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Mayor Wu Marks Creation of New City Planning Department with Signing Ceremony

 In the West End today, Mayor Michelle Wu signed an ordinance to create a Planning Department in the City of Boston for the first time in 70 years. The ordinance restores planning as a core function of City government, ensuring its inclusion in the City’s budget, and allows for the transfer of current staff from the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) to the new Planning Department. 

“Today we mark a long-overdue new chapter in Boston’s growth—grounded in affordability, resiliency, and equity,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “This ordinance is the biggest step Boston has taken in 70 years to finally begin untangling a system of development rooted in an outdated ideology that left scars in our communities. I look forward to the work ahead with all of our residents to engage with this new Planning Department and shape Boston’s future.”

This ordinance is a major piece of Mayor Wu’s vision to transform planning and development in Boston and complements other initiatives including: a home rule petition to end urban renewal and establish a new mission focused on resilience, affordability, and equity; the establishment of the planning advisory council; citywide zoning reform, including the “Squares + Streets” initiative to increase the availability of housing near transit, the modernization of the development review process and a design framework for guiding future development. The new Planning Department will house planning, zoning, development review, urban design, and real estate staff, as well as the support staff currently at the BPDA. The Department will be led by Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. 

“Today marks an important step in our work to truly transform planning and development in Boston and ensure we are speaking to residents with one voice as the City of Boston,” said Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. “Under Mayor Wu’s leadership, I’m looking forward to establishing a Planning Department that can tackle Boston’s greatest challenges and plan for a City that is more resilient, affordable, and equitable.”

In addition to the creation of the Department and a pathway for the transfer of staff, the ordinance codifies the purpose of the Department as creating comprehensive plans for Boston’s built environment, a predictable zoning code and development process, urban design standards, and planning for the best use of publicly-owned land. It also formalizes the financial transfer between the City and BPDA so that the move will be cost-neutral to the City. The ordinance, which was filed by the Mayor in January, was formally approved by the Boston City Council on Wednesday, March 27.

"We know climate action requires a whole-of-government response, but that does not currently include our planning and development process. That’s part of why even new developments are flooded, exacerbated by rising sea levels. This ordinance changes that,” said Hessann Farooqi, Executive Director of Boston Climate Action Network. “This Ordinance makes environmental resilience and coastal protection a core goal of the planning and development process for the first time. It’s an important step in making our developments work for everyone—today and for future generations. I commend Mayor Wu, her Administration, and our City Council for their work on this. I look forward to working with our partners in City Hall to ensure development is driven by resident needs, not just the deepest-pocketed developers."

“Integrating planning and development functions into the rest of the city government allows for a more streamlined and coordinated process that will ensure that new development helps the City of Boston improve its transportation infrastructure, reach Vision Zero goals, and support regional mobility infrastructure like the MBTA and Blue Bikes,” said Jarred Johnson, Executive Director of Transit Matters. “We're thrilled to see this change happen.”

The Department will be included in the FY25 proposed budget and will be operational as of July 1, 2024. Moving forward, the Planning Department budget will be reviewed through the City’s budget process, like other City departments. Staff of the Department will support the BPDA Board, which will remain the City’s Planning Board, reviewing development projects, planning and zoning initiatives, and land acquisition and disposition. Planning Department staff will also support the Zoning Commission and provide recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeal, as current BPDA staff currently provides. 

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