By Lauren Bennett
The Jamaica Pond Association met on March 4 for their monthly meeting, which had an agenda packed full of both recurring and new issues up for discussion.
First up was the community safety report from Officer William Jones, who said that the community remains fairly safe. There was a 16 percent reduction in the crime rate as compared to last year at this time, he said. But “we’re not perfect; crime is happening,” he said. Domestic aggravated assaults are up by seven instances when compared with this time last year, and residential burglaries are up by 14 instances, he said.
“Our job is to remove as many opportunities as possible,” he said, reminding people to lock their doors, close their windows, and illuminate their houses and surrounding areas to deter any unwanted people. He also reinforced the idea that he brought up last month—people need to call 911 if they see suspicious behavior. A lot of these burglaries are happening during the daytime, Jones said, as people do not want to be seen or caught by people who may be more likely to be home in the evening and at night.
Zoning Committee Chair Kevin Moloney discussed the proposal at 632-638 Centre St., saying that they had previously taken a vote to oppose this but the developer decided he wanted to double the amount of units.
Attorney Kevin Joyce came to Monday night’s meeting to give an update on the proposal. He said that the city asked him to go out to various neighborhood groups and provide the latest information. He also said that they have not yet been before the Zoning Board of Appeal, nor do they have a date set. The building is a four story building with 18 units, and he said that the changes that have been made since the JPA last heard about it include the removal of the proposed roof decks, creating a turnaround area, screening in portions of the turnaround areas, adding bike racks and an interior trash room, making the units a little bigger, and four of the units will be affordable.
The building will be 45 feet tall, and it is out of compliance for open space and FAR. There will be eight parking spaces and four commercial spaces as well.
He said that the rest of the process includes going through small project review with the Boston Planning and Development Agency, finalizing the design, and then appearing before the Zoning Board of Appeal.
Moloney said that the developers can build nine units as of right, but are looking to double that amount. He said that the neighbors get the requested turnaround spot under the new proposal, and the developer gets 18 units.
“I think it’s important that the community understands that in order to qualify for a variance…if you can’t make the case that you’re being deprived of the reasonable use of the land,” he said.
The removal of the roof decks triggered the open space violation, Joyce said, but added that “when they did the parking bumpout, they did add a green part in the back” that surrounds the parking spaces.
JPA member Kay Mathew said she was worried about long term retail space, as having physical retail space does not seem to be very forward-thinking. Joyce said that these retail spaces would be spaces for smaller companies and people who are just starting out their businesses. Others were concerned with the box-like appearance of the proposed building.
There is no further voting from the JPA on this; Joyce was just there to provide an update and listen to feedback.
PARKS, PARKWAYS, AND OPEN SPACES
JPA Chair Rosemary Jones said there was a “really good meeting last Thursday” regarding the Ad hoc traffic calming committee for Bynner St., and reported that there is a letter drafted to the neighborhood liaison for Jamaica Plain. At last month’s meeting, the JPA discussed drafting a letter identifying things that the Bynner St. neighborhood would like to see regarding traffic calming in the area.
“We took the suggestion that we identify three things that the Bynner St. neighborhood wants,” Jones said. The three things they came up with were: clarity of resident parking request, to have the city look at what causes the intersection at South Huntington Ave. and Bynner St., and asking the state to take a look at the Jamaicaway. The JPA voted to approve the sending of the letter to the neighborhood liaison, and City Councilor Matt O’Malley and Rep. Nika Elugardo will be copied on the letter.
Also discussed was the commercial signage on the Jamaicaway behind the Goddard House, which much of the JPA does not like. At the last meeting, Jones said she would follow up with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to see if there are any restrictions on signage for where the property is located. At the meeting on Tuesday, Jones said she spoke with a community relations person who looked it up and said that even though it is a scenic property, the developers are allowed to have signage there. It will be taken down in May or June when constriction is complete.
JPA member Michael Reiskind said that since the Emerald Necklace is a city park, it “ has more limits on what can be put next to it than what DCR was in their rules.” He said he did research on this but couldn’t find out any concrete information. He suggested making one more phone call to the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to see if they can provide more information.
The JPA also discussed inviting Commissioner Leo Roy from the Department of Conversation and Recreation to their annual meeting in May, but they also said they will have further discussion about setting up a time for him to come to a regular business meeting as well.
INFORMAL PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE WINTER SPACE SAVERS
Omer Hecht of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council came to the JPA to present his informal proposal to ban space savers in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Though the JPA made no vote on the issue at the meeting, the proposal received mixed reviews from members.
Hecht said his proposal was to ban winter space savers “in a similar fashion as has been done in the South End. He is currently going around to different neighborhood associations and collecting comments from the community about his proposal.
Hecht laid out his ideas for the proposal. He said that a lot of people use the word “reasonable” when it comes to space savers, and he thinks that word needs to be eliminated because “it’s not a quantifier for what is or isn’t allowed,” he said. He said that the “unwritten rule” of space savers affects guests or newcomers to the area, as it is not enforced. He said space savers also have to do with entitlement or privilege—he said he considers JP an “accepting, multicultural place where people present their altruistic side first,” but space savers “speak to the other side”—how our resources are shared and how we deal with public spaces. Lastly, he said that the streets are public spaces, and space savers “do pose more of a risk,” he said.
“By condoning this unwritten rule, we’re enabling the city to not do its job to clear the streets,” he said.
Currently, space savers are only allowed to be in place for 48 hours after a snow emergency has been lifted, but according to Hecht, “people abuse this rule” and “keep space savers out for weeks and months,” and use them even when there is no snow emergency.
He also brought up the fact that since this is not an enforceable rule, people worry they will get beat up or have their car damaged if they remove someone else’s space savers and park in that space. He also thinks it “ties up” parking spaces that may be used during the day.
“I’m hoping that if this proposal is successful, JP will sing the gospel to the City of Boston…” Hecht said.
JPA member Andre Jones said that he doesn’t see “how it’s allowing the city to opt out from their responsibility.” He said that the person who is digging out their car is doing a service, and “in JP you don’t have cars sitting there for months as a snowbank,” he said. “You have to be logical about your arguments,” he told Hecht.
Sarah Freeman said it bothers her that people can privatize a public space, though she empathizes with people who are parents and need to bring their kids places or pick up groceries.
Franklyn Salimbene said that he appreciates the vandalism comment. “If somebody outs in the time to shovel, it’s hard to deny them the fruits of their labor,” he said. “What the city should be doing is enforcing the 48 hour rule.”
DCR STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL MEETING UPDATE
Sarah Freeman provided an update from the DCR Stewardship Council meeting, where they discussed traffic and safety on the Arborway. She said that DCR Commissioner Leo Roy “generally goes” to these meetings, and said that the Arborway is on the DCR’s radar. “Their approach seems to be coordinating with MassDOT, which will point out short term changes and possibly long term changes,” Freeman said. She said that people can expect a road safety audit in the next month or two, and see short term solutions being put into place in four to six months.
“We shouldn’t allow them, in my view, to get away with short term solutions,” Moloney said. He said that putting up more signs and lowering speed limits will “do absolutely nothing.”
“It depends on what they mean by short term changes,” Freeman replied.
WALK THE JAMAICAWAY/SUNDAYS ON THE JAMAICAWAY
At last month’s JPA meeting, the group discussed closing off part of the Jamaicaway (from Kelley Circle to Perkins St.) to traffic for at least one Sunday during the summer to get people out and about outside. The idea was proposed by people who live along the Jamaicaway. They also formed a subcommittee of people who millwork on this project. At Tuesday’s meeting, Rosemary Jones said that the subcommittee hasn’t met yet, “but they will shortly.”
As of right now, the next Jamaica Pond Association meeting will be on April 1and will be relocated to the First Baptist Church on Centre St. in anticipation of a large crowd due to the proposal for a retail cannabis establishment at 767 Centre St.