Despite continued and vocal opposition, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) board during its March 2 meeting approved the Plan: JP/Rox study by a 4-1 vote.
Board members Timothy Burke, Carol Downs, Michael Monahan, and Ted Landsmark voted to approve, while Priscilla Rojas was the lone dissenting tally.
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 was launched more than a year and a half ago, and will eventually create new zoning for the area. The plan has undergone several revisions. The latest version can be found here: bit.ly/2k1quTR.
The “Keep It 100 for Real Affordable Housing and Racial Justice” group, which has been leading the charge in calling for more affordability in the plan, among other changes, protested for several days at City Hall before the vote and then also at the board meeting. The group and City Councilor Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor, said that the protesters were videotaped by Boston Police personnel at the meeting, a move they both criticized.
BPD said in a statement, “The police were not present to record or film the meeting. The Boston Police Department received information that many of the attendees voiced their intent to be arrested as part of their demonstration at the meeting. It is our policy that, in the event of a mass arrest, the department deploys officers to document the lawful order to disperse, as well as the subsequent actions of police and the individuals or group. This is not an uncommon practice for the department; the same procedures have been followed for other demonstrations, such as Occupy Boston. The video footage is used only for potential criminal and/or court proceedings to show that the lawful order to disperse was given by police and proper steps were followed. The video footage is not used for gathering intelligence or surveillance.”
Jackson said in a phone interview that without the advocacy of “Keep It 100 for Real Affordable Housing and Racial Justice” and other activists, the plan was “heading to catastrophe.” He said that one aspect of the plan he would have liked seen changed was for the affordability requirements to be tied to incomes in the neighborhood in the study corridor rather than the area median.
Jackson also said he was “very disappointed” in how the Walsh administration handled the protesters. He said that some of the protesters are immigrants and filming them “flies in the face” of the mayor declaring City Hall a sanctuary.
“Having police cameras at a public meeting is not how you communicate safety,” he said.
The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
“Keep It 100 for Real Affordable Housing and Racial Justice” also took issue with the filming.
“This activity continues a pattern by the BPDA, Boston Police Department, and the mayor of intimidation and criminalization of community members advocating for affordable housing,” the group said in a statement. “When police film community members peacefully attending a meeting or advocating for their communities, they intimidate people and pressure them not to advocate. Among the community members in the room were immigrants and people of color sharing their stories and experiences, and who found the courage to speak up. Having police film people is completely contrary to Mayor Walsh’s statements that City Hall is a sanctuary for all of its residents.”
Despite the plan being approved, the group said that it was proud of the changes it was able to get the City to make and for bringing together a diverse section of the community to fight for “real affordable housing and racial justice.”
“Together, we worked hard to protect the diversity of our community, ensure it remained a home for people of color and low- and moderate-income families and people, and prevent displacement,” the statement said. “The future of our community is at stake: will it be a community where we protect current residents and the rich racial and economic diversity here, or will be it rezoned to allow for land grabs that focus on landowner and developer’s riches and profits over the people who make this neighborhood and city what it is?”
BPDA said in a statement that “The approval of the Plan: JP/Rox guidelines set a new precedent for a collaborative approach to community-based planning. The guidelines approved create a plan to double the existing affordable housing stock in the study area, meaning 40 percent of future development is slated to be affordable. Plan: JP/Rox has included 40 community meetings, 10 workshops, 13 Advisory Group meetings, and collaboration from a wide range of City departments.”
The statement goes on to say that the plan lays out strategies to prevent displacement, increase affordable housing, and expand protections for tenants facing evictions, as well as protecting existing businesses and creating opportunities for new ones.
The zoning for the plan is now being drafted and there will be community process before it heads to the Zoning Commission for a vote, according to the BPDA.