Remarks by Don Leka to the CCSSNA Candidates Forum, April 18, 2021

Good evening.  I have been a Town Meeting Member since 2012, and a member of the Green Caucus.  I am a candidate for re-election because this is a pivotal time for Brookline. There is energy to transform Brookline into a more welcoming, inclusive community, one more aware of the need for social justice. Also, initiatives such as Complete Streets and principles such as Smart Growth can guide our future transformation.  But I am concerned that this energy might go astray.  I see increasing polarization in our politics, characterized by demonizing opponents and insisting that one objective must be implemented regardless of damage to other values.  

I see this potential for polarization in the push for affordable housing.  Affordable housing is a critical goal for us.  But single issue advocacy for housing, with no limits, no context, and no overall plan, creates divisiveness and ignores all our other objectives. The notion that building more luxury condos will, somehow, lead to more affordable housing, is misguided.  In a similar vein, the notion that simply changing single-family zoning to multi-family would lead to more affordable housing is simplistic.  In reality it creates an opportunity for developers to swoop in, demolish homes, and put up massive cubes of luxury condos that use up green space and destroy the neighborhood.  The better approach is to adopt form-based zoning, as Somerville did when it totally revised its zoning code.  Rather than defining use in a neighborhood, form-based zoning allows homes to be modified or replaced, so long as the change is consistent with design parameters adopted for that neighborhood.

So the answer is planning – comprehensive, based on input from each Brookline neighborhood, comprehensible, and transparent to residents, developers, and other interested parties.  Done properly, and Somerville is a prime example, we can achieve buy-in from everyone for our future of vibrant, sustainable, and diverse neighborhoods.  

I am happy to join with two other candidates who share my views – Jane Gilman and Gina Hahn.  You can learn more about us on our website,  Please contact us.  We will be happy to respond to any questions you have.

Thank you.