When faced with the wide range of challenges that we have in Allston and Brighton, we need residents and our elected officials using every possible mechanism to improve our community. One seldom-used "lever" is our elected officials power to file legislation, and it is interesting to see what legislation is being filed by elected officials who represent other parts of the City and State.
Many Allston and Brighton residents are not happy with the Charlesview proposal for the site between Soldiers Field Road, Telford St, and Western Ave. That the building was first proposed to have 118 units in a 10 story building and is now proposed to be 85 feet (7 stories) tall with 80 units is little solace. The building, in either form, will have an impact on both Western Ave and the Artesani Playground / Herter Park portion of the Charles River.
While the Allston/Brighton elected officials have written letters to the BRA and attended meetings about this project, in a different part of Boston the elected officials are doing something more.
Reps. Marty Walz, Byron Rushing, and Senator Anthony Petrucelli have sponsored H.R. 853 which would prevent any new construction that would cast a shadow on the "Charles River Esplanade, Christopher Columbus Park, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, Magazine Beach Park, or Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway."
The prohibition on Charles River shadows would not apply to the Allston/Brighton section of the river, as the “Charles River Esplanade” is defined as "the land in the city of Boston bounded by the Charles River Dam, the Boston University Bridge, so called, the Charles River, Embankment Road, and James Jackson Storrow Memorial Drive."
Real estate agent John Keith thinks this legislation is a bad idea, while the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay is rallying its members to support it. In the abstract I'd agree with John that centralizing planning authority - moving it from the City to the State - might not be the way to go. But in reality, the BRA has proven itself to be no advocate for the Allston/Brighton community and unwilling to do the type of planning and zoning that we need to balance the interests of residents, developers, and the City. So anything that shifts power away from the BRA is at least worth considering.
Whether or not this specific piece of legislation is good or bad, it is refreshing to see elected officials doing everything in their power - pulling all the levers - to advance their cause. Even if the legislation doesn't pass, it certainly could create some negotiating power. Just think of the reaction if this legislation was amended to extend its reach along the Charles River to the Western Ave / Arsenal St bridge that connects North Brighton and Watertown!