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.

WalkUP Testimony at City Parking Hearing

WalkUP Rozzie Founder Matt Lawlor Testifying on Parking Before Boston City Council
WalkUP Rozzie Founder Matt Lawlor Testifying on Parking Before Boston City Council

Earlier this week, we offered testimony at a Boston City Council hearing on parking issues. Although the connection between walkability and parking policy may not be immediately obvious, because parking uses up billions of dollars of some of our most valuable urban real estate and has a substantial cascading effect on all forms of transportation, it stands at the core of any effort to move our neighborhood and our city toward walkability and sustainability.

Our comments were also sent by letter; the text is reproduced below, full version available as a PDF.

Read More

Welcome to Parkside on Adams

ros2.jpgWe were happy to learn today that Parkside on Adams is finally open with tenants moving in, and welcome these new Roslindalians with open arms.

This development brings badly needed rental housing, including some affordable units, to the central business direct. While we dream of improved walkability everywhere in the neighborhood, from East Roslindale to Metropolitan Hill to the Longfellow Area and beyond, the area adjacent Adams Park and the core business area is particularly critical for increased density, walkability, and hence vitality.

One notable bit from yesterday’s news story: “Parking is an extra $125 a month.” This may be the first instance of “unbundled” parking in a new Roslindale development and we hope to see more: if developers provide “free” parking as an amenity with residential units, (1) those units will necessarily be less affordable; and (2) purchasers or renters will be motivated and incentivized to own a car (and thus use it) since they’ve already effectively paid for it. By allowing parking to be purchased/rented separately (and by the month), this development gives new residents the option to do what makes most sense for them. Rather than pay $125/month for parking, the new resident can put the same money toward transit: $75/month for an MBTA LinkPass[1] , with $50 left over for Uber, Lyft, and/or bicycle maintenance, not to mention the substantially greater monthly savings in insurance, excise tax, gas, maintenance, etc.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Along these lines, we’d love to see the Commuter Rail pass from Roslindale closer in price to the LinkPass, to further encourage a more pedestrian-oriented and less car-centric neighborhood.

Wondering about Conway at South: Would on-street parking on both sides help slow down speeding cars?

The photos below are looking up Conway Street from its intersection with South Street directly adjacent to the commuter rail stop. Recently, I’ve noticed that signs have gone up seeking to encourage drivers to slow down, and even more recently a crosswalk has been painted after the street was repaved. Both interventions are visible in the photos, which I took this evening on the way home. My own personal observation is that these are well-intentioned steps taken by the city and/or residents on the street to deal with a real problem — drivers at this intersection tend, far too often, to ignore the stop sign at Conway/South coming down the hill, and they drive too fast. Apropos of the title to this post, I also wonder why there’s on-street parking only on one side of Conway at this location. The paved street width here is about 26′, about the same width as Fairview Street (one block over, about 25′ in width) and, to the naked eye, most other streets on Peters Hill. I would posit that one reason there’s excessive speeding on this street is that there’s parking only on one side of the street (as opposed to Fairview and most every other street I can think of in the immediate vicinity), leaving a too-wide driving area that signals to those behind the wheel that the way has been cleared for them to comfortably exceed the default speed limit of 30 mph. I would further posit that allowing for on-street parking on both sides of the street would signal to drivers that they must proceed on this street with caution and at a rate of speed at or below that posted speed limit. With only a single lane in each direction, cars going in opposite directions on the street have to yield to each other in order to safely pass, and they must therefore drive more slowly. This is a condition that generally works quite well throughout Peters Hill and elsewhere in the city. Comments welcome, especially from Conway residents following WalkUP who may have insight on why Conway is set up this way today.

Pic 1 Pic 2

We Need to Talk About Parking

Banned in BostonA critical piece of the walkability/livability discussion is the problem of parking. Some minor flare-ups around the proposal to replace (temporarily) even one car parking space with a corral that could accommodate at least ten bikes highlights the passion and sensitivity some feel around the issue. For those who don’t have time to pore over an 800-page bestselling book on the topic (“The High Cost of Free Parking”), we’ll try to lay out piece by piece over the next few weeks why parking–and especially free parking–can be toxic to the health of a community and especially a neighborhood shopping district.

In the meantime, though, last week’s Planet Money episode “Free Parking” provides an entertaining and engaging introduction to the topic, through the prism of a parking exchange startup that originated in Baltimore and was subsequently banned in Boston. Although the story is interesting from a number of perspectives, we urge everyone to listen closely to the interview with Donald Shoup, author of the aforementioned bestseller.

Stay tuned for more.