By Judy Locchi Jacobs
In reference to the article in the Boston Globe, “Was the Planning Board’s approval of the affordable housing waiver for Federal Realty in Somerville’s best interest?”, I’ve listed my informed opinions.
It’s an important article to study because it ties in to the overall issues surrounding lack of affordable housing and the crisis which has existed in the City of Somerville for the last 10 years.
I copied the response by Alderman Matt McLaughlin since that is the important one to read. The rest is misleading just as we have experienced at local meetings over the last 10 years.
The problem is– we are a city surrounded by real estate conflict —inventory is down and locals by far are holding onto their homes due to increased values projected by an inflammatory market, coupled with a high demand by speculative buyers and lack of sellers waiting to cash out much later on the anticipated arrival of GLX or not at all.
Why else this rabid cry for condo development by those who would benefit?
From my experience based on attending meetings at city hall and neighborhood projects, there is a large body of people, mostly newcomers who fight against affordable housing in our city and some of our politicians listen to them and not us.
These are the people who are the condo buyers and real estate flippers– they are former and present residents of local suburbs (Wellesley, Brookline, Belmont and Newton), and parents of Tufts students who buy condos, sell them for profits so they can live in the suburbs or invest long term.
It’s no longer a secret hiding in Pandora’s box–Our valuable real estate is being sold off to the highest bidders and has been for a long time as our local residents are being sacrificed and forced to move away from the daily stress and threats of encroachment by developer projects, spike in taxes, sewer/water increases and high costs of contractors. When our property values increase so does everything else.
The policies set forth by this administration have been created to discourage affordable housing. They claim time after time that they are in favor of affordable units but tell me– where is it? If that were the case, we would see large banners covering the facades of new housing advertising for units. Instead we see banners for luxury condos.
About 5 years ago, some residents of Ward 7 advocated for affordable housing to be built at redevelopment project of former Powderhouse Community School– some suggested green space. It was obvious, the city representatives wanted nothing to do with either suggested by the local long time neighbors.
The ideas were also quickly shot down by progressive homeowners attending the meeting and homeowners of Powderhouse Boulevard and surrounding neighborhoods which they term as “An old country road with no street lights boasting higher home values”.
In fact one demanded all street lights be removed so he could enjoy the fantasy of living on a road that could be found in one of Henry Thoreau’s novels, “On Walden Pond”.
Do you see what we are dealing with here?
“These are the the self-righteous who border on the insane”! (MS)
Let’s forgo the practical measures of safety so pedestrians can cross on busy intersections without street lights!
As long as you get your 5 blocks of an imaginary country road and the insane belief your home will one day sell for $10 million, that’s all that matters.
Also stated by some new neighbors who attended series of meetings, “Affordable housing will lower our home values– we don’t want it”.
It’s important to note that a Tufts PR person attempted to forced out a local newspaper camera technician who was going to broadcast the meetings for residents to watch at home. I don’t believe any of those meetings were televised and those generally invited are area claiming to be conducting “studies”.
Later that week, I also asked the opinion of a former alderman who worked as a realtor and agreed– “Affordable housing is a bad idea because it attracts undesirables”.
These comments are one of many made to intentionally discourage residents from agreeing on a decision that would best serve the community at large. Some of us understand the benefits of affordable housing in our community while other stay focused on their rising bank accounts.
We did not sign on to create a bedroom community for those who want to roll out of bed and be instantly transported to work and play.
When did Somerville agree to be the luxury condo shelter for the wandering homeless who can well afford rental units outside of our city?
When the mayor said we needed to create 9,000 units for the 234.000 units demanded by metro Boston– where does it say we must sign on to be an orphanage for the elite?
Let other towns deal with yuppie homelessness– why should Somerville local residents be forced to sacrifice their homes and way of life and take on the burden of elitists, their endless entitlements and greed just because a few misguided politicians believe it’s the right thing to do– that’s so wrong.
No one wants to see their home values plummet– but the statements made are not only discriminatory in nature, they are used as a fear factor to discourage elders and middle class snobs who have moved to our city 10-20 years ago.
The truth is affordable housing makes less profits and gains no favors among developers who make political contributions. That’s why some of our politicians don’t want it but don’t expect all to be honest about their views. It’s part of the game.
I was one among others who advocated for affordable housing at PHCS. The idea was quickly dismissed and replaced with the proposal for Tufts to use the site for administrative offices, only to learn they wanted to sit on the property for 15 years, enough time that GLX would materialize, ripe for luxury condos.
However, for months concerned residents wasted evening hours after working all day, to attend meetings, only to then be told Tufts wanted to bring classrooms and 200 underground parking spaces to Holland Street which intersects with Davis Square, Mass Ave (via Cameron Ave.), a busy intersection for 93 N/S access. This would be disastrous for our surrounding neighborhoods. They also lamented about vans for elders parked at TAB, which take them to medical appointments, until George the city planner pointed out that Tufts employees were given free parking on our permit only neighborhood streets (thanks George!).
I attended many of the meetings and was the most vocal against this project. The project that was later approved is set to break ground soon. It’s a project that I don’t approve after learning that the developer once worked directly for the mayor.
I don’t know their final plans but proposals made were: rock climbing wall, bike school, barbecue pit, luxury condos, an outdoor movie screen, a theatre school and outdoor playground for young children (note: Tufts Daycare), startups and maybe a coffee shop.
Does this sound like something the entire community would benefit?
I tried to be flexible but really how could I?
When I’m continually demonized for advocating for our residents, home and business owners and told I’m being angry by one of the alderman who sides with the mayor almost always– how could I be content with what they are doing to our city?
As a side note– if they really cared about members of our police force, fire fighters and municipal workers– why have they not granted them new contracts? They’ve been waiting 3-4-7 years, each union listed. Especially when some are relatives past and present– one would hope they would find a conscience.
The recent meeting at Somerville City Club by the Union Coalition was a true testament to the serious issues concerning our citizens and why I took videos of the discussions and debates by candidates and standing aldermen.
The people of our city have every right to know what’s going on because you won’t get the facts by going to 3-6 month long meetings and made to feel like a micromanaged worker in a sweatshop or child attending a boarding school forced to listen to patronizing incompetence.
I think some our politicians need to reevaluate their priorities. You can’t make empty promises to serve your boss and then tell the residents and union workers you have been their champion– sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
I know the reasons why some members of the administration are unhappy with my participating at meetings and speaking out about their obvious misrepresentations of the projects.
That’s why it’s important for local residents to be informed about changes effecting our city, because it deeply effects us–our quality of life for ourselves and our families and our financial futures.
Every luxury condo built represents the many affordable housing units we won’t have– and we never see–that’s undemocratic, opposite of what defines a large segment of our community- the working class.
I’m tired of their empty promises. They are playing with lives of hundreds of working families across our city.
Alderman Matt McLaughlin of Ward 1 is a good man who is advocating for all of us. He served our country as a veteran and graduated from Tufts. Matt understands the issues our local residents face.
He deserves our support at the polls at the upcoming election. For those who do not live in his ward, please consider volunteering your time to his campaign.
We are losing Somerville but their is still time to save members of our local community and neighborhoods.
This administration’s approached is kickem when they’re down and screw them when they don’t see you coming!