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Board rejects attic living space in West Roxbury house after neighbors warn it would ruin the area

The Zoning Board of Appeals today rejected a proposal by the owners of what is now legally a two-family house at 133-135 Clement Ave., near Park Street, to turn their attic into a studio apartment.

The board rejected the proposal without prejudice, which means owners Patrick Ciapciak and Ashley Brede can file another request for approval - if they can somehow convince neighbors to back them.

At a board hearing this morning, Ciapciak said the attic was already being used as a living space when he and Brede bought the house in 2016.

But nearby residents said formally allowing a three-unit house in an area of one- and two-family houses would lead other residents to add additional units and that would mean "changing the fabric of our community," West Roxbury Neighborhood Council member Judy Settana said.

Another resident, who emphasized he has lived there "for nearly 80 years," warned, without providing any specific evidence, that the couple would sell off the house as three separate units and leave the neighborhood as soon as they finished their current studies, one at law school, one at dental school.

Other residents said Clement Avenue and Stratford Street are already overwhelmed with traffic from parishioners at three local churches, people using the Highland stop on the Needham Line and people picking up food at a food bank at one of the churches.

Ciapciak, however, said the house has a large enough driveway for three cars, so the extra unit would not exacerbate parking issues.

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Comments

I'm curious why the owners attempted to permit it as an apartment and not an ADU

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Voting closed 17

Just speculating but Boston's new ADU rules are pretty stringent code-wise. Trying first to get a permanent code variance to convert change of occupancy from a 2 to 3-family building is the smarter play. Better to have the home zoned as a 3-family for potential resale value down the line, where an ADU designation is lost if the building is no longer owner-occupied, for one. Now that the owners lost out on the variance bid, they should go the ADU route and will probably get it.

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Voting closed 12

Set it up as an Air BnB. Since it isn't legally a separate unit, it is passable under city ordinance.

Then wait for the lowing and braying to start over that!

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Voting closed 17

I got the whole top floor of a mansion in the Berkshire's for 150 per night. 3 bedrooms, and lots of open space. the non kitchen was just electric appliances, but I didn't need more. Really if you are just spending a couple days, all you need is coffee and a fridge.

I do think that having the owner on site would solve all of my concerns as a neighbor. And I would prefer full apartments be rented out. The cheaper motels are all shelters now.

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Voting closed 8

The quickest and best fix for the housing crisis is for the state to ban single family zoning and prohibit towns from putting restrictions on the minimal size of units, driveways, etc.

No, it won't change the "fabric" of a community, whatever the hell that means. It will add thousands of units that require little construction.

This is the fix, not spending hundreds of millions on "affordable" housing.

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Voting closed 84

If you want to live with people under young on top of take your socialist attitudes and move to Shanghai. You don't know anything about our neighborhood except you don't like.

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Voting closed 10

That was ... illiterate!

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Voting closed 14

Prohibit restrictions on minimum unit sizes?
.
No.
There has to be reasonable regulatory minimum sizes. Otherwise, when you get into a real high demand situation, an owners' market, there is nothing to prevent landlords from subdividing spaces to a ridiculous degree.

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Voting closed 14

A legal apartment needs to have two exterior exits, a kitchen with a fridge, stove, etc., and a bathroom with a shower. You really can't keep subdiving and still have these things.

Small, cheap apartments in previously one family houses are great for allowing people to stay in the city.

Anyway, the laws on new construction still hold. There are still limits on setback and building height.

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Voting closed 18


A legal apartment needs to have two exterior exits, a kitchen with a fridge, stove, etc., and a bathroom with a shower. You really can't keep subdiving and still have these things.

I didn't say anything about not making small units. I mentioned "reasonable regulatory minimums" - the kind of things determined in part by essential features and the space they require.
..and if you think landlords won't subdivide below "reasonable minimum" or "essential", then I would say you have insufficient experience of landlords.

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Voting closed 6

The trouble is people have extremely different ideas about what constitutes a "reasonable regulatory minimum." Plenty of people I've met at meetings think that a 400 square foot studio apartment is "crazy." Meanwhile my second apartment in Boston was a 700 square foot 2-bedroom that I shared with my girlfriend and a roommate. And I thought that was spacious because it was so much bigger than my first apartment! It certainly didn't feel cramped to me at the time.

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Voting closed 5

People think that 400 SF is crazy?
Crazy which way? That they can't imagine anybody living in that little or that they think it's too big?
.
Personally, I don't think I'd want to go much lower than 400 SF for an "apartment".
My wife and I - our first 1 BR apartment was something like 540 SF. Our second apartment - 2 BR - was about 760 SF.

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Voting closed 4

Definitely that they think it's too small. "Inhumane" they say. I don't think I could live in an apartment that small *today* but for a younger version of myself (with less stuff and less going on in my life) it would have been more than enough.

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Voting closed 3

Yurts

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These are gracious homes with original pocket doors and maids bells in the walls. Perfect for establishing condos and much needed housing. Homeownership in Boston is high taxes

Mrs.Settana could get a different perspective if she visited other Boston neighborhoods even though she gets the food bank and many blessing of the animal rituals across from her home. Be thankful the churches are community driven. A frail line emulating between the have and have nots.

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Voting closed 7

I'd love to see rooming houses allowed back in the city, legally

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Voting closed 7

Here in Fields Corner, the owner of two 2-family houses near me simply renovated the basements and attics and turned them both into 4-family houses. No neighborhood meetings and no permits. The basement of one of these houses appears to be a rooming house.
Neighbors have contacted inflectional services, filed 311 complaints, called the city, written letters to councilors, the mayor, and the head of ISD.
Nothing has changed, except more cars and vans (the owner owns a company so he and his workers park on the street), more noise, more trash on the street, more overflowing trash cans, and rats (seen around their overflowing trash cans)

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Voting closed 39

They should get additional trash cans to handle the additional trash, obvs, but adding the extra apartments is good actually, and should be doable by right without a ton of expensive time consuming meetings and begging for zba approval and legal wrangling.

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Voting closed 21

More trash cans will solve all problems.

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Voting closed 7

Inspectional Services (ISD) in Dorchester does not respond at all since early December. We have several projects in standstill and many calls into ISD go unreturned. No wonder they chose to build without permits, you file permit you stand still.

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Voting closed 20

Maybe the health and human services could be a choice to navigate. They know the parameters for this.

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Voting closed 5

Curious...

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Voting closed 7

Building without proper permits and then applying for them afterwards is standard for some contractors in Boston. Same goes when a variance is needed. The work is performed, a hearing is set up with ZBA. Neighbors don’t realize what has happened. Even if you attend a hearing and it’s postponed, it is not the procedure to send a second notice to the abutters. Doubt this has changed since my experience.

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Voting closed 2

It would be extremely rare indeed to start work on a project needing a variance before getting the variance. First of all, things generally need these variances in order to achieve a certain layout. If they failed to get the variance it would often mean starting the project over again AND paying to remove whatever it was you did without permission. On top of that it would definitely not play well at ZBA to say that you had already started work in anticipation of a yes vote from the ZBA.

More common is people starting work AFTER a yes vote from the ZBA but before the permit is officially issued.

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Voting closed 2

C’mon man, you have to actually live somewhere 80 years before you get a say. This is West Roxbury.

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Voting closed 40

The gall of these people to think they should be telling others what to do with their property. These old people paid nothing for their houses and are gonna make a boatload when they sell so you’d think they wouldn’t be such miserable old turds. These new residents, on the other hand, had to pay a ton and it’s the fault of these old anti development nuts.

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Voting closed 74

who worked hard all their lives and paid their mortgages and helped make the community a great place to live say anything about wanting to keep the community a wonderful place. The nerve! And the new residents, who were forced to pay a ton to live in that wonderful community because they couldn't possibly have chosen another community in which to live should by all means have the right to ruin the community in any way they see fit.

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Voting closed 73

How on Earth does converting a shared living space into a proper apartment "ruin" a neighborhood?

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Voting closed 78

just never ends with West Roxbury residents and their resistance to change. Even little changes that don't affect them directly.

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Voting closed 34

It's most towns. The same affect in Brighton,Newton,Dorchester and of course Beacon Hill.The monstross building at Suffolk downs through Malden and Everett will be a bullseye for commuters.

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Voting closed 3

One might think that knowing how to mind their own goddamn business would have been something they would have learned by now - possibly the hard way.

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Voting closed 20

Not sure where you come from but when those houses were bought, they cost more than "nothing"

In fact it was quite expensive for the time. You seem angry they will stand to make a good profit, not sure why.

Your post sounds ageist and you sound like a miserable turd. Try to do better.

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Voting closed 40

According to public records, the current owners paid, in 2016, approximately 50 times what the house cost in 1956, compared with inflation of just under 9x. 40-70 years ago, a house was a large purchase that could be made by just about anyone with a steady income (red-lining notwithstanding). Now, not so much.

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Voting closed 35

I guess I am who you are thinking of when you paint your fantasy picture of old people. I did buy my 126 year old house 35 years ago at a price lower than the probable price today. The down payment and mortgage, interest, and taxes over 30 years consumed a very large portion of my income and savings. I also spent a lot of money for a new roof, electrical upgrade, painting, and numerous repairs. And there's plenty I didn't do because the cost is too high. I worked long hours to make the money to pay for everything.
I could theoretically sell for a "lot of money", but I could not afford any property or condo that I am aware of in my neighborhood, or anywhere in my city. So I'm staying here.
I live in a neighborhood of 1, 2, and 3 family houses. I've seen single family houses cut up into condos, usually 2 or 3. I have supported 2 single family to multiple condo conversions on my street. But if I didn't, I have the right to object, as do ALL the abutters and residents, regardless of whether they are young or old.
Your lack of respect for "old people" is really a lack of respect for all people . I don't know where you live but if there is additional development next to you, I respect your right to an opinion. You should respect my right to an opinion too.

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Voting closed 67

Well, that certainly gives you the right to tell your neighbors what they're allowed to do with their houses.

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Voting closed 25

And that roof is cheap and dreadful.

Is this the neighborhood you want to see?

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Voting closed 19

Psst, let's invite co-housing concept. I am a candidate and respect property, boundaries and diversification. I enjoy making the curb appeal and creating a home and not a museum. Looking forward to a new experience.

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Voting closed 6

The new residents chose to pay a ton. The old timers chose to live in an area that wasn't that popular. No one had to do anything.

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Voting closed 7

People gotta live where the jobs are. This kinda limits their freedom to go find cheaper housing elsewhere.

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Voting closed 5

But we still have choices. You know that if you want to work Downtown that transportation is going to be an issue. In the end you need to do what you want to do and what makes you happy. But there is a point where lines and decisions need to be made.

Just because you love being a cycle instructor at SoulCycle in the Seaport, doesn't mean we have to ban single family houses in West Roxbury because you want to live in a nice affordable 2 bedroom condo there with no parking spaces.

But to your point there are others who have a limited job market, and might need a job downtown because that pays the most but you still make minimum wage. Those are the people I feel for, but get the feeling that the people complaining have more options and choices on where they can work (and then live)

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Voting closed 7

Can also typically just pay higher rents etc and thus push out the people who don't have many choices. And that's always going to happen unless we increase the housing supply within the city so that there's actually room for both people who need to live there and people who maybe only just want to live there but are able to afford it over the first group.

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Voting closed 9

Exactly. If the only job you are qualified to do is "Soul Cycle spin instructor" then you are absolutely dependent on more housing being made available near transit. Especially because the alternative is that those wealthier people with more options show up and outbid you for the house you already live in (and you get displaced).

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Voting closed 5

I used that example because the cycle instructor is doing something they love, but also wants the City to provide more housing for them (by eliminating single family zoning laws in West Roxbury).

In the end the spin instructor is choosing to work here, and can't choose to buy the 80 year olds expensive house in WR at 900K, but could afford one of the 6 condos on the 80 year olds property for 500K. The spin instructor can also choose to make more money managing an Applebees in Milford. The janitor at One International Place might not be able to make the same money working as a Janitor at the Applebees in Milford.

I'm just pointing out two examples of people who I think make up a good chunk of people who work in Boston. We need to change the system/zoning laws so there is more housing for janitors, we don't need to change the zoning laws so there is more housing for spin instructors.

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Voting closed 8

Okay great, so can we talk about eliminating single family zoning to benefit the janitor instead? Or maybe so that no one has to commute to Milford, as that would almost certainly result in more driving (which we also don't want to encourage)?

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Voting closed 7

I'm saying that we don't have to destroy building codes just because everyone wants to live and work in Boston. And we wouldn't have to if it were only the janitors that we were looking for housing for. But along with janitors we have spin instructors, and all sorts of other people who don't need to work here but want to work here.

I've been against eliminating single family zoning since I saw Dr. Zhivago or the first time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq__Z-Z_Ofs

I'm not opposed to change, and would probably make a lot of money if you eliminated a lot of these zoning rules, but I like having a Dover, and a West Roxbury, and a Milford, and a North End, and all the parks and green spaces and golf courses that go with them.

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Voting closed 4

Yep. Screw those other 12 families right?

And we're not talking about building codes here. We're talking about zoning. One is for safety, the other is for "neighborhood character." They are not the same thing at all.

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Voting closed 6

Well I guess the Mayor’s Housing 2030 plan doesn’t apply to West Roxbury. ZBA is approving units left and right all over the city but this attic apartment would somehow hurt the neighborhood.

Guess ZBA didn’t get the memo about the City’s Additional Dwelling Unit program. https://www.boston.gov/housing/additional-dwelling-units

Would be interesting to see the stats on many new units have been created there since 2013 compared to the rest of the city.

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Voting closed 22

Westie gonna Westie.

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Doesn't the city have a policy to promote exactly this kind of project? https://www.boston.gov/housing/additional-dwelling-units

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Voting closed 24

Amazing to see the City make decisions like this while also talking about a housing *crisis*

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Voting closed 32

This doesn’t even make sense. Not even remotely.

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Voting closed 12

Ya got trouble right here in West Rox city...

The first big step on the road
To the depths of deg-ra-Day--
I say, first, medicinal wine from a teaspoon,
Then beer from a bottle.
An' the next thing ya know,
Your son is playin' for money
In a pinch-back suit.
And list'nin to some big out-a-town Jasper
Hearin' him tell about horse-race gamblin'.
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no!
But a race where they set down right on the horse!

Let them do legally what was already being done and soon you'll have 3-family houses instead of 2-family, then apartment buildings, then skyscrapers, then...

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Voting closed 7

West Roxbury needs a boys’ band, and I mean she needs it today!

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Voting closed 5

Living in West Roxbury is a PERILOUS existence. We are constantly teetering on the precipice, in fear of the next potential, HORRIBLE INJUSTICE that will push our neighborhood over the edge into RUIN.

What will the next potential DEMISE OF WEST ROXBURY be? Removal of a free street parking spot? We must remain ever-vigilant in order to preserve the time-honored, CRANKY, OLD, NIMBY "fabric of our community".

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Voting closed 51

Ciapciak, however, said the house has a large enough driveway for three cars, so the extra unit would not exacerbate parking issues.

Everybody knows that a three-unit building would require at least fifteen parking spaces.

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Voting closed 24

I think only city councilors are allowed to have 5 cars per unit. (Or maybe that only applies to Southie.)

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Voting closed 16

Did he chant "these are my streets dammit!" while telling the neighbors to get out? WR....still holding on to not wanting change...lol. As for the traffic excuse in that area? Total BS.

I wonder if he supports bike lanes and train infrastructure since he's so concerned about traffic ;)

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Voting closed 14

You should have a NIMBYism tag for this and other articles.

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Voting closed 18

Another resident, who emphasized he has lived there "for nearly 80 years," warned, without providing any specific evidence, that the couple would sell off the house as three separate units and leave the neighborhood as soon as they finished their current studies, one at law school, one at dental school.

Other residents said Clement Avenue and Stratford Street are already overwhelmed with traffic from parishioners at three local churches, people using the Highland stop on the Needham Line and people picking up food at a food bank at one of the churches.

Unless they are pursuing advanced degrees, pious, commuting or in need of assistance from the food bank.

Sheesh...if this is how they view their community, maybe that community fabric is in need of changing...

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Voting closed 24

OK, there probably IS more traffic and parking today than there was years ago, but I'd wager that those 3 churches and the train tracks were all there when those houses were built.

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Voting closed 12