SCC Comments: Zoning for Union Square

union-sq-farmers-mkt.jpgOn October 28, 2016, SCC CEO Danny LeBlanc submitted comments to the Somerville Board of Aldermen and Members of the City’s Planning Board on behalf of SCC and its Board of Directors regarding the proposed new Zoning for Union Square: 

  1. SCC is a founding member of the Union United Coalition and has continued to be an active member. We support the points raised by Union United in the comments submitted by the Coalition, including particularly the necessity for a bonafide and enforceable Community Benefits Agreement in advance of adopting the proposed new zoning.
  2. While we appreciate the measures included in the proposed revised Union Square Zoning designed to enhance and augment the percentages of commercial development in the Square, we fear that those measures could potentially inhibit the ability for developers to build purpose-built 100% affordable residential developments. Considering the ongoing critical need for more housing affordable to low and moderate income households, we ask you to ensure that no provisions in the new Union Square zoning constrain the development of new purpose-built affordable housing any more than it is constrained in current zoning.

    We further ask that you retain those measures, such as reduced parking requirements for affordable housing developments, that currently exist and which contribute to enabling affordable housing development.
  3. New Union Square Zoning should not be passed until there is a Jobs Linkage system in place, including the fee structure that would result from new commercial development. It is clear from the 2012-13 Nexus study written by Karl Seidman that the premise of jobs linkage is to mitigate the workforce pressures and take advantage of the opportunities resulting from new development by bringing in the fees levied at the front end of the development, so that they can be applied to assist local low income residents to be ready to seize the new opportunities and apply for those jobs when they come on line. As a community, we are behind in our efforts to ready our local workforce for the job opportunities coming to Somerville, and the funds that would result from a Jobs Linkage ordinance would greatly enhance Somerville’s ability to help implement such a workforce development effort.

    We cannot afford to lose any more opportunities to have large scale commercial developers contribute appropriately to Somerville’s workforce development efforts. Had we implemented the Jobs Linkage system in 2013 when the Nexus study and Mayor Curtatone originally recommended it at $1.40 per square foot of new commercial development, the new Partners Health Care office building alone would have contributed over $1 Million to Somerville’s workforce development programs.
  4. As much as Somerville households are at risk of displacement due to dramatically increasing housing costs, local small businesses are at equal risk due to some of the same market-driven economic pressures, including particularly rent costs and the availability of modest-sized commercial spaces to rent.  We urge you to insert into the new zoning any measures that will contribute to the availability of lower cost, modest-sized commercial spaces that will help locally-owned small businesses sustain themselves in Somerville.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed new Union Square zoning. As you know, SCC has itself been housed in Union Square for most of its 47 years, including the last decade at 337 Somerville Ave. We know well the pressures and opportunities that we all face, and look forward to working collaboratively with all of you to develop and implement the best possible strategies we can to realize the outcomes we’d all like to see.

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