Letter to Transportation Committee re American Legion Parkway

Today we sent a letter to the Massachusetts State Legislature Joint Committee on Transportation supporting an act that would change the name of American Legion Highway to American Legion Parkway which we believe would send a better message about traffic safety, particularly when coupled with physical design changes and speed-limit enforcement. Our full letter is available as a PDF and reproduced below.

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WUR Housing Chair Rob Orthman’s Letter in the Roslindale Bulletin re 4198 Washington Street

We remain incredibly disappointed in the ZBA’s decision denying zoning relief to the 4198 Washington Street project as this proposal, more than many, presented a stark choice between affordable housing and community amenities on the one hand, and passive private car storage on the other. We hope Mayor Wu will scrutinize this issue closely and exercise her right to appoint members who will not prioritize parking above other urgent needs or anoint themselves de facto transportation policy czars. In any event, we were pleased that the Roslindale Bulletin chose to print a letter this week from WalkUP Board Member and Housing & Development Chair Rob Orthman. The full text of Rob’s letter is reproduced below:

NEW MEMBERS OF THE ZBA WITH EXPERIENCE IS CRUCIAL
To the Editor:

Regarding the article in last week’s issue, ‘4198 Washington project fails for lack of parking’, we as a city are desperately in need of a new Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and overall zoning reform. The recent decision by the ZBA to deny a worthwhile project at 4198 Washington Street in Roslindale Square is just the latest example of why. This is a development with levels of income-restricted housing far exceeding the city minimum requirements. It includes new, enhanced spaces for a community theater and local yogurt shop; both businesses owned by Asian-Americans. The location is transit-rich, right on the rapid bus lane to and from Forest Hills and close to the commuter rail station. And yet, members of the ZBA pedantically only focused on a lack of on-site parking in evaluating the project merits. The board members put aside support from City Councilor Arroyo, the Mayor’s Office, and many residents, and instead gave voice to bad faith efforts put forward by some residents opposed to the project to pit business owners of color against one another in an effort to defeat the project. The ZBA and opponents seem to think parking is more important than anything else including desperately needed homes for people and better spaces for our small businesses. It belies basic logic to think customer parking would be negatively affected by this new building when customer spaces are signed for 2-hours; why would any resident leave their vehicle in a spot to get ticketed every day? Having new customers living a stone’s throw from our local businesses would only benefit our business district as is. To hear the board architect proclaim that the community theater could simply be moved to a different, smaller space in the building to accommodate underground parking was particularly shocking, as if she is in any position to tell a business owner what is best for their business or what kind of space they need.

Mayor Wu takes office with the vast majority of ZBA members as holdover appointments on expired terms from prior administrations. It is imperative to have new members of the ZBA appointed that understand we live in a growing city and need to get serious about building new housing, particularly income-restricted housing, and supporting our local businesses, especially owned by individuals of color, that want to stay and grow here. More broadly, we need zoning reform that stops requiring every single development proposal to go through endless community meetings and bureaucratic approvals that only benefit the opponents of progress like happened here. We need to move past this parking-above-else mentality that is stifling progress and keeping us stuck in a place that does not benefit anyone except those who simply oppose change, no matter how they disguise it.

Robert Orthman
Roslindale

Comment letter on proposed Massachusetts legislation for automatic traffic enforcement

Back in October, we submitted a comment letter supporting legislation that has been proposed up on Beacon Hill to allow for automated enforcement of bus lanes and speeding. The relevant bills are S1545, H2426, and H2494. We generally support these efforts and hope our state legislators will move forward with these and other measures to help reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by dangerous driving behavior. If we get any updates on any of these bills, we will publicize them here.

Our full letter is reproduced below. Please contact your own legislators and ask them to lend support as well!

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District 5 Councilor Ricardo Arroyo’s Statement of Support on 4198 Washington

We’ve posted on this topic previously and have expressed our own support in a comment letter earlier this year and now we’re gratified to see the following statement from District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo in support of the proposed project, released earlier today and quoted here in full:

“Today a project by Arx Urban at 4198-4206 Washington Street in Roslindale goes before the BPDA Board.
“I am in full support of this project.
“This project sets important benchmarks that are in line with the values and priorities I believe developments in our neighborhoods should have and should promote. At least 40% of the units will be income restricted between 30-90% Area Median Income and the developers are seeking to and have stated publicly that their goal is to eventually have 100% of the unit’s income restricted. The city currently only mandates 13%.
“This project will be sustainably built. A 100% electric building, with solar power, approaching Passive House standards. While also widening sidewalks around the property and creating a courtyard with greenspace on Washington Street. They have also entered partnerships with two local businesses with long term, below market leases and will showcase the Rozzie Square Theatre, an already existing wMBE business, that will invite innovation in the arts and provide a forum for diverse voices.
“Arx Urban has also taken meaningful steps to engage the community and implement feedback. They’ve reduced the height to four stories from an initial seven. Set the building back from the Sumner School by 51’ and collaborated with the school on a mural and improv classes. They have also agreed to several measures to improve pedestrian experiences and safety.
“I have heard from opponents who are most staunchly opposed to this project because it lacks onsite parking. And while I believe that is a valid concern, I believe it is outweighed by the truly transit oriented nature of Roslindale Square. I believe in prioritizing the housing of people and a project like this, that provides truly affordable housing on this scale, makes that goal available to those who most need it.
“Our city has been, and continues to be, in a housing crisis that has been headlined by displacement and a lack of truly affordable housing. As a Councilor I will continue to advocate for projects that make remedying that issue, with strong commitments to income restricted units, a priority.”

Progress on Gateway Path funding thanks to Sen. Rush and Rep. Malia

We have been working for many years with our elected leaders to make the Roslindale Gateway Path a reality and were delighted to learn that Sen. Mike Rush has successfully pushed through an amendment to this year’s state budget bill  allocating $100,000 toward development of the path. Rep. Liz Malia and her staff are on board to help see this through on the House side. This is a significant step forward for the path, which we hope will be fully funded in the coming years.

Advocacy Opportunity – Boston City Council Sidewalk Snow Clearance Hearing – 10 am, March 16 via Zoom

Yes, the hearing – under the subtitle “Supplemental Sidewalk Clearance Program During Snowstorms in Boston” – will be held by the council’s Committee on City and Neighborhood Services during the day, but it will be over Zoom. Anyone interested in testifying or offering public testimony should send an email to committee liaison Juan Lopez (email juan.lopez@nullboston.gov) to request the zoom link, sign up to testify at the hearing, and/or to submit written comment separately. Your friends here at WalkUP Roslindale will be there, with bells on, and we’ll post our written testimony after the hearing. We have long-standing, well-documented thoughts about the consistently awful, incredibly short shrift our city gives to people walking, biking, and taking transit during and after any significant snowfall. This is the first opportunity we can recall where the public is being invited to speak to our city’s administration about just how bad it is out there and what we believe can and should be done. We hope you can participate! PS And we’d like to give a special note of thanks to Councilor Bok for issuing the call for this hearing. It’s way, way, way past time to do better in what is supposed to be “America’s Walking City.”

Public Meeting on 4198 Washington Street Development this Wednesday, February 24, 2021, at 6pm, via Zoom

Rendering of 4198 Washington Street Proposed DevelopmentWe’ve been following a proposed development at 4198 Washington Street (the building that is currently home to Droubi’s Pita Bakery, Rozzie Square Theater, Delicious Yogurt, and Dragon Chef) with interest. The developer proposes to replace the building with a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. The BPDA is holding a virtual public meeting this Wednesday, February 24, 2021, from 6pm-7:30pm to discuss the proposal and receive feedback. You’ll need to register in order to attend.

We are generally in favor of the project since it will provide much-needed housing right in the heart of Rozzie Square, without creating the induced demand for more cars that would occur with dedicated parking spaces. We also understand that the developer is working to secure funding that would allow it to income-restrict at least 40% of units, a goal we support enthusiastically. We look forward to hearing more about the project at this upcoming meeting, after which we plan to send a comment letter with our collective feedback.

We encourage everyone who would like to see more housing (without more cars) in Roslindale to attend and speak up at this meeting.