Three Good News Items for your Tuesday!

We sometimes have the opportunity to write about actual newsy items happening around our neighborhood and today is such a day as we have 3 good ones for everyone:

  • Sweeties has landed!

We were all sad to see Stephanie Ortiz move out of the area and Jimmie’s exit the square’s retail scene, but our sadness is now somewhat lessened by the arrival of their successors at 46 Corinth Street – Sweeties and their new “delightfully social” ice cream/fruit mix-ins concept. They’ve soft opened in the last few days. Go on down and give them a try. You won’t be disappointed!

  • Rozzidents for More Rozzidents warms our hearts

As part of the pro-housing movement ourselves, we are greatly encouraged by the emergence of “Rozzidents for More Rozzidents” as part of the advocacy ecosystem here in Roslindale. On their facebook page, they describe themselves as “A group advocating for secure, abundant, and affordable housing in Roslindale, Boston, and beyond.” We couldn’t agree more with these sentiments and their buttons and stickers are supercool.

  • We’re tabling! This Saturday – 8 June 2024! At the Farmers Market!

That’s right. Come find us anytime between 9:00 am and 1:30 pm this Saturday in Adams Park (we think; either there or Birch Plaza). We’ll be there with our table, banner, street chalk, and goodies, ready to talk about our mission, activities, and what’s next. Hope to see you there!

Virtual Visioning Session for Squares + Streets – Tomorrow – 7 May 2024 @ 6-8 pm

The BPDA will be hosting a virtual visioning session tomorrow night, 7 May 2024, from 6 to 8 pm (Register here). The session parallels last week’s in-person session. BPDA staff describe the session as an opportunity “to collaborate with the community on generating ideas for potential planning and zoning recommendations for the Roslindale Square Squares + Streets Plan. This session will include a summary of existing conditions analysis, feedback received to-date and community visions for different topic areas, as well as hands-on activities to contribute your ideas for potential recommendations.”

More information about the session can be found here.

Squares + Streets Update – Visioning Workshop right ahead – 29 April 2024 – 6:00 pm at the RCC

We’ve just had an informative zoning session, anchored by a really useful zoning primer presentation, and now we’re on to a visioning workshop. Information pulled from the BPDA’s recent newsletter email directly below. Attendance is encouraged if you can make it!

Roslindale Square Squares + Streets Visioning Workshop Register 
Monday, April 29 | 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM | Roslindale Community Center BCYF | 6 Cummins Highway | Roslindale, MA 02131

The BPDA is hosting an in-person visioning session to collaborate with the community on generating ideas for potential planning and zoning recommendations for the Roslindale Square Squares + Streets  Plan. This session will include a summary of existing conditions analysis, feedback received to-date and community visions for different topic areas, as well as hands-on activities to contribute your ideas for potential recommendations.  

[Learn more about this event]

ATTENTION: Mayor’s Neighborhood Coffee Hour – 25 April 2024 – 9:30 am to 10:30 am in Adams Park

This one snuck up on us, but very much worth attending to connect with the Mayor and City staff and our neighbors. Here’s the official write-up from the city’s website:


Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department host the 2024 Neighborhood Coffee Hour Series in local parks citywide from April 22 to June 26.

Mayor Wu’s Neighborhood Coffee Hours are a unique opportunity to speak directly with the Mayor and staff from City departments about open space and their neighborhoods. Dunkin’ will be on-site to fuel the local community with freshly brewed Iced Coffee and Donuts. Dunkin’ will brew up even more fun with gift card giveaways. Residents at each event will also be eligible to win a raffle prize from Dunkin’. In addition, each family in attendance will receive a free flowering plant provided by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, while supplies last. Fresh fruit will be provided by Star Market. Additional support by City Express.

For more information and updates on possible weather cancellations, please contact the Boston Parks and Recreation Department at 617-635-4505, on our social channels @bostonparksdept on XFacebook, and Instagram, or by visiting the Parks Department website.

Another installment of Squares + Streets Roslindale News – Foundational Zones Adopted by Zoning Commission, Upcoming Zoning Meeting on 24 April 2024, and AHMA’s initial analysis online

Three things to know:

  1. Squares + Streets Foundational Zones Adopted by Zoning CommissionThis past Wednesday, 17 April 2024, saw the Boston Zoning Commission, by a vote of 7-1, adopt the full set of S+S foundational zones – S-0 through S-5 – into the Boston Zoning Code as Article 26, along with a broad range of other modifications to the code. WalkUP Roslindale submitted its own comment letter and your correspondent testified in favor at the hearing, along with District 5 Councilor Enrique Pepen, among others supportive of the proposal. Congratulations and thanks to the city planning line staff who worked so hard to get these building blocks roughed into shape and to Director of Planning Aimee Chambers, to BPDA Director Arthur Jemison, and to Mayor Michelle Wu for supporting this work and leading the effort to get the initial step all the way over the line. Now, we turn in true earnest to the small area planning process here in Roslindale Square to figure out how best to land these zones within a framework of city policies, programs, and ordinances that will make our neighborhood center a better functioning, more welcoming place.
  2. Squares + Streets Upcoming Meeting THIS WEEKZoning Workshop, 6 pm on 24 April 2024, Roslindale Community Center (corner Cummins & Washington). This is going to be an in-person meeting. If you’re reading this, we encourage you to attend for as much of the meeting as possible. BPDA staff describe the agenda and intent as follows: At this workshop, community members will be introduced to zoning as a tool that guides development and will discuss zoning through a community development mindset. The workshop will start with a walkthrough of how zoning works in Boston with a focus on existing zoning regulations in Roslindale Square and proposed zoning in Squares + Streets zoning districts as context. The second half of the workshop will be an interactive, facilitated activity to think about how proposals for community development projects would have to interact with existing zoning regulations in Roslindale Square. By the end of the workshop, community members will have engaged in initial conversations about community development goals that will support future engagement conversations on how the mapping of Squares + Streets zoning districts can support those goals.
  3. AHMA gets the ball rolling on S+S buildout scenarios – Our friends over at Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA), the Commonwealth-wide pro-housing organization, recently released their preliminary analysis of the likely range of new residential units that could result from Squares + Streets in Roslindale Square. Briefly stated, AHMA’s research projects that Roslindale’s Squares + Streets rezoning could result, over the next decade, in 300 to 1700 new residential units. That is a very broad range indeed. AHMA’s projections are presented in accessible PDFs and an interactive online tool. The tool allows users to adjust assumptions and explore rezoning’s impacts on housing production, property tax revenue, and zoning nonconformance. AHMA have also prepared a detailed video walkthrough for navigating the PDFs and interactive tool. AHMA’s analysis identifies underutilized sites on lots larger than 6,000 sq. ft. that are vacant or have older, low-rise buildings, and assumes 25-33% (i.e., up to a third) of these sites will redevelop over 10 years. The most minimal rezoning scenario only studies the transformation of commercial areas into mixed-used districts. By applying the newly adopted S2 District, which permits buildings up to five stories, this could increase Roslindale’s housing stock by 2.5% and Hyde Park’s by 5.7%. The top-of-the-range abundance rezoning scenario explores the potential for mid-to-high density housing and mixed-use projects across the entire Squares + Streets study area. By applying a mix of S2 and S3 Districts, which permit buildings up to seven stories, this could increase Roslindale’s housing stock by 13.4% and Hyde Park’s by 24.4%. More details on the methodology can be found in the PDFs and video walkthrough.AHMA have indicated that they have three goals in releasing these initial housing projections and the accompanying tools:
    • Education – AHMA wants to increase public understanding of how zoning actually translates into building more homes. The better people understand how this process works, the better the chances we can engage in collaborative community planning.
    • Advocacy – AHMA supports the abundance rezoning scenario and believes Roslindale and Cleary Squares can thoughtfully introduce far more homes while maintaining existing residents’ quality of life.
    • Framing the discussion AHMA recognizes that the minimal rezoning scenario fails to adequately address the housing needs in Roslindale and Cleary Squares, but includes it as a plausible lower bound for community discussions.

Upcoming Roslindale Squares + Streets Event this Week – 3 April (Office Hours + BPDA Report Out) and 6 April (Walkshop in the Square)

As we look ahead this week on what’s happening with Squares + Streets in Roslindale Square:

Wednesday 03 Apr 2024

Roslindale Square: Squares + Streets Substation Office Hours
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, LOCATION: The Substation – Lower level office 2, 4228 Washington St, Boston, MA 02131

Roslindale Square: Squares + Streets Substation Office Hours – Afternoon
01:00 PM – 03:00 PM, LOCATION: The Substation – Lower level office 2, 4228 Washington St, Boston, MA 02131

Roslindale S+S Engagement Report Out Meeting
06:00 PM – 07:30 PM, LOCATION: Virtual meeting

Saturday 06 Apr 2024

Roslindale Square Cultural Assets, Transportation, and Public Realm ‘Walkshop
01:00 PM – 04:00 PM, LOCATION: Adams Park, Roslindale Square

More information on these events as well as sign-up links can be found at the BPDA’s location-specific webpage for Roslindale Squares + Streets HERE. We hope you’ll attend some or all of them so that you can be part of the conversation. Thanks!

Three thoughts on Squares + Streets as we get underway in Roslindale Square

NOTE: The following are entirely the personal thoughts of the poster, not the entire organization or even the Board of Directors of WalkUP Roslindale. – mjl

There is no question that the manner in which Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) leadership and staff are going about the Squares + Streets small area planning process is a departure in significant ways from past practice and that this departure, which is significant, has led to some understandable confusion among those who most closely follow the city’s planning and development processes. Herewith, three thoughts about where we find ourselves at this moment:

  1. Floating Zones are a new thing in this city – This has probably been the most difficult conceptual issue for everyone to get used to. I’m not aware of any prior examples of the Boston Zoning Code containing a set of base zoning districts that aren’t mapped anywhere upon their adoption by the Zoning Commission, but that is exactly what is being done with Squares + Streets. This is not unusual outside of Boston – the concept of floating zones has been around in planning and zoning circles for decades. The new S-zones – S-0 through S-5 – that are slated for a vote on April 17, 2024, will go into Article 26 of the code and will comprise, upon their adoption, only a suite of potential base zones to be deployed later. Each area undergoing the Squares + Streets small area planning process is expected to ultimately bring a selection of these zones down to the ground in the configuration that their process says makes the most sense. This is worth repeating – no part of Roslindale is going to be rezoned as part of the text amendments under consideration next month. Instead, rezoning for a portion of Roslindale Square will only occur after the small area planning process, which is just now getting underway in earnest, has run its course and a multi-faceted plan, of which targeted rezoning is expected to be a part, is adopted by the BPDA.
  2. Planning Processes, at any scale, of 6 to 9 months are, you guessed it, new as well for Boston – This is largely because planning processes leading to rezoning in this city have usually covered much larger areas, typically entire neighborhoods, as part of the so-called “base code” or the original neighborhood zoning article efforts of prior decades or the newer plans such as Plan East Boson and Plan Mattapan. Full neighborhood-wide planning processes like the latter two have taken several years. By being focused about the areas to be examined, visioned, and then rezoned, the idea is to be able to move with the speed and urgency that the ongoing housing crisis demands. And let’s be clear that the housing crisis truly is a crisis, an emergency even, and the Mayor recognizes that
  3. Finally, truly usable As-of-Right Zoning is entirely new – Underzoning with the intent of pulling almost everything that happens into a discretionary approval process has a long, troubling history here in Boston, across the commonwealth, and frankly around the country. If you want to learn more about how this has worked over several decades, I’d suggest taking a look at the work that Amy Dain at the Boston Indicators project has been doing for many years on the deeply exclusionary effects this phenomenon has had in the Boston region and the large share of responsibility it bears for the accompanying housing crisis. The Mayor has long been explicit about her concerns that so much of what actually gets built or expanded in this city goes through a discretionary, politically-driven zoning relief process, particularly before the Board of Appeal. She is hardly the first person to recognize and point this out, but she is the first mayor I’ve seen since I moved to Roslindale almost 24 years ago who is trying to do something about it. This is a problem that affects every part of the code. It’s why so much of what local neighborhood groups discuss has to do with all manner of development proposals ranging from a new multifamily building replacing a largely defunct row of single-story retail down the street to an expansion of their across-the-street neighbor’s house to add a modest amount of living space in their attic. I directly lived through and supported both of these examples in my own neighborhood. Most everyone knows that this is no way to run development review in 2024. But it’s still the day-to-day reality, even as Squares + Streets is the first meaningful attempt being made by the city to move away from this in a serious way on what many think is a sensible place to start – allowing multifamily residential above ground floor commercial/retail uses “as-of-right” in our city’s neighborhood centers without forcing the developers of that housing to engage in a lengthy, costly, and risky discretionary review process to do what we say we want them to do. This puts a significant amount of pressure on getting not only the zoning but also the full suite of implementation components of the small area planning process right.

All of the foregoing said, it’s worth reiterating the concerns and objectives that the WalkUP Roslindale comment and support letter from late January raised. The full letter can be reviewed here, but if anyone wants to know where we’re coming from as we take part in the Roslindale Squares + Streets process, the key concepts are as follows:

  • Utilize Objective Criteria. BPDA staff must use objective criteria to map out the small area plans for Roslindale Square and other neighborhood centers. These criteria should include, but not necessarily be limited to: proximity to transit (both rail and bus), walkability, existing conditions, and anticipation of growth. It is crucial that easily understandable and transparent criteria are utilized to plan and zone these small plan areas to create the conditions for future growth and enhanced density and walkability.
  • Limit Conditional Uses. We recommend that the BPDA reduce the number of conditional uses imposed throughout the new, proposed zoning. While conditional uses have a place in some situations, the proposed zoning can and should go further to make many of these conditional uses allowed by right. We know from experience in Roslindale that conditional uses can bog down applicants and small business owners in unnecessary bureaucracy that delay new housing and new businesses and raise the associated costs.
  • Use Existing Conditions as the Floor. In Roslindale, the vast majority of lots are existing non-conforming. That is to say, the lots were initially developed with small lot sizes, minimal setbacks, and similar characteristics, but made retroactively nonconforming by later downzoning. This situation means almost any development, whether new construction or simple exterior renovations, will require zoning variances. At a minimum, the new zoning should restore existing lots to legal status and remove the requirement of variances to do basic work and simple additions to them. [SPECIFIC MJL NOTE: It is worth pausing on this point, which has been raised above as well. It has been a curious, but entirely consistent feature of zoning in Boston for several decades that almost everything is zoned for something other than what it actually is on the ground. As just on example, my house sits on a 4400 square foot lot in a 2F-5000 residential zoning district on which the first permitted unit requires at least 5000 SF of lot area. In other words, in a fit of what can only be described as bizarre self-loathing, the city saw fit, in 2008 mind you, to zone my property and the property of almost all of my neighbors (whose lots are also less than 5000 SF in area) as non-conforming. In other other words, our current zoning almost uniformly acts like what we have today, in the neighborhood we all say we love, is wrong and not acceptable. I am not exaggerating.]
  • Address Displacement. Displacement is inevitably most prevalent when the status quo is maintained. If no new residential or commercial space is built, steadily increasing demand for both guarantees that residents (renters, aspiring homeowners, and business owners) will be priced out. That said, changes that increase permissible commercial and residential density will result in new construction and potentially higher rents if anti-displacement measures are not considered from the outset. We encourage the BPDA to proactively plan for this in small plan areas under the new zoning and create incentives for existing property owners to keep rents reasonable through property tax abatements and other measures, such as providing current commercial tenants the right of first refusal to return to the space at issue.
  • Engage All Stakeholders. As an organization of neighborhood residents and local business owners, we firmly believe in public feedback and input into planning and zoning decision-making. At the same time, we know that no one group, including our own, can speak for an entire neighborhood, never mind an entire city. We have been impressed by the outreach conducted by BPDA staff to date and urge its continuation as the process moves forward from adopting the proposed set of floating zones to undertaking the small area plans. It is crucial that staff continue to actively reach out to stakeholders where they are. It is well documented that evening meetings are difficult for individuals with small children, evening jobs, and other life commitments to attend, for example. We hope to continue to see opportunities for feedback at pop up events, the Roslindale Farmers’ Markets,  on transit platforms and bus stops, and at community activities where people naturally congregate and deserve an opportunity to be heard.

Upcoming Squares + Streets Meeting – Hybrid in Spanish – 27 March 2024 @ 6 pm – Menino Center (125 Brookway Rd, Archdale)

From the most recent email communication circulated by BPDA on the meeting schedule for Squares + Streets in Roslindale:

La agencia de planificación y desarrollo de Boston organizará una reunión híbrida de Plazas + Calles en español para revisar los objetivos del proyecto, el cronograma del proceso de planificación y participación, y resaltar las oportunidades para participar. Se proporcionarán servicios de traducción para inglés y criollo haitiano. Se ofrecerán refrigerios ligeros y cuidado de niños por orden de llegada.

The BPDA will be hosting a hybrid Spanish language Squares + Streets meeting to review the project goals, the timeline of the planning and engagement process, and highlight opportunities to be involved.

Translation services for English and Haitian Creole will be provided. Light refreshments and childcare will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

NOTE: This meeting will replace the previously scheduled zoning workshop on this date. The BPDA will be leading the first  zoning workshop after the proposed Squares + Streets zoning districts are approved by the Zoning Commission on April 17th. This vote will allow the proposed 6 zoning districts to be put into the zoning code as options to be mapped at a later date during the Roslindale Square Squares + Streets engagement process.

How to Participate

Please register in advance
Join us via Zoom

First Annual AHMA-WUR Meetup – 28 March 2024 – 6 pm at the Substation

Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) and WalkUP Roslindale (WUR) are officially inviting their members and supporters to meet up at the Substation (Upstairs) (corner of Cummins and Washington in the Square) on the evening of Thursday, 28 March 2024, at 6 pm. Come on down and get to know your fellow pro-housing, pro-walk, -bike, and -transit advocates!

Sign up link is HERE.