Squares + Streets – Small Area Planning Process – Roslindale Square Kickoff Open House – Saturday 24 February 2024 @ 10:30 am – Substation Upstairs

Yes, another Squares + Streets post!

From the BPDA webpage for Squares + Streets:

The BPDA is hosting an open house to officially kick off the 6-9 month planning and engagement process for the Roslindale Square Squares + Streets plan! At this event, community members can learn more about the Squares + Streets planning & zoning processes while helping us understand their priorities, history, and hopes for Roslindale Square. 

Childcare, translation services in Haitian Creole and Spanish, and light refreshments will be provided for meeting attendees. Please note that on-site childcare will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis with limited capacity. 

Pre-registration is encouraged (especially important if weather causes this in-person event to be shifted to zoom since the link will be provided to registered attendees).

We encourage attendance by anyone interested in making Roslindale Square a more welcoming, connected, and active place while helping to combat the housing crisis in our neighborhood, city, and region. We hope to see you there!

Squares + Streets Initiative – WalkUP Roslindale Support and Comment Letter Submitted Today

As is our custom, we provide the full text of our support and/or comment letters and this one is both. The letter fairly well explains our thinking at this point in this program, but it is worth pointing out that “this point in the program” is really just about table-setting. Our support and comment letter relate to the set of proposed zoning text amendments soon to be considered by the Boston Zoning Commission that will, most critically, add a series of floating zones that are not yet mapped anywhere in the city. Instead, those zones will float, available in the Zoning Code, until they are brought down to the ground through specifically focused small area planning processes. While the floating zone concept is relatively new to Boston, it is not by any means a recent innovation in land use regulation. The concept has been around for a long time and has been used elsewhere even here in Massachusetts.

As we are all well aware, Roslindale Square has recently been identified among the first group of places where such small area planning processes leading to new zoning and an accompanying action plan will be undertaken, we understand commencing at some point in late winter/early spring. We look forward eagerly to engaging with the city and our neighbors in that process and adopting effective zoning changes that will make the principal center of our neighborhood a better, more active, and more welcoming place where more people can live, work, shop, and just connect with each other.

We urge everyone reading our letter to take a look at the initiative in more depth and we’d be delighted if you concluded that you wanted to weigh in with your support through the BPDA’s online comment submission portal here.

January 24, 2024

BY ELECTRONIC MAIL ONLY

james.jemison@nullboston.gov

squaresandstreets@nullboston.gov

James Arthur Jemison II

Chief of Planning and Director of the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA)

City of Boston

Re: Squares + Streets Planning and Zoning Initiative

Dear Chief Jemison:

Please accept this comment and support letter on behalf of WalkUP Roslindale with respect to the Squares + Streets planning and zoning initiative currently underway by the BPDA. Squares + Streets is a new planning and zoning initiative furthering key updates to the city’s current zoning to focus on more housing, public space, arts and culture, and transit in our neighborhood centers like Roslindale Square and along main streets.

WalkUP Roslindale strongly supports this initiative and appreciates the BPDA undertaking this ambitious and exciting endeavor to enhance Roslindale Square and other neighborhood centers around our city. We especially extend our gratitude to the BPDA staff who have already held numerous community meetings, drop-in sessions, and opportunities for feedback throughout the first phase of this process as the floating zones are first adopted into the zoning code, to be mapped later upon the conclusion of subsequent small area planning processes.

We are excited by the intent of the Squares + Streets initiative to facilitate critically needed new housing growth and to strategically increase population density which will help support our small businesses and improve walkability in key neighborhood centers. For nearly a decade now, WalkUP Roslindale has supported new housing in our neighborhood, organized for better public transit, and advocated for enhanced street safety and walkability to support our neighborhood’s small businesses and community residents. We believe the Squares + Streets initiative is very much in line with this mission and these actions of WalkUP Roslindale and are excited to support its progress. In particular, we applaud the removal of unnecessary and counterproductive parking minimums through the proposed zoning and the capacity for enhanced building heights adopted through to-be-undertaken small area plans – two specific elements that will facilitate new housing growth and improved walkability.

While broadly supportive of the Squares + Streets initiative, WalkUP Roslindale strongly encourages the BPDA to further consider the following recommendations:

  • 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-comforming. 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.
  • Keep S-5 Placemaker Squares. We understand and applaud the BPDA for returning the S-5 (Placemaker Squares) districts to the Squares + Streets options for small area plans after they were previously removed. The S-5 districts enable the greatest density of housing and uses where appropriate to create vibrant, active neighborhood centers. We wish to reiterate that the S-5 districts are a crucial tool for planning and should be included in the final set of floating zones adopted.
  • 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.

In closing, we wish to reiterate our deep support and appreciation for the Squares + Streets initiative. We believe a thoughtful neighborhood and citywide rezoning is long overdue in Roslindale and Boston, respectively. Starting with the Squares + Streets planning and zoning, we hope that the city can finally and fully enable the density, walkability, and investment we need in our neighborhood centers to enhance the vibrancy of our communities, to provide intrinsic support for local businesses, and to tackle the critical need for more housing so evident in our Roslindale neighborhood and across our entire city.

Sincerely,

WalkUP Roslindale Board of Directors

 

Cc: Michelle Wu, Mayor

Enrique Pepén, City Councilor District 5

Ben Weber, City Councilor, District 6

Ruthzee Louijeune, City Council President

Julia Mejia, City Councilor At-Large

Erin Murphy, City Councilor At-Large

Henry Santana, City Councilor At-Large

Bill MacGregor, State Representative

Rob Consalvo, State Representative

Michael Rush, State Senator

Arborway Bus Maintenance Meeting – In Person – TOMORROW – 22 June 2023 – 6 pm at English High School

We’re boosting the signal on this one kind of late, but better late than never. If you’re able, please do attend and show your support for our beleaguered transit agency and their attempts to move forward with electrification of their bus fleet by, among other things, replacing the Arborway bus garage with a fully modern facility while making significant land available for development of sorely needed new housing for our city. Thanks!

The MBTA is pleased to announce a public meeting to discuss replacement of the Arborway Bus Maintenance Facility.  The in-person meeting is scheduled for:

Thursday, June 22, 2023

6 PM – 8 PM

The English High School – Auditorium

144 McBride Street

Boston

At this meeting, MBTA project staff will provide an overview of the 15% design plans for the new bus maintenance facility and electrification project. The MBTA is designing the facility to support a 100% battery electric bus (BEB) fleet. BEBs will reduce emissions and improve the air quality around the facility and routes served. The new facility will be located next to the existing facility, on the site of 500 Arborway, and will open up 6.5 acres for housing and other development. The new facility will expand the fleet size to serve additional routes in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. This will provide capacity for 60-foot buses that carry greater numbers of riders on busy routes.

The MBTA encourages public participation and invites all to join this meeting. The MBTA will facilitate a Q&A period to respond to inquiries and gather public feedback about this project. 

This meeting will be held in person. Please click here to register so that we can account for attendance and accommodate accessibility needs.

For questions and comments, you can email us at arborwaybus@nullmbta.com.

Accommodations

Haitian Creole and Spanish interpreters, translated materials, and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services will be provided for this meeting. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be provided via Zoom.

Accessibility accommodations and language services will be provided free of charge, upon request, as available. Such services include documents in alternate formats, translated documents, closed captioning, and interpreters.

For more information or to request a reasonable accommodation and/or language services, please email publicengagement@nullmbta.com or call tel:  857-327-3282. Requests should be made at least 10 days before a meeting.

Para más información o para pedir arreglos razonables y/o servicios lingüísticos, por favor envíe un e-mail publicengagement@nullmbta.com.

如需进一步了解或要求合理的便利设备和/或语言服务,请电邮 publicengagement@nullmbta.com.

Para mais informações, ou para solicitar serviços de acesso e/ou linguísticos em termos razoáveis, contactar por email publicengagement@nullmbta.com.

Pou plis enfòmasyon oswa pou mande yon aranjman rezonab ak/oswa sèvis lang, tanpri voye yon imèl bay publicengagement@nullmbta.com.

Comment Letter on Community Benefits for 18-22 Arboretum Road Development

Last week, we joined with several community partners to send a letter to the BPDA requesting community benefits to accompany the 18-22 Arboretum Road Development, a proposed 230-apartment development just off Washington Street abutting the Arboretum. Our joint letter focuses on funding for the Gateway Path and food pantry certification for an Archdale food distribution site. The full letter is reproduced below.

Read More

Public Meeting 5 Days Right Ahead – Thursday, 9 March 2023 – Return of 4198 Washington Street

As those who follow this weblog know, WalkUP Roslindale followed this project closely through the public process that unfortunately resulted in an effective ZBA denial in the fall of 2021. (See 2 of our posts below). Now, the owners of the property are thankfully back with a renewed push on redevelopment of this 8,982 square foot site at 4198 – 4206 Washington Street in Roslindale Square. Physically, their proposal hasn’t changed: in place of the existing one-story retail structure, it still calls for construction of a new five (5)-story, mixed-use building containing approximately thirty-one (31) residential units, approximately 6,800 square feet of retail/community theater space, and approximately thirty-eight (38) bicycle storage spaces. The sole change, and it is significant, is that the owners have increased the share of income-restricted residential units from 42% to 61%, such that 19 of the 31 units are committed to be affordable to households earning between 60% and 100% of area median income. Not only is this substantively good on its own and makes an already great project that much better, it is also puts the project into the category of affordable residential developments that the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Executive Order of last fall expressly wants to advance more quickly and efficiently in light of the long-standing housing crisis in our city. In other words, this is exactly the kind of project that the Wu Administration wants to see a lot more of. Its time has come.

You can visit the project’s page on the BPDA website for more information. Most importantly, you can find information on the upcoming public meeting over zoom that is scheduled for this coming Thursday, 9 March 2023, at 6:00 pm. We urge supporters of this worthy proposal to attend the meeting and make your voices heard in support. You can register here.

4198 Washington Street Mixed Use and Affordable Housing Project Rejected by Zoning Board of Appeal Due to Lack of Parking

 

WalkUP Roslindale comment letter on 4198 Washington Street

 

361 Belgrade – Supplemental Filing Comment Period Ends Tomorrow – 3 March 2023 – Show your support!

WalkUP Roslindale previously indicated our support for this long-time-coming redevelopment of the former Clay Chevrolet property back in the fall – Comment Letter in Support of 361 Belgrade Avenue Housing Proposal – and we’re happy to see that the proposal has improved in the interim, especially including a better design and increased affordability. Complete information on the supplemental filing, including the presentation from a recent community meeting on the filing, can be found at the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s 361 Belgrade Project Page.

The comment period on this supplemental filing expires tomorrow, 3 March 2023. We urge our followers to support this project and its continued progress toward becoming reality by sending a brief support email to the BPDA project manager, Quinn Valcich, at quinn.w.valcich@nullboston.gov.