On November 4, 1975, the city's voters approved a new City Charter. Section 197-c of the new charter stated that "applications by any person or agency respecting the use, development, or improvement of real property subject to city regulation shall be reviewed pursuant to a uniform review procedure." That section further required the City Planning Commission to establish procedures for such review by June 1, 1976. On June 1, 1976, after a public review process, the Commission adopted these procedures, commonly known as ULURP. The procedures became applicable to applications filed with the City Planning Commission starting on July 1, 1976. Subsequent charter changes in 1989 (and consequent ULURP Rules changes) continued this process with changes to reflect the dissolution of the Board of Estimate and the assumption of land use powers by the City Council.
The establishment of ULURP reflected two trends underway in the 1950’s and 1960’s: the increasing involvement of the city's Community Boards in the development of the city and a substantial increase in community participation in many aspects of government. The boards originated in Manhattan in 1951, when Manhattan Borough President Robert F. Wagner established 12 Community Planning Councils, later known as Community Planning Boards. These boards were the city's first formal participatory vehicles for neighborhood groups. The planning councils were designed to advise the Borough President on local planning and budgetary matters. The other borough presidents created similar groups.
In the late 1960's, there was a significant upsurge in community participation, aided in part by a requirement of community participation in Federal programs such as Model Cities. In 1968, as required by the City Charter of 1963, the city was divided into 62 community districts and the role of community boards as advisors to the city government was statutorily established. Each board was given the responsibility for advising the City Planning Commission on "any matter relating to the development or welfare of its district." In 1968, Section 84 of the City Charter which established Community Planning Boards, was repealed and reenacted under Local Law 39. The law spelled out in greater detail the structure and power of the now renamed Community Boards. Local Law 39 required that city departments shall:
During the next decade, the boards gained stature as effective vehicles for the expression of local views on a wide variety of public issues, especially those related to land use.
The State Charter Revision Commission for New York City, established by legislation in 1972, viewed the boards as appropriate recipients of new responsibilities and duties in relation to land use and development and these were included in the new City Charter adopted by the voters on November 4, 1975. The city is now divided into 59 community districts, each represented by a Community Board with up to 50 members who live or work within the district. Board members, who serve without pay, are appointed by the Borough President, half on the recommendation of local City Council members.