March 12, 2017

Mark your calendars: Our next meeting is Wed., Apr. 5, 7–8:30pm, at the Union Church in Waban (14 Collins Rd.). Please RSVP!

Please review the updates and alerts below, and consider taking action on…

  • Accessory apartments—P&D Board vote Mon., Mar. 13

  • Charter Commission—Hearing on proposal Wed., Mar. 15

  • Washington Place—Committee of the Whole, Mon., Mar. 20

  • Accessory Apartments. The proposed new ordinance is in its second round of public review. Mon., Mar. 13, 7:30pm, Room 204, is the Planning Board discussion and vote. Apparently they’re evenly split. There may not be opportunity for the public to speak, but we still need a strong show of support. Please attend if you can.

    • On. Feb. 27, the ZAP hearing on the proposed ordinance was held (report and audio here). The committee reconvenes to discuss a handful of amendments from Councilor Baker, among other things, and hopefully will vote it out on Mon., Mar. 27. Please attend if you can.

    • If you haven’t relayed your support to the Council and Planning Board, or even if you have, you can still (re)send them an email via David Olson (dolson@newtonma.gov). Please copy Rachel Powers, staff contact for the Planning Board (rpowers@newtonma.gov).

    • Go here to read Marian Knapp’s excellent 2/27 testimony.

  • Charter Commission. VERY IMPORTANT: On Wed., Mar. 15, 7pm, there will be a public hearing in the Council Chamber on the proposed new Charter (Preliminary Report). Please attend and testify. 

    • If you know you’re going, RSVP to the “YES for a New Charter” campaign. If you can’t, send a supportive email to the Commission.

    • See the Report’s introduction (pp. 3–8) for a description of the 16-month Charter review process and a clear and persuasive rationale for why the Commission voted unanimously on Feb. 15 to approve what they are proposing.

    • As has been true throughout the review process, there is opposition to changing the Charter. The fight to get it passed will be tough. The YES campaign needs supporters and volunteers—please join. 

      • Email YES co-chairs Jen Abbott, Frieda Dweck, and Andrea Steenstrup via yesnewtoncharter@gmail.com, tell them you want to help out. (See their letter from the 3/1/17 Newton TAB here.)

      • Like the Facebook page, share it around, invite your Newton friends.

  • Washington Place. On Feb. 23, Land Use received a request from the petitioner to withdraw without prejudice both the special permit application and the request to rezone. They would now be applying for a comprehensive permit (40B)—see Robert Korff’s letter to the Council

    • The City Council will nevertheless meet in a Committee of the Whole on Mon., Mar. 20, 7:45pm, to deliberate the project. Please attend if you can. (John Sisson’s appointment to the Newton Historical Commission is also up for a vote that night.)

    • From the 2/28/17 Land Use report:

The Chair read the items into the record and noted that the petitioner had submitted a request to withdraw without prejudice the Special Permit petition and request to rezone the Orr Block. After the submission of the request to withdraw the petition without prejudice, the Chair worked with the President of the Council to schedule a Committee of the Whole on March 20, 2017. It was noted that while the Land Use Committee has had the benefit of presentations and public comment, the Full Council has not. Due to a ruling from the City’s Law Department, the petition to rezone the site requires a 3⁄4 vote. Committee members emphasized the importance of ensuring that deliberations related to the project happen publicly. The Chair’s expectations are that Councilors will make their concerns about the project clear during the Committee of the Whole. He reiterated that the public hearing remains open and noted that the Council will not vote to approve or deny the petition on March 20, 2017. If the petitioner does not wish to continue with the Special Permit process, the Land Use Committee may act on the request to withdraw the petition that evening. Action: Land Use Held 8-0

February 17, 2017

Our next meeting is Wed., Mar. 1, 7–8:30pm, at the Union Church in Waban (14 Collins Rd.). Please RSVP!

Please review the updates and alerts below regarding…

  • Accessory apartments—New ZAP hearing opens Feb. 27

  • Washington Place—Land Use hearing on Feb. 28

  • Charter Commission—Hearing on proposal Mar. 15

  • CAN-DO Annual YIMBY Celebration—Mar. 12

  • LWVN topic meetings—Charter Commission, street design


  • Accessory Apartments. At the City Council meeting on Mon., Feb. 6, a motion by the ZAP Chair to “recommit” the proposed new ordinance was approved by voice vote. Audio here.

    • There will now be a new public hearing before a joint session of ZAP and Planning Board, Mon., Feb. 27, 7:45pm. Go here for meeting notice and link to draft ordinance.

      • We’d like a good, strong show of support at this hearing. Please attend and testify if you can, even if you already did—new hearing, new dealio.

        • If you can’t or even if you can, email your support to the Council via Clerk David Olson (dolson@newtonma.gov).

      • Search past email updates and the Livable Newton Facebook page for testimony/letters from previous hearing and links to press coverage, but put your thoughts in your own words.

  • Washington Place. Land Use meets on Tues., Feb. 28, 7pm, Council Chamber, to continue the public hearing and review the Draft Council Orders for the special permit and rezoning. Please attend if you can.

    • Much documentation on the project can be found here (scroll down to “Washington St and Walnut St”).

  • Charter Commission. At their meeting on Wed., the Commission voted unanimously to approve their preliminary Charter recommendation and present it to Newton voters for review. Go here for this and other documents. Go here for audio and mtg report, here for League observer notes.

    • Please plan to attend and testify if possible at the Mar. 15 public hearing on the Charter recommendation, 7pm, Council Chamber.

    • You could also send the Commission an email.

  • CAN-DO Annual YIMBY Celebration. Save the date! Buy tickets (or a tribute ad, or a table)! Sun., Mar. 12, 4–7pm, Newton Marriott.

    • This year’s event will honor CAN-DO’s retiring executive director and founder, Josephine McNeil.

  • League of Women Voters of Newton topic meetings

    • Charter Commission, Thurs., Mar. 2, 8–9:30am, Durant-Kenrick House (286 Waverley Ave). Two Commission members will be there to discuss their work and the proposed Charter changes.

    • “Dangerous by Design,” Thurs., March 9, 8:15–9:30am, Durant-Kenrick House, presented by the LWVN Transportation Committee. Discussion will highlight how our street design is dangerous and how we could make it safer, using examples from other communities. Newton Transportation Dir. Nicole Freedman will be there.

February 5, 2017

Please review the alerts and updates regarding:

  • Accessory apartments—Council vote on Mon.

  • Engine 6/Livable Newton—mtg on Tues.

  • Washington Place—Land Use vote on Tues.

  • Sanctuary City—Council discussion on Wed.

  • Homes for Families MRVP “Cookie Day” @ State House—Feb. 8

  • CAN-DO Annual YIMBY Celebration—Mar. 12

  • Other Planning Dept items


  • Accessory Apartments. The new ordinance goes to the full City Council on Mon., Feb. 6. Meeting starts 7:45pm. Please attend if you can!

  • Engine 6 + Livable Newton. Our next meeting is Tues., Feb. 7, 7–8:30pm, at the Union Church in Waban (14 Collins Rd.). We’ll start with Livable Newton items. Please RSVP, but… 

    • ...this is also the date of the final public hearing and committee vote on Washington Place. We need people at both meetings.

  • Washington Place. Land Use meets for the last time and takes a vote Tues., Feb. 7, 7pm, Council Chamber. They will take public comment before closing the hearing. Please attend if you can—we should surpass opposition turnout—and testify if you haven’t already. Otherwise email the Council via Clerk David Olson (dolson@newtonma.gov). The zone change and special permit requests probably go before the full City Council in early March.

  • Welcoming City Ordinance. This is not about housing or development, but it is about livable communities. On Wed., Feb. 8, at 7:45pm, there will be a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Programs & Services Committees to discuss making Newton a “sanctuary city.” There will be no public comment but all are welcome to attend.

  • See below re Homes for Families’s MRVP [MA Rental Voucher Program] “Cookie Day” at the State House, Wed., Feb. 8, 10am-12pm. MA rental vouchers help low-income families afford to live in projects Engine 6 supports. 

  • CAN-DO Annual YIMBY Celebration. Save the date! Sun., Mar. 12, 4–7pm, Newton Marriott.

  • See 2/3/17 Planning Dept Update for info re other issues, e.g., Walnut Street Enhancements Project, Community Preservation Committee proposals, FY18 Annual Action Plan.

January 27, 2017

Our next meeting, which doubles as a Livable Newton meeting, is Tues., Feb. 7, 7–8:30pm, at the Union Church in Waban (14 Collins Rd.). Please RSVP!

Please review the updates and alerts below regarding…

  • Washington Place

  • Accessory apartments

  • Charter Commission

  • CAN-DO Annual YIMBY Celebration

  • Other Planning Dept news


  • Washington Place. Land Use meets Tues., Jan. 31, 7pm, Council Chamber, to continue (and close?) the public hearing and review the Draft Council Orders for the special permit and rezoning. Developer will present final plans and renderings in addition to a three-dimensional model of the proposed development. Please attend if you can—we need to surpass opposition turnout—and testify if you haven’t already. Otherwise email the Council via Clerk David Olson (dolson@newtonma.gov).

  • Accessory Apartments. On Mon., Jan. 23, the Zoning & Planning (ZAP) Committee approved 5-2-1 (Baker opposed; Sangiolo, Yates abstained) the proposed new ordinance largely as presented, with internal and detached accessory apartments by-right. Audio here. Latest draft attached below (changes from previous draft in yellow).

    • The new ordinance goes to the City Council on Mon., Feb. 6. Please attend if you can! If not, email your support for the new ordinance to the Council via Clerk David Olson (dolson@newtonma.gov).

      • Search the Livable Newton Facebook page for reporting links and past testimony/letters, but please put your thoughts in your own words.

      • See also the attached letter to the TAB by Jim Purdy, Green Newton VP.

  • Charter Commission. At their meeting on Wed., the Commission continued to review the draft revised Charter and preliminary report—go here for these and other documents. Go here for audio and mtg report, here for League observer notes.

    • Please plan to attend the Mar. 15 public hearing, 7pm, Council Chamber (after publication of preliminary report, before submission of final report to MA Attorney General’s office).

    • If you haven’t yet relayed your thoughts on the proposed revisions to the Charter, please send the Commission an email

  • CAN-DO Annual YIMBY Celebration. Save the date! Sun., Mar. 12, 4–7pm, Newton Marriott.

  • See 1/27/17 Planning Dept Update for info re:

    • Walnut Street Enhancements Kick-Off, Mon., Jan, 30, 6:30pm, Newton Senior Center, 345 Walnut Street

    • Fair Housing Committee meeting, Wed., Feb. 1, 8am, Room 205—discussion re FY18 Annual Action Plan

    • FY18 Annual Action Plan/FY18 RFP for CDBG funds and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds

December 12, 2016

Our next meeting, which will double as a Livable Newton meeting, is Tues., Jan. 10, 7pm, at the Union Church (14 Collins Rd). Please RSVP if you can come.

There are several important meetings this week. Please consider attending and/or weighing in via email with the appropriate decision-makers. The topics are

      • Accessory apartments (2 meetings)

      • Charter review

      • Washington Place

  • Accessory apartments, proposed new ordinance. Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) meets TODAY, Mon., 12/12, 7:45pm, Room 205. Agenda here

    • The ZAP public hearing was closed on 11/14, but if you are able, please go! There is some determined opposition on ZAP, and possibly also in the larger Council, to the long-overdue proposed changes to the ordinance. The presence of known supporters could have a positive influence on the discussion.

      • ZAP members: Ted Hess-Mahan (Chair), Vicki Danberg (Vice Chair), Alison Leary, Susan Albright, Amy Sangiolo, Brian Yates, Lisle Baker, David Kalis.

    • ZAP accepts written comments up until the full Council vote. Please email your strong support of the new ordinance to the City Council via the clerk, David Olson, and copy the Planning Board via staff contact Rachel Powers (rpowers@newtonma.gov).

      • Send me your comments so I can share them!

    • At the 11/14 meeting, many people told affecting personal stories about how creating a legal, by-right accessory apartment would allow them to continue living in Newton. Go here for meeting report and audio, and for 10/12 and 12/9 Planning memos (incl. ordinance). See also below, Accessory Apartments Factsheet.

    • The Planning Board holds a hearing Thurs., Dec. 15, 7pm, Room 204 (same time as Land Use hearing on Washington Place). Please consider testifying, if you don’t need to be at Land Use.

  • Charter Commission. Meets Wed., Dec. 14, 7pm, Room 211. Agenda here, includes Article 8—Information on Ballot; Article 7—Planning; Article 12—Transition Provisions; Final Report; 2017 Schedule. Twenty minutes at start of meeting set aside for public comment.

  • Washington Place. The Land Use public hearing continues on Thurs., Dec. 15, 7pm, in the Council Chamber. Go here, scroll down to “Washington Street and Walnut Street—#179-16,” for lots of info.

    • Thanks to everyone who has already spoken in support of this project, and to the people signed up for Thursday. If you want to be added to the list, please tell me.

      • We will also need speakers for the Land Use hearing on Thurs., Jan. 12.

    • If you haven’t yet written or testified, please send a brief, personal, specific email supporting the project to the City Council via the clerk, David Olson. I’ve posted some testimony on Facebook.

    • Last Mon. (12/5) the Planning Board held open the public hearing on the MU4 zoning change for the project. Opponents packed the room and were able to sow some doubt. John Sisson attended and then wrote a letter—see below.

      • Due to an abutter protest, the zone change requires not 16 but 18 Council votes. A weak or no recommendation from the Planning Board could really hurt. Please tell the Planning Board you support the change. Send email via staff contact Rachel Powers. Alternatively you could Cc her on an email to the City Council (see above).

    • Planning Board hearing continues on Wed., Jan. 11. Land Use hearing continues on Thurs., Jan. 12. We need speakers for both—please tell me if you can speak at one or the other.

December 5, 2016

Several meetings this week, plus some action appeals. The next Engine 6/Livable Newton meeting is TOMORROW, Tues., 12/6, 7pm, at the Union Church in Waban (14 Collins Rd). *Please RSVP if you plan to attend.*

  • Washington Place. The Planning Board holds a public hearing on the zoning change TONIGHT, Mon., 12/5, 7pm, Room 204. Full agenda here. Please attend and testify if you can. If not, send emails to Planning Board contact Rachel Powers (rpowers@newtonma.gov).

    • The next Land Use hearing is Thurs. (not Tues.), Dec. 15. Please tell Andrea Kelley if you can testify (3 min. max).

      • If you haven’t yet written or testified, please send a brief, personal, specific email supporting the project to the City Council via Council Clerk David Olson (dolson@newtonma.gov). See my prior emails for material.

      • If you testified at Land Use on Nov. 29, don’t forget to send the Council your remarks! I’d also love to post them.

  • Accessory apartments. Go here for Planning memo (contains ordinance, existing and redlined), Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) report, and audio of Nov. 14 ZAP hearing. The item was held. The next ZAP meeting is Mon., Dec. 12.

  • Charter Commission. Next review meeting is Wed., Dec. 7, 7pm, Council Chambers (not Room 211). Agenda here. First 20 min. reserved for public comment.

    • At the last review meeting, a straw vote was taken on term limits for City Council (16 yrs), Mayor (12 yrs), and School Committee (8 yrs). I recommend reading the League observer notes, to understand this result (Commission minutes not yet available but audio is—go here), and feel free to speak your mind to the Commission.

    • The last meeting of 2016 is Wed., Dec. 14. Discussion topics: Article 12—Transition Provisions, the Commission's Final Report, and any outstanding items.

  • Zoning Redesign. Pattern Book Open House was this past weekend. Go here to participate online in the Zoning Redesign conversation. What should be preserved? enhanced? transformed?

  • Community Preservation Committee meets Thurs., Dec. 8, 7pm, in Room 204. Go here for agenda, which includes the Newton Housing Authority’s Jackson Road New Senior Housing proposal, and CAN-DO’s pre-proposal for 236 Auburn Street (affordable housing and historic preservation). Please attend if you can.

    • From 236 Auburn pre-proposal: “The project will consist of 6 units of housing: 3 two-bedroom, one-bathroom units, and 3 three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom units. Each unit type will include one handicap accessible unit. One 3-bedroom unit will be in the existing historic building, the other 5 units will be of modular construction. There will be a tot lot on site and 11 parking spaces. The modular building includes an office with a 1⁄2 bath to provide meeting space for support staff.”

  • Fair Housing Committee meets Fri., Dec. 9, 8am, Room 205. Agenda includes recapping the Nov. 17 fair housing event and strategies for the next one, and discussing FHC’s scope, future, and member recruitment. Contact Malcolm Lewis for more info.

November 14, 2016

Important meetings this week, on…

      • Amendments to accessory apartment ordinance (Nov. 14)

      • Livable Newton/Washington Place (Nov. 15)—RSVP

      • Charter reform, including composition of City Council (Nov. 16)

      • 1615 Beacon Street (Nov. 17)

      • Fair housing (Nov. 17)

  • The Zoning & Planning Committee (ZAP) holds a hearing TONIGHT, Mon., Nov. 14, 7:45pm, in the Council Chamber, on proposed amendments to the Accessory Apartment Ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilors Hess-Mahan (ZAP Chair), Albright, Ciccone, Crossley, and Norton (and indebted to former City Councilor Marcia Johnson).

    • For details, see 10/21 Planning Memo, which includes both current and proposed updated ordinance, this Accessory Apartments FAQ, the Globe op-ed How Cambridge and Lexington invented new housing, and the attached “Accessory Apartments Factsheet.”

    • Main idea: Allow more “granny flats” by right. Make it easier, and legal, for Newton residents who can no longer afford their large homes to stay on in accessory units, or to rent out a portion to defray expenses.

    • There is some resistance on the City Council and in the neighborhoods to this common-sense update to the ordinance, which would overnight enable the creation of 100s of new units of affordable housing. Please consider speaking at the hearing! If you can’t go, email your thoughts to ZAP via Committee Clerk Karyn Dean.

  • Livable Newton meets re Washington Place and other matters, TOMORROW, Tues., Nov. 15, 7pm, at the Union Church (14 Collins Rd). Please RSVP.

    • Go here for developer’s 10/18 presentation to Livable Newton. Go here (scroll down to #179-16) for much official documentation, including alternative site plan options (A & B) presented at the Nov. 1 hearing.  

    • Email me permission to add your and/or your organization’s name to the coalition letterhead.

    • The next Land Use hearing on the project is Tues., Nov. 29, 7pm.

  • Charter Commission. The next review meeting is Wed., Nov. 16, 7pm, Room 211. Agenda includes City Council Composition, Compensation, and Term Limits. Charter reform is a major Engine 6 and Livable Newton priority. 

    • The composition of the City Council is possibly the most important Charter issue. The Commission will be deliberating two options: the one unanimously approved (9–0) in April, or an alternative introduced in August. Keep reading, to understand.

    • The April vote was for 8 (at-large by ward, 1 per ward) + 5 (“truly” at-large, not tied to residency): no more ward-only seats. It has morphed slightly, to 8 + 4. This is half the size of our current Council, still relatively large but closer to the norm for similar MA cities.

    • On Aug. 24, an alternative was proposed: still 8 at-large-by-ward seats, but instead of a pool of 4 truly at-large, 4 at-large by “district” (a new entity, combining 2 wards). In other words, all seats tied to residency, as they are now.

    • For more info, see the Article 2: Legislative Branch discussion guide and many other documents posted by the Commission, and the League of Women Voters observer notes.

    • If you are persuaded, please send an email in your own words to the Commission before the Nov. 16 meeting indicating your support for the City Council composition approved in April and then amended slightly: 8 members elected at-large by ward, plus a 4-member at-large pool.

      • If you know any Commissioners—Josh Krintzman (Chair), Rhanna Kidwell (Vice Chair), Bryan Barash, Jane Frantz, Howard Haywood, Anne Larner, Brooke Lipsitt, Karen Manning, Chris Steele—you might instead call them. We know Rhanna, Karen, and Brooke favor our preferred scenario. We’re not sure about the others.

  • 1615 Beacon Street.

      • This wonderful 24-unit 40B affordable housing and historic preservation proposal finally comes before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thurs., Nov. 17, 7pm (City Council Chamber).

      • See Comprehensive Permit application here. Note, in MHP’s Project Eligibility Letter, point iii on pp. 2-3, that the design has changed in response to comments by the Newton Historical Commission.

        • Keep scrolling to find my last long update on this project (which includes an email I wrote to powers that be), whose reception in the neighborhood (together with City’s resistance to Chapter 40B) raises serious fair housing concerns.

          • Part of the context for this project is the sad diminishment earlier this year of 1521 Beacon Street, just down the road, for which the ZBA invoked “safe harbor” from 40B, despite two separate decisions against it by the Housing Appeals Committee, in June 2015.

        • We’d like as many supporters as possible to write letters to the ZBA via the clerk, Adrianna Henriquez. 

      • Better yet, testify in person at the Nov. 17 hearing. Please tell Andrea Kelley if you can.

  • The Fair Housing Committee is co-sponsoring a forum titled, “Is Fair Housing Still Relevant? Current Issues and Enforcement Activities,” Thurs., Nov. 17, 7pm, Newton Senior Center (345 Walnut St). See attached flyer for more info.