BPDA Hosts PLAN: East Boston Advisory Group Meeting

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

On November 8th, several residents gathered together along with members of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for an Advisory Group (AG) meeting at East Boston High School to discuss the neighborhood planning initiative PLAN: East Boston.

The meeting served as an opportunity for AG members to comment and ask questions about the plan while allowing the BPDA to explain what they had heard from residents.

Kristina Ricco, a Senior Planner with the BPDA, outlined some major themes the agency has been hearing about the plan.

These themes include concern and misunderstanding about recommendations for Bennington, Border, and Meridian Streets, worries about the potential impacts of shadows coinciding with future development along the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, and the number of parcels that would be allowed to have six units under the proposed East Boston Residential-2 (EBR-2) zoning subdistrict.

Additionally, Ricco explained they have heard calls for a neighborhood needs assessment, differing opinions on the extension of the Haul Road, and support for public realm improvement in squares.

While Ricco indicated they could not go into more detail during the meeting regarding how they would respond to these sentiments, she said they are working on it.

Ricco outlining the points mentioned above served as a jumping-off point for AG members to talk about their concerns or questions about the plan.

One concern an AG member raised was the proposed heights and density for buildings in squares. This topic brought up a change in approach that Ricco explained. “We are no longer going to proceed with putting aspects of PLAN: East Boston into citywide zoning through the squares and streets,” she said.

She went on to explain that zoning for these areas will not be going into a citywide article and now will stay in Article 53.

Zoning for squares and corridors was supposed to be discussed during a public meeting on November 14th; however, that meeting was postponed. The BPDA’s PLAN: East Boston webpage states that a new date and time will be sent out as soon as possible.

Another discussed topic was parking and the idea of restricting tenants of developments from obtaining residential parking permits.

Nick Schmidt, a Transportation Planner with the BPDA, explained that while something like this is in the purview of the Boston Transportation Department, there has been some research on the policy.

“Our understanding at the moment is that the ability to say to any development or building, ‘anyone living in this residence can’t apply for a permit,’ that is something that can be discussed and negotiated during the Article 80 process,” he said.

However, it should be noted that Schmidt identified that this sort of restriction cannot be applied retroactively.

He also indicated that there is ongoing research looking at recent buildings with onsite parking to gather information about how many permits are active from the buildings and how that compares to the number of units and more.

Transportation and traffic were also big topics in the meeting, specifically a policy consideration in the plan that suggests a dedicated lane in the Ted Williams Tunnel for buses and high-occupancy vehicles.

“I think the community would probably rather a toll sitting at the entrance to the airport to prevent cars from driving into the neighborhood versus giving up a lane in the Ted Williams,” said one AG Member.

There were also discussions about pricing and how different means of transportation can be incentivized or disincentivized to curb traffic.

In terms of transportation in general, an AG member also brought up the idea of expanding ferry service to Chelsea Creek. Senator Lydia Edwards, who was in attendance, spoke about using the water as a resource and how underutilizing it would be a detriment.

Moreover, as the meeting progressed and several other topics were discussed, the BPDA closed the session with some public realm implementation updates.

For example, one discussion item was the Bennington Street targeted safety improvements pilot, which is slated to be implemented in the spring from Suffolk Downs Station to Beachmont Station, according to Schmidt.

The pilot, a Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) project designed to curb speeding and increase access to Belle Isle Marsh, will rightsize the street and add a two-way separated bike lane.

Schmidt also spoke about grant applications for projects improving transportation and the public realm. An example of one of these projects would entail the planning and design of a walking and biking connection between the Mary Ellen Welch and Chelsea Greenways.

Finally, he spoke about some developments in the neighborhood, such as 355 Bennington Street and, 2 Ford Street & 970 Saratoga Street, that are slated to bring public realm improvements along with their projects.

As for what is next, updates to PLAN: East Boston were scheduled to be posted to the PLAN: East Boston webpage by November 17th. However, as of this writing, those updates have yet to be posted. Additionally, meetings initially scheduled for November 28th and 30th have been postponed, per the PLAN: East Boston webpage.

Even with these postponements, the webpage still lists the comment period running until December 1st.

To get all information related to PLAN: East Boston, you can visit https://www.bostonplans.org/planning/planning-initiatives/plan-east-boston.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *