BPDA Board Expected to Approve PLAN: JP/ROX Thursday

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The Boston Planning & Redevelopment Agency (BPDA) is expected to adopt a plan on Thursday that will guide future development and improvements to the corridor that connects Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. But PLAN: JP/ROX has drawn the ire of some residents who say it doesn't fairly address issues of displacement and affordability in the neighborhood, with some objectors camping out in Mayor Martin Walsh's office since Tuesday to express their displeasure with the plan.

The PLAN: JP/ROX study area encompasses Forest Hills, Egleston Square and Jackson Square, generally bounded by Washington Street, Columbus Avenue and Amory Street.

If approved, the plan would provide "recommendations for zoning amendments and implementation action items," for the study area, according to the BPDA's Board of Directors online agenda.

The plan has gone through numerous drafts over the past year and a half, and the BPDA (formerly the BRA) extended the planning process on more than one occasion to provide opportunities for more public input.

In February, District 6 Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley spoke about the plan and the process in an interview with Jamaica Plain News.

"It’s been a long process and a good process. There are a lot of people with different points of view who have had their voices heard. Passions run deep when we talk about development and how neighborhoods are changing. I think the revised plan is quite good. Advocates on both sides have expressed their concerns about density and height, as well as folks who have christened themselves the YIMBY (yes in my backyard) movement who want more density and height. All have been able to influence this plan. I think it’s a solid plan going forward," O'Malley said.

The predominant issues throughout the process have been about affordability, displacement and density. Passions run so strong about displacement and affordability that numerous people have been sitting in at Mayor Walsh's office since Tuesday.

Those issues are the first topic addressed in the BPDA's memorandum to the board to approve the plan.

Boston and JP/ROX are facing a housing crisis. If we do not act quickly, we risk losing the most important aspect of our neighborhoods - the people. PLAN: JP/ROX coordinates multiple solutions to provide housing that is affordable to a range of different income levels. The goal is to ensure that growth prioritizes affordable housing creation while protecting existing households from displacement. To do so, PLAN: JP/ROX recommends that forty-one percent (41%) of new future development will be income-restricted affordable housing (36% of all new housing including projects currently in permitting) through commitments from private developers, public funding, and a range of policy tools.

The policy tools include allowing for greater height and density in certain portions of the study area if additional affordable housing is created, in order "to allow a greater mix of market and affordable units." The plan recommends continuing programs that fund affordable housing construction for low-income households, purchase land and acquire market-rate housing to be used for deed-restricted housing, and commit publicly owned land to affordable housing. Another recommendation is to use existing Boston Home Center programs to promote homeownership to low- and moderate-income households.

The plan also recommends a continued focus on improvements to the Arborway Bus Yard at Forest Hills. The site is currently operated by the MBTA, which has recently stated that there is no plan to relinquish control of the property. The use of the Arborway Bus Yard has been a longtime frustration for state Rep. Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain. Last year, Malia told Jamaica Plain News, "The reality is acres on the Arboway Yard are abandoned and underutilized since around 1986 and we can’t get the city and state to partner to do something substantial."

The plan also looks to improve transportation within the study area, especially considering expected growth. For example, the plan recommends zoning that will increase the housing density between Forest Hills and Jackson Square by 40 percent, according to the BPDA. That figure is based upon the 2,579 households accounted for by the 2010 Census; the plan suggests 3,783 new units will be added based on those already in permitting and areas envisioned for new construction.

The transportation component also looks to address existing traffic flow challenges, and the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) is working on a capital budget request for an action plan in the study area for the upcoming fiscal year. That BTD action plan would create recommendations and include a community process.

PLAN: JP/ROX also proposes "maximum parking ratios for commercial and residential uses based on proximity to transit hubs, which will ‘unbundle’ the cost of parking from housing." There are also recommendations for future study and small-scale improvements in coordination with the BTD and Public Works Department. It also includes recommendations on sustainability and green buildings, jobs and business, open space and more.

The BPDA board hearing is on Thursday, March 2, at 3:30 p.m. on the 9th Floor at Boston City Hall, Kane Simonian Room, Room 900.

Review past Jamaica Plain News coverage of PLAN: JP/ROX.