Mayor Wu today announced she wants to replace 10 of the Zoning Board of Appeal's 14 current full and alternate members, including longtime Chairwoman Christine Araujo, as part of a move to create development oversight that relies more on neighborhood and citywide plans and less on hundreds of requests each year for variances from increasingly creaky zoning codes that sometimes date back decades.
Wu and BPDA Executive Director Arthur Jemison say they hope the new members will restore community trust in the zoning process - especially when coupled with new initiatives to re-do increasingly antiquated zoning codes that no longer represent how Boston is currently developing. Jemison said:
The BPDA is focused on furthering planning and development work that addresses Boston's greatest challenges: resiliency, affordability, and equity. I am looking forward to a collaborative working relationship with the ZBA. Together, we can aim to reduce reliance on variances as the BPDA prioritizes planning-lead development.
The BPDA has oversight over medium, large and giant-sized development in the city, while the zoning board hears requests for conditional approvals and more stringent variance requests for small projects - down to attic dormers. Projects under one acre in size - and a few above that - need approval from both the BPDA and the zoning board. Recent years have also seen the board caught in a crossfire over marijuana shops - between a city ordinance that calls for a half mile separation between cannabis concerns and a city cannabis board that routinely approves shops way closer than that.
Staying under Wu's proposed shakeup - which will need approval of the City Council, are Jeanne Pinado, Sherry Dong, and Hansy Better Barraza. Kerry Walsh Logue, a representative of the Building Trades Employers Association from South Boston, is an active member whose term expires in November. Under state law, the zoning board must include representatives from building and real-estate interests, construction unions and architects.
This outstanding slate of community members will play a key role in Boston’s growth as we work to build more housing and address the regional affordability crisis, support equitable and resilient neighborhoods, and shift to planning-led development. These appointees represent the diversity, talent, and expertise of our communities that will connect Boston’s growth to addressing our greatest challenges.
Wu's proposed new ZBA - board hearings call for seven members; alternates fill in when the primary members can't attend:
Giovanni Valencia, West Roxbury (primary)
Alaa Mukahaal, Mission Hill (alternate)
Norm Stembridge, Roxbury (primary)
Shavel’le Olivier, Mattapan (alternate)
Sherry Dong, Dorchester (primary)
David Aiken, East Boston (alternate)
Greater Boston Real Estate Board
Jeanne Pinado, Jamaica Plain (primary)
Katie Whewell, West End (alternate)
Boston Society of Architecture
Hansy Better Barraza, Roslindale (primary)
Thea Massouh, Brighton (alternate)
Building Trades Employers Association
Raheem Shepard, Hyde Park (primary)
Building Trades Council
Alan Langham, Dorchester (primary)
Dave Collins, Roslindale (alternate)