By: Breanne Kovatch, Sabrina Schnur, Shannon Larson and Till Kaeslin
After more than a year of conversing and planning, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced on Thursday the release of the final draft of the Imagine Boston Plan, which aims to take advantage of the city’s strengths to address the challenges the city faces.
The 420-page plan includes initiatives to improve housing affordability, population growth, climate change and wage inequality over the coming years, according to the plan.
Natalia Urtubey, director of engagement for Imagine Boston 2030, said the planning process for the plan began in November 2015 and the first draft was released by November 2016.
Throughout the planning process, Urtubey said the focus was always on resident’s feedback, with over 14,000 residents contributing to the plan.
“Almost all of the initiatives in the Taking Action areas [of the plan] have been driven by resident feedback … whether it was ideas or input,” Urtubey said. “All of that helped shape what the city’s priorities were going to be in the future and how we can make those a reality.”
This feedback from residents is visually represented in the report, as every yellow marker signifies input from a resident.
Urtubey said the Imagine Boston 2030 team reached out to residents in a variety of ways — through their text message campaign, town hall style meetings and through engagement team members who met with people on the streets of Boston.
“What we wanted to do was get residents where they were instead of creating brand new spaces for them to come, so we went to a lot of neighborhood association meetings, then we talked to a lot of leaders and community organizations,” Urtubey said. “So everything that we did was really about getting people’s perspectives.”
With the release of the final draft, there will now be a month-long comment period during which Urtubey said residents are welcome to either send in emails about what edits they might have to the document, or leave comments on the online survey they have set up.
“The plan itself has been shaped by residents and will continue to do so,” Urtubey said. “What we’ll be doing is compiling that feedback and going over it and seeing what folks are saying and then adjusting the document accordingly.”
The plan is separated into sections that include background about the city, opportunities for growth, areas where further action can be taken and initiatives planned to improve the city by 2030.
One major aspect the plan addresses is the inequality in education, jobs and health of Bostonians.
Imagine Boston 2030 will work to maintain former President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative which worked on closing the achievement gap between minority and white men.
The city will also be making efforts to close the gender wage gap that remains prevalent in the workforce. Surveys conducted by the Imagine Boston 2030 team included in the plan state that despite having the same educational backgrounds, women in Boston earn median incomes of 13 percent to 25 percent less than men.
The health of residents also varies greatly depending on neighborhood. The average number of residents who die before age 65 is highest in Roxbury at 281 per 100,000, compared to the average for Boston, which is 202 per 100,000, according to the plan.
The plan also emphasizes the work to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to fight climate change.
Between 2000 and 2030, the plan projects sea levels to rise at three times the rate they had been rising in the past century, posing a threat to Boston’s waterfront.
A large storm is predicted to potentially flood three percent of the population and could cause nearly $20 million worth of damage by 2030, according to the plan.
Boston residents have already found more efficient ways to travel. The plan cites 34 percent of households do not own a car, opting for car-sharing, ride-sharing and bike-sharing programs instead.
The plan also introduces initiatives looking to improve Boston housing, education and health of the city’s residents.
These initiatives for housing have worked to preserve affordable housing options in Boston, according to the plan. It states around 21 percent of households in Boston are severely housing-cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs.
The city has added more than 12,000 housing units, as of January 2017, with about 7,000 more units under construction in response to rent rising in Boston. Construction of these units has already begun to reduce rent in Fenway and the South End, according to the plan.
The plan also includes a vision for the future of Boston Public Schools including a reduction of education inconsistencies between districts.
One of these inconsistencies is the large gap noted between different races and their levels of education — white residents are three times more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than black or Hispanic residents.
There is also a focus on mental health and access to medical care for residents. For example, the plan states all city employees are ensured the opportunity to get cancer screenings.
Looking to the future, even after the comment-period has come to an end, Urtubey encourages residents to follow up and stay involved with the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative.
“The entire design of it is to make sure that the residents are the ones that are benefitting from this plan, and the only way that we’ll really know [if] that is [true is] if they continue to get involved and help us continue to shape the processes as we go,” Urtubey said. “We hope that they’re proud of this plan because we really are.”