BPDA delays vote on Plan: JP/Rox study

October 28, 2016
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The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) withdrew the Plan: JP/Rox planning study from the Oct. 20 BPDA board meeting after receiving letters from a coalition of neighborhood groups and elected officials asking it to do just that.

“A coalition of neighborhood groups in the Plan: JP/Rox area asked the City to withdraw Plan: JP/Rox from the October BPDA board meeting in order to further address unresolved issues around height/density, design, affordability, displacement, transportation and jobs. This request was supported by Rep. Liz Malia, Sen. Chang Diaz, and Councilor Matt O’Malley. This alliance of neighborhood groups is now meeting with the BPDA and are hopeful that the BPDA and the neighborhood can work collaboratively to clarify and improve the plan,” said Susan Pranger, a member of the coalition who said she was not speaking for it.

The coalition includes Asticou/Martinwood/South Street Neighborhood Association, Brewery District Neighborhood Crime Watch Group, Brookside Neighborhood Association, Chilcott Place Granada Park Neighborhood Association, Egleston Square Neighborhood Association, Green Street Renters Association, Parkside Neighborhood Association, Stonybrook Neighborhood Association, Union Avenue Neighborhood Association, Westminster/Wardman Tenant Association, and Keep It 100 for Real Affordable Housing and Racial Justice.

Plan: JP/Rox is the long-awaited planning study for the Columbus Avenue and Washington Street corridor, from Jackson Square to Egleston Square to Forest Hills. The planning study, which was launched more than a year ago and will eventually create new zoning for the area, was originally supposed to go the BPDA board during the summer, but was pushed to the fall after activists called for a three-month delay to allow for more discussion. The plan is now expected to go before the board Nov. 17.

The draft plan lays out an ambition proposal to have 3,500 units be built along the corridor, 30 percent of which would be affordable housing. The 30 percent target would be met through several avenues, including housing built by community development corporations and through a “density bonus.” The density bonus would allow developers to build denser buildings in exchange for having more affordable housing.

In an email blast to people involved with the Plan: JP/Rox study, Marie Mercurio of BPDA said that, “We have moved the BPDA Board of Director’s review and consideration of PLAN: JP/ROX to the Nov. 17 board meeting. This will provide additional time to read the final report and connect with us with clarifying questions.”

The email does not say that BPDA is willing to make any changes to the plan.

Jamaica Plain City Councilor Matt O’Malley, state Rep. Liz Malia, and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz co-authored a letter to BDPA asking for the delay and saying, “Several community associations, including the JPNC, a large coalition of neighborhood stakeholders (represented by the newly formed neighborhood alliance) and individuals acting on their own, have identified a number of outstanding questions regarding design guidelines, and overall goals around height, density, affordability, neighborhood stabilization, and job standards. Addressing these questions and creating an alternative communication framework where community members can see their feedback within the plan will go a long way toward making the plan more feasible and strengthening relationship between the BPDA and the community going forward.”

The letter went on to say, “We believe that an accord can be reached to finalize the plan, but that it will require additional revisions and some collaborative problem solving with the community before the board votes.”

Asked for comment about the delay, Kevin Moloney, chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, said, While the most recent edition is an improvement (inclusion of clear language as to status of Arborway Yard Memorandum of Understanding, for example), there is time to make needed improvements (design guidelines should be mandatory to protect and buffer the existing residential neighborhoods; overall building heights should respect the scale of adjacent properties and streets, commitments from the city should be included to improve transportation and utilities to support increased density, affordability goals and strategies should reflect the actual needs, commitments should be added to prevent displacement of existing residents and businesses).

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