JPNC’s Housing and Dev. Comm. discusses White Stadium project

The Housing and Development Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council held its regular monthly meeting this past Tuesday evening.

On hand for the session were chair Danielle Sommer-Kieta and fellow members 

Bernie Doherty, Willie Mitchell, Carolyn Royce, Pam Bender, Sue Cibulski, Jaya Aiyer, Aiden Foley, and community residents Doug Rand and Carla-Lisa Caliga,

Most of the discussion centered on the city’s proposal to renovate the long-neglected White Stadium. The present plan calls for the city to partner with the new women’s professional soccer team franchise in Boston to split the costs of the renovation.

However, many residents of the community are opposed to the project, expressing concerns about traffic and congestion, and that divergence of opinion was evident in the discussion.

Royce, who is a member of the Egleston Square Neighborhood Association, initially spoke on the issue, which was not specifically on the committee’s agenda. She noted that the Boston Unity Soccer Partners group has done a lot of community outreach in recent months, but it was only in February that the city presented the plans for the overall redo of the stadium.

She also noted that the Franklin Park Coalition and the Parkside Neighborhood groups have been meeting with the city’s project managers concerning issues of traffic, noise, and lighting.

Royce suggested that the JPNA should become involved with the project. “The JP Neighborhood Council has been silent thus far, but we should be talking about it, especially this Housing and Development Committee,” said Royce.

“This is a really important topic and the JP Neighborhood Council at the least should be presenting some informational forums,” added Bender. 

“I think that’s certainly something we could pick up,” said Sommer-Kieta.

Mitchell, who bemoaned the sad state of disrepair into which White Stadium, which served generations of Boston’s high school athletes for decades, has fallen in recent years, suggested that the JPNC’s Parks and Open Space Committee might be a more appropriate committee to handle the issues surrounding the renovation.

“For as long as I’ve lived here, it’s been a ruin,” concurred Royce.

“When I went to school at Boston English and was on the track team, every high school in the city of Boston used it for football games and other athletic events,” said Doherty, who noted that the school population in the city is about half of what it was in the 1960s. “It was filled from one end to the other.”

However, those on hand were not unanimous in their support of the project.

“I would love to have a professional women’s soccer team in Boston,” said Carla-Lisa Caliga, who noted that she is the parent of two Boston Public School students who are soccer players and that she has older children who also played soccer, “but why did it take them more than 40 years to renovate White Stadium until this proposal came around? The traffic will be horrendous and the impacts will be negative. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have come up with the money to fix this before now. It’s inequity in action.

“What about using the Boston University or the Harvard fields?” she further added, while noting that she is one of the 15 plaintiffs who recently filed a lawsuit (together with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy) in Suffolk Superior Court to enjoin the professional team from using White Stadium, which they contend amounts to a privatization of public land.

However, Rand said, “I’m also a Boston Public School parent and my son runs cross-country. His coach is greatly in favor of the renovation because he needs better facilities for his kids and they are deserving of it.”

Sommer-Kieta concluded the discussion by saying that she will raise with the full JPNC the prospect of having the JPNC become more involved with the White Stadium project.

Doherty brought up another matter that was not on the agenda, that of the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) zoning ordinances that are being proposed to allow homeowners to add dwelling units within the footprint of their home, in an existing garage, or in a free-standing structure on their property.

“This is a way we can address the shortage of affordable housing, but we also lose open space and exacerbate parking issues,” said Doherty, who urged his colleagues to take a closer look at the issue in order to inform the community of the pending changes to the zoning ordinances.

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