Zoning-board members will need seat cushions starting next month

Mayor Walsh is ordering the Zoning Board of Appeals to start hearing cases all the livelong day in an effort to bust up a backlog of hearings that now extends to six months.

Starting Aug. 5, the board will meet from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesdays to consider requests from residents and companies who want to do something to their property that needs zoning-board permission. The board currently knocks off around noontime on its hearing days.

"We will continue to run longer hours until the backlog of cases for review has been addressed," said ISD Commissioner William "Buddy" Christopher.

A recent report identified long waits just for hearings as a key problem in the city's permitting process (the report also cited lengthy delays in getting the city law department to certify decisions after hearings).

Also, starting that day, ZBA hearings will be broadcast on the city cable channel (Comcast channel 24, RCN channel 13 and on the web), no doubt with special microphones with filters to eliminate the HVAC sounds that make ZBA hearings among the most painful to attend in City Hall.



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    By on

    Who does this Marty Walsh think he is? I hope he knows the board will be expecting a pay increase if they're expected to work full days!

    Are the members of the ZBA

    Are the members of the ZBA paid staff, or volunteers? Sure, I think the board employs paid staff, who do work full days, but I didn't think think anyone who sat on the board in a voting or alternate position was paid.

    Do your friggin homework

    ZBA members make a whopping $14K per year.

    It's a matter of public record; you could have looked it up.

    Do you feel like an idiot now?

    That's directed at Bosguy22, not hyde_parker.

    Good start

    By on

    Time to kick around the overly secretive and obscure ZBA that has an outsized negative effect on the city. Much further to go...

    Considering that Zoning itself was created as a twentieth century social engineering scheme in the first place, it needs radical reform. Zoning was originally created in American cities and towns in order to "keep out" the "unsavory types of people" that local snobs didn't want to associate with, such as people who couldn't afford a large parcel of land with a big house, or people who looked different from them. Zoning like that has no place in a 21st-century city that purports to be against that kind of racial and ethnic discrimination. The fact that zoning is so out of touch with our city testifies to its complete failure as public policy.

    Some of the general concepts came from Germany

    By on

    But Americans, as we are wont to do, take an idea and twist it to serve our ends.

    In the early twentieth century, those ends were largely about keeping out black people, Jews, Irish and anyone else seen as "unwanted." And even when that kind of discrimination was made illegal (technically, at least, if not always in practice) it was still about status and class. Given the legal tools to do so by an early century Supreme Court ruling, many people were eager to force their neighbors to build large houses on large lots and ban apartment buildings. "To keep out the riff-raff," they might say in a moment of honesty, becomes "to preserve the character of the neighborhood," when they are bullshitting you.

    The funny thing you often hear from Americans is about their love for freedom and the free market at the same time as they are telling other people what they can and cannot do with their property. All the talk about land of opportunity and freedom suddenly ends when someone proposes to build an apartment building nearby, on privately owned land. Then they come crawling and calling for Big Government to step in and stop those dastardly developers.

    How suburban of you

    By on

    Meanwhile, in Boston, zoning meant having compatible uses by each other, meaning you don't build factories in the middle of a residential area. Meanwhile, the building codes made sure that buildings didn't fall apart.

    Jews and blacks could be excluded from housing until the 1960s. That had no relation to zoning as we use it today.

    Boston was little better than the suburbs in these terms

    By on

    And you can see it to this day, where you have vast blocks of residential development with no retail or commercial except maybe a little bit in a small cluster. Usually a packie and a Dunkie's and that's called a "square." So much for "compatible uses." Apparently retail is not considered compatible with housing in much of Boston.

    Zoning didn't create all this mess but it did freeze it into place and make it hard to fix. Not to mention, much of Boston is zoned to exclude apartment buildings -- even where existing ones were grandfathered in -- is it any surprise we have a housing supply crisis?

    All the interesting sections of Boston, especially the mixed use sections with retail, jobs and housing mixed together, are all from the pre-zoning era. That's no coincidence.

    Jeeze and here I thought

    ..the keep out the swarthies play croaked after World War 2.

    I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of more data driven and ecosystem elements are in play now.

    One graduate of World War 2 invented a whole system for making sense of land use patterns that seems to still be around.


    I circulate out in these supposedly horrid burbs all the time. I was at High Rock Town Forest in Needham yesterday and covered around 5 miles..

    By the time snow falls again I should have most of the main trail projects I've been working on done. I'll probably have more than 600 annoying videos extolling the wetlands act outcome that is at the center of many permitting and zoning decisions out where all this abrogation of freedumz festers..

    And I have a feeling Boston is very atypical in that it is a slovenly crooked mess and has been for as long as I can remember. And then it's precious to boot.

    A friend of mine and I were counting our blessings to be on the north bank of the Charles.

    There may well be several different systems, rationales and approaches to zoning just as there are several flavors of capitalism, the predator form made popular by corporates and Ayn Rind offspring, the parasite form with the splash of cronyism thrown in and then a regulated version that usually becomes a kind of default when everyone gets sick of trying to emulate Mogadishu or tires of seeking some thing that never existed like that pink unicorn that poops skittles

    I'm not saying it's right

    By on

    But some of your points were off.

    Zoning can work different ways. Yes, it is limiting, but that's why codes, like most laws, can be changed. Also, I believe it was the Romney administration that moved to assist developers with "smart growth" projects over local codes.

    Massachusetts brain damage

    I learned last night that state laws require apartment buildings to be taxed as residential property despite them being a business that rents out space like others. The consequence is much lower appraisals than actual values, sales prices, and of course, lower taxes for building owners. Not that they pass that on to tenants at all.

    If you really hate zoning,

    then you'll be the first to volunteer to situate a fish processing plant to one side of you, a nightclub with a 3:00 AM license behind you, and a nuclear waste facility on the other side of you.

    Comprehensive Land Use Planning

    Stafford Hansel was one of the greatest proponents and architects of the anti-sprawl laws in Oregon (comprehensive statewide land use planning laws that took effect more than 40 years ago and have created the urban environments in Portland that Matthew swoons over). Hansel had a sprawling pig farm in Eastern Oregon. If he saw an anti zoning/land use repeal sign in a yard, he wouldn't hesitate to introduce himself and talk about wanting to relocate ...

    The ideological tail

    ..seems to wag the aspirational dog in these 'insidious zoning' screeds here.

    There is an odd glibertarian utopiate exhalation that is in such a rush to win, that the obvious is hilariously overlooked.

    My personal favorite is the railing against big boulevards while overlooking the evacuation contingency planning element, but insidious zoning is a good second choice.

    The 'railroads don't have schedules' assertion was a hoot too but was abandoned after a schedule example was offered.

    And it is a commonwealth government form here with lots of home rule. Don't like the 10'000 sq foot rule in Preciousville?

    Then buy a home over in Slobton where the whole thing will be readily overlooked with a few greased palms.

    Stafford sounds wonderful and a worthy counterpart to all these other insidious types from Gifford Pinchot to Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and Nancy Anderson.

    You know that's a red herring

    By on

    (Not a red herring factory!)

    There's zoning that keeps dangerous factories away from you. The easiest possible thing to imagine. Not really controversial.

    But the much more insidious and widespread effect of zoning is to tell you how you may build your home. Forcing you to have a 40 foot front yard perhaps, and 20 foot side yards, etc. And it must be grass, or else. Or an FAR of less than 0.75. A height limit of 25 feet. A minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet. And 4 parking spaces required. Etc etc.

    Please, tell me how much your favored snob zoning requirements such as a 10,000 sf minimum lot size are so helpful for public health.

    I would love to hear your excus^Wjustifications.

    Let me clarify

    Zoning that keeps dumps and sewer processing plants away from you: Good. Zoning that keeps handicapped people from being able to use your streets: Bad.