When I moved to Jamaica Plain 25 years ago, $180,000 bought a home with land. The interest was high (18 percent), but it was a better investment than buying a six-room condo in Brookline for the same money.
Over the years, Jamaica Plain became increasingly popular because of its eclectic and inclusive neighborhoods, its huge old homes and an abundance of land, missing in other parts of Boston. Gardens sprang up everywhere, with no threat of three-story shadows darkening them.
In the last few years, more than 19 units of housing have been built on my street, most of them with three bedrooms apiece. Recently, a family on the next street paid $900,000 for a 2.5-bedroom townhouse with two parking spaces and no yard. Not even a sidewalk.
Although I miss the wildflowers, skunks and rabbits displaced by the parking lot next door, I accept that change happens. But dropping new homes into every spare square foot of JP has meant an increase in rats and a decrease in the predators that controlled their population: the foxes and red tail hawks.
The marketing of Jamaica Plain has created contractor greed, and with it, a density between homes, that has meant the loss of valuable native wildlife. Lilacs and pine trees have been chopped down to make parking spaces. The priorities of developers have changed. It used to be that great care was taken to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods. Not anymore.
Twenty-five years ago I could stretch my arms up to the sunlight in my backyard, without neighbors looking down my shirt. Sigh.