Recap on District City Councilor January 2018 Forum

About 40 Roslindale residents and business-owners braved the chilly Wednesday evening weather in late January to attend our forum discussion with the three district city councilors whose districts include various parts of the neighborhood: Andrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6). The discussion was ably facilitated by our own Sarah Kurpiel Lee and lasted about an hour. The councilors had other community events later in the evening–otherwise, it was clear there were enough questions and community interest to continue for at least another hour! In view of the high level of interest, we hope to make these discussions with our elected officials a regular event.

In preparation for the discussion, we prepared a map to show the relationship between the city council districts and the (approximate) neighborhood boundaries, reproduced below:

Roslindale City Council Districts

Roslindale City Council Districts

We livestreamed the whole event on Facebook, and now you can watch the whole thing below:

Some quick highlights from the event:

  • There is widespread community concern about pedestrian safety and infrastructure around the entire Roslindale neighborhood. All three city councilors were receptive to these concerns and are willing to use their offices to make improvements happen. There was a particular focus on improving speed enforcement–notwithstanding the new 25 mph citywide speed limit (which we endorse enthusiastically), many drivers still speed through our neighborhood streets at much higher velocities.
  • The councilors recognized the need for a big redesign and modernization of Roslindale Square. A recent posting in the Keep Roslindale Quirky Facebook group pointed out that this 1984 photo of then-city-councilor Tom Menino shows the sidewalks and street essentially the same as they are today, with no improvements. We’re long overdue for a comprehensive look at how people live and get around in Roslindale today.
  • Councilor O’Malley proposed the idea of a vacancy tax — a creative idea we think is well worth investigating. The idea would be to give some extra incentive for commercial property landlords to find a tenant rather than sit on empty storefronts waiting for a high-rent tenant, while taking a tax deduction that can offset income on other properties. These vacancies negatively impact the community, especially when there are several in the same business district. Some of that cost to the neighborhood should be pushed back onto the property owner.
  • Finally, the councilors were all receptive to more feedback and ideas from the community. Councilor Campbell in particular encouraged community members to bring new and creative ideas to the council — “concrete things that we could be thinking about actually doing do address the issues.”

Both the Roslindale Transcript and the Bulletin had detailed coverage of the evening–check out these articles for the full de-brief:

Finally, thanks to Steven Morris Photography for sending us these photographs from the event. Enjoy!

The time has come to consider a user fee for on-street resident parking permits

With the new Boston City Council term officially underway as of Wednesday, At-Large Councilor, Transportation Committee chair, and Rossident Michelle Wu has made good on her statement late last year to start the discussion on collecting a user fee for something that is currently given away — on-street residential parking permits. Universal Hub has a short summary of Michelle’s council-approved request to hold a hearing on the concept soon: “Time to start charging for Boston parking permits, some councilors say.” Many issues will be in the mix, including how much to charge, whether to limit the number of permits, and how to deal with visitors and critical home care providers. As the discussion gets going and the hearing date nears, we’ll look to make this space a place for discussion of the intersecting policy and community issues at stake. While WalkUP Roslindale’s steering group hasn’t yet formulated an official policy on the issue, I can personally state for the record my complete support for implementing a user fee plan with details tbd this year. The time has come. – Matt Lawlor

Reminder – District City Councilor Forum This Wednesday 1/24/18 6:30pm at RCC – Bring your ideas!

The three district city councilors who represent parts of Roslindale have all committed to participate in our WalkUP forum discussion this Wednesday, 1/24/18 at 6:30pm at the Roslindale Community Center at 6 Cummins HighwayAndrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6). We hope everyone interested in a more walkable Roslindale will attend and join the discussion.

We plan for this event to be more open and participatory than the “at large” candidate forum we held before the election. We want to hear what ideas our representatives have for improving the neighborhood and how we can help make them happen; but this should also be an opportunity for our elected representatives to hear our ideas and for a constructive dialogue between us all. So come with your questions and ideas!

We intend to organize the discussion around the following topics. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments to this post:

Please RSVP on our Facebook Event page and invite your friends and neighbors!

The Take the T Pledge

LINK HERE: Take the T Pledge

There are reasons for elected officials at the local and state levels not to take this pledge and ride the T for 5 consecutive work days before May 31. It’s just that those reasons can all be dealt with or planned around and the pledge’s central notion — that you value, at a fundamental level, something more and know better its pluses and minuses when you actually experience it on a regular, sustained basis — cannot be denied. Check out the website, and if you agree, reach out to your own local and state elected officials and encourage them to take the pledge. We’ll all benefit.

And many thanks to Brendan Halpin, our neighbor over in Jamaica Plain, for coming up with the idea for the pledge.

Recap on WalkUP Roslindale Key Bus Stop Clearance Collaborative – Version 1.2

Overall, and no surprise to anyone, but there was a lot of snow out there this morning. The vehicular portions of streets were generally in good shape thanks to the city’s long-standing practice, so thanks go to the city’s own crews and their team of contractors responsible for plowing those areas. The sidewalks and the bus stops on them were another matter. The stops themselves on Hyde Park Avenue were in decent shape, though plowed in. At the other stops we cleared, the conditions at the start ranged from bad to horrendous. Clearly, more advocacy and work are needed to bring more attention and resources to clearing the walking and transit-related portions of streets — the sidewalks and bus stops — that are the city’s responsibility and enforcing the obligations of private property owners on the balance of our sidewalks. Plenty of folks we saw out this morning either walking or waiting for the bus were doing so in the cleared vehicular parts of the streets because the sidewalks and bus stop areas were unusable. This is hardly news if you’ve walked around Roslindale after a major snowfall. But it’s now 2018, combating the manifest impacts of climate change on this coastal city should be a top priority, and we need to move faster to encourage the shift to more walking and transit use that GoBoston 2030 is meant to promote. More needs to be done a lot faster.

So, my crew (Greg Tobin and yours truly) started the morning at Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. The first bus stop we hit was on Hyde Park Avenue going northbound:

 

Sidewalk was clear on the other side of this. Pretty good start.

Next, we confirmed Greg’s good shoveling out on Cummins going westbound before Hyde Park Avenue and on Hyde Park Avenue going southbound after Cummins:

Then things started to significantly deteriorate. We walked up Cummins from Hyde Park Av., over the bridge over the MBTA/Amtrak tracks (the sidewalks on the bridge were shoveled and treated – right to the presumed property line),  and dug out the 2 bus stops (east and west on Cummins) — neither of which or the sidewalks leading to them had been touched. Plowed in and completely unpassable, so the best we could do was create landing pads for the 2 stops:

 

We then made our way over to Roslindale Square to join Steve Gag and Rob Orthman and finish up their work at the major bus stop at Washington Street, heading northbound, at Cummins, in front of the Roslindale Community Center. When I passed by in the morning, the sidewalk had been partially shoveled but the shelter hadn’t been cleared and there was no way to access buses when they stopped – plowed in. Here we can see Steve and Greg working on clearing the corner and several shots of the cleared bus shelter and paths to board buses, and then below that, the cleared stop in front of the florist on South Street:

Finally, on the way home, I first walked up South Street and encountered a massive, sidewalk-blocking snow mound on South Street abutting the Village Market parking lot. Hopefully this has been cleared by now.

And then, to finish off the WURSC Collaborative 1.2, I dug out a landing pad for the stop where multiple buses come in at Robert/Belgrade/Corinth, on the same side as the commuter rail station. As can be seen from the photos, the sidewalk on Belgrade was completely plowed in and I can report that no clearing had occurred this evening. It is to be hoped that this sidewalk and bus stop will be cleared as soon as possible.

2017 – WUR’s year in review

With the books now closed on 2017, let’s take a moment to reflect on another year in the life of WalkUP Roslindale, your neighborhood walk-bike-transit-Y/QIMBY (Yes/Quality in My Backyard) citizens group. In the opinion of your humble correspondent, below are the top 7 highlights of the year just concluded. Comments, corrections, and additions are always welcome!

  1. Washington Street Operational Bus Improvements Pilot – It came late in the year (and on just 2 Tuesday mornings in December). But the first test of a bus-only lane (shared with people on bikes as well) on Washington Street from Roslindale Square to Ukraine Way from 7 am to 9 am was a widely-hailed successful proof of concept. Bus riders saved significant time, people riding bikes in the corridor generally approved of the shared lane, and the Boston Transportation Department and the MBTA showed they could work quite well together on the first such test case in an outlying neighborhood. It is hard to overstate how big a deal this is — there are several corridors around Boston that desperately need the kind of low-upfront-capital but meaningful time-saving improvements to bus service that was demonstrated for the first time in this city here in Roslindale. A full 2-week pilot is reportedly planned for the spring. Dates and specifics are still TBD. WalkUP Roslindale will do everything it can to support the full pilot and ultimately implementation of a permanent set of improvements. We appreciate the advocacy and support of the proposal from City Councilors Wu and McCarthy as well as BTD’s strong performance on the 2 days of the operational pilot. Special thanks are also owed to LivableStreets Alliance for their persistent advocacy, particularly their Street Ambassadors, who teamed with certain WUR diehards (Messrs. Tedrow, Gag, and Tobin come to mind) on outreach this fall and then during the operational pilot.
  2. Mt. Hope-Canterbury gets Roslindale’s nod for the Neighborhood Slow Streets Program – A grand total of 47 applications were submitted to BTD’s program to install new neighborhood slow streets areas around Boston. Five applicants were picked, and our own Mt. Hope-Canterbury area in eastern Roslindale made the cut. We look forward to seeing the work of MHC stalwarts Lisa Beatman and Rick Yoder and their neighbors in that part of our neighborhood come to fruition in their new NSS by year-end. And herewith our periodic reminder that everyone in Boston deserves to live on a safe street. Everyone on every street in every neighborhood.
  3. Roslindale’s First Street Mural – Our neighborhood’s first street mural was laid down in June at the intersection of Conway and South streets, on the Peters Hill side of the MBTA commuter rail station. This was a great community building event and collaboration with the Mayor’s Mural Crew staff (especially Heidi Schork), BTD, Roslindale Village Main Street, Cornell Coley (Roslindale’s Artist-in-Residence), and our own Rachele Rosi-Kessel, Rebecca Phillips, Mandana Moshtaghi, and Ann-Marie Lawlor.
  4. At-Large City Councilors and Candidates Forum on Active Mobility Issues – WUR was significantly gratified to pull together a forum featuring all 8 current councilors and candidates in October to discuss active mobility issues affecting Roslindale and the city at large. Attendance was strong and we were able to livestream the forum as it was progressing. Particular thanks are due for this event to the Roslindale Community Center for making their downstairs meeting room available for an extended period on the evening of the forum.
  5. Green Shoots Pedestrian Improvements in Roslindale Square – WUR’s late 2015 collaboration with WalkBoston on a walk audit of Roslindale Square finally bore fruit in the spring of this year when key improvements were made to the Basile/Washington crosswalk (including fix the blinking yellow light, installing a handicapped accessible ramp and daylighting with flexposts) and Belgrade/South (including no parking in the area between the crosswalks and daylighting with flexposts). In addition to these major changes, we also saw a new crosswalk near the Robert Street underpass for the MBTA and a new crosswalk center delineator on Belgrade near Robert/Corinth. We hope to see more improvements around the square in the coming year.
  6. Roslindale Gateway Path continues to make progress and draws major foundation support – The early spring saw the release of the 10% design for the Roslindale Gateway Path at a community meeting at the Arnold Arboretum’s Weld Hill research facility, followed a couple of months later by an announcement of formal collaboration with the Arboretum Park Conservancy on a combined Roslindale Gateway/Blackwell Path project. The combined path effort then had the good fortune, with support from LivableStreets Alliance, the Arboretum and BTD, to obtain funding from the Solomon Foundation for advancing the design to the 25% level. Look for the release of the 25% design at some point this spring.
  7. Smarter residential development continues across the neighborhood – Last, but not least, WUR advanced our Y/QIMBY agenda in support of residential development that we thought worthwhile, especially 874-878 South Street (around the corner from your correspondent’s house), 32 Cummins Highway (down the block from the post office), and 4281 Washington Street (the Brayton’s Upholstery building). Our city is growing and need to welcome new residents by building new units form them instead of making them compete with existing residents over existing units.

UPDATE – TIME + LOCATION NOW CONFIRMED: Roslindale District Councilor Forum set for January 24, 2018

City CouncilCity CouncilCity Council

UPDATE: We have a time and location for the Roslindale District Councilor Forum – we will convene for a conversation with our councilors – Councilors Campbell (soon to be Council President), McCarthy, and O’Malley – at 6:30 pm on January 24, 2018, at the Roslindale Community Center, 6 Cummins Highway (corner of Washington and Cummins in Roslindale Square). We encourage attendees to walk, bike, or take the T to the meeting at parking is limited.

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.

FURTHER UPDATE: October 3rd Roslindale-focused At-Large City Council Candidates Forum – Additional Participant & Questions

There is one further update to make since the last time we posted about the forum: we received word late yesterday that Pat Payaso, the 8th and final candidate for at-large city council, will be participating in the forum as well. Accordingly, all of the current councilors and candidates will be taking part.

In addition, we have circulated the following questions to each of the candidates. We intend to ask of them these questions in turn:

  1. How can Boston address the high cost of housing in our city? Should there be more development (to increase supply), a higher affordable-unit requirement, as part of the inclusionary development policy rent control, or other measures? How do you view the situation specifically in Roslindale—is there anything different about the problem here versus elsewhere in the city, and any different solutions we should be looking at for Roslindale specifically?
  2. Our neighborhood is heavily dependent on bus service for mass transit given the infrequency of the commuter rail and lack of Sunday service. What ideas do you have about making buses work better in Roslindale? How can you make those things happen given state control of the overall MBTA system? Do you support the City’s proposed pilot, which ranked high on the GoBoston 2030 project list, to improve bus service on Washington Street between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills by having exclusive bus-only lanes replace the parking lane northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening? Why or why not?
  3. The American Legion corridor has been identified as one of the least pedestrian- and bike-friendly areas in our neighborhood. What specifically do you think can be done to improve the situation there and how would you propose to make it happen? Do you support a vision for the American Legion corridor that would seek to reduce vehicle speeds and provide more infrastructure for walking and cycling along the concept of a parkway as opposed to a highway in that area?  Why or why not?
  4. What are your thoughts about the impact of Amazon considering the Boston area for its headquarters? How do you think Amazon’s arrival would affect housing and transportation in Boston generally, and more specifically how do you think it would affect Roslindale? Should we be trying to convince Amazon to pick Boston? If so, how would you go about doing that?
  5. Parking has long been a controversial issue in Boston, including Roslindale. What do you see as the impacts of off-street parking requirements for new development on housing affordability and vehicular traffic congestion? Do you have any ideas about creative parking policy that could help make our neighborhood more accessible for everyone regardless of  what mode of transportation they use? Do you support a fee for residential parking permits that could fund neighborhood improvements? Why or why not? Would you support metered parking in the prime spots in the square to make those businesses more easily accessible for people who chose to drive and to fund neighborhood improvements?

IMPORTANT UPDATES: Roslindale-focused City Council Candidates Forum – Tues., Oct. 3 @ 6:30 pm @ RCC

 

UPDATE 1: District 5 Councilor Tim McCarthy has just informed us that he will be unavailable for the October 3rd forum because he will be testifying on that day before congressional hearings about the airplane noise issue in Washington, DC. We wish Tim luck in DC fighting for us on this important neighborhood concern. We are accordingly going to reschedule that panel for a date TBD later in October.

UPDATE 2: At-Large City Council candidate William King has let us know that he will be able to participate in the forum. This is great news and we look forward to an informative evening on October 3rd.

UPDATE 3: We will use the time from 6:30 to 7:15 pm to have an open forum discussion coordinated by WalkUP Roslindale, so please feel free to come early and help us identify and move forward on the issues that matter to you.

As we’ve previously announced, the forum will address the issues we focus on — active mobility and new housing and commercial development in our neighborhood. We see these issues as inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing.

Hope to see you at the forum! If you’re interested in attending, please let us know on our facebook page event entry. Thanks!!!