City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George
With access to public art, fountains, green space, food trucks, beer gardens, and more, the Rose Kennedy Greenway is an example of how we can activate green space to create interesting, welcoming, vibrant and accessible areas in the City—for adults, families and children alike.
Many Boston residents live in areas at severe risk of flooding. Flood protection projects come at high cost, but doing nothing will be even more costly. How will you prioritize projects to address climate resilience and whose responsibility is it to pay for them?
Climate change is the greatest single threat to the equity, health and abundance of current and future generations. As a lifelong Dorchester resident, I’ve seen the increased risk of flooding in my own backyard and I know residents across our coastline communities can say the same. As Mayor, I will leverage Boston’s development boom to fight for greener, environmentally sustainable buildings in our neighborhoods while at the same time advancing coastal resilience solutions that prepare Boston for the long-term impacts of climate change. I will push our partners at the state and federal level for investments in these projects, because the environmental future of our city requires a regional response.
Given the urgency of climate change and the momentum towards net zero buildings, what actions will you take to support swift implementation of the Zero Carbon Zoning for new buildings and Emissions Performance Standard for existing buildings?
I believe that in order to become a more sustainable and climate resilient city, the City of Boston itself must lead by example by updating all of its publicly owned buildings. As Mayor, I will leverage the vast amount of property owned by the city to ensure that Boston is quickly moving towards net carbon buildings, beginning by renovating Boston Public School buildings to make them greener. Alongside illustrating the City’s personal commitment to environmentally friendly infrastructure, I will work closely with developers, property owners, and businesses in the city to promote green construction and efficiency centered renovations. I will explore different ways to use subsidies and zoning incentives to encourage responsible and resilient construction across the city.
How can the City overcome challenges in housing production and better provide housing of all shapes and sizes at a range of affordability levels?
If we want our city to grow and thrive, and I certainly do, we need rental units and homes for sale that are both affordable and accessible. We can start by building more housing and ensuring what we build is actually affordable for Boston’s residents. At the same time, we have to build for the needs and realities of our residents — from affordable family sized units to workforce housing to artist live/work spaces. On the City Council, I’ve called for a hearing to look at our City’s existing residential unit diversity, so we can understand what units we have and what units we need to equitably house our residents and more proactively shape an inclusive city.
Additionally, I believe we should place a larger focus on creating housing for the many residents and families that don’t qualify for subsidized housing, but still cannot afford to pay market rate. This large gap is causing low to middle income families to fall through the cracks.
Many Boston neighborhoods do not see new development as positive. Would you agree or disagree with this statement? Is there a neighborhood or part of Boston where you think that new development has had positive impacts on the surrounding community? Which area and why did it work?
I am not surprised to hear that many of Boston’s neighborhoods do not see new development as positive because in too many instances, the public process has not worked for our residents leaving them without a seat at the development decision making table. The future of our neighborhoods must be shaped by the voices of our residents. While it is still very much in the planning process, I think there is potential around the Newmarket area to encourage more mixed-use development that brings good jobs, improved infrastructure and better transit connections to the area.
We are seeing unprecedentedly large projects in the City, like Suffolk Downs and Bay City. Are the plans for these, and past development areas, like the Seaport, being made the right way? Who should lead the planning of future projects like these, developers or the City? Are there opportunities for the City to be more proactive, while respecting the interests of impacted communities and property owners?
As mentioned above, the voices of our residents must be central to the planning process. Boston residents deserve a chance to shape their skyline, and as Mayor I will push for greater transparency and public engagement as Boston continues to grow. During my time on the City Council, I introduced legislation to make the public process more accessible by expediting the notification process to give residents a better opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns when it comes to new developments. I have also worked to increase the amount of information available to residents and to ensure that such information is easily accessible through a public developer database. At the end of the day, it is Boston’s residents and communities that are going to be dealing with the long-term effects of any new development. They not only deserve a seat at the table, but a process that truly prioritizes their voices.
How else can the BSA and the architecture community best be involved in decision making and shaping Boston's future?
In addition to public boards and commissions, I believe the BSA and the architecture community can more broadly increase and improve its impact by serving as a hub for new ideas, acting as a liaison between the public and City Hall, and working directly alongside residents, property owners, and communities to facilitate conversations around understanding and reimagining Boston’s built environment.