Community center for young adults with autism approved on Lake Street in Brighton
The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved a proposal by the Common Room to convert a house at 40 Lake St. in Brighton to a place where high-functioning people on the autism spectrum who have graduated high school can gather in small groups for social and learning activities.
The group says people would gather in groups of four to six at a time in three-hour blocks for everything from playing cards and building Legos to learning to cook or watching a movie, "quiet sort of intimate uses," Common Room attorney Peter Kochansky told the board.
A caretaker would live in the house, which would have a total of nine parking spaces, although Kochansky said he expected most participants would either be dropped off or walk up from a nearby Green Line stop.
The group had originally sought board approval last year but sought a deferment after neighbors, including Secretary of State William Galvin, who lives next door, opposed the plans. At today's hearing, however, Galvin urged a yes vote, saying that the Common Room had addressed most of the neighborhood's concerns through conditions that would include a requirement the group appear before the zoning board in three years to see how things are going and that the board's approval be granted only for the Common Room, not for any future purchasers.
Still, Galvin called on the group to continue discussions with the neighborhood on issues such as where dropoffs would happen - on the two-way, if narrow, Undine Road or on the also narrow but one-way Lake Street.
Anabela Gomes, president of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association, who lives on Undine Road, said she and the group continue to oppose the project. She said a proposal to remove trees and shrubs to put in a handicap ramp, combined with front-yard parking, would make the building "very institutional," in a leafy residential neighborhood where "we're already surrounded by institutions" - which include the BC School of Theology across Lake Street.
Kochansky said the Common Room continues to look at a final design for the ramp, that at most it would require the removal of one tree and that, if that's the case, the group would plant a new tree to replace it. He said the group could require drop-offs to be done in the house's driveway, rather than on the street.
City Councilor Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton), supported the proposal, saying it would be "a valuable opportunity for young adults on the autism spectrum" and would be "an incredibly valuable addition to our neighborhood."
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Better reasons to oppose this
The "ramps make it look like an institution" is just ableism, but there are other reasons to oppose this organization.
It isn't autistic-led. Their website uses all provider-focused language and doesn't mention a thing about even having #ActuallyAutistic adults/professionals on their advisory board, let alone being founded/run by autistic folks.
FYI, the easiest way to note this right off is by their language use. The autistic community in general uses "autistic," not "with autism" or "disorder," and opposes functioning labels. Supportive services are great, and we certainly need more, but we should be promoting the organizations that are led by disabled folks, not non-disabled/non-autistic folks who are so out of touch with the community that they aren't even aware what terminology the community uses (and haven't sought the consultations with autistic adults where this would be pointed out).
You ain't wrong, but...
I don't disagree with any of your points, but the ZBA is supposed to concern itself with one issue: Does the application for the variance meet the three-part test of MGL Chapter 44A?
In practice they dabble in all sorts of questions that they have no right to consider, but they're not supposed to do that. Whether or not the organization is out of touch with the community it purports to serve is a great question, but not one that the ZBA is supposed to be considering in deciding a land use question.
hot take: we shouldn’t care what neighborhood associations think
oh my god who actually cares. “very institutional”?? imagine fighting accessibility improvements and a community center for such inane reasons.
seems like a lot of parking, but I don’t know what the community center’s transportation needs are and I certainly wouldn’t have qualms over how the parking makes it look “institutional.”
“ oh my god who actually cares. ”
If I were an autistic person who would want to frequent this place, I think I would definitely care if the place looked cold and institutional.
I’d also rather have the trees and a shady front yard to sit or stroll or garden in than a parking lot with what does seem like an excessive amount of parking spaces. I’d prefer less car parking to sufficient and safe bicycle parking.
I would want it to be accessible to people with mobility issues.
Seems like the proposal still needs tweaking.
Another home lost
Did they really have to take away housing for this? Is there no other location that would work? There are many vacant storefronts in the neighborhood, and most of the many new buildings in the Allston Brighton include first floor retail space, much of which is vacant. Let the developers provide the space as a community benefit. Boston College has plenty of buildings, let the school allow this program to operate there. And yes, paving over the yard for parking sucks. It looks awful, whether you call it institutional, commercial, or anything else.
Presuming at least some of
Presuming at least some of the drop offs are going to be the Ride, considering these kind of services and their populations. In which case any promises about how the drop-offs will work is pissing in the wind. The Ride does whatever the fuck it wants.
They say they will have 9
They say they will have 9 parking spots but most of the users would be dropped off or take the MBTA. Then why are they putting in 9 spots? Are the 9 spots because of city zoning requirements? If that is the case why not wave most of the spots and just require like two spaces and make sure the drive way can handle the pickup and drop off. Seems to me like that would be a win win situation. I think having more green out front would make it more welcoming to people who are using the space anyway.
As for the ramp being an issue, I hope none of those neighbors ever needs a wheelchair because if they did and needed to retrofit their homes what would they do?
So I can understand the issues about the parking if they do not plan on using it would essentially make the façade look uglier for no reason. If they absolutely must put in spots why not put in green pavers that allow the grass to grow through but could support a HC van if needed?
Companies want big parking lots because they are cheap to build, cheap to maintain, and easy parking is a "perk" they can offer employees.
It's not a good reason but it's why these firms almost always want maximum the number of spaces even if it's more than they need. (See also: Huge lots at shopping centers.)
At least two of the spaces are already there
The building has a garage.
Can I have your house?