Saturday, March 31, 2007

Harvard's Cambridge Street Mess

According to Harry Mattison's report from the most recent subcommittee meeting of the Harvard Allston Task Force, the Harvard planners seem to be addressing only the issue of Stadium Way -- not of the more pressing traffic and transportation problems.

I present the following hypothesis: the success or failure of Harvard's traffic plan for Allston will hinge on how they deal with the intersection where Cambridge Street reaches the Charles River (IMPNF, Figure 3-5, annotated):

Harvard's own numbers, estimated using a model constructed in collaboration with the Boston Transportation Department, shows that 43% of their morning automobile traffic will exit the Mass Pike's A-B tolls and enter this intersection. (IMPNF, Table 3-5)

Q: How many cars will this be at the end of their 20-year master plan?
A: 8,145 * 0.43 [morning] + 7,775 * 0.33 [evening] = 6,068 cars per day (IMPNF, Table 3-4; IMPNF, Figure 3-5)

Q: How many cars currently pass through that intersection daily?
A: 28,464 (HUAM PNF, Table 3-1)

Q: What percentage increase in traffic will Harvard's Allston development cause on this intersection?
A: 6,068 / 28,464 = 21%

That intersection is already far, far too crowded. No, it suffers from gridlock. Until Harvard and/or the City fix the intersection, nothing else will really matter.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Deadbeat Landlords: The Back Story

The Allston-Brighton TAB recently reported that the City of Boston has named the top 20 landlord code violators who have unpaid fines on their properties. Everyone seems to be focusing on those top 20 violators. But read on:
In 2006, Inspectional Services Department code enforcement officers wrote more than 39,000 “green” tickets with fines ranging from $30 to $1,000, but collected just $269,000 of more than $3 million owed.
Why is the City of Boston only collecting on 9% of their citations? The uncollected $2.7 million would go a long way towards teacher's salaries, park improvements, etc. Isn't the city using metrics to evaluate the performance of their departments? A 9% collection rate is not something to be proud of.

The city is naming those top 20 violators hoping to shame them into paying. Five of the 20 own property in Allston-Brighton, and they owe a collective $55,000 city-wide on their properties. That means that all 20 violators probably owe a little more than $200,000. Shaming them only gets you from a 9% to 16% collection rate.

There have to be more effective methods at collecting a larger percentage of the unpaid citations. Maybe the City Council has hit upon it:
The City Council voted to pass a home-rule petition that would give the city authority to put a lien on the properties of the worst violators.

Construction Mitigation Ideas from Harvard Allston

Harry Mattison's blog contains a description of two options Harvard is considering/rejecting for construction mitigation in their Allston development project (the Science Complex).

Boston College and its neighbors are not at the point to begin discussing construction mitigation strategies... but Harry's pictures are a good start to get us all thinking about how to minimize construction noise and visual ugliness.

The meeting is covered in today's Allston-Brighton TAB:

Carry on the discussion about this on the BC Neighbors Forum...

Concert Saturday 3/31 @ 3:00pm -- Russian and Soviet Piano Miniatures: 1910-1929

A shameless plug...

WHAT: "Russian and Soviet Piano Miniatures: 1910-1929"

WHO: Michael Pahre, piano

WHEN: Saturday, March 31, 3:00 pm


WHERE: Honan-Allston Branch, Boston Public Library
300 North Harvard Street
Allston, MA 02134
Wheelchair accessible


MBTA: Bus routes 66 (best); 86, 70/70A (walk three blocks);
64 (walk four-to-five blocks)


Alexei Stanchinsky
Three Sketches

Anatoli Alexandrov
A Long-Forgotten Madness: Four Passages, Op.6

Nikolai Roslavets

Alexander Mosolov
Two Nocturnes, Op.15
Three Little Pieces, Op.23a

Samuil Feinberg
Three Preludes, Op.15

Yuri Tiulin
De Profundis: Fragment from a Poem, Op.13

Vladimir Deshevov
Meditations, Op.3
Scherzo in c-sharp, Op.6

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New State Pilot School Approved for Boston

Wednesday's Boston Globe reported that the state Board of Education has approved four chronically under-performing schools, including English High in Boston, to be converted to State Pilot Schools in order to improve their performance within two years.

Pilot Schools are an innovative strategy championed here it Boston that give greater control and flexibility to each school for budgetary, hiring, governance, length of the school day, and professional development time for the staff. Boston's Pilot Schools are part of the Boston Public School system, students are assigned according to the same procedure as the non-pilot schools, and the whole process is even spelled out and approved as part of the Boston Teachers Union contract.

Pilot Schools are distinct from Charter Schools: the former are, in Boston, formed and run as part of the school district; the latter are chartered by the state and run completely independently of any school district. Pilot School teachers are all part of the BTU collective bargaining unit and receive the pay and benefits spelled out in the BTU contract; Charter School teachers are not.

Boston has 20 such Pilot Schools (including two dual status Horace Mann Charter Schools). Pilot Schools in Allston-Brighton include: Another Course to College (G9-G12), Baldwin Early Learning Center (K0-G1), Boston Community Leadership Academy (G9-G12), and the most recent to convert to Pilot status, the Gardner Elementary School in North Allston (currently K1-G5).

The state is looking to copy that model. Unfortunately, they are using it as a tool to fix the some of the most problematical schools in the state in lieu of having a state-run takeover.

The article quotes Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, as saying:

"There isn't a shred of evidence that making people work longer hours without any rights and forcing students to go on extended day . . . will be a positive experience... We hope it works. But there's no evidence that it will work."

Not so. The Center for Collaborative Education's "The Essential Guide to Pilot Schools" (Overview, September 2006) states:
"[On] the whole, students are performing better than the district averages across every indicator of engagement and performance. Compared to other BPS schools, Pilot School students have higher performance on the statewide standardized assessment (MCAS), higher college-going rates, and higher attendance rates."
Their report can be found at the CCE website. (For the record: I sit on the Governing Board of the Baldwin ELC, and the CCE is the independent organization that provides onsite coaching, professional development, and networking opportunities for educators in the Boston Pilot Schools.)

Let's hope the state can replicate the success of the Boston Pilot Schools model, rather than just putting the worst-performing schools into this category as a poison pill to reject the model. The Boston model uses innovative methods to improve school performance, but is not necessarily the best model for turning around a chronically under-performing school.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Allston-Brighton-Boston College Community Task Force? Huh?

In a recent article and editorial in the Boston College newspaper, The Heights, they referred to the Boston College Task Force as the "Allston-Brighton Task Force."

Hmmmm... "Boston College Task Force" is a proper noun (that is why it is capitalized), so a publication cannot unilaterally change the committee's name. Furthermore, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has formed four different task forces in Allston-Brighton: Harvard Allston Task Force, St. Elizabeth's (Medical Center) Task Force, Boston College Task Force, and the Boston University Task Force (which admittedly only deals with a corner of Allston-Brighton). The newspaper's invented name is vague; a reader might not know which task force is being referred to (although the context makes it clear).

A question posed to the reporter returned the information that they meant to write, "Allston-Brighton-Boston College Community Task Force." Whew. What a mouthful. But it is yet another name invented by the newspaper.

The correct name is the "Boston College Task Force." If BC employees or students don't like using that name because it suggests it is officially affiliated with the university (which it is not), then a reasonable alternative would be the "BRA's Boston College Task Force."

I wrote this suggestion to the reporter who writes for the "Allston-Brighton-Boston-Newton College's The Heights" newspaper, since I'm not a fan of making up names. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BC Proposes to Raze Three Single-Family Houses

At the previous meetings of the Boston College Task Force, the Boston College planners presented proposals for the usage of three lots at 188, 192, and 196 Foster Street. All three have single-family, detached houses on their property which, according to local experts, have significant historical and architectural value.

192 Foster Street also connects to a much larger open space that includes a forested section, a field, fenced tennis courts recently converted to BC parking, and the Foster Rock granite outcropping. The total area is 5.16 acre.

BC is proposing to demolish all three single-family homes as part of their plan to put 70 beds of town-house-style, seminarian housing on the lot.

Here is the piece of their master plan visual showing the upside-down, U-shaped seminarian housing complex they propose:

which avoids building on Foster Rock, but otherwise develops much of the lot.

These three, single-family, detached houses represent 2% of all such houses in the neighborhood (Census Tract 4.02, which is bounded by Washington St, Lake St, Comm. Ave, and Chestnut Hill Ave).

At a time when owner-occupied housing has decreased to 20% overall in Allston-Brighton -- and from 34 to 30% in this census tract (1990-2000) --

Should BC be buying up single-family houses in order to demolish them and build institutional housing?

Join the discussion of the topic at the BC Neighbors Forum (a Google Group).

Here's some information about the three properties in question:
Address.........Parcel ID......Owner..............................Notes
188 Foster St 2204960010 Trustees of Boston College (A)
192 Foster St 2204960020 Trustees of Boston College (B)
192 Foster St 2204960021 Trustees of Boston College (C)
196 Foster St 2204959001 Boston College (D)

(A) "Apartment building," currently on tax rolls, but purchased 2/1/06
from Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston for $1.

(B) Land under the building, and adjacent open space lot, totalling
212,137 sq. ft., currently not on the tax rolls. Purchased
6/29/04 as part of $99.4M "Lake Street" transaction with the
Archdiocese. Currently assessed at $5,088,500, which would
correspond to $55,922 at residential rate or $136,728 at
commercial tax rate. Contains tennis courts that were converted
a couple of years ago to a parking lot (legality unclear).

(C) Building itself, classified as an apartment, currently on tax

(D) Single-family house, purchased from Virginia Dalton on 5/5/06.

If the Archdiocese has any more single-family houses they want to sell for $1, I'll buy them!!!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dangerous Crosswalks by Whole Foods Market

Sunday's Boston Globe carried the article on a dangerous crosswalk on Washington Street in Brighton between the Covenant House and the Whole Foods Market:
Faded Markings Make For a Hazardous Crossing

The report appears to miss a key feature of the street at this location: there are actually two cross-walks next to each other, on both sides of the driveway entrance to the Whole Foods Market parking lot. Here's an (old) satellite map:

The southeastern crosswalk is currently quite faded, but the northwestern one has nearly completely disappeared to the extent that the city workers might not notice it.

Let's hope that, when city workers excavate the site, they realize this and repaint both crossings!

This area is home to a large Ukrainian immigrant population with a lot of political clout: apparently elected officials have been seen before shoveling snow from the front of the Covenant House building. Since we have had so little snow this winter, maybe we all could instead help the elderly walk across the street until the crosswalk gets paved later in the year.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Planning Initiative Meets Tuesday at 6:00pm

Did you know that 21% of Allston-Brighton residents are college students?

How about that 19% of all of the City of Boston's college students live in Allston-Brighton?

Or that Allston-Brighton's owner occupants only occupy their residence for eight years on average, well-below the city's average of ten years?

These were among the interesting facts presented by the BRA's planner, Carlos Montanez, as he kicked off the first meeting of the Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Planning Initiative on March 7.

The ABNPI website is at:

which includes links to the presentation made by Mr. Montanez, as well as the summaries of the four group's discussions.

The next meeting of the ABNPI's focus group will be on Tuesday, March 27 at 6:00-9:00pm in the Jackson-Mann Community Center. This meeting will be more of a "working group" session to synthesize comments made at the previous meeting, although it is an open meeting that will include time for public comment. A future meeting on April 24th will focus on Transportation and will be more interactive for the public.

Boston College's Athletics Plans: Summary

At the Boston College Task Force meeting on Tuesday, March 20, 2007, Boston College planners and their partners at Sasaki Associates presented a housing plan for the next ten years of their development and expansion.

Below is my notated version of the visual that they displayed at the meeting:

A PDF version of the figure can be found attached to the post at the GoogleGroup BC_Neighbors_Forum.


BC presented a series of five sets of construction related to
athletics: varsity, intramural, and informal recreation.

PDF attached.

The order of the projects appears to be roughly sequential, but may
not be strictly so. (#3 and #4a would seem an appropriate swap.)

I have kept BC's numbering scheme with the following modifications:
* split #1 into a, b, and c.
* split #2 into a and b.
* added #4b (parking addition next to Alumni Stadium [football].

(1)(a) Baseball Stadium: 2000 seat capacity, probably on benches.
Press box behind home plate. Put into natural features of site.
Approximately 50 feet elevation difference between field and
neighboring houses to south (according to statements made in February
20, 2007 meeting). Will be fully lit for night games and practices.
At previous meeting, expressed willingness to only hold 10-ish night
practices and 10-ish night games per year, but no such statement at
this meeting. Games occur April-May on Friday/Saturday nights and
Saturday/Sunday afternoons. Artificial turf (astroturf). Underground
tanks to be built to collect storm water in order to release slowly
back into water table. Will be fully fenced, gated, and locked off.
Limited community usage will be allowed -- only approved, organized
activities (no pick-up games). 2000 seat capacity would still be
lowest-capacity baseball stadium in ACC.

(1)(b) Softball Stadium: 500 seat capacity, probably on benches.
Will be fully lit for night games and practices. Unclear months for
games. Artificial turf (astroturf). Underground tanks (like baseball
stadium). Will be fully fenced, gated, and locked off. Unclear
community usage.

(1)(c) Multipurpose Field. Intramural sports, club sports, informal
recreation. Unsure if will be natural or artificial turf. If
artificial turf, then have underground tanks (like baseball stadium).
Will be fully fenced, gated, and locked off. Unclear community usage.

(2)(a) Support Building. Lockers, concessions, batting cages,
offices, restrooms. 25,000 square feet (sf).

(2)(b) Parking Garage and Tennis Courts. Built adjacent to hillside;
some discussion about how the hillside would be respected, but details
murky. Two levels of parking with 160 spaces. Tennis courts built
onto top of building.

(3) Recreation Center. After Edmonds Hall is demolished, will make
way for Recreation Center to be built on the site. Recreational
usage, multipurpose, primarily oriented to student use. 200,000 sf.

(4)(a) Shea Fields. Removal of baseball and softball fields from
site. Reconfiguration of remaining fields into 2 1/2 football
practice fields. Part of existing field space will have dorms built
onto it (see housing slide and discussion). Underground tanks to be
built to collect storm water in order to release slowly back into
water table. Unclear if natural or artificial surface.

(4)(b) Expansion of Beacon Street Parking Garage. Not discussed at
the meeting (presumably will be at next meeting on traffic, parking,
and transportation), but is part of the athletic support building
program nonetheless. 350 new parking spaces to be added.

(5) Newton Fields Support Building. Near to BC Law School in Newton.
8,500 sf.

Alternate visual

Boston College's Housing Plans: Summary

At the Boston College Task Force meeting on Tuesday, March 20, 2007, Boston College planners and their partners at Sasaki Associates presented a housing plan for the next ten years of their development and expansion.

Below is my notated version of the visual that they displayed at the meeting:

A PDF version of the figure can be found attached to the post at the GoogleGroup BC_Neighbors_Forum.

They expect to file an IMPNF with the BRA around mid-May 2007, although
a draft of it may be made available to the task force at an earlier date
(or maybe even to the community).


BC presented a series of seven sets of construction and demolition
related to housing (graduate and undergraduate students, as well as

#1 seems to be independent of the others.
#2-6 are sequential: build/construct #2, then do #3, then #4, etc.
#7 is very long-term, and uncertain.

I have added #0, since they neglected to note a necessary demolition
that must occur before #1. I have broken down #2 into 2a and 2b, and #7
into 7a, 7b, etc. Otherwise, the numbering scheme follows BC's scheme.

(0) Demolition of single-family houses at 188, 192, 196 Foster Street.

(1) Seminary Housing: Construction of Jesuit, non-family,
townhouse-style housing for Weston Theological Seminarians. Height
unclear. 70 new beds.

(2a) "Brighton UG Dorm" [my name]: Construction of undergraduate
housing in the middle of the Lake Street property purchased from the
Archdiocese. Access primarily through new inner, feeder road from Comm.
Ave. Housing in pods of four. For juniors and seniors. Some mention
of utilizing old gymnasium in connection with it. Four stories tall,
and partially up hillside (so will appear taller from future baseball
field). Believed to be two buildings, but cannot locate both on map.
600 new beds.

(2b) "More Hall": SE corner of Lake Street/More Road and Comm Ave
(i) Demolition of existing building (former law school)
(ii) Construction of undergraduate housing. Housing in pods of four.
Four stories tall. 350-460 total new beds:
phase 1: 350 new beds with More Road unchanged
phase 2: 110 additional beds if More Road re-routed
--> thus totalling 460 = 350 + 110

(3) Demolition of Edmonds Hall in the main, lower campus. Loss of 790
beds. [Later conversion to a new Recreation Center.]

(4) "Shea Field UG Dorms" [my name]: Construction of three buildings of
undergraduate housing on N and NE side of current Shea Fields. Removal
of baseball and softball fields; football practice fields remain. Four
stories high. 490 new beds.

(5) Demolition of 10 "Mod" structures in lower campus (which were
supposed to be only temporary housing decades ago, but were never
removed). Loss of 185 beds.

(6) "New Mods UG Dorm" [my name]: Construction of undergraduate housing
around where the mods currently exist. Four stories high. 175 new beds.

(7) Long-term planning -- very uncertain, so take with a grain of salt.
(7a) Undergraduate housing in upper campus: 300 + 350 beds.
(7b) Graduate student housing in upper campus: 400 beds
(7c) Undergraduate housing in lower campus (more mods): unclear from
map, but part of powerpoint presentation, so need verification
(7d) Graduate student housing in Lake Street property: 140 beds


Table 1: How Many UG Students Need Housing

9000 undergraduate students (to remain constant for next 10 years)
-400 study abroad
8600 undergraduate students need housing

Currently have 7300 beds for undergraduates, or 84.8% on-campus.

Their goal is to house 90% on-campus, and claim that to be a maximum
(meaning that the last 10% do not want to live on campus).

Table 2: What is the Net Change in UG Beds for Steps #2-6?
change in # beds construction/demolition step

+600 2a: "Brighton UG Dorm"
+350 2b phase 1: "More Hall"
-790 3: "Demolition of Edmonds Hall"
+490 4: "Shea Field UG Dorms"
-185 5: "Demolition of Mod structures"
+175 6: "New Mods UG Dorm"
+640 net increase in beds for #2-6

Table 3: Total UG Beds After Steps #2-6

7300 Current UG beds
+640 #2-6 net increase in UG beds
7940 total UG beds after #2-6 implemented

RESULT: 7940 / 8600 = 92.3% UG housed on-campus after all this

BC was playing a bit loose with the numbers: I can't believe they have
exactly 7300 UG beds currently, and they claimed on the viewgraph that
7940/8600 = 90% (which a gentleman pointed out to be in error).

BC has noted that they expect to have a website up and running "within a
few weeks," in which they would make available some documents. Who knows what will be included there...


Welcome to the Brighton Community Blog!

The purpose of this weblog is to provide commentary on happenings in and around Brighton, Massachusetts, one of the neighborhoods of Boston.

I encourage you to respond to daily entries, since the goal is for the people of the community to drive the discussion themselves about the future of their neighborhood.