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Dorchester man gets a real charge out of zoning hearing

Proposed mini-driveway to allow for EV

Diagram by RODE Architects.


Matthew Malloy of Ocean Street in Dorchester really, really wants to buy an electric vehicle. But he doesn't have a driveway and ISD has warned him that if he tries to run an extension cord over the sidewalk to a car parked at the curb, he'd get fined.

Malloy found relief today at a hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeal, which unanimously gave him permission to build a sort of mini-driveway up his front yard so he could pull in whichever EV he buys and plug it into the Level 2 charger he will also buy.

Malloy, CEO of the Dorchester Brewing Co., needed a variance because city zoning normally forbids parking spaces in front yards.

He said he tried to convince his neighbor to build a shared driveway - he even offered her the equivalent of $17,000 - but she just wasn't amped up about the idea and refused him. Driving 1.7 miles to the nearest public charging station, and then waiting in line to charge up wasn't practical, he said.

Shockingly, he said, Boston is not keeping current with some neighboring communities and has no answers for homeowners in a situation like his, even as City Hall is pushing for electrification of pretty much everything.

His plans, which called for a mini-driveway just large enough to pull his car in and plug it in, got no resistance from the local neighborhood association; in fact, it sent in a letter of support. Councilors Brian Worrell, Frank Baker, Erin Murphy and Michael Flaherty also supported the idea.

And, Malloy said, he's so committed to the idea of an electric vehicle, he would agree to remove the small driveway and curb cut if he ever went back to a gas vehicle.

The board approved his request for a variance unanimously - with a proviso the space only be used for an EV.

Board member Katie Whewell said she was very sympathetic. "It's something I'd think the city would want to encourage electric vehicles."

Malloy did not specify what sort of EV he's thinking about.



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I get why he did this. And somewhat applaud the board for allowing this, but I gotta ask the question..

If you live in a place that does not have off street parking and you purchased an electric car that had to be plugged in. The city won't allow you to run a cable across the sidwalk so where did you expect to plug it in?

And there are electric cars that do not need to be plugged in. So why didn't you purchase that instead?

I don't own a car but the current state of the MBTA has made me reconsider buying one. I want an EV but I don't have a parking space to charge it. So I don't think a plug in model will work for me.. so I won't buy it.

So why didn't this guy come to that conclusion.

I fear this may open the door for more 'driveways' than we really should have.


There are certain electric/gas hybrids that, theoretically, you never have to plug in, but you really don't get full advantage of them if you don't, because then you're (only partially) charging the batteries with the gas engine, which kind of defeats the purpose of buying a car like that.


My argument still is valid. If you don't have a place to plug it in, why would you buy it?


I’ve been driving a non-Tesla electric since 2013. I can charge at home, but there’s a lot of charging out there. For example, if I have to drive into the office, most of the garages in Boston offer it “free” with the price of parking for the day, there’s an at-cost charger at my husband’s work, etc etc. it’s a different world than it was 10 years ago.

… My sister in LA is considered getting an electric car with no dedicated charger because she’s could reliably charge it at work and there are public chargers at some of the metered street parking in LA. Ultimately, she decided against it because her daily commute is 60% (or more, with AC) of the car’s range.

But she considered it.

This guy isn’t buying the car unless he can charge it. Which makes sense.


Her commute is 60% or more of the car's charge? Wth

You wouldn't. But maybe you would work to create a place to charge one, and then buy one. Which is what this guy did.


Which doesn’t apply to present, but isn’t that far away too

people without yards or space, buy dogs

Go back and read the article again. He didn’t buy one yet, and was planning on what to buy based upon this variance.

EVs are substantially different than hybrids, and on the whole more economical and less pollutant.

I live in this neighborhood and a mini driveway seems like a small price for less cars parked on the street and less gas cars in general.


Cybah, he didn't buy one.
He wants to, but recognizes the practical needs AND is trying to go about it the right way.


Then my arguement is still valid.

why would you even consider it if you didn't have a place to plug it in?

If society needs to move everybody from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric ones, then we’re going to have to come up with a way for people, including city dwellers that don't necessarily have a garage or driveway, to charge their electric vehicles within a reasonable distance of each home.

Seems to me that one way to do this would be to install curbside chargers all over the place. That will be expensive, to be sure, but they’ll generate revenue over time, so the investment would be worthwhile in the long run, even if the upfront cost is going to be steep.

But if we don't do that, then homeowners like this one will try to find other ways to facilitate charging their electric cars at home. Seems like that's a greater good than the aesthetic concerns about the look of having an EV charger & parking spot on a homeowner’s private property.


Think back to the early days of ICE.
There were no gas stations. There were no highways.
In fact there were very few well paved roads.

Just because you don't currently have the right setup doesn't mean it's impossible or that it shouldn't be considered.

That's like saying "Why did you even consider getting an all electric range if you don't have a 240v outlet in your kitchen?"

"Cause I could hire an electrician to pull a permit and install..."

"Yeah, but you don't have one now, so why would you even consider it if you didn't have a place to plug it in?"

"... I just told you why."


Illegals conversions of yard to parking is nothing new in Boston.

I know of a front yard in Dorchester that was converted into two parking spaces several years ago. I lived in the building. The conversion was illegal but no one complained. It came to the attention of ZBA only when the building on the property was converted from rental units to condos. The building owner apparently had to get a variance in order to sell it as part of the deeds of two of the condos.

The variance was denied. But the owner was not required to remove the parking space and the parking spaces were sold as deeded parking spaces. Units were sold with the parking spaces and nothing was said.

I interpreted that as indicating that at the time the ZBA had no teeth and that the city government had no interest in following up on a denial such as this one.

That was over 10 years ago. From my experience of the past couple of years zoning appeals also take a year or more. This does not help homeowners. But then there is more than one city agency that is supposed to be supportive of homeowners but misses the mark in that goal.

I do not know whether this is changing in the Wu administration. But when Menino and Walsh were mayor, based on direct and various witness of various city functions, such as the assessors office and zoning, where and when city government related to individuals, city hall was often an unpleasant "partner" in owning a home.

That is Boston. How that works out in Chelsea is another question.

Unlike seemingly every large-house landlord renting to college students in Brighton back in the day, he did not simply pave over his front lawn. He did things the right way and went to the zoning board first.


1. Standard hybrid -- never plugged in, generates electricity while running on gas and then uses that in conjunction with the gas (to reduce gas consumption).

2, Pure electric -- must be plugged in, can't run without a charged battery

3. Plug-in hybrid -- has a battery that can handle about 30 miles or so (depending on variety of car) of electric driving. When that is used up on longer trips, it acts like a standard hybrid. Can be plugged in (and should be when possible). One can charge these slowly using a minimum of special equipment (say 10-13 hours) or one can buy a more high powered charging unit (which can do the same job in 2 hours or so).

they cant fix a hole in the road or a broken street light for YEARS, but they can approve a variance for a CEO faster than Houdini escaping handcuffs!
Because 1.7 Miles to the nearest charger isn't practical for you? Too bad, Take the bus!
A stereotypical millionaire flexing their white privilege


The zoning board has nothin to do with streetlamps and potholes. They are not equivalent. And this “millionaire” (where is your proof of that? CEO is just a title) went thru proper channels, got local approval and more.

And no, 1.7 miles to your own car is not practical. Even at a brisk pace that is a 30-40 minute walk.


The guy owns a local brewery, no need to pretend he's the CEO of Exxon-Mobil. The guy owns one (1) restaurant, he's not responsible for whatever you want to pin on him. It isn't reasonable to park your car 1.7 miles from where you live. Imagine if you had to store your bike that far away and take a bus to it.


Your first reaction to this story is to cry "white privilege" because he chose to do the right thing first by asking for a variance and presenting his case to the zoning board? He hasn't even bought his desired car yet. To claim "white privilege" because he weighed his options and then went about it the legal way is just absurd. The guy didn't pave over his lawn and cut out a driveway in the curbing. That would be an act of privilege. This guy went about it the right way and presented his case compellingly. He did not assert "white privilege" to get his way.


You don't have to make exaggerated claims about the city's public works departments' slowness to show your disapproval of this ZBA variance. You can sell that story to suburbanites, but I use 311 all the time, through the app, and over the phone before that.

The city is fastidious about taking care of what they're able to take care of. I have had street lights and potholes I've reported fixed in under a week. If you have a problem like that, just report it. And then if you don't get action, contact your city councillors.

The city can't fix what it doesn't know. So tell them. If you don't get a satisfactory response, escalate. The city doesn't work if we don't work it.


The vast majority of my 311 tickets have been totally ignored by the city.

Agreed 311 is FAST and it works. I called about a broken street sign and someone came out the SAME DAY. I went out and talked to him telling him I had just called that morning and he said "that's why I am here". It took a month more to get it fixed but the response time was very fast.

“ "It's something I'd think the city would want to encourage electric vehicles." “

While they add less toxins to city air, electric vehicles still take up public parking spaces that could be put to better use, add to traffic congestion and are a danger to pedestrians and cyclists.
Boston should not be encouraging drivers to bring any road hogging vehicles into the city, electric or not.


EV's aren't a solution. They're just creating alternative pollution and space problems that are supposedly going to be "solved" by more pavement.

The people without the juice to get special treatment from the ZBA will wind up parking on the sidewalk and pedestrians will have to walk in the street.


Not really. Sidewalk parking isn’t really a thing around here.

The city should allow stringing a wire across the sidewalk. It works in other places. The only tricky part is parking in front of your house, since someone else could park there first.


… anywhere else but his own driveway?

Think again.

The best way for the city to fight car dependency isn't to deny a curb cut for a single-family house. It's to stop approving giant parking garages in big projects.

The best way for the government to discourage car dependency is make it possible for people to go about their daily lives without blocking off a two hour commute on either end for broken, inefficient, ineffective, and inconvenient public transit.

…. the city can’t do both.

…. the city can’t do both.

You really have that journalistic spark.


Under no circumstances should anyone be putting a driveway in front of their house.


And why not?


This is a valuable giveaway of a public asset, namely what was a parking spot for anyone and is now permanently private. In addition, there are aesthetic reasons on a street as worthy of preservation as Ocean Street is. I woulda fought him.


And how much is currently being given away through free parking permits?

Hilarious to conjure up aesthetic preservation when talking about on street car storage.


Previously, the spot in front of the proposed driveway was open for anyone's use. Now if anyone parks there they will be towed. So it's basically giving the homeowner the exclusive use of a section of street. The homeowner pays nothing to the city for that use.


The parking spot was open for anyone's use *with a free parking permit for the neighborhood

Again, the permit holders pay nothing to the city for that exclusive use of a valuable public asset. And judging by the street view images, there is quite a bit of demand for on street parking here.

Maybe it should be priced accordingly before residents can start acting entitled to it. But then again, the neighborhood association had no resistance so I don't know what point you're trying to make.

A parking permit won't ensure you get a spot, only that you won't get a ticket if you find one.

This guy basically has a "super" parking permit which always gives him that space that no one else can use. (Or multiple spaces, as other note.)

I don't care one way or another since I don't live nearby. And I agree the preservation part isn't valid. (Although drainage and non-permutable ground cover is a valid concern in the city.)

And believe me, I take issue with the precedent set here granting this variance. And I look at my own street in Brighton full of front yard parking (grandfathered in maybe?)

But the pushback from the OP on this thread that I responded to was about giveaways of valuable public assets, which we are already giving away for free.

Again it doesn't seem like an issue to the neighborhood association here, which does honestly shock me because parking concerns are typically weaponized in opposition to housing projects or bike infrastructure but I guess when its only 1 or 2 spots its not a concern.

Actually wait, that still puzzles me.

Per BTD guidelines "New driveways added at residential dwellings need to accommodate a minimum of two (2) vehicular spaces for every one (1) public on-street parking space that will be removed as a result of the new driveway. A new driveway accommodating three (3) vehicular spaces for every one (1) public on-street parking space is the preferred ratio."

Why is he being allowed one space? This is converting public space to private.

Because he got a variance. And the neighbors supported it.

Why is it the city's policy to increase the number of parking spaces anyway? I thought we're trying to make our city more walkable and transit-friendly.


This isn't the only residential curb cut in the City of Boston.

What a revolting development.

Ohm just kidding.


I see what you did there…

> […] she just wasn't amped up about the idea […]

…and there…

> […] Shockingly, he said, […]

…and there…

> […] Boston is not keeping current […]

…and also there:

> […] His plans […] got no resistance […]

I’m slightly disappointed that the article didn’t end with a comment about Ohm-improvements, or sign off with “that’s all, volts!”


He didn’t insulate himself from community input and was conductive to their feedback.


I truly applaud the author’s literary capacitance.

Did he offer the neighbor $17,000 worth of his beer? The wording just raises an eyebrow.


It’s really good beer. I would consider the offer…

I was guessing that he offered to pay for the entire driveway, maybe also landscaping around the new driveway, and any other changes that might be adjacent/related (new gate/fence for the neighbor, that sort of thing).

in Bitcoin.

It's a driveway. Putting the word 'mini' in front of it is just spin.


Why not just install a charger at his brewery and charge while at work? Looks like they have a parking lot.


They don’t have a parking lot. That belongs to the property next door.


1. That doesn't work that well on weekends; most people don't want to have to go into the office just to charge their car.
2. Depending on his daily work routine, he might not be at the brewery long enough on a regular basis to get a full charge.

Whereas, most people tend to be at their homes overnight and not using their car, so it's easy enough to leave it plugged in and charging.

He might not drive to work.

This is going to be the norm going forward. I need a driveway so I can charge the EV I might be buying down the road.

Looks to me that the ZBA just opened a can of worm by creating this precedent. Curb cuts for driveway are not benign; they make the street less pedestrian friendly and lead to the loss of public street parking space. From now on, anyone who wants a curb cut for off-street parking (all new cars will soon be electric) just needs to show up to the ZBA with the same argument.

This variance was granted to a rich white guy -if in doubt google Ocean St in Dorchester. Most people in the city are not rich white guys and if they get declined the same favor, they will be have a pretty discrimination claim.

On a block of single family homes, a curb cut isn’t such a big deal. Not too many pedestrians, and not too many cars will be using the curb cut.

Not so on the first block of Newbury Street.

What pisses me off is when the city allows towers downtown to have huge curb cuts and valet staging areas. This is a slap in the face to pedestrians: https://goo.gl/maps/ifkVnB8BVK4zvDz86

In our neighborhood in Cambridge, a few years ago, someone rigged up a charging wire that went over the sidewalk, 8 or 10 feet above it. As I recall, there was a pole attached to the fence on the property owner's side. I think they may have attached it loosely to a street tree next to the curb. No one complained and I thought it was pretty ingenious.

It hasn't been there in a while. I think they moved and the house was bought by someone else.

whats wrong with extention cords ?

I will trip on it and eat s***

adding a driveway to a street with no driveways is a hell of a lot more intrusive than figuring out a way to neatly run a wire across a sidewalk.

maybe the city should install an e.v. parking space in front of the house and charge to use it.

Yeah lol that will incentivize people to buy electric.

His mistake was to ask. You see paved over front yards all over Dorchester.

Hey Boston, Ever hear of a town called Melrose…

This will not be popular with home owners with driveways but I firmly believe that you should have to pay rent for curb cuts in dense areas. A curb cut is essentially a private parking spot/s for the owner of the unit because nobody else can park in what could otherwise be a parking spot. In addition sometimes these curb cuts are so close to each other they leave bits of curb that are too small to park in. By charging for the cuts the city could use those resources to pay for sidewalk creation/repair, transit options and possibly even electric infrastructure brought right to the street.

I have nothing against this guy getting his curb cut but he is obviously ahead of the curb (curve yeah yeah I know) on this one. There will be more, many more. The fairness question will come into affect. Why does he get it but not me. Why do you get a cut because you happened to buy a house with one?

A cut is permanently handing over public property to a private entity. I do not see the harm in extracting value from that resource via property tax attachments and using the funds to support a more walkable, livable community for everyone.

I think you could make an argument that a curb cut should be accounted for in tax valuations of a property. It does make your property more valuable, the same way a wider yard or whatever does.

Ultimately what would be better is if there were incentives and a legal structure to support land sharing in terms of curb cuts. This dude offered to support the costs of building a shared drive with his neighbor but that creates huge legal headaches, who owns what, whose responsibility is what, etc, etc, and a lot of people are going to be gun-shy about it. The city could try and catch these things at the building stage and ask developers to work together to cut down on cuts, sharing driveways, etc.

I would agree with that, maybe an automatic surcharge for curb cuts in land value that could be removed if you decide to cede it back to the city later.

I also like the idea of requiring new construction to coordinate. There are already laws around easements and shared access. I have seen so many homes that literally are only accessible through easement. All those former back yard lots that became homes come to mind. Many properties already share driveways by virtue of it always being that way. So I am sure they could take the laws around those and adapt it for more modern times.

I grew up in a house that had a shared easement between us and our neighbors, a small condo complex. Every so often they would get a new owner who would join the board and think we were parked on their property and would make threats to get us to stop using our land. My father would try to explain it to them but they would get upset and storm away. Ultimately they would finally end up at the city where it was explained to them that in fact 75 percent of that driveway belonged to my family and that they were technically on our land. My parents had agreed to grant an easement in exchange for their doing upkeep and matinece. of the space, some improvements on that side of our house and landscaping etc. Our parking was deeded to us because part of our car was on their land where as they just used our land to access their lot in the back. My parents still contributed to snow removal even though that was not required in the spirit of being good neighbors but they did not contribute to the HOA dues, which is what would set off the occasional new owner until they figured out my father had all the legal documents and that things only existed because we played nice twenty years earlier.

A property owner might be able to argue that a curb constitutes an uncompensated taking, in the sense that it prevents access to the property from the public realm. Not sure how any of this works out in court, but it may well be that the competing interests offset one another.

Personally, I'd like to see all public use of the street for storage or access to private property be monetized. If my neighbor can park for free on public property in front of her house, why should I pay to park to park my car on private property in my drive way? My response is that we should both pay.

The idea is not that you're paying to park your car on your property. It's that you're paying to essentially reserve the parking-spot sized chunk of sidewalk in front of your house for your exclusive use by converting it to a curb cut. If the curb cut wasn't there, that area would be a parking spot for general use by the general public and therefore arguably some kind of common good. Because nobody can park there now (since otherwise you wouldn't be able to get in-out of your driveway) it's now an only-you good.

That said, the fact all street parking in this city is free is insane. The city should charge some kind of nominal fee to at least cover the cost of administering the parking permits, AT MINIMUM. Somerville's system is really good - a reasonable yearly fee, plus extra fees if you want a limited use visitor pass.

I would argue that while both should pay , the person with the driveway should pay more because that is essentially a guaranteed spot. The curb cut makes it impossible for anyone else to park in it.

I could see how one could argue that it restricts access but it is not required access. Many homes are situated in areas that do not have curb cuts and they manage just fine.