BRA approves car-less apartment building with a parking garage

The Boston Redevelopment Authority tonight gave preliminary approval to architect Sebastian Mariscal's 44-unit apartment building at North Beacon and Everett streets in Allston. Mariscal originally proposed only six parking spaces - all for Zipcar or equivalent rentals - and to only rent to people who agreed not to own cars. But he agreed to put in 35 spaces after nearby residents said they didn't think Mariscal could keep tenants from buying cars and then parking them on the streets of the neighborhood.



    Free tagging: 


    that car free lifestyle

    By on

    It's all the rage at the moment, but typically more so for people who are very close to a subway stop or if you just can't afford a car (surprise, being pauvre is très très chic!).

    Living car-free at that location would probably include a lot of bus time and for many people that does not equate with the imagined lifestyle. I agree with the neighbors that there will probably be some additional cars competing for street parking, but I would also applaud the developer for trying. They could always bring back the A-line...


    By on

    It's an interesting concept, but I'm with the skeptical locals - how do you police the no-car policy? Do you hire a doorman to write down license plate numbers and track every tenants' comings and goings?

    Potland Or. is changing their

    By on

    Potland Or. is changing their zoning laws to not allow new buildings unless parking is provided. The reason is that they found out that people living in buildings that deliberately do not provide parking were as likely to own cars as people living in buildings that provided parking.

    Oh, anon, you just wait until Swirrly sees this!

    By on

    You've gone ahead and said something about Portland that is directly contradictory to Swirrly's oft-repeated view that Portland has some of the universe's most bike-friendly and smart urban zoning/transport policies around.

    Prepare to suffer the wrath (and now that I've tossed this little bomb, I shall sit back and enjoy)! Later!

    Swirrly, I think your

    By on

    Swirrly, I think your sensitivity meter is turned up a little too high for a Friday. I was not mocking you. I was, in a Friday fun kind of way, introducing you to an anon who almost certainly didn't know that we have someone on staff here at UHub who has a fair bit of knowledge about Portland.

    I try to leave the mocking to the several professionals we also have on staff.

    Hey Swirly

    By on

    I think you're pretty awesome, but I have a friend who is becoming an intolerable nuisance about the Timbers, despite never even having been west of the Rockies. I could give a toss about footie, but she's just absolutely pissing me off and I want to know what the best way to shut her up would be.

    Aside from pointing out that the Timbers' record is terrible.

    I didn't mean to derogate

    By on

    I didn't mean to derogate Portland Or... it's a nice place. I was last there about a year ago to help my inlaws relocate back to Boston. My inlaws retired to Portland and liked it except that they wanted to live in a place with a few more sunny days. Also, I think it is tough for people who have lived their entire life in Boston to live comfortably anywhere else. Except for the Summer anyone visting Portland is likely to only see cloudy drizzle.
    Also, Portland is surrounded by volcanoes. This doesn't bother most residents but still so if you live there you need to have a family evacuation plan just in case. Portland has the largest ground slugs you've ever seen... very large and yellow, but the locals say that fricasseed they are quite tasty.
    Thanks for the update on the zoning Mathew. When I was there another political hot-button was the attempt to flouridate Portland's drinking water; that is controversial subject as people in Portland are suspicious that although the puported reason for flouridation is dental health who knows what the gov't really intends.

    citations please

    By on

    As a PDX homeowner with a single family house on a lot zoned for 4-6 units, I'd love to see the references on this.

    This wouldn't be a change anyway. For some time, some neighborhoods in Portland (like Lloyd Center, Hawthorne, Pearl and Goose Hollow) have required parking as a condition of building out. That's because these neighborhoods do NOT have ample street parking. One place it may be changing is the Brooklyn/Beacon area (where I own a home) and Selwood, since these are 19th century neighborhoods that are turning over rapidly and infill building is picking up. Much of the city has quite ample street parking, however, and this would just be irrelevant in those neighborhoods.

    Street parking for all isn't feasible in cities

    By on

    I'm not familiar with Portland like you so you'll have to make the connections.

    Street parking is a fairly space-inefficient means of providing parking, so it only works at levels of density up to mid semi-suburban. If you take a look at older parts of South Boston, and if you assume 1 car:unit, then that's about the limit of what street parking can handle. And curb cuts diminish that of course.

    At real city levels of density (more than twice that of those portions of South Boston), the amount of parking garages you'd have to build to accommodate everyone owning a car would simply overwhelm the streetscape. Those neighborhoods depend on having a large proportion of residents who live without a car. For example, in Allston it's about 45-50% without a car. In the North End it's closer to three-quarters.

    So forcing people to subsidize parking garages may temporarily stave off shortages when a neighborhood begins densifying beyond what street parking can handle. But the end result of continuing that policy is devastating traffic and miserable streets. A more responsible method of regulating supply -- one that does not cause permanent damage -- would be to price all parking according to demand. That would ease the transition while the neighborhood builds up a core of car-free residents and city-appropriate land uses.

    I presume that's what Portland is trying to accomplish.

    Critical Ingredient

    Public transit expansion.

    Portland has managed, in the past two decades, to build an extensive network of light rail and trolly lines from scratch.

    The other ingredient is amenities within walking distance of neighborhoods and on transit lines, and planned into the new expansion neighborhood that was built in a former warehouse district.

    This is why Portland has been able to pack an additional 250,000 people into the city in the past two decades without adding a proportional number of cars. It is also why there aren't "neighborhood permit only" zones covering the entire city and you can pretty much drive anywhere in the city and find free street parking (and reasonably priced parking downtown and in the oldest areas of the city). It has also buffered the increase in housing prices because cars aren't cheap.

    However, there are some signs that it won't be thus forever. Increasing population eventually means more cars, and the transit system itself is attracting informal "park and ride" visitors. The neighborhood where my house is will probably have to go to sticker parking on some streets when the trolley line and light rail open.

    All the same, it shows what sort of measures are not only possible to implement, but successful at guiding urbanization in largely positive directions.

    Well yes

    By on

    Portland's become well known for their streetcars, and their strong bus network. But I am puzzled over your previous statement that off-street parking must be provided "as a condition of building out." That wasn't the case (up until this slight increase) from what I knew of Portland. Precisely because they were expanding public transit.

    Customary vs Statutory

    In some locations where there is little/no street parking, it has been a condition of build out - just not a citywide regulation. More a matter of negotiation with large parcel redevelopment, though. Sounds like it has been formalized.

    Parking issues aren't a pretense for a self-appointed neighborhood spokesperson running for city council to draw a ridiculous line in the sand. That stuff gets settled by challenging the zoning much earlier in the game.

    Not quite

    By on

    They reintroduced a regulation that requires 0.25 parking spaces per unit on large apartment projects only (over 40 units) and you can have those requirements reduced by providing amenities like car-sharing or bike-parking.

    So still a far cry from the road-warrior force-everyone-to-subsidize-parking Masshole attitude.

    Which Explains ...

    By on

    Why the latest e-mails I got from the City of Portland and the neighborhood association said nothing about any change in zoning. (can't think of any non-commercial parcels in the neighborhood that could accomodate that many units).

    Portland will send somebody out to investigate if an existing apartment building seems to be causing parking issues in the neighborhood. The 18-unit property next to mine had parking space for 14, but it was somehow generating 50+ cars that were constantly illegally parking across fire hydrants, around the corners and across my parents' and other neighbors driveways. The city came out to investigate. Turns out it wasn't just a parking issue - the absentee owners were renting to people who would get a 2- or 3-br apartment and squeeze in three or four families. The city busted them for overcrowding and a large number of other code violations.

    I believe this is pretty standard practice around the country.

    If you build a multi-use dwelling that might have multiple people living there with multiple vehicles, the locale wants to make sure the public parking situation isn't burdened by those vehicles.

    Even most single family ordinances require some sort of driveway/garage/open air/space to place a vehicle.

    Portland anti-density?

    Why would Portland be against urban densities? Aren't 250 square foot micro apartments the trendy new thing? Stuffing more roommates into a place has always been common. Now Portland is anti-density? ... or just against anyone not going along with the planning fascists?

    So which

    By on

    of those cute little houses will be torn down to install this hideous monstrosity?

    I get that a lot of people don't have cars in the city out of need, and that particular location is well-serviced by walkable amenities (Stop and Shop, Walgreens/CVS, restaurants and coffee shops) as well as buses (57, 66, 64 and an express bus) that go pretty much everywhere you'd need to go.

    However, a lot of people who have cars in the city don't have cars to eschew mass transit, they have cars because they work or have other regular obligations in the suburbs. How are people going to be willing to sign a lease for an apartment knowing that if they change jobs, they might have to move?


    By on

    It would be replacing a decrepit house and a used car parking lot. If it gets built.

    It would be rental apartments so if someone decides that they need a car, they can move to another building. Just the same as they do now. Plenty of apartment buildings in Allston were built without parking.

    Honestly, I think some people out there believe the world didn't exist before cars.

    Regardless of the house

    By on

    Being under maintained, they are putting in a project that has already been built on California. It looks like an alien spaceship with no relationship to the context. I'm not talking about the contporaty design, which I am in favor of, but the massing of the building and its relationship to the neighborhood.

    Just not a good project.

    The design assumes that

    By on

    The design assumes that bikers and pedestrians from anywhere in the neighborhood would be able to pass through the building’s open walkways and courtyard. String together enough buildings like this, Mariscal says, and the community could create a secondary grid to the street network for people traveling by foot or bike.

    That sounds awful. Why would the apartment residents want strangers walking/biking through their complex all the time? Hell, most of us don't even trust the people that DO live in our apartment buildings, why introduce non-residents into the equation?

    then don't live there

    By on

    Why do you care? Should every residence be built so that it fits everyones needs and desires? No, that would be impossible, if you dont like the idea, dont live there.

    *clutches pearls*

    Perish the thought, perish the though! Let's put a park as a buffer around every apartment building, and then put a fence around the parks.

    Can you IMAGINE, people walking by your living quarters! Oh, the humanity.

    I'll just be staring inside

    By on

    I'll just be staring inside your windows tonight, if that's cool. You don't mind, right? The landlord went out his way to build a mini-sidewalk path directly through the property and it goes right by your bedroom. Nice TV, by the way.

    That'd be neat

    By on

    Not sure how you can see my TV through my curtains.

    Oh yeah, they have these things called curtains now. And drapes. And blinds.

    I wouldn't leave my curtains

    By on

    I wouldn't leave my curtains open, so good luck with that. And I wouldn't want to live on the first floor of any building, anyway.

    But you know what? We're all big boys and big girls and can chose what buildings we want to live in or not live in. I don't go around saying we shouldn't build something or we should change the way something is built simply because I wouldn't want to live there.

    true reason for no parking

    By on

    the real reason a developer wants no parking would be of course to maximize the number of units and therefore the income from the building which is what I would do if I was in a similar situation. however reality is that people don't always work within walking distance of jobs or the bus/train isn't the most efficient way to get from point a to point b so a car becomes a necessity. If the developer didn't provide parking, then the cars would be added to the already crowded streets. So, sure it sounds like a great idea but it's not reality.


    By on

    Reality is that about half of Allston residents already don't have a car.

    Reality is that much of the building stock in Allston was built without parking lots.

    Reality is that if you don't want to live there, don't live there.

    The number of units in this project remains the same whether or not there is parking. The basement can be used either for parking spaces, or for bike racks and storage as originally planned.

    The truth is that what you really want is for other people to subsidize your parking spaces. You want something for free which is expensive to provide. Why don't you come out and be honest about that?

    Prices, though

    By on

    Half of Allston's residents don't have cars, but would the half of Allston's residents without cars be able to afford to live in this building?

    College students won't be paying $2500/month for a two-bed (or whatever they're charging). Nor will new immigrants, low-income families, most graduate students/research techs, bartender/barista/musicians who are totally going to make it big some day!, or anyone not working in a stable, generously paid job.

    I live in Allston, and I certainly wouldn't pay Back Bay prices to live sandwiched between a supermarket parking lot, a Volvo dealership, a lacrosse gear store, and an ambulance depot, where it reeks of KFC.

    41 vs. 44 units

    By on

    It seems the developer may have reduced the number of units. It had been reported as 44 apartments in the Globe, but 41 were approved.

    Regarding the "reality" snark. You could also tell the developer that he knew what the zoning required when he acquired the property, so deal with it.

    And I agree with the above commenter on massing and scale of the building, it is not a good fit.