Comment letter on 43 Lochdale Road

43 Lochdale Road Design

Last week, we sent an official comment letter to the Boston Planning & Development Agency, concerning a proposed 36-unit housing development at 43 Lochdale Road, just a few blocks from the Forest Hills MBTA station. We support this much-needed addition to our housing supply but raise serious concerns about the missed opportunity to advance the highly complementary goals of more affordable housing and less auto-centric development. Our specific concerns are proposed solutions are outlined below.


June 3, 2019

BY ELECTRONIC MAIL ONLY (aisling.kerr@nullboston.gov)
Boston Planning & Development Agency
One City Hall Square, 9th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02201

Attention: Aisling Kerr, Project Manager

RE:         43 LOCHDALE ROAD, ROSLINDALE – SMALL PROJECT REVIEW

Dear Ms. Kerr:

Please accept the following comments on behalf of WalkUP Roslindale with respect to the proposed rental residential development at 43 Lochdale Road in Roslindale (the “Proposed Project”). As set forth in the Small Project Review application, this will be a consequential development project, located under half a mile from the end of the Orange Line at Forest Hills, and containing, as proposed, 36 housing units and 46 off-street parking spaces in a four-story building with a mix of 1, 2 and 2+ bedroom units and providing 5 affordable units under the BPDA’s Inclusionary Development Policy (“IDP”).

Although we generally support the Proposed Project, being in favor of production of new housing in our neighborhood, city, and region as an integral part of the required response to our surging population and housing affordability crisis resulting from decades of underbuilding and inequitable patterns of development and housing availability, we have the following concerns, which our members also voiced in person at the community meeting this past Tuesday, May 28. Our comments intend to emphasize the importance of addressing both the future of transportation and the need for more affordable housing in every development project that our city considers.

1.             Excessive Off-Street Parking

Put simply, at 46 spaces, the Proposed Project is egregiously overparked. As a start, the parking ratio should be reduced from 1:1.28 to 1:1 (or lower). Zero off-street parking projects have recently been allowed in Roslindale Square (most recently, the Wallpaper City project at the corner of Poplar and South), and, as noted above, this location is under a half mile (<10 minute walk) from Forest Hills Station (where both the Orange Line and commuter rail have stops) and steps from bus stops serviced by a dozen bus routes. The Proposed Project is likewise minutes away from the start of the Southwest Corridor Bicycle Path, which is a major thoroughfare for cycling commuters.1 All of these sustainable transportation options are complemented by several nearby ZipCar locations and easy access to rideshare services.

In light of these ample amenities, excessive parking will undeniably waste resources and induce car ownership and car use, moving our neighborhood and our city away from the mode shift and greenhouse gas and other air pollution reduction goals to which we have committed in GoBoston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston. By devoting more real estate to parking, we practically guarantee more cars in the neighborhood.  By contrast, reducing off-street parking will have direct positive implications on affordability, which is the next issue that we raised at the community meeting.

2.            Housing Affordability

As a rough cut, assuming a standard parking space takes up about 162 square feet (9’ x 18’), a reduction of even just ten (10) spaces would allow for an additional 1620 square feet of living area. We would expect that area to be split into 2 additional units, which we would recommend be added to the affordable unit count. We also note that community members from the Housing Justice task force of Roslindale is for Everyone (“RISE”) spoke at the community meeting and were particularly focused on increasing both the percentage of affordable units in the Proposed Project and the level of affordability offered beyond what the IDP would otherwise require (13% of total units and 70% of area median income). We support RISE Housing Justice on both of these requests. The Proposed Project is located in a part of our neighborhood where household incomes are lower than average and competition for scarce and increasingly expensive housing (there has been almost no new housing constructed in this area for the last several decades) is displacing our most vulnerable neighbors. We can and should do more as a city to make sure that everyone who wants to make their home here is able to do so.

With available parking thus reduced to below a 1 to 1 ratio, the Proposed Project would also be an especially appropriate project on which to un-bundle the parking from the units, so that households that do not need off-street parking can avoid that cost instead of having it included in their unit regardless. By contrast, if the parking spaces remained bundled with the units, car-free families will be less likely to live in this development, since they would be paying a premium for an amenity they do not need.

3.            Green Building

Although the Proposed Project has dropped below the Large Project Review threshold and is technically required to meet only building code-based energy efficiency and green building requirements (albeit at the city’s “Stretch Code” level, which produces a 10% improvement over the otherwise applicable standards), we would request that the BPDA require the Proposed Project to exceed those standards and approach Net Zero/Zero Plus/LEED Gold-Platinum standards. If our city is truly serious about the climate crisis, all new buildings will need to be much more efficient in their use of energy. There is no more time to wait to start this effort on a citywide basis, and we would like to see this happen in this neighborhood now.

4.            Roslindale Gateway Path/Blackwell Path Extension at Arboretum Road

We understand and appreciate that the developer is being required to install a new crosswalk and curb extension at Washington Street and Lochdale Road. In much the same vein, the developer should also be required to assist financially with ongoing efforts around the Roslindale Gateway Path/Arboretum Road archway and entrance as this will be a significant amenity for residents of the development and the broader surrounding neighborhood. Funds are still being assembled for the first phase of the path’s extension, running from the current end of the Blackwell Path to Arboretum Road, and a significant contribution for this effort would be an excellent way for this Proposed Project to bring value and increased accessibility to its own backyard immediately.

In closing, we wish to reiterate our overall support for the Proposed Project, while especially emphasizing our call to reduce the off-street parking count and repurpose the space saved to increase the number and level of affordability for the affordable units. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Benjamin Bruno

Resident @ 27 Colgate Road, Roslindale, on behalf of the WalkUP Roslindale Steering Group
Ricardo Austrich, Resident @ 843 South Street, Roslindale
Lisa Beatman, Resident @ 180 Mount Hope Street, Roslindale
Rachel Blumberg, Resident @ 15 Newburg Street, Apt. 2, Roslindale
Lucy Bullock-Sieger, Resident @ 33 Brookdale Street, Roslindale
Steve Gag, Resident @ 631 South Street, Roslindale
Liz Graham-Meredith, Resident @ 6 Crandall Street, Roslindale
Matthew Lawlor, Resident @ 15 Basto Terrace, Roslindale
Margaux Leonard, Resident @ 35 Harding Road, Roslindale
Mandana Moshtaghi, Resident @ 12 Arborough Road, Roslindale
Robert Orthman, Resident @ 31 Mendelssohn Street, #2, Roslindale
Rebecca Phillips, Resident @ 10 Tappan Street, Roslindale
Adam Rogoff, Resident @ 28 Ashfield Street, Roslindale
Adam Rosi-Kessel, Resident @ 36 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
Rachele Rosi-Kessel, Resident @ 36 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
Laura Smeaton, Resident @ 61 Cornell Street, Roslindale
Mark Tedrow, Resident @ 169 Sycamore Street, Apt. 1, Roslindale
Marc Theiss, Resident @ 55 Prospect Avenue, Roslindale
Greg Tobin, Resident @ 1 Sheldon Street, Roslindale
Nick Ward, Resident @ 35 Harding Road, Roslindale
Alan Wright, Resident @ 98 Birch Street, Roslindale

About WalkUP Roslindale
WalkUP Roslindale, which takes its name from the international movement to foster “Walkable Urban Places,” is a collaborative group of residents dedicated to making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. We advocate for a dynamic, livable streetscape and we support positive changes to our public and private built environment that strengthen walkability and other forms of active mobility as means toward better personal and public health, safety, social capital, economic development, and environmental sustainability. We are led by a steering group of about thirty residents and have nearly 1,000 additional supporters. More information about WalkUP Roslindale and our initiatives can be found at www.walkuproslindale.org. We recognize that no single group of people can be said to speak for our entire neighborhood – instead, please take these comments as representing the collective support of our steering group members (indicated below) resulting from our mission and principles.

  1. A City of Boston survey counted an average of well over 2,000 cyclists per day on this path in 2017; the number has surely grown since then with the completion of the cycling improvements at Forest Hills as part of the Casey/Arborway project. See https://www.boston.gov/departments/boston-bikes/bike-data/2017-boston-bicycle-counts.

Comment Letter on 3-7 Poplar Street (732 South Street) Apartment Proposal

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.

The full letter is reproduced below; you can also download the original as a PDF file.
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Letter of Support for Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Calming Improvements in Roslindale Square

We recently sent an official comment letter to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, expressing our strong support for recent pedestrian safety and traffic calming improvements around Roslindale Square. These improvements represent an important step forward in realizing our vision of a truly walkable neighborhood where everyone who prefers to get around without a car can do so easily, and those who need to drive share the space fairly and safely with everyone else. Much remains to be done. Toward that end, below we express our support for the changes made so far, and offer ideas for next steps.

Our full letter reproduced below; you can also download a PDF version of the letter plus the attached parking count exhibit.

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WalkUP Comment Letter on Washington Street Bus Lane

We recently sent an official comment letter to Boston’s Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, expressing our strong gratitude and support for the city’s implementation of a morning inbound bus lane on Washington Street between Roslindale Village and Forest Hills. This improvement has greatly improved the commuter experience for transit-riders and cyclists alike, at extremely low cost. We’d like to see much more of this in and around the City of Boston!

We also took this opportunity to raise a couple of concerns: first, compliance with the morning bus lane has been inconsistent, and a few parked cars blocking buses and bikes ruins the experience for everyone. We need to see better enforcement to insure the lane doesn’t become a half-solution at best. We also want to get the ball rolling on an afternoon/outbound dedicated bus lane, as studies show that the evening outbound rush hour commute encounters more traffic and is slower for bus riders than the morning route was before the bus lane.

Our full letter reproduced below; you can also download a PDF version.

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WalkUP Roslindale Support Letter for FY2019 Transportation Department Budget – Hearing Tonight

Earlier this spring, the Walsh Administration announced next year’s transportation budget, which included a substantial increase for Vision Zero and walkability. We sent a letter at the time in support of the budget. Tonight (Tuesday, May 22) the City Council holds a hearing on the budget. We encourage everyone to speak up for safe streets and better transit at the hearing:

Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearing
Tuesday, May 22, 5 pm – 7 pm
@ Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Iannella Chamber
1 City Hall Square, Boston

Last year, hundreds showed up at the BTD Budget Hearing, and it had a direct impact on securing more funding for the Neighborhood Slow Streets program. It’s critical to keep the momentum going in 2018, so please show up and support the proposal!

WalkUP also submitted an additional support letter today in anticipation of the hearing, which we will deliver in person tonight. The full text of the letter is included below.
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WalkUP Official Letter of Support for Mayor’s FY2019 Transportation Department Budget

Yesterday, we sent an official letter to Mayor Walsh in strong support of his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 transportation budget, specifically in view of several major steps forward on our most important goal for Roslindale and the City of Boston: walkability! The full text of our letter is below; we encourage everyone to drop a quick note to the Mayor and their elected representatives on the City Council to insure the active and mass transportation aspects of the budget are enacted. Once implemented, we expect residents and business owners will immediately appreciate major returns on these investments in walking, bicycle, and bus infrastructure, which will then lay the groundwork for even bigger progress in the future.

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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.

WalkUP Roslindale now supports 874-878 South Street, Up for Hearing at Zoning Board of Appeal Today (10/31/17)

Revised 874-878 South Street Rendering
Revised 874-878 South Street Rendering

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.

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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.

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