The theme of the Feb. 28 editorial, “For answers to housing woes, look to vibrant Davis Square” is correct, but the comparison of Davis Square in Somerville with Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain is not. The only commonality is a transit station, but only Forest Hills is a transportation terminus.
The editorial blames “poor state planning” for Forest Hills’ problems, but it’s really a shared problem. Forest Hills sits among Arnold Arboretum, Forest Hills Cemetery, and Franklin Park — large open spaces that lower neighborhood density. Davis Square is in an ultra-dense neighborhood with Tufts University nearby and many more people to support businesses.
Inaction by the city and the Boston Redevelopment Authority has held Forest Hills back. Unlike Somerville, which began planning for new transit nine years before the Red Line extension opened, Boston waited until 2006 — 19 years after the relocated Orange Line opened — to focus on incentives and new zoning to make state-owned parcels attractive for development. Boston has been slow to promote transit-oriented development throughout the Southwest Corridor.
The editorial also says that Forest Hills is on the cusp of a major transformation with elimination of the Casey Overpass, but until recently, the state and the city valued the overpass as an effective way to keep regional traffic from interfering with local traffic, transit, bikes, and pedestrians. The transformation of Forest Hills, albeit slow, began before the state decided against replacing the bridge. Eliminating the overpass, and dumping 24,000 vehicles per day onto a six- to seven-lane surface highway, is likely to prevent the transformation in full.