The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Board this month authorized the agency to make strategic investments that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, including hiring a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and creating an Equity and Inclusion Fund. These investments build on the BPDA’s progress transforming into a community-led, planning-first agency that supports growth that reflects the needs of each neighborhood.
“As the agency that plans and guides inclusive growth in our city, the BPDA has a unique opportunity to create a more equitable city for all, especially Boston’s Black communities and communities of color,” said BPDA Director Brian Golden. “BPDA staff members spend every day engaging with community members about how our neighborhoods can offer more opportunities for all, and I look forward to growing our team to better focus on and expand this work.”
The Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be responsible for strategy development and oversight of the agency’s racial equity and diversity priorities. The individual will work as part of the agency’s senior leadership team to establish collaborative partnerships with all internal and external stakeholders, and foster a more inclusive, equitable, welcoming, supportive, and diverse agency.
The agency will also create an Equity and Inclusion Fund as part of the BPDA Fiscal Year 2021 budget. This will fund activities directly related to addressing racial equity and inclusion in the BPDA’s work. The revenue will come from transaction fees from Land Disposition Agreements (LDAs).
The new position and fund will expand on work already underway. The BPDA uses Imagine Boston 2030 as a framework to support equity by creating affordable housing, jobs, and open space in every neighborhood, leveraging funding from large real estate development to support workforce development and training, supporting equitable procurement policies and requiring diversity criteria for developing publicly-owned land.
Last month, the BPDA Board elected Priscilla Rojas as Board Chair, the first woman and Latina to hold the position.
The agency is also looking inward and since 2018 has partnered with YW Boston to create a customized and measurable action plan addressing diversity, hiring, retention, and training practices, and have hosted an agency-wide implicit bias training and smaller group participation in the year-long InclusionBoston.
The June Board Meeting was held virtually to ensure the safety of the public, staff members, and BPDA Board Members during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The items on the agenda did not require or completed their public process prior to the suspension of in-person public meetings in March. This month, the Board also voted to:
•Building on Mayor Walsh’s recent announcement to expand use of public spaces for outdoor dining, the Board authorized the agency to enter into short term licenses for the use of BPDA-owned land for COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts. This vote supports the Mayor’s ongoing work to support the City’s small businesses, and will create a streamlined approval for appropriate temporary uses of BPDA property to support safe outdoor business operations, activate public space, and assist with COVID-19 related relief efforts. For example, restaurants located on or near BPDA property may wish to expand their outdoor operating area onto BPDA-owned outdoor space. As a major landowner in Boston, the BPDA is in a position to work with the City’s Licensing Board to assist with this type of expansion which is often the critical piece in enabling a business to reopen during this time.