The Rozzie Arboretum Gateway Path

A top WalkUP Roslindale initiative is a new multi-modal “gateway path” into the Arnold Arboretum directly from Roslindale Square. An introduction to our vision is below; you can also print this PDF flyer as a quick introduction to the project.

Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)

The Arnold Arboretum is not only Roslindale’s greatest park, but among the most beautiful urban open spaces anywhere. In 1880 Frederick Law Olmsted wrote: “On (these) acres much the best arboretum in the world can be formed.” Today, some of Olmsted’s “emerald necklace” plan has been realized, but much remains to be done.

We envision a new entrance to the Arboretum close to Roslindale Square, to make the park more visible and accessible to residents and visitors. The Rozzie Gateway Path would start adjacent to the commuter rail platform, and continue at grade into the park, allowing access to the open space without the need to surmount the large hill that lead to the Mendum Street gate.

The Path will continue straight parallel to the commuter rail tracks toward Bussey Street, and then connect up with the Bussey Brook Meadow path and on to Forest Hills.

Key Benefits

  • Better access to the Arboretum from Roslindale Square (and thus to transit node, businesses, Farmers Market, etc.)
  • Washington Street lacks pedestrians amenities [1] and is unsafe for bicyclists; the Gateway Path will provide a better alternative to reach Forest Hills, where walkers and cyclists can avail themselves to the many amenities around Forest Hills; continue on to the Southwest Corridor Park; or board the Orange Line. And of course vice-versa — folks coming down the Orange Line or the Southwest Corridor will have a superior route to visit Roslindale Village.
  • Current routes from Roslindale to Forest Hills through the Arboretum have steep hills and are more than twice as much distance as the proposed path
  • Hubway Bike-Share stations could be available at both ends, providing a quick, easy, low-stress route to connect Rozzie with JP and the Orange Line
  • Possibilities for improved Arboretum access from underserved neighborhoods, particularly the Archdale area

Discussion of the full route is still very much open. The crossing at South Street and Bussey presents the biggest challenge, although not an insurmountable one. For the penultimate section on the north side of South/Bussey, the route could proceed on either side of South Street subject to consideration Boston Water and Sewer Commission and flood-plain issues. With these caveats, below is one of the paths we are considering:

Rozzie Gateway Proposed Route (one of many!)
Rozzie Gateway Proposed Route (one of many!)

We have made significant progress in moving from idea to reality; if you’d like to learn more, please join our email list or contact us directly. We’d love to hear your suggestions or other feedback!

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. An earlier version of this post (pre-3/9/16) suggested Washington Street is “unpleasant” for pedestrians. We discovered some people misinterpreted this statement as derogatory; the intent was to summarize the lack of crosswalks, benches, curb cuts, as well as the occasionally overly-narrow and poorly-maintained sidewalk space, rather than to suggest there is anything inherently wrong with or undesirable about this corridor. We intend to push hard for better walkability along this corridor, and the path effort is no substitute for that.
Healy Field Community Meeting Flyer

Healy Field Playground Community Meeting – October 19, 2015 at Roslindale Community Center

Healy Field Community Meeting Flyer
Healy Field Community Meeting Flyer

WalkUP Roslindale strongly supports increased and improved open space, green space, and play space in the neighborhood (ideally all three together!). Indeed, one key benefit of moderately higher-capacity housing should be to allow more space to be left over, greater more political clout, and a more stable tax base to provide enhance shared recreational space for all of us. To that end, we encourage community members to attend an upcoming meeting to about improvements to the Healy Playground (off of Florence Street).

The meeting will be Monday, October 19, 2015, 6:30pm-8pm, at the Roslindale Community Center at 6 Cummins Highway. The Parks Department is interested in what the community has to contribute to the
design process. Following a brief presentation, community members will be able to offer
input regarding the material presented and the design process.

Spread the word, and see you there!

City Council Candidates Forum October 14, 2015 at Roslindale Community Center

Boston City Council Candidates Forum Poster
Boston City Council Candidates Forum Poster

Election day is November 3, 2015. There are only a few contested races this time around; five candidates for the four “at-large” city council positions, as well as two candidates running for for District 5, which covers much of Roslindale, and District 4, which touches on a corner of the neighborhood. Even though there is no high visibility office up for grabs (e.g. Mayor, Governor, President), it’s absolutely crucial that we all get out and vote — elected people pay close attention to which areas vote in the highest numbers, so just getting to the polls at all helps our neighborhood get the attention it needs from the city. Moreover, election season is the perfect time to bring top priority concerns to candidate’s attention–such as our goal to make Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston.

Against that background, Progressive WRox/Roz is hosting a city council election forum next Wednesday, October 14, 6:45pm, at the Roslindale Community Center. Voters can meet and hear from the five candidates running for City Council At-Large (Annissa Essaibi George, Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu), the contenders for District 4 (Andrea Campbell and Charles Yancey, TBD), and the candidates for District 5 (Tim McCarthy and Jean-Claude Sanon). District 6 Councilor Matt O’Malley will also participate, although he is running unopposed. The evening will include mingling with candidates at the start and end, statements from the candidates, and Q&A. The evnet is co-sponsored by a number of Roslindale and West Roxbury neighborhood organizations and local media.

Please show up to this forum and make sure these candidates know that walkability is a top concern in our neighborhood!

Umbrellas Don’t Cause Rain

Umbrella Not Causing Rain
Umbrella Not Causing Rain

Notable economics writer Matt Yglesias provides a pithy analysis of the relationship between housing prices and construction in his newsletter published today. Yglesias writes:

I observed on Twitter the other day that there’s a shockingly widespread belief that banning new construction will prevent increases in the price of housing, and that lead to some pushback that was more interesting than I’d anticipated and is worth addressing specifically.

Umbrellas don’t cause rain

But before getting into the specific points, I do think it’s worth focusing on the core fallacy that drives some of this. People look around and see that in neighborhoods where prices are going up, there’s generally highly visible new construction — cranes putting up largish buildings — and think the construction is driving neighborhood change.

This is a bit like thinking that umbrellas cause rain because every time you see everyone carrying them it rains.

Construction — especially of high-rise buildings — is expensive and people are only going to do it in places where demand is high and prices are on the rise. By the same token, brand-new construction commands a price premium so the just-built thing always targets a more upscale market than the average neighborhood resident. Your city’s stock of cheaper housing consists almost exclusively used to be new but aren’t anymore. But the presence of new expensive buildings isn’t making older buildings more expensive. It’s the fact that older buildings are getting more expensive that leads people to build new buildings.

Yglesias then goes on to explain why banning new projects won’t achieve the goal of preserving a neighborhood’s character or preventing gentrification and the rise in housing costs.

As we engage as a community to debate construction proposals in and around Roslindale, we would be well advised to keep this insight in mind.

Use BOS:311 for Pedestrian Advocacy

The city recently rolled out BOS:311, the latest attempt to provide a single coordinated interface for citizens to report non-emergency issues. BOS:311 replaces the old “Citizen’s Connect” app. You can install the app for free on your iPhone or Android device; or if you don’t have a smartphone, use the web interface or just call 311 from a land line.

While we’re not convinced that bad sidewalks and crosswalks should count as “non-emergency”, BOS:311 is an excellent way to report and track pedestrian infrastructure issues that should be addressed with a relatively quick fix. You can also use your BOS:311 report as a pointer when asking your elected representatives to demand that the relevant city departments take action. We urge all WalkUP supporters to install the app and report problems with our walking environment.

Below are a couple of examples we reported this week. The first one has oddly been marked as “case resolved,” which in this case appears to mean “this is scheduled to be fixed” (we hope!). Click on either image to get the full report and status.

4197 Washington Street Missing Curb Cut
4197 Washington Street Missing Curb Cut
Poplar and South Curb Cut Problem
Poplar and South Curb Cut Problem

WalkUP Roslindale’s Mission and Seven Statements of Principle

WalkUP Rozzie members have been working for some time (in person and online) to distill our mission and principles. The outcome of that effort is below, and we’d love to get your thoughts! Leave a comment here or email us directly at info@nullwalkuproslindale.org. If you support our mission, please sign up as a supporter (your information will be kept confidential and you will receive only very infrequent email); follow us on Twitter; join us on Facebook; and/or sign up for our higher-volume discussion list.

This list was updated on October 6, 2015; find the original draft here.


OUR MISSION

We will make Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston, in collaboration with our neighbors. We strongly believe that walkability is a fundamental of great neighborhoods. Improving the walkability of our neighborhood will have positive impacts on public health, safety, social capital, economic development, and environmental sustainability. Although we speak only for ourselves, we seek improved walkability for everyone because we believe it will benefit everyone. In order to get there, we need to think both big and small. Immediate action is needed to improve crosswalks and sidewalks, organize events to bring people together around a shared vision for our neighborhood, encourage the calming of vehicular traffic, and demonstrate how the future might look by making temporary changes today. Long term, we must be proactive in addressing how our neighborhood evolves in the face of the regional development boom, and how walking interacts with all the other forms of getting around. A central conviction of WalkUP Roslindale is that common goals are better achieved together than separately and will provide evident and tangible benefits to all. To do this, we will seek partnerships and collaborate with our fellow residents and engage a broad array of community groups, businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and city and state agencies to advance our mission.

SEVEN STATEMENTS OF PRINCIPLE

  1. Walking is an essential mode of travel, and we seek to promote it on its own and as part of an active transportation network along with bicycling and transit. We support public and private projects, policies, and efforts that advance the essential travel mode of walking on its own and in concert with bicycling and transit throughout Roslindale because these modes collectively increase the accessibility of our neighborhood, support local economic development, enhance the safety, livability, and functioning of the streetscape, and help mitigate the detrimental environmental effects of automobile use. We must also make our streets safe and friendly for children, the elderly, and people with mobility or sensory disabilities. We fully support the city’s adoption of Vision Zero, the policy goal to completely eliminate deaths and serious injuries from vehicular traffic on streets. And we look with eager anticipation toward working with the city on arriving at a shared vision and implementing GoBoston 2030, the city’s new comprehensive mobility plan.
  2. More residents, businesses, and people working in and visiting Roslindale will increase vitality. We support thoughtful, smart growth in residential and commercial intensity centered on key nodes in our neighborhood, particularly, Roslindale Square, Weld/Centre, Belgrade/Bellevue/WR Parkway, Washington/WR Parkway, Washington/Metropolitan, Cummins/HP Avenue, the American Legion Highway corridor, and the Forest Hills/Washington Street corridor. Compact, intense use of land is an essential component of lively and safe neighborhoods, supporting local businesses, and a regional approach to environmental sustainability.  We also support measured, careful growth in our established residential areas to sustain and improve their vitality as well.
  3. Parks and natural areas help make our neighborhood vibrant. We support balancing growth with a vision of health and beauty offered by integrating this growth into a network of green spaces, as recognized by landscape pioneers such as Frederick Law Olmsted. Roslindale has a great wealth of parks and natural areas. But we recognize that they are not evenly distributed in our neighborhood or equally well maintained, and there are many natural areas that require protection and enhancement. We support balancing the needs for housing, development, and growth with the need for places which offer opportunities for active recreation as well as refuge. These include parks, playgrounds, urban wilds, dog parks, community gardens, green corridors/greenways/parkways, and other green spaces. Support for high quality green space and a cleaner environment goes hand in hand with support for smart growth – we are convinced that these goals must be pursued together.
  4. We support development that promotes walkability. We support giving each proposed development a review on its own merits. If zoning relief (conditional use permit/variance) is needed for a development we believe advances the principles described here, then we will support granting that relief. As the city moves forward with a new comprehensive plan/rezoning process under the ImagineBoston 2030 banner, we advocate that the new plan and zoning be responsive to our neighborhood’s growing, diverse population and the ongoing housing shortage/affordability crisis throughout the city.
  5. We support mixed uses that promote walkability. We support a mutually-supportive mixing of uses within Roslindale’s key nodes: commercial (office, retail), residential, institutional, and modern industrial, among other uses, should be closely connected. We support local commercial enterprises and shops as a general matter, though each situation requires consideration on its own merits, and we should be mindful of the need for our commercial districts to have customers throughout the day, not just evenings and weekends.
  6. We support mixed housing that promotes walkability. We support mutually-supportive mixed housing types throughout all parts of our neighborhood – multifamily, 3-family, 2-family, single-family (townhouse/detached), at a range of price points, including affordable, middle income, and market rate. In major residential projects, we support going beyond the baseline 15% affordability standard the city currently uses. Many of us chose Roslindale because it is among the most diverse neighborhoods in the city by many measures, and new development should strengthen and enhance our unique cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic, and economic mix.
  7. Contextual yet forward looking design makes for a more walkable environment. We support great design, regardless of style. Roslindale has a relatively consistent early 20th century “colonial” architectural character and set of building types (gabled rooflines, strong street walls, parking in the rear or underneath, massing that is modulated by architectural features, beloved public parks and squares), and new construction should be designed to fit within that context at its best while also being creative and forward looking in a way that embraces the 21st century. We view thoughtful and walkable urban design that connects and enhances the private and public realms as an absolute necessity.

Housing as Economic Imperative

WBUR reports today on a Metropolitan Area Planning Council presentation to state lawmakers on the dire need for housing supply to sustain the economy:

By 2040, Massachusetts will need about half a million additional residential units, analysts told lawmakers Tuesday as they advocated for increased housing production to go along with the state’s growing economy.

Metropolitan Area Planning Council assistant data services director Tim Reardon said most of this housing demand will be in urban areas, and two-thirds of it will be for multifamily housing, a type of development limited or discouraged in much of the state.

(emphasis added).

We recognize that development to accommodate new residents is often a controversial topic — in Roslindale and just about everywhere else in Greater Boston. Even where people recognize the crisis in general, they would much prefer that the solution happen somewhere else. But the need is there and the development will happen whether we like or not.

We do, however, have a critical choice to make: are we going to add another million cars to our already fully maxed out transportation infrastructure (2 cars per new housing unit) — another three or four million free parking spaces[1]? An extra hour (or two) added to the car commute downtown from inner ring suburbs?

Or we can go in another direction, and build with a dedicated focus on pedestrian/bike/transit access, and enhance all those other modes of moving around so that people who prefer not to be stuck in a motor vehicle for hours a day aren’t forced to.

Development, walkability, and vibrant streets and communities all can go hand-and-hand. Rather than fight to stop every new project, we believe we should speak up to make every new project better for the community. We’re working on some development principles that we think will advance this goal, and hope our neighbors will join us in refining and then advancing those principles.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Land-use planner Victor Gruen estimates that every car has at least one parking space at home and three or four waiting elsewhere to serve the same car; Centers for the Urban Environment: Survival of the Cities, 1973, page 89; Further info: Podcast on the Gruen Effect

West Roxbury/Roslindale Bulletin Coverage of WalkUP Roslindale Efforts

Roslindale Bulletin BannerIn case you missed it on the (free) newstand, the West Roxbury/Roslindale Bulletin has run a couple of features on WalkUP Rozzie so far. The first appeared in late August as a general overview of this new organization; the second ran last week, covering the recent City Council hearing on the Rozzie Urban Wild vision. Check out both articles below:

Update on the Rozzie Urban Wild Effort

Roslindale Greenbelt Protection Overlay District
Roslindale Greenbelt Protection Overlay District

Last week, we posted about a Boston City Council hearing scheduled for this Monday on protecting and enhancing the American Legion Parkway area in Roslindale. Reports are that the hearing was wildly successful. Each neighbor’s testimony, whether by letter or personal appearance, was powerful, informative, and from the heart. Together, residents from around the area made this corridor neighborhood visible to the City. City Councilors Murphy, Wu, and O’Malley showed great enthusiasm for the project, and expressed willingness to facilitate multi-departmental collaboration on behalf of the project.

Below are additional maps to supplement the ones posted here earlier. Although the city Open Space Senior Planner indicated at the hearing that American Legion area was not “Greenbelt Protected,” these maps show that it is.

Other useful sources of information:

Maps

Maps Posted for Rozzie Urban Wild Protection Hearing

A few days back, we posted about a City Council Hearing on the “urban wild” land around American Legion highway. The entry has just been updated with detailed maps (reproduced below as well). Go check it out!