Roxbury, Mission Hill developers told to try to hug it out with neighbors with objections to their proposals

The Board of Appeals yesterday delayed action on a proposed four-unit building on Hawthorne Street in Roxbury and a proposed duplex on Fisher Avenue on Mission Hill to give developers and neighbors more time to try to resolve their differences.

At 20B-20C Hawthorne, Anthony Dilietizia is seeking permission for a four-unit building that the board actually rejected in 2016. His representative, former BPDA project manager Christopher Tracy, told the board that after careful study, his client concluded the proposal, which would include sharing a driveway with an eight-unit building he'd built next door was the best, least intrusive use of the land on the

Tracy said no neighbors had raised complaints at a Jan. 18 meeting.

Rod Singleton, who lives nearby, begged to differ, saying neighbors remained opposed because of its density and potential traffic impact on the narrow street, and that they were unhappy the developer tore down the single-family house that had been there.

The mayor's office supported the project. But an aided to newly elected City Councilor Kim Janey requested the board grant a deferral in an attempt to get the developer and the neighbors closer together. The board then voted to hold off any action until at least March 27.

The board voted a similar deferral, until April 10, for a developer's proposal to take down a single-family house at 174 Fisher Ave. in Mission Hill, where David O'Sullivan wants to put up a condo duplex.

His attorney, Jeff Drago, said the new units would better fit in with the brick apartment buildings that now line that side of the street and that the parcel's zoning would actually allow for a much larger multi-family building.

Neighbors raised concerns about drainage down the hill, but said they were particularly concerned at O'Sullivan's refusal to include a deed restriction barring the use of the three-bedroom units for students, in a neighborhood long-time residents say is overrun with them.

Drago said O'Sullivan would be willing to incorporate a student ban in the condo docs for the building, but that putting something like that in a deed would make it difficult to sell the units.

Residents, though, noted that condo docs can be changed easily - unlike deed restrictions - and that they worry that the "family rooms" O'Sullivan swapped in for his originally planned fourth bedrooms could be easily converted into bedrooms, making the buildings tempting acquisitions for investors looking to stuff more students on the hill.

Drago acknowledged he had yet to apply to the city Landmarks Commission for permission to tear down the house - required because the house is more than 50 years old - but said he expected no problems getting permission since there's nothing historic about the structure. Board member Anthony Pisani, however, cautioned that the commission might look at the house as a "last man standing" house representative of a building style that used to exist on the street.

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forced deed restriction

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This isn't a private community so neighbors have no right to insist on the demographics of people who live in their neighborhood, and really these kind of deed restrictions have been abused as tools used by NIMBYs to segregate populations they dislike out of their neighborhood for a long time. Historically it was black people, in this case it's students.

Beyond that, if the neighborhood is already filled students then how many non-students are going to want to live there anyways? He is correct in saying that deed restrictions would make it impossible to sell, and he shouldn't have to worry about neighbors forcing deed restrictions on property that isn't theirs.

If this is such a big issue, the residents should take it up with the BPDA and ask their councilor to look at alternatives rather than telling a private property owner what kind of people they can house on their property.

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Students =/= black residents

The city is well within its rights to pressure the universities to house more of their populations on campus and many are. To argue that students should be treated as if they are the victims of some variation of redlining is nonsense.

The more students are housed on campus, the more housing inventory available to lower income residents in Boston who currently have to complete with students who are largely getting subsidized by the parents which is why they can pay $1000/room for a 3 bedroom.

It is not unduly restrictive of residents in a neighborhood to ask that a developer operate within the limits of zoning. That is precisely why zoning exists.

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Voting is closed. 23

Wrong

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This is employment discrimination, and age discrimination, and wholly ridiculous when you consider that students often work jobs, and workers often go to school.

More bullshit - and individual discrimination on the basis of employment is NOT THE ANSWER TO ANY QUESTION.

Is Boston going to start evicting families with more than one commuter student, too?

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What do you do for a living, Parkwayne?

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Because I don't want any of YOU PEOPLE in my neighborhood. I want to ban you personally, because I don't like your employer.

See how stupid this is?

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Yes, the stupidity is very clear.

I did not defend the deed restriction portion of this. If this project requires a zoning variance, then the developer needs to work to get it. If they can build within the limits, then neighbors have no say in stopping the project.

To equate undergrads being targeted by zoning with the historical, generational damage done by redlining to the black community here and other places is just ludicrous and self-important.

Overcrowding and residency above the zoned level is a real problem and should be cracked down on the city for both safety and to reduce the distorting effect on rents that it causes. That's not anti-student - the same is true in Chinatown or anywhere else.

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not anti-student

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It is specifically anti-student when they are asking for deed restrictions restricting students from renting. If they were concerned with overcrowding, they wouldn't just be restricting one demographic group.

And I am not saying undergrads face the same level of institutional damage as blacks have because of deed restrictions, simply that deed restrictions are very, very often abused as tools of intolerance.

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Hypocrites

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You're conflating overcrowding and increasing density. Overcrowding is what happens when there isn't ENOUGH density. I feel the need to point out whenever someone makes the argument 'the zoning code is there for a reason, project X should adhere to it' that the ZBA is also there for a reason, and a property owner/developer has just as much right to go through the appeals process as they do to build by right.

I'll go one step further than that: any by-right project, no matter how large, is hurting the overall affordability/density/housing supply demand issues we have. The zoning code is so archaic that any project that strictly adheres to the density limits set by planners decades ago is inherently out of line with the needs of today's city.

The Highland Park group that Rodney Singleton represents likes to harp on affordability as well as historic preservation/maintaining density & character without realizing the two are at odds with one another. Highland Park is closer in density to Brookline than it is to, say Dudley Square, so they can either keep their quarter acre lots or push to bring the market price down by satiating demand, but they can't do both. The more I see them push for less density, more parking, and fewer units, the more I start to wonder whether this neighborhood group actually cares about affordability or if they just want to live in a suburb and never see anything change because they already have theirs, so why the hell should anyone else get a chance?

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I can attest, as a neighbor

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I can attest, as a neighbor who used to attend meetings in Highland Park, that the community people who make all the noise really care most about maintaining what they have and not sharing it with anyone else. Affordability never comes up for them nor have they made any effort to help working renters who have been forced out of the neighborhood. They want to maintain the illusion of a quiet, green suburb in the heart of the city.

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Quarter-acre lots? L.O.L.

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A quarter acre is almost 11,000 sq ft. There are certainly lots that size and larger on Fort Hill, but the majority are a bit larger than the house built on them.

Density similar to Brookline? You seem to know less about Brookline than you do Fort Hill. Please acqaint yourself with the lot size on, say, Warren Street, Brookline.

We want to keep things the way they are?

After 50 years, and more, of arson, abusive service from the Boston Fire Department, absentee landlords, abysmal city services, red-lining, the trauma of losing the commercial district of Roxbury Crossing to the failed I-95, we could be forgiven not wanting to being submerged in the student plague as have Mission and Parker hills.

Some of us like our bit of elevated green within walking distance to the city. And, have appreciated running beneath the radar until the last decade. Surrounded as we are by--count them--the Academy Homes I & II, Whittier Street, Mission Hill, Mission Hill Extension, and Bromley Heath, perhaps we have more than our fair share of subsidized housing.

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Zoning is the reason the

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Zoning is the reason the rents are distorted. It's pure supply and demand.

Zoning was done in an effort to keep others out. There is no reason why a piece of land near transportation (like within 1000 feet of a subway station) should be less than 1.0 in the FAR requirement but if you look, it's often 0.5. The zoning was clearly done in an effort to keep development out and make sure those that already had land would reap the benefits of restricting supply. A LARGE majority of buildings in Boston today are non-conforming to current zoning code. Now ask yourself why...

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Oh really? Well, it happened

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Oh really? Well, it happened in Brookline. The owner of Hancock Village which land falls both in Brookline and West Roxbury (two separate counties, two separate registries of deeds) was told by the abutters and ordered by the Town of Brookline they could not do the constructional renovations to accommodate lower income tenants because it was considered a Historic Landmark and therefore could not do any constructional changes on the property. Yet, the abutters and the Town allowed them to completely change the property when they built the shopping center with commercial tenants who tend to attract a more upscale clientele. Hmmmm, I wonder if the real reason was because the Brookline neighbors and the Town of Brookline were actually deciding what kind of people should be allowed to live there???!!!!

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Point of clarification:

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Point of clarification: Highland Park/Fort Hill, where the Hawthorne development should be, is not Mission Hill and is not yet overwhelmed by a student population in the same way as Mission Hill, although they are coming.

Funny that while CAD is getting a lot of push back about the Hawthorne development - traffic, blah blah, density, blah blah - a neighborhood resident is compromising the formerly lovely grounds of a home built in the early 1800's by building a montrous, ugly, and environmentally unfriendly condo complex on the same street!

The neighborhood itself and its leaders are in great part to blame for the things that are happening now in Highland Park. Whatserface there - the bra-stuffing-money-grubber sold the neighborhood for a song and they still love her. She fought vociferously AGAINST Northeastern building dormitories for students so instead the students moved into the relatively cheap housing that is pretty close to NU and used to be available to the working poor. I admire the woman's chuztpah but she had the vision (except when it came to her own bank account) and the policy savvy of a gnat.

Non-elected, community "leaders" (people with the time to go to meetings and make some noise) spend all their time thwarting development by anyone who lives outside the neighborhood.

Note to developers: live in the neighborhood. Go to community meetings and agree with the mind-think espoused at these meetings. Hire Dianne as your PR rep and boom! You're golden.

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what is going on in this city?

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What is not mentioned in this story is that the developer who is seeking to build on Hawthorne Street demolished a Greek Revival 1820s historic house that was on that site out of spite because his zoning variance was not granted. Neighbors were seeking to preserve this historic house which is in the middle of a National Historic District, and the developer destroyed it in order to show them a lesson. Now he has the support of the mayor? What is wrong in this city, where someone destroys architecture that is part of American history, and a year later he seeks to build the same project that was denied and is getting support from the mayor?? If anything he should be on a list of developers that have bad ethics and should NOT be getting support from City Hall.

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landmark

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http://baystatebanner.com/news/2015/aug/26/preservation-v-profits-1850s-...

I assume this is the home you are talking about. It is most definitely NOT a Greek Revival 1820s house because the exterior has been modified substantially. There are areas of interior woodwork that are historic, but the exterior is very clearly not. Nor is it even really a beautiful structure.

Also, the story states this was submitted to Boston Landmarks. Since the project moved forward I am guessing they also did not find a reason to preserve the structure.

There are reasonable complaints from neighbors in the story, about how they fear being priced out of their own neighborhood, etc. But to say this house was hugely historic is false. This is a historic city, if we refused to touch anything lived in or frequented by a notable person, the city would never evolve.

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Not sure why neighbors wanted

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Not sure why neighbors wanted to "preserve" that house. Not every smidge of history is worthy of preservation. The silent majority of us didn't mind seeing it go. The scores of working renters who have been forced out of this neighborhood would love to see more development here. And they have been forced out, in large part, because of the tyranny of a vocal minority who dismiss all development out of hand thus keeping inventory low and driving rents up. Unless, of course, the development is done by someone who lives in the neighborhood and then it can be as monstrous and ugly and inefficient and overpriced as he desires. We are all hypocrites but no one is as hypocritical as the community leader who owns two houses and has allowed one to lie vacant and unmaintained for years. I think if he really gave a shit about housing the people in our neighborhood, he'd re-direct all the time and energy he spends fighting developers to fixing up and selling that house to one of the young families who can't find places to live in this neighborhood due low inventory and unaffordability. At the very least, he'd turn it into apartment and rent it out to some of the families forced to move to outside of the city.

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Infuriating

This is one of the most infurating things I've ever read. It's two units!!! It's 4 units!!! It's nothing!

What if I move there, then a few years later go back to school? Am I kicked out of my house?

Students need places to live too, and right now the schools don't provide enough of it. And oh the horror having live next to students!!

If they're so worried about their tiny street being overrun with traffic from four units, why aren't they advocating for not not allowing parking there instead? The developer would probably love to not have to build parking, and it's right by Jackson Square and the Southwest Corridor - not exactly a transportation desert.

Who gave Rod Singleton the authority to speak for the whole neighborhood? Did he do a comprehensive survey with the information laid out fairly? Will he share the results of that, or is he simply someone who has time to show up to a meeting?

We can't solve the housing crisis, we can't solve global warming, we can't give people transportation freedom unless we allow these small projects to slowly densify our neighborhoods!

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Here here! I'm sick of

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Here here! I'm sick of neighbors complaining about traffic, gentrification, and climate change/sea level rise then insist on providing parking so every individual with a license living at an address can have a car. It is so hypocritical; I quit going to the meetings because all they were was a bunch of selfish homeowners who don't understand EVERYONE is going to have to make a sacrifice if we are going to combat these issues.
I'm often amazed at how many consider themselves progressive yet support oppressive zoning laws that ensure only a few, well-connected developers are the only ones that can build anything and guarantee that renters will be displaced by smaller, not connected developers that will/can only do gut-rehabs. Consider every new unit of housing built keeps a tenant in an existing unit.
And policing deed restrictions is ludicrous. Are you calling ISD if four 20-somethings live there? What if they are not students?
The neighbors need to check themselves.

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I live here and I say YIMBY!

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I live blocks away from this street in a home I own and I, too, stopped going to the neighborhood meetings because of the retrograde mind-think of the people who attend. They are selfish, bourgeois, elitists who profess to care about neighbors but have done NOTHING to stop the awful purge of working renters from the neighborhood. Their insistence on thwarting any developer who doesn't live in the neighborhood is anti-environment, anti-renter, anti-working person. They are doing their best to maintain what they perceive as a pristine, quiet suburb in the heart of the city because, after all, they're already in it. And their actions, though maybe unintended, are doing every to keep anyone who isn't already in and owning, out. If you do happen to to live in the neighborhood, they fall over themselves to allow you to build any kind of hideous unsustainable McMansion complex you want.
Yes! I want development in my back yard but I want it to be dense, beautiful and sustainable. The emphasis in this incredibly transit oriented neighborhood on cars is soo 1950's. (Ironically, if you look at archival pictures of the neighborhood in the '50's there are few cars - and the n'hood was able to support several mom and pop businesses because the money wasn't being driven elsewhere). I had a conversation with an elected official and she stated that parking was a "quality of life" issue. She's right - focus on parking to the detriment of a good quality of life.

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Meet The Judge/Jury/Defendant

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His representative . . told the board that after careful study, his client concluded the proposal . . was the best, least intrusive use of the land

Okay then, I guess that settles it then, right? Or . . maybe there's a chance that the abutters and neighbors might have a better understanding of what constitutes least intrusive to their immediate surroundings (which they may have been living in for decades.)

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The MH property is owned by

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The MH property is owned by Demetrios Salpoglou, some of his LLCs are King of the Hill , 183-185 Hillside and King of Roxbury 130 Roxbury... he originally listed his LLC for this house as King of Fisher,changed it later . He's a "King" of student rentals.
Other properties he's associated with now or in the past, 5 and 6 St James Place on Fort Hill,22 Marcella Street and 624-632 East Broadway in South Boston.

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abutters and neighbors

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Abutters and neighbors have no more claim to expertise than anyone else. Just because you live in a city does not make you an excellent urban planner. Often it seems to just make you self-centered in your desires for the neighborhood.

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Users

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Nobody knows how a part of a city really flows (or not) better than the daily users of that part of the city. It's a specialized and - should be - valued expertise. (With all due respect to the upcoming graduates of local urban design programs and their degrees.)

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