What’s New in Ward 2:Sustainable Neighborhoods, Open spaces, Flooding and More

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Hi Everybody,

This week I wanted to update all of you on a few key issues that are being debated in Ward 2 and the rest Somerville.

Sustainable Neighborhoods: I serve on the Sustainable Neighborhoods Task Force, a group that’s working to identify strategies to hold onto the tremendous mix of people who live in Somerville and make up the character and fabric of our community. We know both from stories we hear and from data that many people in Somerville are at risk of being displaced. With a booming real estate market, how do we harness market forces to preserve and create housing? To answer this question, the Task Force is focusing on three areas – resources, programs, and policy. In each area, they are looking at best practices. For example, members are researching the feasibility of implementing a targeted real estate transfer tax that would perhaps make it easier for regular buyers (vs. investors) to get into the market and that would generate resources to expand affordable housing. Members are also researching the possibility of creating technical assistance to help people buy and share multi-family houses.

Open Space: Somerville hired consultants from Copenhagen to help figure out how we can better develop and use open space in our city. For more information, click here. Through this process, we hope to find ways to increase the use of our public spaces, including some of the streets. In Somerville, public roads make up 32% of our land, whereas only 6% is dedicated to open space. The designers suggest trying to re-think how streets, sidewalks, and plazas may be reconfigured to support more active public uses. At the workshop, they asked participants for feedback on areas of the City we like and places we think need attention. They are recruiting volunteers to survey areas that need attention so that they might help design improvements. Their results will also feed into the City’s open space plan.

Taking on flooding and climate change: We are experiencing more extreme weather events than ever, moving forward this may just be the norm. This possibility makes already vulnerable communities, like ours, even vulnerable. Cities must evaluate where they are most exposed and take immediate action. We have already started taking some steps to prepare at a local level by starting to strengthen our impervious surface ordinance. At a regional level, Mayor Curtatone is participating in the Metro Mayor’s Coalition where they are looking at climate change to figure out the Greater Boston area’s systematic vulnerabilities, share policies, and coordinate plans. But there’s so much more that we need to do to address extreme weather and our flooding issues. One thing we can do is go above and beyond the Massachusetts standard for on-site water retention. I would like to change our building code to require backflow preventers on new and renovated construction. We need to petition the Massachusetts Department of Health to allow us to go over their standards and that’s exactly what we are going to do.

For each of these issues, we have a chance to have more discussion. Please let me know if you’d like to get involved on any of these issues.

Upcoming Events and Meetings

Open Space Survey Volunteers
The City is looking for volunteers to help with a survey of open spaces. The survey days will be this Wednesday, May 27 and Saturday, May 30. To volunteer, contact City Planner, Dan Bartman: dbartman@somervillema.gov.

Urban Campout
Camp under the stars at the 6th annual Great Urban Campout, which will be held on Friday, July 24. See the event page for more information.

Sunsetters
The Sunsetters will be performing in Lincoln Park on Wednesday, July 29. Come for a potluck dinner starting at 5:00 p.m. and then stay for the performance at dusk.

Union Square Plan Open House
The second Plan Open house is scheduled for June 24, where the preferred Boynton Yards plan will be revealed and the D-parcels will be discussed.

Be sure to get engaged on my website and follow me on Twitter for up to date news on all the issues and events in Ward 2.

Until soon,
Maryann Heuston

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