The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held a meeting on January 21 for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to provide updates on PLAN: JP/Rox and to “share information on how development projects have contributed to meeting the goals” of the plan since it was implemented, according to the JPNC. Members of the public were also invited to ask questions and provide feedback.
Aisling Kerr of the BPDA said that the agency “might not have answers for everything tonight, but we want to know what the areas of concern are.” Kelly Sherman and Ocean Luo of the
BPDA were also on hand to address questions and concerns from residents.
“The guidelines outlined in PLAN: JP/ROX were adopted by the Boston Planning and Development (BPDA) Board of Directors on March 2, 2017,” according to the JPNC description for this meeting. “This comprehensive plan provides recommendations and strategies around development of former industrial sites, affordable housing, jobs and businesses, guidelines for urban design, and suggestions for improvements to transportation, connections, open space, sustainability, and the public realm. It also represents an intensive 2 1/2 year planning process in which the City actively engaged with the community to envision the area between Forest Hills, Egleston Square, and Jackson Square; an area that includes approximately 250 acres and over 6,000 residents. In so doing, this planning initiative created an opportunity to think strategically about the types of uses, the public realm, and the scale of development that are best suited for the future of the area.”
Luo presented a dashboard that showed developments within the boundaries set forth by PLAN: JP/Rox, and showed different aspects of the plan for different projects. He went through different aspects of the dashboard and how residents can access it. The dashboard can be found at https://boston.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/47125f46893247bca922444a9bf7e8c8.
At the Feb. 8 Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) meeting, Steering Committee member Trevyn Langsford said that PLAN: JP/Rox “is not law; it is a guideline that is a resource for developers when developing new projects.”
Several residents expressed issues with the plan, especially when it came to the affordability of new units being built in the neighborhood.
Resident Lady Lawrence said that the “impact” of many of the projects on residents is “ignored,” and said that the calculations for determining affordability are “fundamentally flawed,” and it is an “issue of structural racism.”
Kerr responded by saying that the BPDA was “here to share information” as well as provide an update on “items of interest” to residents.
“There’s a lot of different opinions on [Area Median Income] and what that defines.” She said that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets the Area Median Income. “Unfortunately, the city’s not directly responsible for setting those AMIs.”
Resident Sarah Horsley said that PLAN: JP/Rox “did achieve some good goals around affordability and some other issues…” She added that she feels more affordable units are still needed, and that Arborway Yard, owned by the MBTA., would be a good place to build more units.
“It’s an elephant in the room that the Arborway Yard parcel is still sitting there after close to 20 years of being promised,” said resident Sarah Freeman.
Kerr said that the MBTA is “unable to commit to what the long term plans are for the site,” and there’s only so much we can do right now. We’re committed to continuing those conversations with the MBTA.”
Other residents said they would like more information made available regarding affordability of units on the dashboard, as they feel it is not clear right now and not enough information is provided.
Kerr said that the dashboard was still very new, and “points about deeper and additional information are well taken.”
Resident Benji Mauer said that “the fact that you know about how many bike space, but not more info about AMI shows where priorities are.” He said that any technical issues with the dashboard need to be resolved.
“This is the most critical information for this neighborhood and I think you all know that,” he said. “The information presented on this dashboard,” he continued, “does not meet requests” from the community for more information. “We have priorities and the dashboard doesn’t really reflect those priorities. It sort of feels like there’s a disconnect between what we’re saying, our priorities, and how your’e coming back to us with information.”
In the chat, resident Lizi Brown wrote: “It’s important to look at the history of redlining in Roxbury when calculating the realistic needs. We need housing for people who have been shut out due to racism for many many years. The city needs to make amends and make good quality housing available to the people who have lived here historically. This means low income residents”
Alex Ponte-Capellan of City Life/Vida Urbana said that he was “hoping to see info about displacement,” but added that it was “really disheartening” to not see that information. He suggested that data collection be done with residents to see how that compares to “what is being built.”
Others also made comments about displacement and how it is continuing to worsen.
Resident Mary Ann Kopydlowski wrote in the chat: “I have lived in JP for 41 years and for 21 years I have worked as a nurse with the homeless community in Boston. I have seen the number of homeless families and individuals skyrocket in recent years. This can be directly linked to displacement and lack of affordable housing. And hey we are in a pandemic. Families and individuals are being displaced now in the pandemic. In essence displacement, eviction, foreclosure during Covid-19=death.”
Other residents appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback, and hoped the BPDA was taking it into serious consideration.
Kerr said that she “appreciates” the comments and feedback from the residents, as well as the chance to have this conversation. Kevin Rainsford, Chair of the JPNC, said that the goal is “to go over questions” as well as “review the video” of the meeting and send those questions to the BPDA, and “hopefully get a response in a relatively short amount of time,” after which those responses will be distributed to residents.