Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Councilor Sam Yoon Responds to the Brighton Centered Questionnaire

Councilor Sam Yoon responded to the Brighton Centered questionnaire for the candidates for Boston City Councilor-At-Large.
  1. QUESTION: If you could reverse one decision made by the City Council in the last five years, what would it be and why?

    RESPONSE: Although I was not on the Council at the time of this vote, I am certainly aware of the impacts of the decision by the City Council to approve extensions for the Urban Renewal plans and thus giving up oversight from the City Council. This vote decreased the accountability that the Boston Redevelopment Authority had to the City Council around development decisions in much of the city. This is certainly the City Council decision I would most like to reverse in the last 5 years.

  2. QUESTION: What specific changes do you think should be made to Article 80 of the zoning code?

    RESPONSE: The Article 80 process, while well intentioned, is limited as the process which gives the community a voice in development. I would like to see the current Article 80 process improved. Right now residents can comment on a project but that is as far as it goes, there is nothing that requires the developer to listen to the community. Additionally, there is very little accountability for ensuring that developers keep promises made to the community during this process. A perfect example of this is Harvard’s Science Complex. While this project went through a complete Article 80 process it was clear to me that the concerns of the community were not addressed.

    There need to be incentives to encourage or require developers and the BRA to take a more serious look at the concerns of the community. As someone who worked in community development in Chinatown I understand the importance of building trust between the developers and the community so that the development reflects a shared vision for the neighborhood. This is something that has yet to happen in Allston/Brighton, and without a way to hold a developer accountable to the community, it will be a very difficult task.

  3. QUESTION: Vancouver, British Columbia, requires 25% of their new housing stock built downtown to be “family-friendly.” What is your vision of the specific design elements that would make housing “family-friendly,” and should Boston adopt a similar requirement?

    RESPONSE: I am very impressed with the initiative that the city of Vancouver is taking around family-friendly housing. Developing workforce housing for families is a challenge for every major city. As chair of the Housing Committee for the City Council, I know it is a challenge to get developers to build family housing as the space that would be used for a 3rd or 4th bedroom could be used to build another unit – therefore more profitable for the builder. I have two young children myself so I understand the needs of a growing family. My vision of family friendly housing revolves around three key pillars: space, public amenities and affordability.

    You cannot raise a family in a one-bedroom condominium or a studio apartment and I constantly hear from families in Boston struggling to find appropriate housing. The City must find ways to encourage developers to build units with multiple bedrooms and more square-footage. Developers need to contribute more to enhancing public spaces. One reason families are moving downtown in Vancouver is the close proximity of everything to where they live. Everything from parks to grocery stores to daycare centers and schools is within walking distance of the family’s home. Finally we need to look at the affordability of living downtown. Again, as a father of two young children I realize the expenses that come with having a young family. Right now housing is too expensive for people all over Boston, not just families. One of the issues I ran on in 2005 and I have worked on during my two years in office is increasing the affordability of housing for all residents of Boston regardless of the neighborhood.

    As it pertains to Boston I would support such a measure. I would like to see more of the students who attend college in Boston stay and raise a family here. This could mean promoting family friendly housing downtown. I would be supportive of learning more about Vancouver’s initiative and how it would work in Boston.

  4. QUESTION: Some people have proposed that the BPS return to “neighborhood” or “community” schools. Do you support such a proposal? How would such a move impact the achievement gap?  

    RESPONSE: I support the movement toward community and neighborhood schools so long as a every school aged child in every neighborhood has access to a quality school. In schools all across the city, I am seeing families, parents and the community invest energy, volunteer time and interest in their neighborhood school. Education quality and school pride are vastly increased by this investment. I am working to find ways to support parents who want to become active in their child’s school, by increasing the number of Family Community Outreach Coordinators (FCOC’s) and pushing for paid leave time for working parents to visit at their child’s school. Unfortunately, not all schools are functioning at the level or achieving the results we seek for our children and so we have work to do before implementing an overhaul of our school assignment plan based on strictly walk-to schools.

  5. QUESTION: Should Boston College be required to house all of their undergraduate students in on-campus dormitories? If so, where should the dormitories be located? On their 'Brighton Campus' (land recently purchased from the Archdiocese of Boston), on their 'Main Campus,' or both?  

    RESPONSE: As for the students who live off-campus, and you will always have some, I believe we should work on developing relationships between the community and Boston College. While Boston College students may be students of the university, they are also residents of the neighborhood and need to behave as such. Mission Hill, which is home to Northeastern University has worked for years to cultivate this relationship. While it is not perfect, Northeastern University’s town-grown relationship is years ahead of Boston College. There needs to be clearly defined expectations of students that are drawn up between the college and the community (including D-14) and clear consequences for those students who do not meet the expectations.

  6. QUESTION: Have you ever used the Mayor's 24-Hour Constituent Service hotline, either the phone number or the online version? Is it an effective tool for delivering constituent services? What, if anything, would you change about it?  

    RESPONSE: I use the Mayor’s 24-Hour hotline frequently, and like the Article 80 process mentioned above, it is a good idea that needs improvement. Last year I had the opportunity to tour the 311 call center in Somerville and I was amazed. Unlike Boston’s hotline, in Somerville there is a state-of-the-art, centralized accountability system. Callers can track their requests from the time they are made to the time of completion using modern customer service technology developed from the private sector. All of this information is open and available to anybody with the internet. I believe that residents should have direct access to their city government, especially when it comes to concrete quality of life issues. The mayor’s hotline is not utilized nearly as much as it could, but wholesale improvements would have to be made before its potential is fully realized.

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