Politics

City councilors back efforts to amend Boston’s waterfront harbor plan

"If removing it completely is not an option, then certainly we should be moving to amend it."

A sailboat cruises along the waterfront of downtown Boston on Aug. 3. AP Photo/Charles Krupa
ON THE WATERFRONT:

The Boston City Council is standing behind acting Mayor Kim Janey’s decision to seek a new vision for the city’s previously approved waterfront harbor plan, which Janey has announced she will scrap.

“If removing it completely is not an option, then certainly we should be moving to amend it: Amend it to make sure that it’s reflecting of where we are as a city when we’re dealing with racial awareness and equity; amend it because we need to be talking about environmental justice; amend it because climate change was not part of the original plan,” Councilor Lydia Edwards said during a council meeting on Wednesday.

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“The fact is that this municipal harbor plan wasn’t looking at those things,” she added.

Edwards, a longtime proponent of public waterfront access and critic of the plan as is, filed a resolution passed unanimously by the council this week to make clear the councilors’ support for redoing the controversial plan.

The resolution, a symbolic gesture of support, comes just over a month after Janey said she was moving to withdraw the zoning plan over concerns it does not adequately address impacts of climate change and in pursuit of making the waterfront more “welcoming” for all city residents.

“The goal of this process will be to develop a new approach that generates benefits, and protection from extreme weather and pollution for all residents across our city,” she said in August.

The plan as is paves the way for two soaring towers alongside the harbor: a 600-foot office and residential skyscraper that would replace the Boston Harbor Garage and a 275-foot hotel down the street at the current site of the James Hook & Co. seafood restaurant.

The plan was first approved in 2017 after a four-year-long process. Similar to others around Massachusetts, the plan would give the city authority to approve development projects that would otherwise go against state law limiting the size of waterfront buildings, under the condition that a project gives at least some public access.

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Critics have said the plan was “developer-driven.” A local judge also ruled in the spring the plan’s approval did not follow the proper process.

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker said Boston cannot withdraw the plan unless the city submits a new one to the state.

Edwards, speaking to her fellow councilors on Wednesday, said her resolution offered the council a chance to “go on record” as supporting a vision for the harbor that’s “equitable, just, (and) environmentally just…that everybody in the City of Boston, if not in the Greater Boston area, feels that they can be a part of and be welcomed to.”

The city has already updated zoning codes to include racial equity, Edwards said, drawing a parallel to the harbor planning situation. (Last year, Boston became the first major city in the United States to codify fair housing requirements in its zoning code.)

“Most importantly, waterfront spaces must create environments that are
inclusive and welcoming to all people and support climate justice goals for all
communities,” the resolution says.

Read the full resolution:

Amend Municipal Harbor Plan Resolution (3) by Christopher Gavin on Scribd

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