Friday, December 13, 2019

Boston City Council Voted On Local Wetlands Protection, Property Transfer Fee, Cultural District & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Here are the notes from the December 11, 2019 final meeting of the year. The Council wrapped up some important legislative items and bid farewell to retiring colleagues: Councilors Ciommo, Garrison, McCarthy & Zakim. 

VOTES

Local Wetlands Protection: The Council voted to pass an amended version of the ordinance that I filed in partnership with Councilor O’Malley to protect local wetlands and strengthen the City’s ability to fight climate change through reasonable regulations on development. The Local Wetlands Protection Ordinance empowers the Boston Conservation Commission to require green infrastructure with new development, including protections for urban wetlands and natural resource areas, with a specific focus on climate justice. Wetlands are important not just for conservation of open space and wildlife habitats, but to manage rain, flooding and heat, and there are parcels of land that will be impacted by this ordinance in every single Council district. This legislation is the single biggest step that the City of Boston could take to require resiliency in development at the municipal level, and it has been a long process. The need for a local wetlands ordinance was first discussed at a public hearing in March 2018 on flooding in Boston, in testimony from Conservation Law Foundation. David Morgan, a summer policy fellow in my office, drafted the language over Summer 2018, and then Councilor O’Malley and I have since worked on revisions with a coalition of committed advocates. Now we move on to the process of working with the Conservation Commission to implement specific regulations.

Investor and Commercial Properties Transfer Fee: The Council voted 10-3 (Councilors Baker, Ciommo & Garrison opposing) to pass an amended home-rule petition filed by Councilors Edwards and Janey to establish city authority to implement a property transfer fee of up to 2% on property sales over $2M. The revenue collected could help create a new line item in the city budget for affordable housing. Councilor Baker expressed concern about adding a tax and whether a 2% limit today might be extended to 10% years into the future. Councilor Ciommo noted that he believed the worst way to make housing more affordable was to tax it more. The matter goes to the Mayor for his signature, then to the State House for approval. 

Trust Act: The Council voted to pass an ordinance filed by Councilor Josh Zakim amending the City of Boston Trust Act, which was first passed in 2014. The new language would further codify the City’s commitment to insulate Boston Police resources from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Specifically, police will not ask about the immigration status of anyone, including survivors of crimes or domestic violence who are requesting certifications for U and T visas; police will not perform the functions of an immigration officer; police will not generally give ICE personal information about individuals or information about when individuals will be released from custody with limited exceptions around criminal history or through criminal task forces; police will not arrest a person on an ICE detainer or an ICE administrative warrant, and will not transfer an individual to immigration authorities unless there is a judicial warrant; and the department will train officers on the requirements of the ordinance. Advocates have flagged that a few outstanding concerns remain about whether BPD would withdraw from pre-existing agreements with Homeland Security and databases, as well as whether BPD should enforce federal immigration laws in any capacity at all.

Inspector GeneralThe Council voted 9-4 (Councilors Campbell, Edwards, Janey & O’Malley voting in the minority) not to pass Councilor Campbell’s ordinance that would create an Office of the Inspector General (IG) at the city level. Councilor Campbell stated that in the wake of corruption cases at City Hall, it would be important for Boston to establish a municipal-level office to conduct investigations into fraud, waste, and mismanagement that could have identified this corruption; and that such an office could save the City money by doing investigations that currently outside counsel are hired to undertake. She referenced other cities that have both state-level and city-level IG offices, and rejected the position of the MA IG and Boston Finance Commission watchdog agency that this office would be duplicative. She also acknowledged that funding and other details were not clear, but stated that the Council could pass the idea of the IG and work out details afterwards through Council involvement. Councilor Edwards spoke in support, stating that city officials should be comfortable giving away power for more accountability. Councilor Baker stood to oppose the ordinance, stating that he believed the US Attorney’s office was effective in the recent cases and that it would lead to poor morale for city workers to be monitored in this way. I spoke to explain why I would be voting No as well, citing concerns that the recent amendments to address City Charter issues have weakened the independence of the proposed IG, since it would now be a direct Mayoral appointment. I also believe that the corruption issues stem from a system that is built on exceptions and relationships, and unless we reform our development process and agencies to implement clear rules that apply to everyone, we will always be chasing corruption in the system.

Little Saigon Cultural DistrictThe Council voted to adopt the resolution that Councilors Baker, Campbell & I filed to advance the community application for a “Little Saigon” Massachusetts Cultural Council designation for the Fields Corner area of Dorchester. After a year of public meetings and conversations to define the map of cultural assets, we held a hearing last week in Fields Corner and heard powerful, moving testimony from community members about the impact that a Little Saigon district would have in recognizing the contributions of the Vietnamese American community in the neighborhood and the city. This would be the 5th cultural district in Boston, following the Fenway Cultural District, Literary Cultural District, Latin Quarter & Roxbury Cultural District, and we have seen tremendous benefits from designation. The next step will be approval from the state’s cultural council.

SNAP Access ResolutionThe Council voted to pass the resolution filed by Councilors Flynn, Essaibi George & Edwards opposing the Trump Administration’s recent rule change on work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The rule change would make it harder for states to waive a requirement that able-bodied adults without dependents need to work 20 hours a week in order to keep SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps. There are about 36 million people currently receiving SNAP benefits in the country, with approximately 770,000 people in Massachusetts receiving these benefits. Under the new rule change, nearly 700,000 people would lose SNAP benefits, especially our most vulnerable residents who face hunger and food insecurity. 

Boston Police & Patrolmen’s Association Support Resolution: The Council voted to adopt Councilor Garrison’s resolution in support of the Boston Police and Patrolmen’s Association. She stated that police officers were being killed and dismembered across the country and asked colleagues to give her the best Christmas present she would have received in her public life. We did not take a roll call vote on the matter.

OTHER ITEMS
Voter Registration for Tenants: Councilors Flaherty, Zakim & I reported back on yesterday’s hearing on our proposed ordinance to require landlords to provide voter registration forms to tenants, as other cities have done. Nearly 64% of Bostonians are renters, and there are large disparities in civic engagement and voter participation between homeowners and renters. The representative from the Administration stated at the hearing that they supported the idea of expanding access to voter registration, but were concerned that the Department of Neighborhood Development could not effectively enforce this and questioned whether private landlords should bear the burden of providing registration forms. Given the close of the legislative year, this item would need to be refiled in 2020.

GRANTSThe Council voted to pass 25 grants.

APPOINTMENTS
Tommy DiStasi as Director of Assessing Services, Condo Unit.
Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities Advisory Board: Zary Amirhosseini, John Winske, Kyle Robidoux, Carl Richardson as Commissioners until May 2022
Boston Cultural Council: Patricia McSweeney, Marie Fukuda, Kathryn Niforos as members until October 2022
Beacon Hill Architectural Commission: Wen Wen, Matthew Blumenthal, Arian Allen, Alice Richmond as an alternate members (confirmed by the Council)

City Council meetings will resume in 2020, with our first meeting taking place on Monday, January 6th, immediately following Inauguration. See you there!

Anyone can sign up to receive these notes by email at  or see the list of all previous notes at MichelleforBoston.com

15 Necco (formerly GE) Life Sciences Project Enters Community Review

updated 12/3/19: BPDA reschedules the 15 Necco Community Public Meeting to December 18th at 6pm at 300 A Street. 

updated 12/2/19: BPDA cancelled Monday, December 2nd meeting due to weather. It will be rescheduled to a future date. 

The Boston Planning & Development Agency is hosting two public meetings to solicit feedback on the proposed new development at 15 Necco Street. GE and MassDevelopment sold the two historic Necco buildings and parcel to National Development and Alexandria Real Estate Equities earlier this year. 

The Proponent proposes the construction of a new, 12-story, approximately 316,000 square-foot, multi-tenant office/life sciences/research and development building with active ground floor uses, such as retail and restaurant spaces within the southern portion of the Project Site (15 Necco Street). Because of the Project Site's proximity to public transit and nearby public parking facilities, the new building is not proposed to include any underground parking.  Depicted below is the new building design.

RESCHEDULED TO 12/18: The  Public Community meeting originally planned for 12/2 will be held on December 18th at 6 pm on the first floor of 300 A Street. 

The first meeting of the Impact Advisory Group meeting occurred November 21st at 6 pm on the second floor of 300 A Street. The public is also welcome to attend.






On Tuesday, November 5th, 2019, ARE-MA No. 74, LLC, which is a joint venture between affiliates of Alexandria Real Estate Equities ("ARE") and National Development, and ARE-MA No. 72, LLC, an affiliate of ARE (collectively, the "Proponent"), filed a Notice of Project Change ("NPC") with the Boston Planning & Development Agency ("BPDA") for 5 and 15 Necco Street, which comprise an approximately 2.7-acre site in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston and for which the General Electric Company (GE) Headquarters Project was previously slated for construction. 

Concurrently with this NPC, the Proponent also filed a proposed Amended and Restated Development Plan for 5 and 15 Necco Street, South Boston, Massachusetts, within Planned Development Area No. 69, South Boston/The 100 Acres and a proposed Fifth Amendment to the Master Plan for Planned Development Area No. 69, South Boston/The 100 Acres. The previously approved project was contemplated to include GE occupancy in both 5 Necco Street and the new office building at 15 Necco Street. GE will now occupy office space only at 5 Necco Street. 
originally published 11.14.19

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Fort Point Landmarks December 2019 Meeting

The FORT POINT CHANNEL LANDMARK DISTRICT COMMISSION will hold a public hearing on:

Thursday, December 12, 2019
6:00 PM
Boston City Hall - Piemonte Room (5th Floor)
After 5:30 pm, enter and exit City Hall at the Dock Square entrance on Congress Street 
(across from Faneuil Hall).

Subject of the hearing will be applications for Certificates of Design Approval on the agenda below, review of architectural violations and such business as may come before the commission, in accordance with Ch. 772 of the Acts of 1975, as amended.

I.  DESIGN REVIEW HEARING


APP # 20.546 FPC            374 Congress Street. 
Applicant: Shaun Benesch, PT OPCO LLC
Proposed Work: At the Boston Wharf Road fa├žade patio, install six (6) planters; install a banner sign with wooden posts; ratify existing window cling signage and modify the size; and install one (1) new window cling sign.

II  Ratification of 10/10/2019 Public Hearing Minutes

III. Staff Updates

IV. Projected Adjournment: 6:30 PM


FORT POINT CHANNEL LANDMARK DISTRICT COMMISSION
David Berarducci, Susan Goganian, John Karoff, Lynn Smiledge, Vacancy 

Alternates: Thomas Rodde, Vacancy

Seaport Strategic Transit Plan Third Public Meeting

updated 12/11/19 with meeting presentation and Open House boards.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency and the City of Boston invite you to the third Public Meeting on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan on: 
Monday, 12/09/2019 
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
BSA Space, Fort Point Room (2nd Floor)
290 Congress Street
View Presentation
View Open House Boards

The South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan will prioritize specific recommendations to improve the operations, capacity, and connectivity of the transit network (MBTA buses, Red and Silver Line stations, shuttles, ferries, etc.) serving Boston’s Seaport District, Fort Point and nearby transit connections.

Open House - 5:30 to 6:00 PM


Overview of the proposed transit strategies & evaluation methodology to improve transit.

Presentation - 6:00 to 7:00 PM


Presentation of the proposed transit strategies & evaluation methodology in more detail.Other topics include study overview, progress since the October meeting, updates on modeling, & next steps.

Open House Continued/Feedback Opportunity - 7:00 PM


Opportunity to ask questions & provide feedback on the proposed transit strategies & evaluation methodology.

Background:  View previous presentations & documents


Contact

James Fitzgerald

James.Fitzgerald@Boston.gov

617.918.4327


originally published 11.14.19

Monday, December 09, 2019

First Snow Day & Other Happenings This Week & Next

updated 12.6.19 with events December 14 - 18th,
updated 12.3.19 3:30 pm:  Save the date of  December 18th at 6 pm for the rescheduled 15 Necco (former GE Headquarters) Public Community Meeting.

With thoughts of snow days and winter festivities, here is a round up of free art happenings, Holiday Pop-Ups and Holiday Strolls in Seaport and Fort Point starting Friday, December 6th through Thursday, December 12th with some repeating weekend events.  

Transit is one of the top issues in the neighborhood. The Seaport Fort Point Transit Strategic Plan Public Community meeting will be held December 9th. The final Mayoral Advisory Task Force Northern Avenue Bridge meeting is Tuesday, December 10th.  

Event details are below: 


Friday, December 6th: Seaport Holiday Stroll, 5 pm – 9 pm with Light Up Seaport tree lighting at 7:15 pm. Live music, store specials and treats. More details.

Friday, December 6th: Rubaru Roshini Special Screening, 6 pm at Midway Artist Studios, 15 Channel Center Street. Free. View trailer.

Saturday, December 7th: Holly-Day on the Harbor, an afternoon of kids holiday fun 12 pm - 2 pm at Atlantic Wharf's Waterfront Square.

Holiday Pop-Up Shops

  • FPAC Assemblage Art Space at the Envoy: Sat & Sundays 12 pm to 4 pm in December. Every weekend different FPAC artists participate in these Tabletop Holiday Pop-Ups. 70 Sleeper St.
  • Row 34: Sundays December 8th and December 15th from 4 pm to 6 pm. Sip on complimentary bubbles & snacks while shopping for unique gifts made by local artists. 383 Congress St.

Monday, December 9th: Seaport Transit Strategic Plan Community Meeting (transit improvements & connectivity in Seaport & Fort Point) 5:30 pm-7:30 pm, BSA Fort Point room, 290 Congress St.

Tuesday, December 10thNorthern Avenue Bridge Mayoral Advisory Task Force Meeting, 3 pm - 5 pm at WPI Seaport, 303 Congress St. Public is welcome to attend.

Tuesday, December 10th: Fort Point Theatre Channel presents Andrew Neuman: Two Video Project(ions) 8pm in Art Under The Stairs at Midway Artist Studios, 15 Channel Center St. Free. 

Wednesday, December 11th: Friends of Fort Point Channel Holiday Stroll 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Over 25 participating locations. Meet & greet with Olaf from Frozen. Details

Thursday, December 12th: Fort Point Channel Landmarks District Commission meeting 6pm, City Hall. Check FortPointBoston.com for details later this week.

Saturday, December 14th: 249 A Street Artists Holiday Sale & Open Studios.  A select group of artists will open their studios between noon and 5 pm. Visit "Paper Clips" exhibit in the gallery. 


UPCOMING

Monday, December 16th: Boston Tea Party Reenactment starts at 6:30 pm at Old South Meeting Hall and ends with public viewing along the Fort Point Channel across from the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum from 8 pm to 8:30 pm.

Tuesday, December 17th: please note that the City Cannabis Community meeting for 324 A Street is postponed at the request of the operator in order to review the new cannabis ordinance that passed by City Council and signed by Mayor Walsh in November 2019.

Wednesday, December 18th: 15 Necco (former GE Headquarters) Public Community meeting, hosted by the BPDA (Boston Planning & Development Agency) 6pm at 300 A Street.



originally posted 12.3.19