The following comments were submitted to the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs to address a proposed hotel/office development on Fan Pier. The proponents of this project proposed the development as an update to an older (1986) proposal, and therefore subject to the regulations of the original project. SAND asked that the development be re-submitted as a new proposal, for the reasons outlined below.

For more information on the proposed development project, refer to our original solicitation for public comment (click here). To read our early comments to the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, stated at a scoping session on 1/29/98, click here.

Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design
300 Summer Street Boston Ma 02210 617 423-4299
February 23, 1998
Ms Trudy Coxe, Secretary
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Department
100 Cambridge Street
Boston MA
Re: 1997 Fan Pier Project - EOEA MEPA Unit #4426; Notice of Project Change

Dear Secretary Coxe,

We believe that this request for a Notice of Project Change should be denied and that a new Environmental Impact Report be required, for the above-referenced project of the Fan Pier Land Company and HBC Associates, for the following reasons:

The legal applicability of the 1986 proposal is now lacking, due to abandonment of the project by the developer. The proponents did not pursue development of the original 1986 proposal. In the interim, land was sold, land was leased for entertainment purposes, and no improvements or other attention to the site was exerted by the ownership interest, outside of maintaining a parking lot. The composition of the ownership group and the purported use of the site has also changed significantly in the interim.

The proposed uses of the project have changed substantially with regard to the ratio and amount of housing proposed, access to the water, and in height. Land area utilized has also changed, due to the construction of the new Federal Courthouse on a portion of the original site.

The immediate environment and context of the proposed project has substantially changed, with the construction of the new Federal Courthouse. Numerous adjacent projects are either in construction or design, and should be accounted with regard to potential impacts to this project.

This project would be in violation of Chapter 91 regulations, and cannot be in accordance, until and unless a Municipal Harbor Plan is developed, approved and filed which permits these variances.

This project is not in accord with Federal Aviation Administration regulations regarding the safety of permitted building heights relative to airport runway approaches.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority Master Plan is not complete, neither in process or product. The full community process has yet to be implemented, is far from complete, and it will require completion of critical evaluations of transportation/traffic, housing, and open space, etc.

Development of the entire seaport must be governed by the City of Boston Seaport Master Plan. The Fan Pier Land Company development proposal should be fully governed by City zoning and that document, when completed.

There has not been a strategic traffic plan developed for this area that acknowledges possible development scenarios. The NPC assumes either the adequacy of public transportation under full development conditions, or on the ability of the pedestrian to navigate the district. There are serious flaws in the transportation analysis submitted by the project proponents, which calls into question the ability of this area to absorb the traffic impacts likely to be generated by this proposal.

Increased public investment and environmental improvements include expenditures of $4 billion by State and Federal taxpayers for harbor clean-up and targeting of over $1 billion for water and land-based transit systems serving the seaport. These improvements substantially change the relation of the proposed development to the water sheet, in terms of importance and opportunities, which must be protected for the use and access of the public.

This proposed project should be made subject to all current and applicable environmental regulations. Recent environmental improvements will greatly benefit project proponents, though this project is in violation of current environmental regulations, and compliance will not be particularly burdensome.

The public process has been incomplete. The only public presentation for this NPC was poorly publicized, and attended by fewer than 50 persons - the majority of whom were proponents of the project and Waterfront Committee Members. Full input from the public should be solicited and incorporated in your findings

Capacity for sanitary flows to Deer Island may be inadequate. There is currently no municipal drainage and treatment for the proposed development site. All rainfall and melt water is subject to run off directly into the harbor, or to percolate into the soil, and subsequently to groundwater and the harbor. There is no analysis presented of the capacity of the MWRA system, its availability in this district, or of any plans for connections to same by this project. The Environmental Update incorrectly states there is no perk at Fan Pier, despite its gravel surface, ponding and perking is readily observed on it currently.

Recent changes to circulation of traffic in this district due to the South Bay NPC for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project has altered the routing and ability of the district to manage traffic flows and is not addressed in this NPC.

Levels of service of traffic evaluated for this project are incomplete.

The FAR is not made explicit in this proposal, either for the proposed building or the development as a whole. Observation would indicate that it is far in excess of that of the previously permitted proposal.

There is no marina or other usage of the Cove watersheet discussed in this plan. There has been much discussion of the uses of the Cove, its need for public access, and even suggestion that it might be filled. Use of the Cove is integral to any future development, and must be integrated during the planning phase.

No study of the impacts of this development, either the hotel in particular, or the development in its entirety, has been made with respect to wind conditions created or to the impacts of shading on public areas and the water sheet, with possible deleterious effects. Such studies should be required, and performance goals to be attained need to be indicated to avoid degradation of the public's interest. Shading of the water sheet may also produce adverse impacts to marine life, given the newly resurgent health of the Harbor.

This NPC is invalid because, rather than comprehensively responding to changes in conditions and program for the entire development site comprehensively (as it had previously), it concentrates on a single building within the development area. There is a potential for an interpretation that an approved NPC in this instance would be precedent for other, greater changes in the other proposed buildings on this site, and would then not require further environmental filings. There are specific impacts and implications of this NPC for development of the entire site which should be explicitly stated and investigated comprehensively for the entire development proposal, prior to permitting any element of construction. Among these are: circulation and access, provision of services and amenities, siting of open space most opportunely and the fact that the proposed internal street grid is inappropriate.

We feel that these reasons for denying the Notice of Project Change should form a basis for future scoping and evaluation of proposals, both on Fan Pier and elsewhere in the newly declared Seaport District of Boston. Thanks to your intercession and leadership in the Central Artery/Tunnel project, and elsewhere, the City of Boston will benefit greatly in many ways, particularly with regard to pedestrian access and overall urban quality, that ultimately translates to livable cities that support residential quality, commerce and tourism. There is a similar opportunity in regards to this project, and we welcome and invite your initiative on this crucial proposal.

Jonathan Seward
on behalf of SAND
Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design