Today, we sent a comment letter to the BPDA on a proposed residential project at 59-63 Belgrade Avenue. We generally support this project as it is constant with our goals and mission, and also offer some suggestions for how the proposal could be improved. Our full letter is below, also available as a PDF.
We remain incredibly disappointed in the ZBA’s decision denying zoning relief to the 4198 Washington Street project as this proposal, more than many, presented a stark choice between affordable housing and community amenities on the one hand, and passive private car storage on the other. We hope Mayor Wu will scrutinize this issue closely and exercise her right to appoint members who will not prioritize parking above other urgent needs or anoint themselves de facto transportation policy czars. In any event, we were pleased that the Roslindale Bulletin chose to print a letter this week from WalkUP Board Member and Housing & Development Chair Rob Orthman. The full text of Rob’s letter is reproduced below:
NEW MEMBERS OF THE ZBA WITH EXPERIENCE IS CRUCIAL
To the Editor:
Regarding the article in last week’s issue, ‘4198 Washington project fails for lack of parking’, we as a city are desperately in need of a new Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and overall zoning reform. The recent decision by the ZBA to deny a worthwhile project at 4198 Washington Street in Roslindale Square is just the latest example of why. This is a development with levels of income-restricted housing far exceeding the city minimum requirements. It includes new, enhanced spaces for a community theater and local yogurt shop; both businesses owned by Asian-Americans. The location is transit-rich, right on the rapid bus lane to and from Forest Hills and close to the commuter rail station. And yet, members of the ZBA pedantically only focused on a lack of on-site parking in evaluating the project merits. The board members put aside support from City Councilor Arroyo, the Mayor’s Office, and many residents, and instead gave voice to bad faith efforts put forward by some residents opposed to the project to pit business owners of color against one another in an effort to defeat the project. The ZBA and opponents seem to think parking is more important than anything else including desperately needed homes for people and better spaces for our small businesses. It belies basic logic to think customer parking would be negatively affected by this new building when customer spaces are signed for 2-hours; why would any resident leave their vehicle in a spot to get ticketed every day? Having new customers living a stone’s throw from our local businesses would only benefit our business district as is. To hear the board architect proclaim that the community theater could simply be moved to a different, smaller space in the building to accommodate underground parking was particularly shocking, as if she is in any position to tell a business owner what is best for their business or what kind of space they need.
Mayor Wu takes office with the vast majority of ZBA members as holdover appointments on expired terms from prior administrations. It is imperative to have new members of the ZBA appointed that understand we live in a growing city and need to get serious about building new housing, particularly income-restricted housing, and supporting our local businesses, especially owned by individuals of color, that want to stay and grow here. More broadly, we need zoning reform that stops requiring every single development proposal to go through endless community meetings and bureaucratic approvals that only benefit the opponents of progress like happened here. We need to move past this parking-above-else mentality that is stifling progress and keeping us stuck in a place that does not benefit anyone except those who simply oppose change, no matter how they disguise it.
We’ve previously publicized our support for the proposed mixed-use project at 4198 Washington Street — see our detailed comment letter here.
We recently learned that the BPDA has responded to some efforts to organize against this project by re-opening and extending the comment period for this proposal to May 3rd. We strongly encourage supporters of this project to submit comments through the BPDA portal or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a reminder, this project will provide a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. We have heard the project may be down-sized by a story and shrunk to fewer units due to some opposition. We strongly urge the developer to not “down-size” the building and recommend supporters submit similar comments to the BPDA.
The developer Arx Urban is seeking to income-restrict at least 40% of the units in the new building. Only 12% of the total housing stock in Roslindale is income-restricted, compared to 27% of total homes citywide. While we are generally supportive of new housing in Roslindale Square, we are particularly supportive of this project for that reason. We also do not want to see a smaller project given the loss of income-restricted units that would entail.
The developer is hosting a drop-in session to answer any remaining questions this Monday, April 26 evening in Adams Park from 5:30pm-7:30 pm. Please wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Attendees can receive a free yogurt or ice cream from Delicious Yogurt for their trip home too!
This past week, the BPDA held a public meeting on a proposed development at 4198 Washington Street, the building currently home to Droubi’s Pita Bakery, Rozzie Square Theater, Delicious Yogurt, and Dragon Chef. The developer proposes to replace the building with a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. The meeting was well-attended and many neighbors praised the developer’s thoughtful approach to affordability and transportation. Now that we’ve learned more about the proposal and heard comments from the community, we’ve sent in a comment letter. If you’d like to add your voice, please drop a note to the BPDA project manager, Aisling Kerr (email@example.com) or fill out the BPDA comment form.
Our PDF letter is reproduced in full below.
We’ve been following a proposed development at 4198 Washington Street (the building that is currently home to Droubi’s Pita Bakery, Rozzie Square Theater, Delicious Yogurt, and Dragon Chef) with interest. The developer proposes to replace the building with a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. The BPDA is holding a virtual public meeting this Wednesday, February 24, 2021, from 6pm-7:30pm to discuss the proposal and receive feedback. You’ll need to register in order to attend.
We are generally in favor of the project since it will provide much-needed housing right in the heart of Rozzie Square, without creating the induced demand for more cars that would occur with dedicated parking spaces. We also understand that the developer is working to secure funding that would allow it to income-restrict at least 40% of units, a goal we support enthusiastically. We look forward to hearing more about the project at this upcoming meeting, after which we plan to send a comment letter with our collective feedback.
We encourage everyone who would like to see more housing (without more cars) in Roslindale to attend and speak up at this meeting.
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).
The Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab (part of New Urban Mechanics) recently put out a “request for information” (or RFI) regarding housing with public assets–a public process intended to “allow the city to explore new ideas without committing resources to a particular concept.” Specifically, the City is interesting in improving its core city assets–libraries, fire stations, community centers, and municipal parking lots–to help address the housing crisis and make a dent in the goal of adding 53,000 new units of housing in Boston by 2030.
The City of Boston owns hundreds of parcels of land and hundreds of buildings that could play in a significant role in achieving this goal. Among these is the Taft Hill parking lot right in Roslindale Square. From our “Walkable Urban Place” perspective, the lot has several attractive features: it is literally yards away from our main street shopping district that would be enhanced by greater density of residents who would frequent the shops on foot, and the only location closer to the commuter rail station is the commuter rail lot itself. Moreover, we’d like to see more land dedicated to housing people and businesses, rather than serving as dead “free” car-storage all day. We are thus quite interested in helping lead dialogue with the city on this idea.
On the other hand, we’ve seen several smaller developments in recent years in and around Roslindale which have gradually increased population and density. While we’ve generally applauded this increase in housing supply, the inescapable fact is that the City has done far more on housing than on transportation, and unless we change course immediately, the lack of meaningful coordination between transportation and land use will take a real toll on livability and likely engender strident community opposition to any further development. In short, Boston can and should accommodate 100,000 new residents, but not 50,000 new cars.
To that end, we’ve sent the letter below to respond to the City’s RFI on developing the Taft Hill lot. The focus here is not any specific development proposal for the lot–a process which is still some a ways off, but rather an urgent call to arms to start putting the right sustainable transportation pieces in place now, so that when it comes time to evaluate specific development proposals, we will have some assurance that these will enhance the neighborhood’s walkability and vitality and not result in increased gridlock, pollution, and harm to the pedestrian environment.
If you share our concerns and our vision, be sure to reach out to all the officials listed below and let them know!
A couple of weeks back, a community meeting on a proposed 42-unit residential project at 43 Lochdale Road (off Washington Street, near Forest Hills) was postponed at the last minute. The meeting has just been rescheduled for Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 6:30pm at the Roslindale Community Center (6 Cummins Highway). You can take a look at the thoughts we shared back in April; in brief, while housing is desperately needed around Boston, especially near transit hubs like this location, we would very much like to see the developers of this project better consider walkability and transit access given the density and location of the project. More free parking necessarily means more cars and traffic; instead, we’d like to see investment in walking and bicycling infrastructure (as well as complementary amenities like Hubway and ZipCar), to make sure it is as easy as possible for residents to live car-free so close to the orange line. Please sure your thoughts in the comments here, and attend the community meeting on May 25!
Just a reminder that the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services is holding a community meeting this Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Roslindale Community Center (6 Cummins Highway) regarding a proposed development at 874-878 South Street (near the intersection with Walter). Details: