Owners of Back Bay house barred from cutting into exterior wall to create a garage - again

For the second time in a little over a month, the Back Bay Architectural Commission has rejected a request by Steve and Judy Pagliuca to turn the basement of 352 Marlborough St. into a garage.

At issue is not the garage itself, but the way the couple would drill through the building's original brick facade to install garage doors. The commission has say over exterior building work and trees on the streets and in the alleys of the Back Bay historic district.

At a meeting last week, the commission said cutting the building's original brick facade for the door to the two-car garage along the rear alley was just too much of a change to the building's historic nature and look. The Pagliucas also wanted to install a five-foot balcony above that and convert an existing window into a door for the balcony.

Last month, the commission rejected the Weston couple's plans for a four-car garage on the property - after approving their plan for a garage at their other property on the street, at 362 Marlborough. In that case, the commission said the Pagliucas would be cutting into a 1912 extension, which was of less historic significance than the original 19th-century facade.

The board also rejected a request from the Pagliucas to tear down two large trees on the property, but without prejudice.

The couple's project manager said the trees will die with the addition of a city-mandated "recharge" system - which will ensure rainwater goes into the ground to help maintain the water table. But the board asked them to look for ways to install the system without severing the trees' roots after the Garden Club of the Back Bay and their immediate neighbor said they'd be willing to help them work on alternatives.

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But but

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But KG told me anything is possible. -Steve

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I gather that these are annoying but sensible restrictions?

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The high value of one's Back Bay property is due in part to everyone else being restricted in changes to the look. And to slowing decay of the pilings on which it is built.

Side bonus is that 99.99% of us can quietly enjoy the idea of the very wealthy not fully getting their way, for once.

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Yeah, but it's an alley. It's

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Yeah, but it's an alley. It's full of dumpsters and parked cars, and more than a few existing garages.

Do you honestly think that if a dozen open-air parking spaces in this alley block were converted to garages, it would have any possible negative effect on the neighborhood?

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Yes, It Would

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Because the scores of Back Bay residents who have been denied similar garages (and other additions, and decks, bigger windows, and god-knows-what) over the past 30+ years would start clamoring for them. Everybody would suddenly want a garage, given the exorbitant prices that basic parking spaces are selling for. The floodgates would open, allowing owners to build whatever they could to increase the value of their property.

Because more trees and historic facades would be sacrificed. More than a dozen people on that alley block live in rear-facing apartments, so the alley trees are the only green things they can see. (The trees in question are pretty splendid.)

Because we need more green spaces and shade trees in Back Bay alleys and less hard paving and construction to help mitigate groundwater issues.

Because clear sight lines, without obstructing buildings, make alleys safer for pedestrians and others.

Because the Back Bay has adhered to a set of guidelines that prohibit such additions, with good reason, since at least the 1980s, and there is no good reason to change that now.

No one is against anyone beautifying an alley space with trees and other landscaping, or replacing existing macadam parking spots with attractive brick, or putting up new fences and gates of a certain height and look. The issue is that new garages have no place in a historic neighborhood.

One of the points raised at the hearing is that the house in question already has three ample parking spaces, so the lack of a garage is not a "hardship." If people feel it is, suburban living is a solution.

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Actually...

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The Back Bay Architectural District was designated in 1966, so these protections have been in place for 50 years. I agree with your comments--just wanted to clarify that it's quite a long time that the BBAC has been applying the guidelines, and that they do work hard to ensure that the guidelines are applied consistently across the board to respect the historic architecture of the Back Bay.

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...and if they were anything else??

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...and if they were anything else?? So they are rich and white. So what? I'm not rich, I am white and I don't bitch about what I don't have.

Maybe these people are nothing but self centered a-holes but I'm willing to bet there are as many of different backgrounds and races that are as well!

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Bureaucratic frustration

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I don't have a dog-in-the-fight about the garage. Historic preservation is-what-it-is if you live in the city. Plus there's a certain snobbishness to their request, and garages are un-neighborly (since attached garages reduce the amount people actually have to see their neighbors)

But one of the most frustrating things as a citizen is having 2 bureaucracies issuing conflicting edicts. Whichever agency* mandates the water recharge system tells you to dig a well, while the garden folks* won't let you damage the trees, even if that's a likely outcome of digging the well.

I appreciate that the garden folks offered to help work on other solutions to the tree/well conflict, but it's still indicative of how silly the bureaucracy can be. I'm not too worried about the Paglucas, but not everyone can afford months and go round-and-round on things.

* Very glad the city is mandating the wells.

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Welp ...

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On the one hand, yes, you have the project manager, who keeps saying he's done more of these things than anybody else in the city (as he did at last month's meeting), saying there's no way to save the trees if he puts in the recharge system. On the other hand, you have the Garden Club of the Back Bay, which has a certain expertise on trees in the neighborhood saying, no, the trees can be saved. So the commission basically said talk amongst yourselves and come back with a recommendation.

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The garden club isn't a bureaucracy

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It's a club with an opinion. The groundwater recharge is legally required, as is review by the BBAC. The Garden Club can comment on trees but they have no authority over them.

So no bureaucratic conflict, this time.

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But the BBAC bureaucracy

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But the BBAC bureaucracy listens to the Garden Club when making its decisions.

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For the Record

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The Groundwater Trust will also be involved in the discussion along with the Garden Club. There were people associated with the Trust at the hearing who said the builder (Holland Construction) was wrong and that there were simpler, more common ways to install the system without jeopardizing the trees.

Back in early April, Holland's architect said (to me) that the two huge trees in that garden were dead and therefore HAD to be cut down... even though one could see that they were covered in tiny leaf buds if one happened to look up. I began taking everything I heard from them with a big pinch of salt.

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Everyone else who buys into

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Everyone else who buys into historic districts has to follow the rules, so why do these people think that they are above them? Apparently no one has told them no before. They should sell their condo, for which I'm sure they'll make a small fortune, and build a McMansion with a 5-door garage in a non-historic neighborhood with less building restrictions and no trees which they consider a complete nuisance and an obstruction to their cars.

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Wealthy people want something-

This is the PERFECT opportunity to show how uncouth and classless I am by talking down at them for it.

Also, lol @ "garages are 'unneighborly'"

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Yep

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Also the Boston 2024 and Bain Capital guy.

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Olympics Boston 2024?

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No wonder he wants an attached garage. Tired of being visible to the glares of the neighbors, in between car and house.

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