More Parking? Ward 4 Co-chair Ryan Hatcher Makes the Case for Neighborhood Sustainability

A long-time member of the Brookline Avenue Community Advisory Committee (CAC), Ryan Hatcher has called for caution around key aspects of new development plans for the West Fens. In a June 23rd letter to the BPDA regarding the proposed Fenway Corners at 1 Jersey Street, he writes, “I have deep concerns about the site’s sustainability from a parking and transportation perspective. Thousands of parking spaces have already been added to the neighborhood and our community is already choked with unsustainable and dangerous traffic on a daily basis, even on non-game days. If the city is going to achieve its Vision Zero and Green New Deal goals, it needs to undertake a concerted effort to move away from car-centric developments.”

Ryan’s letter questions the proponent’s “self-reported planned parking ratio” and points to the enormous impact 1,740 new parking spots will have on the neighborhood’s long- and short-term viability. He also cites the urgency of increasing the number of affordable housing units in the West Fens and throughout the city.

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Read Ryan’s letter in full:

As a resident of the Fenway and member of the Brookline Avenue Community Advisory Committee (CAC), I attended the CAC Meeting on May 23, 2023. I also reviewed the Supplemental Filing submitted by WS-Fenway-Twins Realty Venture LLC (the Proponent). I hope and expect that, if built, the Proponent’s development will prove to be an inclusive, sustainable, and equitable addition to the neighborhood.

Transportation & Parking

I have deep concerns about the site’s sustainability from a parking and transportation perspective. Thousands of parking spaces have already been added to the neighborhood and our community is already choked with unsustainable and dangerous traffic on a daily basis, even on non-game days. If the city is going to achieve its Vision Zero and Green New Deal goals, it needs to undertake a concerted effort to move away from car-centric developments. It would be especially irresponsible to greenlight 1740 parking spots before the FKTAP is completed.

1. Parking Ratio: The Proponent’s reported self-reported planned parking ratio of 0.43 is, at best, simply not accurate. This calculation excludes the ~800 preexisting spots in the numerator and includes all of the potential square footage in the denominator, even though that square footage may be paired down or never even built (i.e., parking is being front-loaded into the development and ignoring the fact that 460,000 sqf is being deferred).

2. Non-Accessory Parking: The Proponent’s filing states “While the scale of the Project will result in a meaningful number of net new spaces being added to the area surrounding Fenway Park, all of these net new spaces will be used for newly-introduced on-site uses and the actual number of commercial spaces and on-street generally available for public use in the area surrounding Fenway Park will decrease meaningfully as a result of the Project’s construction.” However, this statement does not align with comments made by Yanni Tsipis during the CAC meeting. He would not commit to not allowing the spaces to be used for non-site related uses (e.g., concerts, ballgames, MGM Music Hall shows). It was also stated that this parking will help “alleviate the number of parking tickets in the neighborhood” and will “help businesses in the Kenmore area.”

I do not believe that parking tickets are directly correlated to a lack of parking. Additionally, it is not the Fenway’s responsibility to subsidize parking for Kenmore, which is an area very well served by public transit. It is critical that all on-site parking is only for the residents and businesses located within the Proponent’s project area. Allowing hundreds of new spots to be used for events is neither sustainable nor in line with agreements and commitments made by other developers in the area.

3. Existing Parking: Is it the BPDA’s position that the original ~800 parking spots are able to be added back to the development area by right? The neighborhood has changed greatly since these parking spots were first added and I would encourage the BPDA to review these “existing” spots as well as the new spots being added by the Proponent.

Another way of thinking of 1740 spots is that, if lined up from tip to tail, they would form a 5 mile long line of cars. As further reference, according to a January 2023 article in the Boston Globe, Boston is already ranked as the fourth most congested city in the world. We need an all-hands-on deck approach to lessen the burden on our citizens. A key component of this is not inducing more demand by adding thousands of parking spaces to congested areas.

To be clear, I am not against adding a substantial amount of new housing and jobs to the area. I believe we can do so while leveraging the multiple MBTA stops, commuter rail, bus routes, and bike paths that already serve the Proponent’s site.

Affordable Housing

I am glad to see the Proponent is adding 50,000 sqf of housing and proposing 20% on-site affordable housing units. I would like to see the housing numbers further expanded. Boston has a need for affordable housing, especially for families and lower income folks. Hopefully the Proponent can further expand the square footage and total number of housing units at the site beyond the proposed 266 units, and by default, also expand the number of affordable units.

Potential Mitigation

1. Transit improvements (e.g. Lansdowne, Fenway, and Kenmore Stations, 55 and Brookline Ave buses)
2. Significantly reduce the number of on-site parking spaces.
3. Ban non-tenants/ employees from accessing and parking in the underground garages.
4. Increase the number housing units (both market rate & on-site affordable).

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