Redesign delayed ouncil will be taking more time on the zoning redraft for the whole city—it just became increasingly clear to the Zoning and Planning Committee chair, Susan Albright, and the Planning Department that we could not complete this work before the end of the year.
While this will mean slightly more focus on the vision and planning for Washington Street, the Redesign work will continue. A quick recap of the goals of this work: Match the city as it is (currently 85% of residences are non-conforming) Reduce tear-downs Advance goals like responding to climate change and housing diversity and affordability
Build-out analysis The build-out analysis (read the full report here looked at the maximum amount of square footage (bulk) that could be allowed under the February (2019) version of the draft zoning code, as well as the maximum number of units. Remember, these are unlikely scenarios: Under our 60-year-old zoning, in the neighborhoods, Newton owners are allowed to build 2,000 more units than have been built today, and have created only about half as much total bulk as is allowed in residences.*
What we learned It appears that the current Newton trend is to buy 2 family homes and convert them to single-families (data is still coming in). Two-thirds of Newton’s 1 & 2-family homes were built before 1941 (first adoption of the current neighborhood zoning)
What makes a tear-down?—As we currently understand--for the most part--properties will only be bought on spec and torn down if the replacement home can be at least 3,800 sf (including a 2-3 car garage) and resold for at least 2.4x the price of the original property. To put that in perspective, look at the dimensions of your own house.
The good news-much of the city becomes much more tear down resistant under the February version. Homes built under this code will be smaller and cover less of the lot than is now allowed.
* Whether to place emphasis on number of units (which if pushed lower could create larger individual apartments) or size of units (which if pushed lower increases the number)
*Whether to insist that buildings include off-street parking in neighborhoods near village centers
*Whether to allow larger lots to be split into smaller ones, and how many/what size
*Whether to retain single-family zoning or allow splitting small “house B” type residences to contain two units
40B news Council was informed early February that city calculations determined Newton has moved even further from meeting the “safe harbor” for 40B—the anti-snob-zoning provision that allows multi family housing that meets a 20 or 25% minimum of units affordable to low and moderate income households.
Each municipality in Massachusetts needs to either have more than 10% of units deemed affordable by the Department of Housing and Community Development OR 1.5% of developable land occupied by affordable units.
Until Newton reaches either goal, developers can build housing projects that meet the 40B requirements and ignore most of Newton’s zoning rules. Both the numerator and the denominator in both these calculations change regularly as housing is built or as units are no longer deemed eligible for classification as “affordable.”
Good to know According to Newton’s Economic Development Director, the cafeteria at the UMass Amherst/Boston campus (former Mt. Ida) is open to the public. The Amherst cafeteria was voted best on-campus dining in the US, so it might be worth a try!
You can now text 911 from your cell phone anywhere in Massachusetts. While it’s recommended to call if you can, it’s good to know you can text if you can’t. Remember to give as much information—particularly the nature of the emergency and where it is.
Office Hours I will be at L’Aroma April 6, 10-11:30am. Come join me!
Other April Dates April brings Park Serve Day/Charles River Cleanup (4/27)--I will be helping out at Hemlock Gorge, the city treasure in Upper Falls. Cleanup starts at 10 am. Those of you wishing to honor former Councilor Brian Yates--the Friends of Hemlock Gorge is one of two charities to which he wished donations to go.
The next day is Newton Serves, when Newton neighbors pitch in to beautify the Garden City. Join me on the Quinobequin! Details here (meet us at the corner of Radcliffe Rd).
Hope to see you in the parks this month!
*Want to see all the zoning redesign documents? Link is here.