Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s legacy of largely apolitical planning appears to be well and truly dead.  

Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Thursday that she was withdrawing the city’s downtown Municipal Harbor Plan, ostensibly because it did not do enough to protect the city from climate change. 

The plan Janey dramatically blew up at her City Hall press conference did include incentives for developers to begin the process of building barriers to address sea level rise and storm surges. And the development proposal that sparked much of the controversy around this plan – The Chiofaro Cos.’ Pinnacle tower – took that idea to heart with plans to raise the site’s ground level above projected flood heights in line with the roadmap laid out by the city’s Green Ribbon Commission in 2019. 

The political tea leaves are clear to read. This action is an election-year sop to the collection of rich NIMBYs in the Harbor Towers condominiums, next to the 7-story concrete behemoth of a garage that Chiofaro would like to replace with its tower. The residents, along with the New England Aquarium, have been spearheading complaints and then lawsuits against the project, the last of which got the state harbor plan approval process thrown out on a minor technicality.  

It is indeed rich for the people who control one of the only slices of the downtown waterfront that was, for years, closed to public access complain that a developer like Don Chiofaro, who set aside substantial sums of money and 50 percent of the Pinnacle site for a giant public plaza, is not providing enough public waterfront access. 

Yes, Boston needs to get its act together and figure out how to harden the harbor’s edge against floods and sea level rise. But having an acting mayor who does not even have an official, public climate platform worthy of the name light the product of a five-year public planning process on fire is not the way forward. Instead, this issue should have been litigated by the election.  

Janey’s action will certainly send a chill through other efforts to develop waterfront sites just when the city appears to be settling on a strategy of making developers build its expensive flood defenses. 

What’s to stop herronor or, should she lose, any of the other mayoral candidates who likewise oppose the Pinnacle from ripping up the city’s other municipal harbor plans just because a vocal minority doesn’t like the basic math of development? If the city is going to make developers pay for flood defenses on a site-by-site basis without subsidies, the resulting buildings must be bigger or charge higher rents to generate the necessary cash. Otherwise, Boston will be stuck with a bunch of slowly sinking waterfront land, and no money or political will to protect it. 

Letters to the editor of 300 words or less may be submitted via email at with the subject line “Letter to the Editor,” or mailed to the offices of The Warren Group. Submission is not a guarantee of publication.  

Harbor Move Raises Troubling Questions

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min