WalkUP Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative Version 1.5 – It may well happen!

Friends,based on Boston Yeti’s latest observed movements, it looks like we will be called once more to rise up and clear snow for our neighbors come Thursday morning. Stay tuned here for more details as the storm event unfolds in the next 24+ hours. In the meantime, be safe and keep on keeping on, just like the Yeti.

Yours truly, The WUR Management.

WE ARE AGAIN A GO – WalkUP Roslindale Key Bus Stop Clearance Version 1.2

Snowfall from the now-commenced storm will almost certainly exceed our 4″ (10.2 cm) benchmark, so we are going to clear our identified key bus stops.

Accordingly, tomorrow (Friday, January 5) morning at 7:00 am: Meet either

(i) Matt Lawlor at the northwest corner of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway (Atlas Liquors); or

(ii) Steve Gag at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Cummins Highway (RCC).

Feel free to contact Matt (his email is matthew.j.lawlor@nullgmail.com) or Steve (his email is stevengag@nullgmail.com) directly if you have any questions.

Please dress warmly and bring your own snow/ice clearance equipment and supplies (shovels, picks, icemelt, etc.) to the extent you can. Thanks and hope to see you there tomorrow morning to do some more community service this winter!

TIME AND DATE NOW CONFIRMED – WalkUP Roslindale District Councilor Forum – 6:30 pm on January 24, 2018 @ the RCC

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.

Some thinking about walkable neighborhoods and why “affordable” neighborhoods are about more than just housing costs…

 

Why walkability is not a luxury

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.

Fall 2017 Pool Mini-Tourney with 21st-ranked All Time Urbanist Jeff Speck!! 11/9 @ 8:30 pm at Napper Tandy’s Roslindale

We’ll gather at approximately 8:30 pm on Thursday, November 9, at Napper Tandy’s in Roslindale for some pool and discussion with our friend and fellow Boston region resident Jeff Speck. Jeff is the highly respected author of The Walkable City and other popular works on the urban condition, including Suburban Nation, which he co-wrote with new urbanist giants Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Jeff was also recently ranked 21st on planetizen.com’s ranking of all-time great urbanists. Bring quarters and your thoughts about how we can make Roslindale a more walkable,  bikeable, and transit-friendly community.

Looking back at 2016 – Pausing to take stock at WalkUP Roslindale

We saw our share of highs and lows this year in advocating for the cause of a more walkable (as well as bikeable and transit-accessible) Roslindale. Here are my own personal five most important things that happened and as with last year, I would ask that any differences of opinion or emphasis be raised in the comments or in a follow up blog post:

  1. Arboretum Gateway Path Visioning and Initial Feasibility Analysis – Picking up a worthwhile idea that others in our neighborhood had already championed, we held a visioning session at the RCC in late March on the Arboretum Gateway Path. Turn out was high and enthusiastic and included the extremely able support of the students from Tufts University’s Urban and Environmental Policy program, who released their community vision report in May. We then partnered with LivableStreets Alliance on hiring Horsley Witten as the selected consultant to further the effort by doing an initial feasibility analysis, undertook a ride-walk of the proposed route in June and, in early December, we hosted a more focused potential route walk with LSA, HW, and the Arboretum. Surveying work on the portion of the proposed path within the MBTA property adjacent to the Needham Line was completed in late December. We hope to have the feasibility study available to share with our neighbors, the Arboretum, and city and state officials, in spring with a follow up meeting at the RCC.
  2. Responses to Pedestrian Fatalities – Our city witnessed a spate of pedestrian fatalities early in 2016, and Roslindale was not spared. Silvia Acosta was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver at Washington and Blue Ledge in January and then Johnette Sims was struck and killed by a drunk/hit-and-run driver at Canterbury and Morton in September. Although it was slow in coming and the topic of much frustration, the tragedy at Washington and Blue Ledge did finally result in improvements to that intersection several months after a site visit by Boston Vision Zero Task Force members. Not so with the fatality at Canterbury and Morton. Because Morton is a state highway at that location, there has, to my knowledge, been no site visit or any attempted response of any kind to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists at that location. The city has no jurisdiction there and the state agency that does have jurisdiction, MassDOT, has not taken any action.
  3. Ulrich Bike Corral – After what seemed like an interminable delay, the Ulrich Bike Corral was finally installed at Corinth and Cohasset in early June. Many WUR folks played a role in working with RVMS to bring the corral to fruition, especially including Sarah Kurpiel Lee, who was instrumental in the final push with city staff and elected officials. Special thanks are also due to the owners of Fornax – Chris and Kim Fallon – for taking on maintenance and care of the corral along with the parklet. We are hoping to be able to install some improved directional and identification signs for the corral this spring.
  4. Roslindale Village Walkable Film Series – With a huge lift from Kevin Tobin, son of Greg, we hosted a rotating film series in and around the village that focused on urban and social issues, including battling disinvestment in the Dudley Triangle, struggling against the 1970s arson wave in the Fenway, and issues concerning gun control in our country. We are hoping to have another set of dates and films of more general interest this year as well.
  5. Vision Zero Rally for Safer Streets – There is no question that the city, despite adopting Vision Zero in early 2015 and producing what seemed like an achievable action plan in December of 2015, moved far more slowly than had been expected in making real progress on improving the safety of our streets for all users – especially people on foot and on bicycles. The major advocacy groups involved in Vision Zero — WalkBoston, LSA, Boston Cyclists Union, and MassBike — felt compelled by the lack of access to hold a rally on City Hall Plaza in late September. I was happy to attend as WUR’s representative (we also signed on as co-sponsors) and focused on implementing Rapid Response and the Neighborhood Slow Streets components of the Action Plan. My comments especially urged that NSS be implemented city-wide in 3 years — currently policy calls for 2 areas per year and given the size of the areas, likely several decades to complete. Despite immense popularity among local residents in the proposed areas, NSS remains a dead letter. Plans that were supposed finalized in the late fall with a first phase done before year-end have come to exactly nothing on the ground. We will need to push, and push hard, for the city to move more quickly and do the right thing faster. Perhaps the imminent reset of the city’s default speed limit from 25 mph to 30 mph will help break the logjam.

Thinking about the proposed project at 100 Weld and Boston’s inclusionary development policy

The former Weld American gas/service station at the corner of Weld and Centre may be zoned within the West Roxbury Neighborhood District, but by virtually any other known geographic listing it’s in Roslindale. After a prior redevelopment proposal failed a few years ago, it looks like the current proposal – now dubbed “100 Weld” and including 17 condominium units and a Centre Street-facing exercise/office space for residents with 26 accessory off-street parking spaces – is going to thread the needle and be that rare exception to the general rule that nothing worth doing is ever done under the Boston Zoning Code without needing zoning relief (i.e., either variances or, at the very least, a conditional use permit). This is not to say that the proposed development program and design don’t leave a few things to be desired — they do, and WalkUP Roslindale intends to submit a written comment letter about them to the BRA by the September 10 deadline. Among other things, I predict we’ll focus on the missed opportunity for retail to encourage vitality at this location, the need for well-designed and landscaped frontages on Weld and Centre, how the time has ever more obviously come to have a real discussion about the impact that required off-street parking has on the cost and shape of new development, and how this intersection and the mixed residential/commercial node here could use streetscape/motorway improvements beyond just at this project’s front door onto Centre. Overall, though, the project deserves to go forward. The neighborhhood has lived with this vacant parcel long enough.

Another issue that this project raises is the fundamental inadequacy of the city’s inclusionary development policy (IDP). This is the policy adopted over a decade ago by mayoral executive order under which the city requires residential projects of 10 units or more that require zoning relief (variances or conditional use permit) to set aside a number of units equal to 15% of the market rate units for households earning within a set series of ranges related to area median income, depending on whether a particular project is rental or homeownership, with a buyout option. I’ve italicized “that require zoning relief” because that’s where the rub comes on 100 Weld and where the city is going to need to figure out a new way forward. 100 Weld had a couple of pre-filing meetings in the spring at which alternative schemes were presented for a few more units that would have required variances and thus a few affordable units. Whatever the reason, the developer has elected to reduce the number of units and thus has come forward with a scheme that can be done as-of-right, with no zoning relief. As a result, the project no longer triggers the IDP and so there will be no affordable units in this project.

Going forward, there clearly seems to be a need to rethink the IDP and potentially make it apply to all projects with a minimum number of residential units, regardless of whether they require zoning relief. One would fully expect this to be part of the ImagineBoston process. But the pace of the current boom argues for putting in an interim policy that plugs this gap, especially if the city’s ultimate intent with the planning process is to right-size our zoning code for the task ahead of us and make a much greater share of worthwhile projects able to proceed without zoning relief. To be continued.