We previously said that the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s quixotic lawsuit against the 161 S. Huntington Ave. development was a must-win if the council was to retain its political credibility. It turns out that the JPNC has technically neither won or lost. But it is doubtful that the concessions it wrung from a settlement agreement were worth the political cost.
The lawsuit looked like a legal house of cards that a judge knocked down easily. Based on the grandiose claim that the JPNC is a municipal body, the suit turned the council into a smokescreen for an untenable argument.
The increased affordable housing agreed to by the developer is welcome. We’ll take it. But it also is not dramatic enough to seem worth the widespread head-shaking that greeted the council’s lawsuit. The JPNC in many minds is now linked with contorted legal manuevers. That is not a good basis for community power going forward.
An inclusive, broad-based neighborhood association can still be tough and opinionated, very able to extract deep concessions and to question murky City processes. (A real downside of this lawsuit is that its arguments about standing will leave potentially valid criticisms of zoning approvals untouched.) We hope that, going forward, the JPNC will locate its power in talking rather than suing.
We also hope that the City and developers recall that more responsiveness and transparency would prevent many lawsuits, right or wrong, in the first place.