21
Jun
07

Brighton Centered

Is the title of my latest link addition to the RP.

It is effectively a community record of activity around Allston-Brighton, especially updates on development, crime, politics, festivals, etc. etc.

Students from my department are working with the residential Harvard Allston task force around Harvard’s proposed expansion in their neighborhood.  Meanwhile, my immediate neighbors are organizing around BC’s planned expansion since its purchase of the Archodiocese’s St. John’s site on Comm. Ave. Tuesday night’s community meeting b/w BC and residents became particularly unruly, with one volatile resident continually disrupting the show and eventually being ejected by the police. Beyond his antics, meeting hostility also revolved around questionable tactics by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and BC reps, on whether they’re adhering to Boston’s Open Meeting Law and following all the guidelines to make meetings public and accessible. 

One thing I’ve learned from three years in an urban planning department, working in New Orleans, and dating the M.A.S. is how contentious community planning efforts are.  Quite often they are little more than dog-and-pony shows for powerful developers (institutional entities like universities, the BRA, etc. are particularly mighty) to co-opt residents into thinking they will benefit from proposed developments.  At their worst, planning processes circumvent public input almost entirely.  At best, they foment dissent from and occasionally collaboration with residents to minimize harm to the neighborhood.

I’ve written sporadically here about the changes afoot in the area; in Brighton Center, the retail transition makes it too soon to tell in which direction that neighborhood could go (though I was expectedly pessimistic about it). Meanwhile, even as rumors fly that BC is essentially turning my neighborhood into an extended playing field, the sales office for the luxury condos built on the other side of the reservoir from me is now closed, leaving me to believe that they’ve all been purchased. 

For the last week I’ve woken to the soothing sounds of chain saws leveling the trees on the property of an historic house down the street from me, recently saved from demolition by residents who were opposed to additional condos going up in the neighborhood.  The developer in that case was a small, independent entity against whom residents were relatively evenly matched (the M.A.S. even mysteriously turned up at a public meeting and made an informed speech about planning rules and regulations that was instrumental in shifting city sentiment towards preserving the property; he then disappeared into my waiting clutches).  As this point, we have no idea what’s going on across the street (my super is keeping close tabs but can’t seem to find out much), but for now the house stays, and our daily concerns over parking and congestion have not escalated. 

In contrast, development by BC appears inevitable (for anyone who’s familiar with the scale of this neighborhood, perhaps you’re as amused as I am by BC’s immediate marketing of the forthcoming site as their “Brighton campus” vs. the “Chestnut Hill campus” that is literally three minutes up and across the street).  Residential mobilization can have some effect in shaping how development unfolds, or possibly extracting some concessions from the university to maintain or even gasp – improve – our quality of life.  (The major desire of residents appears to be getting students to SHUT THE F*** UP late night, as well as to stop urinating on their lawns, and parking their cars all over the goddamn place.) 

Professional degrees are cool in that you essentially apply what you’re learning to your life as you go.  Planning, despite it being a seemingly boring profession that no one fully understands (zoning law, anyone??), and its outcast role as the red-headed stepchild to the more lucrative and glamorous development, is something that impacts anyone who doesn’t live a life of sketchy solitude in a hut in the woods.  Yet, I’ve also learned in my travels through MIT that planners are quite often as vilified as developers, recast from the red-headed stepchild to the bureaucratic enablers of the capitalist-development-liar’s plan for world domination.  Per usual, seems the education I’m getting beyond the classroom should prove far more instructive in understanding the world around me.

But, oh those credentials!

(plus I’m reading some seriously great stuff.)

 

CLICK HERE FOR A MAP of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir area in Brighton in which the St. John’s site and luxury condos are located. (Click on the “My Maps” tab and then on the “proposed development” map.)

 

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