Yesterday, we sent an official comment letter to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in support of an amendment to the citywide zoning code that would permit the creation of so-called “additional dwelling units” — separate units added onto to existing houses that allow for a gradual and incremental increase in housing density. Our full comments are included below.Read More
WITH 2018 having drawn to its inevitable close, now seems like a decent enough time to look back on another year in the life of WalkUP Roslindale, your neighborhood walk-bike-transit-Y/QIMBY (Yes/Quality in My Backyard) citizens advocacy group. In the opinion of one member of group management, here are the top 10 things that happened this year. Comments, corrections, and additions are always welcome!
- District City Councilor Forum – Although scheduling conflicts kept us from hosting this particular forum in 2017, we did manage to pull off a gathering of the three district councilors who represent various parts of Roslindale – Andrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6) – that resulted in a lively discussion on a wide range of topics hosted by our own Sarah Kurpiel Lee. You can read the post-mortem at Recap on District City Councilor January 2018 Forum.
- Washington Street Bus & Bike Lane – After the 2-day pilot at the end of 2017 and then a full 4-week pilot in May and June of this year, the Mayor announced that the Washington Street bus and bike lane improvement project – which allows for a bus and bike only lane northbound on weekday mornings (5 to 9 am) and has significantly improved travel times for riders on the 9 separate lines that run between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills – would be permanent. This was a big win for better transit in our neighborhood and a significant step forward for better bus service across the region. We were proud to partner with Livable Streets Alliance on surveying riders and building support for the project and reported on it in May in Give Washington Street Bus Lane Feedback and in October in WalkUP Comment Letter on Washington Street Bus Lane.
- Safer Walking and Cycling in Roslindale Square – Around the same time that the bus/bike pilot was going on and being made permanent, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) planned and then the Public Works Department resurfaced the key loop of South/Belgrade/Corinth/Poplar in Roslindale Square and installed a targeted set of new crosswalks, daylighting areas, in-street bike lanes, and relocated bus stops. With this set of improvements, a significant majority of the changes we advocated for in our December 2015 Walk Audit with WalkBoston have now been implemented. You can find coverage at Recent Safety Improvements in Roslindale Square – An Explainer and Letter of Support for Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Calming Improvements in Roslindale Square.
- Significant Progress on the Roslindale Gateway Path – In late June, we teamed with the Arnold Arboretum and Horsley Witten to release the 25% design for the MBTA-owned section of the path, running from the commuter rail station to the Arboretum border. The meeting was well attended and led to the T’s relatively swift determination that the proposed path route was conceptually approved through its internal canvassing process. Mid-year also saw funding progress as the commonwealth’s legislative session drew to a close in July. First, future funding to the tune of $3 million for path construction was included in the statewide Environmental Bond Bill. Securing these particular funds will require more work going forward, but the good news was just getting started. The FY2019 budget also included $100,000 in earmarked funding to help complete the path’s overall design. And then, to top off the funding story for the year, the city, through BTD, was able to obtain $90,000 in federal grant funding to move to 100% design for the initial extension of the path from its current terminus at the end of the Blackwell Path to the Arboretum Road underpass. An application to the city’s Community Preservation Act committee to fund construction of this extension was submitted in September. Coverage can also be found at Major Step Forward for the Gateway Path.
- Y/QIMBY Support and YIMBYtown – We continued to support new projects and concepts that we believed make sense, including 3-7 Poplar (732 South) and RVMS’ Poplar Street Improvements and the possible redevelopment of the Taft Hill Parking Lot. We also participated on the host committee of YIMBYtown 2018, the third annual national YIMBY conference held here in Boston in September. Perhaps the emblematic moment at YIMBYtown was the demonstration by housing justice advocates led by City Life/Vida Urbana at the closing plenary of the conference, voicing concerns about displacement of poorer people and people of color from neighborhoods experiencing an influx of new residents. WalkUP Roslindale hopes to partner with the housing justice initiative at RISE in the coming year to find a unified way forward in our neighborhood. More to come on this topic.
- FY2019 BTD Budget – WalkUP Roslindale was truly excited about the passage of an expanded BTD budget for FY2019 that calls for hiring a slew of new planners and engineers focused on issues such as coordinating MBTA service in the city, implementing Vision Zero, and expanding our city’s bike network. While we are still awaiting these new hires, we hope that they will be made soon.
- Neighborhood Slow Streets in MHMC – Progress continued on our neighborhood’s winner of the 2017 NSS sweepstakes. Conceptual plans are anticipated to be released in late winter. More information can be found at “Mount Hope/Canterbury” on BTD’s vision zero site.
- Blue Bikes in Roslindale! – We finally got our first 4 Blue Bikes stations in Roslindale in late summer – 2 stations in the square, one Belgrade and Walworth, and a fourth at Washington and Archdale. Now, if we could only find a way to get the long-delayed-due-to-construction and now completely inexplicably delayed station slated for Forest Hills, we’d really be talking. You can read more at “New Hubway (Blue Bikes) Locations Announced in Roslindale” and “Blue Bikes Finally Come to Roslindale.”
- Walter Street Traffic Calming – After sustained advocacy over many years by members of the Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association, 3 new crosswalks were finally installed in the stretch of Walter Street running from Bussey to South. The crosswalks were also accompanied by daylighting and flexposts on Walter itself and on certain of the side streets on Peters Hill. This kind of treatment can and should be extended to all of our major streets.
- Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative 1.0+ – Finally, our volunteer snow clearance collaborative had plenty of chances to flex our muscles and get in a good work out shoveling out key bus stops in and around the square and at the key intersection of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. The shoveling in the square even included the contested sidewalks surrounding the MBTA commuter rail station on Belgrade. We gave the last installment – Collaborative v. 1.5 – a lighthearted touch with a photo of the Boston yeti.
Today, we sent a letter to the Boston Board of Appeal (colloquially knowing as the Zoning Board) concerning a proposed new apartment project at 3-7 Poplar Street (also known as 732 South Street), right above Wallpaper City. This project is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
This is a longish read from Rob Steuteville at Public Square and it glosses over some of the deeper issues on disinvestment in our cities in the second half of the 20th century and the hard set of issues that arise from displacement as demand and investment return. But I commend it to help frame the ongoing debate here in Boston and in Roslindale about growth, walkability, and what makes a neighborhood affordable.
If you concentrate on just housing costs, you’re missing half of the direct cost picture and much of the indirect environmental and public health costs. To know if a neighborhood is truly affordable, both housing and transportation costs need to be considered, and then environmental and health impacts have to be layered in on top of that. On this basis, one finds that neighborhoods that seem expensive really aren’t that expensive and neighborhoods that seem affordable really aren’t that affordable. Discuss.
Back in late August, WalkUP Roslindale reluctantly withheld its support for a proposed project at 874-878 South Street. Although we believe additional housing supply is badly needed around Boston and in Roslindale in particularly–one of our seven founding principles is to support mixed housing that promotes walkability–we are not an uncritical “YIMBY” group that will necessarily say “yes” to any development whatsoever, no matter its defects. The original design proposed for this development was sorely lacking, and we offered what we hoped would be constructive feedback to make this development a more positive contribution to the neighborhood.
Fortunately, the developer took several of our comments to heart and has now proposed a revised design which, while not perfect, is much improved. In view of these improvements, WalkUP now supports the proposed project’s request for zoning relief, which will be heard today, October 31, 2017, at 9:30am at City Hall, Room 801. You can read the developer’s response to our letter and see the revised design here.
Our detailed comments below, also available as a PDF letter.
- Original WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter on 874-878 South Street
- Developer’s Response to Original WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter
- Updated WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter on 874-878 South Street Supporting Project
- Boston Zoning Board of Appeal Public Notice on 10/31/17 Hearing on 874-878 South Street
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!!!
WalkUP Roslindale is pleased to announce our Roslindale-focused City Council Candidates Forum, to be held on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, at 6:30 pm at the Roslindale Community Center (corner of Washington Street and Cummins Highway).
The forum will address the issues we focus on — active mobility and new housing and commercial development in our neighborhood. The 3 district councilors who represent our neighborhood – Councilors Andrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6) – have all been invited. Councilor McCarthy has committed to participate, Councilor Campbell is TBD (she returns from maternity leave at the end of September and her schedule is unsettled), and we are waiting to hear from Councilor O’Malley. We have also invited all of the incumbent At-Large Councilors – Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu – and the 4 challengers – Domingos DaRosa, Althea Garrison, William King, and Pat Payaso. Thus far, we have commitments from Councilors Essaibi-George, Pressley, and Wu, and candidates DaRosa and Garrison.
We will provide updates as we get closer to the event. We encourage everyone who is interested to attend! Thanks!
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.
- 874-878 South Street Plans from March 2017 Abutter Meeting
- WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter (Sent 8/30/2017)
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.