On October 13, 2021, The Boston Zoning Commission unanimously approved the adoption of the Coastal Flood Resilience Overlay District (CFROD) - Article 25A and the overlay district map. Chris Busch, Assistant Deputy Director for Climate Change & Environmental Planning gave the following presentation which summarizes the purpose and objectives of the CFROD, establishment of the overlay and boundaries, applicability, and use and dimensional regulations.
The CFROD will be administered through Resilience Review, which will now be a component of the Article 80 development review . . .
As Boston voters prepare to head to the polls for a historic mayoral election in less than a month, we are taking a moment to reflect on the planning process for Building Boston’s Economic Future for Everyone: 2021 Mayoral Forum. This convening was hosted by the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), CommonWealth Magazine, and A Better City (ABC) at Roxbury Community College (RCC). Four out of the five candidates joined us for an in-person discussion with a virtual livestream that took place just days before the preliminary election. The recording of the livestream continues to act as a resource for the public and has been viewed nearly 1,000 times. With this reach, we are hopeful that our facilitated discussion engaged candidates on the issues and informed voters before heading to the polls in September, and assisted their choice processes for the election of Boston’s next mayor this November.
On September 22, 2021, the Boston City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the City of Boston’s Building Energy and Reporting Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), known as BERDO 2.0. While BERDO has been in place in Boston since 2013, this amendment will require large existing buildings to move from energy reporting and disclosure, to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. BERDO 2.0 targets only 4% of buildings across the City of Boston, but will address over 60% of citywide emissions, and will be an essential component of achieving the City’s net zero goals. Mayor Janey is expected to sign BERDO 2.0 into law in the coming days. BERDO 2.0 would go into effect immediately in Boston upon her signing and the owners of covered building will be required to meet emissions reductions benchmarks in 2025 and 2030.
Given that 85% of the buildings that will be standing in Boston in 2050 already exist, BERDO 2.0 is focused on decarbonizing our existing large building stock in Boston. Many of our members know more than anyone that decarbonizing existing building stock poses unique technical and financial challenges, as well as opportunities. That’s why A Better City’s Buildings Policy Coalition made up of both A Better City and Green Ribbon Commission Commercial Real Estate Working Group members has been discussing this in detail since the amendment was proposed in the fall of 2020. Our solutions-oriented engagement with the Coalition, the City of Boston’s Department of Energy, Environment, and Open Space, lead sponsor, Councilor Matt O’Malley, and his team, the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, colleagues in the business community, and advocacy organizations, resulted in submitting extensive written comments on BERDO 2.0. Our most recent comments from July . . .
On Monday, September 13th, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA)’s Board approved regulations to establish a Coastal Flood Resilience Overlay District (CFROD) to ensure that certain new or substantially renovated buildings in the city’s most flood-prone neighborhoods can withstand risings seas and storm surges. The CFROD, also referred to as Article 25A, would apply the BPDA’s Coastal Flood Resilience Guidelines for projects subject to Article 80 Large and Small Project Review. In terms of process next steps, it is expected that at the October 13, 2021, Boston Zoning Commission hearing, the BPDA Director will petition the Commission to adopt Article 25A and the overlay district map and the approval will ultimately be granted.
Based upon feedback from A Better City, other stakeholders, and the public, Article 25A was updated and a revised version posted on August 23, 2021. The updated markup showed that consideration had been given to A Better City’s comments about below grade parking and modeling data clarification. A Better City submitted comments on the draft Coastal Flood Resilience Overlay District on February 12, 2021, to make the following recommendations:
In January 2020, Boston enacted the Wetlands Protection Ordinance, which grants the City greater authority to protect its wetlands habitat throughout Boston’s neighborhoods. While wetlands provide critical habitat to many species, they also are important natural climate solutions to storing floodwater, filtering stormwater run-off, producing oxygen and improving air quality, and reducing the “urban heat island” effect.
Once the Wetlands Protection Ordinance was passed in early 2020, the associated wetlands regulatory process began within the Boston Conservation Commission. Due to the complexity of wetlands regulations in an urban environment, the regulatory process is split into 3 phases, as follows:
On Friday, July 30th, we were joined by Mia Mansfield, Director of Climate Adaptation and Resilience at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Julie Eaton, the Lead Resiliency Engineer at Weston & Sampson, for a briefing and discussion on the Commonwealth’s Resilient MA Action Team (RMAT) beta climate resilience design standards tool. This web-based platform is designed to help integrate climate projections and climate resilience design standards into state and local projects. It has also been designed to provide consistent and recommended design methodologies to help you use climate data in your new projects. If you are siting a new building or preparing design specifications for a capital planning project, for example, this tool provides:
In addition, MEPA or the MA Environmental Protection Act, is considering using the tool in its Climate Change and Resiliency Protocol currently under development. Work is also underway to integrate the tool into state grant programs.
Discussion points included:
With recent news from the Pacific Northwest showing buckling highways and melting cables during record-breaking heat waves, to Boston’s hottest June ever recorded, extreme heat continues to be an urgent climate threat that claims more lives than any other natural weather event. In addition to heat’s systemic threats of more frequent power failures, tree canopy and green space loss, reduced air and water quality, increased strain on our healthcare systems, and slow or disrupted transportation infrastructure – extreme heat is deadly for our residents, and poses significant risks to our communities’ health and survival. While heat in our changing climate impacts all neighborhoods in Boston, the health risks of extreme heat in our communities are not borne equally across our city.
What scientists refer to as the “urban heat island effect” that causes urban spaces with more concrete, steel, and buildings to be significantly hotter than suburban or rural areas, means that Boston’s neighborhoods with the least amount of green space like Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury, are also the hottest and most vulnerable during extreme heat weather events. During heat waves, residents in these urban heat islands can experience temperatures up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than suburban neighborhoods in Greater Boston1; places like Chinatown struggle to cool down at night due to residual heat kept in pavement and buildings – meaning that there is high risk and little relief for its residents during heat waves.
Although extreme heat has impacts on human health, infrastructure, and economic opportunities that will affect all Bostonians, the heat burden is not felt equitably . . .
On Thursday, July 15th, A Better City (ABC) convened a joint meeting in cooperation with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Boston Transportation Department (BTD). The invitees included the largest and most influential developers, institutions, businesses and other key stakeholders in the neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton. In the session BPDA Director, Brian Golden, and ABC President, Rick Dimino outlined a collaborative transportation vision for the future. The focus was to demonstrate the potential collective power of those working in the neighborhood and to promote collaboration toward a shared vision.
This meeting built upon a conversation started in late 2019 when ABTMA convened members to discuss aggregating existing shuttle services to reduce redundant vehicles, achieve savings through scale, and expand coverage through coordination. Paused due to COVID, this effort has resumed with financial support from the BPDA.
This past June in direct response to the recommendation of the Allston Brighton Mobility Study, the BPDA Board approved funding to conduct a Neighborhood Transit Connector (NTC) plan. The goal is to identify current and future transit gaps in the neighborhood and to explore options that will broaden transportation choices, reduce SOVs, and minimize particulate and GhG emissions.
The ABTMA will lead this NTC planning effort and is excited to bring more stakeholders into the conversation and to be part of the process. This will include local elected officials, community groups, city and state level planners, the MBTA, and others. As the pace of new development in Allston-Brighton has rapidly increased in recent years, the need for effective, coordinated and collaborative TDM has become ever more apparent.
If you want to be part of the conversation, please email our TDM Director, Scott . . .
Members of the MassDOT Board of Directors, General Manager Poftak, Secretary Tessler, thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today.
As workers and employers are preparing for the returning to the work place this fall, transportation options for commuters are going to play a larger role than ever. We are asking the MBTA and MassDOT to show leadership by creating new pilot programs related to commuter passes and the price we ask people to pay for a ride.
The MBTA is an integral and critical part of the Commonwealth’s decarbonization roadmap as the transportation sector accounts for 44% of Massachusetts greenhouse gas emissions. The region cannot afford to fall back to pre-COVID-19 congested roadways or worse—the Commonwealth’s economic recovery and climate goals will be heavily influenced by the performance of public transit system and the number of people choosing mass transit to commute.
Right now, the current Commuter Rail fare products, like monthly passes and options from the MBTA in the M-Ticket App, cater to pre-pandemic work schedules and routines.
The MBTA must induce demand this fall and beyond with new, flexible fare products and promotions that are hybrid commuter-centered. You should be providing greater flexibility for riders to pay for what they use and appeal to the commuters with a hybrid work schedule. This would include ideas like:
We need to get these options in place as soon as possible, especially for September.
Other transit agencies are taking these steps. In California, the BART . . .