Letters:

February 24, 2017
By

Space savers anarchy

At a press conference on Feb. 10 Mayor Walsh declared that threats posted on space-savers would cause the savers to be confiscated. “I just made up that rule right now!” he added. The next morning my neighbor asked if I had security cameras, since overnight her tires had been flattened. The space she had shoveled had been taken and she had moved to an empty one.

In the narrowest sense the mayor had the right thought. But the evil he is party to is when political leaders try to make up law to suit themselves. With no statute about space savers, a public official’s only proper comment is: “You put one out at your own risk.”

Whether it happens in Boston or Washington, making up law on the fly is a bad idea.

David A. Mittell, Jr.

Jamaica Plain resident

Warren stands up

It’s quite illuminating when you think of the millions of smart and qualified women available to turn this country around and all the GOP has to offer are the likes of Betty Devos, Kellyanne Conway, and extremists like Sarah Palin.

What we’re seeing today is the last gasp of middle-aged to old white men frantically trying to hold onto what they have been messing up for years in their self-serving, greedy quests.  They know their number is up and that’s why they are so fearful of women, people of color, and immigrants.  Their time is rapidly coming to an end.  The light, for them, is burning brightest before it burns out.

What we saw in the Senate the other was Senator Elizabeth Warren telling the truth and shaming the members who are hell-bent on installing a most unqualified candidate for Attorney General, whose record exposes his bias and bigoted past, one that could in no way insure liberty and justice for all. The truth hurts, but the only response by these crotchety, old men was to censor her. Cut her off!  They only managed to look like the cowards that they are. Warren and women just like her will prevail.

Michel L. Spitzer

Jamaica Plain resident

City’s women workforce report lacking

The City of Boston’s report outlining how women are underrepresented and underpaid in our workforce is an important start to addressing sexism [Mayor Walsh’s Op-Ed 1/27/17]. The report’s glaring omission of race, however, should have been at least acknowledged by Mayor Walsh in his Op-Ed. Pew Research shows that when compared to the median hourly wage of white men nationwide, Asian women earn 85 percent, White women earn 82 percent, Black women earn 65 percent, and Latina/Hispanic women earn 58 percent.  We urgently need to address both this institutional racism and sexism as a city and as a community and nation, and acknowledging them both is the first step in addressing them both.

Riana Good

Jamaica Plain resident

Plan: JP/Rox, part I

The Plan: JP/Rox, which was finalized a few weeks ago by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and will be voted on by the board on March 2, recommends that 15-story residential towers be allowed at the “Arborway Bus Yard,” across from the Forest Hills T Station.  Towers sited on this parcel would constitute a permanent eyesore to an area surrounded by historic open spaces—the Arnold Arboretum, founded in 1872 by Harvard University; Forest Hills Cemetery, established in 1848; and Franklin Park, established in 1885, which is the City’s largest tract of parkland and is the crown jewel of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace.

The plan to encroach upon the viewsheds of these open spaces should not be shrugged off by JP residents.  Not only is this proposed zoning opposed by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, but it also contradicts one of the Plan: JP/Rox’ objectives—to enhance existing open spaces.  This is a critical objective because the plan also recommends zoning that will increase the housing density between Forest Hills and Jackson Square by a whopping 60 percent, with no new open spaces proposed.  It adds insult to injury to allow towers next to JP’s most historic and beautiful areas.

If the City must have transit-oriented development, then the proposed zoning near T stations should also fit into the context of the area, rather than have it simply allow for the largest buildings. It’s reasonable for the plan to recommend zoning for multi-unit residential buildings, to capitalize on their proximity to mass transit, but not at heights that clash with the surroundings.  Of course the rationale for 15-story buildings ultimately comes down to profit incentives for developers.

The BPDA board should amend the Plan: JP/Rox to better protect the legacy and beauty of this area on behalf of everyone for the foreseeable future.  The board meets on March 2 at City Hall to vote on whether to adopt the plan.  Then, some months later, the Boston Zoning Commission will likely vote on changing the City’s zoning to reflect the plan.

The Arboretum, Forest Hills Cemetery, and Franklin Park are three of Boston’s most significant historic open spaces, providing recreation, enjoyment, and solace to residents and tourists alike.  By proposing zoning where towers will be allowed to loom over these beautiful open spaces, the BPDA has demonstrated a callous disregard for the area’s existing and future residents. Furthermore, to construct tall buildings in this location would be a blemish on Mayor Walsh’s campaign to increase housing densities throughout Boston.

Henry Barbaro

Jamaica Plain resident

 

Plan: JP/Rox, Part II

The purpose of the proposed Density Bonus Areas (DBAs) of Plan: JP/Rox (Plan) is to allow developers within the identified areas to construct more residential units than are currently permitted by the Zoning Code, creating greater “density” to provide more units of affordable housing.

To that end, the Plan includes proposed “Design Guidelines” that would allow the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) to authorize additional height (above what is permitted by the Code, but within limits set by the Guidelines) for developments that include a greater number of affordable units than minimally required by the City’s “Inclusionary Development Policy.”

Many in Jamaica Plain have warmed to the “Density Bonus” concept with respect to building height, and (with some identified reductions of the height Guidelines) it now appears that density bonuses will be part of achieving the community’s widely shared affordable housing goals within the Plan area.

To the extent the latest modifications of the Design Guidelines include reductions in the maximum building heights that will be allowed within the proposed DBAs (originally as high as 155 feet/15 stories at the Forest Hills & Jackson Square ends of the corridor), we should welcome them as well as the changes that have been sought by the JPNC, the “Neighborhood Alliance” and others.

However, with the proposed “Design Guidelines,” the BPDA unjustifiably seeks to expand the authority of its officials by allowing them to waive applicable requirements of the Zoning Code not only as to height, but also as to use (e.g., neighborhood shopping, residential, light industrial) and every other dimensional requirement that the Zoning Code currently mandates, such as the space between buildings and the amount of open space and how much off-street parking a property must include.

There appears to be no rational purpose to this effort essentially to repeal the Zoning Code within the DBAs, apart from giving BPDA officials complete, unfettered power to “green light” favored projects by eliminating the open, public process that exists under the Zoning Code for the consideration and granting of zoning variances.

If dimensional restrictions along the Washington Street corridor must be changed in order to implement the Plan, then let those changes be drafted and adopted as legally binding in the usual way, as amendments to Article 55 of the Zoning Code or, as the JPNC has proposed, by creating an “Affordable Housing Density Bonus Overlay District” within Article 55, applicable only to the DBAs.

The existing community and city process, although not perfect, has been, and is, a productive and valuable part of project evolution and project approval that, time after time, results in better buildings, a more open process, and more satisfied neighbors.

It is therefore vital to Jamaica Plain that existing Zoning Code provisions relating to building dimensions and use not be converted into mere “Design Guidelines,” waivable without variance, community input, or public process, entirely at the BPDA’s sole discretion.

Kevin Moloney

Chair of JPNC

Jamaica Plain resident

Archives