Coletta Highlights the Need for Transparency in the Article 80 Development Review Process

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta introduced a hearing order regarding ongoing efforts to reform Article 80 in Boston’s Zoning Code. While the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) began undergoing a revamp of the process last year, the general public and the Boston City Council have largely been left out of conversations and therefore have been neglected the opportunity to influence reform of the development review process to benefit their neighborhoods. Co-sponsors include newly-elected Councilor John FitzGerald (District 3) of Dorchester and Councilor Tania Fernades Anderson of Roxbury (District 7).

Under Article 80, communities have the opportunity to engage in the large development review process and extract adequate and fair mitigation for their neighborhoods. However, the current process is seen by many in the community as flawed and that it lacks clear assessment of community needs to better inform this mitigation negotiated by the BPDA. This leads to investments that frequently do not address issues related to a lack of affordable housing, workforce development, public realm improvements, open space and parks creation, and expansion of arts & cultural spaces.

“The current process as it relates to community benefits lacks clear assessment of community needs and subsequent investments. It is largely an ad hoc process that takes place within the BPDA and I’m hopeful this reform will change that,” said Coletta. “There’s no rhyme or reason or designated equation for community mitigation under Article 80. It is imperative that Councilors provide their experience and perspective to better inform how to center community feedback and development mechanisms to extract adequate and fair mitigation for our neighborhoods.”

Additionally, the existing comment period under Article 80 is an open call for feedback with little to no understanding from residents of how the BPDA synthesizes and applies public comments to reflect project changes. The existing method makes it difficult for individuals who don’t have the capacity to attend multiple city-sponsored meetings or who aren’t familiar with local bureaucracy.

In 2023, Mayor Wu announced efforts to modernize Article 80 to comprehensively update the BPDA’s development review process. A steering committee composed of real estate and civic leaders was formed to advise the Mayor’s Office and the BPDA on improvements for community engagement as well as internal operations.

The goal of Councilor Coletta’s docket is to provide oversight and accountability to ensure the new version of Article 80 will truly consider how to maximize mitigation and meaningfully reflect neighborhood sentiment. The hearing will also provide an opportunity for the public to engage in the ongoing process, comment on how to make Article 80 successful, and have influence over the reform outcomes.

This docket was referred to the Committee on Planning, Development, and Transportation chaired by Councilor Sharon Durkan (District 8) of Beacon Hill. A date for the Article 80 Modernization hearing will be noticed on and on the Councilor’s social media. Members of the public are encouraged to provide written or oral comments. 

Additionally at the second Council meeting for the 2024-2025 legislative session, Councilor Coletta presented refiles from the previous legislative session, such as: 

• An ordinance establishing street food enterprises in the City of Boston Municipal Code by inserting Chapter 17, Section 22, Permitting and Regulation of non-motorized street food carts.

• An ordinance formally creating the Office of Food Justice and establishing a food recovery program in the City of Boston

• Hearing regarding implementing coastal resilience strategies for Boston’s waterfront

• Hearing regarding an Environmental Justice and Climate Change Curriculum pilot program in BPS

• Hearing regarding menstrual product accessibility in the City of Boston

• Hearing regarding technological infrastructure improvements across city departments

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