East Roslindale Urban Wild Bicycle Tour Tomorrow (Sunday 10/18/15) at 8am!

East Roslindale Hidden Parkway Map

East Roslindale Hidden Parkway Map

A group of citizens have been acting to protect and enhance the green space corridor in the American Legion Parkway area of Roslindale. Thus far, the response from the community and elected leaders has been overwhelmingly positive. But to really appreciate the area’s potential, you need to see it firsthand. Please join us for a brisk sunny bicycle tour, tomorrow morning (Sunday, October 18) at 8am, starting at the Stop-n-Shop Plaza (Walgreen’s end) on American Legion Highway near Hyde Park Ave. Complete details in this PDF flyer; meeting point pictured below. RSVP or questions to Laura Smeaton or Lisa Beatman.

Taft Hill Development Up Next

20 Taft Hill Rendering

20 Taft Hill Rendering

Everyone is encouraged to attend the upcoming community meeting on the proposed new development at 20 Taft Hill Park, next to the municipal parking lot just north of the Square. Per the BRA, which will be hosting the meeting, essential details are as follows:

Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Time: 6:30 to 8:00 pm
Location: Roslindale Community Center, corner of Washington and Cummins

Information on the proposal as submitted by the developer can be found on the BRA’s website HERE.

Basic project numbers shown there are as follows:

  • 19 residential condominium units in 2 buildings (6 units/13 units).
  • Unit mix is 2 1BRs, 15 2BRs, 2 3BRs.
  • 19 off-street parking spaces (1 per unit).
  • Bicycle storage for 34 bicycles.
  • $2,000 car-sharing service credit to each unit buyer.

Five things to consider/watch for in the meeting and in discussions over this project:

  1. Generally speaking, this is a project that fits within WalkUP Roslindale’s principles and is likely to gain our support. The location is adjacent to the square, and so walkable to its services, restaurants, shops, and transit options, and the design and program appear interested in making use of that walkability. To get the most out of this project as a neighborhood, we will want to focus much of our attention on the quality of the urban design here so that we end up with something much closer to the substation redevelopment as opposed to, for example, the redevelopment of the former Roslindale Pub site. The initial renderings suggest that this will be more like the substation, even if it is a bit of a departure from typical residential architecture in the neighborhood.
  2. According to the application, the project will require zoning relief (in this case, variances) because the site is zoned 2F-5000, a subdistrict previously discussed at this blog. Given the project’s size, it will also be subject to the city’s inclusionary development policy, also previously discussed here. That means that at a minimum 13% of the units will need to be affordable under the policy’s definition. WUR is already on record through our principles that we think this percentage is low given the scope of the need and it further doesn’t address the broader workforce housing challenge that has occupied so much of the Walsh administration’s attention and bubbled up just a couple of days ago in a slightly different context dealing with the city’s housing and jobs linkage fees. This is an issue that will need to be on the table.
  3. The developer’s decision to include bicycle parking and car-sharing credits shows a willingness to engage on encouraging active transportation in our neighborhood. To WUR, this presents the opportunity to work constructively and proactively on promoting walking, bicycling, and transit infrastructure, very much along the lines of the City’s recently released draft vision for GoBoston 2030, especially the “health”  section. New development that smartly leverages our neighborhood’s existing active transportation assets should be thinking about ways to concretely support their improvement and expansion.
  4. The 1-to-1 off-street parking ratio will be a topic of discussion and deliberation. The multiple intersecting issues that are bound up in parking were identified as needing thoughtful consideration in an early post here. Clearly, there are different sides to this issue and spillover effects on generally available on-street parking from households that own more cars than they have off-street parking spaces to put them in can have impacts. On the other hand, simply imposing a higher rate of off-street parking has multiple impacts of its own, including increasing motor vehicle traffic, taking up valuable space that could be devoted to other, more productive uses, and driving up the cost of housing to provide an “amenity” that many residents may not want. These are just a few of the considerations about parking that I’m sure will be voiced through this process.
  5. Finally, a note on process: This will be a public community meeting required as a result of the developer’s Small Project Review application. There may be more than one such meeting for this process and there will also be an accompanying written comment period that the BRA project manager will identify at the meeting. Conclusion of this BRA process with a BRA Board vote will then be followed by a process with the Board of Appeal for the variances that would almost certainly include a further public community meeting and then a hearing before the Board. In other words, there will be multiple points at which to plug into this process, be heard, and be counted.

The Rozzie Arboretum Gateway Path

A top WalkUP Roslindale initiative is a new multi-modal “gateway path” into the Arnold Arboretum directly from Roslindale Square. An introduction to our vision is below; you can also print this PDF flyer as a quick introduction to the project.

Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)

Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)

The Arnold Arboretum is not only Roslindale’s greatest park, but among the most beautiful urban open spaces anywhere. In 1880 Frederick Law Olmsted wrote: “On (these) acres much the best arboretum in the world can be formed.” Today, some of Olmsted’s “emerald necklace” plan has been realized, but much remains to be done.

We envision a new entrance to the Arboretum close to Roslindale Square, to make the park more visible and accessible to residents and visitors. The Rozzie Gateway Path would start adjacent to the commuter rail platform, and continue at grade into the park, allowing access to the open space without the need to surmount the large hill that lead to the Mendum Street gate.

The Path will continue straight parallel to the commuter rail tracks toward Bussey Street, and then connect up with the Bussey Brook Meadow path and on to Forest Hills.

Key Benefits

  • Better access to the Arboretum from Roslindale Square (and thus to transit node, businesses, Farmers Market, etc.)
  • Washington Street lacks pedestrians amenities [1] and is unsafe for bicyclists; the Gateway Path will provide a better alternative to reach Forest Hills, where walkers and cyclists can avail themselves to the many amenities around Forest Hills; continue on to the Southwest Corridor Park; or board the Orange Line. And of course vice-versa — folks coming down the Orange Line or the Southwest Corridor will have a superior route to visit Roslindale Village.
  • Current routes from Roslindale to Forest Hills through the Arboretum have steep hills and are more than twice as much distance as the proposed path
  • Hubway Bike-Share stations could be available at both ends, providing a quick, easy, low-stress route to connect Rozzie with JP and the Orange Line
  • Possibilities for improved Arboretum access from underserved neighborhoods, particularly the Archdale area

Discussion of the full route is still very much open. The crossing at South Street and Bussey presents the biggest challenge, although not an insurmountable one. For the penultimate section on the north side of South/Bussey, the route could proceed on either side of South Street subject to consideration Boston Water and Sewer Commission and flood-plain issues. With these caveats, below is one of the paths we are considering:

Rozzie Gateway Proposed Route (one of many!)

Rozzie Gateway Proposed Route (one of many!)

We have made significant progress in moving from idea to reality; if you’d like to learn more, please join our email list or contact us directly. We’d love to hear your suggestions or other feedback!

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. An earlier version of this post (pre-3/9/16) suggested Washington Street is “unpleasant” for pedestrians. We discovered some people misinterpreted this statement as derogatory; the intent was to summarize the lack of crosswalks, benches, curb cuts, as well as the occasionally overly-narrow and poorly-maintained sidewalk space, rather than to suggest there is anything inherently wrong with or undesirable about this corridor. We intend to push hard for better walkability along this corridor, and the path effort is no substitute for that.

Healy Field Playground Community Meeting – October 19, 2015 at Roslindale Community Center

Healy Field Community Meeting Flyer

Healy Field Community Meeting Flyer

WalkUP Roslindale strongly supports increased and improved open space, green space, and play space in the neighborhood (ideally all three together!). Indeed, one key benefit of moderately higher-capacity housing should be to allow more space to be left over, greater more political clout, and a more stable tax base to provide enhance shared recreational space for all of us. To that end, we encourage community members to attend an upcoming meeting to about improvements to the Healy Playground (off of Florence Street).

The meeting will be Monday, October 19, 2015, 6:30pm-8pm, at the Roslindale Community Center at 6 Cummins Highway. The Parks Department is interested in what the community has to contribute to the
design process. Following a brief presentation, community members will be able to offer
input regarding the material presented and the design process.

Spread the word, and see you there!

City Council Candidates Forum October 14, 2015 at Roslindale Community Center

Boston City Council Candidates Forum Poster

Boston City Council Candidates Forum Poster

Election day is November 3, 2015. There are only a few contested races this time around; five candidates for the four “at-large” city council positions, as well as two candidates running for for District 5, which covers much of Roslindale, and District 4, which touches on a corner of the neighborhood. Even though there is no high visibility office up for grabs (e.g. Mayor, Governor, President), it’s absolutely crucial that we all get out and vote — elected people pay close attention to which areas vote in the highest numbers, so just getting to the polls at all helps our neighborhood get the attention it needs from the city. Moreover, election season is the perfect time to bring top priority concerns to candidate’s attention–such as our goal to make Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston.

Against that background, Progressive WRox/Roz is hosting a city council election forum next Wednesday, October 14, 6:45pm, at the Roslindale Community Center. Voters can meet and hear from the five candidates running for City Council At-Large (Annissa Essaibi George, Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu), the contenders for District 4 (Andrea Campbell and Charles Yancey, TBD), and the candidates for District 5 (Tim McCarthy and Jean-Claude Sanon). District 6 Councilor Matt O’Malley will also participate, although he is running unopposed. The evening will include mingling with candidates at the start and end, statements from the candidates, and Q&A. The evnet is co-sponsored by a number of Roslindale and West Roxbury neighborhood organizations and local media.

Please show up to this forum and make sure these candidates know that walkability is a top concern in our neighborhood!

Umbrellas Don’t Cause Rain

Umbrella Not Causing Rain

Umbrella Not Causing Rain

Notable economics writer Matt Yglesias provides a pithy analysis of the relationship between housing prices and construction in his newsletter published today. Yglesias writes:

I observed on Twitter the other day that there’s a shockingly widespread belief that banning new construction will prevent increases in the price of housing, and that lead to some pushback that was more interesting than I’d anticipated and is worth addressing specifically.

Umbrellas don’t cause rain

But before getting into the specific points, I do think it’s worth focusing on the core fallacy that drives some of this. People look around and see that in neighborhoods where prices are going up, there’s generally highly visible new construction — cranes putting up largish buildings — and think the construction is driving neighborhood change.

This is a bit like thinking that umbrellas cause rain because every time you see everyone carrying them it rains.

Construction — especially of high-rise buildings — is expensive and people are only going to do it in places where demand is high and prices are on the rise. By the same token, brand-new construction commands a price premium so the just-built thing always targets a more upscale market than the average neighborhood resident. Your city’s stock of cheaper housing consists almost exclusively used to be new but aren’t anymore. But the presence of new expensive buildings isn’t making older buildings more expensive. It’s the fact that older buildings are getting more expensive that leads people to build new buildings.

Yglesias then goes on to explain why banning new projects won’t achieve the goal of preserving a neighborhood’s character or preventing gentrification and the rise in housing costs.

As we engage as a community to debate construction proposals in and around Roslindale, we would be well advised to keep this insight in mind.

Use BOS:311 for Pedestrian Advocacy

The city recently rolled out BOS:311, the latest attempt to provide a single coordinated interface for citizens to report non-emergency issues. BOS:311 replaces the old “Citizen’s Connect” app. You can install the app for free on your iPhone or Android device; or if you don’t have a smartphone, use the web interface or just call 311 from a land line.

While we’re not convinced that bad sidewalks and crosswalks should count as “non-emergency”, BOS:311 is an excellent way to report and track pedestrian infrastructure issues that should be addressed with a relatively quick fix. You can also use your BOS:311 report as a pointer when asking your elected representatives to demand that the relevant city departments take action. We urge all WalkUP supporters to install the app and report problems with our walking environment.

Below are a couple of examples we reported this week. The first one has oddly been marked as “case resolved,” which in this case appears to mean “this is scheduled to be fixed” (we hope!). Click on either image to get the full report and status.

4197 Washington Street Missing Curb Cut

4197 Washington Street Missing Curb Cut

Poplar and South Curb Cut Problem

Poplar and South Curb Cut Problem