Conversion of run-down East Boston triple decker into quadruple decker approved

The Board of Appeals today approved the gut rehab and expansion of a decaying triple decker at 187 London St., over the opposition of neighbors who include City Councilor Lydia Edwards.

Julius Sokol wants to add a fourth floor and a 20-foot long expansion to the rear of the building that would led him add a fourth unit and expand the size of the current units along with the gut rehab of what is now an uninhabited building.

Sokol had originally proposed an even longer rear addition that would have allowed him to create seven units.

Attorney Jeff Drago said that while some residents opposed the work, the two immediate abutters approved, and said that the building would still be some 51 1/2 feet away from the rear property line.

The mayor's office supported the proposal.

But City Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, Charlestown, North End), who is a neighbor, said that anybody supported the project was news to her. She said she and other neighbors opposed the work because of height and traffic concerns and because of the precedent it sets, that neighbors felt so strongly they are forming a new neighborhood assoction.

She said that since the building needs a complete re-do anyway, Sokol could have won permission to turn the basement into a living unit rather than adding an entire new floor.

The board, although not unanimously, approved the work.


Free tagging: 



oh come on

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They would rather have an abandoned building than ONE more floor? It's four versus three, not triple deckers nextdoor to a skyscraper. Also, "they could have added a unit to the basement instead"...yes that would be much more pleasant for the people who will someday move into the unit so that the neighborhood doesn't have to look at the obscenely high building.

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So are many homes in densely

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So are many homes in densely populated Boston. My own home is that far apart from its neighbors. Some homes are one story, some are four. I don't see how one more floor on a building ruins the neighborhood and sets a dangerous precedent.

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Wait until you see how close

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Wait until you see how close the two homes next to mine are, not too far from there. Take the gap between those buildings and completely remove it.

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This run down triple decker

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This run down triple decker was a foreclosed building that was bought cheaply for $100k than it was resold to the same developer that bought 301 border street for $3M and is trying to resell 301 border along with city approval plans for $5M lol..
Now, this developer partnered with another developer together now known as “London Bridge LLC”this partner who has another house on same street {London Street}an Airbnb house , 187 London St is going to be an Airbnb!! Lot’s of $ to be made !! It’s perfectly legal too.. So 187 London street will have residents without cars.. Adding a fourth floor to this run down building will be the ugly duckling , the” odd house” of the Street , it will be taller than the rest of the houses on block.
Stay tuned for future plans for the house next door 185 London Street owned by same owners..

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Good Incremental Development

I'm disappointed that my City Councilor is towing the NIMBY line on traffic, especially since the building is a less than a 10 minute walk to both Maverick and Airport stations and is only a couple blocks from the frequent buses that serve Meridian Street. This type of incremental development should be welcome. I'm glad the next door neighbors agree.

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basement unit

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There's also something not right about advocating that he build a basement unit in a building that clearly would have zero basement light or windows because it would not pass Boston housing code.

"The room must get natural light from a window that's equal to at least 8 percent of the floor space. A unit also needs a window that can be opened to at least 4 percent of the floor space."

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"the precedent it sets"

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Like property owners who are actively engaged in improving their property. Yah, that's a bad precedent to set for the neighborhood.

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Rear expansion

The house to the south, and the house 2 to the north, and several others on the block, are all longer than this one. There's already a 4 story building on the block.

Seems like precedent was set long ago.

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By on

Edwards looks pretty dumb on this. Her claim that that traffic will increase because a SINGLE new unit is being built in an area so close to transit is seriously out of touch. Is she driving to work? She lives in the city (right by the train) and could easily commute to city hall. Or is she just making a stink because she wants to make a run for mayor next cycle and wants to gin up her 'of the people' credentials by opposing every single development (which she so far has).

If she's going to oppose development she really needs to have some solid points besides traffic and height because both of those are worn out, untrue, and shouldn't resonate with voters.

Yes, traffic is bad in Boston. No traffic won't get measurably worse because of one new condo (or any amount of new units so long as the new units don't have parking and the new residents are encouraged to use public transit).

Height? How is height an issue? What quality of life change will going to 4 stories from 3 stories have? Why isn't the whole street 4 stories? It'll add more units and decrease supply constraints for less cost than ground up new construction? Honestly, this should be a 5 unit with another one in the basement but I'm willing to bet some serious coin that any basement unit proposal on the same street would face opposition, fourth floor or not.

If Lydia is serious about fulfilling her campaign promise to fight for more affordability, she should put up or shut up and encourage more units to be built in her own neighborhood.

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Shit can the zoning

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If what the city wants is for every building in East Boston to be 4-5 stories tall and have 7-8 units then they should shitcan the zoning and stop wasting our time. (Excepting Suffolk Downs and some of the main roads where we can go to 10-12 stories tall and 30-40 units.) The ZBA approves everything and then says "precedence is set" and uses its past variances to justify the future. THEN STOP HAVING EVERYTHING GO BEFORE THE ZBA FOR THE RUBBER STAMP. People go to civic assn meetings to see the SAME realtors and attorneys present the same project again and again and again. Fuck it. Just say "we're Houston" and let the slumlords have at it. Put up a shit-ton of 4-5 story microunit-filled shit shacks that will have the plastic wood falling off of it within 5 years and call it a day. Everyone makes money and everyone is happy because we're all SO close to a bus route (that is stalled in traffic) or the T (which is already at capacity during rush hour) and of course NONE of the people moving into these places EVER has a car (let alone three roommates crammed into the unit each with their own car) so naturally there will be no traffic or parking issues.

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By on

Agreed on all fronts, unless, on the off chance, you were being sarcastic. In that rare case, maybe I can help with a few points:

The ZBA approves everything and then says "precedence is set" and uses its past variances to justify the future
- Are you suggesting the only valid precedents are those which would be fully conforming to the current zoning code regardless of when they were built? By that standard, most new projects in East Boston shouldn't have any parking because the current housing stock has no parking. Also this addresses your point about the plastic wood, we can go back to asbestos siding, as is precedent!

If we have more people riding the bus and train, we will have larger numbers of voting citizens who value and prioritize transportation and infrastructure investment. I suppose we could always go back to having fewer people in the city. Maybe we can institute a quota. And yes the buses do frequently get stuck in traffic, which is yet another reason to build new housing without any parking so that people aren't encouraged to have a car and therefore there are fewer cars on the road (or at least, fewer additional cars).

But honestly, and I mean honestly, most people moving to East Boston aren't bringing a car. They especially aren't bringing a car if they don't have a parking space. I know I wouldn't. Who would be stupid enough to pay for the convenience of living so close to downtown via the T and then decide to bring a car as well?

We absolutely should be going to 10-12 stories on main roads. We absolutely should be going 30-40 units. We absolutely should be building as much as we can and making micro units, large units, any kind of unit so long as it helps decrease the supply constraint that I assume you, as a homeowner, benefit from at the expense of renters. Every single new unit means another person who's taxes can fund MBTA investment & more local improvements.

I agree that the ZBA shouldn't be involved in small developments like this. However, because we still have an archaic zoning code in Boston, the process is the process. The people who know the process are the ones who work it over and over again, not because of some nefarious plan to turn Boston into Houston, but because any regular Joe property owner doesn't have the resources to go through the zoning relief process, we don't have the number of new units being added that we really should. Until we can get comprehensive zoning changes (without all the additional addenda and IDP requirements which negate said reforms), we'll have a hell of a lot more meetings before we can fix the supply imbalance.

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cars in the city

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Thanks for the long, thoughtful response (that's not sarcasm). In fact I was being partially sarcastic in the post. I do think the BRA needs to redraft the zoning code (in this case Article 53) as there are very few projects that aren't going before the ZBA - and they're getting most all of their variances granted - regardless of residents' expressed concerns - including abutters and the n'hood civic associations. What is happening is that residents are getting very cynical with the entire process and disengaged. It's a pain in the ass to attend a community meeting every other night and then have your opinion and concerns ignored anyways. Not a good dynamic to allow to metastasize.

If the community is presented with an argument for why a block of triple deckers with backyards needs to be converted into 4-5 floor boxes with very small units whose footprints basically match the lot, then we've at least got something to talk about.

Precedent was no parking - but also one household of 7-8 people maybe didn't even have 1 car let alone one per person in the apt. Happily most of the people moving in are singles, couples or maybe have 1 or 2 little ones (as the little ones get bigger we'll see how much they want to stay in those tiny units). I'd be happy to see any data you have on current car ownership in East Boston. I know that some of the new residents don't have cars -- they use Uber and Lyft a whole lot - which might help with parking - not traffic. Also from firsthand observation I can anecdotally tell you the houses around me - new and old - all have at least one car per unit and in some cases a car per person in the building. If people have the money to buy in this rapidly ballooning bubble market, they have the money to own a car. Some choose not to - while many choose to leave it parked in the street while they take the T downtown to work and drive to a better supermarket than Shaw's.

I'm all for getting people out of their cars and changing car culture - but we do not have policies in place that promote this shift. And it can start with the rewriting of our zoning. We can get into arguments there - currently the situation is unworkable by anyone's estimation (excepting the locally connected real estate attorneys who have been reverse carpet bagging their on neighborhoods).

As far as applying simple supply and demand to real estate to solve our housing crisis, I will never agree with that, as it's an oversimplification that has never been proven to work because housing only superficially behaves like a commodity and I would say should not be allowed to behave like a commodity. But if I go any further here I'll end up questioning property rights and at that point I may as well be advocating for pedophilia.

But I would like to know what the "build baby build" crowd views as the end point of all this? Just block after block of Assembly Row-like boxes?

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East Boston Car Ownership

According to the US Census American Community Survey 2012-2016 five-year estimate, 36.4% of households in the 02128 zip code do not own a car (84.5% have one or no cars). Only 26.5% of East Boston commuters drove alone.

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As a build baby builder, what I'd like to see is more assembly rows where there is nothing currently (empty retail plazas or light industrial areas near transit) and increasing pretty much every building by 1 story if it can be reasonably accomplished. This includes Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

That'd solve the supply part of the problem. We also gotta fix transit. That comes simultaneously. Right now it is silly to say developers should stop building because the transit isn't keeping up. Instead, we have to put that civic pressure on our elected officials and get them to fund transit. It also means voting for candidates that may not meet all our other needs if they pledge to focus on transit.

I'm too tired to put forth another full fledged response but that's a brief outline of where I'd like to see our city go.

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Exactly, it’s East Boston’s

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Exactly, it’s East Boston’s time, time to begin building 20 story apartment buildings on Main thoroughfares of Eastie, Meridian st, Bennington st (lower and upper Bennington) and Chelsea st, all street that I mentioned either have or are extremely very close to form of public transportation, let’s not use Logan Airport as an excuse not to build higher in this densely populated neighborhood, Airplanes fly very low when planes land at Logan over Dorchester bay an area which has 20 story apartment buildings.

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I've been catching it sporadically during afternoon rush hour and have repeatedly sat on the platform waiting for a train to show up with room for more passengers (usually at Aquarium going outbound). That's fairly common on the other lines but it's been happening on the Blue as well. I've seen the stats that show just oodles of capacity on the Blue Line during rush hour (Suffolk Downs developer has been flogging them about) and I have to question it. Unless capacity means you'll only have to wait for the third train to pull up with space in it for you to get in. (That's not sarcasm, I genuinely have no idea how they define "capacity." Could be that waiting as full cars pass by is within their definition.)

(Keeping in mind they also want us to believe that over 60% of the riders on the 111 bus do NOT identify as Latino...did they even ride the bus?)

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