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Wu appoints first planning chief as move towards changing how development happens in Boston

The Dorchester Reporter reports Wu has named Arthur Jemison, a former Dorchester resident, as the city's first chief of planning - just a few days after BPDA Director Brian Golden announced his resignation.

Jemison will oversee land-use planning across city departments, including BTD, Housing, Public Facilities, BPS, BPL and the Environment Department - and Wu is asking the BPDA board of directors to appoint him as its formal replacement for Golden.

Jemison has particular expertise in both planning and public/private affordable housing over a 28-year career that includes stints at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city of Detroit and the Massachusetts the Department of Housing and Community Development under Deval Patrick. He's also worked at Massport, the BHA and what was then the BRA. He has a master's in city planning from MIT.

Wu also announced she was hiring Devin Quirk of Charlestown as Jemison's deputy chief of operations and organizational transformation - to help Jemison put into place whatever changes he makes in Boston land-use oversight. Quirk is currently director of real estate at the BPDA.

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Comments

He looks very well-qualified based on his personal and professional experience with public housing. HUD's loss is our gain.

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Voting closed 34

I like the idea of community wide development v parcel by parcel, provided it’s an efficient process.

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Voting closed 25

I prefer when smaller developers build small buildings. If one megacorporate developer gets to bid to build a whole neighborhood, we get a vertical strip mall.

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Voting closed 20

How do we get rid of the ZBA?

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Voting closed 24

The ZBA rules on buildings that need a variance when it is not in conformance with local zoning. It primarily rules on safety and the LEGAL reasons why a variance MUST BE granted. Variances are not granted based on popular opinion or social media pressure.

The ZBA does its job as required by law. The problem is that people don't like the zoning laws. So what they need to do is begin the multi-year process to amend that.

Most people blame the ZBA when their pet project is not approved or conforms to their special interests, but the fact is those feeling slighted don't understand the process. Worse, developers think that can get away with some wild things and the ZBA will cave to Facebook shaming. Sad state of affairs there. It's started to look like people will start to complain to the fire department for extinguishing a fire. after all, "they" wanted to let it burn," right?

Oh yeah... "affordability" is not a part of the zoning laws. As it stands nothing being built anywhere in Boston is affordable to the working class. Please spare me that more density will translate to lower rents. That's Ronnie Regan's "trickle down economics." It didn't work then and still doesn't. Rents never go down, especially when greedy management companies are in it to run a slum building and take the profits.

What we need is creativity in making Boston affordable, live-able, and a fare wage. Castigating the ZBA is non-productive and meaningless, and all it does is pique people that like negative attention so they can complain en masse.

Oh yeah... while at it. It seems a lot of developers get approvals and break ground, then overnight they list the shovel-ready project for sale to deeper pockets. So don't think talking to the company that build things is the people you will deal with moving forward.

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Voting closed 16

Getting rid of zoning altogether?

The other option is keeping zoning, but not allowing any variances.

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Voting closed 24

That would honestly be an improvement over the unelected, parking-obsessed despots running our zoning, empowering nimbys and depriving our city of desperately-needed housing stock. Also, “no zoning!” sounds scary but actually boils down to “Christine Araujo insists that you build massive parking lots at your transit-adjacent development.” It’s a dumb scare tactic.

https://www.universalhub.com/2022/another-apartment-building-rejected-wa...

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Voting closed 23

It's not Araujo that's insisting on parking. It's the zoning code.

Again, no zoning or no appeals? Which poison do you pick?

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Accept the awfulness of the ZBA or “no zoning!” is a false choice (and a weak argument), and I’m glad that we have a mayor who doesn’t fall for bullshit like that.

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Voting closed 20

That would honestly be an improvement over the unelected, parking-obsessed despots running our zoning

Zoning laws are established by the City Council and the state legislature, both of which are elected.

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Voting closed 22

If the chief of planning job is temporary until Jemison might be appointed as Director of the BPDA. Because BPDA is technically independent of the City, I don't believe an individual can hold a compensated position with both simultaneously under the state ethics laws.

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Because BPDA is technically independent of the City,

That’s a fundamental structural problem. We need an actual city planning agency that works for us and is accountable to us, not a pseudo-agency that is funded by the developers in a way that creates perverse incentives to approve projects that a real planning agency might not.

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Voting closed 27

I do am confused by the legal position/title. The BRA dba BPDA has a specific charter and mission separate from other city departments. It should take an act from the Legislature to sew the organizations and roles together.

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Voting closed 20