The following letter was sent by Livable Newton on behalf of many local individuals and organizations, including LWVN.
January 11, 2017
Newton City Council
Newton Planning and Development Board 1000 Commonwealth Avenue
Newton, MA 02459
Dear City Councilors and Planning Board members:
Livable Newton strongly supports the Washington Place development. It is consistent with the Newton Comprehensive Plan and with our own mission and goals. We wholeheartedly support rezoning the site for Mixed Use 4—an option created in 2012 for just such a project and location—and urge you to grant the necessary special permit, so that more current and future residents may live, work, and play here.
We are committed to promoting housing diversity and affordability in Newton, where choices are few and beyond the reach of many who want to keep or find a home. We appreciate that, of the 25% of Washington Place units affordable in perpetuity, two-fifths will be reserved for households in the middle-income range (80–120% AMI), just beyond eligibility for affordable housing by state definition but still not enough to cover current market rents. We hope preference is given to Newton residents for the affordable units, to the extent allowed by fair housing laws.
This multi-level approach to creating affordable housing is something we hope other developers will pursue in future projects. It will enable more current members of our community, such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and other city employees, to live in Newton. It will also make convenient, one-floor, accessible living available to more residents across a range of incomes and ability levels. This is especially critical for seniors.
We commend the inclusion of six three-bedroom units, which addresses a need often ignored by developers. This will give families with children and those who want to downsize additional housing opportunities in Newtonville’s commercial center.
Regarding the design, we appreciate the variation in sidewalk widths, building heights, step-backs, and façades, which help create a sense of place and are respectful of the adjacent historic district. We are pleased to see increased greenery in the final design, including rooftop and vertical gardens.
We also appreciate the steps the developer has taken to make this a “green” project: pursuing LEED Gold certification, decoupling rents from parking, offering to subsidize MBTA passes for tenants, including Zip Car spaces and adequate short- and long-term bicycle accommodations, widening sidewalks and reconfiguring the Washington–Walnut intersection to make it more walkable and safe. We think the developer could go even further in this direction, however, by including rooftop solar panels, charging a premium for a second parking space, and subsidizing Zip Car membership.
Washington Place is the kind of development that strengthens village vitality and supports public transportation. It will help make Newton more inclusive, integrated, and sustainable. We urge you to approve both the zone change and the special permit.
on behalf of Livable Newton
Cc: Mayor Setti Warren Barney Heath
Stephen Buchbinder Andy Levin, Newton TAB
Mission: We are a coalition of Newton organizations and individuals who advocate for planning and development that makes our city more inclusive, integrated, healthy, and sustainable.
Vision: We want a Newton where anyone can find a safe, affordable home in a walkable neighborhood close to public transportation, schools, shops, services, and recreational open space.
Origins: We first came together as Friends of Austin Street, which we all understood to be a model of modern, sustainable, mixed-use development, and something worth fighting for. Newton needs to be able to grow and evolve, even as we try to conserve our natural and communal resources. Thoughtful planning and development is how this should happen. Austin Street was a great example. We hope it was just a start.