Boston Zoning Appeal Archive Specification

Version 1.0 2019-11-14

Section 1: Introduction

The Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) only offers PDF meeting minutes, leaving residents wanting for a different, more structure dataformat that would enable analysis, so this specification was developed to support that use case.

This specification is currently implemented by Nat Taylor and available on the web at

Section 2: Methodology

The ZBA meeting minutes available at are first converted to HTML with pdftohtml The resulting HTML is then parsed into JSON that adheres to this specification.

The specification is flexible and allows the implementation to normalize the data by fixing typos, removing unnecessary tokens, joining with lookup tables and summarizing phrases (etc).

Section 3: Case Specification

Each case follows this case specification. Currently, none of the fields are required.

Property Type Description
appeal string The appeal ID (e.g. BOA-123456) normalized for consistency (e.g. BOA#123 → BOA-123)
address string The address, normalized to remove trailing commas etc (e.g. "123 Fake St, " → "123 Fake St")
ward string The ward from List 4.1
applicant string The applicant, normalized to remove trailing abbreviations like ", Esq" and to fix typos like "Timuthy" → "Timothy"
articles object A dictionary of the articles from which relief is requested of the form ARTICLE(ARTICLE.SECTION) (e.g. "(53(53.1)"), where the term can be defined by an array of specific phrases from the code, if present (e.g. "Excessive Building Height (feet)")
purpose string The purpose
discussion string The discussion
testimony string The testimony
documents string The documents
vote string The vote inferred from the vote verbiage (e.g. "voted unanimously to deny" → "DENIED")
status string The appeal status from List 4.2 inferred from the raw status (e.g. when a vote approves a deferral, then "DEFERRED")
parcel string The GIS parcel id, if available, from joining to City Assessing data on ST_NUM and ST_NAME.
date date The date the appeal was heard
type string The type of appeal, usually from List 4.3, but the raw value if the list lookup fails

Section 4: Lists

List 4.1 Wards

1 East Boston
2 Charlestown
3 Back Bay/Beacon Hill; Downtown/North End/South End
4 Back Bay/Beacon Hill; Downtown/North End/South End; Jamaica Plain/Mission Hill
5 Back Bay/Beacon Hill; Downtown/North End/South End; Fenway/Kenmore
6 South Boston
7 South Boston
8 Downtown/North End/South End; North Dorchester; Roxbury/Franklin Field
9 Downtown/North End/South End
10 Fenway/Kenmore; Jamaica Plain/Mission Hill
11 Jamaica Plain/Mission Hill
12 Jamaica Plain/Mission Hill; Roxbury/Franklin Field
13 North Dorchester
14 South Dorchester; Mattapan; Roxbury/Franklin Field
15 North Dorchester; South Dorchester
16 South Dorchester
17 South Dorchester; Mattapan; Roxbury/Franklin Field
18 Hyde Park; Mattapan; Roslindale/Moss Hill/West Roxbury
19 Jamaica Plain/Mission Hill; Roslindale/Moss Hill/West Roxbury
20 Roslindale/Moss Hill/West Roxbury
21 Allston/Brighton
22 Allston/Brighton

List 4.2 Appeal Status

Status Description

List 4.3 Appeal Type