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

  • Mary T. Flynn, Chair
  • Tom Sieniewicz, Vice Chair
  • H Theodore Cohen
  • Mary Lydecker
  • Diego Macias
  • Adam Buchanan Westbrook
  • Ashley Tan

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

  • Daniel Anderson
  • Joy Jackson

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 Discussions

The update to the rules in 2016 followed discussions held in 2014-2016 around ways to improve the Planning Board review process. These included focus group discussions with community stakeholders, discussions at Planning Board meetings, and a City Council / Planning Board roundtable meeting. Recommendations focused on five areas:

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

The following reports were created in the course of these discussions:

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