th Floor
Boston, MA 02118
United States
Public hearings

To find information on upcoming Board of Appeal hearings, please visit the public notices section of

Go to public notices

Zoning Board of Appeal

The board reviews exceptions to the City’s zoning code. The mayor appoints seven people to the board every three years. They meet every other Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. The meetings take place at:

1 City Hall Square, Room 801
Boston, MA 02201

You can ask for an exception if your project gets rejected because it doesn’t meet a City zoning code. You have go to a public hearing to explain why you think you should get an exception to the zoning code. Learn how to apply for an appeal.

Work of the Boston Redevelopment Authority

The Boston Redevelopment Authority reviews appeal applications. They help builders plan projects and stay within zoning codes. When reviewing an appeal application, they'll make recommendations to the Zoning Board on what to do.

They work with community groups and neighboring property owners. They also attend public hearings and help builders through the approval process. Contact the Zoning Planer.

Zoning Clinic

The Zoning Clinic creates a customer-friendly atmosphere where anybody trying to navigate through the zoning process has a one-on-one, 15-minute session to discuss general or specific zoning questions. 

The clinic takes place every Tuesday from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Plans and Zoning, Counter Two, Inspectional Services, 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, on the 5th Floor.  Please call ahead if you need a translator.

Residential issues covered in the Zoning Clinic include:

  • additions,
  • change of occupancy from one, two or three-family maximum,
  • exterior decks,
  • roof decks,
  • porches,
  • swimming pools,
  • extension of floor area to basements and attics,
  • fences,
  • off-street parking,
  • accessory structures as garages,
  • sheds,
  • patios, and
  • sunrooms. 

Commercial issues reviewed in the Zoning Clinic include:

  • increasing occupancy loads
  • signage
  • take-out restaurant use
  • offices
  • home business uses, and
  • more.
Here to help

We hired a customer service representative to guide constituents through the permit application process, and refer them to the appropriate department.  Customer service staff members reflect the philosophy that the department is a service-based agency whose processes must be accessible and understandable to the customer. 

More resources

You can check out the zoning codes in Boston before you start planning. Have questions for the Zoning Board of Appeal? You can contact them at:

Zoning Board of Appeal
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02118
Phone: 617-635-4775
Fax: 617-635-2918
Office hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.