Tarik Lucas, at-large councilor, talks re-election run, zoning concerns

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Newton Beacon is reaching out to all candidates for City Council for interviews and profile stories. The Newton Beacon is independent and nonpartisan, and coverage does not mean endorsement.

Tarik Lucas, at-large city councilor from Ward 2, is running for a second term.

First elected in 2021, Lucas said he’s especially proud of the work he does to communicate with Newton residents and business owners through his monthly newsletter, where he writes about zoning, development, education, and other community issues.

Preserving the neighborhoods

Lucas moved to Newton in 2009 and first became involved in Newton politics in 2017, when he campaigned against a ballot question to eliminate ward-elected city councilors. He works at Harvard University Press and is a referee for the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Lucas was appointed to the Newtonville Historic District Commission in 2018 by Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and said he hopes to continue working toward preserving and improving historic buildings and spaces in Newtonville. He, along with other councilors, worked to have the Swedenborgian church declared a landmark.

“We’re going to have some housing projects, particularly the Crafts Street senior housing and the Oakley Spa development, and I’m looking forward to those projects coming online. I think they’re good projects,” Lucas said about two approved Newtonville developments.

The Crafts Street housing development will be a large senior housing project with 209 units, including 52 assisted living and 28 memory care units. Lucas also noted a possible multi-family project behind Court Street “that has the potential to be controversial,” but said that the special permit has not been filed.

“I have met with the developer twice and they have shown us different proposals each time,” he said.

As a member of the land use committee, Lucas is one of the first to see these new proposals.

Lucas was also involved with discussions with the Newton police involving an incident at the 2023 Boston Marathon where black spectators felt unfairly targeted by the police, and he hopes that future incidents like this can be prevented.

Not sold on VCOD

The latest version of the Village Center Overlay District plan, VCOD 3.0, scales back proposed housing density along the village centers and brings the total added units down to below 10,000, but Lucas is still a “no” on it.

Under the MBTA Communities Act, cities and towns with MBTA stations must adopt new zoning to allow higher-density housing near MBTA stations by December 31, 2023, or risk potentially losing certain state funding and opening the city up to lawsuits from the state’s attorney general.

Lucas said he wants the city to abide by the MBTA Communities Act, which is requiring Newton to add 8,330 housing units. But he doesn’t want to zone for more units than that.

“I, along with several of my colleagues, still have questions that have not been answered,” he said. “What is the ideal size for Newton? How many units do we need to have? How many units do we want to have? What are the fiscal benefits? What are the impacts?”

Lucas does not support eliminating single-family-only zoning, because he believes that this will lead to more tearing down of single-family houses to replace them with expensive condos. He does, however, support allowing more accessory dwelling units and requiring a higher percentage of affordable units in large multifamily developments.

Lucas said he thinks VCOD proposal is bad policy without data to back it up.

“We wrote a memo to Mayor Fuller in August and it was pretty much a non-answer in her response,” he added.

Newton’s election will be Nov. 7, with early voting starting on Oct. 28.