On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, A Better City’s Energy and Environment Unit held a meeting to introduce members to the planning underway by the City of Boston to develop resiliency design guidelines for a Flood Resiliency Zoning Overlay District. Rich McGuinness, Deputy Director for Climate Change and Environment Planning at the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), said the guidelines, at a very early stage of development, will build on the Sea Level Rise (SLR) – Flood Hazard Area map released as part of the Climate Resiliency-Review Policy Update in October 2017. This map, based on parcel level data, models future coastal flooding conditions due to a 1% annual storm event with 40" of SLR. It provides new construction and retrofit projects in the Flood Hazard Area with a SLR - Base Flood Elevation (BFE) to build to, and existing buildings in this area, with projections on which to plan for climate impacts.
Chris Busch, Senior Waterfront Planner, BPDA, then described the scope of the resiliency design guidelines being undertaken by Utile that will apply to commercial, institutional, and residential uses. It will evaluate best practices used in New York; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans, and will also review existing overlay districts in Boston to address possible conflicts. The guidelines will include zoning requirements for height, lot coverage, and set back, among other requirements.
Some of the questions raised by attendees for the City to consider included: how to maintain egress when barriers to flooding are in place; how to account for the loss of potential rentable space after retrofitting; what changes there may be to building height limits; how affordable housing projects might be affected; what the implications to insurance might be; and what methods for financing district-wide adaptation would be available.
A question was also raised about whether the City of Boston has the capacity to address the complex climate change governance challenges. It was suggested by attendees that a regional model, like the MWRA, may be needed to coordinate the work of Boston and surrounding cities and towns.
See presentation slides here.