Neighborhood Board Deadlocks Over 3200 Washington St. Development

Over 60 people attended the June 17 Zoning Committee meeting

Richard Heath

Over 60 people attended June 17 Zoning Committee meeting, including Carolyn Royce and Reva Levine on the left.

In the end the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee was as divided as the rest of Egleston Square on the fate of 3200 Washington St.

At its Wednesday meeting the Committee voted 5-5 on a motion to deny approval of the largest development in Egleston Square history. (One member of the 11 in attendance was ineligible to vote).

Developers Dan Mangiacotti and Justin and Joseph Iantosca can now take that deadlocked vote together with what their attorney Joe Hanley said was “over a hundred-plus letters of support” to their regularly-scheduled Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on July 21.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee. Marie Turley, second from right. makes the point. "You've hit all the right JP buzzwords  affordability and open space,You've worked it very well"

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee. Marie Turley, second from right, makes the point, “You’ve hit all the right JP buzzwords, affordability and open space. You’ve worked it very well.”  Richard Heath photo.

It was a packed house of over 60 people. It included neighborhood services representative Julieanne Doherty, City Councilor Matt O’Malley, State Representative Liz Malia and staff from the office of State Senator Sonia Chang Díaz. After listening to over 90 minutes of public testimony, most of which was skeptical if not hostile to not only the development but the whole process.

A ‘Calculated Risk’

Zoning committe chair Dave Baron.

Richard Heath

Zoning Committee chair Dave Baron. I’m comfortable with the affordability.”

The developer’s decision to have a vote taken on Wednesday was a “calculated risk,” wrote Committee Chairperson Dave Baron to the Jamaica Plain News the day after the meeting.

“The Committee gave the applicants a chance to confer over whether they want to defer their July 21 ZBA date and be put on the agenda for a future community meeting with the Zoning Committee,” Baron wrote. “If they had elected to defer, there would have been no need for the Committee to take a vote at last night’s meeting, since the ZBA date was being postponed. Usually, a zoning applicant would rather defer their ZBA date than have the Zoning Committee (and the JPNC in most cases) vote to recommend denial of their requested variances. But this applicant took a calculated risk either that the Committee would not ultimately vote to recommend denial (as in fact happened, since the vote was deadlocked) or perhaps that they could prevail at the ZBA even with JPNC/neighborhood opposition.”

Or, in the words of one participant after the meeting, “The developers called the committee’s bluff.”

Strictly speaking, the development team requires only two zoning variances, but they are significant ones:

1) Change the  zoning designation from light industrial to residential

2) Greatly increase the height restriction

Affordability Dominates Conversation

Height was of significant concern, but affordability – which is not in the zoning code – dominated the conversation.

Attorney Joseph Hanley, representing the development team, was brimming with pride over the affordability of 3200 Washington St.

“We have 50 percent open space. We have robust affordability,” he said. “Twelve on site and 6 at 52 Montebello Road. This is the most progressive plan of affordability in Jamaica Plain. It will set a  record.”

Hanley pointed to the “hundreds of letters of support from Jamaica Plain residents.”

Affordable Housing Egleston States its long held position

Richard Heath

Affordable Housing Egleston States its long held position: 100% affordability.

Yet the number of affordable units- itself based only on the city’s requirement of making homes available to those earning 70 percent of the Area Median Income – is based on property that Mangiacotti/Iantosca do not own: 52 Montebello Road. Their affordability number of 18 units out of 76 is entirely dependent on getting designation of the abutting city-owned, foreclosed  six-family house. And the first public hearing to review the two proposals received is scheduled for July 1.

But Hanley said his team is highly competitive.

“There are two proposals,” Hanley said. “One is for 100 percent affordability that we propose to develop in partnership with [Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp.] and the other is condominiums at 80 percent AMI.”

Hanley may have been confident but Malia was not.

“That egg hasn’t hatched yet,” the longtime JP state representative said. “There is not enough time to resolve [our] real concern which is that 3200 Washington Street is contingent on 52 Montebello Road.”

Malia recommended that 3200 Washington St. not be approved until 52 Montebello Road is designated.

Zoning committee member Kevin Leary asked, “is there another side? I’m not opposed to this. A lot of work has gone into this development. My concern is if you do not get 52 Montebello Road.”

He suggested  a motion that approved 3200 Washington St. contingent on the development  team  getting control of 52 Montebelo Road. The motion failed.

3200 Washington Street as proposed. Looking south.

RODE Architects

3200 Washington Street as proposed. Looking south.

‘Like Boylston Street at Fenway Park’

Zoning committee member Kevin Moloney made a motion which was quickly seconded to deny the applicant.  The votes were counted and it was deadlocked 5-5.

Speaking to Jamaica Plain News the next day, Moloney said he was “concerned about two issues:  control of 52 Montebello Road, which they may never get, and secondly this thing is too high. Seven stories sets a bad precedent.”

The deadlocked vote he said “was too bad.”

“Washington Street is going to look like Boylston Street at Fenway Park,” Moloney said at the meeting, “with tall buildings flush against the sidewalk.”

During the discussion period, Moloney asked, “What would happen to the affordability analysis if you don’t get 52 Montebello? What’s your back up plan?”

Hanley said “we’re hoping to get 52 Montebello”  but “there is no back up plan. We can work more units into the site. We need very substantial variances on a tall building. We have faith in our development, though. This is the best site on Washington Street.”

Baron said he thought the affordability of the development was good.

“Height is the issue,” Baron said. “We have heard so much about height. So many letters. Could you make it six stories?”

Boylston Place resident Amy Tyson said, “This does not displace anyone…the height is a great precedent.”

Business Group Supports Project

The Washington Street business group representative said, “We are 100 percent in support of this project.”

Tim Reardon, who is on the board of the Egleston Square Main Streets and a member of the Egleston Square Neighborhood Association housing committee urged everyone to “evaluate this development on its merits. Main Streets is comfortable with the height. It casts no shadows on its neighbors. The benefits [will be] additional shoppers and class A businesses.”

Joe Fallon from Cornwall Street said, “This is the biggest, most positive investment [in Egleston Square] in 50 years. I moved here consciously [ because] of the people with deep roots who have a lot of affordable housing. These is a lot of affordable housing and group homes. We have enough of that right now. This [3200 Washington St.] will preserve that demographic. Section 8 people are friends of mine. This development will make the area a lot safer.”

Zoning Committee member Bernie Doherty. " This is NOT affordable'"

Richard Heath

Zoning Committee member Bernie Doherty. “This is NOT affordable.”

The owner of the business block that houses Video Underground, opposite E+J Auto said “We have a building of mom-and-pop stores. We really welcome this development. It is good for the whole of Jamaica Plain. It will bring vitality to all the businesses.”

Hanley said that “this is a rental development. There is a major need for rental in Egleston Square.”

Zoning committee member Bernie Doherty said, “I grew up on Iffley Road. I lived there until I was 20.”  It was good for working people then, he said. “Define affordability? What are your rents” he asked.

Rents Would Range From $1,400 to $2,400

Justin Iantosca explains the rental structure for 3200 Washington Street

Richard Heath

Justin Iantosca explains the rental structure for 3200 Washington Street

Justin Iantosca said that “75 percent of the rental units will be market rate.” Based on 2015 figures he said “the monthly rents at 3200 Washington St will be $1,400 for a studio, $1,600 for a one-bedroom, $1,900 for a two-bedroom and $2,400 for a three-bedroom apartment.”

He added he could not find any studio or one-bedroom apartments listed in Egleston Square.

“This is not affordable,” said Doherty. “You can’t say these are affordable rents for working people. This is before they pay utilities and everything else. Bring those rents down.”

Hanley defended the development team as keeping more than the mayor’s required number of units at  70 percent of AMI.

Kevin Deabler architect of RODE Architects describes the floor plan and sidewalk width of his design.

Kevin Deabler architect of RODE Architects describes the floor plan and sidewalk width of his design.

“The city requirements are not enough,” said Sarah Horsely. “65% percent is over the Boston median income. The average wage of renters is $37,000.”

George Lee of Affordable Housing Egleston held up the guidebook for the planned Walker Apartments on  Walnut Park.

“These [49] units are 100 percent affordable,” said Lee. “If Urban Edge can do this you can do the same thing.”

Alvin Shiggs of Olmsted Street, an Impact Advisory Group member for 3200 Washington St., said “this is the first time we have heard about rents. These rents will have a heavy implications on the rest of the community. We will have an upper middle class largely white community who will demand ‘I am here. Please change.'”

‘Egleston Square is Already a Place’

Helen Matthews of Green Street took issue with the opening remarks of architect Kevin Deabler of RODE Architects, the designer of 3200 Washington St.  He said that what his firm has designed is “the pinnacle of transit oriented development [to] live and work…a place-making opportunity.”

Helen Matthews "Egleston Square is already a place"

Helen Matthews “Egleston Square is already a place.”

“This is not a place-making development,” said Matthews. “Egleston Square is already a place.”

In the end the debate about 3200 Washington St. came down to precedent.

To Joe Hanley, representing the Mangiacotti/Iantosca team, it sets the precedent of housing affordability that “will revitalize a unique piece of property in Egleston Square.”

To Chilcott Place resident Dan Thomas 3200 Washington St. sets a precedent of “being the first of a set of big buildings down Washington Street… a totally insulated internalized development. All eyes are on Egleston Square, waiting to see what this development will look like.”

For all Jamaica Plain News coverage of 3200 Washington St., please visit this link.

Ground Zero Montebello and Washington Street. The developers call this Montebello Crossing. Neighbor Rita Levine scoffed "Nobody calls this Montebello Crossing but you".

Ground Zero. Montebello and Washington Street. The developers call this “Montebello Crossing”. Forest Hills Street neighbor Reva Levine, scoffed. “Nobody calls this Montebello Crossing but you.”

  • OhPatrick

    I agree, height is an issue – it should be taller! We need as many new units, both affordable and market-rate, as we can get! Boylston street in Fenway has great urban design. We should welcome similar developments with open arms and ask for more.

  • Eric Herot

    Agreed on the height. Also, rent is what the market will bear. You cannot simply demand that a landlord rent for less or what you end up with is waiting lists and lotteries. You want lower rents? Let people build more apartments. Several multi-bedroom apartments were lopped off the top of this building in order to reduce its “massing.” You want to know where our housing shortage comes from? This is it.

    • bminboston

      This city DESPERATELY needs more units, ten years ago. Folks arguing that we should stifle housing supply because it is too expensive ought to be instantly dismissed, and sent back to the 9th-grade for a quick lesson on supply and demand.

      • Eric Herot

        State Rep. Liz Malia herself tried to make that case to me in person at the first public meeting for 3200 Washington Street.

        It goes something like this: When new units come on the market, they’re priced higher than the neighborhood average, which sets a new precedent, which attracts more “luxury developers” to the neighborhood, who then build condos that they rent for even more money. She completely dismissed the notion that we could ever have enough supply to force landlords to compete on price.

        • JamaicaPlainNews

          Thanks for the insight, Eric. Our writer Richard Heath recently did a column on the “build our way out” thesis: http://www.jamaicaplainnews.com/2015/05/17/will-more-housing-really-lower-rents-prove-it-mr-mayor/9933

        • FartFace

          Craigslist is showing just two or three 1-bedroom rentals in JP that are under $1600 right now. They are, shall we say, decidedly un-luxurious. If we could get developers building modern apartments at that price point, it would be a great improvement over what we have now, which is basically nothing.

          • Sally

            My thought exactly. These prices seemed very comparable to the current market–not a leap at all, and that was from just a quick CL scan which doesn’t tend to list the more luxurious, attractive apartments. I’m also liking that the parking will be leased so that if you don’t have a car, you’re not paying for that extra cost, since the area really is very transit-oriented.

        • bminboston

          When every narrow local concern, from Copley, to JP, to Dorchester shuts down new housing, due to concerns from local abutters, the city gets no more housing. This is what happens when you have no Master Plan for the city. At some point, concern for the city as a whole needs to prevail, or do we want San Francisco? (We are nearly there.)

        • Lisa Marie Garver

          Yes, when landlords compete, then people who are renter get the raw end of the stick. My dead-beat landlord gets a bonus for nothing.

          • Eric Herot

            On the contrary, this happens precisely because there is no competition among landlords, and thus nowhere else for you to go if your landlord screws you over.

    • bminboston

      Good point, Eric. But remember, we already have waiting lists and “lotteries” for rental properties. As soon as an apartment goes up for rent, you have a line of 10 – 20 hard working people or couples filling out applications and crossing their fingers. This city is ridiculous, and we need thousands more units built as quickly as possible. Recently three more of my friends, all highly educated assets to the city, have decided to quit Boston completely, and are moving to the midwest, where life is affordable. When is this going to end?

    • Lisa Marie Garver

      I live RIGHT BY Eggleston Square and my 3 bedroom APT is being raised from 1950 to 2150. This is ALL because “the market will bear” regardless of the fact that this apartment is not well kept by my landlord and has numerous problems including mice.

      There are a lot more factors to consider other than “markets” when talking about PEOPLE and communities. We have enough rich people in JP. Stop pushing low-income people out. These people include minorities, artists, activists, and families that WORK in jobs that don’t pay enough.

      People!! JP is a great market because of its LIVELY NESS and its CULTURE. Its not just accessibility. Yes its also the green space. Yes its also the fact that some of the people who develop here are wealthy. But as you buy out all the mom & pops and flip all the houses like mine.

      Its not a problem for wealthy or middle income people. They can live wherever they want. They have cars.

      Low-income and homeless people are a MUCH MORE important and vulnerable portion of our population and frankly, if you think getting rid of us will make your lives better then you are clearly mistaken.

      Assuming that putting condos in Eggleston is gonna lower crime?? WOW. Thats classist and arrogant and disgusting.

      • Sally

        But so if the proposed rent for a three-bedroom in this place–brand new, clean, no mice–is $2400 and your landlord wants to charge you $2150 (and this is present-day) then doesn’t that put the pressure on HIM to get his act together? What I’m really saying is that Washington Street has barely changed in all the time I’ve lived here but rents have gone through the roof; condo prices have gone nuts, and there are fewer and fewer units to rent. Not doing anything isn’t going to halt rising prices. Creating more housing–and again this development puts 18 affordable units in the neighborhood–is the only way to keep any kind of balance here.

        • Lisa Marie Garver

          No.

          The reasoning he has for raising this rent is simply that “the market will bear” it.

          Creating more housing is great but calling a 14 K studio affordable is just not a fact.

          • Sally

            My point is that “the market will bear it” NOW–without any new development, with an empty building sitting there (and it is empty–no artists, no anybody, ditto the six-family on Montebello–though if you went to the meeting at the Y you must have heard the woman who lives behind it talk about the guys who use it to drink, shoot drugs and fire off guns). Stopping this spot from being developed is NOT going to make your current rent go down. It’s not going to make the $700-800k condos on Amory and Ophir go away. The rents at that new building in Jackson are way higher than these though there are no studios there (studios are pretty much impossible to find in JP and Roxbury and always insanely overpriced).

          • Lisa Marie Garver

            Exactly and A: that building looks like a vacant lot at best and B: Doesn’t improve the neighborhood in anyway shape or form.

            HOWEVER, if the developer of that particular building had considered the neighborhood and added more to its climate rather than trying to insert some bougie high-rise for up-and coming yuppies that can’t afford to live downtown– it would be a LOT more successful.

            Here is an important thing that I want to note about myself:

            I came to JP for three reasons.

            1. I got a job nearby.

            2. I love everything about it.

            3. I got incredibly lucky.

            It has nothing to do with “low crime”

            or even the commute into Boston Proper. Frankly, now that I live in JP I rarely go there.

            I say this because there is a difference between being a bougie yuppie full of ignorance that wants a high-rise and doesn’t give a damn about the true beauty of JP.

            POINT BLANK: if you do NOT care about the beauty of the class/ethinic/lifestyle diversity in JP you DO NOT deserve to live in such an amazing place.

            I don’t have a problem with building stuff. I have a problem with flattening old buildings in thriving communities to put in new ones for yuppies to try and take over.

            DID WE NOT LEARN FROM THE SOUTH END??

            Call your friends in Somerville. Ask them how their development is going.

            Ask the people of THE PORT what they think about how they were rezoned and forgotten.

            http://www2.cambridgema.gov/Historic/oralhist_home.html

            If JP loses its some 33 percent hispanic population, it will lose its beauty.

            I love that at my job I get to practice my horrible Spanish, or try to learn Kreyol or Russian.

            I love that almost an equal amount of dark skinned people come in as light skinned.

            If you want to develop, Work WITH the community. Invest in the locals.

            Cash in on that culture. Don’t destroy this beautiful place. Because that IS the exact reason why people are coming here.

            also note: there was a shooting next to my house and I hear all of those target practice guns.

            I would rather work in the community to help give those people jobs and/or pathways to further education. Or at least help them find a better gun range.

      • FartFace

        Did you grow up in JP? Are you just trying to stay in the community in which you were raised? If not, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. You are part of the wave of demand for housing in JP that is causing rents to rise. Do you realize that?

  • Hugo_JP

    Sadly, par for the course. Better to keep the aging industrial building vacant so vagrants have a place to loiter.

    • Lisa Marie Garver

      Actually a lot of those buildings are refurbished and have artists and other organizations IN them. What some people call “ugly” is not “ugly” to everyone.

      • Hugo_JP

        I know that and I love the old industrial buildings in JP that have been re-purposed for some new use instead of being torn down. From what I know, 3200 Washington is vacant and not being used.

        • Erik

          The proposed development would span 3200 Washington (which is vacant, and the building is starting to fall apart) as well as the auto repair shop next door. Speaking as an immediate neighbor (I’m on Montebello), a large mixed-use facility would be an improvement over both existing structures. If 52 Montebello is also remediated as part of the project, so much the better.

          • Lisa Marie Garver

            Sorry but what exactly do you think “mixed use” means?

            And btw. I live right by Montebello. As I said before I can think of a million better uses. I love the culture as IS on Washington Street. I would love if we would invest in THAT lively hood rather that impressing some tastless modern monstrosity, AGAIn for wealthy people.

            I don’t mind people fixing up a place and especially if it is truly multi use and adding to the community. But as far as I have read both this and the proposed development on Amory are just attracting rich white yups.(young urban professionals).

  • Lisa Marie Garver

    Thanks so much for posting all the arguments!! This is not affordable at ALL for MANY of the people who WORK in JP. It’s so tragic that people who come to JP for the diverse community don’t understand that by making more and more expensive developments you are pushing out the people who make this place diverse.

    • FartFace

      Your economic naivety is cute, but let’s be real. People come to JP for the refurbished Victorians, green space, yuppy retail stores and restaurants, proximity to public transit, bargain prices compared to the South End and Brookline, and low crime compared to Roxbury and Dorchester. Nobody is going to subsidize the rent of self-proclaimed “diverse, lively, cultural” people.

  • Lisa Marie Garver

    “Alvin Shiggs of Olmsted Street, an Impact Advisory Group member for 3200 Washington St., said “this is the first time we have heard about rents. These rents will have a heavy implications on the rest of the community. We will have an upper middle class largely white community who will demand ‘I am here. Please change”

    *sigh* its already begun.

    If you can’t come here and say “I am here because I am lucky and I love it” GO TO BRIGHTON/BROOKLINE/NEWTON/QUINCY etc.