About Planning and Zoning

The Planning Division develops recommendations that allow us to best utilize our available land resources in meeting the needs of our residents and businesses. We seek to develop more and better community focused spaces while preserving the character of Somerville and incorporating the vision residents have for their neighborhoods. The Planning Division pursues these goals by administering and implementing the SomerVision comprehensive plan; which addresses the City's goals, policies, and actions for the years of 2010 to 2030. SomerVision and our neighborhood planning projects help us understand the needs of residents, while our zoning code aims to keep development aligned with our long-term planning goals.

More Information

You can learn more about SomerVision at www.somervillebydesign.com/planning/somervision

You can learn more about our Neighborhood Plans at www.somervillebydesign.com

The Planning Division also administers the Historic Preservation ordinances by providing review and recommendation of cases before the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Historic Preservation Commission. You can learn more about the Historic Preservation Commission on their web page.

Information about projects reviewed by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is provided further down the page.

General responsibilities of the Planning Division include:

  • Planning, organizing, directing, and coordinating planning activities for the City of Somerville, including updating and implementation of the City's Zoning Ordinance.
  • Administering planning and zoning activities before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, including preparation of reports and memoranda on matters before each Board.
  • Administering planning and zoning activities before the Design Review Committee on permit applications subject to design review.
  • Maintaining Somerville's historic resources and its unique character will ultimately benefit all members of the community by bolstering pride and drawing visitors to the City.
  • Coordinating the flow of information and procedures with other related City departments and offices.
  • Performing duties as directed by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, including maintaining current and historical statistics, reports, analysis relevant to the activities and needs of the Boards.
  • Serving as liaison with the other metropolitan, state and federal agencies and private institutions on matters pertaining to planning and zoning regulations and best practices.
  • Supporting sustainable growth that expands job opportunities, improves services and contributes to the City's tax base.
  • Strive to enhance relationships with residents and neighborhood organizations and to expand participation in the planning process.
  • Important Resources

  • Review Boards & Officials

  • Studies & Proposed Amendments

  • Reports & Decisions

  • Regulations & Policies

  • Forms & Information

The new Somerville Zoning Ordinance (SZO) can be found at www.somervillezoning.com. The regulations took effect immediately, so the previous ordinance is no longer applicable. As a result, all existing Special Permit and Variance applications submitted under the previous ordinance (stamped by the City Clerk prior to December 12, 2019) are considered null and void. We in Planning & Zoning (P&Z) are trying to streamline this transition as much as possible.

Projects filed with the City Clerk PRIOR to December 12th

To re-apply under the new ordinance, please call 617-625-6600 x2500 or email [email protected] to set up a meeting with a planner. We can review your case together and help facilitate the next steps through the revised process. The new Somerville Zoning Ordinance requires that almost all development, including “by-right” development in any zoning district, must submit a Development Review Application (DRA) and, after review for conformance, be issued a Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC). A CZC certifies that development plans conform to the provisions of the SZO and that any additional type of discretionary or administrative development review (Special Permits or Variance) required by the SZO has been completed in accordance with the provisions of Article 15: Administration.

NOTE: normal maintenance (which is defined as improvements intended to keep an existing structure in good physical condition including, but not limited to, painting, roof replacement, re-siding, window replacement, and other improvements that are deemed to be cosmetic or de minimis in nature by the Building Official) is excluded from submitting a DRA and does not require a CZC.

Projects filed with the City Clerk AFTER December 12th

Projects filed with the City Clerk after December 12th will be notified by a case planner. These applications will likely require additional information and may require additional forms to be submitted with revised citations under the new SZO process requirements. Also, to meet the Building Types permitted in each district, redesign may also be required, or new/different Special Permits/Variances required. However, as I mentioned, we are trying to keep projects moving forward in a timely manner - please reach out to us if you have not been contacted by January 8th.


The good news is that in the Neighborhood Residential and Urban Residential districts - that replaced much of the RA and RB districts - many projects are now “by-right”. Projects such as basement finishing, many interior renovations, and some additions simply need to fill out a DRA to Inspectional Services (ISD) to proceed. If the submitted project meets the dimensional standards (for example; a dormer that matches exterior Building Components), a CZC will be issued and then all building code requirements will be reviewed as usual for Building Permits. The projects that do not meet the initial zoning review will still require Special Permits or Variances and will be routed to P&Z directly from ISD.

My entire team is here to help so please contact us by email or phone with questions. If you are considering a new project, please reach out to schedule a meeting early so we can be of most assistance. 

The Planning Division maintains three websites that offer a more
in-depth look at Planning and Zoning initiatives in the City:


Thumbnail preview of SomervilleZoning.com

The Somerville City Council adopted a new Somerville Zoning Ordinance and Official Zoning Atlas on December 12, 2019. SomervilleZoning.com is the new home of the Somerville Zoning Ordinance and provides a digital copy of the document and Atlas, guidance for navigating the new permitting process, copies of any future proposed Text Amendments or Map changes, technical reports, and more.


Thumbnail preview of SomervilleByDesign.com

SomervilleByDesign.com tracks the City's neighborhood planning initiatives as we work to create safer, friendlier, and more efficient streets and public spaces.


Thumbnail preview of SomerVision2040.com

At SomerVision2040.com, you can learn more about the SomerVision2030 goals and our progress since 2010, and join us as we update SomerVision and extend the plan to 2040!


When is/was the first hearing date for this case?