Letter: The BRA needs to split

Split up the BRA so it can do its job!

So the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is spending up to $670K of taxpayer’s money to rebrand itself as more trustworthy (page 1, May 27 Gazette)? As a Boston real estate owner, developer, and approver of private development (and chief cheerleader for Boston development), the BRA has inherent conflicts of interest. No amount of PR is going to change that.

Nowhere are the problems with the BRA more on display than with its recent approval of 64 Allandale St. (page 5, May 27 Gazette). On May 12, the BRA voted 4-1 to approve 20 units directly abutting Allandale Woods, public property that is part of the Boston Parks Urban Wilds, which is located on the boundary between JP and West Roxbury. At no time during the public comment period did the BRA respond to questions from the public about the zoning violations that the 64 Allandale St. project presents.

According to Boston Inspectional Services Department, the project requires variances for 53 zoning violations, including too many stories, too high buildings, and insufficient useable open space per building. Now it is up to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and if necessary, the General Appellate Court, to try to get the developer to follow zoning regulations in JP and West Roxbury.

The BRA is charged to help set zoning regulations by petitioning the Boston Zoning Board for zoning changes (BRA website). How can the BRA support a project that they know from the outset violates so many zoning restrictions that they themselves have a role in setting up? Also, the BRA showed no interest in abutters’ concerns that engineering flaws in the project design endanger the downhill public wetlands in Allandale Woods.

The Boston City Council is calling on the BRA to meet in September about how it can bring more transparency and accountability to the urban renewal process (page 8, May 27 Gazette). One way to do that is to separate the urban renewal function of the BRA from the approval process for new developments. That way, questions of engineering flaws and zoning violations are regulated by a different organization from the parts of the BRA currently promoting development and urban renewal.  We don’t need to pay over half a million to figure that out.

Ralph Loring

Jamaica Plain resident

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