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At-large council candidates want reins on development, BRA

At-large city councilor Steve Murphy called for restrictions on development in Boston at a candidate forum in Roslindale tonight. Fellow at-large councilor Ayanna Pressley, meanwhile, wants to look at restricting the numbers of certain types of franchise operations in particular neighborhoods.

"The city is overdeveloped," Murphy said, adding he feels that first hand "every time I get in the car." Murphy said Boston needs "almost a moratorium on development, at least in parts of the city right now."

Pressley said she wants the city to look at whether it can limit the number of certain types of franchise outlets in neighborhoods at the forum sponsored by Progressive West Roxbury/Roslindale. She pointed to dollar stores and check-cashing places as examples of stores that do nothing to improve the economic vitality of neighborhoods, especially those that have a lot of them.

Murphy, Pressley and the three other candidates for the four open seats in the Nov. 3 election - Pressley, fellow incumbents Michelle Wu and Michael Flaherty and challenger Anissa Essaibi-George - all agreed the city needs to do something about the runaway growth the said is affecting some neighborhoods.

Murphy said he's currently disinclined to let the BRA extend its urban-renewal powers in certain neighborhoods, including the North End, because of growth issues.

Pressley said current Boston zoning is "antiquated and outdated," said the BRA needs "real reform" and said the city needs to come up with a "standard community benefits agreement" that would define exactly what neighborhoods could expect from the new development that directly affects them.

Flaherty said he's not liking the BRA much at this point, either, saying its economic-development wing constantly overpowers its planning department, to the detriment of residents who show up at hearings on projects for which decisions have already been made. He said it's time the city had a planning agency independent of the BRA.

Wu called for greater transparency in the process by which the city approves development. She said there is "a huge disconnect" between residents living near a proposed project and the process by which it wins approval.

Essaibi-George said she'd want to clamp down on the ease with which developers can get variances for projects that don't fit within their property's zoning.

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Comments

Well, I truly, truly never thought I would ever say this, but, I am all for keeping the BRA in tact is the other option is handing its power over to the city council. The only thing I agree with across everyone's quotes would be that check cashing places are a drain on local populations and that the city needs rethink zoning - as in relax it considerably. Stop all development? Wow.

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They vote on BRA planning.

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I've been following this issue for about a decade and I've never heard of the council vote on anything BRA related except tax breaks (which they always approve).

And as far as I know, I've also never seen the BRA do any actual planning to vote on. They don't do planning. They do development - which is why we have all of these problems discussed in this thread in the first place.

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Pretty much how I am aware of it. Besides, the BRA was granted special urban renewal policies, which means they can do most what ever they want. Plus they have spent a ton of effort ensuring they are not funded by the City/taxes in anyway so they can try to fake not being a public/government institution and having to deal with pesky transparency things like FOIAs. Like I said - not a fan of the BRA, but some of those candidates had some extremely scary views. The BRA needs to be reformed and brought under the city to do actual planning, but not be beholden to the City Council.

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No they don't. The BRA is only accountable to the mayor. They have deliberately weaseled out of any oversight over the years and are essentially a government sponsored mafia.

The city needs development to meet the overwhelming demand for new housing. But it needs to do so through zoning reform.

The BRA needs to go. It is corrupt undemocratic authoritarian dinosaur from one of Boston's most shameful eras in politics.

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If you can, get in contact with Corey Zehngebot and have her visit your neighborhood. She has a presentation she'll run through which lists goals, achievements and reasons for extending BRA powers another 10 years. In two of the talks I heard her go through, she mentioned DHCP and the City Council voting on BRA plans.

*The voting may have been part of future plans if their power is extended another 10 years*

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The BRA is on a full court press to get their powers extended - the city council DOES vote on that - which essentially gives them special powers (like eminent domain) in certain areas, it defines the areas where those special powers apply and it gives a time horizon for those special powers.

There are a number of neighborhood groups petitioning to have the areas covered reduced or eliminated (eg - Fenway is leading the charge saying they are no longer blighted and don't need urban renewal any longer) and also trying to limit the time horizon of the extension until the completion of Boston 2030 (or sooner if Boston 2030 turns out to be just another BRA delaying tactic like Menino pulled back in the 90's with Boston 300 or some such also envisioning what Boston would look like on its 400th birthday).

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She is lying through her teeth.

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the BRA was created at the state level it needs to be Eliminated at the state level lasso your governor / governor's council /state reps/ state senator ! It can be Done !

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Clamp down on developments, why would the BRA clamp down on developments, BOSTON IS ON A ROLL because of these new developments, everyone benefits ,construction workers to electricians and plumbers to new retail developments that create more jobs and blighted residential parcels turning into new housing. They want reins on developments are they OK!. Move Boston foreward not backwards.

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The city is overdeveloped, Murphy said...
He wants strict new bylaws in place to halt rapid residential/commercial developments in the city of Boston.
Folks, do we need to go back to the 1980s when the city looked like shit, seems like if murphy gets his way Boston will head back in that direction.

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I see some prejudice's here, isn't a Check cashing place a business...they have every right to run their business like any other, city might as well ban 99 cent stores as well. The main culprit here is the MASS STATE LOTTERY especially in the low income Boston neighborhoods, people spend half their earnings on lottery tickets and all the money they have left to spend during the week is enough to afford items from the Dollar Store, it's all obviously relative!

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Murphy, though, is thinking even broader. "The city is overdeveloped," the Hyde Park resident said, adding he feels that first hand "every time I get in the car." Murphy said Boston needs "almost a moratorium on development, at least in parts of the city right now."

How does he keep happening?

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City Lab had a good article this summer about how a supposedly progressive "no development" policy has turned San Francisco into the unaffordable place it is today:
http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/07/whats-the-matter-with-san-francis...

Other people--some of them with more money than you and me!--want to live here, whether we like it or not. We can either plan well and figure out how to accommodate them with realistic zoning and better infrastructure, or we can watch real estate prices on the stock that exists rise so high so that our kids will have to move to Fall River to afford a home of their own.

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Thanks for that link - it was a pretty cool read, and I definitely think Boston and SF have a lot of parallels and the same challenges at the moment. I think it would be a great time to rekindle the City on a Hill ideal where we set forth good and aggressive city/regional planning involving zoning, expansion, historical preservation, and transit. I mean, even SF is allowing a 1,000"+ and 800"+ ft tower to be currently built while we are building 685" and 755" towers ;) Obviously towers downtown won't solve anything, but the 2-6+ small scale infill projects in the neighborhoods that will give us the most bang for the buck.

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For anyone who loves to read / learn about urban policy / planning / affairs, The Atlantic's CityLab is a great website. About 6-8 new columns every day, from many points of view. (You could probably say that most of their columnists are to the left on the political spectrum but many stories don't have any POV other than, "cities good".)

http://www.citylab.com/posts/

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He lost my vote with that utterance of pure stupidity.

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And people wonder why housing costs so much with idiots like this in charge.

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Yes - we need real zoning reform (I think Pressley gets it), but it should be things like form-based codes - transit (and increasingly, bike) orientated development - removing parking minimums - educating community stake-holders... not just keep preserving antiquated car-centric zoning laws that do nothing but exacerbate the highly unequal and inequitable development patterns in this city.

I get that you want to keep your hyde park neighborhood low density and car-centric... but the reason prices are so damn high in the center city is because a critical mass of the younger generation (also older people, and many in between) does not want to be reliant on cars - demand is really high - people are moving in as close as they can afford - and it's pushing people out of traditionally affordable (and non-car-orientated) neighborhoods. We need to make a huge change - and people like Murphy and Essabi-George don't seem to understand just why this is all happening and what needs to be done.

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Name one place in Boston where you can find a parking spot easier now than 5 yrs ago

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So we have to plan for and build for other modes... Unless you want to demolish half the city for more lanes and more parking... People move close in because they don't want lengthy car commutes but if we keep making it dangerous to walk or bike and keep making it arduous to ride the T, then things will continue to remain uneven.

Not fantasizing about no cars, but about making more places accessible without a car. It's possible. Just requires different road design and which mode we prioritize in different places. We're seeing the beginning of the end of only designing for car flow. If know it's hard to imagine, but it will happen and people will wonder why we ever lived this way.

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All the parking lots and garages we used to have are now under construction.

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it's much easier to find parking in packard's corner wherever resident permit signs are in effect nowadays than five years ago.

car ownership is much lower there than in suburban snob locations like hyde park

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means a huge investment in the T well-ahead of development, not after it. If you build it, riders will come. But if you don't build it, people won't buy homes or condos in neighborhoods with no parking, where if you change jobs, you have to sell your home/condo to get to your job.

A lot of my friends did the no-car thing diligently in Boston, until everyone started getting married. Then, it became almost impossible for people to find 1 place to live that acommodated 2 commutes for 2 jobs in different parts of the region. Slowly, people started buying cars rather than subject their spouse to a 2 hour, 3 bus commute to go all of four miles.

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4 miles is definitely doable by bike. If I had a 4 mile commute that I could do on separate bike paths I'd ride my bike every day. I know a lot of people who would do this. The lack of imagination of some Bostonians is staggering sometimes.

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4 miles is definitely doable by bike. If I had a 4 mile commute that I could do on separate bike paths I'd ride my bike every day. I know a lot of people who would do this. The lack of imagination of some Bostonians is staggering sometimes.

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My spouse used the MBTA for years but then got a better job which required a car to commute. We're certainly not altruistic enough to sacrifice the personal benefit of a higher income to keep a car off the road and I think many people make the same choice.

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but the reason prices are so damn high in the center city is because a critical mass of the younger generation (also older people, and many in between) does not want to be reliant on cars - demand is really high - people are moving in as close as they can afford - and it's pushing people out of traditionally affordable (and non-car-orientated) neighborhoods.

This is true, and it right now it is costing the non-affluent time and money. The time is as important as money when you're taking care of someone, be it a kid or an adult.

From Brighton to Mattapan to Rozzie, folks below the median income have been and are being shifted beyond accessible transit. The very same people who most need accessible T access and commutes that don't suck hours a day.

I'm a broken record on this (the Olympic bid did that) but before we displace more middle and working class people to the city fringes, we need to connect the fringes to where the jobs are. And/or, perhaps easier, we expand housing for them along current train lines. With few exceptions, buses slow a commute horribly; if you have to take 2 or even 3 buses to get home, it's a nightmare.

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dedicated bus lanes

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Then they'll give the BRA free reign over the city again. I was at a candidate's forum a couple years ago in the Back Bay and everybody talked about how evil the BRA was and how they were going to disembowel it if they got elected. Then they got elected and SURPRISE! Nothing happened.

File under - NOT BUYING IT.

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Adam-How does pressley say she will put the brakes on development? Sounds like she just doesn't want certain types of businesses - not a kibosh on development

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Murphy seemed to be calling for a ban on new construction, period. Pressley wants changes in zoning, but her immediate point was about particular types of businesses, not stopping development altogether. I've clarified that in the post.

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Then why is he making such a stupid comment like freeze development? Boston gets money from three sources: property taxes (about 65%), State aid (about 15%) and all other - a bunch of little things that collectively add up to 20%.

The overall budget goes up about 3-4% annually and has to in order to keep up with collective bargaining, health care and skyrocketing pension costs.

State aid has been stagnant for years and not likely to increase
Other goes up by about the rate of inflation - or 2-3%

The only way you get to 3-4% growth is to keep building and generating new property taxes (unless you think we need an income tax or some such which comes with its own set of problems - our property tax system is very stable - income tax collections can fluctuate wildly with the business cycle). To say that we should even try to moderate growth in Boston would quite literally bankrupt the city within 10 years.

Some expert.

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Change in zoning.. BRA is an independent force, city of Boston will never have control over the BRA. If the city did have control it would be in the dumps !

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From the depredations of the NIMBYs, good Lord, deliver us

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Murphy, though, is thinking even broader. "The city is overdeveloped," the Hyde Park resident said, adding he feels that first hand "every time I get in the car."

MOVE TO THE SUBURBS, DUMBASS.

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Hyde Park and West Roxbury are the suburbs and should secede from Boston.

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As The Washington Post said, there is no such thing as a city that has run out of room http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/10/06/there-is-no-su...

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..that Boston is still more than 100k below it's peak population (which was in the 50's) and is far from the top of the most dense cities in the country. There is plenty of room to fit more people in Boston.

The real issue that Mr. Murphy seems to be having is with his commute. Perhaps instead of getting angry at new construction, he could focus his efforts on advocating for expansion & improvements to the rapid transit system (not CR). Especially in the swaths of Boston that are woefully under-served by true rapid transit.

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Murph doesn't take commuter rail to work every day?

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'Work"
"Every day"
"commuter rail"

Your post is full of hilarity.

Steve sits around, counting his money, yelling at clouds and no doubt waiting for his patronage ship to come in so he can escalate his pension and get an even more no show job.

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Pressley's and Flaherty's comments are largely dead on. Murphy's are unrealistic and would be economically harmful. Wu's are meaningless since neighbors already have a lot of control over the planning process, even if it's political control and not written down. Ditto for Essaibi-George's though the variance issue is a result of a zoning code that doesn't really matter anyway.

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To run the BRA

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(Pressley) pointed to dollar stores and check-cashing places as examples of stores that do nothing to improve the economic vitality of neighborhoods, especially those that have a lot of them.

Ms. Pressley's viewpoint is bizarre, especially for a councilor with many impoverished, non-banking constituents. Residents must be using the dollar stores and check-cashing places if they are still in business. Although criticized for their fees, check-cashing places are putting cash into the hands of local consumers who will presumably spend it, "improving economic vitality." A great column in the New Yorker from 2013 indicates check-cashing fees are often lower than bank fees for those living on the fiscal edge. People also seem to trust their friendly local check-casher more than banks.

Likewise, with every dollar saved at the dollar store, isn't that freeing a dollar to be spent somewhere else in the community? I recently checked out a dollar store for the first time. While there was some junk, I was amazed that many household products were 50-75% cheaper than CVS and Walgreen's. What does Pressley propose to replace these businesses, vacant storefronts?

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Check Cashing places and Payday Loan Centers are more often than not predatory lenders which also help facilitate several types of fraud. The city shouldn't be welcoming those businesses with open arms.

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I always thought the same thing only to see the banks are often worse for the poor. The poor usually don't qualify for free checking or small, short-term bank loans, they often bounce checks with the exorbitant fees associated, ATM fees, paper statement fees and every other fee. I actually left Citizen's after tallying the fees and I'm not poor. The New Yorker article I linked to above is a good, quick read written by a columnist who went to work in a check cashing place in a low-income area of NYC to investigate. The results might surprise you. Regardless, they wouldn't be open if people weren't using them so who's Pressley to push them out?

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The City of Boston could open branches of its credit union to serve the poor with banking services. That would eliminate the predatory and fraud issues associated with check cashing places.

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All who even believe a word of this are fools. The forum was in west roxbury where nimby's don't want anything built. Murphy is playing to them. There is no race this year, the four incumbents will be back.

Murphy and Flaherty have been in over a decade apiece. Presley has been there awhile already. Have you noticed a single city council hearing on 'Reforming the BRA?' Have these fools that you elect ever tried to hold the BRA accountable? Remember Walsh was going to reform the BRA when he was running for Mayor? I read these articles, read your responses and am just astonished at how clueless people are about how things really work in this city.

The BRA runs interference and takes the heat so that politicians can take money from developers and do their bidding. Then the politicians tell the people some gibberish that they believe and nothing changes.

I remember almost 10 years ago a developer friend of mine held a fundraiser for Steve Murphy. I asked him "why are you holding a fundraiser for Murphy???" The guy said to me "Murphy is a clown. But a few of us get together , raise 10K for him and if we need anything done he does it" That guy never had a problem with City Hall.

Wake up folks. Who is the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who elects the fool?

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It was at the Roslindale Community Center.

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>Look at the shithole Menino left the
business district of Hyde Park.
How long was he mayor? Why
was Saint Tom never called out
on this,

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