Like coastal cities around the world, Boston is preparing for the impacts of climate change. As a result of planning over the past several years, the East Boston waterfront has been identified by the City of Boston as one of the places most vulnerable to climate change. The City’s Climate Ready Boston report and subsequent neighborhood level plans make clear that resilience measures must be implemented in East Boston in the near term.
Currently, the City relies primarily, though not exclusively, on investments by private development to fund coastal resilience measures. An unfortunate consequence of such a model can be gentrification of the waterfront. Displacement of current residents can follow when the development is primarily market rate or luxury housing and office space. We need to find a way to achieve equitable coastal resilience in all areas of our waterfront, including the industrial port area of East Boston.
Against this backdrop, the Boston Planning and Development Agency has initiated a review of the East Boston Designated Port Area. A Designated Port Area (DPA) is a coastal area that is particularly well-suited for water-dependent industrial uses. There are a limited number of these areas in the state, and the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) office is charged with protecting and preserving them.
The boundary review process requires the CZM to determine whether or not lands and waters that are currently designated for water-dependent industrial use should retain their designation. This determination will hinge on several factors, including the depth of the water channel and easy access to landside transportation networks. If some of these areas are de-designated, they will likely be subject to development forces that dictate high-end housing along the waterfront, potentially pricing out current residents.
Boston Harbor Now believes that ensuring a resilient waterfront while preserving the character of the neighborhood and mitigating against displacement of current residents must be how we approach this issue. We will be working with both the Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Authority, as well as our nonprofit partners to help to support the working port and protect the residents of East Boston.
There are several ways you can get involved:
- track the East Boston DPA Boundary review process (the process is expected to continue through the fall of 2021, comments for the first phase are due March 12)
- check out the original Coastal Resilience Plan for East Boston and get involved in the Climate Ready East Boston, Phase 2 process
- get involved in the PLAN East Boston process being run by the Boston Planning and Development Agency
We are hopeful that collectively we can find creative solutions to the problems of climate resilience, equity, access, and gentrification in places like East Boston. We should be able to have protection against sea level rise that also enhances the quality of life in existing communities. It will take all of us—the private sector, the public agencies, and non-profit organizations—to realize the vision of a resilient, welcoming, and accessible Harbor for all. The East Boston waterfront provides an opportunity for us to work together to make this vision a reality.