WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter on 3992-3996 Washington Street

3992-3996 Washington Street Rendering
3992-3996 Washington Street Rendering

This week, we sent a comment letter on a proposed 18-unit housing development at 3992-3996 Washington Street, about halfway between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills at the intersection of Archdale Road near Guira y Tambora. While we are always happy to welcome new housing to the neighborhood to help mitigate the region-wide housing crisis, the proposed development suffers from similar shortcomings of many other recent proposals — too much valuable land dedicated permanently to car storage, insufficient commitment to affordability and needed density, and only minimally compliant green-building efforts. We still support the overall project, but hope that the City and developers will not miss this opportunity to build for the 21st century, rather than the 20th. Immediate and major change in how we plan land use and transportation decisions are critical to achieving the vision set out in GoBoston 2030 and the greater Imagine Boston 2030 plan.

Our detailed comments below (PDF version also available).

Read More

City-sponsored Open House on Roslindale Transportation and Housing – TOMORROW – 30 January 2020 – 6 to 8 pm – Roslindale Substation

We urge everyone who is able to make it to attend tomorrow night’s city-sponsored open house to learn more and share ideas about both transportation and housing issues in our neighborhood. Here’s the listing from the Department of Neighborhood Development’s webpage:

Latest Update

Join the City of Boston (Department of Neighborhood Development, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Planning & Development Agency and Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services) at an Open House community meeting for a conversation about how housing and transportation can work together in Roslindale.  This open house will explore the questions, concerns and ideas raised during a September 2019 community meeting regarding Housing with Public Assets at the Roslindale Municipal Parking Lot.

This open house will provide an opportunity to have smaller group discussions with residents, business owners and representatives from city departments responsible for housing production, transportation and neighborhood planning.

Date: Thursday, January 30, 2020
Time: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Location: Roslindale Substation
Address: 4228 Washington Street, Roslindale, MA 02131

Some very solid suggestions from one of the leading urbanists up north

Vancouver-based planner Brent Toderian is one of the more thoughtful folks working on urban issues globally. Herewith a link to an article he just posted on Fast Company with 25 suggestions for things we can do to make our little corner of the world a better place in 2020: “25 simple resolutions you can make to improve your city.” The whole article is worth a read, but 3 of the 25 suggestions stand out – numbers 2 and 3 are things that we here at WalkUP Roslindale do pretty regularly and number 21 is, well, literally everyone involved in WalkUP Roslindale, so way to go team:

“2. Speak at City Hall in support of something good for your community and city, rather than just going to oppose things. And before you oppose something (such as well-designed density, new housing choices, or affordable housing), think carefully about who it’s meant to help, and put yourself in their place.”

“3. Choose different ways to get around your city. Walk, bike, skateboard, scooter, take public transit, as many times a week as you can. Focus especially on those short trips–for example, buy a shopping trolley and walk to the grocery store if possible. Lobby your leaders for improvements to support more choices, like better infrastructure and slower speed limits.”

“21. Get involved with (or create) community and advocacy organizations, especially ones that are for things, not just against things.”

Happy 2020 everyone! Enjoy tonight, but get ready, because we have a ferociously consequential decade ahead and a lot of work to do if we’re going to make our city and our planet safer, healthier, and more able to sustain us over the long haul.

Interesting Take on 5 Best Practice Tips for Vision Zero from Suburban Maryland

Aaron Short of StreetsblogUSA came out earlier this week with an excellent piece on 5 best practice tips for Vision Zero as it is being implemented in Montgomery County, Maryland – the massive suburban county to DC’s north and northwest. It’s worth a read and some consideration below.

By way of brief background, Vision Zero, which originated in Sweden in the 1990s, is a comprehensive street and road safety regime that typically targets a future date by which policy, budget, and street and road design, construction, and management will result in zero deaths or serious injuries from traffic on all modes (personal vehicle, transit, walking, cycling, and other modes of travel). The City of Boston adopted Vision Zero in 2014 and set the year 2030 as the target date by which we will reach zero deaths or serious injuries. As we continue to work on the policy here in the city and in Roslindale, it is worth continuing to consider all aspects of Vision Zero and how other jurisdictions are going about implementing it, which brings us back to the article.

The article is framed as an interview with David Anspacher, the Transportation Supervisor within the county’s Planning Department. In the interview, Anspacher highlights 5 best practice tips that we might use as a mental scorecard for what we’ve been doing in Boston:

  1. Speed and Street/Road Design – The county started with lowering the speed limit, as almost the first action, and then has proceeded, as a general policy, with making street and road design changes – narrowing lanes, installing medians and bollards, expanding shoulders and walking/cycling facilities.
  2. Bicycle and Pedestrian Features – The county has just come out with a county-wide master bicycle facilities plan and is soon to come out with a master pedestrian facilities plan. Of interest in Montgomery County’s approach is that they see these augmented network plans as key pieces of making the county’s transit facilities more accessible.
  3. Land Use and Density – Changes in the built environment take time to occur, but moving more homes, shops, and jobs closer to each other and to transit contributes over the long run to a safer travel network of roads and streets as more folks are able to walk, bike, take transit, or use other modes for more trips.
  4. Change the Culture – This tip has to do with decades of transportation engineering practices that have favored driving alone over all other modes and the need to work with existing staff within a transportation agency to accept the new approach to street and road safety.
  5. Collaborative Partnerships – To paraphrase and give this tip a bit of a gloss. Street and road safety advocates aren’t special interest folks who just need to be placated and then put on the sideline. They should be viewed as long-term partners, especially around education and outreach for developing and implementing the policy. We even get some recognition for this as it’s been practiced here in Roslindale on the northbound Washington Street bus lane!

WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter on 780 American Legion / Home for Little Wanderers Project

Today, we sent a comment letter to the BPDA to comment on a proposed project at 780 American Legion Highway (a road that we hope someday will be renamed to and remade as American Legion Greenway). This is the current site of the Home for Little Wanderers, a nonprofit that provides services to at-risk children and young adults. The proposal would be a major development, including 22 units of youth housing as well as 93 units of market rate and workforce rental units and owner-occupied town house condominium units, and new offices for the Home.

We are generally supportive of the project but note it is critical for the City to work with the MBTA to improve transit options in this currently under-served area. Just this week, the Mayor called for a 50% reduction of car use by 2030; higher density projects like this can help achieve that goal as long as they are accompanied by a substantial investment in improved pedestrian, bicycle, and transit options.

Our full letter is reproduced below. (PDF version available here.)

Read full letter

Are we ready to think differently about the Roslindale Municipal Lot?

MEETING DATE/TIME/PLACE: Thursday, September 26, 2019, 6:30 pm @ Roslindale Community Center, 6 Cummins Highway, Roslindale (accessible by foot, bike, MBTA Needham Line, several bus routes, Bluebikes, and by car).

As part of the city’s Housing with Public Assets initiative, our city’s Housing Innovation Lab, along with the Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Department of Neighborhood Development, are hosting the initial public meeting on the potential redevelopment of the municipal lot behind the row of stores on South Street between Taft Hill Terrace and the Needham Line tracks. The Housing with Public Assets initiative began in 2018 with an open request for information on how the city could improve its core assets citywide quickly and efficiently. This included an inventory of libraries, fire stations, community centers, and vehicle storage lots such as the Roslindale Municipal Lot. At the same time, the city also indicated that it specifically cared about housing at these locations, meaning that they were about “integrating deeply and moderately affordable units with market-rate units.” To be candid, we think this idea has legs here in Roslindale, even to the point where we submitted a comment letter about this very location as part of the process back in April 2018. We now look forward eagerly to learning more about how the city is thinking about moving forward with generating new housing opportunities by leveraging a significant, underutilized public asset in the heart of our neighborhood, and how community input can help steer their efforts.

It’s our understanding that the project seeks to preserve much if not all of the existing public parking. In anticipation of discussions about the parking impact of this development, WalkUP Roslindale volunteers recently collected snapshots of data on several different times and days. The data show the following:

  • There are 84 general spaces, four handicap spaces and two ZipCar spaces.
  • At every visit there were always general spaces available for more cars to park.
  • On average over 28 spaces were available; the fewest number of spaces ever available for general parking was three (twice), the maximum during weekday business hours was 64 (once).
  • Only six times (~ 7%) were there fewer than 10 general spaces available.
  • Not infrequently (23 out of 83 times, or ~28%) all handicapped spaces were filled, suggesting that the lot would benefit from more spaces being reserved for handicap plates.
  • We did not yet measure turn-over of the spaces, but anecdotally we frequently observed some spaces filled all or most of the day by the same vehicles. We are certain that if the two-hour parking limit was actively enforced and if parking was metered (so that it was accurately not priced as a free resource), the number of available spaces for patrons of local businesses would increase.

While of course our study is not fully comprehensive, we think it’s a good start to have some data as we go into this process.

Comment Letter on 11 Taft Hill Terrace

11 Taft Hill Terrace Design

Yesterday, we sent an official comment letter to the Boston Planning & Development Agency, concerning a proposed 16-unit housing development at 11 Taft Hill Terrace, just steps from the Roslindale Square main street business district, commuter rail, and bus lines. We support this much-needed addition to our housing supply–especially so close to transit–but suggest the project could achieve better green building standards, be more inclusive and affordable, and better accommodate the future of transportation by dedicating less space to parking. Our specific concerns are proposed solutions are outlined below.


July 30, 2019

BY ELECTRONIC MAIL ONLY (Ebony.DaRosa@nullboston.gov)
Boston Planning & Development Agency
One City Hall Square, 9th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02201
Attention: Ebony DaRosa, Project Manager

RE:           11 Taft Hill Terrace, ROSLINDALE – SMALL PROJECT REVIEW

Dear Ms. DaRosa:

Please accept the following comments on behalf of WalkUP Roslindale with respect to the proposed residential development at 11 Taft Hill Terrace in Roslindale (the “Proposed Project”). As set forth in the Small Project Review application, this will be a consequential development project, located 200 yards from the Roslindale Village Commuter Rail Station and even closer to multiple bus routes on Washington Street that connect directly to the Orange Line, and containing, as proposed, 16 housing units,14 off-street parking spaces and 16 bicycle parking spaces in a four-story building with a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units.

We generally support the Proposed Project. We favor 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. However, we offer the following concerns and comments intended to emphasize the imperative to adopt a greener approach to building in order to prepare for the climate change emergency,  and also to address the future of transportation and the need for more affordable housing in every development project that our city considers.

Before addressing each of these issues in turn, we observe that historically, when developers proposed large condominium projects in Boston neighborhoods, they were often “bargained down” by the neighbors, who would push for fewer units, less height, and more off-street parking spaces, thus (1) reducing the developer’s ability to make a profit; (2) constraining the growth of much-needed housing; and (3) inducing more demand for cars by virtue of the extra parking spots. Indeed, our experience is that developers often proposed extra large structures, knowing they would have to give up some units to appease neighbors. By contrast, today we see more and more Bostonians have become acutely aware of the housing and transportation crises, and we have found many supporters in Roslindale specifically who are sensitive to these issues. Thus, while a project like this might have sacrificed profitability in the past by reducing scale and increasing parking, in view of the decreased pressure to do so today, there should be more room in the budget to address more pressing concerns, particularly in the areas of energy efficiency and affordability for lower-income families.

1.               Green Building

Although the Proposed Project is 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), the BPDA should 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 preparing for and attempting to mitigate 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. To help offset electrical use, we suggest that the proponent investigate the possibility of adding additional photovoltaic panels to this project as well as on the adjacent Greater Roslindale Medical and Dental Center. Rent from the roof panels could provide needed income for the center and the generated electricity.

We also recommend considering using air-sourced heat pumps for heating/cooling. While the operating cost in heating mode is likely still higher than gas in this climate, the total capital cost might be less than the total for gas heat (especially high efficiency) + electric air conditioning, so the levelized cost difference won’t be as great. There are some utility incentives and tax credits (such as SMART, the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) that can help reduce the cost. The Commonwealth is decarbonizing the grid rapidly, so investing in electric infrastructure now rather than locking in higher CO2 emissions for two decades with gas infrastructure is better to help meet longer term climate change goals.

We note that once this project is built, it will be too late to implement many energy efficiency measures that could easily be incorporated at the design and build phase. We have seen other condominium developments in the area (indeed, on this street) consider retrofitting their buildings to add photovoltaic panels only to give up due to the logistical hurdles of dividing up costs and benefits amongst multiple units, as well as the significantly higher cost of modifying an existing structure versus including solar from the start. In short, we only have one shot to get this right, and the BPDA should push developers to seize every opportunity to do so.

2.              Off-Street Parking

At 14 spaces, the Proposed Project has a parking ratio of 1:0.88 which we feel is reasonable but could be lower and still meet residents’ needs. 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 a few hundred feet from the proposed site), and, as noted above, this location 200 yards from the Roslindale Village Station commuter rail stop, from bus stops serviced by a dozen bus routes and within 250 yards of a neighborhood supermarket. 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 along with two Bluebikes bikeshare stations in Roslindale Square. Note that the MAPC Perfect Fit Parking Study, released 7/24/19, suggests that a ratio of less than 1:0.7 would be appropriate. 2

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.

If some off-street parking spaces within the Proposed Project can be dedicated carshare (such as Zipcar) spaces the need for parking spaces can be reduced. If carshare spaces cannot be added within the garage, then perhaps the Proposed Project in cooperation with BPDA could sponsor additional carshare spaces within the adjacent municipal parking lot on Taft Hill while using the vacated space for either additional bike parking or space for an affordable unit.

By unbundling parking spaces from units and charging market rates for parking spaces, vehicle use can be discouraged. 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. Likewise, providing free MBTA passes to tenants will encourage transit ridership as was done at the nearly adjacent 20 Taft Hill Park.

With available parking thus reduced to below a 1 to 1 ratio, the Proposed Project is 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, while families that need an individually-owned vehicle for career, family, or other reasons will have the option to pay for a place to put it.

We also think it is important that the units in this development not be granted the right to obtain residential parking permits, and we urge BPDA to work with BTD to make sure this happens. While our neighborhood and the Boston area are in dire need of more housing, there is absolutely no need for more cars. Ultimately, the City needs to update its parking policies for the 21st century—including by limiting the supply and charging for residential parking permits. But until that happens, we need to take steps to insure that every large-density development like this doesn’t bring along with unlimited free car storage on public land in the form of residential permits. These free permits provably induce demand for cars, and the Roslindale neighborhood should not be forced to absorb that traffic and pollution impact. Moreover, Taft Hill Terrace is a short, dead-end street with no adjacent blocks of “overflow” parking—if units in the Proposed Project were eligible for free residential permits, parking from these units alone could overwhelm the entire street.

3.               Bicycle Parking

The Proposed Project is close to bicycle lanes on Washington Street, bike paths in the Arnold Arboretum, the Southwest Corridor Park/Pierre Lallement bike path and the future Roslindale Gateway path making biking to work/school, errands, and leisure a safer and more attractive option. We recommend a minimum bike parking ratio of 1 space per each bedroom. Additionally, the spaces must be usable by people of all abilities, so that a portion of the spaces must be usable without needing to lift the bike. Space needs to both accommodate traditional bicycles as well as cargo bikes such as longtails, bakfiets, and box bikes. With e-bikes becoming more available and commonplace, we recommend that bike charging stations be built to allow tenants to charge their e-bikes. An e-cargo bike can replace an automobile for a large number of trips and since two large cargo bikes can fit within one car parking space, they are space efficient. In order for people to ride bikes, the bikes must be usable. We therefore recommend that a bike repair station with bicycle pump be included in the garage. Since visitors who arrive by bike may not need secure, overnight bike storage, we recommend that at least two bike racks be included near the building entrance per BTD guidelines.

4.              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 five (5) spaces would allow for an additional 810 square feet of living area. We would expect that area to be split into 1 additional unit, which we would recommend be added to the affordable unit count or be used to reduce the AMI to be truly affordable to residents of Roslindale. 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.

5.              Roslindale Gateway Path/Blackwell Path Extension and Arboretum Road

In order to help reduce parking burden, the developer should be required to assist financially with ongoing efforts around the Roslindale Gateway Path (http://walkuproslindale.org/gateway) as this will be a significant amenity for residents of the development and the broader surrounding neighborhood. 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. We propose a contribution of $25,000 for the Proposed Project.

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,

Mark Tedrow

Resident @ 21 Conway 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
Benjamin Bruno, Resident @ 27 Colgate Road, 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 above) resulting from our mission and principles.

Copy to:

Mr. Joseph Coppinger, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (joseph.coppinger@nullboston.gov)
District 5 City Councilor Tim McCarthy (timothy.mccarthy@nullboston.gov)
At-Large City Councilor Michelle Wu (michelle.wu@nullboston.gov)
At-Large City Councilor Althea Garrison (althea.garrison@nullboston.gov)
At-Large City Councilor Michael F. Flaherty (michael.flaherty@nullboston.gov)
At-Large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (a.e.george@nullboston.gov)

  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.
  2. See https://perfectfitparking.mapc.org/

11 Taft Hill Terrace – Public Meeting on Proposed Redevelopment – 6 pm on Wednesday, 24 July 2019, Roslindale Community Center

Everyone interested in supporting the desperate need for more housing to support our city’s growing population while doing so in a way that reduces the demand for driving and provides for more affordable homeownership opportunities is encouraged to attend tomorrow evening’s meeting on the redevelopment proposal for 16 condominium units and 14 off-street vehicle storage spaces at 11 Taft Hill Terrace. WalkUP Roslindale members will be on hand to learn more about the proposal, provide feedback, and ultimately formulate our response. We hope to see you there!

Join WalkUP Roslindale at Undesign the Red line – Boston City Hall – 8:30 am on July 18, 2019

Undesign the Red line is a collaboration between designing the WE and Enterprise Community Partners that uses an exhaustively annotated and illustrated timeline to take attendees through several decades of housing segregation by race and class across the United States. July 18th will be the last day that the exhibit will be available for public view at Boston City Hall and WalkUP Roslindale wants to make sure we don’t miss this opportunity to learn much more about the origins, practice, and continued effects of redlining in our city. Details for the morning of Thursday, July 18, are as follows:

  • Meet in Adams Park at 7:15 am
  • Walk as a group to Forest Hills Station on the Orange Line
  • Board the Orange Line approx. 7:50 am
  • Arrive at Boston City Hall approx. 8:20 am
  • All interested attendees to meet at the Bill Russell statue on City Hall Plaza at 8:30 am
  • We will then view the exhibit inside City Hall. Plan for an hour to do so.
  • Thanks!

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.