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Shorthanded zoning board rejects JP inn proposal even though most members voted for it

The owner of a Perkins Street inn who wanted to legalize the 11 beds he already has and add several more had his proposal rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeal today.

The board actually voted 4-1 in favor of Dar Sandler's request to formally designate the Perkins Inn property at 32 Perkins St. as a boutique hotel, but state law requires at least five votes for formal zoning-board approval.

The board had six members present earlier in the day, but member Craig Galvin left before the hearing. A City Council committee chaired by Michelle Wu (at large) has bottled up appointments of five new alternate members to fill vacant seats at hearings over the issue of marijuana-shop zoning.

Before the hearing, board Chairwoman Christine Araujo - who cast the dissenting vote - told Sandler and his zoning advisor, Chris Tracy that the board was short of members and that they could request a deferment to a later date because of the issue. Tracy said he would go forward.

Immediately after the vote, Tracy asked for a deferment, but Araujo told him he knew he should have asked for one before the hearing and that it was now too late - the board had voted and that vote means Sandler has to wait a year before he can seek permission again. The proponent of at least one other project asked for a deferral today before his hearing because of the vote issue.

Sandler has been running a former three-family home at 32 Perkins St. as a B&B for almost a year now. Tracy said that city officials do not formally recognize B&Bs with more than four bedrooms and advised him and his client to ask for zoning permission to run the property as a "boutique hotel" - especially with new city regulations in place that restrict short-term rentals.

In addition, Sandler wanted to raze a carriage house behind the house and put in a new but similar structure to add six more beds. His proposal called for five or six parking spaces; Sandler said most of his guests don't drive to and from the inn.

The mayor's office, city councilors Matt O'Malley, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty and Hyde Jackson Main Streets supported the proposal, as did some residents who attended the meeting, who said the inn would increase foot traffic to nearby shops and restaurants and that Sandler has been an ardent supporter of local non-profit groups and schools.

But some residents also opposed the proposal, saying that, especially with a marijuana dispensary possibly moving into the old Bella Luna bowling alley, that the area doesn't need more traffic and that Perkins Street is seeing more people parking there with New York and Pennsylvania plates - which they say means the spaces at the inn site aren't enough. They also argued that Perkins is zoned for two-family homes, not denser hotels, that the property would not quality for the city's short-term rental program because Sandler doesn't live there, and that approval would set a precedent for taking more rental units out of the area's already tight rental supply.

Board member Mark Erlich voted for the proposal, but questioned why Sandler waited until now to seek approval, especially since he was paying lower residential property tax rates on the property even though he'd been running it as a business for almost a year. "It does feel a little bit after the fact," he said. Tracy said Sandler was basically only doing what city officials advised him to.

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Comments

Yeah, we need real housing and yeah, there are cars with out-of-state license plates on residential streets. But come on! Let's make JP interesting again! Tourists can help to put JP on the map again which has gotten so repetitive and so....yawn....boring. They spend money on Centre Street. They don't want to spend $350/night in an anonymous hotel downtown to walk the freedom trail. I am really giving up on JP.

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The vast majority of the time places that appeal to tourists are the opposite of interesting.

Typical elitist garbage from a JP trust fund kid.

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Where is this JP trust fund? Must be the new JP because we were poor! lol.

I was appalled to see this not go through. It is indeed a sham. My family has stayed there multiple times when they visit me -- and they love it. It fits beautifully into JP. And is very well run. The place is well kept. And the inn-keeper, Aaron, does such a wonderful job. I strongly suggest for people to walk by and have a look...

There was tremendous support from the council-members and mayor's office. I know local businesses wrote support letters -- as they have grown to depend on this local business. I was also shocked to hear Mrs. Robinson speak to harshly against -- it almost felt personal against Dar. I wonder what her true motivation is? She just moved to JP recently and lives on Bolster street for the past couple of years... she never came to any of the abutters meetings and also posted a questionable petition on a local jewish organization -- suggesting Dar was a foreigner. He is a local person just like us! He lives here with his family.

It is indeed a sham and a disappointing day for us...

Araujo: We're short on council members, you should request a deferment.
Dar Sandler: Actually you have enough to sustain a majority if you all vote 'yes', so here's my case, which everyone agrees with except some asshole NIMBYs
Araujo: LOL you lose, come back next year.

Thank you for condensing my vote against you into one paragraph, Christine Araujo.

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Some context: Tracy is not just some guy people give money to. He's a former project manager for the BRA who know works for O'Neill and Associates. He knows how things work in City Hall. He could have taken the deferment, like John Pulgini (who handles a lot of zoning cases) did earlier in the day with some far less controversial proposal.

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I hope Wu understands how many other projects she has been affecting by holding up these appointments. It’s not just developers but families looking to stay in Boston too.

Did Wu’s Office support or oppose the project?

Did Christine A. explain the reason for her opposition to the project?

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why can't the licensing board members just respond to Wu's request? Seems pretty easy and straightforward for them to write a one-sentence response and put the ball back in her court.

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Everyone should remember this when Michelle Wu runs for mayor. She’s playing games with people’s livelihood here by holding up these board appointments. The Zoning Board does a lot more than just review skyscrapers; most of their work is small-scale stuff like this where regular people are relying on these properties to cover mortgages. She’s doing the bidding of NIMBYs with this stuff and at this point it’s clearly intentional.

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Christine A keeps blaming the councilors for the short staffed ZBA board.
How about she pressures the board candidates to answer the councilors questions? If I understand this right, that too could resolve the situation.

I am interpreting her lone dissenting vote more as a way to say "let me show you who is the boss" than as a grounded objection to the project.

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to the people who it represents. The fact that the zoning board and mayor's office appear to specifically want to avoid making a regulatory decision of the geographic limits on pot shop licensing certainly makes it seem that Mayor Walsh and the ZBA want the waters muddied so they can play the angles just like with zoning variances for developers. After all, if they fixed the zoning issues, then developers could just put up buildings within those limits without getting approval from unelected officials who report to the mayor.

What Wu wants (I think) is to force the Mayor and the ZBA to explain how competing claims for a license within the same 1/2 limit will be resolved, at which point business can make plans for their future without having to kowtow to the board.

Side note - saw a F-150 with both Trump and Walsh bumpers stickers on it yesterday in West Roxbury. That's Marty's base.

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Accountable to what and whom? That’s the question. Seems pretty clear to me that she and Edwards are doing the bidding of entitled neighborhood types who vote Yes to pot stores but then don’t want them near their homes. That’s not the kind of leadership I want. Wu has lost my vote and Edwards would too if I lived in her district. As to the question asked, I read elsewhere that it has been answered more than once publicly and now also in writing, never mind it’s like asking someone if water is wet in terms of its logic.

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She wants people on the board to simply answer a yes no question about their interpretation of the pot licensing. The ZBA has said their members are 'too busy' to answer one question which is critical to a successful, fair rollout of pot shops. That's it.

Wu wants transparency and effective governance. ZBA, BRA and of course Marty Walsh want everything to go through their backrooms.

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Seems like Wu's using the power she has to try and compel what should be an easy response. I don't see how this is her fault - it's not like she's holding up appointments until everyone agrees with her.

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Several of them have. So why is she waiting? It is not a slate, they can be approved as individuals if they chose to do so.

The only other time before today that you posted on UHub, you complained about the Zoning Board "making NIMBY arguments" against a high-density housing development.

Now you're whinging that the board isn't allowing high-demand housing get turned into a meh-demand inn.

Maybe logic isn't your strong point. Or you have some other interest at play.

Well this is getting ridiculous.

Does anyone know what the deal is behind the one year minimum? That seems like an absurdly long time for someone to have to wait (especially in a case like this one). In this case I imagine it means having to restructure his business (or operate illegally for some time) but I can imagine in the case of a developer trying to build something new, it means the neighbors have to stare at a vacant building or an empty lot for that entire time.

This feels like a regulation from a former area that we should really consider changing.

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Just follow the code. No wait at all.

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The Boston zoning code is trash and shouldn’t even exist in a modern city. It’s just a form of redlining in its NIMBY-ness. You can’t even add an extra window to a property without multiple community meetings, endless hoops to jump through, and then praying the Board even has a quorum now apparently. By the way, the rare project that does meet code usually takes at least a year to permit anyway due to all the hoops.

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Every day I find more and more that people don't have a clue what redlining was.

No, the Boston Zoning Code is not a form of redlining.

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Like all modern zoning codes, the roots of the Boston Zoning Code are actually based in redlining. First with immigrants, then with communities of color. So you're wrong there. Check out "The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein, the authoritative tome on this.

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Boston's zoning laws have nothing to do with redlining. Read "Urban Exodus" if you want to know how redlining happened in Boston. Boston's first zoning code came in in 1924, decades before redlining became a thing. Zoning had jack shit to do with it. In 1970 blacks in Dorchester by and large lived in areas where the zoning was the same as it was for whites in Dorchester, and the triple decker (the means for immigrants to be able to afford home ownership in Boston) is still allowed in most parts of the city.

But of course, this is a story about a hotel wanting to operate in a residential area, which is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for people to be able to do, right?

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Considering this guy is gentrifying, this has nothing to do with NIMBYNESS or redlining. Though some might argue he's contributing to redlining, I guess.

Let's be clear about the places he's doing this with in JP & now in Roxbury-- this is working class/middle class housing that he is taking off the market & turning into boutique inns.

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... and if you can't make money off a three-family in JP, then you have problems no zoning variance can fix.

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The owner chose to operate illegally & do the conversion before getting the zoning changed. No one forced him to.

In JP, he could have easily found tenants for the 3 family until he did the right, legal thing. He didn't.

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Perhaps Mr. Sandler should have sought ZBA approval for his "hotel" before operating illegally and with zero oversight for a year. Or perhaps he should have heeded the Chairwoman's suggestion that he seek a deferral since one "no" vote would mean his request would not be granted. Boohoo that a "neighborhood guy" who can afford the services of O'Neill and Associates and several other million dollar properties now has to wait a while and go through above board, legal channels.

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So he gets to keep running the B&B for a year without paying the additional taxes or following the proper regulations? Seems like a bigger loss for the city.

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Why are the members of this committee so frequently taking the night off and leaving early?

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I think I heard his last hearing was in June, and he had another one for his other illegal BnB right before Christmas.

Was board member Craig Galvin's early exit a vote?

Galvin was present for this case and was actually the first person to make a motion to approve

There is no resident permit parking in this area so those out of state plates are most likely residents who didn’t feel like re-registering their cars. It’s common practice since young professionals and students maintain “home” addresses elsewhere. Also the RMV doesn’t do anything about it.

Mr. Sandler did a nice job renovating the place a few years back, but that new fence he installed maybe 3-4 years ago has been severely crooked from the get-go. As I walked by on my way to work everyday, I really wanted to ask the workers if they were going to straighten it before they finished. They didn’t.

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I agree with many of the comments above. The owner has done a nice job of reaching out to all neighbors to understand the concerns and mitigate them. There is still work he can do. Just ask him to fix the fence! He probably will. He also created this website to help folks learn about his proposals. He is collecting data on the parking needs and while he had a few bumps in the road in the beginning, he has done his best to smooth things out. Also, he's a JP guy - not an out-of-towner. Any neighbor claiming foul on gentrification through this use was part of the 'problem' when they themselves bought in this area a few years ago.

According to that web site it says "Works with the city and other organizations to provide affordable units to individuals in need."

So now that his zoning request got denied will he consider turning this property into affordable housing for people already living in Jamaica Plain?

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https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60745-d15012308-Reviews-Perkin...

As a matter of fact, they are telling guests to park on the street when they run out of room on their property.

No resident permit parking = anyone can park there. If that's an issue for the residents they should go through the process to have their street marked as resident parking only.

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Seriously. Also according to Dar this has only come up a handful of times in the last few years (god forbid--because residents are legally entitled to the free, on-street parking?).

Watched a man shuffle barefoot out of 32 Perkins this morning and get into his white BMW, start and idle it for no apparent reason, and go back inside.

This was as opposed to yesterday morning when I had to move the trash barrels out of the way because instead of lining them up they were staggered on both sides of the sidewalk. I wish I'd moved them more because when I looked back a mother with a stroller was having the same problem.

This is not to mention that his fence, that he owns, with 28 Perkins is in disrepair and in danger of falling into the yard and causing injury, or that the fence was damaged when the "C OOL BUS" parked there all winter rammed it, or that his contractors routinely block the sidewalk instead of pulling all the way into the ample driveway.

Dar is a bad neighbor and maybe shouldn't have hired a lobbyist to lie to the zoning board as he lost the minute Tracy's "six months" became "one year" of defrauding the city of tax revenue.

Watched a man shuffle barefoot out of 32 Perkins this morning and get into his white BMW, start and idle it for no apparent reason, and go back inside.

Oh noes!!!

My neighbor does this every morning. He also parks on the sidewalk. It annoys me but he's definitely a permanent resident. At least with a B&B you can be assured the customer will probably be gone by the end of the week!

Also, I try my best to leave the trash barrels at the very edge of the curb, and every day the trash people fling them all over the damned place.

The point is, every single one of these problems exist on almost every street in Boston, and some of the worst offenders are people who have lived here for years.

It was a sad day at the ZBA yesterday. 40+ cases go through without a flinch and this one falls to the skeleton crew after lunch. Dar Sandler had the mayor's office, council-members and local JP residents voice their strong support. He submitted support letters from local businesses that have grown to depend on the incoming guests eating locally and shopping locally... he employs a cleaning staff and inn-keepers. He tends to the properties beautifully. Just walk by! And the place is as quiet as it gets throughout the day and evening.

The lone opposition was an abuter who spoke about a couple of out of state license plates -- that for all we know were just JP residents. And of course, the crusader Nina Robinson from Bolster who has been against b&bs in JP. While she spoke elegantly, I question her motivation... she moved to her street only a few years ago, speaks of gentrification and housing supply -- but isnt she part of the problem? She posted a misleading post on the Jewish organization -- moshe kavod, citing Dar as a foreigner (he lives locally with his wife and kid) looking to take advantage of JP... and made it seem like he was building a marriott. Interestingly enough, in the local JP zoning board meeting -- she made a NIMBY comment saying she was "ok" with b&bs... just not in her area. She was quickly shut down for that.

Not that there is anything wrong with students, I just truly wonder how putting students in these houses (which is most likely going to be the case) -- would benefit the community or Nina's crusade. A sad day... I hope Dar keeps the fight up and re-applies. JP needs this and it would be a great loss to lose a local business! We will be regretting this when a hyatt muscles its way into JP in 5-10years!

If the only issue with what Mr. Sandler is doing was whether the flower beds were weeded, then he'd hardly need a zoning variance.

However, if you're going to accuse someone of lying, you damn well better back it up. I know Nina because she lived on my street, a few blocks away, before moving near Mr. Sandler's other illegal B&B, on Wyman Street.
She's neither a newbie nor is she insensitive to immigrants-- the neighborhood Mr. Sandler sneaked his inn into is the JP Latin Quarter, so named because of the number of immigrants who live here & where Nina lives, but NOT where Mr. Sandler lives.

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Hi,

This comment got me interested in who Dar is and how short term lets/hotels promote the economy.
a) Dar Sandler controls significant real estate through shell corporations (at least three according to the Mass Secretary of State). While he may be a local owner, owning significant property in multiple places does not make him a resident in each neighborhood. This is the face of gentrification.
b) Short term lets and hotels may promote economic development and local business in the short term. Long-term owners and tenants promote local business daily. They go to restaurants frequently, shop on Centre Street.
c) This kind of property ownership fails Boston when we have a shortage of good family friendly housing.

I can speak to this because I am being priced out of Jamaica Plain. I am moving to Hyde Park because I couldn't find a lead safe apartment for my child in my price range. I supported local businesses (most of my kitchen is from the Kitchen Witch). I will frequent these places less because I'm not going to be proximate to Bella Luna, Canary Square, or Purple Cactus, to name a few of my faves.

The city needs more generally housing (both in the technical sense and generally). Short term lets (e.g. AirBNB) and houses turned into hotels prevent the city from effectively growing.

JP has a housing crisis-- like the rest of Boston.

JP also has WAY too many short-term rental places already, especially between Boylston Street and Jackson T-- over 45 VRBO & AirBNB places in one of the tightest markets in the city & one of the last remaining affordable parts of JP.

Plus, we have a new hotel on Huntington that has had vacancies every time I've checked-- including in the days before BU graduation & the 4th of July.

We don't need more vacay rentals ffs. We are desperate for housing-- and he has already destroyed multiple 2-3 bedroom units in JP, not only on Perkins.

This guy has misrepresented himself all over the place. He's advertising on Expedia & booking.com despite never getting a fire inspection for the current occupancy, or, as we now see, being properly zoned. He's been running his business illegally & is now butthurt that he got caught.

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Your claims require a denominator. There are literally thousands of apartments in the Jamaica Plain area. 45 out of 3000+ is actually an extremely tiny number. Also "there are available hotel rooms" is hardly a litmus since you didn't say how expensive they were (and they tend to be quite expensive!). Also hotels on Hungtington are not really a substitute for a B&B right next to Centre Street. And lastly, re the zoning, this B&B was completely legal as far as the local codes go up until the new AirBnb regulations go into effect, hence the urgency of getting this approved.

Normally, I don't do other people's homework for them, but this is your lucky day, eherot.

First, I didn't write that Jamaica Plain in total has 45 AirBnB units-- I wrote that Stonybrook-Jackson Square does.
Jamaica Plain has OVER 300 AirBnB listings!
https://sdthumbs.ui-static.net/t/maeu/PI6GR6RNP-p5qAoB9pbg/B51Mun4ABoIKU...

The Stonybrook-Jackson area has approximately 430 households, so, yes, 45 AirBnB units in that one are is a lot.

Second, funny enough, the cheapest enVision Hotel room with a double bed costs the same as one at Perkins Inn & you don't have to share a bathroom with strangers! Just look at that--
https://sdthumbs.ui-static.net/t/maeu/je5-i36B-ki-lIHOq-jK/B51Mun4ABoIKU...
I picked my niece's birthday & the day after.
enVision also has much more parking, and is much closer to a subway line.
By the way, room for room, date for date, using their own websites, enVision is the same or cheaper. Try it!

Third, if your lawyer told you that the Perkins Inn was legal until the recent short term regs went into effect, then fire your lawyer. Converting an R3 to a defacto boarding house without a waiver, then running it as a short term rental, violates more city ordinances & laws than I can count. Mr Sandler never lived at this address; he cannot claim he was just renting out a few spare bedrooms.

Back to my original point: we do not need any more vacation rentals in JP, we have plenty. If you're having a hard time finding a place to put up your in-laws when they visit, then you're not trying very hard.
We do, however, desperately need regular housing, and cannot afford to lose it because Mr. Sandler fancies himself an innkeep rather than a landlord.

And these are not the only three apartments Mr. Sandler has taken off the market during a housing crisis. Spare me the tales of the neighborhood good he's doing. The best thing Mr. Sandler could do for JP is replace the longterm housing he destroyed.

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This is a market economy. The only "proof" you need that there is demand for what Dar is selling is that he's able to pay his bills with the money he's taking in, which means he's obviously providing a service that people want. We can debate until the cows come home why someone might want to stay at the Perkins Inn vs. any other hotel in Boston, but the fact is people have their reasons and the great thing about not living in a planned economy is that we don't even have to know what they are! I'm glad I don't have you regulating what kind of tomatoes and chocolate I should want as well (can you even imagine?).

On the numbers: I have no idea what constitutes "Stonybrook-Jackson" but the entire 02130 zip code has about 431 active listings (https://www.airdna.co/vacation-rental-data/app/us/massachusetts/jamaica-...) but according to the American Community Survey that same area has 15,147 households, which means AirBnb is only about 2.8% of what. But really we should probably only be counting whole homes, since some of those households may be renting out extra bedrooms that would otherwise go unused. There are 293 whole home listings according to the above site, or 1.93% of the total. Of course some of *those* are probably homes that are only rented out part of the time (because a household is actually living in it). Apparently on 28% of JP's listings are available "full time." It doesn't break that number down by room vs. whole house, but if it was evenly distributed (it's probably not), that would mean 82 whole home listings are available full time. That works out to 0.5% of the number of households. Definitely not enough that if you eliminated all of them tomorrow you would barely see a dent in vacancy rates.

This is a market economy.

Actually, the entire premise of zoning and land use regulation is that there are significant ways in which an unfettered market fails to achieve good outcomes; that society as a whole benefits from a little geographic separation between the kindergarten and the automobile battery recycling smelter.

The entire premise of zoning was that rich/white people were better off not having to live near poor/black people.

But even aside from that, your comment misses the point. The question wasn't whether JP was better off not having this business despite market demand (that's questionable, but I'll at least grant you it is the basic thing zoning is designed to address), the question was whether or not JP "needs" (as in, has a use for) another B&B, kind of like asking whether we really "need" two Ethiopian restaurants in Hyde Square. And the answer is that it doesn't matter, because in an un-planned economy we don't have to subject every business to a democratic vote of the neighbors, a niche business can open even if the vast majority of people cannot even comprehend why someone would want to go there (and that's a good thing)!

The US has always recognized that some goods and services cannot be entrusted to a fantasy, unplanned market-- hence why we have so many "Post Roads" in New England.

We protect specific basic needs from the vicissitudes of the market & whims of business, like education, housing, food, and water-- and I hope health care stabilizes someday.

We subsidize food production-- if you fill a basket at Stop & Shop, your retail price will not even cover the farmer's production costs for US wheat, soy, and produce.

Boston water is provided by the MWRA rather than entrusted to private businesses who could gouge consumers during a drought, or opt to sell to Coca-Cola rather than a family in Rozzie.

The US has a large and comprehensive free public school, because we recognize the personal and community necessity. And Massachusetts, notably, has the oldest public school system in the country, with the guarantee of free education here predating the Revolution.

And we have mechanisms, including zoning, to protect land use.

The earliest zoning in Massachusetts occurred in the 18th century and had nothing to do with race or residences; it was to protect access to waterways.

No housing was destroyed to create the two Ethiopian restaurants in Hyde Square. They were put in empty restaurant spaces-- as they were zoned.

If Mr. Sandler wants to buy an empty lot and build a hotel, more power to him. If he wants to do what enVision did, and take a derelict commercial building and convert it to a hotel, even better. If he wants to buy an existing hotel or building zoned as one, he can do so

Or, empty storefronts are available across JP, even more across Boston. Mr. Sandler owns at least 10 properties, from the Riverway through Roxbury; he could sell just one or two and start any number of possible businesses.

He has a business degree from Wharton and access to legal advice. There is absolutely nothing in his way if he wants to start a law abiding business, complying with zoning regulations.

But Mr. Sandler chose not to do that. He decided to destroy urgently needed housing so he could have a collection of boutique hotels.

Mr. Sandler can stop now. He has the means to do so. He could start a different business.

But if what Mr. Sandler wants is to be the Martin Shkreli of JP real estate, he’s on his way.

My fantasy is that Mr. Sandler turns each proposal into student housing with each person owning a vehicle that is parked on the street. Actually, bring on the luxury condo conversion, so social justice warriors like Mrs. Robinson and the Bibliotequetress can rent out their condos below market rent for those in need. Although he failed when getting started, I can respect a person with balls to take the risk I'd never take and continue to fight the fight in the name of entrepreneurship. There are other opportunities to house people in much more dense proposals if the community wouldn't fight back on them.

I have lived in both Brookline and Cambridge and they have dozens of B&Bs so why cant JP have them? Seems Mr. Sandler is opening what there is great demand for and what all other towns have ? Also there is the Taylor house so did they also take away much needed housing?
Every neighborhood needs a mix of options and these B&B;s offer a great value in a nice local setting. They seem to have kept the houses in their original style keeping with the aesthetics of the neighborhood, and seems based on reviews online that people love them. So what the problem? There isnt enough housing and these 2 B&B's make such a difference?

This isn't Brookline or Cambridge. I suspect some of the things Bostonians find OK would have Brooklinites (Brooklinians?) and Cantabrigians running for the hot burning tar and catapults if they were proposed there (50-story condo buildings are fine for downtown Boston, so let's put one in Coolidge Corner or Porter Square!).

For some reason, Boston doesn't allow B&Bs with more than four bedrooms. This place had 11, and the owner wanted to add 6 more. Whether the limit makes sense or not, I don't know, but he knew what the rule was going in, and he asked the city what to do and they told him to apply as a "boutique hotel," for which there's no such limit.

And then, yes, he got caught in a controversy that has absolutely nothing to do with inns or B&Bs, but he and his former BRA-project-manager adviser were told there was a risk that controversy could result in their project getting denied, that they could defer to a later date when, hopefully, the issue has been resolved, but they gambled and decided to go ahead anyway and they lost.