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.

SAVE THE DATE: Roslindale District Councilor Forum set for January 24, 2018

City CouncilCity CouncilCity Council

It took a bit longer than anticipated at first, but we have now scheduled the Roslindale district councilor forum. January 24, 2018 will be a Wednesday evening and we will be pleased to gather with Councilors Campbell, McCarthy, and O’Malley to discuss the new council term and share our mutual vision and collective priorities on the active mobility issues that matter to Roslindale.

Time and place are currently TBD, but stay tuned – they will be announced soon!

Another pedestrian fatality in our neighborhood — this time at Morton/Canterbury

Intersection of Morton and Canterbury

Intersection of Morton and Canterbury

The crash — single driver crashing into a single pedestrian — happened this past Saturday night at the intersection of Morton Street and Canterbury Street, across from the VFW post, in the area where Roslindale, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain all meet. Reporting has come in from Universal Hub, the Globe, and the Herald:

The victim has been identified as Johnette Sims, a resident of Dorchester. Our thoughts are with her family. Initial reports indicate that Ms. Sims was struck while in a crosswalk and that the driver, who initially fled the scene, has been arrested and will be charged with operating under the influence.

Recognizing the likely multiple contributing causes — which appear to include drunken driving as well as a street system that, here and just about everywhere, continues to encourage vehicular speeding and an expectation that, despite the presence of crosswalks, pedestrians aren’t supposed to be getting in the way — we will try to stay on top of the state and city’s response — both law enforcement and MassDOT/BTD/DPW — to this latest tragedy. If anyone learns more information beyond what has been reported so far, please let us know in the comments section. We will do the same.

About Tuesday’s Pedestrian Death on Washington Street at Blue Ledge Drive

Silvia Acosta

Family photograph of Silvia Acosta (with Mayor Marty Walsh)

Our deepest sympathies go out to the family of Silvia Acosta, a 78 year-old resident of our neighborhood who was tragically struck and killed by a motor vehicle on Washington Street on Tuesday afternoon. Universal Hub has the most complete coverage so far of the crash, which occurred in the section of Washington Street between Walworth and the West Roxbury Parkway. The Herald also has a report.

What’s being reported so far is that the crash happened in the late afternoon (shortly after dark) and that Ms. Acosta was in a crosswalk when she was struck. It is noteworthy that the Suffolk DA’s office is charging the driver, who reportedly left the scene even though she later admitted she knew she had struck someone, with vehicular homicide by reckless operation as well. While it is important that individual drivers be held accountable for their actions, it is usually the case that larger design, infrastructure, and policy decisions play a significant role in these sorts of tragedies, demonstrating (unfortunately) how badly needed a vigorous VisionZero policy and set of actions in our city really are. We’ll follow this story as it unfolds further to see what exactly happened, what lessons can be learned, and what steps can and should be taken going forward to prevent pedestrian deaths around the location of the crash and throughout our neighborhood. And then we’ll do what we can to make sure those steps are taken. Stay tuned.

Washington Street and Blue Ledge Drive, Approximate Location of Impact

Washington Street and Blue Ledge Drive, Approximate Location of Impact

South @ Walter Clearly Heating Up — Time to consider Live/Work Units?

Add another ingredient to the mix at what is becoming a hot corner: Green T Cafe just announced they are moving into the former Christos Market space on the corner of Walter and South streets. Some limited activity had been noticeable a few weeks back, but over the past weekend a dumpster materialized (was quickly filled and already replaced) and work appeared to be starting in earnest. The news popped up on the LANA NextDoor group as well as the Keep Roslindale Quirky facebook page, and on Green T’s own website/facebook page. Timing sounds like this fall/winter. This is a big change – the location has been vacant for several years and we have been in desperate need for a neighborhood coffee shop for almost as long.

Green T’s impending arrival signals that there is retail potential at this corner. Further to the recent post about the proposed residential development across South Street, I would suggest again that there is a meaningful basis for more commercial activity at this corner (again, just down the street from where I have lived for 15 years), not less. And one way that the South Street developer might straddle the fence would be to include one or two live/work units on the ground floor street frontage of the building. I suspect, without researching the question, that live/work units at that location (and probably almost everywhere else in Boston) would require a variance from the existing zoning. But the advantages in affordability, flexibility of use and allowing the building to evolve with changing circumstances would be significant. Something to consider here and possibly elsewhere in Roslindale where retail might work but hasn’t been proven yet or has been dormant for an extended period.

What will Roslindale look like in 2030? Who will be living, working, and playing here? How will they come and go, and how will they get around once they’re here?

These are questions that two massive city-wide planning efforts are trying to answer. On the first couple of questions, Imagine Boston is the first comprehenisve master plan the city has even attempted in the last 50 years. Go Boston 2030 is the city’s new transportation planning process dealing with the second set of questions.

We are standing at a crossroads as a city. What direction will we take in welcoming our new neighbors, business owners and employees, and visitors? How will these new planning efforts be steered in Roslindale? Will we make our community more walkable and bikeable and livable in the process? In the next 18 months or so, the course to 2030 will be largely set. Now is the time to get involved. What ideas do we want to put on the table? This conversation is critical to our future, and we’re reminded by the last post about why that really is.

The run-up to WalkUP – Setting the tone by flipping through RTUF’s thoughts on Roslindale

I’ve been keeping my own urban design-focused blog for the last several years under the wordy title of “Restoring the Urban Fabric,” which shortens to “RTUF” (pronounced “ARE-TOUGH”). Herewith, a collection of links to RTUF posts about Roslindale, home sweet home and, for my money, the best neighborhood in Boston pound-for-pound:

Streets and intersections are meaningful public places

Medical Center, Heal Thy Site

Thinking about Adams Park

Washington Beech is just the latest

The last major gap in the Washington Street frontage in Roslindale Square is filled in

Arboretum Place establishes a strong northern gateway for Roslindale

Launching the Substation Redevelopment

Sacred Heart takes care of its physical assets, both sacred and profane

Staples strikes GOLD in Roslindale Square