October Ward 2 Newsletter

It’s been a rough month for a lot of us, but regardless of the current climate there’s work to be done and progress to be made at the local level. Thanks for tuning in for this month’s ward 2 update!

  • TRANSPARENCY
    • UNION SQUARE DETOUR
    • RESISTAT WARD 2 MEETING
  • ACCOUNTABILITY
    • APPOINTMENTS REJECTED, NEW APPLICANTS SOUGHT
    • OPEN SPACE AND TREES
    • ELECTIONS NOVEMBER 6
    • OFFICE HOURS EVERY FRIDAY
  • AFFORDABILITY
    • UNION SQUARE DEVELOPMENT MEETING SCHEDULED
    • POTENTIAL BOARD OF ALDERMEN VOTE ON LAND PARCEL TRANSFER FOR UNION SQUARE OCT 22
    • 515 SOMERVILLE AVE HOTEL PROPOSED
    • ZONING ROUND 2 BEGINS NOW

There’s a lot more to talk about and a lot more on our docket, but I’ll hold the rest for next month. In the meantime, please do send me an email with any questions you have, or swing by my office hours every Friday to ask your questions in person!

Thanks,

-JT Scott

TRANSPARENCY

UNION SQUARE DETOUR

Beginning in November, there will be a major traffic detour in Union Square, lasting about six months. This is part of the long-planned infrastructure work on our sewer system intended to combat the chronic flooding in Union Square. Our engineering department has the single most comprehensive traffic management plan I’ve ever seen to try to handle the disruption, but it’s still going to be a pain.

The city will be holding a community meeting this coming Wednesday, October 10th, at 6:00pm at the Union Square Police Station (220 Washington St.), to present the details of the plan, answer questions, and take feedback. I’ve already been spreading the word on social media and expect heavy turnout for this, and I have confidence in Jess Fosbrook and the engineering team to answer the questions we all have.

More details on the project can be found at http://www.somervillema.gov/somervilleave

RESISTAT WARD 2 MEETING

The city communication department’s Ward 2 ResiStat meeting has been scheduled for October 30th at the Argenziano Cafeteria. Pizza and snacks at 6pm, meeting starts at 6:30pm. I look forward to hearing the updates. While we’re talking about resistat, though: the only way the city can get data for making good decisions is by analyzing 311 calls and reports.

I have been loving the 311 App on my phone, and use it all the time to report potholes, broken sidewalks, and rat sightings. Even though I walk everywhere and spend time on every street in Ward 2, more eyes and ears are better. Please join me in reporting all the issues you see in Ward 2!

ACCOUNTABILITY

APPOINTMENTS REJECTED, NEW APPLICANTS SOUGHT

As Chair of the Board’s Committee on Confirmation of Appointments and Personnel Matters, I have worked diligently to reform the entire appointments process here in the city of Somerville since being elected. That hard work is paying off as we are seeing some long overdue changes – and accountability – on our appointed boards. This was one of the big themes I heard from voters during the campaign and during the first several months of my term, and I’m glad to be delivering on my commitment to you.

At our August 28th meeting, the Board voted with me in denying the re-appointment of one member from each of the Planning Board and the Somerville Redevelopment Authority. Several others are stepping down and declining their re-appointments. The era of rubber stamps at City Hall is over; the time for accountability has come. I’m proud of this work, but it has just begun. With an active – and activist – board, we can do more. I look forward to it.

I thank the departing members for their long service on these boards, and look forward to new appointments by the Mayor who bring fresh perspective to these boards and who reflect the priorities of the Somerville of today.

Applications are currently open for 8 different and vital commissions, and I encourage you to apply! If you would like to serve on one of these commissions, find out more at https://www.somervillema.gov/commissionopenings

  1. Planning Board
  2. Zoning Board of Appeals
  3. Somerville Historic Preservation Commission
  4. Design Review Committee
  5. Somerville Redevelopment Authority
  6. Condominium Review Board
  7. Fair Housing Commission
  8. Somerville Affordable Housing Trust

OPEN SPACE AND TREES

As you know, I’ve been pushing hard on the issue of the ongoing tree slaughter in Somerville on public lands, which has led to 2017-2018 being the worst year in over a century for tree removal in Somerville. A public hearing was held last week which saw moving and technically detailed testimony from many community advocates. (The presentations can be seen here: http://somervillecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=2778 – I recommend seeing Chris Dwan’s presentation in particular if you only have time to see one.)

I’m not done pushing yet. In addition to the great work done by the BOA in approving $150,000 for new tree plantings this year and creating a new position for a senior Urban Forestry coordinator, I am glad to say that the process of creating a new park in Ward 2 (on Washington St) is moving forward! The appraisal for the property is expected to be complete soon, and I look forward to beginning neighborhood design meetings as soon as possible.

With determination, working together, we can move forward towards a greener Somerville and actually begin to make substantive progress towards our Somervision goal of 125 acres of new open space. But in order to do that, the administration needs to have the political will to proceed – and we’ll need to hold firm to these promises to do better. As part of that, I’ll be supporting legislation that prevents us from replacing any green and open spaces we have now with more buildings. I look forward to it, and am glad to be delivering in a small way on this important commitment for the residents of Ward 2.

ELECTIONS NOVEMBER 6

The ultimate exercise in political accountability comes at the ballot box, and elections are coming on November 6. The deadline for voter registration has passed, but please do join me in voting next month! A lot of important ballot initiatives are at stake, as well as the Governor’s race and the return of our senator to the federal legislature.

OFFICE HOURS EVERY FRIDAY

Every Friday morning you can find me on my front porch at 269 Washington Street from 8am-10am. Please come down and visit, chat with me about anything that’s on your mind in Ward 2 or Somerville in general. It’s a good time! As the weather gets colder I may move inside, but my door is open to you.

AFFORDABILITY

UNION SQUARE DEVELOPMENT MEETING SCHEDULED

The endless march towards high-rise construction in Union Square continues. Despite the incredible work of talented Somerville residents and activists to propose substantive changes, there’s no sign that feedback is being incorporated – and there is still no word on a substantive Community Benefits Agreement. Regardless, the developer is pushing the process forward: the latest plans are going to be presented on Wednesday, October 17th, 6:00-8:00pm, at the Argenziano School Cafeteria.

This meeting will be very different from previous sessions, as required by both myself and Ward 3 Alderman Ben Ewen-Campen. There will be a presentation at the start, followed by a time for Q&A that will give residents a chance to hear what questions their neighbors are asking and get a sense of what kind of changes are possible.

I’ve gotten a commitment from the developer (US2) that they will post their plan information online for review by the public at least one week before the meeting, and I hope they will honor that commitment. I am sure that with advance exposure to the designs, the brilliant and invested residents of Ward 2 will come prepared to offer substantive and critical feedback for this plan – a plan that will shape Union Square for decades to come.

POTENTIAL BOARD OF ALDERMEN VOTE ON LAND PARCEL TRANSFER FOR UNION SQUARE OCT 22

Though I have to personally recuse myself from the deliberation and vote on this item (given how close my property is to the development), the Board will be considering once again whether to transfer one final parcel the developers need for their high-rise complex on October 22. This is the last leverage point that the BOA has to ensure that a CBA is signed and that the development meets the design standards for Union Square, so it’s important that my colleagues hear whether or not you support moving the development forward at this point.

Please be sure to review the plans and send email to the Board with your thoughts about what you see and what you want. I am hopeful that my colleagues will require that the needs of the residents be met before approving this major land transfer.

515 SOMERVILLE AVE HOTEL PROPOSED

Mentioned earlier, this is a proposal for the long-empty lot on Somerville Ave near the Wings and UPS store. In stark contrast to prior ideas, this proposal is for a hotel that will bring around $500k in affordable housing contributions over $100k for Somerville’s new job training program.

In addition, it’s been a really landmark example of what can be done when working closely with the neighborhood and the developers to ensure that the neighborhood’s priorities are respected. After the first set of plans were submitted, lots of us dug in to provide feedback and the developer came back with a substantially improved plan that pulled the building back off the sidewalks, planted over twice as many trees, and is providing a much improved environment for pedestrians. In addition, they worked with us to change the driveway arrangements to mitigate the traffic impacts on an already congested part of town.

Even more exciting: the development includes high energy-efficiency standards and looks like it may become the first major construction in Somerville that includes ALL NATIVE PLANTINGS in its landscape design.

All in all, it seems like a major win for affordability and our ecology, and I am hopeful that we’ll see movement on that site soon. There’s still a long way to go – including public hearings at the ZBA and more meetings to be held – but I’m excited by this new way of working to ensure development serves the community and instead of just prioritizing the profit margins of developers.

ZONING ROUND 2 BEGINS NOW

We’ve been discussing several proposed ordinances around increasing the amount of open space and open space funding that high rise development (over 6 stories, commercial or residential) provide as part of their projects. It’s my hope that amendment is passed quickly, before we finish the full zoning overhaul.

But speaking of that, I’m glad to announce that the Zoning Overhaul that we spent so much time on at the start of 2018 is back with a new revision for consideration. The map should be in much better shape now that I’ve spent a great deal of time working closely with the planning department over the break, and we’ll be taking it up as a full Board later this month.

What I’m learning through the many meetings I’ve had all over the ward on development projects is that height doesn’t bother neighbors as much as the oppressive effects of having a building with insufficient setbacks on the sides and front. I’m not alone in embracing more height and density – and being willing to reduce parking requirements – in exchange for more room on the ground for humans, grass, and trees.

Remaining concerns in the zoning for me include maximizing green space around new buildings and ensuring that our neighborhoods can still be home to small businesses that enrich our daily lives without sacrificing the feel of old buildings that stand a bit off the sidewalk. The hotel at 515 Somerville is an example of how we can do better in design that considers our ambient environment, and I want to ensure that our zoning is written with an eye to getting more of that kind of thoughtful development.

I am going to be pushing hard and hope my colleagues will join me in approving this new ordinance before the end of the year!

There’s a lot more to talk about and a lot more on our docket, but I’ll hold the rest for next month. In the meantime, please do send me an email with any questions you have, or swing by my office hours every Friday to ask your questions in person!

Thanks,

-JT Scott

2 thoughts on “October Ward 2 Newsletter

  1. Joseph Sullivan says:

    JT,
    Great job! We appreciate the time and effort you put into this news letter and to your duties as the Ward 2 Alderman. Keep up the good work! I’ve notived some movement on cleaning up the obstacles to pedestrians on the new Beacon St sidewalks; however, the stretch on the West side of Beacon between Park and Washington Steeets still has a lot of leaves, trash, and low hangng branches that force pedestrians into the bike track – a real safety issue, especially with decreasing hours of light in the early evenings.
    Best regards,
    JP Sullivan

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