Come out this Weds night April 13 for the Green Line; support 20% affordable housing citywide in Somerville

Green Line Train

In this update:

  • The Green Line Extension
  • 20% Affordable Housing

Come support the Green Line Extension (GLX): This Wednesday, April 13, 5:30-9:00, Somerville High School auditorium

This Wednesday evening, April 13th, we have an opportunity to make sure that State officials recognize how essential the Green Line Extension (GLX) and the Community Path Extension (CPX) are to us in Somerville. Please come to a public hearing at the Somerville High auditorium. From 5:30 to 6:30 will be an Open House with plans and drawings displayed; from 6:30pm to 8:00 will be a presentation by Mass DOT (Dept. of Transportation) and the MBTA.  Members of the public will have an opportunity to speak briefly afterward in a Public Hearing.

Even if you can just stop by for a half-hour, please come! This is about packing bodies into the auditorium, a show of force so that State officials understand how strong Somerville’s support for the GLX & CPX are.

The State is re-evaluating the GLX after initial work on the project cost up to $1 billion more than was projected. While budget issues need to be addressed, we must urge the state to fulfill its commitment to this long-overdue project.

Many of you, like me, have been pushing for the GLX for years, even decades! Our advocacy and organizing has forced the State to commit to this project and won $1 billion in federal funding for it. We must continue our vigilance to see this vital project through to completion. It is crucial for cleaner air, economic development and transit justice to bring the Green Line and the Community Path alongside it to Somerville.

The re-evaluation is expected to be submitted to the MassDOT Board of Directors and the MBTA Fiscal & Management Control Board in May, when they will vote on the future of the GLX and CPX projects. I hope to see you on Wednesday night in the Somerville High School auditorium!

Please show your support for 20% affordable housing citywide in Somerville

The Somerville Board of Alderman will soon be voting on a citizens’ petition, a proposal to increase the inclusionary zoning requirement so that any development of six units or more would have 20% of the units (one in five) be affordable. I strongly support this measure.

The Land Use Committee of the Whole of the BOA will continue to discuss this proposal this Tuesday, April 12 at 6 PM in City Hall. The Planning Board’s recommendations to the BOA call for significant reductions to the 20% requirement. I expect that the discussion and debate will focus on which recommendations of the Planning Board we should adopt, and which reject. I have no idea how long it will take before there are votes; additional meetings of this Committee are scheduled for April 26, May 3, and May 10. Please contact your Aldermen to stress the affordable housing crisis we are experiencing and urge them to support the 20% inclusionary zoning affordable housing requirement. Write to your ward Aldermen and the four Aldermen at Large, who are all your directly elected representatives, or, you can send an email to all members of the Board of Aldermen at BoardOfAldermen@somervillema.gov

Yesterday, Sunday, April 10, The Boston Globe North section ran a pro/con piece in its “Argument” feature, “Should Somerville expand its citywide affordable zoning requirement to 20 percent?” I wrote the “yes” response, and here it is:

Mark Niedergang

I’ve lived in Somerville for over 30 years. I love this city, especially its fantastic mix of people from different backgrounds. Not only do we have cultural and racial diversity, we have socio-economic diversity. I love having relationships with people who do all kinds of work — laborers, tradespeople, social workers, teachers, cooks, servers, artists, doctors, lawyers, software engineers — we’ve got them all.

But perhaps not for much longer. Like parts of Boston, San Francisco, and many other cities, Somerville is experiencing rapidly rising real estate values and rents that threaten to forever change its character.

Mayor Joe Curtatone has talked about Somerville not losing our soul. Recently, former mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay said we’re losing our heart and soul. It’s true. Many of the people who made this city great, their kids, immigrants, and the newer people who make it a funky, dynamic, and eclectic place can no longer afford to live here. Families are being forced to move and take their kids out of our award-winning public schools.

Mayor Curtatone has said we must take bold and dramatic action to preserve some of Somerville’s affordability. He convened a task force I cochaired that came up with 18 strategies to curb gentrification and preserve affordability.

One recommendation we can implement now is to increase from 12.5 percent to 20 percent the inclusionary zoning requirement. With that change, one of every five newly-developed housing units would have to be affordable to households with incomes less than 80 percent of area median income ($69,700 for a family of four).

The Board of Aldermen is currently debating the 20 percent proposal, brought to us with the support of hundreds of residents who signed petitions, spoke at a public hearing, and sent e-mails.

Developers are making tremendous returns on their investments, and benefiting from our hard work over many years to make Somerville a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family.

In the view of the vast majority of Somerville residents, the danger we face is that in 10 or 20 years, only rich people will be able to live here — unless we take bold action now. A 20 percent inclusionary affordable housing requirement is strong medicine, but we are battling to preserve the heart and soul of our community.

Alderman at Large Jack Connolly wrote the piece against the 20% proposal in the Boston Globe article: Should Somerville expand its citywide affordable zoning requirement to 20 percent?

If you are interested in the details that we will be deliberating on, you can read a description (pdf) of the citizens’ proposal and the City of Somerville’s Planning Staff recommendations to reduce it. 


Sincerely,

Mark Niedergang

Ward 5 Alderman

617-629-8033

Mark@MarkNiedergang.com

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