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 CumminsHighway (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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!