• letter

The following is a letter we emailed to the Somerville City Council on .

To the Somerville City Council:

Neighbors along Beacon Street have submitted a petition requesting that the city not increase the density of this important area, in the interest of preserving neighborhood retail and amenities. We acknowledge the concerns of the petitioners, but feel that they could be met in ways that are less restrictive and more accurately balance the community’s dual needs for preservation and flexibility in future development.

The petition requests

  • Keeping one-story commercial buildings as one-story commercial buildings.
  • Grandfathering all present one- and two-family residences as well as row-houses, classic triple deckers, and tandem triple-deckers as conforming.
  • Keeping parking lots attached to businesses.
  • Requiring that the style of new buildings blend with the late I 800’s and early I 900’s working class architecture present on the street.
  • Wherever possible yards and green space be preserved.

We agree with many of the petition’s aims and feel that there is no controversy in seeking to maintain a harmonious architectural style or preserve existing green space.

However, the petition asks that the city council require that the existing one-story buildings with surface parking remain in that configuration indefinitely. While we agree that preserving neighborhood retail is important, the one-story-with-parking configuration does not guarantee that continued use. A requirement to keep one-story buildings with surface parking would only preserve impermeable surface parking lots, interfering with Somerville’s climate resilience and reducing our ability to adjust to future city needs.

The city badly needs parks and open spaces, and it also needs businesses and residents to support them. That’s why such a broad variety of community advocates agree that Beacon Street should be permitted to have more height and density. The signatories to this letter do not always agree and have varied priorities, yet the fact that we write to you in agreement on this issue should indicate just how important it is and how broadly supported it is.

There is also the issue of equity: If the city believes that Broadway and East Somerville neighborhoods will benefit from MR3 and MR5 zones, why would it then shield wealthier, whiter sides of town from that zoning? What’s good for Broadway is good for Beacon, and both need MR3 and MR5 designation to preserve and enhance their vitality.

As you consider the petition, please be on the lookout for ways to address the concerns of the petitioners without blocking change or harming the ability of people and businesses to thrive along Beacon Street and throughout Somerville.


Jeff Byrnes Aaron Weber Wig Zamore Tori Antonino Alex Epstein Kyle J. Emge Ian Woloschin