|Dear Somerville Voters, Thank you for taking the time to read through the Aldermen and Candidates for Alderman responses to our questions about affordability and development. You can see all answers on this page (truncated to 250 words) or scroll through the tabs at the bottom to find all answers from an individual candidate on one page.|
|Name:||1) The Board of Aldermen is about to consider a new draft of the Administration’s citywide zoning proposal. How can the zoning ensure that residents have a greater say in development in our neighborhoods? What concerns have you had with prior drafts? What changes will you push for in the current draft?||2) Every ward has at least one lot that has been vacant for years. What steps will you take to ensure that these sites are finally developed, and that their development meets the needs of current residents?||3) Do you support increasing the inclusionary zoning rate from 20% to 25% or higher? Please explain your answer.||4) Do you support the creation of a City Office of Housing Stability or a position in the City’s Housing Division to inform tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities, to facilitate resolution of landlord/tenant disputes, to help tenants and homeowners at risk of displacement, and to maintain data on displacement? Why or why not?||5-A) Condo conversion is a major factor in increasing rents and home sale prices. Which of the following steps do you support to help address the impact on tenants?||5-B) Explain why you chose the items you did in question 5-A, and what other steps you would propose:||6-A) The deal the Administration made with Federal Realty, which allowed them to avoid their obligations under the new Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance and to provide cash in lieu of onsite affordable housing, set a precedent. Should the new zoning allow the "cash in lieu of affordable units" option?||6-B) If cash in lieu of on-site units is an allowed practice, which of the following should be used to set the payment?||Questions 7A and 7B asked about a hypothetical ordinance requiring developers on projects that receive City funding to hire a certain percentage of Somerville residents as part of their workforce. Although we strongly support local hiring, we have learned that the reason the Board of Aldermen chose not to move forward on a local hiring ordinance in 2011 was that guidance from the Attorney General indicated that similar legislation passed in Quincy had been rejected by Federal District Court on constitutional grounds. Although it was not possible to pass "responsible employer" legislation, the BOA and Mayor subsequently supported a home rule petition, which the State Legislature ultimately approved, calling for a jobs linkage fee which commercial developers would pay in order to fund employment assistance services for Somerville residents, to help them become more competitive in the job market. Question #12 asks candidates whether they are ready to set the jobs linkage fee rate, now that the required "Nexus" study has been completed. Therefore, we deleted questions 7A and 7B.||8) How do your respective track records in addressing development and affordable housing issues set you and your opponent(s) apart?||9) We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in Somerville. What are the first 2-3 steps you will take as Alderman to make Somerville more affordable? What have you done to address the crisis in the past 2-3 years?||10-A) For Ward 1 candidates: What do you envision happening on the Cobble Hill Plaza site and how are you going to make it happen?||10-B) For Ward 2 & 3 candidates: The BOA approved Union Square zoning that included a 27-story tower and a process that is very favorable to the master developer. Now that the BOA has passed that zoning, what will you do to ensure that your constituents have a meaningful voice in the redevelopment process?||10-C) For Ward 4 candidates: What do you envision at the Star Market site and how are you going to make it happen?||11-A) Do you support the Administration’s proposal for a Community Benefits Ordinance?||11-B) Please explain why you do or do not support the Administration’s proposal for a Community Benefits Ordinance. What changes, if any, in the proposed Ordinance would you like to see?||12-A) The State Legislature enacted a Home Rule petition over a year ago allowing the City to assess commercial developers with a linkage fee that would help fund a local jobs training and job placement assistance program. A nexus study has been conducted to calculate the appropriate amount of such a fee. Will you actively support prompt passage of an amendment to the zoning to ensure that regardless of the outcome of the City's comprehensive rezoning effort, commercial developers must comply with a jobs linkage requirement?||12-B) Please explain why you do or do not support prompt passage of jobs linkage legislation, regardless of the outcome of the City's proposal for comprehensive zoning reform.|
|Kevin Allen Tarpley||It has always been my belief, position and action while serving as the Ward 2 Alderman to have the residents drive the process under the law, guidelines and/or processes of Zoning. It is important to inform residents of the process and/or procedures so that they know what is allowed under state law and by ordnance so that they can make informed decisions about how a change to zoning will impact their neighborhood(s) and quality of life. If elected, I will continue that practice.||I would like to see vacant lots become open space for public use until such a time a better use can be determined by community folks in conjunction with the city and/or individual who may want to develop that property into compatible use the complements the neighborhood.||I really think that there must be more afforable housing in Somerville and need to have a higher number such as 30%. The fact that developers are seeking to pack folks in to these projects without having adequate parking creates more problems then they solve. Plus, the 30% somewhat addresses the desire for low income and moderate income folks who would like to stay in Somerville who may have been rised here and for those seeking to relocate but, can not afford the sky rocketing rents or cost to purchase a home.||What I believe is that this position would create a need to hire an attorney to fill this position who is knowledgeable of the federal, state and local laws. Those in the housing field will applauded it. Ordinary taxpaying citizens will decry it as another attempt to create a job for a political crony. I think it would better serve the city to partner with existing organizations who already provide this assistants and phase in such an office one the community has seen the value in having such a position in place. We need people to believe in government again and believe that government role is serve and solve problems on behalf of its citizens.||Just as the Mass. Real Estate Association use the ballot to take away control. Housing Advocates need to educate the public and get local control back. Further, I proposed an ordinance that would address notice, community control/partnership around developemnt back in 1999 I believe and their was more support on the Board for developers than residents. If elected, I plan to reintroduce that same proposed ordinance change.||I believe residents should have greater control around development in the city. I further believe that in the end projects turnout better when residents and developers work together over a period of time around the design and impact a project will have as well as communicating neighborhood needs where developers can make "Good Faith" efforts by helping to invest in the resolution of some of these issues. That is what I learned and supported while the Ward 2 Alderman. Further, Ward residents felt empowered and enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the process; people who normally just allowed things to happen without getting involved.||Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||No, cash in lieu is never an acceptable practice.||As the Ward 2 Alderman, there was no one who could claim to have addressed development issues such as I. 1. for each major development in and around the Ward I required developers to meet with the resident; not just a community meeting that did happen to explain their projects. If that explanation/presentation was acceptable; we moved forward. However, I explained to the residents that if this was not acceptable. I required the develop to sit with a selected group of residents to review the project, make changes and fulfill to needs and/or request of the residents to make improvements in and around the neighborhood or project, 2. I required underground/off street parking as to not bring more cars to the neighborhood. One project on Webster Ave., the residents wanted a parking garage and they got it. 3. I proposed the PUD Ordinance, which passed but I have since found out that the stricter requirements that I called for has since be watered down. 4. I proposed an ordinance to codify the process and practice that we in Ward 2 were successfully using to engage, involved and have residents control the development was not supported by my colleagues on the Board of Alderman because there was more concern about the developers than the residents and many of those Aldermen are still there.||Yes, I support the proposal as it is.||I support Community Benefits period. Again, I was successfully imposing this as a condition for support of development in the 90's. Proposed this as part of my proposed legislation concerning development but, could not get the support from my colleagues on the Board at the time.||Yes||The fact of the matter is that we must create new funding streams to address the needs of the community. We also must realize that business will pass these cost factor on to recoup their losses. Nonetheless we have to look at the benefits associated to the jobs linkage legislation for the residents of SOmerville|
|Mark Niedergang||The Administration has not yet officially presented their proposed zoning overhaul to the Board of Aldermen (BOA). As such, I am not certain what is in it. They have released an incomplete draft, but I have not yet studied it carefully, since it is not yet before us and I have been busy working on other issues. So I can't answer the third question. But I will try to answer the first two questions and give you my perspective on the zoning overhaul. I believe a zoning overhaul is critical to protect our neighborhoods by downzoning them and to allow greater and more desirable development in the transformational areas which don't have a lot residences and around the coming GLX stations. (There are also some important affordable housing issues involved such as accessory units, basement units, minimal size of units, etc.) The initial proposed zoning overhaul two years ago had a dozen major problems. After it died, the Planning Dept. held more than a dozen workshops with the public and the BOA on different parts of it. In those workshops, we worked through some of the major problems. I am hoping that the Administration proposal will reflect the changes that we discussed. But it must also allow at least as much -- and hopefully more -- influence for residents on the decisions of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board, who interpret and apply the zoning code. There is a balance between predictability, which makes the process fair and which...||Ward 5 doesn't have any vacant lots that I am aware of. The one lot that has an empty building on it that I know of is the old Royal White cleaning warehouse on Cedar and Warwick Streets near the Community Path. With all the development going on in Ward 5 and the City, to be honest, I don't see developing this or any other vacant lot as a high priority. Still, this one is in a desirable location and it would be good for it to be developed in a way that was good for the community. I have been involved in some speculative discussions with the developer who is in the process of purchasing the building, a constituent, and the Director of Planning for the City about the possibility of developing co-housing on this site, possible for seniors, possibly for a mixed-age group (my preference). The City's zoning does not currently allow this use, so I will be pushing to include changes in the proposed zoning overhaul so that co-housing is possible in Somerville.||Yes. I plan to introduce a zoning amendment in 2018 to increase the inclusionary zoning rate for large projects from the current 20% to 25%. I also plan to propose dropping the minimum number of units that requires an affordable unit from eight to seven.||Yes, this is a terrific idea. Rather than creating a new department, I would rather fold this work into the existing Housing Department which is less than a dozen people. In fact, I have been pushing the Mayor and calling for adding at least several additional staff to the Housing Department. The Mayor has had some big and good ideas to promote affordable housing, some of which can be seen in the report of the Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group, which I chaired, but few of those ideas have been implemented because the City simply does not have enough staff to do the work. If we want more affordable housing, we need to have the staff to develop and implement the programs. Right now we don't. Unfortunately, in Somerville's strong Mayor form of government, Aldermen cannot propose budget expenditures, all we can do is ask the Mayor to add budget items (and make cuts).||Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of relocation and notice time that tenants are given to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law., Get the Condo Review Board to implement some of the sections of the current ordinance that would make a difference, such as the one-year notice to the Board before a developer can condoize a property.||I want to make our condo conversion ordinance as strong as is legally possible in order to protect tenants. I have been working hard on this for two years now, unfortunately, without any success. Right now the ordinance is being circumvented almost all the time because developers are buying properties that are already vacant. In some cases, the previous owner who sells to the developer does the dirty work, evicting tenants illegally or just not extending their lease so they can sell their property to a condo developer. Because there was no official condo plan, the owner does not have to provide the tenants with any relocation assistance or notice time. Unfortunately, issues around the City's condo conversion ordinance are incredibly complicated legally and there there is a lack of clarity about what the law allows. There is now a lawsuit against the City brought by a developer that is intended to strike down the City's condo conversion ordinance. The Condo Review Board has been unwilling to fully enforce the current law even before this lawsuit. Once the court makes a judgement on this lawsuit, I will try to push forward a revision of the City's condo conversion ordinance that is as strong as the law allows.||Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more affordable units than would have otherwise been required., Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it create units with substantially deeper affordability than would be required in onsite units., Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more 3-bedroom or larger family-size units than would be required onsite.||I am running unopposed.||1) Enact a transfer fee on all housing transactions to raise millions of dollars a year for affordable housing. 2) Raise the inclusionary rate to 25%. 3) Create a right-of-first refusal program with City staff who can work with tenants and tenant groups to purchase their properties.||No, I do not support the proposal as it.||I have proposed many amendments to the CBO that the Administration has developed. We have not gotten through the discussion of the proposed ordinance, so I don't know if the amendments that I would need to support it will be in it or not. In addition, some critical new questions and issues have arisen during the discussion, so it is unclear what form the ordinance will actually take. It is my understanding that the Administration will be bringing a revised version to the BOA Legislative Matters Cmte meeting on October 5th. We will need to look at that and move forward from there. I have had many in-depth discussions with Union United leaders and leaders of other community groups such as Union Square Neighbors and the Chamber of Commerce about the CBO. This has become difficult and complicated due to the issue of whether a Neighborhood Council is a private or public entity, and the relative legal powers that a Neighborhood Council could have depending upon whether it is private or public.||Yes||I have been pushing for a year to move the jobs linkage enactment process forward as quickly as possible. And also revising and increasing the housing linkage fee, which is now way too low. These were just put before the Board of Aldermen last week, and I will be pushing as hard as I can to get both enacted as quickly as possible. There is no reason to link jobs and housing linkage fees to the zoning overhaul and I will fight that if anyone proposes it (although I have not heard anyone propose it yet).|
|Matthew McLaughlin||The zoning proposal as last presented to the Board requires one community meeting but limits the impact of those meetings when large developments can be built "as of right." One simple solution is to require all housing developments to need a special permit. Another solution is to have a thoughtful zoning discussion so neighborhoods are on board with zoning before it passes.||I have numerous lots like this. In one instance I requested the city seize the Cobble Hill development by eminent domain. We are seizing existing businesses that contribute to our tax base, why are we not taking absentee properties? Eminent domain requires you prove a site is blighted and that seizing said property is for the public good. I would argue this applies far more to vacant properties than existing businesses being seized for private use.||Yes. The proposed zoning will dramatically open up the city to development. An inclusionary rate is the only way to ensure some of this housing is affordable. We raised the rate to 20 percent and development is still booming. I would be far more open to compromise if I knew one in every four units developed was affordable.||Absolutely. The city has two social workers that I work with regularly on such matters. They are an invaluable resource. The city could use an advocate with a legal background. If they are not a city position we could fund a nonprofit to do the work.||All of the above. We can also enforce our current law, which hasn't happened for years.||See my response to 5-A||No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more affordable units than would have otherwise been required.||I have a track record of supporting affordable housing and pushing developers for community benefits. My opponent has no track record.||1: 25 percent inclusionary rate. 2: right of first refusal for tenants to purchase properties for sale. 3: community land trusts where neighbors own property, not the city or nonprofits. |
I was a leader in the fight for 20 percent inclusionary housing, as well as the fight for affordable housing in Assembly Row.
|I proposed the city seize Cobble Hill by eminent domain and use it for open space and affordable housing. They refused this option. I will continue to push the city and the developer to utilize this property for the People.||No, I do not support the proposal as it.||The proposal is too convoluted for me to support it as is. I would like to see a CBO that empowers communities to make decisions for themselves with minimum city interference. I would also Rhine this ordinance to have some teeth. All of this should have happened before Union Square zoning passed.||Yes||It should have been passed already.|
|JT Scott||I had concerns about the prior drafts adequately reflecting the current built reality in Somerville, and the Planning Department has yet to provide analysis to show how many properties would still be non-compliant under the new plan. Widespread zoning non-compliance (only 22 residential buildings in all of Somerville are currently compliant) is at the heart of much of our problem, and we need to ensure that the new zoning overhaul actually addresses this.|
Furthermore, I believe that Aldermen should hear and amplify the voices of residents in the wards. As I've talked to thousands of Ward 2 residents in this campaign, I've heard a lot of concerns about specific allowed uses, heights, and setbacks in the most recent draft. I am committed to governing in an inclusive and transparent way that puts our neighborhoods and working families first.
In order to get their voices heard, I would follow a policy similar to that of Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in Chicago's 35th Ward: for each zoning region that would incorporate major changes to allowed heights and uses in an area, I would host a community meeting to discuss and gather input on the specific zoning proposed and its impact on the community. All residents within 500 feet of the zoning area would receive a printed invitation to this meeting, and I would use these meetings to guide my input and votes on zoning.
In the case of an effective citywide overhaul, this will likely mean a separate neighborhood meeting...
|Vacant lots are a huge missed opportunity for this city: those lots could be green space, affordable housing, or commercial real estate that would be an important part of our city’s tax base.|
I don’t want the city to behave in a heavy-handed manner, but in cases where there are vacant lots which private developers are leaving in a blighted condition like the Cobble Hill Plaza I support orders like the one Alderman McLaughlin has submitted to the board (agenda item 203261) asking for the city to begin the process of taking that property via eminent domain.
When it comes to deciding what to do with vacant lots, I support a robust community process to provide feedback on how they’d like to the see the area developed. Neighborhood councils could be a vital part of that process, and a Community Land Trust can serve as an important partner in developing those properties in cases where eminent domain is used, following the example set by the Dudley Neighbors Land Trust in Boston.
We lack commercial real estate, good parks, and affordable housing. The city should focus on those as a priority, not luxury apartments and condos.
In cases where development is fully in private hands, I support the use of privately negotiated Community Benefit Agreements to ensure developers arrive at a plan that meets the needs of local residents. Some rules can be written into zoning, but much will need to be done as a direct negotiation between developers and neighborhood residents.
|Yes. However, we face an affordable housing crisis in this city and the board has already recognized that we can’t simply build our way out of the crisis in Somerville when they raised the IZ to 20%. A raise to 25% for major developments will help, but we also need to use more tools to combat displacement and gentrification. Somerville is an extremely attractive and lucrative place to build, as Federal Realty’s Q2 2017 Earnings Report makes clear. In cases where master developers are being brought in (in Assembly, Union, or elsewhere), the City ought to hold them to a higher standard. We could have written in 25% inclusionary into the Union Square zoning. Getting Master Developer Designation allows a company to achieve a higher rate of profit than if they develop an area piecemeal. We can and should require more affordable units in those agreements than is required in other parts of the city. Some of that increased commitment could be provided in the form of contributions to a housing fund or Community Land Trust, but under no circumstances should a major developer be granted a waiver to go below the statutory requirement for on-site affordable housing. Rentals and small number condo conversions will still represent a large portion of all housing in Somerville, so we must also ensure that inclusionary zoning has as few exceptions as possible across the city.||Yes. Every week as I walk the ward, I hear from residents being displaced and horrific stories of landlord/tenant disputes. These are neighbors in dire need with no central place to go to seek aid. |
An Office of Housing Stability would provide both a central source for information regarding tenant or homeowner rights and also serve as a collection agency for information regarding tenancy and displacement in Somerville. Getting that information will be crucial to refining effective policies and strategies to keep working families here in Somerville.
Such an office will also be an indispensable ally to residents who are attempting to navigate the confusing affordable housing processes and secure housing.
Working to fight displacement is a key challenge for the city of Somerville, and an OHS would be a good way to begin.
|Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of relocation and notice time that tenants are given to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||Because of the current city-wide zoning laws, condo conversions are a huge part of development in Somerville today. Any attempts to stop displacement and stabilize housing costs without addressing condo conversion is going to be ineffective.|
Two and three unit buildings make up a huge percentage of the citywide total of housing units. Any revision to the law needs to address these units, and we cannot afford to repeal Somerville’s ordinance or revert to the state level law which only touches 4+ unit buildings.
More advance notice and relocation funds are critical. The cost of moving in the Metro Boston area has continued to climb with the overheated real estate market. When people are displaced due to condo conversion they must be given tools to succeed to find another home.
Too many people are being evicted to make way for quick condo conversions and we need to be vigilant to ensure that illegal evictions don't happen. We need to enforce existing law and get tough on bad actors.
Even further, though, we should immediately move forward on a Tenant Right-of-First-Refusal (ROFR) law that would give renters a critical tool to fight against their own displacement and become homeowners here in Somerville. In cooperation with the efforts of Rep. Denise Provost and her office in the state house, Somerville can lead the way here in Massachusetts by passing a local ordinance.
|No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||No, cash in lieu is never an acceptable practice.||I’m a challenger, so I can’t point to votes on the Board of Alderman. I have however been deeply involved in community groups like Union United, Union Square Main Streets, and Union Square Neighbors. I worked with Rob Buchanan to put forth the first draft of bylaws for the Union Square Neighborhood Council and attended countless hours of meetings working with my neighbors to build consensus on a structure that we can agree to move forward. It’s my goal for this Council to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with US2 in Union Square and serve as a model for how we can engage more productively with developers in Somerville. I have been a staunch advocate of this process since its conception.|
I’ve attended hundreds of meetings about development and city planning. I’ve worked hard outside of government to help address affordability, and seen too much of what our residents need fall behind the priorities of developers. Part of the reason I’m running is because it’s clear we need activists and residents to have a real voice – and a vote – on the Board to advocate for affordable housing.
Regarding what sets me apart from my opponent: I am not taking any contributions from Real Estate Developers or Real Estate Lawyers. Not because they’re bad people, but because I believe our Aldermen should only work for residents. Our representatives should listen, work out the solutions that make sense for Somerville, and only then find developers who fit into that vision.
|The first bill I introduce will be a Tenant Right of First Refusal (ROFR) law modeled on the TOPA law in Washington DC and the work of Rep. Denise Provost’s office in the MA state house. This is a law that gives residents tools to increase affordability and fight displacement. In short, it grants tenants of buildings the first option to purchase their homes when the property owner seeks to sell. The property owner still gets market price, but tenants are given the necessary time to secure financing or form a cooperative in order to purchase the building.|
I support Rep. Provost’s efforts to pass a ROFR-enabling law at the state level, but I don’t believe Somerville should wait to address this. Let’s pass a RIght of First Refusal law – even if we suspect the SJC will review it. Rep. Provost and her allies in the State House will have more chance of success if there is a city like Somerville leading the way.
I will immediately work to create and empower an independent Community Land Trust in Somerville. Land Trusts, like the Dudley Neighbors Incorporated in Boston, pair well with ROFR: a land trust could purchase the land underlying a home to be purchase by the tenants. The CLT ensures that the housing on this site remains perpetually affordable, and helps reduce the purchase cost for new homeowners.
I will also urge the formation of an Office of Housing Stability and support increasing the affordable housing percentage to 25%.
|An activist board still has many opportunities to shape Union Square Development and ensure the developer comes to the table to negotiate with the community.|
Passage of the Community Benefits Ordinance requires BOA approval. We can and should ensure it is as sharp an instrument as possible to bring the developer to the negotiating table.
Sale of the Public Safety Building also requires BOA approval since it’s a city parcel. The board can and should ensure that we are not selling the land for the public safety building without getting an appropriate price that covers a new fire station and new police HQ. This is also a point a leverage the board can use to ensure US2 negotiates in good faith with the Neighborhood Council.
I will demand, promote, and host a series of community meetings that meaningfully engage the residents of the ward in a robust public process, and ensure the results of that process are presented to the permit-granting authorities. We can do better.
I support the board clawing back as many of their powers as possible that were turned over to unelected appointees. This would provide further opportunities for the board to take votes on issues that matter to the community on future construction phases and parcel seizures. These are major decisions that should be made by elected representatives who are accountable to the residents of the ward.
|No, I do not support the proposal as it.||Both the Community Benefits Ordinance and the existing Covenant (signed by the Mayor and US2) need to be substantially changed if we want to create a situation where a CBA can be negotiated with an independent and democratically elected neighborhood council:|
1) The neighborhood council must have independence. Under the current model they are strictly “advisory” and can be ignored.
2) The Neighborhood council must be able to select its own negotiating team for the CBA.
3) Any “Community Benefits Committee” should be open to any resident and it should reflect the diversity of Somerville. It should not have hard and fast requirements for expertise in finance or planning – the lived experience of residents is also valuable.
4) Sale of Police Station should be allowed only after a CBA is negotiated with the Neighborhood Council. Permitting should similarly be granted only after a CBA is negotiated.
5) Rectify the current situation which directs Community Benefits funds to the city for disbursement. This creates a conflict that would potentially make the NC into a municipal body. Funds for community benefits should go from the developer directly to the Neighborhood Council – and the NC should be able to apply for funding to supplement initiatives funded via a CBA.
US2 needs to commit to more resources than outlined in the Covenant. US2 stated to the Board of Aldermen that they had not allocated any additional funds for a CBA beyond what was promised in the Covenant; we need to do better.
|Yes||Very few Somerville residents have jobs in the city. We want to create livable communities where people can walk, bike, or bus to work. This Home Rule petition was a big victory for the city and we shouldn’t squander that opportunity.|
|Ben Ewen-Campen||Our citywide zoning overhaul is intended to promote “transit-oriented development” concentrated around new Green Line stops, while largely discouraging new developments in existing residential neighborhoods. While I largely agree with the overall goals, I am committed to working closely with Somerville advocates for housing affordability, smart transportation, and environmental justice to propose specific improvements to the current proposal. For example:|
-To ensure that residents have a voice in developments in their neighborhoods, I will push for strong, unambiguous language requiring developers to meaningfully engage with residents (including tenants, who represent the majority of Somerville residents) in meetings on new developments, and to require substantive, itemized public responses to resident concerns, rather than superficial “open-house” meetings favored by developers such as US2 in Union Square.
-I will advocate to create incentives for modestly-sized, majority-affordable housing developments in neighborhood residential districts, to promote new affordable units while discouraging speculation and displacement.
-I will work to make it easier for resident homeowner to renovate, including allowing housing in small outbuildings and basement apartments.
-I will advocate for stronger language about public health, such as including clear policies about developments in proximity to major roadways, as well as increased support for expanding and improving MBTA bus lines.
-Furthermore, I will maintain a regular newsletter, website, and public office hours to make sure that all residents are able to meaningfully engage with ongoing changes in their neighborhoods.
|We need to ensure that vacant lots are used to benefit our community, rather than as speculative real estate investments that simply enrich their owners. I will of course work directly with the owners of specific vacant lots in Ward 3, but I believe we must also address the problem systematically by adding provisions that heavily penalize parcels that sit undeveloped for extended periods.||Yes, I support raising the inclusionary zoning rate from 20% to 25%. Inclusionary zoning alone will not solve our affordability crisis, but it is an essential tool to leverage new developments to create new housing for some of our most vulnerable residents. Ward 3 is home to a number of existing housing developments for elderly, disabled, and low-income residents, and I welcome the creation of new inclusionary units in our Ward. In addition, an important long-term goal for the city should be to find creative new ways to make major investments in high-quality mixed-income housing that is outside the speculative real estate market.||Absolutely. We’ve seen success with this approach recently in Boston, and I will strongly advocate for an Office of Housing Stability in Somerville. This office will not only be an important first-line resource for residents and landlords, but will also collect and distribute housing data, which is essential to guide new policy decisions in Somerville. I envision that an Office of Housing Stability will also roll out relatively small-scale trial programs in order to help City Hall understand the potential upsides and downsides of various housing policies we may wish to implement. Lastly, such an office will be able to coordinate with other municipalities in the region and across the state, to help develop larger-scale policy ideas.||Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of relocation and notice time that tenants are given to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||According to City data, nearly 800 rental units have been converted to condos in the past five years. Condo conversions are therefore a major cause of the declining stock of relatively affordable rental units, and even such admirable programs as the 100 Homes Project will not come close to preserving the number of units we are losing to condo conversion each year. I believe it is therefore essential to strengthen and properly enforce our Condo Conversion Ordinance. A few specific issues I will address: |
-A major loophole in our current ordinance involves the definition of “vacancy.” Today, over 75% of the units brought before the Condo Board for approval are already vacant, and thus are not subjected to the one-year notification requirement. This suggests that owners are removing their tenants before selling to a condo developer, as a way to avoid the one-year notification. Somerville needs to close this loophole.
-Unlike Somerville, Boston requires 5-year notification in the case of elderly, disabled, and low/moderate-income residents – I would support such an increase in Somerville.
-I would consider an option for a substantial cash buyout option for tenants who would prefer this to a one-year/two-year notification, as this may be preferable for some tenants.
-Our current “tenant right of first refusal” (ROFR) provision, which gives tenants a mere 30 days to make an offer, is a joke, not a legitimate policy. I will advocate for a meaningful ROFR ordinance, similar to Rep. Provost’s House Bill H.3017.
|No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more affordable units than would have otherwise been required., Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it create units with substantially deeper affordability than would be required in onsite units., Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more 3-bedroom or larger family-size units than would be required onsite.||I believe that Somerville is facing a crisis of affordability, and the lack of concrete progress on this issue is what inspired me to run for Alderman in the first place. This is a very tough issue, and I want to work on a Board that tackles it with tough, progressive solutions. Since the beginning of this race I have consistently put housing affordability at the center of my platform, and I have supported a number of specific policies, including increasing our affordable housing requirement in new developments (“inclusionary zoning”) from 20% to 25%, revising and updating our Condo Conversion Ordinance, and creating an Office of Housing Stability. These issues will almost certainly come up during in the next term, and my support will likely be critical for achieving these goals. I also believe that real estate developers often have too much say in local decisions, and that we should do everything we can to limit the influence of special interests at City Hall. In contrast, my opponent was a crucial swing vote to block an ordinance that would have limited campaign contributions from real estate developers (the so-called “Pay-to-Play Ordinance.”) Thus, while Alderman McWatters and I both share a deep commitment to serving the people of Somerville, there are important distinctions between our platforms.||As Union Square redevelopment and the “FRIT waiver” both came to a head over the past year, I have publicly testified on both issues at City Hall, spoken at street protests, and organized with my neighbors and community on these issues. Along with many other community members, I testified in favor of a Community Benefits Agreement between US2 and community groups in Union Square, because I believe this will lead to a better development. I testified against the FRIT waiver and was active in protests on this issue, because I believe that this was a bad deal for the people of Somerville. As an Alderman, I will immediately get to work to enact the recommendations of the Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group, including establishing a dedicated Office of Housing Stability, and updating our Condo Conversion Ordinance. I am also excited to look into additional ways that we can wisely increase our investment into long-term affordability strategies, including Community Land Trusts, a meaningful Tenants Right of First Refusal policy, and incentives for landlords who stabilize rents.||I have consistently supported the creation of a democratically elected Union Square Neighborhood Council, which I believe is an important way to empower our diverse residents to meaningfully engage in Union Square redevelopment. I believe that it is particularly important that traditionally underrepresented people such as immigrants and low-income residents have a seat at the table, which is why I will continue to support the work of Union United, a community organizing group led by three Somerville non-profits focused on exactly these issues: The Welcome Project (an Immigrants’ advocacy non-profit), Community Action Agency of Somerville (a poverty-focused non-profit), and Somerville Community Corporation (a non-profit community development corporation). I will also encourage the work of such neighbor associations as Green And Open Somerville, which has consistently advocated for better green space in Union Square, and Union Square Neighbors, which has provided substantial feedback on Union Square zoning and other issues.||Yes, I support the proposal as it is.||I have consistently been in favor of the city requiring US2 (and future large developers) to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with a democratically elected community group. Such a CBA is distinct from the proposed Community Benefits Ordinance, which is focused on the relatively limited task of dispensing funds from a large developer to community projects. That said, I am in favor of the Community Benefits Ordinance because it will help set a precedent for creating neighborhood councils, which I believe is one promising strategy to ensure that developers have to meaningfully engage with the hopes and concerns of the community. I am fully aware that the formation of the Union Square Neighborhood Council has not always been smooth sailing, but I remain confident that this group will allow our diverse community to have a meaningful voice in the oversight of large developments. One specific change I will advocate for: all neighborhood councils should require in their bylaws that a majority of seats are set aside for residents, not business-owners, developers, or their family members. Based on conversations with community organizers in nearby communities, I believe this is critical to ensure that business interests cannot take control of a neighborhood council.||Yes||Currently, the lion’s share of city revenue comes from property taxes, which places great burdens our property-owners and renters, and limits the amount of money that Somerville has to invest in programs that help our residents find jobs and jobs training, such as the First Source Jobs Program run by the Somerville Community Corporation. A jobs linkage fee is a straightforward way to generate additional revenue through new developments that can be used to invest in programs that help our residents find good jobs and I will support as high a linkage fee as a nexus study deems feasible.|
|Maryann Heuston||Empowering residents and providing opportunities for a comprehensive understanding of the impact of proposed new zoning to their neighborhood are key to making sure that residents have a say. Without the ability to understand the implications of what is proposed, important questions may never be asked.|
The new zoning must include a robust review process similar to the Union Square zoning which requires 2 neighborhood review meetings prior to granting approval. Those meeting must be recorded by city staff, treated as public hearings and the results of meetings must be publicized through some public mechanism through the City website and by other publicly financed means. The latest version of the city-wide zoning proposal, while addressing many of the ills of the current zoning, also creates situations for much more "by right" development and ,since even the best zoning ordinances have weaknesses, it is concerning to me that residents will not have the opportunity to weigh in publicly which is why creating mechanisms for taking into account residents opinions and linking approval to those opinions is important.
Public meetings must: have materials distributed prior to meeting, materials available on City website,engage local talent as discussion leaders, incorporate ideas from independent resident led groups.
I had asked for specific neighborhood forums in each Ward to explain what was being proposed for a neighborhood and to encourage face to face discussion.
While there is opportunity to weigh in on line to the new zoning map, and there have been community forums...
|First, the city-wide zoning overhaul is key to moving sites along as well as setting the ground rules for developers to insure resident's needs are met. Second, I believe that the City should pursue a Land Value Tax whereby the land itself is taxed and held to the highest and best value, then it will not be profitable to sit on vacant properties with little financial tax consequence- this is one way to encourage developers to build ( may require a constitutional amendment but might be worth pursuing). Right now it is too easy to let land sit . Finally, the City should explore the feasibility of an ordinance which requires developers to file a report explaining the reason a lot is vacant and a timeline for development- that report will also be attached to a fee/fine which increases related to the time a lot stays vacant. Those fees and fines should be earmarked for the Affordable Housing Trust fund.||Yes. Large developments- 50 units and larger can bear a burden of 25% total affordable and moderate rate units. There are obvious economies of scale in the design, permitting and financing processes and interfaces with utility grids and city infrastructure. Incentives such as assigning a City employee to a project or reduction in required parking should provided as an incentive for a developer to conform to higher standards of inclusionary units.Developers will always try to make the bottom line work and Somerville is in a unique situation currently as a highly sought after community for new residents. This is a two-edged sword and the only way to turn this "liability" into a positive is to make sure that we take advantage of our desirability. I also know that funding for organizations such as the SCC and other non-profit developers is crucial to advancing city wide affordability and related jobs creation and training.|
HUD is waning in terms of its support and even HOMES may be in jeopardy given the political climate at the Federal level. For that reason new forms of revenue should be pursued in relation to increasing affordability and stemming displacement. Starting at 3 units there could be a requirement for a financial contribution and then build to the point where a threshold for a full inclusionary unit is required thereby not "letting off the hook" those developers which choose to do smaller projects to avoid a contribution to affordability ( many of those developers gobble...
|Yes, and I have already taken a first step in the creation of a Somerville Rental Registry which is now City law-to provide tenant protections and I plan to continue adding to that ordinance by building in tenant protections related to evictions and to remove the fear tenants have for reporting building and health code violations.||Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of relocation and notice time that tenants are given to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||The State Law does have some deficiencies- I believe it is a better strategy to revise the current City Ordinance to Get exactly what we need and want in a local ordinance.||No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||No, cash in lieu is never an acceptable practice.||Supported increase to inclusionary housing from 12.5% to 20%|
Introduced and supported a middle income affordable %tier for those who have decent wages but still cannot afford to live here
Supported and advocated for 3 br. affordable units to keep families in Somerville.
Supported the establishment of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund
Supported linkage fees and payment to the affordable Housing Trust Fund
Supported the clarification of affordable housing required in RA and RB zones
Offered and supported jobs training to be targeted to most vulnerable populations
|See Q #8 for my actions in the past 2-3 years.|
Explore possibilities for increase to 25% inclusionary housing
Enact Job Linkage Fee and Trust Fund
Set aside inclusionary % of new retail space for low income minority businesses
Support and enact Local Option Tenants' Right to Purchase
Promote tax deferral program for seniors
Implement a Transfer Fee
Leverage tax relief and relocation assistance for low income local businesses
Tax surcharge on new units to be earmarked specifically to the Affordable Housing Trust fund to fund non-profit developers
Promote workforce housing through zoning and incentives
Promote affordable home ownership by incentives to non-profit developers
Require developers to use Area Standard Contractors
Empower and favor affordable housing developers with expedited permitting and reduced permitting costs
Introduce the concept of Land Value Tax
Sell public properties to non profits for $1 for the public good to develop affordable units and workforce housing
Provide incentives for projects where private developers partner with non-profit developers to produce affordable units and a small portion of market rate units
Set a financial contribution requirement for new development that does not meet the threshold for triggering inclusionary units and earmark that money to The Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
|The formation of a Neighborhood Council is key to ensuring that constituents have a voice. It is through the Neighborhood Council that not only Community benefits be articulated and negotiated but that the Neighborhood Council also take the lead in representing constituents int the redevelopment process because the Neighborhood Council will be the recipient of feedback. That is why actions taken by the BOA to help further the formation and strengthen the role of the Neighborhood Council is key. As the Ward Alderman working with existing constituencies and groups will be important but I will be looking to the Neighborhood Council as the established group for relaying issues related to redevelopment.||No, I do not support the proposal as it.||The current ordinance does not provide for enough autonomy in decision making for the Neighborhood Council and reduces it to an advisory body and not one that has power in terms of negotiating a community benefits agreement- the City-wide community benefits Oversight Committee is yet another control over the negotiation of a community benefits agreement and that removes it from the body which more closely represents residents wishes, namely the neighborhood Council. I am also not in favor of the 60% to be allocated specifically for Union Square and the rest to the City as a whole- I think the % should be 80% allocated to Union Square specific purposes as articulated by the Neighborhood Council.||Yes||I support passage of jobs linkage legislation because we need to ensure that development benefits local residents. The linkage fee creates a way for developers to address the impacts of their projects, whether it be a need for affordable housing, job training, or new infrastructure. Specific legislation related to jobs linkage provides funding for workforce development and helps workers to gain new skills and stay in Somerville. With all of the actions we take as a City to keep housing affordable, hand in hand with that effort is job training. As long as development continues to increase we must be sure to leverage developer dollars to benefit residents.|
|John M. 'Jack' Connolly||New draft should include neighborhood participation, such as community benefit negotiations with the developer(s) in transformation development areas, as in the recent Union Sq. zoning. Prior drafts may not have gone far enough to require greater percentages of Commercial development in key areas. I have and will continue to advocate to City Planners to maintain the goals of SomerVision in their revised plan, and will sponsor as many public review sessions of the City's new proposed Zoning Proposal.||First why vacant? Determine ownership, and possible legal or estate problems preventing improvements. City should be proactive encouraging development, informing owners of potential development opportunities (Not all owner/developers are experienced,sophisticated, and well-financed) and solicit the participation of the immediate neighborhood residents, neighborhood organizations, and elected officials.City should be a partner in the re-development of not only vacant, but underdeveloped land parcels.||I supported the 20% increase, but it is too early to tell whether or not to move beyond 20%at the present; The change from 12.5% to 20% is recent, and it is my recollection that the City Planning Dept. called for a review of the data after a two year 'look-back' period. Lets look at the numbers then, and then debate the merits of a possible increase with public participation from all stakeholders.||Boston has recently done something along these lines, but it may be worthwhile to avoid potential redundancy here in Somerville, and involving the Somerville Housing Authority and other housing advocates' and agencies' to insist that the City and our State House delegation petition the Legislature of the Commonwealth to create a 'Somerville Housing Division' in the Somerville District Court to resolve these disputes.||Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||Current state law appears to have decent protections for 4 or more units, but Somerville could be well-served with the inclusion of 2-3 units in a revised City Ordinance providing similar protections. I believe that a challenge to the current City ordinance is being litigated, and that decision may certainly impact restructuring of the condo conversion ordinance. Will strongly advocate for public hearings, review and debate over the topic, and consider possible revisions to the current ordinance.||Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more affordable units than would have otherwise been required.||We (BOA colleagues and City administrations) have a record of accomplishments in bringing major improvements in public rapid transit service i.e .Red, Orange, and Green Line transit services coming soon to Union sq. and beyond, major redevelopment of our neighborhood squares, and working with the Administration to bring Partners here to Assembly Square, and improving the local economy in general. No community our size has done more over the years to provide more diverse housing stock than Somerville, what with the number of units for seniors, families, barrier-free and handicap accessible units, group homes, and subsidized (section 8) units through the Somerville Housing Authority. As the SHS song goes, 'Somerville Leads the Way.'||It is not so much a housing crisis, as it is a crisis of a lack of supply of affordable units not just here in Somerville, but throughout the entire region.|
As part of new zoning, I will support the creation of in-unit apartments that will allow homeowners to supplement their incomes. In addition, it makes sense to allow homeowners to build additional units within the lot line of their home, that could be rented without having to go through a required special zoning permit process.
|Yes, I support the proposal as it is.||That item is still before our Legislative Matters Committee of the Board of Aldermen: Will need more detailed review and discussion, especially on the composition of elected neighborhood council representatives, and what authority (especially financial) that could be be delegated from our BOA to a neighborhood organization.||Yes|
|Dennis Sullivan||I have been concerned about too much density and not enough commercial development in prior drafts. I will continue to work with residents to ensure their quality of life is not impacted negatively.||I will continue to work on improving our infrastructure (i.e., New zoning, green line) to attract quality commercial development.||I support increasing the inclusionary zoning rate higher if it does not have a negative result on developing affordable units.||Yes, displacement and disputes have become commonplace in our city. This measure would assist homeowners and residents.||Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||Renters should be given more advanced notice. Somerville’s housing market is extremely expensive and near impossible for renters to find suitable housing. More time would allow for an easier transition for the renter||Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more affordable units than would have otherwise been required., Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it create units with substantially deeper affordability than would be required in onsite units., Yes, cash in lieu is acceptable if it creates substantially more 3-bedroom or larger family-size units than would be required onsite.||I am proud of my record on affordable housing and development. In the past, I have supported increasing the percentage of inclusionary affordable housing and the linkage rate commercial developers pay into the affordable housing trust fund. I have supported infrastructure updates at Assembly Square. In addition, I have supported the Orange Line stop and Green Line expansion which will lay the foundation to expand our commercial tax base.||I will look for ways in the proposed new zoning to increase affordability. I will work with residents and my colleagues to explore all avenues including developer incentives to build more affordable housing, a higher percentage of inclusionary affordable housing, and a higher linkage fee commercial developers pay into the affordable housing trust fund. In the past, I have supported increasing the percentage of inclusionary affordable housing and the linkage rate commercial developers pay into the affordable housing trust fund.||Yes, I support the proposal as it is.||I support a Community Benefits Ordinance. I believe residents who live in the area being developed should have the decision making power. After all, who knows the neighborhood better?||Yes||In 2010, I wrote the Responsible Employer Ordinance which required any contractor doing business with the City to offer their employees: health insurance, a prevailing wage, and an apprentice program. Unfortunately, it was deemed by the courts to be unconstitutional. A job linkage program would accomplish similar goals as the apprentice program would have as part of the Responsible Employer Ordinance, by offering training and job placement assistance. This would be a win for future generations because the workers would obtain the training to gain employment and the employers would obtain highly skilled employees.|
|Mary Jo Rossetti||The Board's multiple meetings held to date introducing a Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO) / Neighborhood Councils has played an important role for me. Learning of and closely reviewing other States policies in this regard has assisted me in my research. During the Board's recent vote of the Union Square Overlay Zoning, I successfully advocated for better language which assures any and all interested members in our community will be better informed of all potential future developments, no matter how big or small. This is but one example of my position on advocacy for the people. As I now await the Administration's proposal for a city-wide zoning overhaul, I continue to meet and discuss with members of our community, gathering as much information as is possible from my constituency. I do my homework on every issue - do my best to assure our community understands what's on the table for discussion - and then and only then will I cast a vote. Assuring residents "have a say" will for me be at the forefront. (As Chair of Legislative Matters Committee, I shall also assure continued discussion of a CBO)||At current, such vacancies are not easily under our reign. If these vacant properties are clean as per our Health Ordinances and the owner is current on tax payments, we have no authority to demand development. However, when the Administration presents their new zoning overhaul plan, the Board of Aldermen could consider adding language to be consistent with community needs such as this one. I thank you for asking this question, and have highlighted it in my files for future Board discussion.||I absolutely support consideration of such. As with any potential new legislation, I welcome discussion from my colleagues, my constituency, and the administration so that I may carefully review and consider impacts. Affordability remains a top priority for me. Raising inclusionary zoning to 25%, under certain conditions perhaps such as larger scale development projects, is a discussion I look forward to.||I will gladly support discussion of this position. I am very supportive of Rep. Provost's House Bill 3017, An Act to Preserve Affordable Housing through a Local Option Tenant's Right to Purchase. Washington, D.C. has proven statistics of tenants in buildings with 3 or more units (excluding owner occupied 3 family structures). There are multiple options for tenants under this Plan. If her Bill receives the required support from her state colleagues, our RESIDENTS would then need to vote to adopt this program. I welcome this opportunity.||(see below)||We must keep in mind that the State Law does not apply to 1-2-3 family homes. I have been informed that the local legal case which was pending has recently been dismissed by the Courts. As Chair of Legislative Matters Committee I will now bring this important discussion back to our Agenda. In prior meetings I advocated for City personnel to meet with organized citizenry to come to agreed terms on revision of the City's Ordinance. The aforementioned H3017 (Rep. Provost's Bill) would also assist in this matter.||When I was elected President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (2013), my message personally delivered country-wide, was bringing attention to The Impact of Student Mobility on Education. Affordability is a long-standing issue in oh too many various scenarios. The information I gathered then continues to sustain me today. I am not a quitter. There remains much more work ahead; I believe my proven past history speaks loud and clear of my passion for my/our community.||1. Support discussion of increasing inclusionary rate to 25%|
2. Support H3017
3. Support discussion of Transfer Tax (under certain conditions)
With respect to questions 6A&B, As a reminder, I went on Record in strong opposition of FRIT's request. That being said, this question does not bring with it a simple Yes or No answer. In some cases it may be in our best interest to accept payment in lieu of on-site Development. Today I have just reviewed a communication from our city's Assistant City Solicitor in response to our ability to amend Section 16.10.2 of our Zoning Ordinances. We in fact can amend this Section to assure history will not repeat itself. I will work with my colleagues to bring this Amendment to the table ASAP. A waiver from inclusionary affordable housing requirements should never be authorized.
|No, I do not support the proposal as it.||As I have previously stated above, I support the creation of Neighborhood Councils and a CBO. As Chair of the Legislative Matters Committee I have done my utmost to keep all interested parties in the conversation. Knowing how busy everyone can be in today's day and age, I additionally requested these meetings be both played live via our City's cable station, live streamed via the web, and taped and made easily viewable for the community whenever they so choose. These discussions have brought recent unforeseen information which require further important discussion. I vow to continue to meet twice monthly, unlike any other Committee, in hopes of getting closer to a community agreed upon Ordinance.||Yes|
|Lance Davis||First and foremost, residents can have a say by plugging in to the process as we review, in the Land Use Committee, the next draft of the zoning overhaul. There will be a public hearing on the draft, as well as a period for formal public comment, and we welcome and value public input throughout the process at any time. One of the changes that we specifically pushed for is a more formal process to require (and provide notice for) neighborhood meetings prior to zoning hearings before the ZBA or Planning Board to allow the community to have more input, earlier in the process. This was incorporated into the Union Square zoning and it will be in the next overhaul draft. Among the many key concerns that I will make sure get discussed are the inclusionary zoning requirements and, specifically, whether it is more prudent to remain silent on the possibility of providing off site or payment in lieu or to include a provision similar to what I secured in Union Square, that calculates any such alternative based on (at least) the fair market value of the unit if it were to remain on site. Of course we still have to work through parking and transportation concepts, green and open space requirements, and residential zone parameters, among others. We have our work cut out for us!||The most important tool the city has to steer development on these lots to meet the needs of current residents is, of course, zoning -- zoning based on public input and crafted to address the needs of the community first and to attract the sort of development that will fill those needs. Beyond that, I support the concept of fines or penalties, to the extent permissible by law and subject to appropriate parameters, for property owners that leave properties vacant/neglected. I would also be willing to support, under the right circumstances, an eminent domain taking to convert a truly blighted property to public use. That analysis, of course, would be highly dependent on the particular circumstances. Finally, it is also important that the City's Economic Development staff continue to develop a robust program to attract the kind of commercial development that will bring diverse jobs and benefits to the community and encourage private investment in these areas.||As stated above, I fully support and expect to have a conversation in the context of the zoning overhaul surrounding the inclusionary zoning provision. I said many times in my first campaign two years ago that I wanted to see the inclusionary rate go to at least 20% citywide and perhaps 25%, at a minimum in key areas if not also citywide. As Chair of the Land Use Committee that tackled the debate over 20% I made certain that we had every piece of information available to inform our decision making and I will do the same in future discussions as well. There will be many factors to consider and I will listen and take a deliberate approach in guiding that process.||Yes. Displacement caused by the runaway housing market is the most significant challenge facing our city. Of course, this is not news to anyone reading this reply. The nature of the market system is such that tenants are inherently disadvantaged in the relationship with landlords/property owners and it is incumbent upon us to help shift that balance. Providing information and resources is likely one of the most cost-effective ways of doing so.||As stated previously, the nature of the market system is such that tenants are inherently disadvantaged in the relationship with landlords/property owners and it is incumbent upon us to help shift that balance. At a high level, I support any approach that better empowers tenants. As this specific question is currently in committee, I will continue to follow those discussions before determining which approach best accomplishes that goal.||Please accept the following as my response to questions 6A and 6B regarding Federal Realty and a cash in lieu/off site option because I do not feel that the check the box responses adequately address the issue: I strongly opposed the "compromise" solution ultimately approved by the Planning Board in this matter. While I do believe that the we can provide a number of affordable units in the long term, I feel that the process was deeply flawed and I am not convinced that the result was in fact a "compromise" at all. My starting point on the issue of cash in lieu is that I am not in favor because inclusionary zoning is supposed to create *inclusion.* The concept of off site or in lieu is, by it's very nature, contrary to that fundamental idea. That said, it is possible that I would consider some form of off site or in lieu arrangement but only if it, unequivocally, resulted in significantly more and/or bigger affordable units in a similar time frame. As I did in Union Square, I believe the bare minimum requirement of any such discussion needs to be the full market value of the unit if it remained on site. Ideally, it would require something beyond that (a multiplier of FMV, additional bedroom counts, etc.). While this may effectively dissuade any developer from seeking such an arrangement, that's not an unwelcome result. Inclusionary units are supposed to be included.||Nearly every Board meeting and repeatedly throughout the weeks in between I have supported and helped to advance issues that address some aspect of the affordable housing crisis. I am most proud of my role in sheparding the 20% inclusionary amendment through the committee process in the face of significant resistance and push back that I received from many stakeholders, including from within the Board itself. I also would highlight the previously described amendment to the Union Square zoning that I introduced to materially change the calculation for any off site inclusionary units.||No, I do not support the proposal as it.||As I write this, we received a revised draft of the CBO just six hours ago. I've yet to even open the file. While I expect that it will incorporate most if not all of the changes that we've discussed so far, I fully expect that additional changes will be needed.||Yes||I believe that Somerville has an opportunity to pass such a linkage fee without negatively impacting the pace of commercial development. Practically speaking, whether it could be enacted prior to deliberations on the overhaul is uncertain due to the simple issue of capacity. I am open to the possibility and certainly if the overhaul failed as a whole, I expect we will embark on efforts to make more surgical improvements to the existing zoning and I would support jobs linkage as part of that process if it hadn't been enacted already.|
|Bill White||First and foremost is to maximize public input before the Board, once the zoning is introduced. The Board will hold at least one public hearing and will accept written testimony. I would expect to have further public input as the zoning is refined after its initial submission. Some neighborhoods will be impacted more than others because of proposed height and density increases, so outreach should be made to those particular areas. My concern with prior drafts included my view that there was a need to create more three bedroom units, to preserve residential neighborhoods, and to preserve space for commercial growth that brings a broad spectrum of good jobs in the transformative districts. The new zoning should also require the creation of 3 bedroom units for new development.||Each vacant site may have its own particular circumstances, so it is difficult to give a blanket answer. The Star Market, for example, is tied up in court litigation where the owner is challenging the denial of a special permit. The Cobble HIll site is tied up because of a dispute between the development partners. Owners cannot be forced to develop their sites. If they are unsightly, pose a hazard to the public health or are otherwise unsafe, then measures can be taken by our inspectors to address those health and safety issues. As a last resort, the property might be taken by eminent domain, if the necessary factors under urban renewal law are met and the state approves the plan. In that event, there should be substantial public participation in setting the overall goal of the plan and the specific details of the desired development at the site to meet community objectives . After that is done, then it should be put out for requests for proposals from potential developers. Once those proposals are submitted to the City, there should be substantial public input on evaluating those proposals and in the selection of the developer. Other potential uses could include a park, but the costs of such a purpose would have to be evaluated in conjunction with the other capital needs of the City.||I believe that our goal should be to increase affordable housing and would support it if necessary requirements were met. The setting of the actual percentage cannot simply be done by an auction, where proponents try to outbid one another. Massachusetts law requires that the percentage that is set be supported by a study that shows that the percentage increase is necessary to offset the pressures on affordable housing caused by developers. That study is ordinarily done with the setting of a linkage fee and should also be done with percentage set asides. Also, the amount of the inclusionary zoning rate should be done after an analysis as to its feasibility. At 20%, we can create a number of units to help offset the units that are being lost through gentrification. I would not want to arbitrarily increase the percentage if its net impact was to actually stop or reduce the creation of affordable units because the set aside percentage was too high.||I believe it would be appropriate for the City to maintain data on displacement and provide assistance with regard to residents who are being displaced. I am not convinced that would be an effective position to mediate disputes between landlords and tenants once a dispute has arisen. In my experience, a ripe mediation stage does not develop until after the summary process procedure is begun. Perhaps grant assistance could be provided to one of our non-profit organizations in the City to augment their ability to provide mediation services to facilitate resolution of landlord tenant disputes. I would be concerned if we created an office which had an adverse impact on non-profit organizations that have been doing this work for many years.||The major reason for the large scale condominium conversions in the City in 2 and 3 family homes is due to the fact that Massachusetts property law permits no-fault evictions for tenants at will. As a result, when a landlord prepares to sell a building, the landlord will wait until any leases are up. Then, the landlord will give a 30 day notice to quit and, if need be, begin eviction proceedings. The reason, of course, is that the purchaser of the property will want it free of tenants in the event that the new purchaser intends to convert it to condominiums. There is no overt agreement between the current owner and future owner that the property will be converted to condominiums. It simply is understood by most sellers that the property is more valuable in a vacant state. I have studied this for years, and, in the absence of proof of an outright agreement between an existing owner and the future owner to subvert the City's condominium conversion ordinance, I cannot think of any legal way to remedy this situation because of the express provisions of Mass. law that no-fault evictions are permitted. When rent control was in existence, then a community could require a removal certificate before a rental unit could be removed from the rental market and converted to a condominium. Once the state abolished that ability with the elimination of rent control, the situation drastically changed. One thing to keep in mind is that...||Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||It is hard to say what would set me apart from the other folks running for alderman at large. All I can say is that my record speaks for itself. I have always supported increases in the linkage fees and percentage set asides. I also supported zoning changes such as the one that requires the special permit granting authorities to take into account the impact of the proposed development on affordable housing. In addition, whenever I have been asked to meet with affordable housing advocates, I have always been available and tried to provide assistance.||I believe that we need to come up with a creative package to obtain additional funding for the purchase of existing homes in neighborhoods to provide dedicated affordable units. The items that are being proposed such as a transfer tax and right of first refusal would both require home rule petitions to be approved by the legislature. As an alderman, I would try to craft these petitions to obtain public approval and then submit them to the legislature.||No, I do not support the proposal as it.||Right now, the Board of Aldermen is grappling with the issue. A number of questions are still outstanding. Under the law, can the negotiating entity be a private body or must it be a public body? But if it is a public body, are its options limited? If it is a private body, who determines the fundamental issues as to the requirements of membership, voting rights, and by laws. When the process started, my view was that the negotiations should be between a developer and the impacted neighborhood, represented by community members. But if there is no consensus as to how community members should be determined and who should vote, how can negotiations take place with a developer? I also am not certain at this point in time whether there should be a two-tiered structure as envisioned by the draft ordinance. Because we are still in the process of debating and reviewing this proposal and intend on having further public input, I have not made any firm decisions yet.||Yes||I have already voted in favor of the home rule petition in favor of jobs linkage legislation. I do not believe that the delay in its implementation was due to a desire to await the city’s comprehensive zoning proposal. Instead, my recollection is that the Board was awaiting the linkage/nexis study which the Board of Aldermen received on Sept. 28, 2017, as well as the submission of a formal ordinance and recommendation from the task force. With the linkage study in hand, I believe the remaining items should be forthcoming and we should move forward.|
|Omar Boukili||The best way for residents to have a say in neighborhood development is to be involved and engaged in the early stages and throughout the process. The new ordinance embedded a neighborhood process for future development in Union Square. The city-wide zoning can and should require a similar process. |
My concern in the 2015 zoning process always was the timeline, and the amount of work necessary in aldermanic committees and in various public sessions to get to a product that worked well for the city and was understood by all. These types of processes are complex, but are very much necessary. New zoning will bring new opportunities to deal with the affordability issues and lack of supply the city is facing.
In this next draft, I want to make sure that we protect neighborhoods from oversized development while ensuring that we continue to create new housing and job opportunities, specifically in our transformational areas. We need to do our utmost to meet our housing needs (which are far from met now, and therefore housing prices are out of reach for many). We also need to make sure that we are able to get every benefit we can out of developers from jobs and housing linkage, to infrastructure upgrades, to green line contributions, and as much inclusionary housing as possible (at 20% and beyond).
|In Winter Hill, priorities are a neighborhood grocery store, mixed income family-oriented residential units and green space. I would make sure that we involve the diverse residents in our ward to ensure that any development is actually responsive to our needs. That can only happen through collaboration with city hall and if the property is sold or subject to an eminent domain process. There is no doubt that the property is blighted and is causing significant quality of life problems for the neighborhood. We should use whatever means we have as a city to take it and make sure that it is subject to a neighborhood planning process that leads to a result that is desired and supported by the neighborhood.||I support increasing the inclusionary number from 20% that the market can bear. There are huge pressures on the housing market for low and moderate income households, and those pressures are driving people out of Somerville. The only way to address this is to build more units that meet that need, and to get as much inclusionary housing as possible within new developments.|
I would wait to see how the new 20% IZ produces in both velocity and built product. But, if that works, I would absolutely consider increasing that number to 25%, especially in the transformational areas of the city (Boyton Yards etc).
If we raise the IZ percentage beyond 20%, we will need to have a broader conversation about how many units this ordinance applies to, and how the ordinance can be satisfied. Cash in lieu may need further study if the rate is raised. We need to make sure that, as we increase the rate, we continue to make it viable to build projects that include a maximum number of inclusionary units.
Right now the greatest number of new affordable units being built in the City are being built as inclusionary units by our large market-rate developers. We should raise the percentage, as much as possible to still produce quality projects. Otherwise, we may be facing a loss of affordable housing when we realize that 25% of zero units is zero affordable units.
|Yes. Boston, created an office of housing stability that could be a guide for how Somerville can approach that office. This was a large investment in terms of staff, infrastructure, and energy from that city. While affordability can be measured via income, displacement is harder to measure if the right data is not collected. Understanding exactly what displacement looks like is something we need to collectively decide as a community, and as a longtime renter, I certainly have a perspective to bring to the table.||Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||I think that folks in these situations deserve as much time as legally possible. These can be very hart and trying times. We also need to make sure that we are on legally sound ground. Otherwise, changing a city ordinance does not amount to anything when it gets struck down and rejected by the State Legislature. That would be a waste of staff||No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||I have worked for the City for Somerville and we were able to build and permit more affordable housing units on aggregate than most folks see in communities around us. I also have a record of bringing different parties to the table, especially when it comes to development projects, and get to a product that satisfies most parties. Government for me is about concrete results that improve people's lives not ideology or political expediency. I can deliver results. I can get affordable housing built.||1- Pass Zoning Reform to make our zoning code more neighborhood and user friendly.|
2- Enforce the on-site 20% inclusionary zoning ordinance.
3- Incentivize the construction of more family-oriented units.
|Ward 4 is going to be impacted by the Green Line Extension. Stations are currently planned for Gilman Square and Magoun Square, and folks are feeling the financial impact of living so close to the Green Line. Whomever represents our Ward needs to have the skills and experience to leverage public and private sector investments to realize our priorities. At Star Market, we now have a neighborhood plan that shows our vision for the site. We should work off of that to get something done. We should continue to put pressure on the land owner to either build on the site according to our plan, or find somebody who will.||No, I do not support the proposal as it.||I am running for Ward 4 Alderman to represent the residents of my Ward. I don’t think that adding more layers to government would add responsiveness or accountability. During the fight over the “FRIT waiver”, I heard a lot of complaints about city boards, and I simply don’t believe that any scheme for representation is superior to the one we already have- elections every two years for Mayor and Aldermen.||Yes||I believe in the jobs linkage ordinance. I have worked on it and help enact it and lobby for it at the State level. But I also believe that zoning reform is essential to solving the affordable housing crisis in our city. At the end of the day, it is expensive to build new units or add units in our city. The community isn’t the recipient of these higher costs – attorneys and architects are. By reducing red tape, we give our community the ability to decide how that overhead is spent. It is clear that we have a lot of ideas: 20% or higher affordable housing rates in large developments; more funding for jobs training; robust community processes for development; more infrastructure improvements. Passing zoning reform will give our community the tools and resources to do more on affordability and displacement, and will give the entire metro Boston region an example of how to tackle this challenge.|
|Katjana Ballantyne||Maximum resident participation|
• Ensure zoning language allows for maximum resident participation and feedback loop
• Residents should participate in community meetings around zoning, share research, listen, speak to your Aldermen
Concerns and changes
• Concern haven’t used data as a tool to inform zoning, and haven’t applied financial analysis (how much revenue would the city earn with this new zoning?).
• Zoning cannot be created in a vacuum with only design outcome sought. It must consider financial impacts. Knowing this would give us a better understanding, and options to address affordability.
• Reevaluate sections which reduce public review requirements, take control out of zoning and give to City Administration, Planning Department Planning Boards and the Redevelopment Authority.
• Sustainability has to be prominent portion of the city-wide zoning
|I have consistently been in contact with property owner, city to understand options for the development for vacant sites, as much as the law allows. I have also shared with property owner neighborhood concerns about project type, traffic impacts etc. Before any project moves ahead, allow a community input with public meetings, and encourage direct conversations with neighbors and property owner is important for community engagement.||Yes I would consider supporting. There would need to be further research and discussion to understand the impacts on small, medium and large developers and proportion the impacts accordingly.||Yes I would consider supporting this initiative to address the displacement of tenants, because our greater region is in a housing crisis, and tenants should supported where possible and know their rights due to the pressures of displacement.||(See below)||Somerville is a special case in the state because it has a large number of 2-4 unit rental apartment buildings and most residents live in 2 & 3 family houses. Therefore, most of our residents are affected by changes these buildings. So, this is why Somerville should have its own condo conversion ordinance, because of this special condition. Finding housing is a hardship for everyone and especially for tenants who are elderly, people with disabilities and low and moderate income people. I feel Somerville should do something to give the time and relocation assistance when tenants are being displaced due to a condo conversion, especially in the case of the elderly, disabled, and people with low and moderate incomes.|
As this legislation is crafted and reviewed in Legislative Matters I will review it with these objectives in mind: to give fair notice, time and assistance to residents who will be displaced.
|No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||• Supported affordable housing development, permitting, linkage ordinance amendments and requirements for affordability.|
• Funded expand pre-school, and after-school options across Somerville.
• Supported job training and job creation by creating the Home Rule petitions that will enable the Jobs Trust and a Job Creation Linkage Fees.
• Required Progress Report for SomerVisions, and all municipal published plans (e.g. Union Sq, Gilman, Winter Hill, Assembly Sq., 100 Home Initiative etc) which will track the housing, economic and financial outcomes, and allow better informed municipal decisions.
• I support Workforce Development Initiatives to benefit Somerville’s most vulnerable residents, so that they can increase skills, earn higher wages and to afford local housing.
|• Increase the amount of Commercial office space available in the transformative squares outlined in SomerVisions|
• Voted for 20% inclusionary zoning
• Advocated against granting FRIT exemption from 20% IZ on site
• Sponsored/Submitted Union Sq. ordinance amendment to require highest Commercial to housing Percentage in order to bring more revenue to the city. We have to think about the people who live here
• Support the highest rate for job linkage fee, $2.42 per s.f. as discussed in the Job Linkage Working Group.
|The Community Benefits Ordinance is in the preliminary draft stages. I believe the intent of the ordinance should allow for the most possible community engagement. |
I would support a Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO) that would allow residents to affect the type and use of developer contributions. The CBO is in the preliminary stages of design in Legislative Matters. Since the particulars of the ordinance have not been confirmed I am waiting for the opportunity to review, research, receive community input, and determine whether Neighborhood Council (NC) be public, private, or NC self-determine entity structure.
|Yes||I support prompt passage of jobs linkage legislation. Why would we wait? Linkage is tied to commercial development which is happening now. It is not linked to zoning reform. Currently the city expects large developments to happen in spring of 2018. We need to help our residents now.|
|Stephanie Hirsch||For all answers, please find a more complete version here: http://www.stephanieforsomerville.com/blog?blogUrl=/2017/10/please-find-below-complete-answers-to.html |
Here are a guiding principles on how I’ll evaluate zoning. As I’ve been door knocking, I have heard about both the desperate need for housing and anxiety about development’s impact on neighborhoods. We need to try to balance those tensions. A third issue that has roiled the community is a sense that we can’t trust our powerful boards to make decisions in the best interest of the community. New zoning needs to provide more transparency so we can make key decisions about trade-offs as a community. Finally, it’s important to note that the zoning is just one set of rules that shape our future. Municipal and traffic ordinances, administrative policy, and other tools also matter. We need to use all tools to make course corrections as we go. My goals include:
• Create better ways to collect public comment;
• Have some community benefit requirements apply to rehab and to non-resident investors that renovate/resell multi-families and small apartment buildings;
• Create a permanently car-free property status with enforcement mechanisms;
• Tie density bonuses to affordability/civic space;
• Allow units to be smaller, especially if they can accommodate families, such as with small bedrooms and shared public spaces. Require a some new housing to include family-sized units;
• Regulate non-owner occupied short-term rentals;
• Incentivize commercial owners to create permanently affordable commercial rents;
|As I’ve been door knocking, residents have expressed a great deal of frustration with stalled development at sites like “Teele Square hole”, the Cobble Hill plaza, and the notorious Star Market site in Winter Hill. Each location has its issues. I’ve checked with the City, and the Teele Square site has given the City some new proposals, but all ask for more units than permitted in zoning law. At Cobble Hill, there is a legal fight underway between owners, which has contributed to delay. The original project approval has expired. While awaiting any action, the City can monitor sites for code violations and residents can organize to pressure the owners to move forward. |
For any site – in particular at present Star Market -- the last-ditch step is for the City to develop an urban revitalization plan that builds off of a neighborhood plan. The City can take this site by eminent domain and find a developer that can build based on the Winter Hill neighborhood plan. People worry about the whether or not eminent domain is the right thing to do, but it’s an important tool I believe to have available for use sometimes. However, if the City takes the property by eminent domain, work going forward must be scrutinized extra carefully to make sure it leads to significant public benefits, to justify the legal/admin cost to the City, the moral weight of taking property expressly for community benefit, and the cost to the prior property owners.
|I would support increasing the inclusionary housing rate, however, I believe it needs to be done in conjunction with other strategies. First, I think it needs to happen in combination with adding new requirements for developers of smaller properties. Also, the IZ rate should, explicitly apply to rehab (currently, it’s unclear). Without adding these two elements, I believe that development pressure and funds will shift to rehabs and smaller properties. I often think about an older, 20-unit building that’s right across from a park and close to a grocery store and schools. It houses many families I know. Its rent is below market because it’s an older building with no new amenities. I’m very worried that this building will be purchased and undergo a gut rehab, therefore displacing all residents and effectively eliminating 20 units of affordable, family-friendly housing. |
Also, in general, I think that our community, activists, and City staff and elected officials only have so much bandwidth as to what issues we can take on. I want to be sure we are taking on the highest-impact ones. We can look at publicly available assessing data and cross-reference it to other data to see which approach has the biggest impact on reducing displacement and on slowing speculative buying/flipping.
|Yes!! This is an issue that has weighed heavily on my mind over the years. The Sustainable Neighborhood Working Group report was issued in December of 2016, and the City’s housing department has had trouble implementing many of the recommendations, such as consolidation of the affordable housing wait list. I believe this is largely because they have few staff and major operational duties. I would like to capacity added to:|
• Meet with each senior owner to help them access the deferred tax programs and, if interested, help them restructure ownership of multi-families to transfer some equity to adult family members. Many of the kids in our school system live with their parents and older grandparents. If the older generation sells, the assets gets split among siblings, and then the middle and younger generation needs to move.
• Meet with each Somerville family with kids to develop a housing plan. This could be done in schools. Both low-income families and for middle-income families need this help.
• Implement the SNWG recommendations and any new policy initiatives, track and report on displacement of individuals (and perhaps small businesses), and allow for better real-time problem solving.
I believe that the City should consider moving at last some functions of the housing division under the Health and Human Services to improve coordinated responses to each household’s needs, to coordinate better with the Schools, and to help approach housing issues in a way that considers substance abuse, mental health, disability, aging, and...
|See below for explanation.||I do not believe we should focus on revisions to the condo conversion ordinance but, instead, we should focus on implementing the right of first refusal (ROFR) initiative. I believe that condo conversions should be treated as property transfers and thus ROFR rules should apply to those as well. I am worried that focusing on the condo conversion will divert attention and exhaust political with less results, as it has, I believe in the past year. |
I support the ROFR proposal put forward by Rep Provost, recommended by the SNWG, and piloted in DC. A program like this will help preserve housing in traditional neighborhoods, support both low- and middle-income buyers, create opportunities for ownership, and reduce the speculative buying that residents are finding so unsettling. As the proposal gets refined, I believe we need to pay special attention to the timeline of how quickly the tenant (or their designee) has to make an offer. This issue was flagged as the most hard to handle for sellers and realtors. I believe this can be helped by crating short-term financing strategies and by enabling third party non-profits to hold the property until a tenant association can be formed and/or longer-term financing secured.
|Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||I have spent the 25 years of my life in anti-poverty and community development work. In my 20s, I worked in Philadelphia and rural Georgia. Seeing how local government systems had failed people, I resolved to spend my life trying to fix the brokenness of government systems. I studied statistics and finance, and then worked to improve child welfare with NYC and reduce youth violence in Boston. Working for Somerville, I started SomerStat, ResiStat, 311, SomerPromise, and the City’s Children’s Cabinet. |
Though I think I accomplished a lot, there’s so much more to do. I can see the faces of kids who fell through the cracks while I was working in Somerville. Every other week I learn of one of my kids’ classmates who needs to move. I want to do more, to address affordability, to increase investment in community institutions, and to improve life outcomes. In my personal life, I have spent thousands of hours with kids and families, volunteering at school and trying to help families find housing. Every day I am reduced to tears by a story I hear. The issues are so complex, we need the best tools. My knowledge of how the City works, strong will, and deep knowledge of people’s needs will help me take on the biggest problems to identify ground-breaking solutions. I have pledged to not accept donations from developers, because the stakes are so high, and nothing should interfere with trust in the public process and a clear view of priorities.
|Relief for seniors: I will do all I can to (respectfully, but relentlessly) pressure the city to reach each household with the offer of a tax deferral. We need to address the needs our long-time residents as we consider a transfer fee. One idea suggests giving older residents property tax relief if the resident gives a right of first refusal agreement. (In another scenario, the owner could have a reverse mortgage with the city or a non-profit developer so that some of the equity gradually gets transferred). This could provide relief for seniors, while helping create a pipeline for the 100 home program and taking properties off the speculative market. |
Organizing tool kit: I will work with activists and community groups to create tool kit of levers we can use at the local level. I will help the people connect to one another. This includes people in the immigrant households, where sometimes only one person may be able to vote, but 10 people live and have ideas about what should happen here. We can think of a rapid response approach to help us act on the different drivers of affordability, such as pressure on Tufts to come up with a master plan that houses more students on campus, help with getting the proposed RORF enabling legislation moved forward, volunteering to inventory vulnerable small businesses, and weighing in on budget hearings. We can produce metrics on displacement and display it on billboards to websites. We can produce an annual report card.
|I believe that the 1,000s of hours of work of people involved in the Union Square Neighborhood Council has been long, arduous, and very important. They are getting close to a second neighborhood vote on a proposed design for the council. I think we can learn from this ground-breaking effort and then look at revisions to the proposal for CBO legislation after that. Among the issues that have been raised are:|
• How do we make sure a new group represents the neighborhood?
How do make sure it represents the needs of people who have typically been less active in local politics for different reasons?
• What are the boundaries and should neighborhood councils be not overlapping, but covering the whole city?
• What’s its relationship to the City?
As long as the majority of neighborhood residents support an independent NC proposal and believe it represents their interests and perspective, I’ll support it enthusiastically.
More specifically for the CBO legislation, I think we have to balance the wish of developers to have predictability about their financial commitments with having one or more group that can hold them accountable for delivering on what the community wants and needs.
|Yes||I support a linkage fee. I recognize the need for more commercial development so think that any new obligations imposed on commercial developers need to be weighed against the need for revenue (as well as daytime traffic for other small businesses). Somerville continues to be one of the lowest per capita revenue generators in the state. State aid has fallen dramatically, along with some federal, like CDBG. Between 2004 and 2016, our revenue from the state fell by 6%, in part because of our rising property values and changing mix of student enrollment. Everett, in contrast, increased by 167% or $46 million. Expenses have continued to rise, including fixed expenses like pensions and spending on backlogged issues, like capital projects or small increases to departmental budgets that jut fill small gaps. We haven’t been able to dramatically increase commercial development because our transformative areas (like inner belt) don’t have the infrastructure.|
As a result, Somerville continues to be among the poorest communities on a per capita basis. Between 2004 and 2016, Somerville’s total revenue has increased by only 38%. Cambridge’s increase, meanwhile, was 72%. In that time period their revenue rose by $240 million, which is more than all of Somerville’s budget – Cambridge now has almost three times our revenue.
Municipal revenue pays for the very long list of needs, including expansion of our housing office, staff who can support small businesses, out-of-school programming that can help take the stress off of families who are living in doubled up housing.
|Jesse Clingan||It's important to ensure that community input opportunities are still there even with much fewer projects requiring a special permit. Pre-submittal meetings and neighborhood meetings have been important ways for residents to learn about development that impacts them and have a voice in the process. The new zoning will make a lot of development by-right and, therefore, limit the number of pre-submittal and neighborhood meetings. |
While I think it is important to streamline some of the permitting for minor modifications to homes, one of the things that may be weakened in the new zoning is the community process. We need to find a new way to trigger the community process for projects that impact the neighborhood but don’t require a special permit. Maybe it could be based on the size or scope of the project. Maybe all projects would require notifying a neighborhood group for approval, like how the City of Boston functions.
|I am going to make sure that absentee property owners are held accountable for their vacant lots. It seems some developers buy a property and even pull permits to build, only to have the project screech to a halt as the developer awaits further funding. I see this as speculation and it leaves the community with open eyesores for months to years. I will be looking at ways to address this issue, perhaps setting up guidelines for builders to which they must adhere or risk consequences. |
When the community has concerns about unattended property, like the Star Market lot, I will be sure to use my office to see to it that owners are held responsible for the activities on their property. I will use board orders to elevate resident complaints. I will also use my office to help arrange meetings between the property owners and concerned neighbors so that we can prevent properties from falling into disrepair.
I will also advocate for for community benefits agreements that residents can negotiate directly with the developer. I will work with the administration and the CPA committee to use CPA funds to take vacant properties when appropriate and ensure that sanitation or safety compliance issues are raised.
Also, when a vacant property is purchased for development, I will work to make sure the community has as many meetings with the developer as possible, from the very beginning. It can’t be a done deal by the time residents hear about it.
|Yes. 25%, open to discussing even higher. BOA had enough foresight to tier the levels. I think it is important to also make sure there is workforce housing, housing available to middle income families. We don’t want to become a city of just the poor and the rich. Income inequality is destructive and it needs to be addressed by these smart approaches. |
If we are truly committed to preserving Somerville's economic and racial diversity we must take an aggressive approach to addressing the lack of affordable housing.
I feel like cash in lieu of units is a slippery slope. We need new affordable units coming online now, not down the road. I think adhering to the percentage of inclusionary on-site units as stated be it 20% or higher, is the best way to ensure new affordable units are available sooner than later.
Perhaps we could compel the city to build more housing.
|Yes. I’ve met with the current director from the Boston office. They are doing some really great work. In addition to having resources for tenants and property owners to be familiar with and comply with the current law, we need a space to explore new ideas and strategies, to convene the many stakeholders in our community with their own home grown ideas or successful ideas to borrow from other communities facing similar challenges. Some of these ideas may not be useable now, but we need to be building our idea trust and explore every avenue.|
One of the main functions of the office would be that when an owner has the intention of selling, they have to notify the office of housing stability to help the resident get the information they need and educate them about their right of first refusal
if such an ordinance is on the books.
|Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law||The current city ordinance is outdated in that the assistance money is only available to tenants whose income is less than or equal the qualification income for section 8 housing. It is also outdated in the amount that tenants shall receive. Most apartment rentals require first and last months’ rent plus security deposit. The cost of relocation is in the thousands of dollars. At the very least we should increase this to cover all tenants regardless of income and increase the amount given to tenants one month's rent plus 500.00 for moving expenses||No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||No, cash in lieu is never an acceptable practice.||I have been an activist in the community. I know the importance and power of people coming together. I speak out at City Hall with the affordable housing advocates.|
I fought for union labor and local hire at Max Pac and Assembly so that people could live in places they are building. As a community activist and organizer, and someone raised in Somerville moving from apartment to apartment, I have a unique perspective. I have lived in 7 different apartments, lived on section 8 and have experienced being priced out. I know what it is like to struggle. These are issues that are important to me. I went to every hearing on the FRIT waiver. I’m on record saying I’m against the waiver. I believe in building power.
I’m also a unique bridge builder for our Ward. I grew up poor in the city. I can relate to residents who are struggling to pay the bills, fearing an even small rent increase. I will be able to bring diverse folks to the table to address these problems.
People power government.
|I will support increasing the inclusionary zoning, support an effort to create a community land trust to offer lasting affordable housing opportunities. I would also support a benevolent landlord incentive program as well as a tenant first right of refusal ordinance. But there is also an income problem. We need to do what we can as a city to support good paying jobs so that people can afford rising costs. We need the jobs linkage fee, and we need to make sure that big employers in the city are hiring locally and paying good wages. We need to hold every developer and every project accountable. There is no reason why developers should see 20% as the maximum for affordability. We should be working with developers to go beyond the 20%.|
In the last two to three years I have advocated for the increase to the inclusionary zoning. I have educated myself on different strategies to increase affordable housing. I also testified against the FRIT waiver on multiple occasions. I am a member of a group “Good Jobs Somerville” which fights for workers right and fair wages. We helped pass the first wage theft ordinance and we fought for a living wage in Somerville. As I have stated wages are just as much a part of the equation as rent and home prices
|I like the idea that is pictured in the Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan--a few buildings built to form a u shape with a common in the middle. Even if we surrender to the notion that there will be a mixed use development project there, it's important that the community benefits from new development on Winter Hill, especially the old Star Market site. This is a key location in our neighborhood. |
We certainly need more commercial space built in Somerville to lessen the tax burden ofresidential property owners, so some ground level commercial makes sense. But I would also advocate for affordable housing on that lot first and foremost. Additionallay, we need development to encourage more walking. We do not have the benefit of a square on Winter Hill, so in order to make it less of a “drive through” location, we must use and transform any potential space in places of congregation.
To make this happen, the city must acquire the property by seizure through use of eminent domain or by facilitating a deal with the owner and a developer. I will support this process and once the property is available for development, I will call for many meetings with the developer and the community. I am in favor of community led development as well as community benefits agreements. The people of Ward 4 will have to live with whatever is built on the old Star Market site for a long time, we must advocate for development that works for all.
|No, I do not support the proposal as it.||The ordinance creates too many levels of bureaucracy and it removes the community’s ability to directly negotiate with developers for the unique needs of their neighborhood. It applies the same standard to every project. Instead of meeting with residents and working with them, developers will just pay out into a City-managed fund based on the formula and do their project with little or no community input. It’s not enough for a developer to pay into a fund; a CBO must preserve the power of residents to organize to stop or slow down a project when the benefits to the community are outweighed by the adverse impacts of development. A CBO should secure the ability of the community to negotiate terms and benefits that address community needs.||Yes||To meet community goals and standards we should be aggressively working towards local job training programs. I would support the prompt passage of linkage legislation now because as we delay we lose the revenue that could be generated while waiting for the zoning overhaul to pass. We must also be sure that linkage legislation is included in the new zoning.|
|Robert J. McWatters||Zoning must enable development that benefits everyone, not just real estate developers and special interests. That’s why I take the responsibility of being an Alderman seriously. In fact, when city staff developed new comprehensive zoning in 2015, my colleagues and I on the Board of Aldermen asked so many tough questions, that the proposal had to go back to the drawing board. Many of the concerns I expressed were directly the result feedback and issues raised by constituents. Ward 3 is fortunate to have many brilliant minds, passionate advocates, and people with lifetimes of experience, both locally and abroad. I listen and act on their concerns and am grateful for their contributions. |
The current zoning proposal needs to do an effective and comprehensive job of closing loopholes that allow developers to build projects “by right.” The Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Design Review Committee processes provide important avenues for neighborhood participation and comment, but only if the project specifics trigger a development review. When these reviews are evaded, or curtailed, public participation is unfairly restricted.
|For decades, municipalities have had the option of taking abandoned properties, but I would also support a “use it or lose it” ordinance for unused properties owned by commercial or residential developers. Such an ordinance would establish ground-rules for the city to purchase properties if developers or speculators fail to submit and carry out development plans after a fixed period of ownership has elapsed. It’s important to recognize, however, that the appropriate reuse of such properties—mixed use, housing, recreation, etc.—will vary by neighborhood, so neighborhood input will be crucial in determining reuse.||I am proud to have voted to increase Somerville’s inclusionary zoning percentage from 12.5% to 20% for developments with 18 or more residential units and 17.5% for projects between eight and 17 units. Together with Cambridge, Somerville is now a regional leader in demanding a higher level of commitment to affordability from residential developers. It’s a step that makes sense in the context of regional economic trends—and it was a necessary action to maintain Somerville’s vibrant and diverse population mix. |
Our goal now must be to create a housing environment that is sustainable in the long term—one that not only nurtures all types of housing stock but also supports economic growth that generates the resources and revenues that enable us to invest in our schools, social services, public safety and environment. The key to that level of sustainability is to achieve appropriate density, which requires larger-scale developments.
While I believe the 20% inclusionary rate strikes a good balance for today, we need to monitor the success of the policy going forward. If we set the percentage too high, we will have effectively stopped the development of new housing, something I do not support. If we set the percentage too low, we risk losing the opportunity to create more affordable housing. After only 16 months since we last raised the inclusionary housing rate, it’s too early to say whether a further adjustment is needed. Ultimately, it’s not about the percentage, but about maximizing the number of affordable units produced.
|Over two-thirds of Somerville’s residents are renters. Therefore, it’s critical that we support efforts to educate and support tenants about their rights and strategies for protecting those rights. Somerville undertakes a variety of initiatives to inform tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities and resolve disputes. The Somerville Fair Housing Commission provides assistance and referrals. It also undertakes activities to improve the understanding of our fair housing laws and minimize discrimination in housing. Moreover, Somerville’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund has also provided grants to the City’s non-profit partners to help assist, preserve and support Somerville residents in housing stability. Recently, it has stabilized households at risk of homelessness through Tenant Based Rental Assistance provided by Housing Division to the Somerville Homeless Coalition’s PASS Program (Prevention and Stabilization Services). I will continue to support these efforts and am always eager to hear constituents concerns about our programs and how to improve them.||All the revisions described in this question help create a climate more conducive to a deliberate and orderly transition process that protects both landlords and tenants while giving tenants every opportunity to explore opportunities to buy the units they occupy. (This is also why I am strongly in favor of “right of first refusal” legislation, and will work to help it become law. See my reply to Question 9.)||Yes, cash in lieu of onsite units should be allowed in the new zoning.||I am proud to have voted to increase Somerville’s inclusionary zoning percentage from 12.5% to 20% for developments with 18 or more residential units and 17.5% for projects between eight and 17 units|
I’m also proud to have voted in favor of the new Union Square zoning ordinance. We spent over nine months examining various policy options, and I listened carefully to the many thoughtful ideas, concerns, and analyses that came directly from Ward 3 constituents. The final plan for Union Square will add up to 1,000 new housing units, of which 200 will be subsidized for low and middle income households. The plan will also result in 5,000 new jobs, 3.6 acres of new open space, and a package of other community benefits including job training funding and contributions toward the cost of the Green Line extension and Somerville’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The Union Square zoning also set a precedent for rebuilding Somerville’s commercial tax base. We required that 60% of the uses be commercial property, a critical requirement that will ease the financial burden on residential property taxpayers, diversify our tax base, and create good-paying local jobs. My focus on creating middle-class jobs led me to support a zoning amendment that would have increased office and R&D space while decreasing retail and food establishments. I was only one of three Aldermen to support the amendment.
|Housing affordability is one of the most pressing issues facing Somerville today. Multi-generational Somerville families and other long-time residents are being priced out of the city. Young people cannot afford to live here, and families are leaving faster than they are being replaced. Somerville is in danger of losing its soul. If anyone knows that to be true, it’s me. I’ve lived here my entire life, and I’ve watched many friends and neighbors pushed out.|
In addition to my support for increasing Somerville’s inclusionary housing percentage and the Union Square zoning, I have already begun work on, and continue to press for action on, all the following specific policy initiatives:
- Tax Deferral: Promote the city’s property tax deferral program for seniors.
- Right of First Refusal: State legislation is currently pending that would enable Somerville to enact a right of first refusal, which would give tenants the first option to purchase their unit, either on their own, or with assistance from the City forming a limited equity partnership. Somerville should support this legislation and, if passed, adopt our own ordinance to enact this in a way that works best for our own City.
- Transfer Fee: Implement a “transfer fee” that targets home flippers and get-rich-quick investors.
- Airbnb: Regulate the growth of short-term housing rentals like Airbnb, which eats into our housing supply, by requiring hosts to live in the same or adjacent home.
|Ward 3 residents were thoughtful, persistent, and loud advocates on the Union Square zoning. I credit them with helping me make the ordinance something we can be proud of while acknowledging that new development will have impacts that will change our community. |
The Board of Aldermen spent nine months analyzing and amending the Administration’s Union Square zoning proposal, and we went line by line, making critical changes. I am proud to say that we more than doubled the amount of open space in the plan, added a separate and strong definition of green space, and included green roof incentives—thanks in large part to the advocacy of Ward 3 residents. We added language that requires 15% of affordable units be three-bedrooms—large enough for families, and we clarified definitions of commercial uses to close loopholes and incentivize the development of good-paying jobs for Somerville residents.
Going forward, I will continue to work with constituents to make their voices heard in the redevelopment process. The Planning Board, Design Review Committee, and state environmental oversight agency must all still review the plan and issue the appropriate approvals and permits. Moreover, I will, as I always have, be a voice for constituents throughout the construction process. I regularly request that the City send inspectors down to job sites to ensure that contractors are abiding by all laws, including noise, debris removal, and work times. Like any developer, US2 must abide by the law.
|No, I do not support the proposal as it.||It’s crucial that the proposed Neighborhood Councils have real, substantial authority in determining how community benefit dollars are used. It’s a sticking point for me. I think we’ll get there, and that the final version will be a model for other communities—but we’re not there yet.||Yes||When it comes to hammering out benefits agreements with private developers, a jobs linkage fee is another useful tool in the municipal toolbox. I will support prompt passage of jobs linkage legislation. I do not see a reason to wait until the comprehensive zoning ordinance is passed.|
|Elio LoRusso||The residents' concerns need to be addressed prior to any final decisions being implemented. The prior drafts seem to address issues on density yet remain vague on the commercial development. In order to ensure that residents are not negatively impacted city wide meetings with the residents must be had and their voices need to be reflected in the final zoning.||With respect to vacant lots, as your Alderman, affordable housing for all developments will be my top priority. In doing so, I will make certain as Alderman that said vacant lots are at all times maintained in accordance with the Somerville city ordinances.||Yes, I would consider the inclusionary rate increase, if it would not have a negative effect on affordable units and quality commercial development.||Yes. It is important that both the tenants and landlords can access information prior and during any disputes and displacements. |
This service would provide both parties with necessary instructions pertaining to their legal rights and responsibilities.
|Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law.||Renters must be given more notice in order for them to find suitable housing. Often, inventory is not readily available. Tenants may need additional time to address concerns such as minor children, pets, employment and medical needs.||Development will always happen in the city. We want to make sure that development that takes shape and the developer work together for the needs of the community. I am for development that meets the criteria of the neighborhood. I will bring the developer and will make certain that residents get together to make sure that both parties work alongside each other so that we can achieve excellent projects together.||We want to make it affordable to live in Somerville so that our families do not leave Somerville. We want to make the residents part of the development process so that developers will build more affordable units and the developers pay their fair share in the affordable housing trust fund. This all the right avenues of making Somerville affordable. The one thing I want to make sure is that affordable units are for Somerville residents.||The current proposal calls for mixed use office space, retail and 100 plus units with 20% earmarked for affordable housing. The lack of progression on this project is a great concern to the residents of Ward 1. As a business owner and active supporter of smart economic development I will make certain I effectively advocate for the swift development of this site in order to promote a diverse and productive neighborhood. As Alderman I will open up a dialogue with the owners to mediate their differences which will navigate the process to a ground breaking of the site.||Yes, I support the proposal as it is.||I absolutely support this measure. I have always been a believer that the residents who live in a neighborhood should ultimately have the decision to decide what gets developed and what does not get developed in a neighborhood.||Yes||As a city we are setting the ground work for generations to come by putting forth a job linkage program. Offering training for job placement would go a long way in generations to come and we will have the best of the best skilled workers.|
|Will Mbah||I believe that all development must community-led. That means prioritizing community voices and hearings. I have concerns with how much residents have been asked for their input and concerns in advance of changes in the past (Union Square development). I feel that the city must hold more community meetings in order to get this process out of the "dark" and shed light on plans for the community. The city should also consider making it mandatory to reach out to community members who live close by the affected area so they know of the hearings. I am troubled by the inclusion of "by right" development that would eliminate public input into certain projects in the new zoning.||If we are going to use eminent domain to take healthy business plots away for big development, we should be willing to use it for community good on vacant lots. I think we should consider passing regulations that put a timeline on vacant property that make it possible for the city to seize back property that is being left vacant or underdeveloped. |
Again, development must be led by the community and government must have mechanisms in place to ensure that happens.
|Yes, this has been a major part of my platform since I announced my run. |
But, the city can’t just rely on private development to get us out of our affordable housing crisis. The city itself must take a more active role. IF the city is going to use eminent domain in development projects, it should use some of that land to establish Community Land Trusts that the city itself will build on and provide affordable units for working and middle class families (we are lacking this middle of the market in housing).
|YES! This will be so important in helping us better understand the forces of speculation and displacement here in Somerville. We can't turn a blind eye to effects of development.||See below for explanation.||Eliminating the City’s existing condo conversion ordinance and defaulting to the State law, Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of relocation and notice time that tenants are given to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to increase the amount of financial relocation assistance that must be given to tenants to the maximum allowed by State law, Revising the City ordinance to require owners to provide more advance notice about condo conversion to tenants and the City, including for buildings with two or three units, that are not covered by the State law., In order to create even more opportunities for community land trusts we need to empower tenants with the right of first refusal or “right to purchase” if their building is sold to be converted to condos. We should allow them to collectively buy the property with 5% down. That 5% down could come partly from community housing organizations or housing trust funds. This would only apply to buildings of 3 or more units that are not owner occupied. You might ask yourself, where is the funding for these projects going to come from? That is why my community land trust idea is tied to a 1% transfer fee tax on real estate speculation in Somerville (properties bought and sold within 3 years of purchase). This money will go straight to affordable housing trust funds and be used to help residents exercise their right to purchase (while also cutting down on too much real estate speculation).||No, cash in lieu of onsite units should not be allowed in the new zoning.||No, cash in lieu is never an acceptable practice.||I am a fresh face in the political realm, so I don't have a political voting record. But, I have been an activist for affordable housing in the city. I marched, rallied and testified against the FRIT waiver. I have made it clear how important this issue is to me personally in my journey (where I was actually displaced temporarily) and made affordability my #1 issue. I think my lived experience as a renter and working class resident of Somerville who struggled with gentrification and displacement gives me a unique perspective of the people on affordable housing and development.||We need to make changes to bring about affordability, community-led development and economic fairness. We need to end the forces of displacement that are destroying our communities. Forcing out our local businesses. Our artists. Our Workers. Our neighbors. Our diversity. We need fair deals with developers that protect workers and residents. My goal is to help build a city where ALL residents are valued and have access to quality jobs and housing, and can meaningfully shape the development plan for their city.|
We need to increase the current 20% required inclusionary zoning on housing to 25%.
The city can’t just rely on private development to get us out of our affordable housing crisis. The city itself must take a more active role. IF the city is going to use eminent domain in development projects, it should use some of that land to establish Community Land Trusts that the city itself will build on and provide affordable units for working and middle class families (we are lacking this middle of the market in housing).
In order to create even more opportunities for community land trusts we need to empower tenants with the right of first refusal or “right to purchase” if their building is sold to be converted to condos. We should allow them to collectively buy the property with 5% down. That 5% down could come partly from community housing organizations or housing trust funds. This would only apply to buildings of 3 or more units that are not owner occupied...
|I propose handling development differently than the city has thus far in places like Union Square. We must start by asking the community what its needs and concerns are BEFORE making promises to developers. We need a community benefits agreement- that has a large cash sum put forth by the developer for the community to control BEFORE development starts. I think a democratically elected community board should work with the city and control how this money is spent. That way it can be put forth toward green space projects, community centers and funds to help displaced local businesses that are facing higher rents. There are plenty of developers, including non-profits that are willing to be good community partners and we need to seek them out.||I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I think this is about creating a transparent process that involves the community first. It is not about what I want, but what they want. Then, I will use all powers available to allow that site to not sit vacant anymore.||Yes, I support the proposal as it is.||We need a community benefits agreement- that has a large cash sum put forth by the developer for the community to control BEFORE development starts. I think a democratically elected community board should work with the city and control how this money is spent. That way it can be put forth toward green space projects, community centers and funds to help displaced local businesses that are facing higher rents. There are plenty of developers, including non-profits that are willing to be good community partners and we need to seek them out. The city put the community in a weak position having to negotiate this CBO AFTER development was agreed upon.||Yes||This is a great idea.|