Somerville affordable housing, Clarendon Hill/North St. Public Housing
In this issue:
• Second Public Hearing on Real Estate Transfer Fee Home Rule Petition, Mon., May 7, 6 PM, City Hall
• Clarendon Hill/North Street public housing redevelopment before the Board of Aldermen on Tues., May 8, 6 PM
• Fields Master Plan update to be presented by Administration on Wed., May 9, 6:30 PM, City Hall
• Ward 5 ResiStat meeting, Mon., May 14, 6:30 PM, Kennedy School cafeteria, 5 Cherry St – Come early for pizza & schmoozing with City officials, 6 PM
• Magoun Square Green Line Extension station meetups, Tues., May 15, 6 PM & Sun., May 20, 10 AM at Maxwell’s Green outside in the green space, with Ryan Dunn, Magoun Sq. station rep
• Green Line Extension news: Broadway/Ball Square bridge to be closed for a year beginning Fall 2018; tree clearing work to begin by railroad tracks
• Street construction in Ward 5: Cedar-Highland intersection closures ends today; Lowell, & Cedar Streets to be paved.
Second Public Hearing on Real Estate Transfer Fee (RETF) Home Rule Petition (HRP), Mon., May 7, 6 PM, City Hall
I encourage you to attend this important meeting and to speak out, whether you are for or against. If you can’t attend or don’t want to speak, you can email your comments by May 14th to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
I strongly support the RETF HRP and hope the Board of Aldermen (BOA) will pass it either May 16th or May 17th. This is the single most important thing the City could do to get more affordable housing. Without the funds that a RETF would provide, many other important programs would not have as much of an impact.
The updated version would exempt ALL owner-occupant sellers as well as ALL buyers who will be owner-occupants. The updated proposal authorizes the City to impose a fee of up to 1% on investors, developers, and absentee landlords who buy property in the City of Somerville, as well as up to a 1% fee on investors, developers, and absentee landlords who sell property in the city.
You can get a good, quick overview by reading the one-page FAQ on the City webpage: https://www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/proposed-transfer-tax-hpr-summary-faq-5-2-18-final.pdf
For more detailed information and background, go to the City transfer fee webpage: https://www.somervillema.gov/departments/proposed-transfer-fee-home-rule-petition
Clarendon Hill/North Street public housing redevelopment before the Board of Aldermen on Tues., May 8, 6 PM
You may have heard that a consortium of the Somerville Housing Authority, non-profit affordable housing developers Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) and Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), and a for-profit developer, Redgate/Gate Residential, are proposing to redevelop the North Street/Clarendon Hill Public Housing on Powderhouse Boulevard and Alewife Brook Parkway in West Somerville. The plan is to replace the 216 dilapidated public housing units and add 70 moderate-income “workforce” units and 253 market-rate units, for a total of 539 rental units at that location. Discussions regarding the many conditions that the developers will need to meet to get City funds have been going on in earnest for more than half-a-year. The redevelopment requires a Home Rule Petition from the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor to the State Legislature asking the Legislature to waive some requirements of projects that have public funding and that are on public land.
This redevelopment is only possible because the Somerville Housing Authority and the developers have cobbled together an amazing deal. They have secured commitments of funds from the state ($17 million) and the City ($10 million); are using federal tax credits; and would receive $16 million from Redgate for a 99-year lease to build the market rate units on public land. Without this complicated deal, it seems likely to me that North Street/Clarendon Hill will not be rebuilt anytime soon, perhaps not in my lifetime, since the necessary funds to support public housing are no longer being provided by the federal and state governments. The City simply does not have the resources to entirely fund a project of this magnitude.
The issues around this redevelopment are many and extremely complex. Despite having read hundreds of pages of documents and had dozens of conversations with the developers, union leaders and community members, I still have many, many questions. I definitely want to support this redevelopment, as it would dramatically improve the quality of life for the 600 residents who live there, and the Clarendon Residents Union (the tenants’ association) and the vast majority of the residents support it. I will not make a decision on my vote on the Home Rule Petition until there has been public discussion by the BOA and I have gotten answers to my questions.
A major concern is that while state prevailing wage requirements will apply to the half of the project that SCC and POAH would build, there is not clarity about whether they to apply to the half that Redgate, the private developer, would build. This has raised deep concern among many community members and from most of the construction trade unions. (However, some of the unions have cut a deal with Redgate and do not seem concerned about the project.) Prevailing wage requirements, while not demanding union labor, level the playing field by requiring that contractors pay at a certain level and provide health insurance, training, pension, disability and other benefits which union contractors all provide, but which many non-union contractors do not. Currently, discussions between union representatives and Redgate are ongoing, and it is my hope that they can come to an agreement so that Redgate would use all union or responsible non-union contractors on the job.
BOA President and Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne has been the BOA’s lead person on this huge project, and I am grateful for the enormous amount of time and diligence she has spent on it, working with many different parties, including our State Legislative delegation, to try to resolve the many issues around it so it can move forward.
This Tuesday night, there are two BOA meetings scheduled. The first, at 6 PM, will be a Finance Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the developers’ compliance with the conditions that the City requires for City funds to be spent on this project, followed by a Legislative Matters Committee of the Whole to discuss the proposed Home Rule Petition. It will likely be a long, but extremely interesting and important, evening.
Fields Master Plan update to be presented by Administration on Wed., May 9, 6:30 PM, City Hall, at the BOA Open Space, Energy and Environment Committee meeting
The Board of Aldermen Committee on Open Space, Environment, and Energy will receive an update on the Fields Master Plan and will discuss related issues such as the Conway Park closure and progress on Draw 7 Field development on Wednesday, May 9, 6:30 PM in City Hall. This is a public meeting, not a public hearing, but the Chair may allow some members of the public to speak to share their concerns and opinions. I am looking forward to the latest information about the athletic playing fields in Somerville, including updates on fields that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) controls, among them Draw 7 and Foss Park.
With the closure of Conway field, the shortage of playing fields, especially for youth sports, has gone from bad to worse. I know many parents who are youth sports leaders and coaches and they are deeply concerned about where their kids will be able to play, and about the quality and safety of some of our heavily-used grass fields. I look forward to hearing the Administration’s plan for accommodating the needs of Somerville youth sports leagues on Wednesday night.
I wrote more about athletic fields in Somerville in my April 20th newsletter, which you can read on my website, www.markniedergang.com
Ward 5 Spring ResiStat meeting, Mon. May 14, 6:30 PM, Kennedy School cafeteria, 5 Cherry St – Come early for pizza and schmoozing with City officials, 6 PM
Please join me, Mayor Curtatone, City staff & Ward 5 neighbors at the Ward 5 Spring ResiStat meeting. Come for pizza & schmoozing with City officials at 6; the meeting starts 6:30. Get the latest City news on roadway work in Ward 5, proposed changes to zoning, development, and neighborhood updates. Ask questions & share your concerns (rats, trees, parking, traffic, open space, excessive development, affordable housing) directly with City officials.
ResiStat meetings happen in each ward every Fall and Spring and are a chance to talk to City officials and learn about what’s going on in the City and your ward. The Mayor, Police Chief, and others present a power point with a lot of data and information.
If you don’t have good fortune to live in Ward 5, but are in another part of Somerville, you can find the ResiStat schedule for all wards in the entire City here: https://www.somervillema.gov/news/spring-2018-resistat-meeting-schedule-announced
Green Line train, Magoun Square/Lowell St. Station design
Magoun Square Green Line Extension station meetups, Tues., May 15, 6 PM and Sun., May 20, 10 AM at Maxwell’s Green outside in the green space, with Ryan Dunn, Magoun Square (Lowell Street) station representative to the GLX Community Working Group
Here is what Ryan Dunn wrote: “I am the Magoun Sq. station area rep to the GLX Community Working Group – a joint community/MBTA effort to inform the public about the Green Line Extension project and address public concerns. There are upcoming info meetups concerning the Magoun Sq. Green Line station (and the larger GLX project) on May 15 at 6 p.m. and May 20 at 10 a.m. We’ll meet at the green space at the MaxPak (Maxwell’s Green). This is completely informal. This developed from communications with the property manager at Maxwell’s Green and inspiration from Justin Moeling’s walking tour in Gilman Sq. earlier in the year. Please invite anyone else you think might be interested. For more info or with questions, you can contact Ryan at (617) 697-6838 (m) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Line Extension news: Broadway/Ball Square bridge to be closed for a year beginning Fall 2018; tree clearing work to begin by railroad tracks
Just announced at the May 1 meeting of the GLX Community Working group: the Broadway Ball Square bridge will be closed for 12 months beginning sometime in the fall of this year (2018). The Washington Street bridge by McGrath Highway will be closed for 18 months in two phases between early 2019 and the end of 2020. This information was a shock to many people, including me. I spoke with Brad Rawson, the City Director of Transportation and Infrastructure, who told me the GLX Team had agreed to delay the start of this closure until 2019. Apparently there has been a change in plans by the GLX Team since then.
You can see the PowerPoint presentation the GLX Team made on May 1 here: http://www.greenlineextension.org/documents/communityWorking/presentationCWG_050118.pdf
I have talked with Jennifer Dorsen, the Ball Square station rep on the GLX Community Working Group, and she copied to me an email from Terrence P. McCarthy, MBTA | GLX Deputy Program Manager of Stakeholder Engagement (email@example.com), who wrote: “Under the design build process, a comprehensive traffic management plan is being developed. Closures detail and rerouting of vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be adjusted as the GLX progresses. Accommodations will be made and reviewed by Medford , Somerville and Cambridge traffic engineers & first responders. No details have been finalized.”
I currently have no other information about the exact dates of the Broadway Ball Square bridge closure or the detour plans. I have heard that both lanes of traffic will be shut down, and no motor vehicles will be able to pass through there. Alderman Lance Davis has asked the Administration if there will be a footbridge for pedestrians and bicycles during the closure, and he and I will advocate for that with the GLX Project Team.
Community members have already expressed concern over the impact of the detours both on residents of affected streets and on traffic, and the impact on businesses in Ball Square.
On March 22, I submitted a Board order: “That the Director of Transportation and Infrastructure report to the Ward 5 Alderman and this Board on the plans for closure of the Ball Square bridge and Broadway for construction of the Green Line Extension and Ball Square GLX Station.” This agenda item is in the BOA Traffic and Parking Committee, which I Chair, and I intend to have a full discussion of this at the next meeting of that Committee, on Monday June 4, 6:30 PM at City Hall. (I anticipate that other Aldermen will submit a Board order for discussion of the Washington Street bridge closure.) This is a public meeting (but not a public hearing) and I invite you to attend if this is something that interests you. I will invite members of the GLX Community Working Group to attend and talk with us and Mr. Rawson about what we can do to mitigate the damage from the bridge closures, and strategize on what, if anything, we in Somerville can do to shape and affect the plans.
Here are the tree clearing plans from a GLX project email update: “On Monday, May 7, the GLX Design Build Contractor will begin tree clearing and grubbing (stump removal) operations inside the MBTA right-of-way. Work will start north of the College Avenue Bridge in Medford and will focus on the east/north side of the alignment progressing south to the Lechmere Station area in Somerville. The Hours of operation are expected to be 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for approximately 60-90 days….”
“The purpose of the operation is to expand the usable space in the right-of-way while creating a safe work zone for GLX construction and future train operations. Proactive pest control measures throughout work areas have been underway for the past few weeks and will continue for the duration of GLX construction. Some noise impacts will result from chain saws and vehicles hauling away debris. There will be visual impacts in some areas due to loss of trees….For more information, and/or to sign up to receive these updates, please visit www.greenlineextension.org or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For urgent matters call 855-GLX-INFO (459-4636).”
Street construction in Ward 5: Cedar-Highland intersection closures end today; Lowell, Cedar Streets to be paved
The construction on our streets just goes on and on…and will for a while. The Cedar Street water and sewer project is almost done. Today is the final day of the closure of the intersection of Highland Ave and Cedar St. Work will continue on Cedar Street between Highland Avenue and Elm Street and there will be some closures in some parts of Cedar Street. The contractor will be redoing the sidewalks, planting trees, and repaving Cedar Street and Hall Street this spring or summer.
Meanwhile, the sidewalk work on Cedar Street between Broadway and Highland Avenue has begun. This is a separate project from the Cedar St sewer and water work on lower Cedar Street. The upper Cedar St work has been delayed for three years, but is now finally happening and will result in redevelopment of the roadway, with chicanes, bumpouts, a new crosswalk at Albion and Lexington, and repaving this beat-up roadway. I am excited this is finally happening and believe it will improve safety and mobility for all users in that area.
Within the next month, repaving of Lowell Street from Highland Avenue to Medford Street will occur, along with repainting of the chicanes, of the crosswalks, and of other street markings. This should improve safety in the bridge area, which has been a major community concern for years.
I expect there will be major changes and safety improvements to the area around the bridge in the next few years, in conjunction with the building of the Magoun Square GLX station along the south side of the tracks next to Maxwell’s Green. I will be working closely with City staff and our GLX Community Working Group rep. Ryan Dunn to assure development of traffic-calming plans for the Lowell Street bridge area, with maximum public participation. At the very least, the increase in foot, bike and motor vehicle traffic around the Lowell Street bridge will force drivers to slow down and enhance safety for all.
Mark Niedergang, Ward 5 Alderman