On Dec. 15, 2021, the City Council approved the City’s rezoning plan for the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods. The Council’s action completed the legislative process, thereby turning the plan into law. The stated objectives of the plan include creation of significant opportunities for new housing, including affordable housing; introducing bulk and use regulations that better reflect existing conditions; strengthening the uniquely mixed-use character of the neighborhoods; and celebrating the unique architectural and creative legacies of the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods.

The new zoning replaces outdated zoning regulations that precluded residential use and severely restricted ground floor uses. Prior zoning regulations applicable in M1-5A and M1-5B districts — which were mapped only in SoHo and NoHo — had long been out of step with the existing land use conditions. Despite the prevalence of residential and retail uses in the area, housing was limited to joint living-work quarters for artists, and ground floor retail stores were only permitted on small lots in a limited part of the area.

The approved plan includes zoning map and text amendments that encompass a 56-block area. It replaces the prior M1-5A and M1-5B districts with paired manufacturing and residential zoning districts — M1-5/R7D, M1-5/R7X, M1-5A/R9A, M1-5/R9X and M1-6/R10 — that have varying permissible densities and bulk regulations. The plan also establishes the Special SoHo-NoHo Mixed-Use District and modifies the underlying use and bulk regulations of the paired districts with more fine-grained provisions to reflect the unique characteristics of different areas within the special district.

The adopted rezoning plan allows a mix of residential, commercial, community facility and manufacturing uses as of right. Most residential developments, enlargements and conversions are subject to Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements.

The approval comes after years of study and a highly contentious public review process. It is likely that there will be litigation challenging the rezoning on the basis of various claimed deficiencies in the zoning itself or the process that led to its enactment.