Org changes for Harvard's Allston planning

Back in 2006, Harvard's Allston Development Group was separated from the group planning everything else at Harvard. Since then, the ADG has been reporting directly to Harvard's President.

But like so much else related to Harvard's plans for Allston, this organizational structure is now changing as the 2 planning groups are being put back together in a group that will report to Harvard's new EVP.

Note that the Science Complex or anything else in Allston is not included in the "huge projects" upcoming for Harvard.

President Faust's perspective - Harvard Magazine
"capital planning for construction projects will be consolidated by combining the Allston Development Group and the University planning staff, and coordinating those efforts with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ real-estate organization. (Harvard and FAS face huge projects such as the renovation of the Fogg Art Museum and the multiyear, billion-dollar-plus renovation of the undergraduate Houses.)"
Katherine N. Lapp named Harvard executive vice president — The Harvard University Gazette, August 20, 2009

She will oversee the financial, administrative, human resources, and capital planning functions of the central administration, as well as administrative aspects of information technology.

Cops at Smith Field

There is a Boston police woman at Smith Field this morning casting a disapproving eye on dogs off leash.

Charlesview meeting video

Thank you to Galen Mook for recording last week's Charlesview meeting. Also, thanks to candidate for Mayor Kevin McCrea for speaking up at the meeting to help allow the taping to be done. In this letter to Mayor Menino, Kevin explains why the importance of having access to what is said at these meetings. I don't think the BRA takes minutes at these meetings and when major, neighborhood-changing development is at stake, we all should have an incontrovertible record of what was said by the developers, BRA, and other who support, oppose, and what to see changes to what is proposed.

For example, several neighbors have asked me what City Councilor Mark Ciommo said at the meeting. I don't think it is fair to try to recall the specifics via memory, and this is just one example of the value of the recording.

I will try to go through the video to note when particularly interesting things were said, but in the meantime you can watch the 2 hour unedited meeting below.

A/B email groups

Some neighbors have asked about how to be more informed and involved with various things happening in Allston and Brighton. We have two email groups to help with that.

AllstonBrighton2006 - issues, events, and conversation relevant to neighbors across Allston and Brighton
Join by sending an email to

ABNNF (Allston Brighton North Neighbors Forum) - Focuses on issues and activities in North Allston and North Brighton (the part of those neighborhoods north of the Mass Pike)
Join by sending an email to

At the web site of each group you can set your email preferences so you get at most one email per day.

5 zone BPS plan is history

I still think that an Allston/Brighton school zone would be a very good thing for Allston & Brighton, but apparently nothing is changing any time soon.

Boston shelves five-zone school assignment plan - The Boston Globe

Cancel any outdoor plans you might have for Saturday evening

Tropical Storm DANNY is coming

Fake tickets for N Harvard St bike lane violators

If the enforcement notice in the photo is correct, we only have to deal with one more week of bike lane parking restriction non-enforcement.

BU Bikes » Bike Lane Enforcement On North Harvard Ave.

Mayoral debate postponed

Mayoral debate postponed as state mourns for Kennedy - The Boston Globe

Almost time to get out the balloons

As neighbors in Allston and Brighton have suggested that more housing should be developed on more of Harvard's blighted property, Harvard has replied the "economy" just isn't strong enough. So it is encouraging that respected economists, including one of Harvard's top housing experts, are finding significant improvement in the Greater Boston housing market.

Reports suggest Mass. home buyers overcoming qualms - The Boston Globe

“This could be the beginning of the end’’ of the slump, said Nicolas Retsinas, director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “It’s not quite the ninth inning - it’s the eighth inning. We’re close but not quite ready to get out the balloons.’’

While at the Joint Center for Housing Studies website I noticed a new report, "America's Rental Housing: The Key to a Balanced National Policy" by Harvard's real estate researchers. They write:

"The clustering of lowest-income and assisted renter households imposes a host of social and economic disadvantages on these groups. Among other impacts, these settlement patterns reinforce the spatial isolation of the poor, foster racial segregation, discourage investment in lower-income communities, and contribute to higher rates of crime, teen pregnancy, and school dropouts."

But Charlesview and the BRA continue to seem dearly attached to the idea of clustering low income apartments in a new Charlesview. Go figure.

Candidates for Mayor debate in Allston tonight

Much at stake for Menino in debate - The Boston Globe

Tonight, 7 p.m.

Kevin McCrea on the Charlesview meeting

Kevin McCrea for Mayor: BRA still lying to the public and trying to evade transparency

Standing room only at last night's Charlesview meeting

Thank you to the more than 100 neighbors who packed the BRA's Charlesview meeting last night where there was no air conditioning and only enough chairs for fewer than 1/2 the people who attended. We delivered a clear message that the proposal can be greatly improved if Harvard allows development on more of its vacant and underused property.

Coincidentally, Mayor Menino's spokewoman is quoted in today's Globe commenting:

"He’s made it quite clear that community involvement is number one, and always
has been, and buildings need to be in keeping with the neighborhood in which
they reside"

Charlesview meeting TONIGHT, 6:30, 367 Western Ave

While most of us need to breath every few seconds, the free divers profiled in the New Yorker can dive hundreds of feet below the surface while holding their breath for several minutes.

Most people care about their quality of life today and tomorrow and parents may think 10 or 20 years ahead about where they will raise their children. But a unique type of institution can, like the free divers, live for much longer periods of time through conditions that would be disastrous for most everyone else.

Here in Allston and Brighton, Harvard is the "deep diver" staying far below the surface and out of sight while we try to build a more livable neighborhood now. Maybe Harvard can survive decades of blight and decay at its A/B property, but its hard for those of us with a human-paced metabolism and time horizon to thrive with these surroundings.

So at tonight's meeting I hope we encourage Harvard to come up to the surface where the rest of us live. Our near-term success can no longer be ignored by Harvard as it assembles a real estate portfolio to support a 100 or 200 year master plan. Plans for the next decade and century don't have to be mutually exclusive, and the best plan for Charlesview, Brighton Mills, and the rest of our community can only be built if Harvard allows much more development than is currently proposed.

Harvard should deliver on promises for Charlesview

Check out this great op-ed in the A/B TAB about Harvard responsibility to provide more land to allow a better new Charlesview to be built.

Jason Benzaken: Harvard should deliver on promises for Charlesview - Allston/Brighton TAB

And please join us at the BRA's public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the Brighton Resource Center, 367 Western Ave.

Monday - The Most Important Meeting of the Year!

It is hard to overstate the importance of Monday's meeting about the relocation and expansion of Charlesview to the Brighton Mills Shopping Center.

Monday - 6:30 - Allston/Brighton Resource Center - 367 Western Ave (across from the Brighton Mills Shopping Center)

We have two choices:

1) Accept what has been proposed: a segregated, mid-rise housing project that ignores decades of research and experience about how to build the best communities, that includes a tiny patch of parkland for ~800 residents in a neighborhood already badly lacking greenspace, and that will further destabilize our neighborhood because of its lack of homeownership and over-reliance on small 1 bedroom units.

2) Show up on Monday, spread the word to your neighbors, speak up, and insist on a much better, more integrated, modern development with a balance of housing for people across the entire income spectrum, with generous parks, an appropriate mix of family-sized units, more retail, and everything else that strong, diverse, and thriving communities have.

What has been proposed grossly exceeds what the City's zoning code allows. The City and developer want your support to justify the requested zoning relief. But why should we support a deficient proposal when it could be so much better?

Think we are too weak and ineffective to make a difference? We made a difference last year when Charlesview so urgently insisted that they needed their previous proposal to be immediately approved. Our community stood up and insisted on a better proposal, and as a result Harvard provided more land and the proposal has improved. It needs a lot more improvement, but history proves our ability to move the project in the right direction.

So please come together for a couple hours on Monday evening with your neighbors who care about the future of our community. Together our firm and reasonable resolve will make a better neighborhood for all.

N Harvard bike lane update

Yesterday on a bike ride to Harvard Sq I noticed 30 cars parked illegally in the new bike lane on the northbound side of North Harvard Street. Tow Zone signs have been posted for several days, but enforcement has not begun. I called the City's Transportation Hotline and was told that they are giving people the opportunity to "get used to" the new regulations and that "it wouldn't be fair" to ticket the cars so soon after the new parking restriction.

I was told that it would probably be early September when the enforcement would begin. For any type of transportation question or comment you can call the Transportation Hotline at 617 635 3125.

Thanks to Everett St weeders

Thanks to everyone who braved the heat last night to join us on the Everett Street slope. We pulled some weeds, did a lot of much-needed watering, and helped keep it looking green and attractive. Both meeting new neighbors and having regular participants return is a big part of what makes this project so much fun!

Charlesview scoping session no-shows

Yesterday the BRA held a "scoping session" meeting for City agencies and members of the Impact Advisory Group to learn about the current Charlesview proposal and ask the developer questions. It is perfectly understandable that none of the community members who are volunteering their time to serve on the IAG were able to make this 10am meeting in City Hall.

But I was surprised and disappointed that Public Works was the only City agency represented at the meeting. Nobody from the Parks Department was there, nobody from the Transportation Department was there, nobody from the Environment Department was there, etc. These people work just a few floors below the 9th floor where the meeting was held, but for some reason these departments couldn't find anyone available to make the elevator trip upstairs to be part of the review of one of the largest developments that will ever happen in this part of Boston.

Upcoming zoning hearing

422 Cambridge Street - Replace existing billboard with new digital/electronic billboard

All the cranes are gone

and the sky is gray
I've been for a walk
on an August day

Harvard didn't tell us
They would leave this way
Science Complex dreamin'
on such a quiet day

(with apologies to the Mama's and Papa's)

Everett St on Tuesday evening

The Allston Brighton North Neighbors Forum (ABNNF) is organizing an evening of weeding, planting, and pruning on the Everett St slope between Lincoln and Adamson Streets. We will work from 6 to dusk and look forward to helping the site look even better.

Karen Chase from CityRoots will join us to teach proper pruning technique and help us consider what is a weed to pull and what we should let grow.

Last month a dozen neighbors helped make the slope look so much better! It would be great to have as many (if not more) people on Tuesday.

Obama & ABNNF share goal of integration

The Obama administration on Monday signed a major desegregation agreement with one of America's richest counties for the construction of new affordable housing.

"This is consistent with the president's desire to see a fully integrated society," said Ron Sims, the deputy secretary of housing and urban development.

Bringing low and mid-income folks to the fanciest towns is one way to move towards this goal. But we can't reach a "fully integrated society" without also integrating neighborhoods like Allston that are currently at the lower-income end of the spectrum.

One way to do this is to have new developments like the new Charlesview do better than build a low-rise housing project for several hundred tenants to live in economic segregation. A real mixed-income community, with more than a token handful of market-rate apartments, would be an appropriate way for Harvard to honor the goal of its graduate in the Oval Office and for Charlesview to become a leader in 21st century housing instead of clinging so desperately to the old and discredited idea of segregation.

Back to White

Apparently the new mural on Lincoln Street may not be there for much longer.

That Hottness Boston Lifestyle Blog » X-Men Mural In Allston Getting Whitewashed?

Sam Yoon Town Hall Meeting

At-large City Councilor and candidate for Mayor Sam Yoon is coming to Brighton next Thursday for a town hall meeting. Regardless of whether or not you are inclined to vote for Yoon, it could be an interesting opportunity to learn more about his ideas, the ideas and concerns of your neighbors, and important local issues like the proposals for a Lowe's on Guest Street and a 360-unit new Charlesview. Who knows, maybe there will even be "sparks" like at the Yoon meeting last month in Dorchester.

Thursday, August 13
Elks Lodge, 326 Washington Street, Brighton

Michael Flaherty on Harvard's Hole

Candidate for Mayor Michael Flaherty met with some local bloggers today (not including this one) and had this to say about the situation here in Allston. I'd add that Harvard's Hole isn't really much of a hole anymore, since the below-grade work seems to be largely complete. But Harvard Hole does sound better than Harvard Slab. And I haven't seen any giant rats recently, but there seems to be no shortage of little ones.

Michael Flaherty on Downtown Crossing as a war zone, the police commissioner and speaking up Universal Hub
He added the same [performance bonds] would apply to the Harvard hole in Allston, "one of the largest holes in New England," and the end result of years of Harvard misleading the community under Menino and the BRA. "It's a gaping hole and rats, probably the size of small dogs, are literally taking over Allston."

Send your support for A/B Commuter Rail

Having the commuter rail stop in Allston or Brighton would be wonderful for this neighborhood in so many ways, so I hope you will join me in taking a few minutes to write a letter to support this valuable project.

The State Office of Transportation gave this presentation on June 15 explaining that a station location would be chosen based on design feasibility, expected ridership, connectivity with other transportation, local impacts, and cost. Based on this, a station at either Cambridge St (Sports Depot area) or Everett St (near the Stop & Stop) was recommended.

If you want the train to stop for us, please write to Secretary James Aloisi by Friday August 7. All letters should be sent to:

Secretary James Aloisi
The Executive Office of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3170
Boston, MA 02116

Allston Brighton Commuter Rail Analysis

New Brighton Lowe's proposed

Two years ago, Lowe's proposed a 190,000 sq ft store at the site of the former Barry Controls building on Guest St between New Balance and Stop & Shop. That proposal was killed by opposition to its expected traffic impact, so now Lowe's is back with at 140,000 sq ft proposal that they claim will have "no adverse impacts".

Lowe’s has another go at it -

City mailing duplication & BRA email notification

I got two different pieces of postal mail from City Hall today, one for zoning variance hearings and one for historical commission hearings. Made me think that the City could save some $ by centralizing these mailings and sending no more than 1 envelope per week with announcement from any agencies that have them. At $0.41 each, these things do add up.

To get email from the Boston Redevelopment Authority for community meetings specific to A/B or any other neighborhood, go to

Parking lot BBQ - Better than an empty CITGO

More than a month ago, Harvard staff and a consultant came to the Allston Civic Association with an exciting update that Harvard was getting closer to finding a tenant for its vacant CITGO station. Today, there is no visible sign of progress in Barry's Corner, and hopefully we are more likely to see result now than 15 months ago when Harvard also told us that they were "working with a leasing agent for the CITGO property. Actively showing the site to interested retailers. Targeting restaurants."

On my commute home from Waltham to Allston I have noticed a new small business that shows the potential of Harvard property like its CITGO station and other buildings where some creativity could bring us something a lot better than what Western Ave has now.

Silk Road BBQ is a portable roadside grill that cooks and sells their food on most afternoons, operating out of the parking lot at 395 Trapelo Rd in Belmont, the former home of Gullotti's Auto Repair. They get rave reviews on Yelp and run a clever website. As the photos show, the location couldn't be much less inviting - there isn't a ton of foot traffic and the site isn't beautiful. But it is good enough for these guys to have run a business there for the past several months, serving good food to appreciative customers.

If something like this can work in a Belmont parking lot, it can work on Western Ave if Harvard is willing to try.