Stephen Gray asks: Is “Imagine Boston 2030” climate-ready?

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe Staff

Harvard Graduate School of Design professor Stephen Gray (MAUD ’08) has raised inquiry over the divergent reasoning of two recently released City of Boston planning reports, “Climate Ready Boston” and “Imagine Boston 2030.” In a January 3 opinion piece published in the Boston Globe, Gray compares the reports’ implications around climate change and resilience, and calls for “more intentional coordination” among the city’s planning efforts.

Both reports address the City of Boston’s preparedness in the face of climate change, but with different growth and planning forecasts for the city. As Gray notes, four of the five Boston neighborhoods that “Imagine Boston 2030” identifies as prime growth opportunities in coming years are also, according to “Climate Ready Boston,” extremely vulnerable to flooding.

“In other words, despite known flood vulnerabilities, and in the absence of well-formed strategies to achieve safe and cost-effective development, we are nonetheless intentionally committing to grow in flood-prone areas,” Gray writes. “This line of reasoning, if not reckless, is certainly not a shift far enough away from business-as-usual in places like the Seaport, where construction permits continue to be approved so long as buildings have floodable first floors and utilities on the roof.”

As he unpacks some of the other considerations inherent in each proposal, Gray also indicates directions for possible reconsideration and revision, calling for deeper coordination and collaboration among the City of Boston’s planning efforts.

These “Climate Ready Boston” and “Imagine Boston 2030” reports come amid a period of ongoing growth and development that the City of Boston has enjoyed in recent years. Among other factors, the city’s population continues to swell, and both General Electric and Reebok announced plans to move their company headquarters to the city.

As Gray writes, planners must also attend to environmental preparedness and considerations for social and racial equity, demanding “more intentional coordination among ongoing planning efforts.”

“Otherwise,” Gray concludes, “we remain dangerously disingenuous about our urban resilience objectives and risk catastrophic social and economic consequences for Boston, both now and for centuries to come.”

In addition to serving as assistant professor of urban design at the GSD, Gray is cochairman for Boston’s 100 Resilient Cities Resilience Collaborative and associate director on the board of the Boston Society of Architects. Read his full Boston Globe op-ed.