By Lauren Bennett
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held its monthly meeting on March 26, where they heard an update from City Councilor Matt O’Malley and provided committee updates to the public.
Councilor O’Malley, who is a huge proponent of environmental matters, said it’s an “exciting time in the city and in JP,” and discussed a variety of environmental issues and policies that affect the neighborhood. A gas leaks bill—the first of its kind in the state—has passed, O’Malley said. He also talked about the plastic bag ban, which he said JP was an “early supporter” of, is “already seeing tangible results,” with fewer plastic bags seen in trees and storm drains, he said. He also spoke about the notion of net zero carbon and the work that is being done on that front especially when it comes to zoning and development issues. He said that they are “still committed to curbside composting” as well.
O’Malley also said that the council is also looking at road safety, adding that the ‘West Roxbury Part of Centre St. needs to look more like the JP part of Centre St.”
JPNC member Kevin Rainsford wanted to know what the status of PLAN:JP/Rox was. O’Malley said that “it’s better than it was a year ago,” as there have been some projects that abide by the guidelines of the plan, but “there is more work to go,” he said. “There are some pretty good projects in the pipeline that are coming down and we need to hold the developers to it.”
O’Malley also discussed the MBTA fare hike, saying that “it is beyond frustrating” that any of the Hyde Park rail stations cost over $6.00. “It’s frustrating because we talk about equity and fairness—these are Boston neighborhoods who are paying three times what they should be,” he said. He said that people would generally be more receptive to a fare increase if it led to better service, but he said it doesn’t.
“We need to make a case to legislators outside of Boston that a good system is healthy for the state,” he said. He said that increased service will result in more riders, which makes transportation across the city more sustainable. He also talked about dedicated bus lanes, calling them “remarkable” and saying that the city needs more of them, as they will help expedite service to transportation deserts.
O’Malley also discussed the community choice energy program, which gives residents more control over the type and price of energy they use. The program allows communities to buy energy as a group based on what the community wants. “We are miles ahead of where we were a year ago,” O’Malley said of the program. He said that a vendor/consultant has been hired, and the next step involves impaneling a working group.
“I really appreciate what you all do,” O’Malley said to the JPNC at the end of his presentation. “What you guys do is really important.”
JPNC member David Baron presented the Zoning Committee report, saying that all items that were spoken about have already been before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), so there would be no votes from the full council on this.
At 3231 Washington St., the proponents requested a change of occupancy from two residential units to four, and renovate the kitchen, bathrooms, and systems within the triple decker. They proposed to either paint or replace the existing siding, as well as install a sprinkler. Baron said that at the zoning meeting, there were some people who were concerned with things like density and parking. The Zoning Committee voted to approve the project with the proviso that the pope space next to the building be landscaped or fenced to prevent off-street parking.
At 16R Robeson St., the homeowner is looking to construct a new single-family home with a roof deck above a two car garage on an existing vacant lot for her daughter to live in. There would be two off-street parking spaces that can be accessed through the driveway at 16 Robeson. Baron said that there was some opposition on this application as well, and though the Zoning Committee voted to approve it, the applicant requested to defer at the ZBA hearing.
At 79 Jamaica St., the proponents are requesting to erect a new two-family dwelling—“the largest building on the street”— on the “smallest lot on the street,” according to Baron. He said the proposal is “quite out of scale with the other houses on Jamaica St,” and called it “offensive,” as this proposal does not have a rear yard setback even though other houses on the street have backyard space. He said he believes it would cast the neighbors in shadow. A number of residents spoke out against this at the ZBA hearing and the Zoning Committee voted to deny the application, but the ZBA granted the zoning relief requested.
Finally, at 106 Forest Hills Street, the proponents originally proposed to demolish the existing building and erect a new three story building with nine residential units with balconies and roof decks and twelve off-street parking spaces. A new description from a handout passed out at the meeting said that the proposal has been changed to relocate the original structure and build a new structure with eight residential units and ten parking spaces. The Zoning Committee voted to approve it with the proviso that the number of parking spaces be reduced to eight, and that a memorandum of understanding is reached with the neighbors. The next Zoning Committee will be April 17, at 7 p.m. at Farnsworth House.
JPNC member Michael Reiskind said that the Public Service Committee met on March 5 and mostly discussed protected bike lanes (especially on Centre and South Streets) that they had discussed at a previous meeting. He said they have asked the city to come talk about it more at the April meeting, but Director of Planning for the Boston Transportation Department Vineet Gupta cannot make it until the May meeting, so that’s when he will be there to discuss the bike lanes and answer questions. Reiskind also said that they are going to compile the annual list of JP streets, crosswalks, and bike lanes needing repair. The next Public Service Committee meeting is April 2, at Curtis Hall.
JPNC member Trevor Wissink-Adams provided the Education Committee update, saying that at their last meeting, they discussed some of the priorities that they would like to set for the upcoming year. He said that they would like the JPNC to partner with Boston Public Schools to host a meeting for families to learn how to register their kids for school. Wissink-Adams said they have reached out to the community engagement team at BPS “to see if this is a possibility.” The next Education Committee meeting is April 16, at 7 p.m. at Curtis Hall.