Bicycle paths, storm drains, mosquitoes, and rats were all subjects on the table when about 20 people gathered Monday to discuss how to redesign Everett Street in Allston.
The meeting, in a tiny basement room of St. Anthony's School, comes at a crucial time for residents and neighborhood groups pondering the future of one of Allston's main thoroughfares, which is treeless, narrow at many spots, and dangerous for pedestrians and bikers.
In August, the city will begin repaving parts of Everett Street. Meanwhile, Harvard University is drafting its master plan for the properties it owns on both sides of the street, sometimes at its narrowest stretches. Once these plans are implemented, the opportunity for making substantial changes to the street will vanish.
Residents hope to present their neighbor-generated guidelines for street improvements to Boston's transportation, public works, and water and sewer departments, as well as some of the area's major institutions, in hopes that at least some of the ideas will be incorporated in repaving and institutional master plans.
Among the ideas bandied about Monday were ways to retain storm water to prevent flooding and further erosion of the riverbank parks; adding a bicycle lane, wider sidewalks, or street trees; and most important, how Storrow Drive could be safely crossed at Everett.
The Everett Street Greening Workshop heard from Stephanie Hurley, a student at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and Pallavi Mande, with the nonprofit Charles River Watershed Association.
Hurley talked about efforts in the Pacific Northwest to make streetscapes more absorbent of storm runoff. The trouble with storm drains in underground pipes is that heavy rains can exceed pipe capacity and cause flooding, she said.
Mande said 2 acres of parkland along the banks of the Charles had already been eroded by storm-water surges.
Hurley showed slides of streets in Seattle and Portland, Ore., with open, planted areas that collect storm water and drain it slowly into the ground or let it evaporate. Because the drains are not enclosed, these streets can handle even "100-year" storms, she said.
Such so-called green street systems in Seattle cost less in the long run than traditional, paved-over and drained-under streets, Hurley said.
Asked about mosquitoes and rats, Hurley said the green drainage systems drain standing water before mosquitoes can mature. She could not comment on rats.
Closer to home, Mande noted a project in Lawrence that has transformed neglected alleyways into green passageways for children, pedestrians, and water retention. The alleys also connect parks to the Spicket River and collect rain water in flower beds.
Talking just about Everett Street, residents argued for a safer crossing of Storrow Drive to reach the parks and Publick Theatre.
"You take your life in your hands to cross there," said resident Brent Whelan. "You can't even take your bike over."
Tamara Daly, also a resident, said there is no easy access to the bike paths on the river.
"It would be nice if we had bike paths on Everett Street, so residents could use the bike path along the Charles to get to work," she said. "And potentially, we could get some car traffic off the street."
Other participants talked of making pedestrian crossing at Western Avenue safer, perhaps with a colorful crosswalk.
The workshop was the first of three on "green" streets being sponsored by the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation, with help from the Charles River group. A meeting on Market Street is slated for next month, and one on Brooks Street is planned for August. For more details, visit crwa.org or allstonbrightoncdc.org.