SAND has submitted the following letter during a public comment period regarding the recent filing of a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) by the Fan Pier development team.
- To read SAND's comments on the DRAFT Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), click here.
- To read more of SAND's past comments on Fan Pier, click here.
9/7/01 via e-mail and US Mail
- Ms. Janet Hutchins, MEPA
- Executive Office of Environmental Affairs
- 251 Causeway Street
- Boston, MA 02114
- cc: Executive Secretary Robert Durand
Re: Fan Pier Development FEIR/FPIR
Dear Ms. Hutchins:
The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND) initially filed its comments on the Fan Pier DEIR in June of 2000. These comments have not been addressed sufficiently in the FEIR, and are therefore re-attached for further consideration.
We note that a number of public comments filed on the DEIR in addition to those of SAND were also insufficiently addressed. Few public comments resulted in changes in the FEIR. There is no public accounting for changes found in the FEIR, other than media accounts of demands from the FAA which resulted in height changes, and other media accounts of the economic woes of the proponent which resulted in a proposed phasing scheme to develop office space while delaying the housing component.
The proponent has elected to use a cookie-cutter approach to responding to public comments, with boilerplate responses found with growing frequency in State and City project filings. Public comments on the Fan Pier project have not resulted in substantial changes between the DEIR and FEIR, while the project itself continues on a trajectory toward the original (failed) Fan Pier filing of 1997.
The Fan Pier FEIR proposes a project of 2.9 million square feet. The density of this project is approximately twice the recommended density suggested by the City of Boston Public Realm Plan (PRP) and twice the 1.5 million square feet recommended for Fan Pier development by the City of Boston's Waterfront Committee convened by Mayor Menino in 1997. The PRP suggests a predominate height in the district of 150 feet, while Fan Pier presents each of its eight buildings at a minimum height of 175 feet. The Fan Pier parcel, with an average height of over 200 feet, is a tideland parcel that sets an irreversible pace for over-development in the remainder of the district.
SAND is not alone in asserting that this level of density will consume a significantly imbalanced proportion of natural and public resources, from infrastructure and public transportation to public space available for access at the water's edge.
The Fan Pier FEIR proposes over 40% of the project as office space. This ratio violates an executive order by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino which restricts office space to no more than 1/3rd of new development projects in the Waterfront. Although land use is not directly considered by the EOEA, the over-development of office space has presented little opportunity to address real environmental impacts under the purview of the EOEA, from traffic congestion to recreational open space.
Furthermore, an escalating 10-to-1 ratio of office workers to residents in the waterfront does not suggest the Public Realm Plan's "model of livable urban design" hailed by the EOEA in its certificate on the Fan Pier DEIR. Many office workers on Fan Pier will pursue housing in outlying neighborhoods of South Boston, Chinatown and the North End, needlessly upscaling existing communities to the detriment of renters and less affluent residents.
Urban Housing vs. Pied-a-terre Occupancy
The Fan Pier FEIR changes a use of a hotel proposed in the DEIR to a luxury condominium. It is disturbing that this major change was not the result of any public discussion, comment or debate. This change occurred behind closed doors, absent of public comment.
In the DEIR, numerous demands were made to contemplate privatization of the water's edge with luxury residential units. With regard to housing, many called on the proponent to provide an ample number of housing units to bolster supply and residential density. Both of these issues are thwarted by the conversion of the hotel to luxury condos.
Regarding privatization, a number of prominent architects and harbor advocates have indicated concern over the production of luxury residential buildings at the water's edge. Boston's waterfront, from Battery Wharf, Long Wharf to Harbor Towers, is already replete with deplorable examples of an intensely privatized and restricted harborfront. It is a stunning disappointment that Fan Pier will join these other piers as an enclave for wealthy occupants and visitors to the detriment of less affluent citizens to whom tideland rights were dedicated.
Regarding adequate residential growth, consider that the FEIR suggests an average unit size of 1600 square feet. A number of critics of the DEIR clearly suggested that "neighborhood" density would be achieved only if housing production was tailored to suit more moderate needs, perhaps with unit average of approximately 1000 square feet. The Fan Pier FEIR achieves its required 1/3rd residential square foot total, but does not provide adequate residential density per acre. The Boston Redevelopment Authority has refrained from exercising its legal authority to require an adequate residential unit count per acre.
Privatization of Public Offsets and Benefits
The Municipal Harbor Plan suggested the formation of an objective cultural selection committee to determine best use of cultural facilities. Leases and access to these facilities were to be subsidized by the proponent as an offset to balance commercial development on the tidelands - as a benefit to all citizens. Therefore, an objective cultural body was to have had oversight of the selection process.
The Fan Pier FEIR asserts that cultural facilities will be nominated and occupied by "Friends of Fan Pier," a group of non-profits selected exclusively by the proponent. The proponent has elected to privatize a process that was to be intensely public.
Three of the "institutional partners" to occupy cultural space on Fan Pier participated on the Municipal Harbor Plan Advisory Committee as objective waterfront advocates. These organizations did not disclose private pursuits or negotiations regarding occupancy of cultural space on Fan Pier, during the MHP and DEIR public comment periods.
Although SAND would not have asked any of these organizations for their withdrawal from objective participation on the Municipal Harbor Plan Advisory Committee, or from pursuit of a directly beneficial relationship with the proponent, it is surprising to learn that the groups elected to pursue an interest in both roles without clear public disclosure. Could an organization pursuing space on Fan Pier to vocalize strong dissatisfaction with of any aspect of the plan? The comment record during the Municipal Harbor Plan might bear this out.
Certainly, a number of issues that arose during the MHP and Fan Pier planning process were swayed in favor the proponent by the advocacy efforts of one or more of these organizations.
Please consider our former DEIR comments (attached) in reference to the FEIR. Again, we believe these comments have not been addressed by the FEIR and merit further review.
SAND members understand the economic realities of development. The Fan Pier plan, however, clearly illustrates that Boston's planning obligations are being met according the highest market value, not the best use, of its waterfront and tidelands. The Fan Pier plan proposed by the FEIR incorrectly presupposes that the resources it will consume are the sole propriety of the proponent.
We thank you for your consideration.
- Steve Hollinger
- Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND)
Attached: SAND DEIR Comment (to read click here)
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.