Comment letter on 43 Lochdale Road

43 Lochdale Road Design

Last week, we sent an official comment letter to the Boston Planning & Development Agency, concerning a proposed 36-unit housing development at 43 Lochdale Road, just a few blocks from the Forest Hills MBTA station. We support this much-needed addition to our housing supply but raise serious concerns about the missed opportunity to advance the highly complementary goals of more affordable housing and less auto-centric development. Our specific concerns are proposed solutions are outlined below.


June 3, 2019

BY ELECTRONIC MAIL ONLY (aisling.kerr@nullboston.gov)
Boston Planning & Development Agency
One City Hall Square, 9th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02201

Attention: Aisling Kerr, Project Manager

RE:         43 LOCHDALE ROAD, ROSLINDALE – SMALL PROJECT REVIEW

Dear Ms. Kerr:

Please accept the following comments on behalf of WalkUP Roslindale with respect to the proposed rental residential development at 43 Lochdale Road in Roslindale (the “Proposed Project”). As set forth in the Small Project Review application, this will be a consequential development project, located under half a mile from the end of the Orange Line at Forest Hills, and containing, as proposed, 36 housing units and 46 off-street parking spaces in a four-story building with a mix of 1, 2 and 2+ bedroom units and providing 5 affordable units under the BPDA’s Inclusionary Development Policy (“IDP”).

Although we generally support the Proposed Project, being in favor of production of new housing in our neighborhood, city, and region as an integral part of the required response to our surging population and housing affordability crisis resulting from decades of underbuilding and inequitable patterns of development and housing availability, we have the following concerns, which our members also voiced in person at the community meeting this past Tuesday, May 28. Our comments intend to emphasize the importance of addressing both the future of transportation and the need for more affordable housing in every development project that our city considers.

1.             Excessive Off-Street Parking

Put simply, at 46 spaces, the Proposed Project is egregiously overparked. As a start, the parking ratio should be reduced from 1:1.28 to 1:1 (or lower). Zero off-street parking projects have recently been allowed in Roslindale Square (most recently, the Wallpaper City project at the corner of Poplar and South), and, as noted above, this location is under a half mile (<10 minute walk) from Forest Hills Station (where both the Orange Line and commuter rail have stops) and steps from bus stops serviced by a dozen bus routes. The Proposed Project is likewise minutes away from the start of the Southwest Corridor Bicycle Path, which is a major thoroughfare for cycling commuters.1 All of these sustainable transportation options are complemented by several nearby ZipCar locations and easy access to rideshare services.

In light of these ample amenities, excessive parking will undeniably waste resources and induce car ownership and car use, moving our neighborhood and our city away from the mode shift and greenhouse gas and other air pollution reduction goals to which we have committed in GoBoston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston. By devoting more real estate to parking, we practically guarantee more cars in the neighborhood.  By contrast, reducing off-street parking will have direct positive implications on affordability, which is the next issue that we raised at the community meeting.

2.            Housing Affordability

As a rough cut, assuming a standard parking space takes up about 162 square feet (9’ x 18’), a reduction of even just ten (10) spaces would allow for an additional 1620 square feet of living area. We would expect that area to be split into 2 additional units, which we would recommend be added to the affordable unit count. We also note that community members from the Housing Justice task force of Roslindale is for Everyone (“RISE”) spoke at the community meeting and were particularly focused on increasing both the percentage of affordable units in the Proposed Project and the level of affordability offered beyond what the IDP would otherwise require (13% of total units and 70% of area median income). We support RISE Housing Justice on both of these requests. The Proposed Project is located in a part of our neighborhood where household incomes are lower than average and competition for scarce and increasingly expensive housing (there has been almost no new housing constructed in this area for the last several decades) is displacing our most vulnerable neighbors. We can and should do more as a city to make sure that everyone who wants to make their home here is able to do so.

With available parking thus reduced to below a 1 to 1 ratio, the Proposed Project would also be an especially appropriate project on which to un-bundle the parking from the units, so that households that do not need off-street parking can avoid that cost instead of having it included in their unit regardless. By contrast, if the parking spaces remained bundled with the units, car-free families will be less likely to live in this development, since they would be paying a premium for an amenity they do not need.

3.            Green Building

Although the Proposed Project has dropped below the Large Project Review threshold and is technically required to meet only building code-based energy efficiency and green building requirements (albeit at the city’s “Stretch Code” level, which produces a 10% improvement over the otherwise applicable standards), we would request that the BPDA require the Proposed Project to exceed those standards and approach Net Zero/Zero Plus/LEED Gold-Platinum standards. If our city is truly serious about the climate crisis, all new buildings will need to be much more efficient in their use of energy. There is no more time to wait to start this effort on a citywide basis, and we would like to see this happen in this neighborhood now.

4.            Roslindale Gateway Path/Blackwell Path Extension at Arboretum Road

We understand and appreciate that the developer is being required to install a new crosswalk and curb extension at Washington Street and Lochdale Road. In much the same vein, the developer should also be required to assist financially with ongoing efforts around the Roslindale Gateway Path/Arboretum Road archway and entrance as this will be a significant amenity for residents of the development and the broader surrounding neighborhood. Funds are still being assembled for the first phase of the path’s extension, running from the current end of the Blackwell Path to Arboretum Road, and a significant contribution for this effort would be an excellent way for this Proposed Project to bring value and increased accessibility to its own backyard immediately.

In closing, we wish to reiterate our overall support for the Proposed Project, while especially emphasizing our call to reduce the off-street parking count and repurpose the space saved to increase the number and level of affordability for the affordable units. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Benjamin Bruno

Resident @ 27 Colgate Road, Roslindale, on behalf of the WalkUP Roslindale Steering Group
Ricardo Austrich, Resident @ 843 South Street, Roslindale
Lisa Beatman, Resident @ 180 Mount Hope Street, Roslindale
Rachel Blumberg, Resident @ 15 Newburg Street, Apt. 2, Roslindale
Lucy Bullock-Sieger, Resident @ 33 Brookdale Street, Roslindale
Steve Gag, Resident @ 631 South Street, Roslindale
Liz Graham-Meredith, Resident @ 6 Crandall Street, Roslindale
Matthew Lawlor, Resident @ 15 Basto Terrace, Roslindale
Margaux Leonard, Resident @ 35 Harding Road, Roslindale
Mandana Moshtaghi, Resident @ 12 Arborough Road, Roslindale
Robert Orthman, Resident @ 31 Mendelssohn Street, #2, Roslindale
Rebecca Phillips, Resident @ 10 Tappan Street, Roslindale
Adam Rogoff, Resident @ 28 Ashfield Street, Roslindale
Adam Rosi-Kessel, Resident @ 36 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
Rachele Rosi-Kessel, Resident @ 36 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
Laura Smeaton, Resident @ 61 Cornell Street, Roslindale
Mark Tedrow, Resident @ 169 Sycamore Street, Apt. 1, Roslindale
Marc Theiss, Resident @ 55 Prospect Avenue, Roslindale
Greg Tobin, Resident @ 1 Sheldon Street, Roslindale
Nick Ward, Resident @ 35 Harding Road, Roslindale
Alan Wright, Resident @ 98 Birch Street, Roslindale

About WalkUP Roslindale
WalkUP Roslindale, which takes its name from the international movement to foster “Walkable Urban Places,” is a collaborative group of residents dedicated to making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. We advocate for a dynamic, livable streetscape and we support positive changes to our public and private built environment that strengthen walkability and other forms of active mobility as means toward better personal and public health, safety, social capital, economic development, and environmental sustainability. We are led by a steering group of about thirty residents and have nearly 1,000 additional supporters. More information about WalkUP Roslindale and our initiatives can be found at www.walkuproslindale.org. We recognize that no single group of people can be said to speak for our entire neighborhood – instead, please take these comments as representing the collective support of our steering group members (indicated below) resulting from our mission and principles.

  1. A City of Boston survey counted an average of well over 2,000 cyclists per day on this path in 2017; the number has surely grown since then with the completion of the cycling improvements at Forest Hills as part of the Casey/Arborway project. See https://www.boston.gov/departments/boston-bikes/bike-data/2017-boston-bicycle-counts.

West Roxbury Walk Audit Complete

West Roxbury Walk Audit Route

Hot off the presses, our friends over at West Rox Walks just released the results of the first ever Walk Roxbury Walk Audit, highlighting aspects of Centre Street most in need of pedestrian safety improvements. We welcome our neighbors to the walkability club. Many who live in Roslindale work and shop and West Roxbury, and vice-versa, and thus we care deeply about improving walking conditions there. Be sure to follow West Rox Walks on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

The report’s key recommendations are 1) decrease the speed of vehicular traffic, 2) improve crosswalk safety, 3) add protected bike lanes, and 4) conduct studies of the business section between Knoll and Weld Streets and of the rotary by Holy Name. Stay tuned for next steps!

Join us on Lilac Sunday 5/12 10am-3pm to learn about a new entrance to the Arboretum

A NEW ENTRANCE TO THE ARNOLD ARBORETUM IS COMING!

The City of Boston in partnership with the Arnold Arboretum, WalkUP Roslindale, and the Arboretum Park Conservancy are working to create a new entrance to the Arnold Arboretum at the end of Arboretum Road that will ultimately connect up with our planned Gateway Path.

Please stop by on LILAC SUNDAY (this coming Sunday, May 12) to learn about the project and enjoy some ice cream and music on your way to viewing the lilacs! The entrance is not yet paved, so please wear sturdy shoes or boots

Date and Time:    Sunday, May 12, 2019, 10 AM to 3 PM

Location:        End of Arboretum Road, Roslindale

Important Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearing This Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 10:30am

Boston City Council Transportation Budget Hearing
Boston City Council Transportation Budget Hearing

WalkUP Roslindale is a proud member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition. The Coalition has been doing great work following the City budget process with respect to safe streets. We’ve reproduced below an announcement about an important transportation budget hearing this Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Please show up if you can!

RSVP and/or spread the word from this Facebook event page.

Funding is a critical component for building safer streets. Now is your chance to influence the Boston budget process!

Join us in calling for more support and faster implementation of projects this year, by:

1. Attending the Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearing and testifying.

Event Details:
Tuesday, May 7, 10:30 am – 1:00 pm
@ Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Iannella Chamber 

2. Asking for support from your at-large and district city councilors for the following priorities:

  • Faster implementation and more focus on improving safety along arterial corridors, which are disproportionately dangerous for all modes. 
  • A permanent, full-time, Boston Police Department data analyst to clean up crash report data, investigate trends, and work closely with the Transportation Department, Boston EMS, and MassDOT to ensure Boston’s crash data is properly reported.
  • Clear organizational structures that will help establish how projects are managed and executed, and better integration of operations and policies between the Public Works and Transportation Departments.

In past years, hundreds of you have shown up for the Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearings, and it has had a direct impact on securing more funding benefiting Vision Zero. Can we count on you to keep the momentum going in 2019? Speak up to support safe streets!

For more details about the proposed Transportation Department budget and what we’re advocating for, read on below.

Thank you and we hope to see you on Tuesday! 

Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition
http://www.visionzerocoalition.org


Background

The Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) includes a $4 million investment in Boston’s Walkable Streets and $2 million in bike infrastructure, which will be funded through strategic changes to the City’s current parking meter rates. Join us at Boston City Hall to comment in support of the City Council approving this budget proposal and to call for more support and faster action.

Within this budget, Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition members are working on several specific issues. For more information and talking points about the following aspects of the budget, see below:

Arboretum Road Street Mural – This Monday, May 6, Starting at 5pm

Please join us to create a street mural on Arboretum Road with Artists from the Mayor’s Mural Team!

Date: Monday, May 6, 2019
Time: 5pm to 8pm
Location: Arboretum Road near Washington Street, Roslindale

Please join artists from the City of Boston’s mural team and volunteers from WalkUp Roslindale, and the Arnold Arboretum as we paint a street mural on Arboretum Road! The mural will draw attention to the future entrance to the Arnold Arboretum at the end of the road. The lilacs in the street mural will help celebrate Lilac Sunday.

The road will be closed except for essential traffic while the mural is being painted.

If you have any questions please contact Charlotte Fleetwood at 617-635-2462
Or send an email to charlotte.fleetwood@nullboston.gov

Comment Letter on Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (361 Belgrade)

We sent a comment letter today to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in support of the proposed move of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School to 361 Belgrade Avenue. We believe the proposed development is consistent with our core principles and primary goal of making a more walkable neighborhood. As discussed in more detail below, this development should be a catalyst for long overdue walkability and transit improvements to Belgrade Avenue, and we urge all the stakeholders to work together to make sure these happen. As a side note, we recognize there has been outspoken support for and opposition against this project from a variety of perspectives; as a community group focused on walkability, we take no position on education policy or various debates relating to charter schools generally or this school specifically. Our interest is in insuring that students, staff, and the community at large can enjoy safe and vibrant streets with easy and convenient access by sustainable modes of transportation.

The full text of our letter is reproduced below.

Read More

Pedestrian Safety Meeting in West Roxbury this Wednesday, February 27

This Wednesday, February 27, 2019, elected officials will hold a public meeting to discuss ways to improve road safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in West Roxbury. Sponsors of the meeting include City Councilor Matt O’Malley, the Boston Police Department, Senator Mike Rush, Representative Ed Coppinger, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, the Mayor’s Office, and the Boston Transportation Department.

The meeting comes after two pedestrian fatalities in West Roxbury over the last four months, one on Washington Street in November, and one on Centre Street in February. We urge you to speak up this week for traffic calming measures that also make the roads safer for both cyclists and pedestrians. Details of the meeting below; please spread the word:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 7-8:30pm
Boston Lodge of Elks #10
248 Spring St
West Roxbury

Bussey Brook Meadow Path Gets Recommendation for CPA funding!

This past Friday, the City of Boston Community Preservation Committee released its funding recommendations from the 2018 and 2019 Community Preservation Fund, and the recommended recipients include the Bussey Brook Meadow Path, an important part of our vision for the Roslindale Gateway Path connecting Roslindale Village to Forest Hills.

By way of background, in 2000 the state legislature passed the Community Preservation Act, allowing cities and towns across Massachusetts to put CPA on the local ballot. In November 2016, CPA passed in Boston with the support of 74% of the voters. As a result, property owners pay a 1% surcharge on their quarterly real estate tax bill that funds the CPA in Boston. In this latest round of CPA awards, the committee has recommended that the path be awarded $500,000 to help “create green link between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills with a refurbished gateway at Arboretum Road.” Thanks, Boston voters!

Specifically, the Bussey Brook Meadow path, which is a segment of of the larger Roslindale Gateway Path, would create a new gateway to the Arnold Arboretum through the arch passage at the end of Arboretum Road and an accessible multi-use path connection to the existing Blackwell Path. The project creates a new entry to the paths in Bussey Brook Meadow for the Environmental Justice community of people who live east of the commuter rail tracks. When completed, the project would transform the neglected and trash-strewn arch passage into an inviting, landscaped gateway, with signage and subtle lighting on the side of the arch that faces Arboretum Road. The arch passage would be lit to enhance pedestrian safety.

Beyond the arch gateway, a crushed stone path would connect to the Blackwell Path, the South Street Gate, and Forest Hills Station. People using wheelchairs, pushing strollers, and riding bikes would be able to use the new path. Ongoing work to advance additional key path connections within the Arboretum means this path will eventually allow safe, comfortable, and beautiful walking and bicycling to Roslindale Square to the south and to the Southwest Corridor to the north.

A final design which will result in construction drawings for the Bussey Brook Meadow path is underway and will be completed by June 30, 2019. Construction of the path using CPA funds could begin as early as August of this year. The funding recommendation from the Community Preservation Committee must be approved by the City Council and the Mayor. Final approvals are expected by mid-March.