View Full Version : Sam Yoon seeks to strip BRA power
06-16-2009, 02:15 PM
So much for a slow news day...As I've often stated, I'm no fan of the BRA, but Sam Yoon doesn't seem to have a viable solution on the table.
Sam Yoon seeks to strip BRA power (http://bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1179165)
By Richard Weir
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - Added 20h ago
Calling the Boston Redevelopment Authority ?dysfunctional,? city councilor and mayoral candidate Sam Yoon is proposing legislation to strip the planning agency of its vast powers and hand them over to a newly created entity accountable to the City Council.
?There is no accountability to the public or the City Council,? Yoon said of the BRA, which he accused of botching the development of Downtown Crossing and the Rose Kennedy Greenway atop the Big Dig. ?The City Council has no review of its budget and no authority over its policies and programs. It?s next to impossible to get information from the BRA.?
Yoon suggested the BRA is controlled by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the developers whose fees help fund its budget. The agency, created in 1957, has been criticized for sharing conflicting, dual roles as real estate owner and developer and approval agency.
Yoon said he plans to submit a home-rule petition tomorrow asking the Legislature to repeal the BRA?s powers as a planning board and create a city Department of Community Development and Planning for which the council would have some oversight.
BRA spokeswoman Susan Elsbree defended the agency, noting it spends $17 million annually on planning and economic development initiatives.
?The BRA has a long record of creating jobs for Boston residents, growing the tax base and creating economic opportunities for all without taxpayer funding,? Elsbree said. ?There is no reason, other than political rhetoric, to burden the taxpayers with these costs. ?
06-16-2009, 03:23 PM
Yes, it's one thing to recognize a problem. It's another thing to come up with a viable solution to that problem. I'm not a fan of the way the BRA currently operates, but do like the idea of having a department overseeing the development process in the city. The problem is that the current state of the BRA doesn't function like they probably should.
06-17-2009, 06:06 AM
The real problem as I see it with the BRA is that they are like the FCC. They are an appointed group of "officials" who have too much power to tell too many people what they can and cannot do. They are not voted in by the people, but are appointed by the Mayor and the City Council. They also continue to operate with major conflicts of interest.
As to how to fix it..... I'm not sure. But, as a regulatory board I would like to see all angles of construction and development covered on the board. What does this mean? I would like to have the board consist of members of all involved and/or affected groups in the city. (Urban planners, architects, civil engineers, traffic engineers, bankers/fiduciary experts, resident associates, etc.) Also, even though this would probably need to remain an appointed committe, there should basically be term limits. Term limits to (a) reduce on the potential for a corrupt group of cronies to form, (b) to inspire diversity in the city, and not to allow a single vision to mold our entire city (as is becoming the case).
Also, since they are an appointed group and as such, do not represent the people, there should be a method for the people (if they ever would choose to), to overrule decisions made by the BRA. If I did not elect you (or even have the option to) you should not speak for me.
But, I am not on the ballot. Although it has been mentioned in my own city that I should run for a position, not enough hours in the day.
06-17-2009, 11:19 AM
"If I did not elect you, you should not speak for me."
Should we vote in the US secretary of state as well? How about the head of the Fed? There are certain positions in government that should be appointed.
06-17-2009, 01:35 PM
You can't fix the BRA with term limits, or by electing it's members, or by changing the agency's structure. The issue is 100% related to the Mayor and no one else. The real problem is that no one wants to hold him accountable for the agency that he leads. Instead, we've come up with all these bogey-men. Abolish the BRA and you'll have BRA 2.0 within six months as long as Menino's in charge.
woah, boston is stepping into the 20th century (too bad they couldn't think of anything creative and go straight into the 21st); the city is establishing the same system used in every other city in the country since redevelopment authorities came about 60 years ago, as far as I can tell from this article. As far as I know Boston is the only city in the country that has its planning and redevelopment functions under the same government entity.
I've always wondered why exactly that is - I've heard, I dont know, that Boston's zoning powers are not derived from a statewide enabling statute, but are derived from the legislature of the state separately from other cities and towns because the state wanted to keep a tighter leash on Boston. And then maybe when the BRA was formed the legislature directly created a mega-agency into which planning and zoning powers were absorbed, and Beacon Hill went from there in its redevelopment schemes?
Anyway, this article is ambiguous, but it seems like all that is being suggested is creating a planning department - (overseen by a lay commission of appointed members or directly by council?) - the council will be the ultimate decision-making body in zoning and planning affairs and the ultimate appellate body for variances, conditional uses, etc?
As for the frequent accusation that having a planning and a redevelopment authority together creates a conflict of interest - this could make a difference; planning and zoning will be accountable to council, an elected body. But of course there's plenty of room for error and much more room for suspicion there. Oh and nasty balkanized planning due to empowered, short-sighted council members pandering to their most vocal constituents' immediate concerns.
And people will probably still despise the new redevelopment authority, at least as much as redevelopment authorities are despised everywhere else. Not that I'm pessimistic.
06-18-2009, 08:16 AM
Hopefully this won't bring us off subject, but...
Zoning Without Zoning
24 November 2003 - 12:00am
Author: Michael Lewyn
Although Houston is the only major American city with no formal zoning code, the city's land use regulations have historically been nearly as meddlesome, as pro-sprawl, and as anti-pedestrian as zoning in other American cities -- and have yielded similar results.
Houston, Texas is the only large American city with no formal zoning code -- yet Houston has all the sprawl and associated ills of other Sunbelt cities. Houston is less dense than most big cities, and Houstonians drive more than in most big cities. Does it then follow that sprawl is the result of consumer choice rather than of government meddling?
Not necessarily -- because what other cities achieve through zoning, Houston achieves through several land use regulations.
Like other cities' zoning codes, Houston's municipal code creates auto dependency by artificially spreading out the population. Until 1999, the city required all single-family houses to gobble up 5,000 square feet of land. Although this limit is less rigid than minimum lot sizes in most suburbs, the city's statute nevertheless insures that many residents will be unable to live within walking distance of a bus stop, which in turn means that those residents will be completely dependent on their cars. In 1999, the City Council partially deregulated density in neighborhoods closer to downtown. But since 98% of the city's housing was built before 1999, this change in the law is of little importance.
Houston's parking regulations also create automobile dependency by encouraging driving and discouraging walking. Under Houston's city code, virtually every structure in Houston must supply plenty of parking. For example, apartment buildings must have even more parking spaces than residents; landlords must supply 1.25 parking spaces for each efficiency apartment and 1.33 parking spaces for every bedroom. Offices, supermarkets, and other businesses are subject to similar restrictions. Such parking regulations discourage walking by forcing pedestrians to navigate through massive parking lots (and to dodge the vehicles driving them) to reach shops or jobs. And where walking is uncomfortable, most people will drive. In addition, minimum parking requirements, by taking land for parking that could have been used for housing or businesses, also reduce density, thus making the city less compact and more auto-dependent.
Houston's street design rules also make life more difficult for pedestrians. The city code requires most major streets to have a 100 foot right-of-way and residential streets must have a 50-60 foot right-of-way. Thus, Houston's streets can be up to 100 feet wide. By contrast, most modern streets are 32-36 feet wide, and pre-World War II streets are usually 28-30 feet wide. Such wide streets are difficult for pedestrians to cross because a wider roadway takes longer to cross, thus increasing the amount of time a pedestrian is exposed to traffic. And because wider roadways are designed for faster speeds, such roads are more dangerous for pedestrians.
Houston's block designs are equally unhelpful to pedestrians. The city code mandates that intersections on major streets be 600 feet apart. By contrast, a recent Environmental Protection Agency report recommends that for "a high degree of walkability, block lengths of 300 feet...are desirable." Houston's long, intersection-free blocks deter walking because a block with few intersections gives pedestrians few places to cross the street and few means of reaching a destination on a side street.
Finally, government at all levels has accelerated sprawl by building more roads to the urban fringe in Houston than in other cities. For example, Chicago has more than twice as many residents as Houston, yet has only 10% more freeway miles. Big Brother's reckless road building has encouraged development to shift to newer areas with minimal bus service -- but apparently has done little to reduce traffic congestion. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, Houstonians lost 36 hours per person in 1999 to traffic congestion, more than all but three other American cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas).
In sum, Houston's land use regulations have historically been nearly as meddlesome, as pro-sprawl, and as anti-pedestrian as zoning in other American cities -- and have yielded similar results. The good news is that Houston is beginning to change its ways: minimum lot size requirements were loosened in 1999, and widened roads are actually beginning to become controversial. But it may take decades of real deregulation to undo the damage caused in the late 20th century.
Indeed - an important thing for critics of zoning to understand, and a likely scenario throughout much of America if zoning were to somehow disappear tomorrow. Although I would add that the picture is not quite the same for Houston as everywhere else though - other critics, while bringing up these similarities, have also pointed out that there are crucial differences at a smaller scale. For example, outside of wealthier communities at least and where covenants have long expired, the presence of things unknown to zoned cities unless 'grandfathered' - the corner store and other locally oriented commercial services.
10-20-2009, 12:56 PM
Highlights from a boston globe article on the mayoral debate last night:
"Flaherty argued that the mayor?s biggest mistake was to try to relocate City Hall to the South Boston waterfront ?away from the city center.??
"In an exchange about development, Flaherty vowed to eliminate the city?s planning and development authority and create an agency responsible solely for planning. Currently, the Boston Redevelopment Authority is responsible for planning, development approval, and job creation.
?What we?re going to do is end the pay-to-play process,?? Flaherty said, arguing that some developers get favorable treatment from Menino.
?If you don?t hire the right person, if you?re not connected, you don?t get that permit, you don?t get that license,?? Flaherty said at another point. ?For me, it?s about embracing projects and policy on their merits, not about who walks in the door with what lawyer and what consultant.??
Menino said the redevelopment authority has reduced average approval times for proposed developments from 18 months to eight months during his tenure.
?That?s an impressive number,?? Menino said."
link to full article - http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/10/20/flaherty_menino_tussle_over_tactics_to_boost_bosto n?mode=PF
10-20-2009, 01:11 PM
?For me, it?s about embracing projects and policy on their merits, not about who walks in the door with what lawyer and what consultant.??
Who determines the project's merits under this system?
vBulletin® v3.7.3, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.