Metro Boston

Massachusetts

Grant Type:
2010 Regional Planning (category 2)

Grant Amount:
$4,000,000

Lead Organization:
Metropolitan Area Planning Council

ABOUT THE REGION
The Metro Boston region is expected to experience significant sea level rise, an increase in frequency and severity of storms, and an increase in heat waves as a result of climate change. The Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report presents research concluding that temperature change in Massachusetts has been more severe than global averages, with about 1.8° F warming occurring since 1970, and winters warming more dramatically by 1.3° F per decade. Regional sea level increases have been more extreme with a 2.6 mm per year sea level increase since 1921, compared to the global average of 1.7 mm per year. Regional precipitation has increased by about 10% over the last 50 years, mostly in the form of rain in the winter months. 100-year storm events are also now predicted to occur two to five times as often. The 2014-15 winter season brought unprecedented snow accumulation, surpassing past records and reaching 108 inches of snow by mid-March 2015; the annual snow average for the Boston area is 43 inches.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) serves a region of 101 cities and towns in Greater Boston. In 2001, the MAPC helped to establish the Metro Mayors Coalition’s (MMC). The MMC is a voluntary forum where members exchange information and create solutions to common problems of the inner core subregion. The MMC includes 14 contiguous municipalities, comprised of Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop. Many of these communities are coastal, and include suburban and urban areas. The communities are culturally and economically diverse, with more than 1.2 million residents.

This inner core subregion has a population that is becoming older and more diverse, with the population of residents over 65 increasing by 3%, and non-White and Hispanic residents growing by 17.1% and 43.5%, respectively, between 2000 and 2010. African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics comprise the largest minority groups by race and ethnicity across the subregion, these groups make up 12.7%, 10.1%, and 14.1% of the population, respectively. In a decade, there has been a shift towards service-sector employment, with jobs in finance, education, health care, trade, and other service-related jobs increasing from 91.6% of total employment in 2001 to 95.1% in 2011. Poverty rates are generally higher within inner core communities, with 11.9% of family and 23.9% of non-family households living below the poverty line.

On the second-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, in October of 2014, Boston’s Democratic Mayor Martin Walsh announced the City of Boston’s plan to host a regional summit to better prepare for the impacts of climate change and to coordinate a regional approach with MAPC via the MCC. In November of 2014, MAPC hosted and facilitated a newly developed MMC Climate Preparedness Working Group, tasked with planning a spring 2015 Climate Preparedness Summit for the mayors and town managers of the MMC, shaping a commitment to be signed by MMC
members, and identifying goals, actions and outcomes of the commitment and summit. The half-day summit will convene the 14 member mayors of the Coalition, state government officials and other relevant stakeholders for a discussion on climate preparedness for the Metro Boston area with the purpose of producing a shared preparedness policy agenda for the region.

PROJECT SUMMARY AND GOALS
MAPC’s $4 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant from HUD has enabled the council and its partners to advance local planning efforts, state and regional policy work, and produce new research and regional plans that serve as a blueprint for future development and preservation, including the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (RCCAS). The RCCAS will guide the MMC climate preparedness efforts, including working with municipalities to implement best practices to prepare for – and respond to – climate-related hazards, helping all levels of government make infrastructure more resilient, and confronting the impacts of climate change and natural disasters on vulnerable populations.

While MAPC has long worked to reduce GHG emissions through its energy and smart growth programs, the addition of adaptation represents a more recent focus for the agency. Climate change’s impacts transcend municipal boundaries, affecting several communities at a time, as watersheds are taxed, sea levels rise, and disasters strike. The region, with its many seaside communities, is at risk, but the effects of climate change extend beyond the coast, as evidenced by river flooding, extended periods of drought, heat islands in the city and the expanding range of parasites and pathogens. A central component of the RCCAS is the vulnerability analysis for at-risk populations. This analysis helps to prioritize measures to protect those most likely to be affected from potentially severe impacts from storm events and other disasters. The Metro Mayors Coalition will be a mechanism to create and adopt policies that reflect the recommendations made in the RCCAS and protect vulnerable communities of the region.

THE CHALLENGES AHEAD

  • Effectively facilitating the adaptation and preparedness interests of numerous municipalities and building consensus. As the MMC has 14 municipal members, we must be mindful of their differences and shared interests while facilitating this process.
  • Working across municipal boundaries. Metro Mayors Coalition members voluntarily participate in this coalition in order to collaborate on shared issues and interests; however, the MMC, and even the MAPC, does not serve as a formal governance structure, so has no formal decision-making authority for the coalition. We must find ways to encourage commitment and action of municipalities, since there is no formal governance framework to enforce pledged actions.
  • Prioritizing and protecting infrastructure that have large-scale impact to the region’s systems.
  • Ensuring that the allocation of resources and funding for preparedness and resilience measures is done equitably. Finding ways to incorporate needs of vulnerable and marginalized population into infrastructure upgrade planning.
  • Identifying funding mechanisms for current and subsequent implementation efforts.

PROMISING PRACTICES OR INNOVATIONS

  • MAPC and its partners worked with the City of Chelsea, a dense and lower-income city, to design urban green infrastructure projects for six sites.
  • MAPC has successfully written grants for vulnerable communities seeking funding to protect critical infrastructure and supported them in implementation of these projects. The organization recently received awards for projects as part of Massachusetts’ Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative. One grant will provide a PV array and battery storage for a regional homeland security equipment cache, and the other will go toward creating “islanding capability” that will enable a middle school that serves as a shelter to maintain power during an emergency.
  • MAPC has produced toolkits on a range of climate-related topics. These toolkits offer step-by-step instructions for implementing local strategies that are specific to communities in Massachusetts, and include best practices, model documents and case studies.
  • MAPC’s successes in planning and advocacy projects are largely due to strong data analysis that undergirds their work and an inclusive engagement process that advances equity for the region. A significant example is the scenario modeling practice that expanded under the Sustainable Communities Initiative. By providing quantifiable details on the impact of different land use scenarios, MAPC was able to explore likely effects on such topics as economic development and environmental impacts.