Upham's Corner Online

UCIA General Meeting - St. Kevin's - February 8, 2012

Posted: February 8, 2012    Nancy J Conrad

The group met for one hour and discussed the upcoming St. Kevin's report to be presented to Mass Housing.
  1. Executive Summary discussed and recommendations made
  2. Prioritizing the issues
  3. Issue #1 - SKAPC not followed
  4. Issue #2 - disenfranchisement - discussion
  5. Use of census data
  6. Analysis
  7. Data interpretation
  8. Communicating our position
Discussion of the draft "executive summary" with recommended changes.

Title: St. Kevin's Development - a Review by the Upham's Corner Improvement Association

Opening Statement

The Upham's Corner Improvement Association (UCIA) has reviewed the proposed St. Kevin's development project.  In our opinion while the project would provide some benefits to the community, its overall effect would be detrimental. 

# Issue
The developers have not followed the recommendations of the 2009 St. Kevin's Area Planning Collaborative report.
The project approval process was flawed and disenfranchised many of the Upham's Corner residents.
The developers have failed to address the unresolved design issues that would normally have kept any project from being approved.
Uses for the St. Kevin's site other than housing would contribute significantly more to the current and future needs of the Upham's Corner community.

Recommendation:  We recommend that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts not award the St. Kevin's project Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding.

Document organization
  1. Introduction
  2. Narrative supporting each "reason" with drill down.  Summaries at beginning with layers of detail following.
  3. Summary
  4. Appendices

The following recommendations were made during the course of the meeting:
  • Title:  St. Kevin's Report  - Upham's Corner Improvement Association
  • At the beginning of the executive summary, include a copy of the UCIA mission statement.
  • Leave list as is but reverse #2 and #3.
  • Recommendations
    • The stated recommendation is not really a recommendation.  It says we are asking mass housing to not do.  He needs to say what our recommendations are. 
    • UCIA has already had a lot of conversation about recommendations that are documented in the minutes from past meetings  - from the arts to education, etc.  Just take it from the minutes but write it broad-based - no details.
    • Instead of using a declarative sentence, ask a question.  Do it as a question that of the statement. 
  • Spreading the word
    • How do we get out notification of the meeting to everybody who would be willing to support St. Kevins under a different vision?
    • It's very important we see men show up at this meeting and speak out as well.
    • Prepare a one pager similar to this meeting's agenda which identifies the issues and also provides specific recommendations to be used for canvassing.
    • Put notices of the important meetings taking place about Upham's Corner in Upham's Corner News
    • Get our partners to show up at this meeting and speak in favor of a different project at St. Kevin like the arts people.
The issues listed above are somewhat chronologically but not necessarily by importance.  It is not clear which issue is most important. 

  • From the viewpoint of UCIA, the only important issue is #4 as it deals with urban planning for our community. It says that we have a vision for the community and that St.  Kevin's is part of that vision.  In reality the other three issues are simply complaints.
  • At the same time, since there is no Master Plan for Upham's Corner, focusing on the "plan"may not interest many people as it tends to be "in the future." Besides, no one as agreed to a plan so why talk about one?
  • The Upham's Corner master planning process has been rolled into FICCPI which is advertised as a transportation planning initiative.  It is not a master planning initiative for Upham's Corner.  What is sponsoring FICCPI is HUD money which is focused on transportation.  That is its purpose.
  • If I put all of my emphasis on issue #4, which is what I want to do, then #3 will not get its day in court.  However, if St. Kevin's is a project which has no redemption and it will eventually get funded no matter what UCIA does/says, then it's important that our report includes a heavy emphasis on the design flaws of the project as proposed. 
  • There could be other issues as well especially based on the breadth of conversation at UCIA meetings.  Whatever these issues are, business people want to read a report that gets to the point. (No endless history of Upham's Corner, No crying over spilt milk (oh, woe is me) - stick with the facts
  • Multiple perspectives "How do we write the report to catch the attention of all the right people?  We can write a report that pleases "us" but it needs to be attention grabbing for others including Mass Housing, BRA, City Hall (and other city organizations) and elected officials.
  • Naysayers - It would also be nice to be able to convert those who continue to support housing at St. Kevin's

The developers have not followed the recommendations of the 2009 St. Kevin's Area Planning Collaborative report.

The 2009 collaborative report said: "We want mixed housing and mixed-use - residential and commercial.  We want affordable housing - partly market and partly subsidized.

What POUA proposed was all subsidized housing.  That's because that's the only thing that can give them enough money to make it work, from their perspective.

Developers Tipping the Scales

Several facts around how the proposal is being handled by the arch-diocese suggest they (the owners) are not open to the "best" solution for that site.  Rather they are representing the project as doable only by POUA.

Goal : Money

Fr. Ahern has stated that he wants money for a trust fund for his parishes.  Great!  Let's put the property up for bids to get him the money he needs. 

Restricted Use #1 

The archdiocese rules state that St. Kevin's cannot be used to create competition for Catholic schools.  Translated:  They will not sell to a developer that will use the property for what it is best configured for at the present time.

This may sound reasonable but the project is not being done in isolation from its impact on the whole of Upham's Corner.  As a community, there weren't objections to the St. Kevin's property being used as a school.  Chances are slim that converting that property to another school would generate much objection (just a guess).

Restricted Use #2

In their community presentations, the developers stated that there is a 25% vacancy rate in Upham's Corner for commercial property so they cannot consider commercial property development at St. Kevin's. 

Yet at a recent Upham's Corner Main Street board meeting, Steve Rumpler, the City's representative to the Main Street organizations, stated that Upham's Corner has one of the lowest storefront vacancy rates at 2%. 

What was the point of misrepresenting the facts?  Might there have been a goal to convince the community that subsidized housing was the only via option?

The Proper Mindset

At the last UCWNA meeting, Alma Finneran referred to a recent commercial-residential development at the Ashmont Red Line station.  In the past the Ashmont station area was a high crime area.  By putting those restaurants and cafes and art in that area, it has completely turned itself around.

In Alma's opinion, Ashmont and Upham's Corner are similar neighborhoods.  "Why," she asked, "could such an extensive development occur in Ashmont, yet only "housing" is acceptable for Upham's Corner?"

Shemiram called Alma the next morning and said:  "Thank you for bringing that up." Alma's reply:  "It's our mindset that is creating problems.  The people who want to put housing here cannot see anything besides housing because of how they view Upham's Corner. We need to get out of the mentality that says Upham's Corner is just for low income people."

Alma has a mindset that says Upham's Corner can be as prosperous as Ashmont currently is.  This contrasts with the popular view of Upham's Corner which characterizes it much more negatively - "the pits.  Let's all start thinking the way Alma is thinking that Upham's Corner is actually great. 

The project approval process was flawed and disenfranchised many of the Upham's Corner residents.

Who attends Community Meetings

UCWNA, DSNI and UCMS- almost all white people are making decisions about a neighborhood that is 90% nonwhite. That is part of the disenfranchisement that occurred but I'm hesitant about saying so directly in the report.

Limited Contact with the Community

People whose responsibility it is to get feedback from the community like to say: "well we have all these meetings and nobody comes." POUA said:  "Nancy, what do you expect it to do?  We have meetings and nobody comes."

Well the Census Bureau could say the same thing. "We asked people to turn in their forms and they didn't.  So they are not going to get counted."  That's not how the Census Bureau works.  They make sure that everybody's voice is heard.

The issue is this:  How committed are you to getting feedback from the residents regarding the development options at St. Kevin's?  If you're not committed to doing that, just announce the meeting; nobody will come and that's that. 

Rumor: The Mayor made the Decision

Start at the bottom with the limited representation from the Upham's Corner residents.  Then go all the way to the top.  Rumor has it that the Mayor made the decision to support the proposed development of St. Kevin's and passed it down to the BRA.  It doesn"t matter what anybody said at the BRA hearing.  The City had already decided to go forward with the project.

Census data seemed like our only way of making a really strong point that housing is not right for Upham's Corner.  By having the data available to us we as a group can operate on a stronger footing without having to resort to dubious persuasion.

The "Getting to the Root" document is one of the finest documents ever written about Upham's Corner.  They did extensive research on the demographics of Upham's Corner based on census data.

Census data is available for specific groupings that we can relate to, for example, entire country, the state and each city.  Drilling down from what called "place," the next grouping of census data is by census tract and below that, by census block. 

From the Census Bureau's point of view, Upham's Corner doesn't exist.  In other words it is not a searchable entity in their database.  To get census data about Upham's Corner, you have to "build" it out of census tracts and census blocks.  That is exactly what Getting to the Roots did.  The four census tracts that most closely reproduce Upham's Corner are census tracts 912-915.  For greater accuracy, you have to add / subtract appropriate census blocks. 

While the Getting to the Roots Upham's Corner project had the resources to examine census data in minute detail, UCIA does not have this luxury.  UCIA has elected to use census tracts 912-915 as is.  For corroboration we have recomputed selected year 2000 census data and compared it with that published in the NBD.  That is not included in this document but will be included in the final report.

Census Data

Education Data

[Analysis of census data not included here.]

Based on the 2010 census data, 42% of the population 25 years and over have a bachelor's degree or higher.  That same statistic for Upham's Corner is 18%.  What does that tell you about Upham's Corner?  Is there any possibility that Upham's Corner is a "holding zone for people who are uneducated?"

The greater a community's  diversity, the greater the flow of ideas and opportunities.  Given the low educational levels, you can only conclude that Upham's Corner is "isolated." Under these circumstances, it is easy to put more housing into this community because - who is going to complain?

Education & Race

I'd like to compare the percentage of the non-white population with the percentage of people with bachelor's degree and higher.  Note that "white" means just that - white only.  Non-white includes everyone else - Asian, African, Latino, American Indian and mixed race.









% with bachelor's ++







% non-white population







% white population







High non-white Populations -  Low Educational Levels

Census tracts 913 - 915 have non-white populations close to 90% with low educational levels from 10.3% to 19.2% with bachelor's degrees or higher.

Moderate to Low non-white Populations - Higher Educational Levels

Census tract 912
  • Moderate race balance - 59.4% non-white
  • Higher educational level - 23% of those 25 years + have a bachelor's degree ++

  • Moderate race balance - 46.1% non-white
  • High educational level - 42.5% of those 25 years + have a bachelor's deg ++

Upham's Corner is starving for literacy and education. 
  • Even census tract 912 with its higher educational level (23.5%) doesn't come close to the Boston statistic of 42.5%. 
  • Census tracts 913-915 are notable - high percentage non-white and low educational levels. 
What is causing such poor educational levels concentrated in one community?  We can't begin to answer that question but we have to careful to stay away from the tendency to blame or make wrong.
  • They are stupid
  • They are lazy
  • They didn't try
  • THEY are at fault
  • There is something WRONG with you
A different approach is to begin with a  recognition of need, to address the need and to ask if doing so has made a difference. 
  1. Identify the need
  2. Satisfy the need
  3. Has anything changed?

Solution and Suggestion

Consider setting up Upham's Corner as a model for how to feed the people who are starving for education.  Rather than shoving more housing into a community that is way over bloated with housing, let's focus on literacy, job training and education. 


Massachusetts is a very white state with only 18% in the nonwhite category.  You have to be careful in dealing with Massachusetts legislature because most all of the legislators are representing white areas of MA.  In general they will not be making decisions that favor Upham's Corner because they do not understand non-white populations.

Digital / Paper Report Format

I'm going to make sure that everyone my document is digital.  I will be turning something physical and mass housing but I can also give them the CD so they can see it online or on the CD if that's easier for them.

If you give provide a digital format, it is easy to forget about it.  A physical object is not so easy to forget but then you're wasting trees.  We want to err on the side of making an impact.  We can approach groups by asking them:  What format do they prefer? 

Giving Presentations

Matt at Mass Housing said  to give copies of the report to all of the politicians and to the city of Boston including the BRA.  After we have turned in our report to mass housing, we can turn to delivering the same report to other sectors of our government - our elected officials, City Hall and the BRA.  If possible, I'd like to start by doing a presentation to mass housing if they allow that.  Also get Carlos Henriquez involved.

Other elected officials including Rep Henriquez, Tito Jackson, Frank Baker and the four at-large City councilors. The best way to get people to attend is to have a party.  We can approach giving a presentation about St. Kevin's as a celebration, a party.

Calling Attention to our Issue

Picketing and calling the media is really important.  Suggestion:  Use the February 23rd meeting when POUA gives its presentation about St. Kevin's.  We could come to the meeting with picket signs.   They will, I'm sure, expect a quiet community meeting. 

We need to prepare ourselves for what we have to say at the February 23 meeting.  One UCIA spokesperson is enough.  Everyone else should appear to be independent of UCIA - just another concerned resident. That will provide a lot more people contributing to the cause.  We want to have as many voices as we can.

We have to keep in mind: no wars.  The arts at St. Kevin's.  We don't want to say we oppose St.  Kevin's.  We don't.  We simply have our own vision for what should be done with that site. 

Here are some ideas for the signs. 
  • Down with St. Kevin's and up with the arts. 
  • Draw a picture of a house and put a diagonal line through it

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