City of Somerville

Our Shared Values

In 2009, we established the SomerVision Values. In 2019, we regrouped to make sure that they’re still right for us. Besides some minor tweaks, these remain substantially unchanged.

  • Protect and foster the DIVERSITY of our people, culture, housing and economy.
  • Celebrate the unique character of our neighborhoods and the strength of our COMMUNITY as expressed in our history, cultures and vibrant civic engagement.
  • Invest in the GROWTH of a resilient economic base that is centered around transit, generates a wide variety of job opportunities, creates an active daytime population, supports independent local businesses, and secures fiscal self-sufficiency.
  • Promote a dynamic urban streetscape that embraces public transportation, reduces car dependence, and is ACCESSIBLE, inviting and safe for all pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.
  • Build a SUSTAINABLE future through climate leadership, balanced transportation, engaging civic spaces, exceptional educational opportunities, improved health, varied and affordable housing options, and the responsible use of our natural resources.
  • Affirm our responsibility to current and future generations through continued INNOVATION in business, technology, education, arts and government.

Task Priorities

How does the City implement SomerVision? The implementation priorities are 15 tasks that the SomerVision Committee identified as the next key steps. Some may take more time than others, and some may require collaboration across many parties, but all are urgent and important. They are listed here in no particular order.

  • INCORPORATE EQUITY GOALS into new neighborhood plans and development proposals to embed the needs of marginalized communities into the planning process
  • Create an OPEN SPACE ACQUISITION STRATEGY that identifies target parcels
  • Reuse at least one municipal building for SUPPORT OF THE LOCAL ARTS and artists
  • Establish a task force with sufficient resources and expertise to MEET OUR TARGET LEVEL OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING and tools to enable both market and non-market developers to generate that target
  • Develop policy incentives to ENCOURAGE SUSTAINABLE BEHAVIOR relating to consumer awareness – particularly for building energy consumption, but also for consumer goods and transportation choices
  • Educate Somerville residents and businesses on CLIMATE ISSUES AND AVAILABLE ACTIONS, to build a citywide culture of engagement and awareness
  • Work on ZONING AMENDMENTS to support the goals of SomerVision, especially commercial development and housing
  • Study and implement ways to EXPAND THE ACCESSIBILITY OF CRITICAL CITY MEETINGS. Measures such as providing childcare, offering translation services, hosting in handicap accessible locations, scheduling at non-traditional times, and enabling remote attendance through video conferencing technology should be explored
  • Create a CENTRALIZED SOURCE OF INFORMATION about all public processes and initiatives, which outlines the planned meetings, the timeline, and clearly shows key milestones, opportunities for involvement, and decision points. Update this outline when the process changes. As part of this, define a standard structure for communicating the purpose of meetings (presentation only, public comments, non-binding vote, binding vote, etc.) that is included in its posting
  • Study our open spaces to ensure they are accessible to pedestrians and do not have significant barriers. Use “SAFE ROUTES TO PARKS” as a model for park access
  • Implement a TRANSFORMATIVE APPROACH TO ADDRESSING INFRASTRUCTURE with a focus on greater investment into building resiliency into our water and sewage systems as opposed to a more reactive approach to repairs
  • REDUCE AUTOMOTIVE VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED (VMT) in Somerville. In order to achieve a multimodal and more environmentally-friendly system, as well as creating a community that is where people want to live, work, and play instead of cut through en route elsewhere, Somerville would benefit by reducing VMT
  • Explore opportunities to create NEW GATHERING SPACES FOR YOUTH in the City. Ensure Somerville has at least one active Recreation or Youth Center accessible for all youth
  • Explore how to provide AFFORDABLE EARLY LEARNING AND CARE PROGRAMS to all Somerville families. This effort should consider a city-run or city-supported child care program (similar to the French system), a babysitting cooperative in conjunction with the high school, and a program at the Visiting Nurses Associations that let the elderly engage with children
  • Ensure all SPS SCHOOLS ARE TRUE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS with integrated academic, health and social services, yout development, and community supports

Hundreds of participants. Dozens of community events and working sessions. Over 60 volunteers. All of this hard work from our community comes together to create SomerVision 2040, an update to the City of Somerville’s Comprehensive Plan written by the community that lives, works, and plays right here in Somerville. This plan does not only capture our values, highlight our goals and ambitions, but also wrestles with our challenges. How do we protect our diverse, close-knit community in the context of rising real estate costs and the constant threat of displacement? What is the best way to use the four square miles of land we have to work with? How can we incorporate equity into everything we do, and ensure that everyone has access to meaningful opportunity? What needs to happen to ensure Somerville remains a welcoming place for everyone, from people who have been here for generations to our brand new neighbors?

This plan is an important checkpoint about what our priorities and concerns are as a community, but the work does not stop here. Implementation will require further community input, critical reflection, and careful planning. We cannot afford to hone in on one priority to the detriment of others, but rather must consider how our many different goals can support each other. This work will be difficult, but SomerVision 2040 will provide guidance on what needs to happen.

Somerville has a deep tradition of public participation in civic affairs, which goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War when Somerville was a part of Charlestown. This tradition is still alive and well today and can be seen at public meetings in lively debate; in the volunteers who support our many events and programs; in the lines at the polls; and online.

SomerVision 2040, the update to our comprehensive plan, is no exception. In 2009, the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development kicked off what would become SomerVision 2030, the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Stakeholders engaged in lively conversation over the course of more than 50 public meetings to imagine the future we wanted for our city. Through that process, the community identified the goals and metrics that would ensure Somerville continues to be an exceptional place to live, work, play, and raise a family. SomerVision2030 was adopted in 2012.

SomerVision 2030 declared that we wanted to change and how – we claimed a stake in our values, insisted on more commercial development, and identified where we saw things changing in the SomerVision Map. In some ways, Somerville has tried to have the drivers seat in our change, in others, Somerville is subject to market forces and national politics that feel out of our control. We’ve had growing pains and with each one there have been lessons learned. Staff and community residents are constantly striving to do better because we all love Somerville.

As we approach 10 years into the plan’s time frame, the time is right to take stock; extend the horizon another 10 years to 2040, and check-in, revisit, and edit the plan as necessary. The goal of this process is no different than the many before it – solicit broad and diverse representation in all phases of the update. City staff started by publishing The Path Since 2010, a document which captures our accomplishments since 2010, and creating a digital home for the update,

The 2030 Steering Committee was reconstituted as the SomerVision Committee for the plan update. We sought out participation in the committee from all corners of Somerville including elected officials, local non-profits, Board and Commission members, and even an open call. We asked members to commit to: reporting back/checking in with their constituency throughout the process, hosting a SomerSupper, and participating in the SomerVision Conference. From the conference, they continued onward to developing and writing the Topic Chapters. They also worked with staff to develop the SomerVision Numbers and identify our implementation priorities. We cannot thank the SomerVision Committee, Co-Chaired by Stephenson Aman, Rachel Borgotti, and Howard Horton, enough for their help.

With this plan update, we are reaffirming our commitment to work together – government, residents, non-profit partners, community groups, everyone – for more positive change. The change will be sometimes be small and other times, quite large. To be the community we desire to be, it’s all hands on deck. This is your comprehensive plan.

Our outreach strategy for SomerVision2040 centered around offering multiple avenues for participation to reach individuals that do not typically attend our more traditional evening public meetings due to either time constraints or because they found giving feedback in those settings too difficult. By mixing in-person and online engagement through formal and informal gatherings, both large and small, we aimed at offering at least one option that each resident would find suitable.

Our SomerVision card game gathered specific suggestions for the SomerVision Numbers from hundreds of residents. Our forums included only a few participants at a time but provided in-depth feedback from demographics typically underrepresented in standard public processes such as non-English speaking immigrants, elderly residents, people with disabilities, small business owners, and teens. Our SomerSuppers collected feedback from hundreds of community members in informal settings where the residents themselves lead the discussion without City staff present, then used a form to report back to us.

Through our SomerStories and our SomerVision online survey, we received dozens of lengthy answers to open-ended questions about both the challenges and opportunities residents found living in Somerville, as well as their vision for the City’s future.Through the combination of these various approaches, we received feedback in some form from over a thousand residents, ranging from general impressions to in-depth analysis, based on both personal experiences and general impressions. All the information we collected was carefully analyzed by City staff and reported out to the SomerVision Committee across multiple meetings. Key points throughout our chapters, as well as our considerations for SomerVision numbers and spreads on special topics such as displacement and racial equity, came directly from the extensive community feedback we received.

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