Board rejects multi-family building in South Boston as too large; then approves even larger building in Roxbury

The Board of Appeals today rejected plans by a developer to tear down a house at 844 East 3 St. in South Boston's City Point and replace it with a five-unit building with ten parking spaces after residents were joined by elected officials in opposing the proposal.

Not long after, the board approved plans by a developer to put up an eight-unit condo building on a vacant lot at the corner of Moreland and Montrose streets in Roxbury. Neighbors opposed the project with similar reasons as their South Boston counterparts, but unlike in South Boston, most elected officials with an opinion supported the proposal.

Jody Luongo had originally proposed a seven-unit building at 844-846 East 3 St., but reduced that to five after meetings with neighbors, his attorney, George Morancy, told the board. Morancy said the new building was less dense than allowed by zoning for the block and had more open space.

But nearby residents said that even at five units, the building was simply too large and out of character for a neighborhood with mostly single and two-family homes.

"This just isn't in keeping" with the area, Mary Bulger of East 3 St. said.

Neighbors were joined by the mayor's office and city councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Anissa Essaibi-George in opposition.

The board's denial is the second straight win for Bulger, wife of the former state-senate president, who helped quash plans for a multi-family building on Farragut Road in February.

Neighbors of a proposed eight-unit building on Moreland Street in Roxbury also said the building would be too large for the historic street, lined with houses more than 100 years old - and said it would cause parking issues and make the intersection of Moreland and Montrose street even more dangerous for parents and young children trying to get to the park across the street.

"It will totally destroy the look of the neighborhood," one resident said. "This wouldn't be allowed in the South End. This wouldn't be allowed in Brookline. This wouldn't be allowed in Newton."

But City Councilor Kim Janey rose to support the project, because she said it would bring much needed, sort-of affordable housing to the neighborhood. Developers said that if they could only build the five condos allowed under the lot's zoning - or the six neighbors proposed - they would have to price the units as high as $700,000 apiece. The extra three units, they said, would let them market the units for under $400,000.

Janey said she, too, had "deep concern around density," but said that if Roxbury is to continue to be a place where its current occupants can stay in, she had no choice but to support the proposal, with its lower-cost units. "I don't take this lightly," she said, also pointing to the developers' commitments to hire minorities and women for construction.

Representatives from the mayor's office and city councilors Ayanna Pressley, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michelle Wu and Michael Flaherty echoed her comments in voicing support. No elected officials opposed the proposal, although one resident did submit a letter of opposition she said was from state Rep. Chynah Tyler.

As she finished her statement in support, Janey said she wanted to meet with opponents to explain her rationale. And after the hearing, one of her aides tried to convince residents to visit with the councilor in her fifth-floor office. But angry residents were having none of it, telling the aide the time for Janey to talk to them was weeks ago.

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Comments

Mis Spelled Street names

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Adam, Why is it? When you report address in South Boston you always, it's always mis spelled and in correct. There is no such street as East 3 Street in South Boston. It's East Third Street. What's so hard about typing it correctly. (Just Saying!)

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Who says?

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East 3rd St. E 3rd St. East Third St. E Third St.

They're all the same.

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True story

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The Yuppies call it East Third Avenue, Broadway Street, East First Road, Marine Street. They have no clue where they are that's why they rely on Uber.

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Adam wasn't incorrect

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But your spelling of the word incorrect, was incorrect.

East 3 street IS East 3rd street, and E Third Street. It's also E. 3rd Street and E 3 St. (with apologies to the actual E Street).

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MassHoles

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Don't worry sonny,with that attitude,some very,very elderly pensioner is gonna outlive you just for spite...
Oh,and don't bother thinking about the taxes you are paying to support us elders,you ain't ever gonna get that money back...HaHaHa....

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I get that hating on people

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I get that hating on people older than you as whole is trendy but it still makes you a bigot.

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And old people

Are warmongers who spend money they don't have like crackheads.

I'm not the moral inferior of boomers.

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Remember Will

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one day, if you are lucky, you too will be old trash.

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Nope

I will embrace construction of housing until I die.

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Generally, it's that the

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Generally, it's that the people who fear change and are available to show up on a weeknight at dinner time to yell at their city councillors don't want it. City councillors will hear from them at the public hearings... but they'll also hear from neighbors who can't make the hearings, and they'll be aware that the fear-of-change voices of five loud people who show up for meetings aren't the only voices in the entire city, and that they aren't always right.

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I'd *much* rather the ZBA

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I'd *much* rather the ZBA listen to elected officials rather than a random smattering of (usually old/white/retired/homeowner) abutters, but in this case I think it's crazy that they're not approving something that the law already officially says is ok. I'm equally mad at the aforementioned electeds for opposing something THAT CONFORMS TO EXISTING ZONING at a time when we have a HOUSING CRISIS!!! Talk about being totally out of touch with reality.

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Hypocritical, and wrong in both places

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Greater Boston is woefully under-housed (~350k units behind what it needs), and the 'destroy the neighborhood' arguments don't hold water. There won't be one for the people living there currently if they don't develop as much as they can. You can't fix affordable housing (for everyone) without anything but more housing, period. Zoning should changed to allow more 4-8 story units across the Boston metro area, otherwise the NIMBYs will only ensure inevitable gentrification with meagre exceptions for those lucky enough to win lotteries for the under-priced units. It's not a meaningful solution and the lip service paid by people claiming to care about it but only perpetuating it should be condemned.

https://boston.curbed.com/2018/5/22/17380518/median-home-price-boston-vs...

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350k units?

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Where'd you pull that number from?

That's housing for almost a million people in an area where about 3 million people live.

For perspective, that's like creating almost 1.5 Bostons.

I'm all for more housing, but the city of boston is maybe 10-20k units short before reaching an equilibrium level of housing. Not as familiar with the region, but maybe triple that for Greater Boston. None of that is remotely close to 350k units.

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Sorry, I conflated w/ all of MA…

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But the numbers are from: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/05/is-housing-americas-next-big-poli...

Regardless, a significant proportion of that should be allocated to the Boston area. 10-20k units is definitely not going to be close to enough -- so wondering where you'd pull that number from.

Further proof: https://boston.curbed.com/2018/5/22/17380518/median-home-price-boston-vs...

The site took the approximate national home-price median of $200,000 and penciled out what that might buy in major markets nationwide. Turns out that in Boston it would buy 371 square feet of living space.

Only in Manhattan (126 feet) and San Francisco (260 feet) would it buy less. Boston was just ahead of San Jose/Silicon Valley, where $200K would command 376 square feet.

Again, Boston is in awful shape and I don't anticipate it getting better fast enough to stop the worrisome trends overall. "Affordable housing" designations are like pissing into the wind where a few will be lucky, and the rest will be pushed out by higher prices no matter what. We simply need to reform zoning laws to allow more density, because that's the only way out of this supply/demand issue.

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Not sure where they came up with those numbers

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But look at the map - New York's "underbuilding" is HALF of Mass. Again - those numbers are somewhat ludicrous. Even if you assume Boston needs to build in proportion - we are 10% of the state - so that's 35k units (and that assumes the state needs housing for 1.5 Bostons!). Depending on time horizon (that study was 2015?) - we've actually caught up a bit because to grow at 1% a year we need about 3000 units a year - we've been building far more than that - though admittedly mostly higher end units. That probably drops the number of units we need to 25k units even if we use the study's findings (which I find highly questionable). The city historically grows about 1% a year - but we are expanding housing by about 2% right now. It will take a few more years - but we'll catch up around 2020 - sooner if there's a recession.

I do agree that we need to change zoning to make building more reasonable - but you don't want to do it in a way that totally crashes the housing market either. If we can stabilize prices for a while - that should allow prices to come back through inflation and let the rest of the country catch up.

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Great move

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Yuppies and Millenials need to move to Roxbury and change the way the people in Roxbury live. Maybe a dog park here or there.

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I think they really can't. If

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I think they really can't. If I understand correctly they're basically daring the developer to take them to court where a judge is likely to side with the developer.

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Look at civil court dockets,

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Look at civil court dockets, plenty of developers bring ZBA to Court. I suppose City of Boston has to pay legal fees for cases. I bet ZBA wishes they could file in Norfolk to avoid scrutiny and judge shop.

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Actually, thanks to the South

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Actually, thanks to the South Boston Interim Planning Overlay District (Thanks, Flaherty), nearly everything in South Boston is subject to individual review:

https://caughtinsouthie.com/news-politics/flaherty-protecting-southie-zo...

I'm not a lawyer but the fact that this applies only in (predominantly white) Southie and not (predominantly black) Roxbury would seem to put it in violation of the civil rights act if you ask me...

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This is further up the street though.

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Again, I think Janey is making the right call here, but as you go away from Warren Ave, it does go hard single family—a lot of beautiful old 19th century houses that I’m sure people are protective of. I can’t find a link to see what they’re proposing but I do get the “this would never happen in Brookline” notion.

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Who on the ZBA actually posts

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Who on the ZBA actually posts their affiliation with the ZBA as a pitch to developers for their "consulting services"? Partner on Fair Housing Commission?

"Similarly, when dealing with zoning and the permitting process, our team members are subject-matter experts who can provide key insights and support in meeting with the community, abutters, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the BRA, and other stakeholders"

this guy is either really corrupt, or super intellectually challenged since he dropped out of college 3 times.

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Our entire neighborhood

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Our entire neighborhood opposed a development

Thankfully, the ZBA is charged with representing the interests of the entire city, not just your neighborhood. Also, unless you conducted a door-to-door poll, I am extremely skeptical of your claim. Civic associations and groups of angry neighbors that turn up at development review meetings are typically older, whiter, and more likely to be homeowners than the surrounding community, and are therefore not all that representative of the neighborhood. The mayor and most city councilors know this which is why they feel comfortable approving a project even when all of the people who showed up to speak about it are against it.

Also, just as an aside, it's rare for someone without an interest in the project to have a strong enough opinion in support of a project to show up at a meeting. Most people just don't care. It's only the people who don't want it that are going to show up at a meeting, so just keep that in mind when you're looking around at a room full of people who all seem to be against some project: You have no idea how many people were notified but didn't care enough to show up.

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No Position To Criticize

Eric, you call out white people but you are a white guy from the affluent burbs that is part of a larger group gentrifying a historically minority neighborhood. In our case, it was a diverse group of neighbors objecting.

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Eric, you call out white

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Eric, you call out white people but you are a white guy from the affluent burbs that is part of a larger group gentrifying a historically minority neighborhood.

Yes, because as we all know my own demographic background makes my point invalid.

I didn't say it had to be diverse, I said it had to be representative. I.e. Is the age, racial makeup, income distribution, and homeownership distribution of the group roughly similar to the surrounding neighborhood? Having a few people of color in your group does not make it representative.

And even if they WERE representative (which I'm sure they're not) we must also contend with the fact that housing is a REGIONAL issue and the housing needs of the whole area have to be weighed against the (mostly aesthetic and/or unfounded) concerns of a few people living near the project site.

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Actually, what makes your

Actually, what makes your points invalid is that they're riddled with presumptions. You need no help from me.

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Are you from MAHA, or the

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Are you from MAHA, or the BPDA? I heard this same line at a development meeting in Dorchester last fall. The median Boston income is 35k, and no redrawing of a map or cherry picking data will change that right now. Building luxury condos that are owned by LLC's and then rented creates transience and less community, not more, fewer owners in the community to ask for services. A City Councilor, for good or bad, can win with 8000 votes in a district with 61000 people, because of low home ownership, transience and lack of local schools to support community. They know the people coming to meetings asking for affordability are going to be displaced, out of site and out of mind. It is an excellent well paid gig $90k with no real outcomes needed.

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Homeowners not important?

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Homeowners PAY property taxes directly out of their pockets and are registered to vote, and vote consistently, as the politicians know. Pols pander to the base of long term residents, not renters, who for all intents and purposes, at this time in our city ( and surrounding cities) are transient due to lack of protections. A renter can go from entrenched community activist today to homeless tomorrow if landlord does not to want to renew a lease or raises rent to ..whatever.

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Good for Kim Janey.

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It literally comes down to—is your neighborhood better served by $400k condos that “fit the character” of the neighborhood or $700k condos that are slightly taller or denser? There may not always be one answer but you can’t build the modern-day equivalent of a three-decker and expect it to be even remotely affordable. I’m really glad she’s looking closely at the numbers and leaning towards what might actually be affordable for a family.

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If Kim Janey is pretending

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If Kim Janey is pretending the Roxbury resident with a median income of 35k can afford a 450k condo she has sold out way too fast...You need a income of 100K a year. Oh, the techies leaving San Fran will love historic Roxbury!

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She's not assuming that. She

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She's not assuming that. She's assuming the people who CAN afford to buy a $450k condo will otherwise buy up the more affordable housing in the neighborhood and renovate it, displacing the $35k/year folks who live there today.

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Where is this mythical, cheap

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Where is this mythical, cheap, housing to renovate? In Roxbury? Lol!! I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale if you are interested, call my agent, his name is Mr B. Bunny.

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Seriously? About half a dozen

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Seriously? About half a dozen houses just on Amory St and just in 2017 were bought, renovated, and are now back on the market as luxury condos. They weren't exactly *cheap* (in the grand scheme of things) before, but they're *way* more expensive now.

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Props to Councilor Janey.

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Props to Councilor Janey. Showing pragmatic vision here. We could use a lot more of that in our elected officials.

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Pragmatic would be 450k

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Pragmatic would be 450k market rent with two middle income as was the idea for 80/20 rule, developers build 9 and cry poor. it is odd that people can build less expensive housing globally but Boston developers are on the brink of financial ruin despite all the HUD and CDBG they get BEFORE they sell the units. The only way to push back is demand this. No City Councilor or ZBA member is demanding this , they are just thrilled with building a "New Boston" for anybody but Bostonians.

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I believe the $350,000 units

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I believe the $350,000 units are 1 bedroom. So no, they are not for families.

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