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At First State of the City Address, Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 Promises City Planning Overhaul

Michelle Wu '07 — the first woman and person of color elected mayor in Boston history — at her election night event in 2021.
Michelle Wu '07 — the first woman and person of color elected mayor in Boston history — at her election night event in 2021. By Brandon L. Kingdollar
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Dylan H. Phan, Crimson Staff Writers

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 promised to overhaul the city’s urban planning strategy and build more affordable housing during her first State of the City address on Wednesday evening.

Wu laid out her agenda for the coming year at the ​​MGM Music Hall in Fenway, with several thousand people in attendance. Massachusetts Governor Maura T. Healey ’92 — who was inaugurated earlier this month — was present for the event, along with many Boston city officials.

During her speech, Wu outlined her plan for abolishing the Boston Planning and Development Agency, which oversees the city's major real estate development projects. Wu has criticized the BPDA for its role in what she described as “neighborhood destruction” since her mayoral campaign.

“Over the last decade, Boston saw the largest building boom in generations: cranes in the sky, jobs on the ground,” Wu said. “But that growth wasn’t harnessed for the benefit of all our communities.”

Wu announced that she will sign an executive order on Thursday to establish an advisory council to “shift planning efforts from the BPDA to a new city planning and design department.” The advisory council will be led by James A. Jemison, Boston’s chief of planning, according to Wu.

“Not planning for community stability meant that even as our population grew, many were squeezed out,” Wu said. “Not planning for affordability and transit meant that housing prices soared and traffic snarled. Not planning for sustainability meant that as new development reshaped our skyline, public infrastructure continued to age.”

Wu also discussed plans for implementing her Green New Deal agenda, another campaign trail promise.

She pledged to phase out the use of fossil fuels in public housing developments by 2030 and said she will sign an executive order requiring all new construction and major renovations in Boston schools, municipal buildings, and public housing to be “entirely fossil fuel free.”

Wu also touted her administration’s accomplishments in her first year as mayor, emphasizing efforts to eliminate fares on three MBTA bus lines and improve the living conditions of unhoused people in Mass and Cass.

“In so many other cities, none of this would have been possible, but Boston has never let anyone else define our possibilities,” Wu said. “It is thanks to the people of Boston that I can stand here tonight and say: the state of our city is strong.”

Wu also used the address to recognize difficulties city workers have faced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Omicron spiked and pushed our hospitals to the brink,” she said. “We didn’t turn away from taking decisive action for public health because no matter the backlash, Boston will never compromise on protecting our people.”

Wu concluded her nearly 30-minute-long speech with a reflection on her tenure as mayor, saying the job can “feel surreal and stressful, exhausting and empowering.”

“But more than anything, it feels like a gift to be able to get up every day and go to work for the city I love, with people who love it too,” Wu added.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.

—Staff writer Dylan H. Phan can be reached at dylan.phan@thecrimson.com.

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