Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Boston City Council Looks At AirBnBs, City Land Disposition, Seaport BPD Jurisdiction, Net-Zero Carbon Standards & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the following items and more at their May 9th, 16th and 23, 2018 meetings (NOTE: There will be no City Council meeting on May 30th):
PILOT: City Council received the contract for Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement entered into by and among the City of Boston, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Seaport L-4 Title Holder LLC, and Services, Inc. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means. Short-Term Residential Rentals: Councilor Flaherty reported back on Monday’s working session on the proposed short-term rentals ordinance. As a review, this revised proposal eliminates investor units from the ordinance and restricts short-term rentals (defined as fewer than 28-night stays) to owner-occupied properties, except that owner-occupants of 2- and 3-family homes may list an additional owner-adjacent unit for up to 120 days per year. The previously proposed exemption for medical stays is still included, as well as an exemption for corporate or institutional furnished stays of 10 or more consecutive nights. Property owners that want to use residential units for short-term rentals outside the bounds of this ordinance will still have the option of applying for and securing a change of use and occupancy for those units. The matter remains in committee for potential amendments. The next opportunity for a vote would be at our next meeting, June 6th. Land Disposition and Stewardship: Councilor Edwards filed a hearing order regarding public land disposition and stewardship in the City of Boston. She stated that public land is a public good whose protection and use or disposition should further a greater purpose, such as promoting open space, enhancing cultural activity, creating recreational opportunities or expanding and preserving affordable housing in perpetuity. Currently, Boston lacks a uniform policy for land disposition that would further these community-defined priorities, including affordable housing goals that match that community’s needs and provide for the longest term of affordability, and offer the highest level of community resident ownership and control. In 2017, the Department of Neighborhood Development reported 186 land parcels and buildings sold or transferred for development or open space. Boston may have additional tools at its disposal to optimize the stewardship of land or promote long-term affordability. The matter was assigned to the Planning, Development, & Transportation Committee for a hearing. Concurrent BPD Jurisdiction: The Council voted to pass a home-rule petition filed by Councilor McCarthy to create concurrent police jurisdiction for State and Boston police at certain Massachusetts Port Authority properties in Boston. This legislation follows a recent public hearing and many years of conversations--the Seaport neighborhood of the South Boston Waterfront is the only place in the state where the municipal police do not have at least concurrent jurisdiction; State police have full and exclusive jurisdiction currently. As the residential population continues to grow quickly and more visitors spend time at companies and retail businesses in the area, having BPD jurisdiction (including ability to collect data, make arrests, and respond to calls) is urgent. Councilor McCarthy noted that this is an emergency law needed for the immediate preservation of public safety.  Sandwich Board Signs: The Council voted to pass an amended version of Mayor Walsh’s ordinance regulating free-standing signs, also known as sandwich board signs, after the pilot program passed in 2015 expired. Today’s vote reinstates the ordinance for another year, with a new sunset date one year after it will be signed into law. The ordinance allows all businesses to use free-standing signs on public walkways provided that the business meets certain requirements as listed in the ordinance. As Councilor Zakim noted, the one year extension will give community stakeholders in the Back Bay, including residents and business-owners, the opportunity to work alongside other city departments to create specific guidelines for the Back Bay. This could include looking at a directory system and uniform signage to uphold the historical and architectural integrity of the neighborhood. Net-Zero Carbon Requirements: Councilor O’Malley reported back on the recent working session to discuss how Boston might set policy to encourage net-zero carbon standards for future development as we continue to see increasing harm from climate change. He spoke on the City’s robust construction boom and the significant demand for innovative and modern designs that would be energy independent and not reliant on carbon, especially with the City of Boston’s commitment to making its buildings carbon neutral by 2050. 53% of Greenhouse Gas emissions come from free-standing buildings. Experts presented ideas for incentivizing developers to use Net Zero Carbon strategies, which including an expedited planning process, lower permitting fees, density bonuses or a potential Net Zero Carbon Overlay District. We can protect all residents from the impacts of climate change while also saving on costs by improving energy efficiency and increasing access to good jobs. The matter remains in the Committee on Environment, Sustainability & Parks.
Historic Boston: Councilor Edwards filed a hearing order to preserve historic Boston. She noted that Boston is a historic city with hundreds of sites, including churches, monuments, forts, wharves and marine areas, open spaces, performance areas, places of business, commercial districts and historic homes are listed on the state and National Registers of Historic Places, designated as City or National Landmarks and showcase the character of the community. Additionally, Boston’s historical sites provide a key backdrop for the state’s $1.2 billion tourism industry while attracting long-term residents, entrepreneurs and academic institutions to make Boston their home. Failure to protect historic sites today may result in the permanent loss of invaluable and irreplaceable neighborhood assets and physical manifestations of our country’s origins and culture. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation for a hearing.
Upcoming Hearings (Livestream)
  • Wednesday, 5/30: No Boston City Council Meeting (Memorial Day holiday)
  • Wednesday, 5/30 at 11:00 AM: Hearing re: implementation of Community Choice Energy in Boston (Environment, Sustainability & Parks)
  • Wednesday, 5/30 at 3:00 PM: Working Session re: implementation of Plastic Bag Ban in Boston (Environment, Sustainability & Parks)
  • Thursday, 5/31 at 2:00 PM: Hearing re: flexible payment plans for property tax arrears (Ways & Means)
Upcoming Budget Hearings (Livestream)
  • Monday, 6/4 at 11:00 AM: FY19 Budget: Carryover
  • Tuesday, 6/5 at 2:00 PM: FY19 Budget: Public Testimony
For complete notes on Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically.

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