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Rowe St proposal_streetviewTonight’s meeting about the proposed 150-unit 40B project for 70 Rowe Street attracted a large crowd to the Turtle Lane Playhouse, where representatives from the Planning Department, and developer Scott Oran of Dinosaur Capital Partners, himself a resident of West Newton, gave presentations and fielded questions.

I was not taking copious notes, as I was doing my best to capture the feel of the meeting in tweets and Tout video clips (limited to 1-minute), which you can find here.

The overriding concern was the density, while a number of people voiced support for affordable housing itself.Rowe St_meeting_crowd

I think the dominant concern about the number of units was the impact on traffic, particularly on Rowe Street, which would be the entrance and exit from the project — not Webster Street. Although as one resident pointed out, the added cars won’t just end up on Commonwealth Ave, but go in all directions. There was particular concern about the effect on the already overburdened, underpoliced and dysfunctional intersection of Wolcott and Lexington Streets. Developer Scott Oran pointed out that the White construction company traffic would be eliminated, but conceded that 6am construction vehicle traffic would likely be replaced by rush hour traffic.

There was cynicism about past traffic promises, and skepticism about future projections. No traffic study has been done yet. The 150 units would have 1.25 parking spaces per unit, if I recall correctly (I’m not sure if that’s the market units or an overall average). Oran said the affordable units would only have one parking space each, because ‘people living in affordable housing don’t have more than one car.’ (Huh???)

Rowe St_proposal_aerialThere was also much skepticism about projections for only 34 children (and something like 29 going to public schools), concern about what the actual impact on schools would be, and bafflement at why impact on schools cannot be taken into consideration. (That’s the way 40B was written, folks. If you’re not happy, take it up with our Statehouse delegation.) One parent noted at the beginning of the meeting that tonight was Burr School 5th grade graduation, and a big Little League night, and if not for that, there would probably have been 20 more families represented at the meeting.

I asked whether the affordable units would be guaranteed to be affordable in perpetuity. Oran said they would be have to be affordable for 30 years, which was as good as perpetuity as far as he was concerned. But we know that’s not really true. Hey, I’m 59. I remember being 29. Thirty years can go by pretty fast.

If the affordable 20% of the apartments drop off the inventory in 30 years, the entire 150 units  would still be in the denominator, but no longer in the numerator, of the affordable-to-total housing unit ratio, making it ever more difficult to achieve and maintain the 10% ratio that would free Newton of the threat of 40B being used to build oversized market-rate houses.

Anyone else who was there at the meeting, jump in with whatever I’ve missed.


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