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This is Boston, not LA: You can't just build a row of townhomes that don't face the street here

108 Allston St. rendering

Allston Street on the left in this rendering by Choo & Co.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today rejected plans for a row of five condo townhomes in Allston that would face an elongated driveway rather than the street.

Still, the board rejected the proposal for 108 Allston St., across from the West End House, without prejudice, which means Brian McGrath can come back with revised plans as soon as he readies them rather than waiting at least a year.

"Any time we see one of these projects that's perpendicular to the streetscape, that's a problem that has to be solved," board Chairman Mark Erlich told McGrath and his architect, Choo & Co.'s Elida Alba. Still, he added, "you're not that far off from having a good proposal, but there's still some work to do."

Among the reasons McGrath needed zoning-board approval is because Allston's zoning requires the main entrance to a residence to face the street, rather than a driveway.

Board member Hansy Better Barraza suggested McGrath could solve the issues by eliminating one of the five units, which she said would allow for more work to better integrate the building with its neighbors, which do not consist of what is basically a sidewall facing the street.

However, just two doors down is an even larger building with the same sort of driveway-facing layout.

The three-story proposal called for seven parking spaces - a single-car garage for each unit and two spaces for visitors.

McGrath had originally proposed six units. Allston Civic Association President Tony D'Isidoro said the five-unit proposal was welcome, although he said he was surprised to learn of it only this morning.

D'Isidoro added that he hopes McGrath will actually sell the units as condos and not try to hold onto them and rent them as apartments. The ACA generally favors condos over apartments, because homeowners have more of a stake in the already apartment-heavy neighborhood.

In addition to the location of the main entrances, the proposal needed zoning-board "relief" because the lot is zoned for a two-family home with no more than 2 1/2 floors. Also, the front, rear and side-yard setbacks were shorter than allowed.

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"Any time we see one of these projects that's perpendicular to the streetscape, that's a problem that has to be solved"

Why?? Why is it a problem? The side facing the street isn't some blank concrete expanse without life or interest - it looks like a normal boston housefront. How the fuck is anyone's life impacted by whether the rest of the people living in this building go in through the side?? Why is this a PROBLEM instead of, honestly, a kind of smart way to avoid having a wall of goddamn garage doors with a half dozen curb cuts?? It's an efficient use of space! Townhomes are appealing and are actually the kind of housing that will make a dent in the "I want a single family" market, aka people who aren't students or new grads!


I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.gif

Voting closed 47

Why are row houses that face a driveway a problem? How else are you supposed to build multiple units on a long and narrow lot?

You don't have to go to LA to find this. You could go to Somerville: https://goo.gl/maps/ZuCZiRnRX6SbhRUe6
or Cambridge: https://goo.gl/maps/WxsgF7Dhd1nXNSZ17
How about Brookline? https://goo.gl/maps/saHQk8eafVYcdUHr7

In London, they call this a mews, and it's one of the most desirable types of places to live! https://www.lurotbrand.co.uk/mews-gems/what-is-a-mews

Voting closed 28

In the middle of a housing crisis, they're shrinking this from six to five to four units. For crying out loud, why are we blocking housing?

Voting closed 58

"renters don't have as much of a stake in the neighborhood!"

(Or as many cars, too, but whatever.)

I should talk to Tony about this …

Voting closed 18

Because it doesn't face the street. duh.

Voting closed 17

"Any time we see one of these projects that's perpendicular to the streetscape, that's a problem that has to be solved,"

Sometimes that 30% voter turnout really bites you in the (expletive), huh? Welcome to the outcome of sociopaths and their cronies taking power in a complacent community.

Voting closed 27

1 Dayton Avenue in Roxbury (My grandmother's house) was the beginning of a row of brownstone townhouses that were perpendicular to the street. Like this project there was a grassy yard facing the street but it had a large lilac bush literally surrounding it on two sides and a tree of heaven in the corner where Dayton Avenue and Mall Street met. Dayton Avenue was a private way though.

I wonder if they changed that driveway in the front of the buildings into a private way would that make a difference?

Voting closed 10

Unless there is some sort of safety issue they didn't articulate, this looks like a good way to more efficiently use the lot. I will point out, though, that the example two lots down is actually substantially different.

However, just two doors down is an even larger building with the same sort of driveway-facing layout.

Those units face Glenville and have Glenville addresses. The entrances off the alley/parking area are the back door egress, while the front doors do open to the street. So maybe not an apples to oranges comparison, but probably and apples to pears. Plus, we all know, just about anything already built is currently illegal to build in Boston.

Voting closed 11