Jamaica Plain Takeaways from Mayor’s ‘State of the City’ Address

Mayor Marty Walsh delivers his first State of the City address. Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Symphony Hall.

Chris Helms

Mayor Marty Walsh delivers his first State of the City address. Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Symphony Hall.

Mayor Marty Walsh mentioned JP just once in his inaugural “State of the City” speech, but the pithy address had a long list of items that will have an impact on the neighborhood.

About 2,500 residents and dignitaries packed Symphony Hall for the speech, which has more often been given in smaller Faneuil Hall.

The 30-minute address touched on affordable housing, crime, protests against police brutality, schools, diversity on the city work force and — briefly — the 2024 Olympics bid.

Transit-Oriented Development

The only specific reference to JP came as the mayor alluded to his plan to allow greater density and fewer parking spaces on parcels along the Orange Line.

“We’re marking out transit corridors in South Boston and Jamaica Plain to create housing for middle-income families where it’s needed most,” he said.

After the speech, members of JP’s Beacon Hill delegation welcomed the focus on the neighborhood.

State Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain, said there’s an opportunity to reverse some of the damage done when families were thrown out of JP to make room for I-95. The community stopped the highway project, but many working-class families still lost their homes for what is today the Southwest Corridor Park.

Of course, Walsh used the phrase “middle-class housing.” State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz said the city must work to create housing at a variety of income levels.

“We need to keep focus on deep sustainability,” she said.

Chang-Díaz said JP’s delegation supports creation of a master plan for the Washington Street corridor, which is part of Walsh’s transit corridor initiative.

Walsh also announced plans for tax incentive zones for new housing.

Diversity

Walsh devoted the first section of his talk to tout his administration’s strides in diversity. He said the command staff at the Police Department is the most diverse ever. He said his eight department heads of color also make his cabinet the most diverse in the city’s long history. Among those department heads is Jamaica Plain’s Felix Arroyo, who is the chief of Health and Human Services.

Crime

The mayor said violent crime and property crime are down and touted removal of 1,061 guns from the city’s streets. In Jamaica Plain, major crimes were off 11 percent, police had previously reported.

Olympics

Walsh briefly mentioned Boston’s status as the U.S. nominee to bid on hosting the 2024 Olympics. He put talk of the Games in context of planning that should look to 2030, 2040 and 2050.

He promised “transparent conversations” on the impact an Olympics would have on each neighborhood. While details of Boston’s bid still haven’t been released, Franklin Park is being eyed as home to equestrian events, the pentathlon and perhaps golf.

Calling the Olympic conversation a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to talk about our city’s future,” Walsh said “the public process is the ultimate benefit.” Thus far, outside gatherings hosted by opponents of the Olympics, including one in JP, there haven’t been public meetings about the idea.

Schools

Chang-Díaz, who is known for her work on education issues, said she was glad to hear what Walsh had to say about the city’s schools.

“He’s seeing the experience of Boston Public Schools through the eyes of the parents,” she said.

Walsh said getting a good education shouldn’t be a lottery.

“In the city that established public education, a city with the greatest universities in the world, access to an excellent public school is seen as a lucky break.”

Walsh is pushing the Boston Teachers Union to ratify the addition of 40 minutes to each school day through eighth grade.