At-Large City Councilor Michelle Wu stopped by last week’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) meeting touting her plan to abolish the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
Wu, who chairs the Council’s Development and Transportation Committee, for months has been going to every corner of the city trying to garner support for her plan to end the BPDA’s existence.
“As chair of this committee this, I believe, is were the most pressing issues are,” said Wu at the JPNA meeting. “In every single neighborhood, especially here in East Boston, people are finding it harder and harder to stay and afford their neighborhood. This, coupled with an incredible amount of development across the city, the BPDA is woefully unprepared for the challenges of the future growth of our city.”
Wu pointed out that the last time a city-wide Master Plan was done for the city was back in 1965 so she feels zoning is outdated and developing parcel by parcel that pit residents, developers and neighborhoods against each other is not helping to strengthen communities.
“It’s beyond time that we start to think about development as how it should serve the communities of Boston,” said Wu.
In the fall Wu released a 50 plus page report outlining her case to dismantle the BPDA.
“Created in the postwar age of urban renewal at the request of Boston’s business elite, the BPDA is an anachronism plagued by lack of transparency and misguided priorities,” Wu’s report reads. “The economic conditions used to justify its creation in 1957 are simply not present today; on the contrary, Boston is experiencing a building boom. The people of Boston deserve a
city planning department that empowers communities and addresses these challenges in a long-term vision for a more equitable future.”
In her report Wu argues that a BPDA reform is not enough and that the agency needs to end.
“After two scathing audits in 2014 and 2015 revealed the extent of the then Boston Redevelopment Authority’s lack of accountability, little has changed,” said Wu’s report. “We must abolish the BPDA. It may surprise some how much can be accomplished toward this end without a home-rule petition and just through the actions of the Mayor and City Council. By returning the property holdings from which the BPDA derives its operating budget to City ownership, and migrating the BPDA’s functions back under City Council oversight, we can effectively dismantle this unaccountable super-agency.”
In the BPDA’s place Wu visions a new Planning Department that will be tasked with overhauling the zoning code and introduce consistency and predictability to the development process.
“Most importantly, this new entity should begin compiling a comprehensive master plan built on meaningful community engagement,” reads her report. “If Boston will be a city for everybody, then everybody should have a say in planning it.”