City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson was on hand for the virtual monthly meeting of Chester Square Neighbors on Wednesday, Oct. 5, to discuss the redistricting plan she has co-sponsored, as well as a temporary moratorium she is proposing on building out city-owned land parcels in District 7 to allow time for the city to streamline its approval processes for development projects.
Councilor Fernandes Anderson, together with City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, co-sponsored the first of currently four plans for the redistricting of the City Council electoral districts. (The city’s districts are reviewed every 10 years, following the release of Census data to ensure they accurately reflect changes in population and diversity, according to the city.)
The new map proposed by Councilors Fernandes Anderson and Arroyo would reduce the footprint of City Councilor Ed Flynn’s District 2 and alter the boundaries of that district to account for population growth of around 14,000 residents in the Seaport. Councilor Flynn would lose some of the South End, but his district would include all of Chinatown, according to this plan.
This map also proposes expanding the footprint of City Council Frank Baker’s District 3 northward into the South End, although it would also result in the loss of several precincts unified in neighboring District 7, which is currently represented by Councilor Fernandes Anderson.
“I don’t like the idea of separating the South End from District 7, but for the South End to unite, it has to all go to me, or all to Ed [Flynn], or all to Ed and Frank Baker,” said Councilor Fernandes Anderson.
But if Councilor Fernandes Anderson were to represent the South End, she said she would have to give up Roxbury, which would mean District 7 would lose its “Opportunity District” – a designated geographical area where the federal government provides financial incentives to those investing in it.
“So in order to preserve District 7 as an Opportunity District, we’d need to create one out of District 3,” said Councilor Fernandes Anderson.
While she said that she hopes the South End remains under her jurisdiction after redistricting, Councilor Fernandes Anderson said she’s “more in favor of keeping the consistency of District 7.”
“It’s not about us. It’s about the overall compromise,” she said. “It’s better to have a more diverse district, but I don’t want to give up the South End. I think it takes time to build community, and it would feel like starting all over again if I had to lose the South End.”
If Councilor Fernandes Anderson were to keep the South End, however, that too would come to price, she said, as she would then have to give up half of Roxbury.
In another matter, Councilor Fernandes Anderson asked CSN to think about her proposal to request a City Council hearing order to consider putting a temporary moratorium on all city-owned parcels in District 7 that aren’t currently undergoing a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, or otherwise already designated for development.
This requested respite would allow the city ample time to create more streamlined, as well as fair and equitable, Article 60 and Article 80 processes, she said.
“The [Boston Planning & Development Agency] has not done a good job making these processes more transparent, but [the BPDA] also needs to streamline them to make them more equitable,” added Councilor Fernandes Anderson. “So how we stop the processes for a while to make them more equitable?”
The requested moratorium, she said, would halt development on city-owned parcels in District 7 through around January to allow for a “couple of hearings and working sessions.”
District 7 “shouldn’t have the burden of housing all the homeless population of Boston,” said Councilor Fernandes Anderson, as well as providing more than half of the rehabilitation programs offered in the city. The district is also home to a disproportionate number of affordable rental units, compared to other parts of the city, she added.
“We trying to encourage the Mayor, and the [Zoning Board of Appeal], and everyone else to spread out the responsibility,” said Councilor Fernandes Anderson.
Added Councilor Fernandes Anderson, “It’s a back-and-forth process so we’re asking for time to give [the city] a plan of equity for the land that’s available. This conversation needs to happen, it needs to happen publicly, and it needs to happen with everyone at the table.”
Despite her strong position on this issue, Councilor Fernandes Anderson is also emphatic that she’s not “anti-development.”
“To be very clear, this is not about me,” she said. “I’m not anti-development. The city needs to continue to make development [a priority] to make progress, to grow.”
A letter requesting the moratorium will be drafted by the District 7 Advisory Group – an ad hoc body comprising neighborhood leaders, including CSN President Carol Blair, which is led by Councilor Fernandes Anderson and convenes virtually every Saturday via Zoom. (Blair said they were “still tweaking” the letter as of the Advisory Group’s Oct. 1 virtual meeting.)
CSN members voted 2-0, with one abstention, to agree to a moratorium to slow down the process or have a conversation with ZBA, BPDA, and the Mayor’s Office on how to streamline processes on city-owned land not already designated or in the RFP process to allow for the opportunity to discuss other means of equity opportunities or land trust for parcels in District 7.