BLC Denies Fenway Parking Meter Proposal without Prejudice: Residents Upset with Lack of Inclusion in Process

Following strong opposition from the community, the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) voted to deny without prejudice the proposal by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to install 15 multi-space electronic parking meter pay stations on Park Dr. and the Fenway.

Jeffrey Harris of the DCR’s Office of Cultural Resources, and Mike Nelson, DCR’s Director of Ranger Services and the project manager for this proposal, were on hand to make the presentation and take questions from Commissioners and the public.

Harris said that the DCR is proposing to install seven meters on Park Dr., and eight on the Fenway. He said that Park Dr. is currently only resident parking during the evening hours, and some sections allow two hour parking. He said that along the Fenway, there are currently no parking restrictions.

The proposed meters are one foot wide, one foot deep, and five feet tall, and have a stainless steel housing in a “neutral gray color” with a solar panel on the top, Harris said. They would be mounted on concrete pads “directly adjacent to the existing sidewalks.”

To use the pay stations, people enter their license plate number either on the meter itself, or via an app. This type of meter “allows DCR to use a single meter to cover a large number of parking spaces,” Harris said, as one meter covers between 200 and 400 feet of parking.

“Unlike other meters, this one does not require physically marking the pavement,” he added.

Harris said that on Park Dr. Parking on the lefhand side would be regulated by these meters, while parking on the righthand side would remain resident only parking.

He said that “similar parking meters have been approved” by Landmarks Commissions in the city on the Boylston St. side of the Boston Public Garden as well as on Newbury St.

Nelson said that currently, resident parking in the area is from 10pm to 6am, but DCR is working on changing resident permit parking hours to 8pm to 8am “for the sake of consistency with the meters and for the sake of preventing confusion.”

The meters would be in operation from 8am to 8pm, excluding Sundays and holidays, where free public parking would still be offered.

BLC Commissioner Brad Walker confirmed that “the north side of the road will stay resident only” 24 hours a day, and the south side will be “resident only in the nighttime both currently and proposed,” as it is “currently free in the daytime and proposed to be pay in the daytime.”

The meters are proposed to be on the opposite side of the street, and Walker asked why this is the case.

Nelson said that on the side where people would have to pay, there is currently a grass strip with no curb cuts. He said that for accessibility purposes, curb cuts and a sidewalk would have to be installed to put the meters on that side. He also confirmed that no spaces were being taken away “in terms of designated resident parking,” as would really be extended four hours a night on the south side.”

The discussion got into some more logistical details regarding the use of the meters and the rules surrounding them, but Director of Design Review Joe Cornish reminded Commissioners that those types of things are outside of the Commission’s purview and the decision should be “based on the location of the meters themselves.”

Commissioner David Berarducci said that “personally, I don’t find these stations to be that intrusive but it would certainly be better without them.”

Berarducci also asked if this proposal was presented specifically to the Fenway community at any point for them to weigh in.

“We did two public meetings which addressed this area as well as other areas,” Nelson said, including Revere Beach and Watertown, the purpose of which was to provide an {overall introduction of this meter program. He said that there was “no special meeting for this Fenway neighborhood.”

Many Fenway residents attended the hearing to speak out against the proposal, stating that they were upset that the community had not been a part of this proposal and that they did not want to see these meters in the park area.

Kathleen McBride, a Fenway resident and a member of the Fenway Civic Association said that “the park space is the only relief we get. This neighborhood is 40,000 residents in under 1.4 square miles.” She said it is “not appropriate” to have meters in this area. “The visual scene there is extraordinary and is being encroached upon minute by minute. We need the park to remain park-like.”

Fenway resident Steve Wolf said that “my question in all of this is what would Olmsted do?” He said that there is a “long history of this area of the park being abused and adulterated.”

John Bookston, Fenway resident and member of the Board of the Fenway Civic Association, said that “my disbelief is the DCR would have designed this proposal without consulting the Fenway Civic Association.”

He added that “I don’t know who you’re trying to serve by this…the Fenway Civic Association would have been glad” to discuss this proposal “from the beginning. This is not the appropriate way to do it at the expense of Fenway residents.”

City Councilor Kenzie Bok also submitted a statement in opposition of the proposal, which was read by Kennedy Avery from her office.

“I agree with the Fenway Civic Association that, to quote their communication with DCR, ‘the visual intrusion of pay station meters on the parkway medians along an Olmsted-designed and historically landmarked parks system is visually inappropriate,’” Bok said. “I think the Landmarks Commission exists in large part to prevent short-term monetization of public space from infringing on historically valuable portions of the public realm, and unfortunately, this is such a case of DCR seeking to make a quick buck on a shared community asset. The Fenway neighborhood has been intertwined with the Fens and the parkland along the Muddy River since both first came into existence, and this move treats the historic park not as the heartstring of a residential neighborhood — which is the context in which its adjacent parking on the parkways has been managed up until this point — but as a foothold for profit. I urge the Landmarks Commission to reject this proposal.”

State Senator Will Brownsberger also submitted a letter in opposition of this proposal, Cornish said.

Dolores Boogdanian, president of the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association also spoke out against the proposal, saying that the “meters look awful,” and calling them “totally inappropriate for the historic area on which they are to be installed.”

Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association, said that “basically, it comes down to aesthetics on a a historic parkway. Meters don’t fit in with what we’re trying to accomplish.” He added that “this would be a terrible precedent for our parks.”

Berarducci said that the public input was helpful to the Commission, and that he was “appalled at the fact that the DCR did not make a presentation to this neighborhood.”

Walker agreed, and said that as Bookston said, it is “not clear who the beneficiary of this plan is. I find this proposal vastly undercooked in terms if its literal implementation in terms of dealing with your constituency.”

Berarducci said that “if the DCR is still intent on moving forward with this, they absolutely have to include the neighborhood n a more direct way.”

The DCR thanked the commission and the public for their feedback, and the BLC denied the proposal without prejudice, which allows the DCR to come back with a different proposal.

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