Monday, April 30, 2007

ACC Baseball Stadiums

Here are a few viewgraphs that were presented as part of tonight's BC Neighbors Forum public meeting. More to come later...

Question #1: Does BC need to orient the baseball stadium in order to keep home plate in the SW corner?

Answer: ACC stadiums are oriented in all different directions. Orientation is clearly not a driving factor in their design. Statements made at the 3/20/07 BC Task Force meeting appear to have been misleading.

Question #2: Was it true when a BC official said on 3/20/07 that even with a 2000-seat stadium, BC would still have the smallest baseball stadium in the ACC?

Florida State: 6700 seats
Clemson: 3500 seats (5617 with hillside seating/standing)
NC State: 2200 seats
Wake Forest: 2500 seats
Boston College: TBD
Maryland: 2500 seats
Virginia: 2000 seats
North Carolina: 2000 seats + 1000 on embankment
Georgia Tech: 4157 seats, can expand to 5000
Miami: 4235-5000 seats?
Duke: 2000 seats
Virginia Tech: 1033 seats

Answer: The BC official was factually in error. Virginia Tech has a smaller stadium at 1033 seats, and BC's 2000-seat stadium would actually tie them for 9th place (3-way tie with UVA and UNC).

Note that during the April 25, 2007 subcommittee meeting of the BC Task Force, a BC official noted that 2000 seats are a minimum requirement of the ACC for tournament games, not for regular season games.

The University of Virginia baseball stadium was suggested as a good example of BC's proposal for their new baseball stadium. The design for the UVa stadium can be found here, and here is an example:

IMHO, rather ugly. But functional, I guess. An alternative view:

The field lights are roughly 80-feet high. So the stadium appears to be 40 (or 50) feet high by comparison. The grade between the field and Lane Park is roughly 15 feet, so a structure like this would stick up roughly as high as the tops of the houses along Lane Park.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Want To Encourage Kids to Walk to School?

Here's a 66-page manual on it.

Seriously, though, it is a good idea for the kids as well as the environment.

Friday, April 27, 2007

BC Neighbors Forum: Public Meeting Monday, April 30 at 7:00pm

An extensive, visual presentation of BC's proposals for athletic facilities will start the meeting.  New information will be presented on:
  • Baseball stadium sizes and orientations across the ACC: are the requirements necessary?
  • Is there space to move the stadium away from houses?
  • How tall is the lighting compared to neighboring houses?
  • Possible chemical dangers to ground water posed by astro-turf
The goal of the meeting is to develop community consensus on
issues related to athletics facilities in BC's master plan:
  • Baseball stadium: 2000 seat
  • Softball stadium: 500 seat
  • Multipurpose field(s)
  • Athletic support facility: 25,000+ square feet
  • Parking garage / tennis courts: 160-200 spaces
Neighbors of Rogers Park (and members of the Friends of Rogers Park) have been specially invited to attend the meeting in order to provide their insight into what it is like to live near to lighted baseball fields.

Boston College Neighbors Forum: Public Meeting

Monday, April 30, 7:00 pm
Brighton Elks Lodge
326 Washington Street

Brighton residents are invited to attend a community meeting to
analyze and discuss the details of the Boston College development
plans. The meeting will take place on Monday, April 30th, 7:00 pm,
at the Brighton Elks Lodge, 326 Washington Street, Brighton Center.

The Boston College Neighbors Forum is an unaffiliated, independent
grassroots discussion group. The goal of the meeting is to build a
consensus in the community on issues of common concern, and to
eventually prepare formal community feedback to BC and the City of

The April 30 meeting will focus on BC plans to construct athletic
fields and/or stadiums on their "Brighton Campus" (i.e., the former
Archdiocese property), and related buildings.

Public participation is strongly encouraged and all residents will be
afforded an opportunity to speak as time permits. A subsequent
meeting will be scheduled in mid-May to discuss other aspects of BC
plans (e.g., the proposed re-routing of Saint Thomas More Road).

For more information, Michael Pahre at 617-216-1447 or; or visit the GoogleGroup at .

For background on the athletics facilities proposals, see this blog entry.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What BC Left Out of Their Traffic/Transportation Presentation

Officials of Boston College, and their associates, presented various details of their master plan on "traffic and transportation" to the April 17, 2007 meeting of the BC Task Force.

The following topics were not addressed at all:
  1. Details of moved BC T station. (MBTA planners not ready to present the details.)
  2. No information on employee / student "mode share", i.e., the percentages who:
    • drive a car to work
    • take city bus
    • take BC shuttle bus
    • take subway
    • bicycle
    • walk.
  3. What is their plan to reduce the one person / one car "mode share"?
  4. How many cars (parking) and people (transportation) would be moving from the main campus to the Brighton Campus? BC has made many statements of no net increase in numbers of people***, but their plans clearly move people from easily accessible sites on the main campus to less accessible sites on the Brigton Campus.
  5. Bicycles:
    • Harvard has made clear that their plan for Allston encourages bicycle use. BC avoided the topic altogether.
    • Would any bicycle lanes on streets be introduced? Where?
    • Would there be any bicycle paths on their main campus?
    • Will the development in the Brighton Campus include any bike-friendly paths or lanes?
    • How to connect bicycle routes between each of BC's campuses?
    • Increasing bicycle parking locations, showers, etc., to encourage bicycle commuting.
    • Do they even have a complete inventory of their bicycle parking spaces (racks) and shower facilities?
  6. Students and cars: Zip cars on-campus could reduce demand for on-campus student parking and off-campus illegal parking.
  7. Shuttle buses: How many will service the new Brighton Campus? Will shuttle bus system be opened to the public? How will expansion of parking spaces in Newton Campus be accomodated by increased bus support to the Main Campus / Brighton Campus? What will shuttle bus routes to Brighton Campus follow -- will they turn around, or continue on through to Foster Street? (Buses on Foster Street? It's conceivable.)
Can you think of any more that they left out?

Follow the conversation into the BC Neighbors Forum...

*** NB: This topic will be addressed in a future posting... they may have left a lot of people out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Turkey Trot

While running on Kenrick Street this morning, just over the Newton line, I again ran across three of our local, wild turkeys. One male was displaying alongside two females. Photo of male displaying not mine (nor from Brighton):

The street location is near to the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course (who ought to modify their logo), further down the street from Chandler Pond, the Cenacle, Rogers Park, and St. John's Seminary open spaces. Charlie Vasiliades made the point on Saturday's walking tour that adjacent and/or connected sets of open spaces support the presence of wild animals like these turkeys. Here is a map of these Brighton open spaces from the Boston Parks Department master plan 2001-2006, where the turkey sighting is at the middle-left-edge of the map:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who Else Is Violating the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law?

Who has been violating the law lately? See the article at Massachusetts Common Cause, which reprints Jack Flynn's article for The Republican:
In Springfield, the state-run Finance Control Board voted behind closed doors last year to give Schools Superintendent Joseph P. Burke a $13,000 raise and one-year contract extension.

After an appeal by The Republican, Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett ruled that the vote should have been taken in public. He ordered the board to avoid any further violations.

In Boston, the City Council was caught skirting the law 11 times during a two-year period. In a 20-page ruling last year, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Nancy Staffier Holtz slapped the council with an $11,000 fine after concluding that the violations were intentional.

And in Amherst, the Select Board suffered two rebukes from Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel for illegally using e-mails to conduct business - once in 2005 to discuss the July 4 parade, and again in 2006 to discuss the Amherst Survival Center.
And in a report back in 2006:
Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating’s office has investigated 97 allegations of Open Meeting Law violations in the past five years, and last year found five such violations. Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz’s office investigated 106 in the past five years and found 24 violations.
Here are a few more:
  • "Georgetown School Committee's student affairs and activities subcommittee violated the state's Open Meeting Law when it failed to file and post notices for two meetings this year." (Boston Globe 11/19/06)
  • Needham Selectmen "violated the Open Meeting Law on three occasions in 2004 by discussing in secret session raising the cap from 10 years to 20 years on the lease of town-owned land. The golf club leases 58 acres from Needham." (Boston Globe 4/12/07)
Regarding the Boston City Council's violations, the Boston Globe article 3/28/06 summarizes them:
According to the lawsuit, the City Council held 10 closed-door meetings -- from June 3, 2003, to March 24, 2005 -- to discuss a request by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to renew its urban renewal program.

The suit also alleges that the City Council held a secret meeting on Jan. 20, 2005, to discuss the exposure of three Boston University lab workers to bacteria from tularemia, an illness caused by exposure to rabbits.

The problem is that there is no state requirement for collecting and tracking complaints of violations of the law. At least Massachusetts Common Cause is attempting to do so as a watchdog group.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pictures from the Walking Tour of BC's Brighton Campus: I. Athletic Facilities

The community-led walking tour of Boston College's Brighton Campus (former Archdiocese land) took place on Saturday, April 21. The tour was led by Charlie Vasiliades and Wilma Wetterstrom and focused on viewing the open space, inspecting the topological features, and discussing the history of the site. Questions arose about particular proposals in BC's master plan, which were fielded by Tom Keady and Jeanne Levesque of BC's Office of Governmental and Community Affairs. A total of 40-50 people attended at some point during the tour, including from the BC Task Force and elected officials.

Most attendees appeared struck by the great beauty of a few particular locations in the tour, especially the hill with the former Cardinal's tomb (slated for demolition), the view from the Cardinal's former residence and the adjacent meadow/orchard, and the forested sections bordering Lake Street. Immense quantities of broken glass all over the Foster Rock were disappointing, however.

Here are some images taken during the tour of the athletic fields site. Below each one is a satellite picture and BC's March 2007 master plan, both with the approximate vantage point of the image identified.

Baseball Stadium [front] and Support Building [rear]

Baseball stadium: 2000-seats, press box, lights (80-foot?), artificial turf, etc.
Support building: see below.

BC's artist's conception from similar orientation (but much more elevated), although note that the support building design, as well as the softball stadium location, have changed since this drawing was made:

Support Building

Coaches offices, workout rooms, batting cages, lockers, restrooms, concessions.
A little bit difficult to see due to the enclosed parking lots in the foreground.

Brighton Fields Parking Garage and Racquetball Courts [roof]

Note that the new building would be on the RHS and off-image to the right of my picture (and will be much bigger and taller than the existing building in the picture).

160-200 parking spaces on two levels. Enclosed racquetball (i.e., tennis) on top.

Multipurpose Field

Intramurals, etc.

BC Magazine ran a slideshow in 2004 which has photos of the Brighton Campus from various perspectives.

Historical 1875 Map of St. John's Seminary

At the community walking tour of the St. John's Seminary land on Saturday, April 21, guide Wilma Wetterstrom brought along copies of the 1875 map of the property. I've laid it side-by-side with a modern, satellite image of the property.

This and other historical maps of Allston-Brighton have been scanned in by the Brighton Allston Historical Society, and are available online. A great resource.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

House at 1954 Commonwealth Ave Back on Market

The Allston Brighton TAB reported that the historic house at 1954 Commonwealth Avenue has been placed back on the market. The current owner bought the house in 2004 and has since sought approval to demolish or move it. Since it is located in the Aberdeen Architectural Conservation District and presumably contains a restriction against demolition on the property's deed, the Boston Landmarks Commission recommended against both moves.

It's nice to see the system work the way it should by blocking a developer's bad idea. Bravo to the local activists and BLC for fighting this one.

This owner is about to get stuck with a loss in his real estate speculation. He paid $2.8 million for it, but it is only assessed by the city at $1.1 million, so it is unlikely he'll get back his cost -- much less his $3.3 million asking price. As the TAB reports, however, the owner isn't mentioning the deed restriction in his listing. And he has listed it under land/commercial properties, rather than the 3-family residential unit it is. Please, please, don't sell it to another developer and put the neighborhood through this again.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

BC's Master Plan for Parking

At the April 17, 2007 (6:30 pm) meeting of the Boston College Task Force, officials from Boston College (and their planning associates) presented various transportation elements from their master plan.

The proposed re-design for the MBTA BC Station (Green Line B) was not presented, because the MBTA planners are not finished with their work. The presentation therefore discussed:
  1. Proposed re-routing of Saint Thomas More Road; and
  2. Parking demolition and construction throughout the 10-year master plan.
This blog entry is a summary of BC's presentation for #2: Parking.

New and Old Parking

The following existing parking will be demolished or otherwise removed:

# Spaces....Location
------------- -------------
-85............Brighton Campus (i.e., 192 Foster St tennis courts)
-435...........Lower Campus
-175...........Middle Campus
0..............Upper Campus
-75............Newton Campus
Total = -770 spaces demolished

The following parking garages will be constructed (or expansion to existing structures):

# Spaces....Location
------------- -------------
+200...........Brighton Fields Garage (next to Baseball Stadium)
+100...........More Hall site (underground parking)
+350...........Expansion of Beacon St Garage next to Alumni Stadium (4 levels)
+100..........."College-Beacon Garage", aka "Middle Campus Garage" (underground)
+125...........Newton Campus surface parking
Total = +875 new parking spaces

The math is then simple: +875 new spaces -770 removed spaces = +105 net increase in parking spaces by the end of 10 years.

How much new parking? Not much.

Location of Parking Garages

The locations of parking structures throughout the main and Brighton campuses have been chosen so that most of the campus is within 5 minutes walk of one of them. The argument was not made, however, that the correct number of parking spaces are available in the vicinity of the buildings with the highest demand for parking; in fact, much of the parking is adjacent to the football stadium, which is not convenient (5 minute walk) to much of the campus, especially the Brighton campus.

One attendee noted that the proposed location of the Brighton Fields Garage is close -- too close -- to houses on Lane Park. He said that he would be able to water the cars from his deck. This garage is also poorly situated for other buildings on the Brighton Campus (other than the stadiums), being more than 5 minutes walk from the proposed museum, for example.

How Many Parking Spaces Are Required to Support Their Expansion?

The plan calls for an increase in the number of BC employees/students:

+100 Faculty members (primarily in natural sciences)
+175 Graduate students (ditto?)
0 Support staff

The small proposed increase in their employment and enrollment is presumably their justiication for only adding a small number of parking spaces.

Undergraduate Students and Parking

Approximately 250 (undergraduate?) students living on-campus are given a parking permit for a campus lot or garage. There is no plan to increase that number. The 600 on-campus undergraduate beds proposed to be added in the next 10-years would therefore not increase the need for on-campus parking.

Attendees were skeptical: many mentioned that students park illegally on the streets, which is obviously an enforcement issue. It sounded like BC would not consider expanding the on-campus parking for undergraduates in order to alleviate illegal parking on the street. The BC official in charge of parking noted that there is much more demand by undergraduates for on-campus parking than BC currently provides to them.

Approximately 150 (undergraduate?) commuter parking permits are provided each year.

Game Day Parking

BC gave no clear indication of how their parking would be impacted on the six or seven football game days each fall.

One person did note that current parking on the Brighton Campus playing fields would be lost (it will mostly be fenced-in astroturf in their proposals). The 85-spaces on Foster Street would also be lost. Since they are adding only 105 parking spaces overall, it appears clear that they will have less parking available on game days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Walking Tour of Former Archdiocese Property: Saturday 4/21 at 11:00 am

Community Walking Tour of the Former Archdiocese Property

When: Saturday, April 21st , 11:00 am

Where: Meet at Clements Hall parking lot, 197 Foster Street, Brighton

The focus of the walking tour will be to view the open space, inspect the topographical features, and discuss the historical background of the site which contains the locations of several developments (new buildings and athletic stadiums) proposed by Boston College as part of its master planning process.

The tour will be led by long-time Brighton residents Charlie Vasiliades and Wilma Wetterstrom. One or more representatives from BC will also be on hand to answer questions.

The tour is expected to last 1½ hours. Comfortable walking shoes are advised. Rain or shine.

For more information, contact:
Mike Pahre,, 617-216-1447; or
Charlie Vasiliades, 617-254-7024

PDF flyer can be found here.

Photos from the tour can be found here.

The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law

A number of people have been asking about the details of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

There are three separate laws. The one relating to Cities, Towns, and Districts is Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 39, Section 23B. Some terms are defined in Chapter 39, Section 23A.

The Attorney General has issued a set of guidelines on interpreting and applying the Open Meeting Law.

There is case law referred to in the Attorney General's guidelines which specifies that committees (or subcommittees), created by an agency that is itself subject to the Law, are also subject to the Law, even if they are only advisory committees. [See Nigro v. Conservation Commission of Canton, 17 Mass. App. Ct.433 (1984).] As stated in the Attorney General's guidelines:
The fact that the jurisdiction of the subcommittee or special purpose committee extends only to making recommendations to the parent governmental body does not render the Law inapplicable.
What to Look For

This Law is there to protect the public... including you. Here are the specifics of what you should expect for how meetings are conducted when an agency -- or a committee or task force established by it -- is subject to the Law:
  1. All meetings are open to the public.
  2. All meetings are announced to the public at least 48 hours in advance, where Sundays do not count.
  3. All meetings have agendas likewise announced at least 48 hours in advance.
  4. Summaries of all meetings will be taken, and made available to the public upon request. A reasonable time frame is 2-4 weeks to write and approve the summaries, and 10 days to respond to a public request for the document.
  5. A quorum of committee members is half, unless the committee otherwise issues instructions in advance.
  6. The committee may not enter into Executive Session, except for nine (9) narrow reasons. Basically, the reasons are so limited that it is unlikely that an advisory committe or task force would ever have justification to enter into Executive Session.
  7. If desiring to enter into Executive Session, this must be preceded by a public meeting in which the reason for doing so is given, discussed, and a roll call vote is taken by the members.
  8. Summaries of Executive Session also must be written down. They are to be released to the public once the reason for entering Executive Session no longer applies.
What you cannot expect is the opportunity for the public to talk at an open meeting. The committee itself decides who they recognize to speak at their meetings, and no time is required to be set aside for public comment. The exceptions to this, for example, are the public meetings that are required to be held in direct response to each regulatory filing under Article 80. Most task force meetings are not in this latter category.

What to Do If There is a Violation

The District Attorney is charged with enforcing this Law (for Cities, Towns, and Districts). Members of the public who believe that the Law has been violated should contact the District Attorney's office; the Appellate Division usually handles the inquiries. Alternatively, three members of the public may file suit in court. A court may issue an order invalidating any action taken at a meeting that violates the Law, but it is necessary for the complaint to be registered within 21 days of public knowledge of the infraction. Court hearings on Open Meeting Law cases are required to be on an expedited timetable.

Since I have been involved in this to some extent recently, I encourage members of the public who believe the Law may have been violated by one of the task forces to contact me to discuss the issue. Research I have done into the public watchdog groups indicates that most violations are inadvertent: a particular committee does not realize that they are subject to the Open Meeting Law, or they do not know what actions they are required to follow to be in compliance.

More Information

More information can be found at the Massachusetts Common Cause website for their project, "Massachusetts Campaign for Open Government".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Boston Marathon Trudges Through Brighton

Yesterday's 111th running of the Boston Marathon had better weather during the race than anticipated. The pace was, nonetheless, slow for all categories. The lead men were still in a 5-man bunch by the time they passed us in Cleveland Circle -- the lead group is usually split up through the Four Hills of Newton.

(Photo: Boston Globe / John Tlumacki)

Crowds were also thin. The spectators at Cleveland Circle can be 4-5 people deep during good weather, but they were only one-deep (at best) yesterday.

Race officials were effective at directing the wheelchair athletes safely across the tracks at Cleveland Circle, but one cyclist was observed to fall while negotiating the tracks at too shallow an angle. In case you're wondering, bicycles are theoretically not allowed on the course.

The six-time wheelchair winner, Ernst Van Dyk, failed to defend his title, being blown away by mile 4. Newton wasn't nice to him: he hit a deep pothole, blew one tire, and knocked the other wheel off his chair (which he was able to repair). I think Newton needs to work on their roads a bit more...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Brighton Community Builds Consensus on BC Expansion Plans

The first meeting of the grassroots, unaffiliated group, the "Boston College Neighbors Forum," occurred on Thursday, April 12. Approximately 65 residents attended.

The goals of the meeting were:
  1. Let all the voices of the community be heard.
  2. Build community consensus on one or more topics.
  3. Draft joint letters to the BC Task Force, BRA, BC, and elected officials to convey if consensus were reached on any topic.
Twenty-four possible consensus statements were considered, and seven were adopted. A number of other consensus statements appeared to be within reach, but were deferred to a future meeting pending additional information, additional discussion, or improved wording.

Two letters were drafted to include the consensus statements reached at the meetings. Attendees were free to sign onto the letters at the meeting; other members of the community are invited to join, too, following instructions below.

Letter #1 was drafted in response to BC's proposal to demolish three houses at 188-192-196 Foster Street, and build 70 beds of seminarian, townhouse-style housing on the 5-acre property currently designated as "open space."
To sign onto letter #1, send an email by clicking here.

Letter #2 was drafted in response to BC's proposals for building and demolishing undergraduate housing, and particularly addressed the issue of putting two of those undergraduate dormitories in the "Brighton Campus" (the former Archdiocese property aka "St. John's Seminary grounds"). It also deals with issues of open space, since the property is currently a Conservation Protection Subdistrict zoning overlay.
To sign onto letter #2, send an email by clicking here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cute children with Easter egg stash

See the cute picture from The Bulletin Newspapers of last Saturday's Easter Egg Hunt, sponsored by St. Elizabeth's Medical Center and held at the Archdiocese's Chancery.

Boston Marathon on Monday

The 111th Boston Marathon will be traversing across part of Brighton this coming Monday, April 16, 2007 (Patriot's Day).

Changes from previous years:
  • Race now starts at 10:00 am (not noon)!
  • Dick and Rick Hoyt are not participating
Other changes from last year(s) that carry over:
  • Wheelchair Start: 35 minutes earlier than the main field (i.e., 9:25 am)
  • Elite Women's Start: 25 minutes earlier than the main field (i.e., 9:35 am)
  • Main field broken into two start times:
    • Elite Men + main field wave 1 at 10:00am
    • Main field wave 2 at 10:30 am
Where is the best place to view the race?

The course passes through Brighton for miles 21.4 (BC Green Line T Station) to 22.3 (Cleveland Circle). Both of those are popular places to view the race. Cleveland Circle has occasionally witnessed wheelchair crashes when crossing the train tracks -- unless they need medical attention, please do not assist the wheelchair athletes back onto their chairs, or else they will be disqualified!

Another great place to watch is at the beginning of Heartbreak Hill in Newton -- approximately mile 20.2 on the course -- at the corner of Comm. Ave and Grant Ave (500 Commonwealth Ave, Newton). You'll see the wheelchair racers making their move and breaking free from each other as they go up the hill. Lots of runners will need cheers to carry on up the hill.

Course map can be found here (PDF).

When will the athletes be arriving at these locations?

The 35-K (21.75 mile) mark is near the intersection of Comm Ave and Wade Street / Foster Street, i.e., halfway between the BC T station and Cleveland Circle.

Here are expected arrival times for the lead competitors in each category:


and the last official competitors to come through should be at 3:29 pm (who started at 10:30 am and are on a pace of 13:45/mi to finish in exactly six hours).

The biggest pack of runners will be coming through 12:30 - 2:00 pm.

Everything is approximately 10 minutes earlier at Heartbreak Hill (20.2 mile mark).

What could I do to help out runners?
  1. High fives
  2. Bananas (or cut in half)
  3. Petroleum jelly (for chafing)
  4. Cheer really, really loudly -- many wear names on their clothes

Thursday, April 12, 2007

BC's Edmonds Hall will "have to be torn down"

Four of Boston College's vice presidents spoke on Tuesday night about the "State of the Heights." As quoted in the BC newspaper, Executive Vice President Patrick Keating said:
"There aren't a lot of empty spots on campus so we have to build very carefully," said Keating, "Cushing, McElroy, Edmonds, the Plex, and More Hall have to be torn down. But you can't tear those down without replacements. It's a musical chairs, domino sequence."
Edmonds Hall is a 790-bed undergraduate dorm. The domino effect caused by its demolition would put a 600-bed pair of replacement undergraduate dorms into the "Brighton Campus," i.e., the former Archdiocese's property, according to BC's plans presented at previous BC Task Force meetings.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

BC Neighbors Forum: Public Meeting Thursday, April 12 at 7:00pm

BC Neighbors Forum
Public Meeting

Thursday, April 12, 2007
7:00 pm

Brighton Marine Health Center
77 Warren Street, Brighton

See below for information (click for larger version). Also see the PDF attachment to the BC Neighbors Forum available from this posting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Who Is On Those Task Forces, Anyway?

The membership of the BRA's institutional task forces is not generally known. The only way to find out who's on the task forces (other than Harvard Allston) appears to be through private contact with the BRA project manager.

Is this the way it ought to be?

For example, nowhere on the BRA's website is there a simple list of the current members of the Boston College Task Force, the Harvard Allston Task Force, the St. Elizabeth's Task Force, etc.

That said, the Harvard Allston Task Force members can be found by looking at the attendance at the top of the meeting minutes posted on the BRA's site (although you have to paste together attendance records from minutes of a few minutes to get the complete list), or on the Harvard/Allston (private university) website.

Yes, you've read that correctly: the easiest place to find the membership list of the BRA's Harvard Allston Task Force is on the institution's own website!

The BRA's St. Elizabeth's Medical Center website is recently deceased... even though it ought to still exist to show the approval status of their IMP, and the construction status of their emergency room addition. The St. Elizabeth's Medical Center Task Force never posted minutes on the BRA's website, and the institution's webpage never identified the task force members.

The Boston College Task Force (aka Allston-Brighton-Boston College Community Task Force, aka Allston-Brighton Task Force) does not yet have a BRA webpage available... presumably because they don't have any current regulatory process ongoing under the Article 80. An email query to Gerald Autler during the last month resulted in the following names for its membership:

Paul Berkeley
John Bruno
Tim Burke
Kevin Carragee
Terry Cohen
Rosie Hanlon
Tim Schofield
Janet Tambascio Fraher
Jean Woods, chair

although there are already two more (as yet unannounced) positions filled, one or more current members may be leaving, and one or more additional positions will be filled soon.

Are we from Allston-Brighton alone in this lack of information?

I couldn't find the Suffolk University Task Force on the BRA website, but googling it showed that its activities were documented (task force membership, minutes, filings, etc.) at the institution's website, a website that doesn't appear navigable to from the institution's main pages or from the BRA's.

Even if you know the members of the task forces, how would you know how to contact them? Only by contacting the BRA project manager privately, again. No task force member's contact information is listed on any of these sites. We've got only a couple of dozen task force members in all of Allston-Brighton, yet we have 70,000 residents, so there is no way that every resident can be expected to know a task force member personally.

This all sounds pretty crazy to me. I've got some concrete suggestions here:
  1. The BRA should publish, on their own website, the current membership of their official, advisory task forces.
  2. The BRA should publish, on their own website, at least one kind of contact information (email, phone, and/or mail) for each member of the task force.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Baseball Stadium: Just "Lights and Seats"

The Allston-Brighton TAB ran a story on the field vs. stadium linguistic affair, in which a BC official was quoted:
Said Tom Keady, BC’s vice president for community affairs: “The only difference between the existing field on the site and the one we’re proposing is that it will have lights and seats.” Keady noted that the conceptual design at this stage also included building an adjacent structure containing coaches’ offices, batting cages and a weight room.
Only adding lights and seats... and a 25,000+ square foot building, too.

I think he overlooked a few things. Let's list all the changes, at least those we've been told about at the most recent BC Task Force meeting (March 20, 2007, see this posting).

The proposed baseball and softball stadiums, and the multi-purpose field, will change the site in the following ways:
  1. Lights (80-foot high? [1] [2]), how many watts?
  2. Seats (2000 for baseball, 500 for softball)
  3. Field building (offices, batting cages, training and weight room, locker rooms, concessions, restrooms), approximately 25,000+ square feet
  4. Press box (baseball), maybe another for softball?
  5. Three fences, one surrounding each stadium plus the multi-purpose field, with locked gates
  6. Astroturf, instead of natural turf, on both stadiums and possibly also on the multi-purpose field
  7. One to three underground storage tanks for water runoff prevented from entering the water table due to the impervious astroturf surfaces
  8. Parking garage next door to support the usage 46,200 square feet [including roof tennis courts?], 160 parking spaces.
  9. High nets to catch foul balls to keep them from hitting Lane Park bedroom windows.
#5 means that what is currently "open space" will become "locked space," and #6 means that what is currently "green space" will become "artificial space." #8 is a consequence of BC's requirement (b) for the athletic fields (i.e., to have adjacent parking for athletic facilities) in their presentation to the task force on March 20, 2007.

Seems a little bit more complicated than just "lights and seats."

Friday, April 06, 2007

Boston Police Department "Party Line" Up and Running

The Boston Police Department just announced that they have their new "party line" up and running. A single number, 617-343-5500, is now used city-wide to complain about loud and/or after-hours parties.

Here's what they want to know when you call about a current party:
  1. address
  2. whether the party is inside or outside
  3. the floor or apartment number
  4. whether the Boston Police would be able to gain entry to the building
  5. the amount of time the party has been going on
Since 20% of the city's students live in Allston-Brighton, I can imagine our neighborhood will be among the most active users of the number.

Easter Egg Hunt: Saturday April 7th

St. Elizabeth's Medical Center is hosting the annual Easter Egg Hunt this Saturday, April 7th (rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain, fog, or shine).

The location this year will be the Archdiocese's Chancery at 2121 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton. (The usual location is about to become a construction site.)

The festivities kick off with a toddler hunt at 9:30 am (under three years old).

The all-out egg hunt for children age three and over begins at 10:00 am.

Here's a picture of the mayhem from last year:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Zoning... Yawn?

We don't normally think of zoning issues as exciting. But they're pretty important for what people can do with the property they own, be it residential, commercial, institutional, etc.

A nice, though far from exhaustive, discussion of institutional-related Article 80 zoning issues in Boston can be found recently in the BC_Neighbors_Forum, particularly as these relate to BC's master planning process.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Will Newton's Own Development Pave the Way for BC's Master Plan?

A March 27, 2007 editorial in the BC newspaper, "The Allston-Brighton-Boston-Newton College's The Heights," discusses the City of Newton's plan to build a parking garage in Newton Center:
"Apparently a five-story parking garage is not too tall. Needless to say, if these proposals for Newton Centre are accepted, the city of Newton will have little grounds for denying BC the buildings that will be a part of the upcoming campus masterplan."
While the editorial does go on to ask Newton to "carefully consider this proposal," the editorial provides a justification for BC's master plans (in Newton) based on Newton Center's development project located a mile or so away.

I think that the editors at the newspaper may need a little education on zoning. A structure that is perfectly suited to one site can be wrong for another. We don't build the Prudential Center in Brighton Center, for example, nor do we build student dormitories in the middle of Boston Common. The neighborhood bordering BC's proposed buildings in the upper campus needs to be considered when evaluating if the proposal is appropriate; likewise, the shopping district bordering Newton's proposed parking structure in Newton Center needs to be considered when addressing its appropriateness.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Baseball Field? Or Stadium?

At the March 20, 2007 meeting of the BC Task Force, the BC presenters (and their planning associates from Sasaki) repeatedly referred to the baseball thing they wanted to build on the former Archdiocese property as a baseball "field," despite the fact that it would include 2000-seats for spectators. The same terminology of "field" was used for the 500-seat softball "field" and the no-seat "multipurpose-field."

A member of the public queried them directly on this linguistic usage, to which they replied (approximately): "You say stadium, I say field. OK."

A simple definition of stadium found on the web is: "A large, usually open structure for sports events with tiered seating for spectators." Their proposal sure sounds like a stadium to any reasonable person with basic knowledge of the english language.

Why did they use the term "baseball field" instead of the obvious "baseball stadium"?

The site of their proposed baseball stadium/field is classified by the underlying (or "base") zoning as "CPS" (Conservation Protection Subdistrict):

Here is an extract of the zoning from Article 51's Table A, where the letters under column "CPS" refer to "A" (allowed), "C" ("conditional"-ly allowed), and "F" (forbidden):

Even if BC were to claim that the former Archdiocesan property were to be now included as part of the BC institutional subdistrict overlay (a highly questionable assertion and an involved subject that will be addressed in future postings!!!), it wouldn't matter: Article 51, Table C, which spells out the zoning for BC's institutional subdistrict, has the same use limitations on "stadium" versus "grounds for sports, private."

See the obvious thing here? A "stadium" is "F" (or "Forbidden") in a CPS zoned site (or BC institutional subdistrict), while "grounds for sports, private" (fenced-in field) is "C" (or "Conditionally-allowed").

The BC planners and their associates appear to be deliberately using the term "field" instead of "stadium" in order to slip a forbidden use under the zoning code through a conditionally-allowed use.

Instead of deliberately obfuscating the issue, BC's planners should be straight-forward with the BRA, the Zoning Board, and the A-B community by using the terms "baseball stadium" and "softball stadium," since the term stadium is a specific and technical one. The term has a clear meaning within the zoning for the site, and has direct consequences on the allowed uses for the site. Since their upcoming IMPNF (and project PNFs) will generally require regulatory approval of the Zoning Board, this means that their proposals are fundamentally related to zoning issues. They should use the zoning term "stadium" correctly in their public filings and presentations to the public. And I hope they are up-front in the future by declaring that they will need to seek a zoning variance to build a baseball stadium on the site.

For everyone in the Allston-Brighton community: we should always use the term "stadium" when referring to the proposed baseball and softball construction projects, and we should hold BC to that standard, too.

See this previous post for a figure which shows where these various "fields" are proposed to be sited.

The BRA's website has the zoning code including maps.