The Zoning Board of Appeals last week was scheduled to hear requests from different developers to put up the same basic sort of building at four locations in East Boston: Condo buildings with four floors and nine condos - all with nine parking spaces, although developers differed on whether they'd put the spaces on the ground floor or in a basement garage.
During one of the hearings, board member Mark Erlich said he was struck by the similarity of offerings and wondered if it was more of a coincidence - like a conscious decision to avoid ten units, because that would trigger the city's affordable-housing requirement, that either 13% of a new building's units be sold at a reduced "affordable" price or the equivalent amount of money be given to a BPDA affordable-housing fund.
"We're sure seeing a lot of nine-unit proposals today," Erlich said. "I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that ten will trigger affordable housing. I'm sure its a total coincidence.'
"I'm absolutely with you," board Chairwoman Christine Araujo agreed.
Richard Lynds, attorney for the project before the board when Erlich began to muse, at 839 Saratoga St. in Orient Heights, politely took exception. He said the developer, Volnay Capital, has, in the past, proposed a nine-unit building in East Boston with one set aside as affordable, although he acknowledged the company was not planning anything "affordable" for the Saratoga Street site.
Details on the hearings:
214 Havre St.
1:03:19 in the video. Dalfior Development won permission to put up a four-story, nine-unit building by combining two lots, one vacant, the other home to a single-family house in "deplorable condition," according to Dalfior attorney Richard Lynds. Two of the condos will have three bedrooms, the rest two. The new building will have a nine-space garage. At the request of neighbors: No roof deck. The mayor's office and the office of City Councilor Lydia Edwards supported the proposal.
21 Lexington St.
1:19:05 in the video. Developer David Gradus won permission to combine two lots and raze a three-unit building to put up a four-story, nine unit building that would have a mansard roof and other features to fit into what his attorney Jeff Drago called "historic Eagle Hill." All the units would have two bedrooms. The building would have nine parking spaces on the first floor and three roof decks for use by owners of the units on the top floor.
The BPDA recommended the board reject the proposal without prejudice because it was too large for the new lot, but the mayor's office supported the proposal - while Edwards took no position. Rejection without prejudice would have let Gradus come back in less than a year with a different proposal had the board voted that way.
Araujo had no problems with the general proposal, but told Drago to have the architect come back with garage door that doesn't just look like a solid slab of wood. "Solid doors are not acceptable, he should pay attention to that," she said, noting this is not the first time the board has raised this issue with this particular architect. Drago said that should not be a problem during the design review BPDA planners will now give the proposal.
839 Saratoga St.
1:46:05 in the video. Volnay Capital wanted to tear down a two-story, two unit building and put up a four-story, nine unit building on the Orient Heights stretch of the road. The board approved only six units, however, after BTD said it did not feel the nine-space garage would work.
Member Edward Deveau, who lives nearby, said he was particularly concerned about the area becoming too dense. He noted a 230-unit building going in around the corner on Addison Street and said that the Volnay building and a proposed eight-unit building right next door would mean a total of 17 units where now there are just six.
Lynds said the proposal had been approved by the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council, a group he said subjects proposals to rigorous review and does not give its OK lightly.
116 Waldemar Ave.
Thomas Falcucci originally sought permission to combine two lots and raze one building to put up a four-floor, nine-unit building with nine parking spaces, but he asked for and was granted a deferral.
Other East Boston hearings
The board approved a new four-unit condo building at 61 Falcon St and a third-story addition to a building at 200 Falcon St.
A majority of the board voted in favor of turning a vacant lot at 14B Geneva St. into a four-unit condo building. The proposal got four yes votes and two no votes (Araujo and Joseph Ruggiero), which means it was rejected, because state zoning law requires at least five yes votes. One resident praised the developer for promising to pave Geneva Street, a private way that he said now approximates "the surface of the moon," but Araujo said such side deals are not zoning matters. The BPDA urged rejection because the building - which could have been only two units without requiring ZBA approval - was too large for the lot.