The presentation on Aug. 30 about Beacon’s application for a Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant came across as if it was already approved by some magical wand, without a full public hearing process (Beacon Shares Details of Downtown Plan, Sept. 3). On paper, it looks workable; in reality, it needs work.
Affordable housing mixed in with public parking garage structures sounds like the master plan; they also have inherent problems. The existing homeless will seek shelter. The unspoken, mostly unreported crime and vagrancy will still lurk. Horror stories one hears on the streets are being drowned out by other chatter. Residents will look for reassurance and a sense of security in their neighborhoods.
While we recognize our Main Street corridor can continue to serve as a catalyst for increased and sustainable development, attracting new residents and visitors to strengthen our city’s tax base and customer base for local businesses and housing for a workforce, I believe existing residents should be at the top of the priority list for affordable housing in these scenarios. Whether they’re downsizing, moving out, moving up or moving back with families, they must be part of the plans in the growth of Beacon. If the city is going to be behind this, working with private developers, they must put in a mechanism to make this happen.
I hope to see this grant follow the submitted Main Street Access Committee plans of pocket parks, bicycle boulevards, a few parking garage structures with ground floor commercial space underneath and a few affordable housing units on top, but not a Main Street oversaturated with affordable housing.
I hope the city does not rush into spreading so-called affordable housing throughout Main Street. Every current development newly built, still in construction or in the planning review stage has already promised shares of affordable housing in justifying their build-out numbers to get granted variances and higher-density approvals.
In reality, those qualified units are out-of-reach for most of the general public. Affordable housing is not the same as low-income housing, which is in its own crisis mode throughout our city. And the concept of massing out every neighborhood with accessory dwelling units and smaller lot subdivision of parcels is not the solution either, as this will impede neighborhood quality-of-life issues, burden residential streets with heavier traffic and jeopardize the safety of local children.
The City Council and its boards must stop issuing variances and making further rezoning changes for developers until there is a full housing study that determines the housing stock, vacancy rate and cost of property throughout Beacon. We need to see no more commercial development if our own residents, many of whom were born and raised here, can’t afford to live here.
Theresa Kraft, Beacon