Key Changes in Somerville’s Zoning Code

The City of Somerville has overhauled its zoning code to better represent the needs of the city’s residents.

Somerville is a dynamic, growing city, with an exceptionally healthy community, and with a wonderful mix of creative endeavors and local businesses. The latest code recognizes that.

Its number one aim is to make Somerville a national leader in using zoning to produce affordable housing with the most ambitious inclusionary housing requirements in the state. Beyond that, it plans to maintain neighborhood character, and support the arts and creative economy that make Somerville so special.

Key points:

  • In areas of the city where major new development is planned, up to 20% of new units must be set aside for affordable housing.
  • Incentivizes redevelopment projects to assist in funding City programs to produce affordable housing in existing neighborhoods.
  • Allocates a proportion of affordable housing to be priced for middle income households.
  • Orients the production of affordable housing to transit accessibility.
  • Allows homeowners to add common enhancements and small rear additions to their homes without the need for extensive review processes.
  • Ensures that infill development fits into the form, scale, and pattern of existing neighborhoods and squares.
  • Creation of new districts zoned specifically for artisan production, exhibition, sales, service, education, shared workspaces, and similar uses by the arts and creative economy.
  • Permits certified artists to live within studio space in the new Fabrication District.
  • Allows arts and creative economy use of shop fronts in any district.
  • Requires new buildings in certain districts to set aside 5% of gross floor area as leasable arts and creative use spaces.
  • Implements incentives for small, local businesses.
  • Only permits formula businesses (chains) and big-box stores (retail over 10,000 square feet) by special permit.
  • Supports the development of new corner stores and permits the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings into corner stores.
  • Permits the adaptive reuse of former civic, institutional, or municipal buildings into arts and creative economy uses.
  • Harnesses the demand for residential housing to redevelop underutilized areas of the city as new neighborhoods.
  • Establishes transit-oriented parking standards across the entire city.
  • Focuses development intensity within a quarter-mile of existing and future MBTA transit stations.
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