Real Estate Today: JPNC sends letter to mayor, BRA critiquing planning study

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) has sent Mayor Martin Walsh and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) a letter critiquing the draft copy of the Plan: JP/Rox planning study, including over its affordability, design guidelines, and transportation parts.

The BRA is scheduled to host a workshop on the planning study Sept. 21, after the Gazette deadline, and will release a second draft afterwards.

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 BRA board over the summer, but was pushed to the fall after activists called for a three-month delay to allow for more discussion.

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.

“The current draft plan is a good start, but is not yet complete. There are some essential elements that are necessary to the plan’s success, and we ask that these issues be addressed before the plan is brought before the BRA board for approval,” the letter states.

The letter says that “economic diversity” will not be met under the current plan, as 70 percent of the people who live in the study area earn less than 70,000 a year, but the plan calls for “70 percent high-end market-rate housing, where a family needs to make $100,000 a year to afford a $2,500-a-month apartment. About 50 percent of households make less than $35,000 a year, but less than 2 percent of new housing will be affordable to households making that amount.”

The letter also takes issue with the plan not meeting JPNC’s requirement of 25 percent affordable housing for new residential developments. And it also says that the plan commitment to 30 percent affordability relies on the development of the Arborway Yard, which is a problematic MBTA site that has long been a source of tension in the neighborhood and might not be available for development.

“A number of neighborhood associations and community members working on affordability have recommended solutions, including increasing the 30 percent affordability goal, shifting the income levels of affordable housing downward from an average 60 percent area median income, and strengthening private developer requirements. Groups have also recommended that the City make concrete commitments and goals around land banking, setting aside units for voucher holders, and increasing City funding beyond the plan’s current $35 million (about $2.3 million a year),” states the letter on affordability.

The letter also says that the design guidelines, such as set back and open space requirements, “need to be strengthened.” It says that the plan should lead to “more zoning by rules and less zoning by variance.”

“The neighborhood associations are unclear on the BRA’s current commitment to the design guidelines coming out of Plan: JP/Rox since the BRA has not required these guidelines to be followed in recent Article 80 projects in the area,” states the letter.

The letter also takes issue with the lack of a transportation plan in the draft, which has been a consistent criticism throughout the process. Many people have pointed out that the current infrastructure will likely not being able to handle the population increase that will result from the new units.

“We need a coordinated and funded plan from City departments for transportation and related infrastructure improvements: we are doubling the population while moving towards a more sustainable, less car-dependent future,” the letter states.

A mayor spokesperson said that he “appreciates the JP Neighborhood Council’s thoughtful input during this process, but we don’t address specific comments until the comment period has ended.”

Gina Physic, a spokesperson for the BRA, said that agency “does not typically respond to comments on an individual basis, but the planners working on PLAN: JP/Rox have taken the JPNC’s comments into consideration and are working to incorporate those comments into the final plan, as appropriate. In addition, the planners have maintained contact with neighborhood groups throughout the planning process and have met and discussed these items with the JPNC in-person, as well.”

For more information about the plan, visit

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