Update on the Rozzie Urban Wild Effort

Roslindale Greenbelt Protection Overlay District
Roslindale Greenbelt Protection Overlay District

Last week, we posted about a Boston City Council hearing scheduled for this Monday on protecting and enhancing the American Legion Parkway area in Roslindale. Reports are that the hearing was wildly successful. Each neighbor’s testimony, whether by letter or personal appearance, was powerful, informative, and from the heart. Together, residents from around the area made this corridor neighborhood visible to the City. City Councilors Murphy, Wu, and O’Malley showed great enthusiasm for the project, and expressed willingness to facilitate multi-departmental collaboration on behalf of the project.

Below are additional maps to supplement the ones posted here earlier. Although the city Open Space Senior Planner indicated at the hearing that American Legion area was not “Greenbelt Protected,” these maps show that it is.

Other useful sources of information:

Maps

Maps Posted for Rozzie Urban Wild Protection Hearing

A few days back, we posted about a City Council Hearing on the “urban wild” land around American Legion highway. The entry has just been updated with detailed maps (reproduced below as well). Go check it out!

Sad Crosswalks

We envision a sea change for pedestrian safety in and around Roslindale: traffic calming, narrower automobile travel laneswoonerfs, pedestrianized-street parties, reliable enforcement of speed limits, curb extensions, chokers, road diets, pedestrian zones, chicanes–they should all be in the mix and implemented where appropriate. We should be leading, not trailing, in rolling out these best practices, because we are ideally situated to be the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. We share the dream of Vision Zero and need to hold the City’s feet to the fire to make it real.

None of these changes are likely to come quickly, though. In our neighborhood, the streets surrounding Adams Park are especially bad but also have fantastic potential. While we’re putting in the long-term work to achieve Vision Zero, we should, in the meantime, at least get some crosswalks that are not an embarrassment to the community. Check out these two recent photos from the already problematically-wide intersection at Poplar, Washington, and Corinth. Roslindale deserves better.

Poplar Crosswalk at Washington Street
Poplar Crosswalk at Washington Street
Washington Street Crosswalk to Public Library
Washington Street Crosswalk to Public Library

 

Rozzie Urban Wild Protection Hearing – Sept. 21, 2015 10am City Hall

[Post Updated 9/20/15 – Maps Now Included]

City-Councilors-at-Large Michelle Wu and Steven Murphy are co-sponsoring a hearing before the Council’s Committee on the Environment and Parks, to discuss protecting and designating as an “urban wild” land around American Legion Highway. The hearing will be on Monday, September 21, 2015, at 10am, in the Iannella Chamber, 5th Floor of City Hall. Public hiking trails, walking/multiuse paths, and the like, are a key ingredient to a more walkable Roslindale, and are particularly needed in the sections of the neighborhood further from the Arboretum. More details below. Please support this effort!

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First Official WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter – 100 Weld Street

Sketch Plan showing WalkUP Roslindale Proposal for Weld/Centre Intersection
Sketch Plan showing WalkUP Roslindale Proposal for Weld/Centre Intersection

We’re pleased to announce WalkUP Roslindale has submitted its first comment letter, providing some feedback on the proposed 100 Weld Street development. 100 Weld has been at least a bit controversial because of its scale (17 units replacing a defunct former gas station). While the proposed development is imperfect (concerns articulated in our letter, text reproduced below), we believe on balance the increased density and revitalization of vacant space benefits Roslindale–residents and business-owners alike–and housing is sorely needed in and around Boston. See below for our complete analysis.

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City’s middle-income base eroding – including in Roslindale

Per Boston Globe: Maria Sanchez-Lopez (right), with husband Lyle Lopez and daughter Felicia Torres, sought an affordable home for years.
Per Boston Globe: Maria Sanchez-Lopez (right), with husband Lyle Lopez and daughter Felicia Torres, sought an affordable home for years.

Today’s Globe features another in a series of articles on the housing crisis and related displacement, which includes Rozzie:

Among those affected is Orlando Espinal, who is facing eviction after his Roslindale apartment building was sold this year and the new owner ordered the renters out.

Espinal, 54, makes nearly $70,000 a year helping people with disabilities find work, but the only suitable places he can afford are far outside the city, which would mean yanking his teenage son out of Fenway High School.

The article doesn’t address the main cause of gentrification/displacement until the last paragraph: the interaction of supply and demand. We can’t stop the growth of demand (nor would we want to), so the only lever that works to ease displacement is to increase supply:

If workers can’t afford to live in Boston, it will make the city less attractive to employers, said Sheila Dillon, director of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The city is trying to alleviate what it has called the “unprecedented difficulties” middle-income families are facing in finding housing, including pushing for the building of more than 26,000 units of housing for lower- to middle-income families and new dormitories to get more students out of working-class neighborhoods.

Only a small fraction of these units will be built in Roslindale, but because we are a small, compact neighborhood, even a few dozen units will have a noticeable impact. Let’s make sure every new project is designed to contribute to a more walkable, vibrant neighborhood. We’re coming up with principles and guidelines to advance that vision. Stay tuned.

Boston City Council Public Hearing on Bicycle Infrastructure 9/14/15 at 4pm

City Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu reported in her August 12, 2015 council meeting notes that fellow Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley called for a hearing on cycling infrastructure in the wake of the Anita Kurmann tragedy:

Cycling Infrastructure: Councilor Pressley called for a hearing on planned and ongoing improvements to the city’s cycling infrastructure. She noted the need to follow up on the 2013 report identifying dangerous intersections in the city, especially after the recent fatal crash at Beacon St and Mass Ave, and wanting to understand how the new Chief of Streets and Transportation Director roles fit into cycling infrastructure planning. The matter was assigned to the Committee on City & Neighborhood Services and Veterans Affairs for a hearing.

That matter has now been set down for a public hearing on Monday, September 14, 2015, at 4pm in the Christopher Iannella chamber at City Hall. Councilor Pressley is particularly interested in the personal experiences of cyclists in the city. Although there has been a lot of focus on downtown issues of late, we need to speak up and make sure Rozzie is represented!

If you’d like to speak at the hearing, please drop a note to James Sutherland. They will also accept written testimony if you can’t make the hearing live.

Complete details reproduced below; copy of official notice linked here. There’s also a Facebook page for the event. Spread the word. Read More

Thinking about the proposed project at 100 Weld and Boston’s inclusionary development policy

The former Weld American gas/service station at the corner of Weld and Centre may be zoned within the West Roxbury Neighborhood District, but by virtually any other known geographic listing it’s in Roslindale. After a prior redevelopment proposal failed a few years ago, it looks like the current proposal – now dubbed “100 Weld” and including 17 condominium units and a Centre Street-facing exercise/office space for residents with 26 accessory off-street parking spaces – is going to thread the needle and be that rare exception to the general rule that nothing worth doing is ever done under the Boston Zoning Code without needing zoning relief (i.e., either variances or, at the very least, a conditional use permit). This is not to say that the proposed development program and design don’t leave a few things to be desired — they do, and WalkUP Roslindale intends to submit a written comment letter about them to the BRA by the September 10 deadline. Among other things, I predict we’ll focus on the missed opportunity for retail to encourage vitality at this location, the need for well-designed and landscaped frontages on Weld and Centre, how the time has ever more obviously come to have a real discussion about the impact that required off-street parking has on the cost and shape of new development, and how this intersection and the mixed residential/commercial node here could use streetscape/motorway improvements beyond just at this project’s front door onto Centre. Overall, though, the project deserves to go forward. The neighborhhood has lived with this vacant parcel long enough.

Another issue that this project raises is the fundamental inadequacy of the city’s inclusionary development policy (IDP). This is the policy adopted over a decade ago by mayoral executive order under which the city requires residential projects of 10 units or more that require zoning relief (variances or conditional use permit) to set aside a number of units equal to 15% of the market rate units for households earning within a set series of ranges related to area median income, depending on whether a particular project is rental or homeownership, with a buyout option. I’ve italicized “that require zoning relief” because that’s where the rub comes on 100 Weld and where the city is going to need to figure out a new way forward. 100 Weld had a couple of pre-filing meetings in the spring at which alternative schemes were presented for a few more units that would have required variances and thus a few affordable units. Whatever the reason, the developer has elected to reduce the number of units and thus has come forward with a scheme that can be done as-of-right, with no zoning relief. As a result, the project no longer triggers the IDP and so there will be no affordable units in this project.

Going forward, there clearly seems to be a need to rethink the IDP and potentially make it apply to all projects with a minimum number of residential units, regardless of whether they require zoning relief. One would fully expect this to be part of the ImagineBoston process. But the pace of the current boom argues for putting in an interim policy that plugs this gap, especially if the city’s ultimate intent with the planning process is to right-size our zoning code for the task ahead of us and make a much greater share of worthwhile projects able to proceed without zoning relief. To be continued.

Exactly

IMG953432-2

This photo was taken yesterday at the Roslindale Farmers Market. I assume RVMS gathered the information and made the display. Well done, guys! Exactly the kind of thinking about the area that’s needed. Really makes the argument about how much is within very short walking distance. Our focus should be on finding ways for those steps to be easier and safer to make, increasing the number of places you can get to by walking, and supporting old and new neighbors who want to take those steps!

(Revised slightly after initial posting.)