Three Good News Items for your Tuesday!

We sometimes have the opportunity to write about actual newsy items happening around our neighborhood and today is such a day as we have 3 good ones for everyone:

  • Sweeties has landed!

We were all sad to see Stephanie Ortiz move out of the area and Jimmie’s exit the square’s retail scene, but our sadness is now somewhat lessened by the arrival of their successors at 46 Corinth Street – Sweeties and their new “delightfully social” ice cream/fruit mix-ins concept. They’ve soft opened in the last few days. Go on down and give them a try. You won’t be disappointed!

  • Rozzidents for More Rozzidents warms our hearts

As part of the pro-housing movement ourselves, we are greatly encouraged by the emergence of “Rozzidents for More Rozzidents” as part of the advocacy ecosystem here in Roslindale. On their facebook page, they describe themselves as “A group advocating for secure, abundant, and affordable housing in Roslindale, Boston, and beyond.” We couldn’t agree more with these sentiments and their buttons and stickers are supercool.

  • We’re tabling! This Saturday – 8 June 2024! At the Farmers Market!

That’s right. Come find us anytime between 9:00 am and 1:30 pm this Saturday in Adams Park (we think; either there or Birch Plaza). We’ll be there with our table, banner, street chalk, and goodies, ready to talk about our mission, activities, and what’s next. Hope to see you there!

Another installment of Squares + Streets Roslindale News – Foundational Zones Adopted by Zoning Commission, Upcoming Zoning Meeting on 24 April 2024, and AHMA’s initial analysis online

Three things to know:

  1. Squares + Streets Foundational Zones Adopted by Zoning CommissionThis past Wednesday, 17 April 2024, saw the Boston Zoning Commission, by a vote of 7-1, adopt the full set of S+S foundational zones – S-0 through S-5 – into the Boston Zoning Code as Article 26, along with a broad range of other modifications to the code. WalkUP Roslindale submitted its own comment letter and your correspondent testified in favor at the hearing, along with District 5 Councilor Enrique Pepen, among others supportive of the proposal. Congratulations and thanks to the city planning line staff who worked so hard to get these building blocks roughed into shape and to Director of Planning Aimee Chambers, to BPDA Director Arthur Jemison, and to Mayor Michelle Wu for supporting this work and leading the effort to get the initial step all the way over the line. Now, we turn in true earnest to the small area planning process here in Roslindale Square to figure out how best to land these zones within a framework of city policies, programs, and ordinances that will make our neighborhood center a better functioning, more welcoming place.
  2. Squares + Streets Upcoming Meeting THIS WEEKZoning Workshop, 6 pm on 24 April 2024, Roslindale Community Center (corner Cummins & Washington). This is going to be an in-person meeting. If you’re reading this, we encourage you to attend for as much of the meeting as possible. BPDA staff describe the agenda and intent as follows: At this workshop, community members will be introduced to zoning as a tool that guides development and will discuss zoning through a community development mindset. The workshop will start with a walkthrough of how zoning works in Boston with a focus on existing zoning regulations in Roslindale Square and proposed zoning in Squares + Streets zoning districts as context. The second half of the workshop will be an interactive, facilitated activity to think about how proposals for community development projects would have to interact with existing zoning regulations in Roslindale Square. By the end of the workshop, community members will have engaged in initial conversations about community development goals that will support future engagement conversations on how the mapping of Squares + Streets zoning districts can support those goals.
  3. AHMA gets the ball rolling on S+S buildout scenarios – Our friends over at Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA), the Commonwealth-wide pro-housing organization, recently released their preliminary analysis of the likely range of new residential units that could result from Squares + Streets in Roslindale Square. Briefly stated, AHMA’s research projects that Roslindale’s Squares + Streets rezoning could result, over the next decade, in 300 to 1700 new residential units. That is a very broad range indeed. AHMA’s projections are presented in accessible PDFs and an interactive online tool. The tool allows users to adjust assumptions and explore rezoning’s impacts on housing production, property tax revenue, and zoning nonconformance. AHMA have also prepared a detailed video walkthrough for navigating the PDFs and interactive tool. AHMA’s analysis identifies underutilized sites on lots larger than 6,000 sq. ft. that are vacant or have older, low-rise buildings, and assumes 25-33% (i.e., up to a third) of these sites will redevelop over 10 years. The most minimal rezoning scenario only studies the transformation of commercial areas into mixed-used districts. By applying the newly adopted S2 District, which permits buildings up to five stories, this could increase Roslindale’s housing stock by 2.5% and Hyde Park’s by 5.7%. The top-of-the-range abundance rezoning scenario explores the potential for mid-to-high density housing and mixed-use projects across the entire Squares + Streets study area. By applying a mix of S2 and S3 Districts, which permit buildings up to seven stories, this could increase Roslindale’s housing stock by 13.4% and Hyde Park’s by 24.4%. More details on the methodology can be found in the PDFs and video walkthrough.AHMA have indicated that they have three goals in releasing these initial housing projections and the accompanying tools:
    • Education – AHMA wants to increase public understanding of how zoning actually translates into building more homes. The better people understand how this process works, the better the chances we can engage in collaborative community planning.
    • Advocacy – AHMA supports the abundance rezoning scenario and believes Roslindale and Cleary Squares can thoughtfully introduce far more homes while maintaining existing residents’ quality of life.
    • Framing the discussion AHMA recognizes that the minimal rezoning scenario fails to adequately address the housing needs in Roslindale and Cleary Squares, but includes it as a plausible lower bound for community discussions.

Three thoughts on Squares + Streets as we get underway in Roslindale Square

NOTE: The following are entirely the personal thoughts of the poster, not the entire organization or even the Board of Directors of WalkUP Roslindale. – mjl

There is no question that the manner in which Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) leadership and staff are going about the Squares + Streets small area planning process is a departure in significant ways from past practice and that this departure, which is significant, has led to some understandable confusion among those who most closely follow the city’s planning and development processes. Herewith, three thoughts about where we find ourselves at this moment:

  1. Floating Zones are a new thing in this city – This has probably been the most difficult conceptual issue for everyone to get used to. I’m not aware of any prior examples of the Boston Zoning Code containing a set of base zoning districts that aren’t mapped anywhere upon their adoption by the Zoning Commission, but that is exactly what is being done with Squares + Streets. This is not unusual outside of Boston – the concept of floating zones has been around in planning and zoning circles for decades. The new S-zones – S-0 through S-5 – that are slated for a vote on April 17, 2024, will go into Article 26 of the code and will comprise, upon their adoption, only a suite of potential base zones to be deployed later. Each area undergoing the Squares + Streets small area planning process is expected to ultimately bring a selection of these zones down to the ground in the configuration that their process says makes the most sense. This is worth repeating – no part of Roslindale is going to be rezoned as part of the text amendments under consideration next month. Instead, rezoning for a portion of Roslindale Square will only occur after the small area planning process, which is just now getting underway in earnest, has run its course and a multi-faceted plan, of which targeted rezoning is expected to be a part, is adopted by the BPDA.
  2. Planning Processes, at any scale, of 6 to 9 months are, you guessed it, new as well for Boston – This is largely because planning processes leading to rezoning in this city have usually covered much larger areas, typically entire neighborhoods, as part of the so-called “base code” or the original neighborhood zoning article efforts of prior decades or the newer plans such as Plan East Boson and Plan Mattapan. Full neighborhood-wide planning processes like the latter two have taken several years. By being focused about the areas to be examined, visioned, and then rezoned, the idea is to be able to move with the speed and urgency that the ongoing housing crisis demands. And let’s be clear that the housing crisis truly is a crisis, an emergency even, and the Mayor recognizes that
  3. Finally, truly usable As-of-Right Zoning is entirely new – Underzoning with the intent of pulling almost everything that happens into a discretionary approval process has a long, troubling history here in Boston, across the commonwealth, and frankly around the country. If you want to learn more about how this has worked over several decades, I’d suggest taking a look at the work that Amy Dain at the Boston Indicators project has been doing for many years on the deeply exclusionary effects this phenomenon has had in the Boston region and the large share of responsibility it bears for the accompanying housing crisis. The Mayor has long been explicit about her concerns that so much of what actually gets built or expanded in this city goes through a discretionary, politically-driven zoning relief process, particularly before the Board of Appeal. She is hardly the first person to recognize and point this out, but she is the first mayor I’ve seen since I moved to Roslindale almost 24 years ago who is trying to do something about it. This is a problem that affects every part of the code. It’s why so much of what local neighborhood groups discuss has to do with all manner of development proposals ranging from a new multifamily building replacing a largely defunct row of single-story retail down the street to an expansion of their across-the-street neighbor’s house to add a modest amount of living space in their attic. I directly lived through and supported both of these examples in my own neighborhood. Most everyone knows that this is no way to run development review in 2024. But it’s still the day-to-day reality, even as Squares + Streets is the first meaningful attempt being made by the city to move away from this in a serious way on what many think is a sensible place to start – allowing multifamily residential above ground floor commercial/retail uses “as-of-right” in our city’s neighborhood centers without forcing the developers of that housing to engage in a lengthy, costly, and risky discretionary review process to do what we say we want them to do. This puts a significant amount of pressure on getting not only the zoning but also the full suite of implementation components of the small area planning process right.

All of the foregoing said, it’s worth reiterating the concerns and objectives that the WalkUP Roslindale comment and support letter from late January raised. The full letter can be reviewed here, but if anyone wants to know where we’re coming from as we take part in the Roslindale Squares + Streets process, the key concepts are as follows:

  • 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-conforming. 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. [SPECIFIC MJL NOTE: It is worth pausing on this point, which has been raised above as well. It has been a curious, but entirely consistent feature of zoning in Boston for several decades that almost everything is zoned for something other than what it actually is on the ground. As just on example, my house sits on a 4400 square foot lot in a 2F-5000 residential zoning district on which the first permitted unit requires at least 5000 SF of lot area. In other words, in a fit of what can only be described as bizarre self-loathing, the city saw fit, in 2008 mind you, to zone my property and the property of almost all of my neighbors (whose lots are also less than 5000 SF in area) as non-conforming. In other other words, our current zoning almost uniformly acts like what we have today, in the neighborhood we all say we love, is wrong and not acceptable. I am not exaggerating.]
  • 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.

Bussey Street Renaming Initiative – Community Input Solicited

Along with a group of neighborhood residents and stakeholders, WalkUP Roslindale Board member Steve Gag has been involved over the last several months in a meaningful initiative to change the name of Bussey Street, the street that bisects the Arnold Arboretum, to honor an individual worthy of recognition in accord with the present-day values of the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale communities. That group is now seeking broader community input on potential new names for the street that will provide valuable information and advice to the two street abutters – the Arboretum/Harvard and the Parks Department/City of Boston – who are empowered to make the formal request for the name change.

We hope that folks will read this document from the initiative that provides more background on what this is all about, along with biographies of the five potential new names for the street, and will submit input by rating each of the candidates. In the document is a link to the form to fill out and submit a rating. Respondents have until April 27 to submit the form.

Finally, there will be a virtual community meeting on the evening of April 11 to learn more about the candidates and the renaming process.  The linked document includes a contact email address for those interested in attending the meeting.

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


World Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Crashes – 20 November 2022

With apologies for the late amplification here: Today is a particular day to remember all of those who have died or been seriously injured on streets and roads all across the world, including here in Massachusetts. The MA Vision Zero Coalition has a webpage up about events here in Boston and elsewhere around the commonwealth. Whatever we’re actually able to do today to help remember, let’s make sure we stay committed to doing everything we can to make our streets and roads safer and more welcoming for everyone who uses them.

Poplar Street Walk Audit – Draft report now available for general feedback

Following up on our early May Walk Audit on Poplar Street, conducted with our friends at WalkBoston, we are now able to share the draft report to solicit further feedback on how we might slow motor vehicle speeds and improve the safety of vulnerable street users, especially those on foot.

Please send any comments to <> by Monday, 15 August 2022. Many thanks!


WalkUP Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative – Version 5.2

If the forecasters are even half right, tomorrow looks like a doozy around here, so we’re making the call now for all WalkUP Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative forces to be out, in force, shoveling bus stops and crosswalk curb ramps to help everyone get around more easily after the storm. As a refresher, we now have a fully distributed model where everyone in Roslindale is their own block captain with full power and authority vested in them by WalkUP Roslindale to clear their local crosswalk curb ramp and dig out their nearby bus stop, snapping pictures before and after and sending them to yours truly at, to claim $10 in Rozzie Bucks from our good friends at Roslindale Village Main Street. Stay safe, stay warm, and we’ll see you out shoveling after the storm. (Yes, that is our old friend the Boston Yeti, looking to make a comeback again this year!)

WalkUP Roslindale 2021 – Year in Review

And so, with 2021 now in the books, we here at WalkUP Roslindale wanted to take a moment and take stock of the year that was even as we look forward to the new year ahead. Accordingly, in what seems to us to be order of importance, here are the top 5 highlights on what we did, said, and were following in 2021:

  1. We’re now “Official” – In September, we formally incorporated as a Massachusetts non-profit, gathered a formal board of directors, and elected officers, and then held our first formal board meeting. This move was overdue, but took on new urgency following our own diversity, equity, and inclusion self-evaluation over the last 18 months. We saw this step as a fundamental building block for having a more transparent, accessible organization going forward, and it concurrently allowed us to bring on a board that is more racially and ethnically diverse than our informal steering group had been.
  2. We congratulated Mayor Michelle Wu on her victory – In November, we marked the general election victory of Michelle Wu, Roslindale resident and best friend of transit, walking, and biking anyone alive has seen in the mayor’s office in this city, by, what else, advocating for a series of actions that we would love to see her administration take early on. Topping our list was further expansion of bus lanes and transit priority on key bus transit routes across the city, but we also urged more pedestrian priority for traffic signals, converting the neighborhood slow streets program into a citywide, rapid-implementation street safety program, implementing more fare-free buses and finally fixing commuter rail fare inequity, improving motor vehicle parking practices and management, furthering the construction of new affordable housing, and expanding cycling infrastructure. We hope to have the chance to work with Mayor Wu and incoming Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge on all of these issues in the year ahead.
  3. We released the Cummins Missing Middle Street Safety Audit report – We conducted the audit virtually in December of 2020 and January of 2021, but it took some time to pull together the audit reports from all participants and get the report into suitable shape. The principal focus of the report is on the “Octopus” intersection at Cummins/American Legion/Canterbury and its appallingly unsafe walking conditions, despite its location near some key neighborhood destinations. We intend to bring this report and the issues it raises more clearly to the attention of the new administration this year.
  4. We were actively engaged on the 4198 Washington Street Project – We’ve linked to only the last story right here, but we checked in multiple times over the course of the year, as we wrote in favor of the proposal, cheered District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo’s strong support and ensuing approval by the Boston Planning & Development Agency and then were deeply disappointed by the Board of Appeal’s failure to muster a sufficient majority to approve the project’s necessary zoning relief.
  5. Finally, we welcomed more bus improvements to the neighborhood – These included most importantly the institution of an afternoon bus/bike lane on Washington Street southbound between Forest Hills and Bexley Road (matching the morning northbound lane in this same stretch that was the first of its kind in the city) and significant bus stop improvements in Roslindale Square. We hope there will be more to come on these kinds of improvements in the new year.

– Composed by M. Lawlor