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Allston Residents Express Opposition to Western Avenue Corridor Rezoning Plans

Barry's Corner is located at the intersection of Western Ave. and North Harvard St. in Allston.
Barry's Corner is located at the intersection of Western Ave. and North Harvard St. in Allston. By Thomas Maisonneuve
By Yusuf S. Mian and Charlotte P. Ritz-Jack, Crimson Staff Writers

Allston residents expressed opposition to the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s rezoning plans for the Western Avenue Corridor at a public meeting on Thursday.

Rezoning for the Western Avenue corridor — the area between Barry’s Corner and Leo Birmingham Parkway — would permit the construction of taller buildings of greater density, allowing for more housing units. The provisions are meant to incentivize developers to create more affordable housing.

During the meeting, some Allston residents raised concerns that the proposal could result in rising housing costs and increased traffic.

Paula Alexander, a longtime resident of Allston, questioned the proposal’s ability to decrease housing costs.

“How can you look at us straight in the face, straight in the eye, and say that the density and height equals lower rent when it doesn’t?” Alexander said.

Other attendees raised concerns about the plan’s impact on congestion in the area.

“How can you claim that this is good planning if you are allowing developers to build huge buildings and you know that we may only end up with two, one lane of traffic roads?” Eva Webster, a meeting attendee, asked.

Joseph Blakenship, senior transportation planner at the BPDA, discussed the plan’s goals to increase public transportation and access to sidewalks and bike lanes by 2030, starting with the creation of protected bike lanes along Western Avenue.

Still, Webster was skeptical of the plan’s focus on cyclists and pedestrians over drivers.

“There is a certain mindset right now that dominates development issues in city hall,” she said. “That makes things really good for bicyclists, but bicyclists are only 5 percent of the road users, so how can you possibly turn your back on motorists?”

In response to ongoing resident concerns, Blankenship said the plan draws on the views of multiple stakeholders.

“No plan can build 100 percent consensus, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of hearing as many perspectives as possible and crafting a vision of this plan that we think is sound,” Blankenship said.

The new zoning plan comes after three years of conversations between the BPDA and residents.

Thursday’s meeting began the final phase of the planning process. After receiving input from local stakeholders, the plan will be considered by the Boston Planning and Development Agency for approval.

—Staff writer Yusuf S. Mian can be reached at yusuf.mian@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @yusuf_mian2.

—Staff writer Charlotte P. Ritz-Jack can be reached at charlotte.ritz-jack@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @Charritzjack.

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