OP-ED: Decouple Sections of the Watertown Square Plan from the State Housing Requirement

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By Linda Scott
Watertown Resident

Part Four: “Great things are done by a series of small things done together.” – Vincent van Gogh

Part One: We looked at the results of the June 13 joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Board and why public input is so important.

Part Two: We looked at our City’s failing public communication system and how, for some, this might be politically advantageous.

Part Three: We looked at my experiences meeting with Watertown residents and looked at the one part of the Watertown Square Area Plan with a deadline: The MBTA Law Compliance (zoning for 1,701 State mandated housing units).

Today, in Part 4, we’ll look at the other components (topics) of change (with no deadline, but which are being forced into one plan and one quick deadline by the City). These topics would benefit from a slower, more thorough and nuanced approach.

Important Topic Number Two (no deadline): The Additional Housing also called “The Compromise Number”

A bit of history on Important Topic Number Two:

Remember, way back in February, a straw poll was presented to the group at the Watertown Square Area Planning meeting. Curiously, this poll could be filled out more than once and was open to non-Watertown residents as well.

There was another element to this poll. With the higher number of housing units (6,320), came the idea that the area would be more spread out, and so the buildings in the middle of Watertown Square would not be so tall. (Lots of Watertown residents have expressed concern about the planned heights for Watertown Square).

This number (6,320) was thrown at us like it was a real “thing,” like a vast majority of Watertown residents had approved of 6,320 housing units being added to Watertown housing stock. The poll result: 75 residents or nonresidents gave approval to the number 6,320. The City Manager immediately contacted an online real estate publication to advertise this Watertown “housing density success story.”

Then all hell broke loose in Watertown. The City and Proakis quickly stepped back and gave us a “compromise number”: 3,133. But a compromise to what … the

City-made-up 6,320 housing unit number that was voted on in a faulty straw poll by (maybe) 75 Watertown residents?

The “compromise number” of 3,133 housing units (3,133 – 1,701 (MBTA mandated housing units) = 1,432 extra, not mandated housing units. One-thousand-four-hundred-and-thirty-two housing units … that’s the real number that is talked about as a “compromise.” These are totally optional units, as far as the State is concerned. They are not tied to any State mandate.

It’s very important to note that these 1,432 units are not the end of the story. The combined units at 104 Main Street and 166 Main Street (172) are not accounted for in this “compromise number.”

Any units built on public land (the CVS Parking lot, the library parking lot, the lot across the river currently owned by the MBTA) are not included in this 1,432 number.

There’s a developer who wants to put a very large building with housing on Mt. Auburn Street, where the Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts are. Is that building included in the 1,432 count?

By the way, are there town-created Watertown Square Area Plan maps with helpful street and landmark labels to assist residents to understand what’s going on?

These additional (and optional) 1,432 housing units and their placement and the nature of their affordability need a lot of public scrutiny and discussion. For instance what are the financial ramifications to the infrastructure in Watertown Square?

Check out page 49 of the Watertown Square Area Plan. It simply states that because of the large density increase, implementing the Watertown Square Area Plan will “require substantial infrastructure improvements … that will require a combination of local funds, state infrastructure grants, and private investment.”

According to experts, “Replacing a water pipe costs about $1 million a mile.” For more information on this MBTA Law and housing “consequence”: https://www.wgbh.org/news/local/2024-03-07/what-lies-beneath-towns-may-be-the-downfall-of-the-mbta-communities-law

It’s your taxpayer dollars that will be needed to fund the infrastructure demands of both the MBTA Law and the additional 1,432 units and more planned for the Square. Shouldn’t residents be given a serious opportunity to scrutinize this part of the plan and not simply pass it along unquestioned? If we’re going to densify to this extent, so be it, but don’t we need to be sure we fully understand the consequences of this decision?

Important Topic Number Three (no deadline): Reconfiguring the Traffic in Watertown Square

From the get-go Jeff Speck, our high-priced consultant, talked about making Watertown Square so unattractive for drive-through traffic, (he counts himself in that category), that they’ll seek other routes.

How does this mesh with the idea of Watertown Square becoming a “destination” and encouraging folks to come? Will we only accept people on bikes, on foot, or on the (floundering) T?? Or, as one resident said to me, is the City’s aim to make Watertown residents’ experiences so miserable that they’ll stay away, too?

And how are they doing this in the plan? By rerouting traffic headed for Watertown Square through our small neighborhoods and streets. This would mean that a lot of Route 20 and Mass Pike traffic would find its way onto small streets where our kids ride their bikes and play.

Our City Manager has expressed no interest in doing a simple, inexpensive test run for four months using cones and sand bags, etc. to make sure that what he’s planning is not a recipe for disaster. A few months delay (wasn’t something like that done in Somerville?) could make all the difference between a successful project and an expensive disaster. It would also serve to reassure residents that we’re on the right path.

Watertown has the added privilege and responsibility of being home to the Perkins School. Historically, previous tries in “fixing” the Square have resulted in multiple injuries to the visually impaired in our community. Let’s proceed with caution and get this right the first time … safety is essential … no deadline is warranted for this!

Important Topic Number Four (no deadline): Our Public Parking Lots

Then there’s the uses of the Watertown Square CVS parking lot and the lot behind the library.

Mr. Proakis: “In the February meeting, one of the questions I specifically asked was, “Are folks comfortable with the idea of doing development on the parking lots?’ Because it’s an on/off switch of sorts, right, like to do the rest of the plan and do that or not?” Proakis said. “I think that in terms of foot traffic created in the square, there’s some real benefit to doing it. But I also, I’ve spent 20 years focused on community process. I don’t want to fight the entire community on something, I want to kind of understand what people want and where they want it.”

How does that statement translate into a full-blown plan without any community input? Here’s what they presented the very night Mr. Proakis made that statement:

1: That’s where the CVS parking lot used to be. The yellow sliver on Church Street is housing. So is the yellow “box” on the other side. All of that gray area in the middle is a parking garage.

2: That represents what’s there right now, the church and the bank. However, an alert citizen pointed out at the June 13th meeting that the City in its new zoning, has this green area zoned for 4+ (5) story buildings.

That one question by Mr. Proakis seemed to spontaneously burst into a plan, complete with the City Council giving up their authority over our precious public land to a redevelopment authority before any feasibility studies were done. Then they “married” it to the required MBTA plan and attached the same quick deadline.

There are plenty of questions to be explored around our very limited public land:

Who benefits when a redevelopment authority is in charge?
What new role will eminent domain play in our lives and properties?
Who gets to live in this housing?
Is it earmarked in some way for current struggling Watertown residents?
What about local preference rules?
What kind of “affordability” are we talking about here?
Are there any configurations, such as more green space and trees or amenities, that could enhance the parking area and support our local businesses?
Should we just be green lighting this and approving this before all of the public’s questions are answered?

If you see any of this as concerning. Please call or write your Councilors:

  1. Ask them to provide a copy of a map for just the MBTA Law compliance (1,701 housing units).
  2. Let them know that Topics 2 though 4 (additional housing and infrastructure; reconfiguring our streets; the use and process for our public land) need to be “decoupled” from the MBTA Law compliance piece and deadline.
  3. Tell them that all of these topics are deserving of hearings of their own with lots of public input and serious and conscientious public notice by our City.
  4. Tell them that no change to the Watertown Square “street scape” should be made without at least a four month testing period to insure that we’re doing the right thing and spending our tax dollars wisely.
  5. Tell Councilors that the date conflict between our presidential debate and the City’s joint meeting is just another way to reduce resident attendance and attention.  Tell them that by moving the joint meeting meeting to another date farther out, where proper notification of residents can be accomplished, they will be showing a respect for the people and the process.

And, thank you, once again, for your patience and time when reading my very long (but hopefully informative) letters.

For your convenience, here is some contact information:

City Manager Proakis: citymgr@watertown-ma.gov

To email All City Councilors: citycouncilors@watertown-ma.gov

See the email and phone numbers for the individual City Councilors by clicking here.

Send letters to watertownmanews@gmail.com Note: letters may not be posted until the following day, or later.

30 thoughts on “OP-ED: Decouple Sections of the Watertown Square Plan from the State Housing Requirement

  1. Very well written! Thank you! I agree that the communication about the meeting and information contained in the plan have not been been well disseminated to ALL residents. The plan is extremely complicated. The map is very hard to read. I don’t understand either. I’m very disappointed that the additional 1400 units were added. I agree we should focus on the mandated units only at this time and save the rest for later …… and only after we learn how to communicate effectively with ALL Watertown residents.

  2. Petition to rename this website the “Linda Scott News.” The Editor is giving an insane amount of op-eds to a single individual, can’t we have some kind of limit? A variety of perspectives would be nice, not these endless, highly repetitive five-parters.

    • I’m of a different mind set. Linda Scott’s contributions are both timely and well
      presented. Other intelligent perspectives would also be welcomed, but I don’t
      see them being offered. And consider this: “repetition breeds comprehension”.
      I urge Linda Scott to keep our feet in the fire until something acceptable to most
      residents is finally put on the table. Hopefully that would include some understandable
      drawings with informative labeling and keys.

    • Kristjan,
      Please share your perspective. Linda does an amazing amount of homework on issues facing our community and then shares her perspective. No one is forcing you to read the op-ed. You can simply choose to pass.

    • And what would you like to read in it’s place, I myself have to sit in meetings when the same repetitive responses are spoken taking up valuable time, are you one of them? Please help us understand how we can make you happy, unfortunately not everyone is going to get a trophy at this time, it has passed in life!

      • I want *different* perspectives, not necessarily *disagreeing* perspectives. I’d love to read op-eds from all of you. Having Linda dominate this site actually hurts your cause – it gives the impression that (a) the editor is biased, and (b) the cause has no depth – i.e. only one person cares enough to write in its defense.

        • So you’d like to have it all one way, yours. No disagreeing perspectives. Linda does her homework, no problems there are there. I didn’t realize it, that this is a “cause”, how about a “coup” I’m all in for that or is that how you describe yourselves? On the Editor being biased, there’s a time that I think he is, but it’s his website, not mine. Again with the “cause” having no depth, It’s all in the depth, just facts, just the facts Scotty! Why would anyone else need to write opinions, when one does it so well!

  3. Kudos to Linda for writing this series. If not for her, Bruce Coltin, and a handful of other alert citizens, many of us–the silent majority–would not now be waking up to the utter disaster being rapidly foisted upon the town.

    The MBTA law is itself arguably illegal, so it’s mildly disappointing the Council didn’t tell the CW to pound sand. But, to not offer a minimum compliance option (1701) is plainly insulting to Watertown residents. Voters must demand a full stop to this process until such a plan is presented.

  4. As for inserting a parking garage behind the Library: the city should remember that all of the land between Whooley Way and White’s Ave. is Saltonstall Park, including the ground underneath the accumulation of municipal buildings and asphalt. The whole space is still zoned as “open space/conservancy” land and tinged green on the present zoning map.
    Not an encouraging situation when we consider the need for green space.
    There are too many unanswered questions about the offered plans.

  5. This author continues to spread distortions of fact and conspiracy theories about “rigged elections,” sound familiar? This communication strategy is exactly what has divided this nation and it’s fundamentally dishonest.

    There’s a simple explanation for changes to unit capacity numbers as the planning process has evolved: citizen feedback and refinements as the planning process goes deeper into detail. Any kind of large-scale planning effort like this MUST start at the 30,000 foot view level. Once the framework is established, planners can dive deeper, layer by layer successively, to fill in the details. You simply can’t start at the detail level, that would be a disaster.

    Separately, I completely oppose limiting our unit capacity to 1701 units and I strongly support enabling development of new housing in the form of 4-5 story buildings around the Watertown Square Plan area – which is exactly where it belongs. I’m sure local small businesses support the additional customers these housing units will provide.

    Re: the impact of the 4 Corners Plan on traffic patterns – a number of residents with zero expertise in transportation planning have ASSUMED a bunch of things to create a horror scenario (another communication strategy which divides us). As I’ve heard repeatedly in project meetings, the biggest traffic-generating issue in Watertown Square is the stacking of cars at stoplights for several minutes as the light cycle changes 5 times. It’s all the stopping and starting that makes traffic. Also, if we can keep the flow moving, even at low speeds, this makes the Square safer for non-car users (bike riders and pedestrians including children, the elderly, blind people, etc.) . Let’s recall that car drivers are not the only people who use the Square!

    Traffic scenarios are far too complex for “gut instincts” to guide our decision-making. Let’s LISTEN to the experts because they’ve invested thousands of hours in learning … a fact that some deride as “elite” but I say reflects investment of time and effort to learn a topic deeply.

    • I’ll put my driving experience up against a traffic planner any day, as I’m sure a whole lot of people will! If your so sure of the experts, rather than “gut instincts” from the motoring public, you can now preach that you would like to see the Jersey Barriers go up for a test period in the new lane patterns! Here’s your chance or you know, as the saying goes!

      • Why would we listen to people who specialize in traffic planning through their education and experience? Someone who drives around town must know better.

        Why would I listen to some doctor who has gone to medical school and practiced medicine for years? Someone who has been sick before must know better.

        • Why wouldn’t we listen to trained and experienced authorities like Robert Moses and Ed Logue over a simple citizens like Jane Jacobs? Because so called experts often have biases that make them prone to shortsighted mistakes. Jane Jacobs detailed ideas that changed how the experts think about urban design.

          “Why would I listen to some doctor who has gone to medical school and practiced medicine for years?”

          Having walked parents and other elderly relative through the medical system, I have a more nuanced view of the situation than you. There are the good, the bad and the ugly.

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Jacobs

            To compare her to a guy who drives his car everyday and claims that qualifies him more than a traffic planner is truly laughable.

            And yes there are bad specialists. But I’ll still listen to an expert over someone with literally no experience in the field, and make a call.

        • Why would we have to listen to someone who does not live here, claims to love the city that he abandoned during his term as a councilor, years later decided to run again, dropping out just before the election, depriving a more worthy candidate the chance of serving their community! Why would we listen to someone who has ZERO effect thankfully, with our important issues regarding Watertown, the community which I along with others live, not you!

    • “Rigged elections?” That’s Agent Orange and his followers! There are some folks in Watertown who have claimed to be in the majority based on flimsy evidence.

      The only way to really gauge public acceptance of the Watertown Square plan is to put a referendum on the November ballot. That would show where the real majority lies. It would also encourage the City to work compromise into the plan, so that it would garner sufficient votes to pass. That is, to work toward consensus.

      That would be democracy at its best.

      6000+ units as of right is too much of our town to hand to real estate developers who have negligible concern about quality of life in Watertown.

      Any development on land owned owned by the city must be 100% affordable housing. Watertown must also designate additional land for the construction of decent, livable affordable housing.

      We need to start figuring out how to build a large number of affordable units ASAP. Building 6000 tenements for the well to do will do very little to impact affordability beyond the mandated affordable units.

      It doesn’t take a civil engineering degree to understand that expert studies, particularly in the area of traffic, most often reinforce the pre-existing opinion of the entity that paid for the study. Actual lived experience and careful observation are generally as valuable as “expert opinion”.

      In my experience as a transit advocate here in Watertown, I found it shocking that MBTA commissioned consultants arrived at conclusions that made absolutely no sense to an astute adult who rides our buses. They often parroted maxims that they were taught in graduate school rather than carefully examine conditions in our neighborhoods.

      As a consultant, I can tell you honestly that there are some who are worth their weight in gold. But the better part are mediocre at best.

  6. BTW we still need to replace aging water mains, which are reaching the end of useful life, regardless of the Watertown Square Area Plan. That’s not a factor in choosing between different scenarios, it’s a given.

  7. Kathi,

    I just received an e-mail from a friend. Here’s what it said:

    “I searched Watertown News for “rigged” and only found two articles, neither of them by you, Linda. Do you remember ever using the term ‘rigged election’ in a comment? I think someone’s putting words in your mouth.”

    I then went back and looked at all of the letters (and words) that I have written for Watertown News…not a “rigged election” among them. Kathi…are you intentionally using a “dog whistle” to imply something about my political leanings? PS: they’re not what you may assume.

    In case this term is unfamiliar to you, VOX says: The phrase “dog whistle” has been around for years. It’s political shorthand for a phrase that may sound innocuous to some people, but which also communicates something more insidious either to a subset of the audience or outside of the audience’s conscious awareness — a covert appeal to some noxious set of views.

    “Dog whistling” is an insidious, divisive and shameful practice…and an intelligent woman like you would certainly understand the ramifications of this ploy. Cut it out!

  8. Thank you Linda Scott for your diligence and astute observations.
    Speaking for myself, I have needed the help with understanding these plans as the scope of this endeavor has become so intricate it is hard to keep it all in perspective.
    Some people seem to focus on the quantity of lives in the square without also focusing on the quality of life in Watertown. Also the talk of “affordable” housing is thrown around as if there is some understanding of what that is. To understand affordable you have to understand economics. I have not studied economics but from my decades of living I can tell you that when you increase development, new housing, new job opportunities, prices go up not down.
    I feel lucky to live in Watertown. I have lived here since the 1980’s. I confess I did not want to move here at the time but it was the only area I could afford to live in. Why was it more affordable? Because there was much less development. Housing was older. When I was first coming to visit Watertown we still had a rotary in the square and I can tell you from personal experience it was a lot easier to drive through the square as well as walk here because there wasn’t cars stuck in lights in the square. It was much easier to cross on foot too for that very reason. If you needed to cross on foot car would wait for you. It was very very simple. No lights to maintain, no crosswalk light buttons to push, you just went to the crosswalk, cars would stop and you would cross.
    The strangest thing I have noticed about the streets around Watertown Sq. is how right behind the library winter St. has been completely ignored for maintaining any sidewalks. Fayette St. too. It’s as if the DPW has listed these streets as no existent. These streets will be highly impacted with any new development.
    Anyway – thank you again Linda. I hope the good Mr. Proakis and the development board reads your wise observations and heeds the useful suggestions. It would benefit us all.

  9. Just a follow-up for the Joint City Council and Planning Board Hearing on the Watertown Square Area Plan, scheduled for June 27.

    Monday afternoon, June 24, just three days before this hearing, I thought that I’d check out the places where public information was promised by the City to be available for this important event.

    If you recall, the June 13th meeting had faulty signs up just 48 hours before the meeting and Watertown Square Area Plan documents unavailable to the public so that they could prepare for the meeting.

    Now, for the June 27th hearing, these are my observations:

    I went to the Senior Center, one of the three places where plan documents were supposed to be available to the public to pick up. They only had an in-house, spiral bound copy. The woman behind the counter kindly offered to copy this for me. The Senior Center shouldn’t have to absorb that cost. The City promised that adequate copies would be made available for pick up. at this location.

    Next, I visited the Library. They had ten copies.

    I did not go to City Hall. The last time I checked, you needed to go to the third floor to pick up a copy, a place that most residents are unfamiliar with and would not think to go.

    At the Delta in the Square, the electronic sign was turned off and the sandwich board was bare. I saw no other announcements around the City.

    Three days before this second hearing, and very similar inadequate publicity and information for the residents on this very important topic!

    “A mistake that keeps being repeated is not a mistake. It’s a choice.”

    See the comments in the Meeting Announcement on Watertown News for more information and to read the very astute comments left by residents:


    And be sure to read this blog by Bruce Coltin for his takeaways on the June 13th meeting:


  10. It’s encouraging that residents are sitting back and taking a harder look at what they’re we’re being sold by the sales team of Proakis and Speck (aka partners at Harvard) and their sales pitch that goes back to the initial plans for the Square.

    To their credit (and the City Council), it’s also encouraging that subsequent meetings were held despite the protests of those that desired to slam the door shut on the process once the early voting results were in (narrowly in their favor), least more residents got any wiser to voice their concerns and opposition. However, not to give them too much credit I attribute much of the awaking and need to hold as many meetings as it takes to people like Linda and others that are doing our elected officials job of getting the word out even if is slowly.

    I get that there’s a lot of enthusiasm from those that re-envision the square as their own slice of Paris or Amsterdam with sidewalk cafes and jugglers and mimes performing at the Delta, and as an added attraction, some are fond of pitching the diversity angle (who would be opposed to diversity?),but it’s not that kind of diversity one normally thinks of, it will be15% of various working class people and the 85% IT and biotech workers that will eventually transform the community into another Assembly Row, Kendall Sq. or Union Sq. That’s not the Watertown I know, it’s not the Watertown of why I moved here over 20 years ago and its sure not the Watertown I want to see now or in the future.

    Its already bad enough that we have to endure that imposing eyesore at 66 Galen St without cluttering up the Square with even more unsightly and crowded in ‘luxury’ housing accommodations thrown in the mix. What exactly is luxury housing can mean different things to different people but here’s just one recently completed example right next door to us just across the river where Stop and Shop is (or should I say the new and improved state of the art Stop and Shop) and this is what you’ll find…

    “Luxury apartments at Allston Yards begin preleasing – with rents starting at $2,900… Monthly rents start at $2,900 for studios (450 sqft), $3,502 for one-bedroom units, $4,900 for two-bedrooms, and $6,667 for three-bedrooms. The building also includes 21 income-restricted affordable units. Amenities include full-service concierge, a pet spa, a secured package room, a fitness center and barre studio, billiards and game tables, a lounge and outdoor deck, library, workstations, and a landscaped courtyard.”

    All Units feature open-concept floor plans and “several high-end appliances and finishes for elegant living,” such as quartz countertops, tile backsplashes, wood grain flooring, smart thermostats, and walk-in showers, according to a press release”.


    Trust the experts they say? Anytime we hear “trust the experts, they know what they’re doing” it should give us cause for concern and question their expertise and supposed knowledge of our neighborhood. Ask yourself, whom would you rather trust with our future, the “experts” or the longtime residents that have more intimate knowledge and life experiences gained from living here? Keep in mind, it was “the experts” that designed that recipe for disaster at Mt Auburn St and Aberdeen St. and the flawed bike infrastructure that contributed to the recent death of at least one person.

    Joe Levendusky has it right… “The only way to really gauge public acceptance of the Watertown Square plan is to put a referendum on the November ballot”

    This is too far of an important and game changing an issue for 9 individuals to decide… elected or not. If we can vote on something as trivial as changing the designation of Watertown from a town to a city, we can and should vote on this.

  11. It is encouraging to see more people comment on the issues regarding Watertown Square – both housing and traffic patterns. More people are becoming aware of what is going on in our City and the important decisions ahead of us.

    Thanks go out to Charlie Breitrose of Watertown News for allowing everyone to voice their respectful thoughts on this site. As we don’t have a physical newspaper, Charlie fills a necessary void, and as a one-man operation, he does what he can to keep us informed. If you know people who don’t know about this publication, please share this site with them: watertownmanews.com. The more people who are aware of our City issues, the better Watertown will be.

    Linda has done a prodigious service to all of us by spending the time researching and reporting her gathered facts so that people are more informed of what is happening, especially recently regarding the Watertown Square Plan and the meetings. She should be respected for those efforts and the fact that more people admit they had no idea of what’s going and that they thought they couldn’t have an influence on City government decisions, the feeling that it’s always a done deal.

    As you can see by some new commenters, they seem to feel more empowered and involved. That is a good thing for any city. If we need to have a referendum to actually get our residents’ thoughts and votes on the proposed plans, both housing and traffic patterns, so be it. Let’s do it.

    As Linda mentioned, as of yesterday there still are no visible signs posted for the meeting on the 27th at the Middle School. If people didn’t attend the June 13 meeting, they may not even know there is a second meeting.

    With the first Presidential Debate the same night, are residents going to have to choose whether they will watch the debate or attend our City meeting? If there are less people at the meeting, that’s not a transparent and true representation of our community. Some people can record the debate, but others don’t have that option. It’s sad that they have to make a choice. The last meeting on the 13th went until past 9 p.m.

    Even if we have the digital signs and sandwich boards, if you aren’t stopped at a red light at the appropriate position, you can’t read the messages regarding the meetings. We need to have postcards sent out to ALL residents well in advance of meetings so they can plan to be there. Let’s be more transparent and inclusive.

    I hope there is a laser pointer available at the start of this meeting and that street names and traffic directional patterns are noted on the maps. Perhaps maps on boards with this information could be available to view in advance at City Hall, the Library, and the Senior Center and prior to the meeting at the Middle School for people to view if they haven’t been able to get a copy of the plans and would like to see more detail on them in a larger version.

    Testing traffic patterns with cones, sandbags or whatever will help determine how neighborhoods will be impacted by changes in the Square. I know the goal is to reduce traffic downtown, but diverting drivers around that area to smaller streets may have negative impacts on neighborhoods and the Square. If people go around the Square, will that hurt businesses more? Will people circle around to get to those businesses? And how many small businesses will we lose when these new developments eventually happen? Chances are they won’t be able to move into those first-floor high rent areas.

    Do we want to lose the small businesses behind CVS? That appears to be an area that has always been designated as green open space on city plans. We could add some trees for now. If the City has its way, they want a huge parking garage there, one that many people have voiced their opposition to.

    A few of Watertown’s Comprehensive Goals are:

    By 2050 personal vehicular travel miles are reduced by 50%.
    By 2050 100% of all vehicles in Watertown are electric.
    By 2050 Watertown’s natural assets and green space are enhanced and equitably distributed.

    If they achieve these goals, will we even need a garage? Will anyone who wants a regular or hybrid car even be living here or visiting here? With all the recent stories of problems with EVs, such as having issues in the heat and cold, their weights and effects on roads and bridges and possibly parking garages, the problems encountered when they catch on fire and require thousands of gallons of water to extinguish, is that even a logical goal? And can the average citizen afford them and the electricity charges that will be incurred? (If you own one now, did you know that an EV can be charged behind the Library and other City lots for free? We subsidize that!)

    If we give up green space for large buildings that house thousands of more people, is that logical? The more people you have in congested areas, the more space is needed for them to share open space. If we give up more space to another large building next to the Godzilla building on Galen Street and allow the high-income earners to be the only ones who can afford to enjoy the river views, is that equitable? Do we want more tall buildings along the river and abutting neighborhoods?

    If you haven’t been able to keep up with all the details of these City plans, I would suggest you refer back to prior Watertown News articles. You will see what other residents’ comments are and get a better understanding of what’s planned for us.


    OP-ED: Reflections on the First Watertown Square Plan Hearing

    OP-ED: Reflections on the First Watertown Square Plan Hearing
    By Linda Scott Watertown Resident Part 1: Thomas Jefferson: “That government is the strongest of which every man …


    If you haven’t attended the meetings in person or on Zoom, PLEASE do so going forward and speak up. If you are there but don’t express your thoughts, no one knows your preferences. I hope that Zoom participants’ comments aren’t held to the end of this meeting as was done on the 13th. There were about 100 people on hold and only a handful spoke at the end. Did they just give up?

    There are no easy answers to affordable housing, but we don’t have to be the answer to all of the state’s and country’s housing problems. We are one of the smallest and most dense cities already. We can’t build enough for every possible person who wants to live here. That’s a reality in many cities. Let’s do our part and hope that we will see some developers come forward who care about our community and not just the mighty dollars they will make and will develop thoughtfully.

    If the MBTA doesn’t improve their service, these new developments may find people will need cars and there won’t be spaces for them. I heard recently that the T is carrying huge deficits because the Federal Government mandated they hire large amounts of workers to meet safety standards. With the delayed maintenance on the system for a long time and the costs to bring the system up to acceptable standards, who knows if and when people can actually depend on it. The MBTA has been an independent agency without real state supervision and we, the people, have suffered for this process.

    We know not everyone can take public transportation to everywhere they need to go at all times. We need to plan accordingly and practically so they can do what they need to do and when they need to do it. Let’s consider all of our options.

    President Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” Let’s not be forced to do something that we have yet to get the answers for. There are other areas of Watertown that will be developed in the future. Let’s not charge forward now not knowing what’s in our future. Slow and steady usually wins the race.

    We need more meetings on each plan and done separately so we get the best results possible. Let’s carefully consider whether we want or need a Redevelopment Authority. Shouldn’t decisions be made by elected representatives rather than an independent body?

    If you can’t attend the meeting on the 27th, please send emails to our Councilors and ask that they be read at the meeting. If you can attend, please do show up and speak up. Numbers and voices do count.

  12. I’m not going to go in depth again about why I disagree with Linda. I have posted in depth in response to her in the past. But I will say that I want EVEN MORE housing than has been proposed. I’m okay with tall buildings with no setbacks. I want more bike lanes and pedestrian areas. We should be giving height bonuses to affordable developments. We should eliminate parking minimums in the square (and also city-wide). I would like to see cars de-prioritized. Watertown Square right now is not a pleasant place to be and Linda offers no vision to make it better. All she’s doing is fear monger, “just asking questions”, and throwing around false accusations. I’m not falling for it.

    • More name calling and casting aspersion is not productive.

      “I’m okay with tall buildings with no setbacks.”

      I am quite certain that the majority of your townsfolk do not agree with this. We need housing, but that is no reason to throw principles of good design out the window.

      “We should eliminate parking minimums in the square (and also city-wide). I would like to see cars de-prioritized. Watertown Square right now is not a pleasant place to be. . .”

      I would agree with that in principle, but we must have the promise of better public transit in any area where we are considering a boost in density. Otherwise we will not have a revitalized Watertown Square, we will have hot mess on our hands. Transit is key.

    • Without going in depth, could you please explain the false accusations, I’ve heard another from your group say, don’t listen to any of this, it’s all lies. How much do you want for the car parked in your driveway? Parking for you but not others? That’s rather fair isn’t it?

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