The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held its regular monthly meeting this past Tuesday evening via Zoom. The council members tackled a full agenda over the course of the 90-minute meeting.
On hand for the meeting were chairman Will Cohen and fellow members Nicholas Chaves, David Baron, Peg Preble, Renee Stacey Welch, Omer Hecht, Bernard Doherty, Michael Reiskind, Paige Sparks, Sarah Freeman, Gert Thorne, Alexis Rickmers, and Trevor Wissink-Adams.
Jamaica Plain’s new State Rep., Samantha Montano, also was on hand for the meeting.
It was announced that the mayor’s office will be holding a coffee hour Friday morning (tomorrow) at the Egleston Square Branch Library from 10-11.
Welch, the chair of the Housing and Development Committee, presented a letter for approval by the full council asking the mayor’s office for funding for landlord education and support regarding the rental voucher process and seeking to increase the affordable housing requirements to 25% for future developments.
There was some heated debate about the letter. Hecht, who is a landlord, responded by referring to landlords as the “leeches of society” — a comment that drew a rebuke from Cohen — and said that landlords don’t need support.
However, Welch said that the point of the letter is to assist landlords in order to make more units available for tenants with vouchers.
Cohen, who is an urban planner, noted that there are many organizations that already address the issues raised in the letter and took exception to some of the statements in the letter. Most significantly, Cohen said that asking for an increase to 25 percent of affordable housing in developments not only is unworkable and counterproductive, but also would “reflect poorly on the council” for taking a position that has no chance of becoming policy by the city.
Doherty agreed with Cohen’s comments and added that the real issue is that the median income level in Jamaica Plain leaves out many low-income residents from the housing market, even for so-called affordable units.
“Rents of $3000, even $2000, for a one-bedroom apartment are unaffordable for many people,” said Doherty who also added that the mayor is doing about as much as possible given the present housing environment.
“Do we want to adapt a practical stance or request something that is aspirational?” asked Reiskind.
The council eventually voted not to send the letter.
Baron, the chair of the Zoning Committee, noted that the committee had not taken any votes at its last meeting, which left the full JPNC (which votes on the recommendations of the Zoning Committee) with nothing to take up at this time.
Rickmers from the Parks Committee reported that the group is focused on community outreach and its next big project will involve the clean-up of the Muddy River.
Sparks, the chair of the Outreach Committee, reported that the committee spent time discussing the upcoming council election. She said that the Outreach Committee has recommended Saturday, June 24, for the annual council election. She noted that there will be paper and digital voting options.
After the council unanimously approved that date, Sparks said there will be a need for volunteers for the positions of poll workers and vote-counters.
Sparks also mentioned that the committee is discussing the possibility of having the JPNC register as a 501(3)(c) non-profit charitable organization.
Reiskind of the Business Committee reported that his group is still in the process of seeking more trash barrels in the area from the city and MBTA.
He also noted that the proposal for new bicycle lanes in various locations in JP is a hot topic in the community. He added that the committee will be asking the city for road repairs and additional street-sweeping.
Doherty informed the council of the MWRA’s plans for a new, 10-foot water line that will traverse under JP at a depth of 400-500 feet.
The council members unanimously voted to elect three new members to the committee, Danielle Sommer, Lorenzo Bartoloni, and Peter DeCotis, to fill three of the five vacant seats on the council.