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Another apartment building rejected on Washington Street in Roslindale

Washington Street proposal

Rejected proposal by MGFA.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today rejected a proposal to expand the Arboretum Grill building on Washington Street at Mosgrove Avenue by adding three more floors and 14 apartments, saying that while Washington Street in Roslindale could certainly do with more density, the specific proposal was just too dense.

The 5-2 vote to deny the proposal without prejudice means that owner Ward Jaros can come back in less than a year with a different proposal for the building.

Jaros had proposed adding three floors to the existing commercial building and a four-story addition that would preserve the existing ground-floor retail space for the Arboretum Grill, two salons and an office, but with no parking. "This is as close to transit friendly, we think, as one can get," given the number of bus lines that go by the location, and its location just 0.7 miles from the Forest Hills T stop, Jaros's attorney, Dennis Quilty, said - adding that three of the units would be rented as affordable.

Board members Mark Erlich and Eric Robinson, however, voiced concern about creation of a four-story building in an area with mainly three-story buildings.

Jaros's architect, Matthew Francke, pointed to a proposed four-story building next door, at the intersection with Lesher Street, and with what he said was another four-story building that will soon be formally proposed across the street. Francke did not mention the collection of quadruple-deckers diagonally across Washington Street from the Arboretum Grill.

But board Chairwoman Christine Araujo, after hearing from a neighbor that the next-door project is stalled due to financing issues, said the Jaros proposal would be setting a precedent for that end of Washington Street, and that she was concerned that the design is the sort of ur-boxy design that is homogenizing the look of neighborhoods across the city.

It would be "the start of changing the character of Washington Street in this area," she said.

Nearby residents spoke against the project because its density would be out of character with nearby side streets, and because of its lack of parking. Mark Holman, who said the building would be "completely out of place in the neighborhood," added that its bulk would make it even more difficult for drivers coming off Mosgrove to turn left onto Washington Street - even more so than the "Dorchester left" of creeping into the intersection that they already have to do.

In November, the board rejected a 31-unit apartment building at Washington and Basile streets in Roslindale Square because the proposal had no parking included.

That came several months after the board rejected a 7-unit apartment building on Washington at Bexley Road because it had no parking.

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So essentially, the board's argument is that four-story density isn't allowed because the area isn't four-story dense, only three-story dense. That begs the question - how do areas get dense? If one building adding a single extra story is beyond the pale, the board seems to be saying that the existing density is essentially locked in and unchangeable. And that's without even touching on their insistence on parking.

Boston needs to be re-zoned, top to bottom. The zoning board should not have ultra-granular approval power over every lot.

Voting closed 43

The whole idea is to have dense housing next to rail lines. You think people want to be commuting from Weymouth instead? There are four story apartments going up in freakin Dedham, where there’s a commuter rail you maybe can get to by bus.

This is Forest Hills! It’s the orange line, and the commuter rail, and like thirty bus lines. And bike lanes, and restaurants, and the edge of the arboretum. Let people live there!

Voting closed 3

You cannot get to the commuter rail in Dedham by bus. There's one single busline that goes through Dedham, the one that goes from Forest Hills to Walpole, and doesn't connect to any of the commuter infrastructure in the town. We had been looking to buy a house in Dedham but ultimately decided against because it would've required buying a second car to get anywhere.

Voting closed 25

And this is why we have so little housing

Voting closed 26


Voting closed 0

How it started: We could use more density. We are mostly three-story buildings here, and a four-story building across the street.

How it ended: Your four-story building is "too dense." Changes the character!


Voting closed 29

Just so very concerned... about everything that might actually materially improve people's lives.

Voting closed 112

Rejecting this on the grounds of density feels like pants-on-head nuttery to me. It's a prime candidate for dense housing as its on like three bus lines and walkable to Forest Hills or the Commuter Rail. If the board can't accept density here, I would very much like to know where they think it is actually acceptable.

As for being out of step with the character of the neighborhood, just imagine a stream of profanity. Now a slightly shorter one. Great.

Cities need to change to meet the needs of their populations, and adding a new building that's all of one story taller than the surroundings is a pretty reasonable change for a block where most of the buildings were put up a hundred years ago in a city less than half as populous. This is to say nothing of the much worse looking addition that got popped right on top of Wallpaper City all of what, a year ago? Somehow, Historic Roslindale Village is still standing, and property values have yet to crater.

Traffic is already a Jesus-take-the-wheel moment to turn left on most of the stretch from Forest Hills to the village park. If anything, left turns need to be prohibited at non-traffic signal intersections during the same hours that the bus lanes operate to keep one person from snarling up both lanes trying to bull their way into making a left.

Sorry this is ranty, but this feels like an arbitrary decision based on some nebulous, secret criteria.

Voting closed 0

Why does Roslindale insist on sucking so much? On this exact street(Washington) HUNDREDS of units have recently been built or are currently under construction in JP. The Pine Street Inn project alone has 225 units, yet the people of Roslindale shot down a tiny 7 unit building on the same street! This is the difference between an actual progressive, diverse neighborhood(JP) and a moderate one run primarily by selfish boomers(Roslindale).

Voting closed 62

It may actually have something to do with the fact that Christine Araujo lives right around the corner.

Voting closed 75

Describing JP as an actual progressive group is insane - this blog just posted a story of them suing to block a youth center.

They tried to block the very project you reference as well as other affordable stuff

Voting closed 49

This is the difference between an actual progressive, diverse neighborhood(JP) and a moderate one run primarily by selfish boomers(Roslindale).

I have some very bad news about Jamaica Plain...

There's enough NIMBYism in both neighborhoods to go around.

Voting closed 52

I think Roslindale might just be at just the right population density to cause extra friction. It's one of the less dense neighborhoods as far as Boston neighborhoods go but it's still ultimately pretty transit-friendly and pedestrian-friendly in the grand scheme of things, so it has plenty of opportunities to become more dense, but also a lot of people who are invested in Roslindale being "less dense."

Voting closed 24

I wish it worked that way but it doesn't. People living in Ink Block and actual Manhattan all show up to neighborhood meetings claiming that the level of density that existed right before they moved in was the "right" amount of density for that neighborhood. You just cannot make these kinds of decisions on the basis of who shows up at a 6 pm meeting about a specific project.

Voting closed 26

When hard working, decent middle class people leave Boston because they cannot afford to put a roof over their heads it is because of pathetic, selfish, short sighted NIMBYs like this. If four story buildings scare you then move to a rural village. Boston is a city.

The zoning board is a joke and Mayor Wu needs to get rid of them ASAP.

Voting closed 82

Please, Mayor Wu, please replace the current members of this atrocious ZBA. These people hate the city in which they live and hate everything that makes it a city. The mayor can replace these people tomorrow if she wants to. All the plans and process in the world don't mean anything if the ultimate decisionmakers are fundamentally opposed to transit-oriented housing. The mayor has to make this a priority if she is serious about her climate, housing, and transit agenda.

Voting closed 5

Yes there are ample buses and walking is an option, but some of those renters are going to need a car. Even if there were 10 parking spots, I'd feel better about this.

Voting closed 31

whenever my partner and I were looking for apartments and houses, we specifically looked at places that had parking because we have a car. We didn’t consider places without parking. In a city where over 30% of households don’t have cars, we should be okay with buildings that don’t have parking, especially ones in a walkable neighborhood with easy access to transit.

Voting closed 63

Anyone who wants to move into this building and park on the street should be welcome to do so.

Anyone who complains about this has no right to do so. If they have off-street parking, it doesn't affect them. If they are making use of street parking, they're no better than the people they're trying to prevent from parking on the street, and being an existing resident gives them no exclusive claim to this public resource.

Mandating even a few parking spots would mean removal of some of the housing, and increasing the building costs.

The best neighborhoods of Boston are full of buildings whose residents park on the street. We shouldn't make it illegal to build what we used to build.

Voting closed 61

Therefore, I demand that every new unit be built with a separate home office to make sure that those residents aren't using up valuable table space at local coffee shops. As we all know, zoning and housing decisions should be based on the idea that no one is allowed to use communal space except for the people who already live there.

Voting closed 5

Is coming from inside your head.

Voting closed 21

How is 4 stories and 14 units on Boston's main street "too dense"? What will these extra ~30 residents do to overwhelm the neighborhood?

How would adding "bulk" make it harder to turn left off Mosgrove? The existing building already comes to the sidewalk, as do dozens of other buildings in Roslindale. Adding extra floors on top won't obscure any sightlines, unless you're looking up for flying cars. https://goo.gl/maps/aHuEfFWVQ478QHH68

Voting closed 44

The meeting discussed multiple issues.

Among these were that the design did not fit into the general neighborhood. The zoning requires it to have some kind of look that is like other homes in the area.

There was also insufficient space to the front and back. This area is in place to help prevent fire from jumping between buildings. Parts of the city like South Boston and East Boston that literally have building just 4 feet apart, and sometimes less, can see fire spread quickly. With some space you cut down on that tremendously.

The neighbors also weighed in and noted that some of the projects that had already been approved in that area never properly included abutters and neighborhood associations as the statute requires. The city council is aware of this and even had a hearing last year on fixing that. So far things have stayed the same if not worse. It's a struggle to get accurate info to participate in some of these meetings and people dispatching the data often cut-off video links so they don't work, or fail to put up telephone numbers for those that cannot, for what ever reason, connect by computer.

Finally, there was an overwhelming number of letters against the building as laid out from abutters, whose voice is somewhat louder than anyone else's.

It was also pointed out that the plan calls for a rebuild of the current commercial space but the current occupants are under the impression that they are remaining with a new structure being built around them. Apparently that may not be the case. Are we on the same page anywhere?

No parking barely entered into the bulk of the meeting since other issues took precedent.

As to the building at 3992 Washington (at Archdale) having funding issues, there is no surprise there. Banks don't want to lend funds to buildings that are rental units at this time.

The proposed building at 43 Lochdale went before the neighborhood as rental units and was approved by many. After they were approved the banks stiffed them. They then went before the ZBA to switch to condos instead because that is what the bank was willing to give them money to do. ZBA approved that change to condos without any further interaction with the neighborhood. Bait and switch? Hard to say.

So the issue here is not just the ZBA, density, or parking. The abutters spoke out, and there were few to no letters in support. A majority were against.

So the ZBA did its job by the statute.

As to the auto body shop that is up for another presentation soon and it will have some parking in he revised plan. The original design had plenty of parking but the owner was talked out of it by special interests, and summarily got shot down because there was none. He's not making that mistake a 2nd time. The neighbors want him to sell and retire due to his declining health. They like him. Had the original plan gone forward without the coercion to change the plans, it may not have been delayed this long.

They know who they are.

These new buildings are not going up all over because the developer seeks to be socially responsible to create affordable housing. This is always about making a buck. We need to keep sight of that.

Voting closed 23

That's a lot of words to just list a NIMBY greatest hits. I know you all think your case is different but it is not and never is. You either support more housing or you don't.

Voting closed 46

They point out the issues the neighbors have with the project, noting that in general they are supportive of housing going in there.

Meanwhile, you just cry NIMBY and go on your way.

Voting closed 20

That's because all those issues are standard NIMBY complaints raised every single time any new housing is proposed.

Voting closed 13

They are not saying that there shouldn't be housing on the site, just that they have concerns with the design and some of the features.

Now, I don't go to too many community meetings about development project (and yes, I once went to one where the community said they'd prefer a lot stay a vacant dumping ground rather than housing going in, which has resulted in this situation) but I'd be willing to bet that few of them include concerns about how having the buildings extend to the sidewalk causes traffic safety issues, but I'm sure you've heard that one enough times to know better than I do.

Voting closed 14

If it's not one "reason" it's another.

NIMBY means Not In My Back Yard, by any reason necessary.

Voting closed 19

This is not what the neighbors want (as opposed to that particular proposal, where the neighbors seemed to be in favor of the lot remaining abandoned.) There is a difference between saying nothing should be built and saying that there has to be a better proposal out there.

Remember how a different part of Roslindale suddenly decided that a house where Mary Baker Eddy lived for a short time was of historical importance when the property owner wanted to put 10 units of housing on the lot. Well, the house still stands, and now there are 8 units on the lot (and people's views were preserved, which was probably the actual issue.)

Voting closed 0

I'd be willing to bet that few of them include concerns about how having the buildings extend to the sidewalk causes traffic safety issues

The buildings there now extend to the sidewalk. How would this be different?

Voting closed 0

Yes, and the "design" related concerns are always some variation on "the building is too tall" or "the building covers too much of the lot" both of which you can only fix by building less housing.

Voting closed 17

"Among these were that the design did not fit into the general neighborhood."

This building is fine in SOME back yard but not MY back yard.

Voting closed 28

This development would lower housing costs in Boston.

Voting closed 17

Raises the housing costs.

Voting closed 21

I’m all about more housing, but I feel like the design of the first floor commercial space on almost every new project lacks any ability for a potential tenant to differentiate their storefront with signage/identity. They all looks like spaces designed for an attorney or an Edward Jones.

Voting closed 16