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City puts kibosh on idea of building apartments over Roslindale Square parking lot

The Boston Department of Neighborhood Development and the city Housing Innovation Lab say they've given up on the idea of putting an apartment building over the Taft Hill municipal parking lot in Roslindale Square - but will continue to look at ways of using other city property to increase the amount of affordable housing in Roslindale, a neighborhood they say have fallen below citywide averages.

The two agencies began looking at the municipal parking lot last year as part of a citywide "housing with public assets" effort to see if existing city properties, including parking lots and buildings, could be used as the base to add additional housing units for people making less than the area median income in a city with ever rising housing costs.

In a memo on Taft Hill, the agencies cited concerns from the more than 250 comments they received that included the impact of construction on the commercial district, the potential loss of parking, both temporarily during construction and long term and the "impact of additional density in Roslindale Village and proximity to neighboring buildings" as reasons to give up on including the lot in the program.

At the same time, DND and the housing lab said:

Additionally, as with any conversation about housing, issues of race and class surfaced during the course the engagement and feedback process. As several community members expressed, the long standing impact of structural racism, decreasing access to opportunity and financial security, as well as opposition to the development of affordable housing, perpetuate many of our city’s inequities.

They added:

[O]nly 12% of Roslindale’s housing stock is income restricted, compared to the citywide average of 19%. Additionally, more than half of the renters in Roslindale are cost-burdened, meaning they pay 30% or more of their income on rent.

DND and the housing lab said they will now focus on other city-owned property both in Roslindale and elsewhere in the city.

Looking for new and innovative ways to create affordable housing remains a priority for Mayor Walsh and the City will continue to explore potential spaces in Roslindale for the development of additional affordable housing in the future and look for opportunities to collaborate with neighborhood groups interested in the intersection of affordable housing creation and racial equity.

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Comments

Impressive the management let them actually state clearly what went wrong: racists and people who value convenient parking over community destroyed the project, and if the city is actually serious about housing it's going to have to build some, even if there's less parking.

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Voting closed 69

The rather smarmy wording suggesting (via veiled statements that one can clearly read between the lines) that it was caused by racist and NIMBY people was way off base. Not only did area business not want it but many of their patrons, many of whom signed a petition that was presented to the Mayor's Office and associated departments. We're talking hundreds of signatures here. The abutting residents also did not want it and made that abundantly clear.

That department needs to issue an apology or clearly state that they were not pointing fingers at the good residents and business owners and their patrons of Roslindale, otherwise the election results for the next mayor's race will be rather interesting.

Let's keep in mind that some of the people who opposed the project are often deemed some of Roslindale's openly public "progressives" and many small business owners who were encouraged to open shops here. The wording of that department's statement will be remembered -- boy will it be remembered.

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Voting closed 35

Then on what grounds did you/they not want it? At so many public meetings, many of these publicly self-proclaimed "progressives" still often signal the desire for "diversity" but don't want "renters" and describe them with derogatory and insulting language about how we're "transient" and "don't care" about the neighbourhood. Or they use anti-change language about the "character" of the neighborhood at threat.

Racism and NIMBYism isn't relegated to a specific group of people who show up to a meeting wearing shirts that proclaim they hate non-whites and never want anything in their neighbourhood to change. They're people all around us and especially up here, it's through subtle coded language about "neighborhood preservation" that most people show their stripes.

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Voting closed 41

I thought this project made sense largely because it added density without eroding the character of the neighborhood. The architecture, streetscapes, and open spaces in each of Boston's neighborhoods create a unique identity and sense of place. Many of the new buildings today are generic boxes with cheap materials. Been to Southie lately? I'd rather keep the buildings and places that have character and build on parking lots so that Roslindale is enhanced, not replaced. Don't be so quick to assume you know someone's true motivations. We do have a lot of NIMBY in Roslindale, but not every concern or position of opposition is unsubstantiated. The city should change, as it always has, but change should be thoughtful and cohesive. This project should have been built but not all development proposals are right for Roslindale.

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Voting closed 8

Lets be clear about something: The diversity of existing housing styles is NOT a result of central planning and people of the past just having better taste. They're a result of housing booms happening in different architectural eras. Every generation criticized new housing as being "all the same" and "generic" and guess what: They lived and eventually, when architectural styles evolved, they came to appreciate it as historic. And anyway, compared to what we were building in the 70s and 80s (vinyl siding, brick veneer) I'd say today's "generic boxes" not only look better, but are much more energy efficient than what they replaced and likely to age better as well.

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Voting closed 4

I have noted a few modern buildings in dorchester that appear to be peeling. 1803 Dorchester Ave is only 10 years old. Even modern construction can be untested materials.

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Voting closed 9

LOL. This is such an entitled cry baby response. You want hand outs in the form of free parking and value cars over people. Your polluting lifestyle is unsustainable and dangerous to pedestrians and anyone who breathes air. You don't have the moral high ground.

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Voting closed 43

Which wouldn't exist without the economy brought to you by the internal combustion engine.

Elitist. Entitled.

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Voting closed 17

Damn. Your got me. My wifi is responsible for countless deaths.

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Voting closed 11

The electricity you use
The garbage from grocery shopping
The food you eat
The human waste
The medical waste
And so on and so on and so on.

And by the way do you have children or plan to...

...rinse wash repeat all of the above.

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Voting closed 13

Except I did.

But when human activity releases all that energy in short order it messes up the natural order.

And if you live in today's world, you share that guilt. And if you procreate, you share and perpetuate the blame.

To deny that is to deny logic.

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Voting closed 13

See its a little hard to know where you lean on that, ya know with all the "lol you participate in society while complaining about it" middle school debate tactics, I dunno honestly.

Oh right I share the guilt because my parents decided to have a child, cool cool cool cool no doubt.

And what exactly do you mean by logic here?

I guess the better question is, if you acknowledge that climate change exists and is caused by human activity but you also seem to be pushing back against those that would like to roll back unsustainable carbon emissions and pollution (OPs original point that you tried dunking on), what point are you actually trying to make?

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Voting closed 9

you can change your carbon footprint on the margin a bit - but we all have a pretty similar carbon footprint simply by virtue of living - so we are all guilty unless we literally give up our cars, give up flying, go live off the grid and host of other extreme measures. And if you have a child, it's about the worst thing you can do for the environment.

that's the old simple A=B=C so therefore A=C logic. Sitting in a warm house, probably owning a car and even if you don't but otherwise participate in urban society, you are contributing to climate change. You can make marginal contributions to reducing emissions and pollution, but it's not going to make a material difference if you have a car, central heat, use electricity like in mass transit and a host of other things. Human activity almost certainly causes this and even if it didn't, cleaning the environment is a worthy end in its own right. But the best thing we can do to reduce human activity is stop having more humans say until we at least get the population below 5 billion just to pick a random large number smaller than the current actual population.

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Voting closed 6

So outside of not having kids, you don't really feel like any other changes will help so why bother, right?

And of course, we are just talking about specific pollution and carbon emissions from cars, not just talking about climate change but related of course. And it was very specific to an issue of car storage being favored over housing humans.

We can't use dense urban environments with robust public transit to offset those needs and therefore those emissions?

Oh I guess there is some math to be done about the cost of powering, building, transporting and maintaining the elements of those networks.

But what about things like urban heat island effect, you said you were concerned about energy used to heat and cool buildings. Car storage lots contribute to that, wouldn't replacing it with housing and PVs and white colored roofs help offset that?

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Voting closed 9

Building renewable energy generation facilities is already cheaper than building new fossil fuel generation plants (i.e. levelized costs are lower). We are about to enter a phase where building new renewable energy generation facilities will be cheaper than using existing fossil fuel generation facilities (i.e. levilized costs lower than production costs).

We are far closer than most people imagine to that point; in some areas we are already there.

https://rameznaam.com/2019/04/02/the-third-phase-of-clean-energy-will-be...

Ramez Naam gives the examples of Florida Power and Light planning to retire existing natural gas plants and replace them with solar generation, and the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. planning to save consumers money by moving from 65% coal in 2018 to 15% coal in 2023 and eliminating coal entirely as a source of generation by 2028.

Early in the next decade we are headed to costs of unsubsidized new wind electrical generation at 2-2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and unsubsidized new solar at 3-4 cpkwh. This as compared to variable operating costs of existing coal, gas, or nuclear plants at 3.5-5 cpkwh. That will lead to the inevitable death of all fossil fuel-fired power plants in the US.

That would eliminate a major source of carbon emissions. The next step, of course, would be to eliminate all internal combustion engines except for those of hobbyists. Again, we can be on a path towards this when levelized costs of a gas car exceed levelized costs of an electric car. Currently, operating costs of an electric car are less than half those of a gas car, but the purchase price is still higher (about 35K vs 55K). Once true mass production takes off, that gap will shrink.

TILDR: no virtue signaling necessary, the economy is on the road to take care of this problem.

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Voting closed 12

I mean this is great and all, clearly shows we can live in a post-fossil fuel society without all the doom and gloom that Stevil seems to be fretting about.

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Voting closed 9

Assuming coronavirus doesn't get us all - I won't be here in about 30-40 years.

Hopefully we can improve this stuff - but then it might not just be us - the Chinese, Indians, Indonesians and so on down the population rankings may not see the benefit for making these conversions as time goes on. I hope they do.

But to circle back to the original point - nobody living in modern society can claim much moral superiority over others. Sure there are things we can all do on the margin, but unless you are living under a rock - we are all pretty guilty of generating a whole hell of a lot of greenhouse gases even if we compost and ride bikes or walk. To claim otherwise is elitist - and false.

(BTW - Michael Bloomberg produced a great documentary on how working toward renewable energy sources - for many of the reasons above - is actually an economic positive, not the economic sinkhole the current cave dwellers in Washington might think they are. Interesting watch if you like this kind of stuff)

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Voting closed 7

But I don't seem to recall the tech tree going "combustion engine -> Internet".

(I'm also pretty sure that's not how real life technological progress actually works, but go off)

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Voting closed 11

Without the internal combustion engine, we don't have an economy that supports a society that can invent things like the internet and a host of other things.

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Voting closed 5

Please fuck off with your allegation that the people who own the small businesses here in Roslindale that I patronize and value are all racists because they don't agree with your pat theories of urban development.

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Voting closed 58

Speaking as a middle-aged white guy, lifelong Democrat, fervent supporter of progressive causes, and former happy customer of some of these businesses (Nothing happened, I moved from the area).

Being "Progressive" does NOT automatically mean "Not Racist".

And I know the term is usually reserved for the inbred scions of blue blood political dynasties tilting at windfarms but Rozzie too, it seems, has a bad case of the NIMBYs.

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Voting closed 32

Why would the businesses not want more customers within walking distance?!

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Voting closed 21

For example, if you were to go into any of the popular, thriving restaurants in Roslindale, I am sure than less than half of the patrons at any given time have walked there. Many come from Brookline, Newton, Needham, JP, etc... So if we add, what, 50 units of housing in that parking lot, some of which is lower income folks (which to be clear, is the housing needed), those 50 residents aren't going to replace the loss of customers created by a loss of parking.

Businesses like the Square Root, Blue Star, Fornax, sure are much more drawing from local residents but the barbershops, salons, restaurants and wine store certainly aren't. Those are drawing from folks farther afield than walking distance.

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Voting closed 17

People are driving from Brookline, Newton and Needham to get their haircut and wine? And at a volume that has more impact than 50 units of housing? How do you know those same people won't park elsewhere, taking rideshare or through alternatives?

So where are your receipts? How are you sure its only half the patrons have walked there?

I mean at that rate, we can't ever removing parking right? You can just keep making up numbers about the impacts on businesses and call it a day.

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Voting closed 29

1) Conveniently, you're just ignoring the restaurants part of my post, businesses which probably employ the most people in the square impacted by parking and which certainly aren't filled with mostly walking customers.
2) So this mostly affordable housing will definitely all be full of people who go out to eat multiple times a month? Interesting theory.
3) Park elsewhere .... where? Not a lot of excess parking in Roslindale, which is a good and I am in favor of.
4) The people who would seem to have 'the receipts', the local business owners, who are largely against this have been already dismissed by you lot as 'racists' because you don't like their informed opinion. Left wing Trumpian garbage.

Serious question for a non-serious troll - do you think the local business community are lying because they're racists or for some other reason? You do think they're lying right? Can you summon the courage to make that clear or just want to keep throwing out questions without purpose as per usual?

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Voting closed 10

You're the one making the claims, please back em up. Left out restaurants because yeah, people come there from out neighborhood and outta town to patronize those places, myself included! Swing and a miss.

businesses which probably employ the most people in the square impacted by parking and which certainly aren't filled with mostly walking customers.

Citations please

2) So this mostly affordable housing will definitely all be full of people who go out to eat multiple times a month? Interesting theory.

Not a theory, show us your data for the number of people from the suburbs coming into eat here and you can easily take the W.

3) Park elsewhere .... where? Not a lot of excess parking in Roslindale, which is a good and I am in favor of.

Other places of course, you think car storage only exists in Roslindale? But better question, whats the demand of car storage for people from the suburbs? Wheres your data on that?

4) The people who would seem to have 'the receipts', the local business owners, who are largely against this have been already dismissed by you lot as 'racists' because you don't like their informed opinion. Left wing Trumpian garbage.

So where are those receipts? Also where did I say they were racist? Please be specific.

My dude, you might wanna lay-off projecting that much. Haven't said word about the racial intents of the business owners in the area, I don't know what thoughts drive them and to speak on that or assuming something like that is as bad a look as dodging questions that you can't back up with data.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Voting closed 14

All conjecture. Zero evidence. Contradictions everywhere. Bonus not-subtle bigoted take that lower income people do not spend money locally, when research shows it’s actually the opposite. And they still were gonna replace the parking anyway! Clown.

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Voting closed 12

So maybe lets also allow more regular, market rate housing to be built in the square, too. That way we won't need to continue dedicating public land to parking facilities so that people can drive all over Boston to go out to eat rather than say, walking downstairs to the restaurant in the ground floor of the building they live in.

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Voting closed 16

People will still come from all over to patronize Delfinos

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Voting closed 8

I live in JP and walk to Roslindale square. For lazy people "walking distance" is from their couch to their car. And the building was going OVER the parking spaces, not replacing them.

Cars take up a ridiculous amount of room. The fewer cars you have the more room you have for people and people support businesses, not cars.

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Voting closed 16

How ableist of you!

Not everyone is capable of walking.

And before you jump down my throat about loving cars more than people, I don't even have a drivers license and am fortunate to be able to be mobile by foot or take public transit.

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Voting closed 13

would probably appreciate the more open streets and available handicapped parking spaces we could have if we didn't insist on providing parking for every single person regardless of whether they could use a different form of transportation

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Voting closed 17

That assumption makes zero sense

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Voting closed 7

And we need to put it in city squares near public transportation. Movement challenged people need to be closer to services and attractions. And lower income people would have a chance to save up for house if they could live near school, grocery stores and health centers.

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Voting closed 15

n/t

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Voting closed 10

It's a commendable goal but the wrong concept. It would be better if the city can incentivize development of upper stories above one floor commercial buildings (like the Redd's space and like Wall Paper City plans to). If the square was all the height of the building at the start of Belgrade, that would be great. You know, like it is in the Back Bay, etc...

Like or not, we need some parking in the business part of town to keep those various businesses open. Not everybody can walk to town or ride a bike to the restaurants and shops.

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Voting closed 39

It's a horrible crime that the City and MBTA cannot agree to have buses or trains run to Roslindale Square. Imagine how the need to drive a car and park (at tax payers expense) might fall.

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Voting closed 27

It's a horrible crime that the City and MBTA cannot agree to have buses or trains run to Roslindale Square.

You're kidding, right?

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Voting closed 24

Only half of the buses run and then very infrequently

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Voting closed 4

Go to Google Maps and get directions from just about anywhere to Roslindale Square via driving. Then switch it to transit directions, and see how much longer it takes. Don't forget to add in the wait for the first bus, since that's not included in the travel time, and buses don't run so often outside rush hour if you're not going up and down Washington.

There's a reason why people who live in this area have cars.

I'm all for supporting transit. But just subtracting parking from a suburban area doesn't make it any easier to get there by bus.

And the commuter rail? No thanks. Catching a train that runs every 2 hours is like winning the transit lottery.

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Voting closed 14

The issue with building on top of existing buildings is that many of them do not have the foundation meant to hold more stories. If we wanted to build up, we would first have to tear down. This would mean those who use the buildings will be displaced during construction. There will always have to be some give and take.

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Voting closed 19

Many of the buildings in Roslindale Square had additional stories that were removed, or not rebuilt after a fire, to save on taxes.

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Voting closed 15

Actually some fo the structures previously had upper floors and that can be referenced in historical images dating back decades. Wallpaper City did in fact have upper floors, as did the former Redds Restaurant building. Redd's building had a 2nd and 3rd floor until a fire in 1964 damaged it. After a period of time the upper floors were removed and the building capped with a flat roof. Marino's addition of the apartments above simply reinstated the former height. Foundation and support was already there.

Another example of a building that had upper floors in the past is the former Unleashed by Petco building. That little door on the left side in front was the entrance hallway to the upper floor.

Lots of things that "used to be" in Roslindalw's business district.

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Voting closed 10

The proposal was to have first-floor public parking, with the housing on top. Some of the existing spaces in the lot would have to be eliminated to create the building, but the majority would have remained.

The project also would not have displaced any other on-street parking in the Square.

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Voting closed 19

City has been willing to push neighborhoods on needed things like housing, but there's only so much they can do when the anti- forces are organized and those who would benefit are not.

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Voting closed 40

Shouldn't that be NIMPL?

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Voting closed 18

This was killed because a number of business owners acted like toddlers having a temper tantrum at the mere idea. The first public meeting and follow up forum were each a circus full of theatrical performances of gloom and doom from business owners screaming at city officials and the many residents (who have supported these businesses for years) who dared to suggest they were open to the idea. Lots of comments about how "those kind of people" won't eat at our restaurants or come to our salons wink wink. This same crew thinks there isn't enough parking in Roslindale Square even though that lot is never full and would have been replaced with a garage anyway. The entitlement is off the charts.

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Voting closed 27

The business owners have concerns about losing customers.

But what do they know about the people who come into their stores.

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Voting closed 11

What do they know about the people who come into their stores? I've never had a storeowner ask me where I live, or how I got to the store and whether I drove, walked, cycled, etc. I'd suspect that other than for a few regulars the majority of storeowners don't have that data themselves (but I'd love to see that data if they are collecting it!).

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Voting closed 8

What data do they have to back up their claims?

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Voting closed 9

Wrong... I've circled the square looking for parking on many a Friday or Saturday night, and that parking lot is full more often than not during those peak times (during the exact times that restaurant owners would be concerned about having less parking and potential customers).

As a JP resident I like the convenience of coming to the square and the variety of restaurants... but if it suddenly became much less convenient to park (or if I had to rely on the MBTA), I am sure that I would visit Roslindale Square businesses much less options because there are plenty of good restaurants within JP.

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Voting closed 11

I cannot name one time in the last decade where I have sought a parking spot in Roslindale Square either in that municipal lot or on-street and not found one at most a block from my ultimate destination. I'll point out that there is less parking in the JP Centre-South district than in Roslindale Square, yet the JP district flourishes at night. If ample parking was the key to a thriving business district, malls would be flourishing instead of closing all over the country. All that said, once again, this proposal would have maintained the public parking in the lot anyway!

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Voting closed 8

Because NIMBYs gonna NIMBY.

But I am surprised by the shortsightedness of the local businesses. You know what's great for your business? Having hundreds or thousands of people living within walking distance of your store.

Stores need foot traffic, not people who leave their car 100 feet away while they get on the train every morning.

I can't understand how people can block every new unit of housing within walking distance of the Square then turn around and be surprised when stores close down. This doesn't require an Econ degree...

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Voting closed 24

This is actually insane. According to the summary of the comments, some people said they want more affordable housing and density in Roslindale Village while other said that more affordable housing is needed while opposing increased density. One of the most expensive parts of any project in Boston is land acquisition. Here was an opportunity to use city-owned land to bring the cost of housing making affordable housing more practical and Roslindale chose parking over people. I always thought of Roslindale as a more progressive alternative to West Roxbury but this sounds like a page from their anti-development playbook.

The city's average of 19% of housing being income restricted sounds pretty good until you realize that most of it is concentrated in just a handful of neighborhoods--the South End, Roxbury, Charlestown, and JP. Roslindale's share is only slightly better than the Back Bay. Keeping this city-owned land as free surface parking benefits no one except the car owners of Roslindale.

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Voting closed 22

Roslindale may well be more progressive than West Roxbury. The problem is that the processes is completely undemocratic. Instead of taking a broad poll of the neighborhood to assess public opinion, they hold a few moderately-attended public meetings (usually attended by the same cross-section of the neighborhood that goes to all public meetings) and decide whether or not to veto the project based on the actual volume of the opposition. Otherwise popular projects are routinely watered down or torpedoed by the same handful of local curmudgeons. It is indeed insane.

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Voting closed 26

This is not just about the car owners of Roslindale. The square has a number of businesses that attract car owners far afield of just Roslindale:

RMV
Social Security Administration
Greater Roslindale Medical and Dental Center
Farmer's Market
Post Office
Library
Community Center

You won't find an RMV or an S.S Adminstration office anywhere near.

Also, as I understand it, this was never going to be 100% affordable housing. Something like 12-19%.

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Voting closed 7

Also, as I understand it, this was never going to be 100% affordable housing. Something like 12-19%.

Another complete falsehood spread by opponents. It was said repeatedly by City officials this would be 100% affordable, deed-restricted housing.

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Voting closed 12

This is a good outcome for Roslindale Square. The parking lot in question is vital to help maintain a variety of Roslindale businesses and the farmer's market, while providing easy access to the Roslindale Public Library, Post Office, and DMV (all of which do not have their own parking). We use the parking lot all the time for day-to-day errands---patronize the Square restaurants, bring our kids to the excellent toddler programs at the library (now under renovation), attend the farmer's market, etc. Not everybody can walk their whole families to the Square easily. As-is, the parking lot already fills up to capacity during the farmer's market and during special events, like the Easter Egg event. Affordable housing is important as well, but this parking lot serves a vital purpose for a lot of people living around the Square.

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Voting closed 12

Got it.

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Voting closed 8