City sweep finds numerous code violations in Allston apartments following near-fatal two-alarm fire

The mayor's office reports inspectors swarmed the areas around Ashford and Linden streets this week and found 40 serious code violations in 25 buildings.

City officials launched the inspection blitz in reaction to last month's Linden Street fire that left one BU student in critical condition with head injuries after he jumped out of a window to escape the flames.

Among the violations found in buildings on Gardner, Ashford and Wadsworth streets: Non-functioning or missing smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, faulty heating systems, rats, illegal basement and attic apartments, blocked exits and too many students.

"We will not allow landlords to take advantage of students by neglecting their properties and putting people at risk," Mayor Menino said in a statement.

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"We will not allow landlords

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"We will not allow landlords to take advantage of students by neglecting their properties and putting people at risk," Mayor Menino said in a statement.

He forgot to add "Except when landlords make big campaign contributions, then I shall still refuse to staff ISD with more inspectors, despite the safety issues and potentially vastly increased revenue stream."

The city consistently looks the other way at slumlords as long as they pay their property taxes and stay on the mayor's good side politically.

Overcrowding

It isn't just for students, btw.

Areas where it might be a problem are easily detected by checking census data for adult occupancy against unit size. I have done this for health studies before, looking at the number of adults per unit and it can get quite high. I found a couple of areas in Lowell where such data indicated that people were cramming two or three to a bedroom, and I have spoken to others who have found similar patterns in Chelsea, Revere and Dorchester (near transit), and East Boston.

There are also areas where two families with children will rent a two bedroom apartment. Again, the city could find potential problem zones with census data.

Of course they are all "cousins" (and often are related because that's how people tend to find work and housing) ... but they are deserving of safe housing. Even so, we won't likely see any such compliance raids in East Boston.

This week's other incident in

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This week's other incident in Chinatown is a another reminder of that issue. There are way too many absentee landlords in Boston and continued laxness of inspections of existing buildings and under staffing of ISD is eventually going to get a lot more people killed. There's no reason to allow this to happen and the revenue from code violations would be more than enough to offset the cost of more personnel at ISD.

If ISD is so understaffed, then please explain

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why they still manage to ticket private property owners enmasse immediately after every snowstorm just because those owners choose not to spend their time and money to maintain public property they don't even own.

But I guess the City getting other people to do their work for them is far more important than keepiing apartments safe for renters.

A matter of time

Full inspections can take hours. Noticing and ticketing an unshoveled walk takes minutes, and requires no special access procedures.

It takes all of a few minutes

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It takes all of a few minutes to drive down a street and cite addresses for snow. Actually going into buildings and inspecting them thoroughly takes hours per building and requires actual manpower. Try walking around a large apartment building, and going through every level from basement to roof, all the stairs, elevators, common areas, mechanical rooms, fire escapes, and finally a perusal of some complaint filing units, it will take you quite a bit of time.

Pro-choice?

just because those owners choose not to spend their time and money to maintain public property they don't even own.

Isn't that a violation of the law?

Sorry, but that's the it works...

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If you own a house or building in the city you have to clean the snow from the sidewalk in front of it.

How is that hard to comprehend?

It's the same in the other places I've lived, but there they didn't complain so much about it. It's a service to your neighbors that YOU provide.

YES it is PUBLIC property.
and YES, it is YOUR responsibility.

The issue that ISD is understaffed, overly responsive to political pressure, and completely run like medieval fiefdom, is really the problem.

Sidewalks not shoveled are reported by neighbors

If you look at the Citizens Connect reports right after a snow storm you'll see lots of reports on properties that are not taking care of the sidewalk.

Apparently, neighbors are not reporting obvious violations of other sorts.

Obvious?

It's obvious when someone hasn't shoveled their sidewalk.

Two families in a two-bedroom apartment? Illegal apartment in the basement? Not always so "obvious".

Swirley invented the snow shovel, you know :)

What is so terrible about doing your civic duty and clearing the snow from the sidewalk in front of your home? Take some personal responsibility, people, and spruce up your little corner of Boston. If everybody made a little effort the world would be a much nicer place to live.

The snow plow, too

Although you sure know quite a lot about piling it higher and deeper, I must say!

But, hey, here's a swell idea: wouldn't it be tremendous tax money saver to get rid of all snow removal services and make property owners clear the street in front of their homes? Why stop at the curb?

Can't see what could possibly go wrong with that!

Thank you s g

The lazy and ignorant complain all the time that it's not their job to shovel city-owned property (i.e. the sidewalk in front of their house).

yup

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And they'll be the first to bitch when they get a ticket for having something on the sidewalk in front of their house (i.e. patio furniture)

"its in front of my house, why can't I do xxxxxxx?"

its always a double edged sword..

Property owner pays to clear the sidewalk either way

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I never understood property owners saying, "it's the city's job."

There are only two ways the sidewalk can get cleared: Either the property owner can do it, or the city can do it, in which case the cost of doing it is going to be paid by property taxes, which are paid by, hmmm.... the property owner.

I'd rather shovel the sidewalk in front of my place (or hire an enterprising kid to do it) than pay some city employee to do it. Way more efficient.

Not to mention the notion of surge capacity: distributing the work among all the property owners is an effective way to put a huge number of shovelers onto the street; if the city had to hire enough people to shovel all the sidewalks by a couple of hours after a storm, it would cost an exhorbitant amount.

There's a reason for overcrowding, though

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This city is extraordinarily resistant to anyone trying to build more dwelling units. It's so hard that practically no one even bothers to try unless they're building luxury apartments which are profitable enough to make it worth their while to navigate city hall. And even then you have to convince the banks, which may be harder still.

Send in the inspectors, you may clear out a bunch of unsafe housing - this is true. But you won't be addressing the root cause: just putting a bunch of people out on the street. Everyone deserves safe housing, but the city refuses to let it be built, especially in places that desperately need it.

The city could use far more

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The city could use far more multifamily apartment buildings like those which went up in Brighton and the Fenway in the 1920s. Unfortunately zoning prevents many of the ideal neighborhoods for such buildings along transit corridors from being built. There are plenty of one story commercial strips, triple deckers, and two family houses, in such areas which could be quite profitably demolished and replaced with denser multi-unit buildings. The massive housing demand could be met, and affordable housing created through relief of pent up demand, if only the city's zoning and permitting process wasn't such quagmire.

Not an issue

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Name me the last time "zoning" prevented an Article 80 sized development (that the mayor favored)? If the mayor wants it, it happens - and if you have an acre of property there is no way to stop it. You just do it under a PDA which by definition supercedes all underlying zoning.

Will

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When was the last time you were in apartments along Linden/Pratt/Commonwealth Ave in Allston?

They're framing it that way, but in reality these properties are rarely up to code and are in direct violation of the law. Slumlords are on a level of loan sharks and drug dealers. All tend to "work" in similar areas.

Hey, if an adult wants to live there

That's their choice. People know that they're getting what they pay for. If GOVERNMENT provided housing isn't up to code, that would be a problem. But if one sentient private adult wants to live with five people in an old house because it's cheap, and an owner with no incentive to improve the property wants to rent it out, that's a transaction between two adults who have made conscious choices.

Heh

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Building codes, the tyranny of a fascist, illegitimate government.

mkay...

If you're wondering why the GOP isn't winning anything much in NE, it's this kind of thought. These are all fights that were settled around the 1600-1700's, and which led to lawfully laid out understanding of our rights and liberties, but also our social responsibility and lawful government as a people.

If you all want to act like 400 years of history and progress is irrelevant, go ahead.

Talking to the wall again!

For Chrissakes, I don't oppose building codes! I don't want somebody's kid in a bad apartment with mice and mold. We have to protect kids and those living in government projects (since they're renting from the public.)

But if an adult wants to waive his rights, we can't stop him or her.

The problem with reductionism

What happens when most housing is of poor quality? People don't have choices.

FURTHERMORE, most safety codes and health codes for housing resulted from large scale problems such as serious widescale fires, rats and the contagion they spread, etc. Hardly a matter of "choice" when your neighbor's situation becomes your situation. Reductionism of this sort makes these things individual problems, except they are not individual problems in reality. They cannot be solved on a house by house level and thus demand a higher scale of intervention.

Moreover, the health and safety compromises in housing that cause deaths, illnesses, and reduce productive life expenctancy mean that, overall, the cost to society is vastly more when we do not have such codes(due to the transfer of costs from the landlord to health costs and loss of healthy years of life, support of dependents, etc.) - that's why the government has an interest in this! When there are no health and safety codes, we all pay.

Oh, but landlords get rich and have no responsibility - Galt Nirvana! Actually, Will, why don't you go find an island and some like-minded people for this social experiment. We know the results of such thinking already from the grand era of Dickens and Robber Barons and Laisses Faire, but do feel free to replicate it in a contained zone.

No, they don't. Demand is

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No, they don't. Demand is already there because of the proximity to Harvard, BU and BC. There is no incentive to improve housing when every single property in that area of Allston gets rented out every year. Almost every single house on all of those streets is in disrepair, the basements are invariably disgusting unfinished shitholes with exposed pipes (but sometimes still have a bedroom / bathroom) and there are plenty of illegal apartments in that area. Countless fire hazards in most of those houses on pratt linden ashford etc.

Since there are no new apartment buildings going up, supply is static and demand can only go up. Since demand is so high, the prices of these apartments do not even come close to reflecting the quality. This forces people to create bedrooms out of closets or basements in order to afford a place close enough to university or their job.

There's an alternative to that

Don't attend Boston University and don't live in Boston. Whether people like it or not, this city is the big leagues. Only the best get to live here. It's still a city of great opportunity. That's why we're all here. That's why I share a bathroom with five other dudes.

That having been said, we need more housing in the BC/BU area. I see a gaping hole on Western Ave that might be able to fit a building. But will any BU kids live in it, or is that "too far?" Maybe they voluntarily live in the shoddy housing.

That's what I've been saying all along. I demand a little better, so I live in Brighton. I'm still sharing a house with five other dudes, but nobody's vomiting in my driveway and nobody's getting shanked.

If an 18 year old wants to live in a basement, that is his/her choice. They should also know whether or not an expert deems the basement to be a fire hazard.

Safety schools are the big leagues?

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Harvard and MIT excluded, these are NOT the big leagues. This is a lovely town and all, but unless you're in academia or medicine -- which are the pillars of every stable town from here to Lincoln, Neb. -- this is one sleepy burg overstuffed with colleges.

Want the big time? Take the pike west, get off at the Natick/95 exit. Take 95 south and start looking for all the lights, tall buildings, bridges and tunnels. When you see something that looks like, oh, the Empire State Building, that's the big time. If that's not your mug of java, keep taking 95 South until you hit something called the Beltway. Drive until you hit lots of big, marble buildings. That's the big time.

Chicago, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, Los Angeles... hell, even Miami. That's the big time. This place is either the weigh station for the big time or where the big time goes to settle down. This is not "The Show." It's a lovely intermission at best.

Say, you're not from around here, are you?

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There is no exit to 95 in Natick and the only thing you'll get to if you get off the turnpike at Natick is a bunch of malls. In any case, the far better route to New York involves getting off at Sturbridge for 84.

Also, I think you mean Boston's a "way station," unless you really mean people in Boston are just waiting to get weighed by surly state troopers.

Not to quibble...

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But that 84/91/Merritt route to NYC is only better if 91 and the two lane Merritt decide to cooperate. I'm far more inclined to take the pike out to the thruway these days. Maybe a half-hour longer, but smoother and far more scenic.

Also, Natick isn't where the exit for 95 is, but it's close to the Natick rest area, so I can see where he/she is going with that. The random Massachusetts upper class suburb we were looking for: Weston. It's the 95/128/Weston exit... thanks for playing.

That said, the point still remains: This isn't the big time. I took Option B: Settling down from the Big Time. The Big Time is exhausting and expensive. Plus, why would you want this to be the Big Time? Look at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Those politicos are ecstatic that they're not in the Big Time anymore. There's something to be said for shifting to a lower gear.

Merritt?

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Oh, no, just stay on 84 until you get to 684, then the Hutch into the Bronx.

Former Nooyawka enjoying life in the slow lane in Boston.

*Scribbles down that route*

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I've been taking the Merritt to the Hutch for years. Lovely ride in the daytime when everything flows smoothly, but not the most direct in the world. I'll try not to hog the lanes.


Former Queens resident and Jersey guy also taken with the lower gears here in Boston.

Yup Adam.

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And if you're gunning for the DC beltway, the worst way you can go is via 95 NYC.

You'll shave 3 hours off your trip by skipping NYC/Jersey pike by instead heading across the Tappenzee, taking 287 to 84 and heading toward Harrisburg then down 83.

Also a much nicer trip.

Holy out of the way driving, Batman!

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Is this a joke? 84? All the way to Scranton? Just to come down 83?? That adds like 100 miles and an extra hour and a half of driving! Even 78 to Harrisburg adds an hour.

If you're going to DC: Pike to 84 to 684 to 287 to Tappan Zee to Garden State Parkway to NJ Turnpike to 95 to 895 Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore to 295.

There are only a few sticking points on this trip (even at rush hour) these days. You might get stuck in Hartford if it's rush hour. There is still a non-express toll on the GSP that is bad only at evening rush hour. The merge around exit 8-9 on the NJT sucks at rush hour and can be ugly at other times unless it's late. Again, 295 at evening rush hour can be ugly until you get a little bit outside of the closest Baltimore suburbs.

I have friends who swear to saving 30-60 minutes on the Merritt and the GW (then just staying on the NJ Turnpike) versus going out to the Tappan Zee, but I just can't tolerate the Cross Bronx or the Deegan.

84?

84 runs far north of the Tappan Zee, out west to Scranton.

I think you mean 287 to 78 to 83. I'll have to try that sometime. I usually go Garden State to NJ Turnpike to 95. It can be a mess.

Markets

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Heh.

Lets see your policy in action. Take a tour of Detroit recently?

What about other people?

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I'm with you as far as supply and demand goes. But no building exists in a vacuum (except the Space Station - har har). The fact is that you may be willing to pay for a better product: a safe building perhaps. But if your neighbor doesn't care, nor is forced to care, that can have serious consequences for you. His building may be infested by rats and disease, which don't respect property lines. His building may burn down, and take yours with it. Before modern building codes and firefighting abilities, there was a very long history of massive fires in many cities, wiping out everything in a neighborhood or worse. Property rights aren't natural -- they must be vigorously enforced by a government, and it's important to make sure it's done right.

We agree on that

And Swirly said the same thing. I suppose one's rights, as always, do end at the tip of another's nose.

Ultimatly thats it

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You only absolute rights are those that don't step on others. Where there's issues between weighing between the two, you get government and the law.

You might have the right to free speech, but you can not assault another person, or yell fire in crowded theater. It's absolute, until it starts to effect others rights.

Really...?!

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I could have shown you these places 30 years ago. Where the F' have YOU been?!

As the snow falls

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To all of you calling landlords/owners lazy for not shoveling.

Please consider the following:
If I don't shovel the city-owned sidewalk in front of my home, I get a ticket from the city.

If I shovel the city-owned sidewalk in front of my house it leaves me, the shoveler, liable if someone slips and falls on that sidewalk.

Why? because I have altered the natural falling snow (you can't sue mother nature) and therefore I am liable for the resulting harm my actions (shoveling) may have caused.

I will shovel the city-owned sidewalk in front of my house as soon as property owners are indemnified against being sued for doing that shoveling.

That is the reason why I don't shovel my sidewalk. It's too risky.

You can be sued for negligence

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Not only can the city issue a ticket to you for not shoveling your snow, you also can be held liable for not shoveling in case of an accident.

There is no argument about "you can't sue mother nature" because you would be liable: for negligence.