Campaign Week-in-Review: 7/12/19 - Inclusionary Zoning Expansion, Cold Spring Park Update, Vigil Today at 4

by Izzy Klein, Interim Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a nice week despite the humidity! Even in the heat, Bill was able to knock over 250 more doors in Ward 5, and was able to meet many of you and talk about what is important to us as residents of Ward 5 in this upcoming election cycle. 

There were also a number of community meetings and events this week around the city. This past Tuesday, Bill went to the seasonal opening of the Newton Farmers Market in Cold Spring Park. 

Affordable Housing & Sustainable Housing

After the farmers market and door-knocking on Tuesday, Bill attended the monthly Livable Newton meeting, held this time on Adams St at the Studio for High Performance Design and Construction's “passive house” building. The biggest news this week was the City Council's unanimous vote after months of review to expand the city's Inclusionary Zoning ordinance to raise the required percentage of affordable housing in multi-unit housing developments. Newton now leads the state on IZ requirements, continuing with 15% of units priced at a mix of lower income tiers (already required), plus now an additional 2.5% of middle-income units on projects with at least 21 units, for a total of 17.5%. Middle-income in this context means in the 81-110% of Area Median Income (AMI) for the Boston region. According to the Mayor's newsletter, "In Newton, a household of four at 80% of the AMI could earn up to $89,000, and at 110%, could earn up to $124,630." Affordable units are then priced (for monthly rents or mortgage payments) to be capped at 30% of the person's income at the relevant income tier. In 2021, the Inclusionary Zoning requirement will rise again for projects of 100 units or more, with a middle-income requirement of 5% of units instead of just 2.5%.

The Passive House style building where the Livable Newton meeting was held is a retrofit of an existing building in Nonantum and demonstrates the high-performance design style of Passive House that is much more efficient at heating and cooling. It also includes much healthier fresh air circulation systems than many modern buildings include. 

As noted in our March 29th 2019 newsletter, Passive House is a construction design concept (originating in New England several decades ago and refined in Germany in the 1990s) based on building homes or larger buildings to keep in the heat and make effective use of natural sunlight, high-performance doors and windows, and ventilation system technologies. Green Newton, a member organization of the Livable Newton coalition, has adopted a requirement for Passive House construction as one of the four design principles for sustainability that they are pushing developers and the city to adopt in Newton. For each climate zone in the US, there are different passive house building standards.

Cold Spring Park / Senior Center Update

On Thursday evening, Bill attended the beginning of the Newton Highlands Area Council meeting to hear an update from the Friends of Cold Spring Park on the continuing controversy over the possible construction of a new senior center (NewCAL) in Cold Spring Park, which many voters have brought up on the doors in the past 3 weeks. Many residents of Ward 5 told Bill they are against a senior center being built in Cold Spring Park and felt this was a decisive issue for their vote this year. As we stated in our June 29th 2019 newsletter, Bill is committed to opposing the use of city parklands, especially sensitive wetlands like Cold Spring Park, for new construction including that use. Our wetlands are necessary not just for the ecosystem but also to control neighborhood flooding. And our parks are meant to be parks, not just land reserved for future building. Bill is confident we can find a different, more appropriate location for a new senior center. Bill also has serious concerns about how the site location selection process has unfolded from the beginning. The Newton Highlands Area Council is drafting a letter expressing opposition to Cold Spring Park as the location.

Infrastructure Updates

Road repairs continue rapidly across the city and Ward 5 this week, including re-grading of intersections along Woodward Street at the Newton Highlands end, one of which seeks to fix a semi-permanent puddle of water that neighbors have complained about for years now. 

There are some upcoming road closures in Newton Highlands not related to construction but rather to additional filming of the production previously being filmed in and around Cold Spring Park. The city earlier received a substantial amount of money from the production studio that will be applied toward much-needed recreational trail repairs in the Park. 

Finally, the MBTA track & signal project has progressed eastward toward Brookline out of Ward 5 after a few months of overnight and weekend work.

Immigration Vigil at City Hall 4 PM Today

On Thursday night Bill also attended the monthly meeting of the Executive Committee of the Newton Democrats, who worked quickly with the Mayor's office and Congressman Kennedy's office to plan a 4 PM vigil for this afternoon (Friday 7/12) in support of immigrants held in border detention camps in terrible conditions. Rep. Kennedy visited the camps recently with other members of Congress. Bill will be in attendance like other Newton residents who are concerned with the treatment of immigrants at the border.