Planning Board Information

About the Planning Board

The Cambridge Planning Board is a volunteer board of Cambridge residents responsible for making decisions and recommendations on matters related to urban planning and development. The specific responsibilities of the Planning Board include the following:

  • Reviewing development proposals that require certain special permits under the provisions of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance and Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws. See more about Special Permits.
  • Holding public hearings and making recommendations to the City Council on proposed amendments to the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance. See more about Zoning Amendments.
  • Discussing possible amendments to the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance based on planning work undertaken by the City.
  • Hosting Town-Gown Presentations delivered annually by Cambridge's colleges and universities. See more about Town-Gown process.
  • Engaging in general planning efforts to improve the physical environment of the City.

Planning Board Membership

  • H Theodore Cohen, Chair
  • Catherine Preston Connolly, Vice Chair
  • Louis J. Bacci, Jr.
  • Steven A. Cohen
  • Mary T. Flynn
  • Hugh Russell
  • Tom Sieniewicz

The following Associate Members participate in Planning Board discussions and are appointed to vote on cases when full members are absent or unable to vote.

  • Ahmed Nur
  • Thacher Tiffany

Planning Board Rules

The Cambridge Planning Board operates using the following rules.  Among other purposes, these rules outline the procedures for consideration of Special Permits and Zoning Petitions.

Rules and Process Discussion

During the later part of 2014 CDD held a series of focus group discussions with various stakeholders involved in the Planning Board process. The focus group sessions, which followed an evening of public comment held at the Planning Board, enabled people to come together in an informal environment and cooperatively work together to discuss ways to improve the Planning Board process. Recommendations came to focus around five areas:

  • Improve web site design
  • Improve meeting logistics
  • Improve public notification and access to information
  • Improve understanding at all phase of the project
  • Strengthen CDD role
  • Establish an early community engagement process

The recommendations were discussed during City Council roundtable meeting attended by the Planning Board and CDD staff on January 12, 2015.  The following memo discusses the process the process used to collect recommendations and lays out the recommendations themselves in detail:

Potential changes to Planning Board rules and community engagement guidelines have been under discussion. The following documents summarize the changes that have been considered to date:

For more information contact Stuart Dash, Director of Community Planning, at 617/349-4640, or sdash@cambridgema.gov.

Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance

Consideration of a proposed zoning amendment requires public hearings to be held by both the City Council and the Planning Board. The City Council is responsible for final adoption and ordination of proposed amendments. After holding its public hearing, the Planning Board may submit a recommendation to the City Council on whether or not to adopt the proposed amendment and may also suggest changes.

Special Permits

The Planning Board is the Special Permit Granting Authority for those uses listed as "PB" in the Zoning Ordinance Article 4.000 - Use Regulations. The Planning Board conducts public hearings where applicants present proposals, public testimony is taken and findings are made as to the relief being sought.

Special Permit Pending Applications and Granted Permits

Follow this link to find all special permit applications, supporting documents, hearing notices, and decisions for all applications submitted since the beginning of 2011. For each application you will find information about the proposal, relevant zoning ordinance sections and supporting documentation.

All special permits granted but not built, under construction, or completed since the beginning of 2011 can be found on the Special Permits Interactive Map. Select a permit to learn more and find links to relevant documents.

Locations of all granted Planning Board special permits not later withdrawn are found on the Zoning Viewer maintained by the city's GIS staff.

Special Permit Application Form

Planning Board special permits require the completion of a multi-part application. Follow this link for more information.

Town Gown Reports

For information about and copies of the Town Gown Reports submitted by Cambridge College, Harvard University, Lesley University and MIT, see the Institutional Planning home page.

For More Information

For more information about the Planning Board contact Liza Paden at 617/349-4647 or lpaden@cambridgema.gov.