Campaign Week-in-Review: 6/21/19 - New Endorsement, Candidate Forum, Northland Revisions

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

This week we have a new endorsement from Ward 1 City Councilor Maria Greenberg! We are thrilled to have her support in this race!

Door knocking continued, with our campaign knocking 232 doors this week (including 48 that I got to knock myself)! A lot of people in two different areas of door knocking who had reported bad streets during Bill’s first pass were now very happy to tell him that their streets had since been repaved.

Northland hearing

On Tuesday, Bill attended the Land Use Committee’s latest public hearing regarding the proposed Northland development. Here are some notes from the night:

  • The first item was a presentation from the petitioners announcing some of the key shifts made in their proposal since the last hearing. These changes include:

    • Significant revisions to the shuttle plan.

      • The new shuttle plan aims to create more frequent service between the Northland site and the Newton Highlands Green Line station. The shuttles would operate every 10 minutes, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

      • The proposed shuttles would be an all electric fleet, and their route wouldn’t include any stops on Needham St except for the mobility hub on the Northland site, to avoid adding traffic or runt-time by stopping and starting.

      • Riding the shuttles would be free and open to everyone, including people not on or going to the site. (One question arising is whether this would create park-and-ride issues for the neighborhood, but otherwise this is a good change to the proposal.)

    • More passive house energy designs for some but not all of the buildings

      • Natural gas would still be used to heat the hot water in the buildings among other uses. As noted in last week’s newsletter, this remains unacceptable in our view because the development is supposed to last at least 30-50 years. Approving a development dependent on fossil fuels in 2019 is essentially a form of climate denial. If we want to have any hope of getting to the zero-emission target we have set as a city (and dictated by the scientific community globally), we cannot afford to approve of any new construction from this point forward that includes fossil fuels.

    • Swapping the previously proposed vague community building that was not garnering much support or interest for a $1 million splash park/ice rink open to the public.

    • Refining their plans to underground 1.5 miles of utilities on existing streets around the project (not just inside it).

      • The streets included for this are Oak St, Needham St (although due to existing underground infrastructure they would have to reroute around it), Tower Rd, and Christina St.

    • Committing to make 2.5% of the 800 residential units in the 80-100% AMI affordability range beyond the 15% required at 50-80%.

      • 44 of the 800 units would be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and half of those are anticipated to be among the affordable units.

  • The next item on the agenda was a slideshow presented by an opposition group.

    • They primarily criticized the scaled-back shuttle plan as walking back on ambitious promises. In previous presentations, however, they had criticized the shuttle plan for being too ambitious.

  • There was a speech by former Alderman Marcia Johnson in support of the project on behalf of Livable Newton.

  • Green Newton also gave a speech that addressed the environmental aspect of the project. The group stated that progress is being made but negotiations are still not done, and that they intend to push for passive house, renewables, and lower embodied carbon in construction materials. However, they are prepared to concede on the natural gas usage issue (which Bill is not willing to do).

  • The hearing was then opened up to the audience, letting the public comment for about 30 minutes.

Upper Falls Area Council meeting & candidate forum

On Thursday night, Bill participated in the first candidate forum for the Ward 5 City Council race! The forum was a sequential Q&A period, rather than a debate. Only two candidates participated. Bill spoke about his experience growing up in Ward 5, his familiarity with Newton Upper Falls and its history, his conversations with voters from going door to door, and his top two issues of environmental action and affordable housing. Almost all of the questions raised by voters at the event were about the Northland project, which Bill has been following very closely.

After the forum, the meeting shifted to a presentation by a voter that Bill met while door knocking. Per Bill’s suggestion and coordination with the Area Council, he was able to get onto the agenda to speak about signage needs for the Greenway because he lives by a path linking to it.

There was also a recap of the Northland proposal changes and some community issues discussed, such as pedestrian safety issues on Ellis St (the short street that goes from Quinobequin up hill to Chestnut St under Echo Bridge) and a dispute with the neighboring town about the highway interchange at the office park by the Route 9 and 128 and Chestnut Street intersections and clovers.

Greenway art exhibit kickoff

Bill also attended last Friday’s 2019 Upper Falls Greenway art exhibition kickoff! It was a great day for a walk along the path to see all of the art! And there was plenty of ice cream for all. Check it out any day from now to September.

Community updates

There will not be July meetings of the Waban and Upper Falls Area Councils. The Newton Highlands Area Council will either meet on a different day (to avoid July 4) or will not meet in July, but this is not decided yet.