Two October Meetings for a Better Roslindale: BPL 10/17 6pm and Hubway (at RCC) 10/26 6pm

Two weeks from today, on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6pm, there will be a public meeting to provide information and solicit feedback on Hubway bike-share locations for Rozzie, at the Roslindale Community Center, 6 Cummins Highway. Bike-sharing provides a key connection between other sustainable modes of transportation–we envision it as being especially helpful in facilitating travel between Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, as well as the Arboretum in between. Show up and show your support!

Also important is a meeting next week, on Tuesday, October 17, at 6 pm: the Boston Public Library will host the first community advisory committee meeting to discuss the design for the estimated $6.4 million renovation of the Roslindale Branch at our branch location at 4246 Washington Street. We are very much looking forward to this long-needed investment in our community! The library is a vital meeting place and anchor of Roslindale Square. Please attend and provide your input.

WalkUP-sponsored city councilor forum a success

WalkUP was thrilled to host an engaging forum on Tuesday night with the incumbent councilors and candidates for Boston City Council At-Large. All eight candidates were in attendance: Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu, and challengers Domingos DaRosa, Althea Garrison, William King, and Pat Payaso. We appreciate their unanimous participation as well as the packed room and viewers on our Facebook livestream! It’s clear our neighborhood is very engaged in local politics and passionate about the issues discussed.

The forum focused on transportation and housing issues pertinent to Roslindale. One consensus point was the need for a robust and safer bike system in Roslindale and Boston. Candidates expressed particular support for the Arboretum Gateway Path and planned expansion of Hubway bike sharing to Roslindale. No candidate, however, explicitly said he or she would support the removal of parking spots to create such protected bike lanes where necessary. Another consensus point was the need to significantly improve the American Legion corridor pedestrian and bike experience. Several candidates gave credit to the community advocates along American Legion for their work and recent Slow Street neighborhood designation.

Although all eight candidates agreed on the urgency of our ongoing housing crisis, they disagreed on how to treat parking at new developments. Several candidates expressed a view that more parking is needed at each new development. They also want each individual parking spot ‘bundled’ with a corresponding housing unit, which significantly raises the overall cost of the unit–a decent ballpark estimate is about $50,000 in development costs for each additional space. WalkUP is of the belief, based on data and experience, that a better strategy is to price parking separately so that only unit owners who need a space are required to purchase one. This helps keep the overall cost of the units down for those who do not need a vehicle and reduce the overall number of cars at a site. To the concern that individuals will just park on nearby public ways, some candidates want the city put a price on its resident parking permits. Currently, the city provides as many resident parking stickers as a resident wants for no charge. Councilor Wu, for example, wants the city to charge for the permits and cap the amount of permits per resident to better manage these public parking resources.

We also learned some interesting tidbits about the councilors and candidates. Councilor Pressley does not own a car and that informs her view of the need for better public transit across the city as a social equity issue. Candidate King lives on American Legion Highway and sees firsthand the need to improve it. Councilor Essaibi-George owns a small business in Dorchester which informs her concern for the negative effects an Amazon headquarters could have in Boston. In fact, all the candidates interestingly expressed reservations about efforts to attract Amazon to the city.

Our neighbor Adam Gaffin attended the forum and provides his review on Universal Hub. We appreciate his attendance and that of other media members! Stay tuned for a forum later this month with the district councilors who represent Roslindale.

Support the Healy Field Community Garden!

Help the Healy Field Community Garden reach its $25,000 matching grant goal!

We talk a lot about how smarter, well-designed, and dense mixed-use development will advance our vision of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in all of Boston, but it’s important to remember that high quality and accessible open space is also a critical ingredient for a Walkable Urban Place. Indeed, density and open space are two sides of the same coin. As urban designer and walkability advocate Julie Campoli states in her book Made for Walking:

The structural elements illustrated throughout Made for Walking – streets, blocks, sidewalks, and connected open spaces together with the intricate mixing of uses – make walking and biking convenient and enable mobility with a vastly reduced carbon impact. These qualities, combined with a comfortable streetscape, create the type of pedestrian-oriented environment that lures people out of their cars. A few other physical qualities may not contribute directly to lowering a place’s carbon footprint but are also essential ingredients in a successful urban neighborhood. These elements, which can be designed in a place to add value, include the things all of us need in varying degrees – greenery, privacy, variety, and a sense of spaciousness.

To this end, we are happy to support the Healy Field Community Garden effort. After several years of outreach and dozens of meetings, the Friends of Healy Field are poised to create a garden space for children and adults, including a gathering space for community-wide events. The friends have gotten support from Healy Field abutters and neighbors, over 500 Roslindale petitioners, 60+ participants in the community design process, Boston’s Parks Department and Boston’s Mayor Walsh. Now MassDevelopment is offering to match the $25,000 FOHF plans to raise through this campaign. Please consider contributing whatever you can toward this major $25,000 matching grant, and spread the word!

Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition Candidate Survey Results Published

Vision Zero BostonWalkUP Roslindale is an enthusiastic member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition. The Coalition is largely comprised of tax-exempt non-profit organizations or informal associations like WalkUP Roslindale, and does not endorse candidates. We do, however, want to find out where candidates stand on key walking, biking, and transit issues, and to that end distributed a survey to all official candidates in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Springfield, and Lynn to give them a chance to weigh in. The results were made public today.

Rozzie residents should be particularly interested to see the survey results for the Boston Mayoral Candidates, the City Council At Large Candidates, as well as for District 4District 5, and District 6, all of which at least touch on our neighborhood. If you like your candidates’ responses, let them know–and if they didn’t respond, or you see room for improvement, let them know that as well. With elections coming up soon on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, it’s time to start paying attention!

Reminder – Rozzie Hubway Expansion Meeting Wednesday, 9/20/17 6pm, at Archdale Community Center

Hubway LogoWe have long awaited the arrival of the Hubway bike sharing system in Roslindale–and it finally appears to be time! The City has scheduled two community meetings to provide information and solicit feedback on proposed station locations. It is important that our leaders and our community see a turnout of support for expanding access to the system.

The first Roslindale meeting will be this Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 6pm at the BCYF Menino Center (the Archdale Community Center), 125 Brookway Road.

The second meeting is Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6pm at the Roslindale Community Center, 6 Cummins Highway.

Spread the word!

WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter on 874-878 South Street Residential Project

Architectural rendering of proposed 874-878 South Street development (right side)

Architectural rendering of proposed 874-878 South Street development (right side)

This week we sent a comment letter on a proposed residential project at 874-878 South Street, located at the “corner of South Street and South Street”–across from Green T Coffee Shop and adjacent the Hong Kong 888 Cafe, where South Street becomes Walter Street and turns into South Street. We’ve covered this development before in this space, going back at least as far as our first round of feedback back in July 2015, and the latest plans were circulated at an abutter meeting in March. We are typically aligned with “YIMBY” groups and inclined to support residential development, because density both promotes walkability and creates more desperately needing housing opportunities.

Our eagerness to support development is neither unlimited nor uncritical, however. In the case of this project, WalkUP is withholding support for the zoning relief requested by the developer based on a design that is sorely lacking. We are likely to get only one crack at each of these new buildings in our lifetimes, so it behooves us to get it right. We are hopeful that the developer will take our constructive criticism to heart and improve the proposed designed before its zoning appeal hearing, which is likely to be scheduled in October. We’ll post updates here as we get them, either on the design or the hearing date. In the meantime, our full comments are below and also available as the PDF letter as submitted to the Board of Appeal.

Continue reading

WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter on 4281 Washington Street Residential Project

Brayton's Upholstery

Brayton’s Upholstery – Existing Structure – Image Courtesy Universal Hub

We recently sent an official comment letter on a proposed project that would replace Brayton’s Custom Upholstery at 4281 Washington St. with a four-story, 12-unit apartment building with 12 parking spaces on the first floor. The project was discussed in July on Universal Hub. Our comments relate mainly to the design of the project, which we found lacking. We’re hoping the developer will take these comments into account as he goes through the BPDA design review process, as the project has already received the necessary zoning relief. Continue reading for our thoughts, and feel free to add yours in the comments.

Continue reading

The YIMBY Movement and Walkability

YIMBY Logo (Courtesy Corporation for Supportive Housing)

YIMBY Logo (Courtesy Corporation for Supportive Housing)

The so-called “YIMBY” movement has been in the news a lot these days. Many YIMBY community groups, like JP YIMBY, start from a principle of supporting housing development in the interests of fairness, equity, sustainability, and economic vitality, and adopt walkability as an important component of that mission. We at WalkUP Roslindale start from the perspective of improving walkability–our core mission is to make Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston–and find that this goal more often than not coincides with YIMBY priorities and ideas. Greater density, when done right, is a critical prerequisite for a walkable neighborhood for a host of reasons. Moreover, YIMBY groups typically do not support car-centric and anti-pedestrian development because (among other reasons) they don’t achieve the goal of making housing available to all in need. We’re typically all on the same page.

Commonwealth Magazine‘s Podcast, aptly named The Codcast, recently ran an episode all about the YIMBY phenomenon, featuring two guests from JP Yimby, Eric Herot and Meg Wood. It’s definitely worth a listen to get perspective on the movement and how it connects to walkability–there’s even a shout-out to WalkUP Roslindale about halfway through the episode.

When we started WalkUP back in 2015, we were unaware so many other neighborhood groups with similar ideas were simultaneously forming or about to form, including the aforementioned JP YIMBY, as well as A Better Cambridge, Engine 6 (in Newton), Livable Newton, Newton Villages, and Somerville YIMBY (please chime in if we’ve forgotten any!). We now find we are in good company and happy to see this movement developing organically around the region.

Finally, this article from today’s Bay State Banner, Can Boston build a way out of the housing crisis? is worth reading as an in-depth survey of the current state of affairs with housing in Boston, and provides perspective from both supporters and critics of the current mayoral administration. Perhaps a preview of debates to come for the city elections this fall.

WalkUP Roslindale Support Letter for 44 Lochdale Road Project

Roslindale Self Storage Improvements Rendering

Roslindale Self Storage Improvements Rendering

Last week, we sent a letter to the Boston Board of Appeal in support of a proposed expansion of a self-service storage facility at 44 Lochdale Road (just off Washington Street near Forest Hills). The full letter is reproduced below. Although we typically focus on housing and retail that will improve street-level vitality and walkability, off-site storage also has its place in vibrant urban neighborhoods, particularly as density increases and some folks chose to live in smaller units and thus need some overflow space. We also see the proposal as a substantial improvement over current conditions; for these reasons, we sent the letter below.

Having received our letter and encountering no opposition (at least at the hearing), the Board of Appeal approved the requested zoning variations on July 25, 2017.

Continue reading

Support Letter for Washington Street Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Proposal

Washington Street is arguably the single most critical–and failing–piece of transportation infrastructure in our neighborhood. As restaurants, retail, and housing around Forest Hills explodes (e.g.), and Roslindale Square itself becomes more populated as well as an increasingly popular destination to visit, it will become ever more urgent to make this one-mile connection sustainable. This includes improving the streetscape, sidewalks, and crosswalks for pedestrians; the road for cyclists; offering a more reasonably priced commuter-rail connection; and radically improving bus service. Our Roslindale Gateway Path initiative is another important solution to this puzzle. There is no reason it should take more than ten minutes for anyone to get from the end of the Orange Line to Roslindale Village at any time of day, including time spent waiting for a bus.

If our leaders don’t take real steps soon, we will see gridlock for more and more hours of the day, and extending further and further back toward Roslindale and then on to Dedham. There is simply no space to put more cars in this dense area, whether they are in motion or parked. We need creative solutions, and we need them quickly.

One high ROI proposal we’d like to see implemented immediately is bus rapid transit (“BRT”) improvements along the Washington Street corridor. To that end, back in May, we submitted a letter to support a Boston Transportation Department grant proposal to the charitable nonprofit Barr Foundation. Details below, or in this PDF copy of our letter. We expect to hear from the foundation in the next several weeks about funding. Fingers crossed!

Continue reading