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Boston Launches New Planning Department, Major Step Toward Dissolving BPDA

Boston City Hall

After two years of pushing to abolish the Boston Planning & Development Agency, Mayor Michelle Wu has officially launched a new planning department to hasten the BPDA's demise.

The launch comes after a restructuring of the agency, transitioning the majority of its staff into this new planning department under city control, Wu announced Monday. Her office's release said this is the first time the city has had a dedicated planning department in 70 years. 

“Our goal to make Boston a green and growing city depends on planning together for our brightest future,” Wu said in a statement. “With our new Planning Department, we will be able to unlock a future for our City that truly centers Bostonians’ needs and brings communities together in making Boston home for generations to come.”

The new planning department will include divisions of planning and zoning, development review, urban design and real estate. Staff will also support the Boston Civic Design Commission, Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.

The BPDA board of directors will remain as the city's planning board, but Wu is still in the process of revamping the city's development review process to modernize and streamline it.

The transition has been years in the making since then-City Councilor Wu made abolishing the quasi-governmental BPDA one of the focal points of her mayoral campaign. Since then, the mayor has made incremental changes to make it possible. 

At the beginning of this year, Wu filed an ordinance to dissolve the two entities attached to the agency — the Boston Redevelopment Agency and the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. — during a legislative committee hearing to create a new entity named the BPDA.

In March, the Boston City Council voted to replace the BPDA in an 8-3 vote. The vote was contentious, with those in opposition arguing that it would spell trouble for current BPDA staffers.

Staff and labor experts argued that the move would be confusing and create new problems with current pay structures, job security and retirement, Politico reported. On behalf of the agency employees, the United Steelworkers filed a petition with the state's Department of Labor Relations in April to form a bargaining unit.

While Wu's announcement indicated the "majority" of BPDA's staff would transition to the new department, it didn't provide specifics as to how many jobs would be cut.