GSCA Majority Supports Geneva Street Project

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

A project at 12 Geneva Street, initially presented to the Gove Street Citizens Association (GSCA) in November, returned for its second presentation during a meeting with the association last week and was subsequently supported.

The project entails constructing a new four-story building with four units, all of which are intended for homeownership. Further, of the four units, there are slated to be three three-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit, and the sizes range from around 1,050 square feet to 1,231 square feet.

As part of the presentation, Attorney Richard Lynds walked through the anticipated zoning relief for the project. Under current zoning, the lot is in the multi-family residential (MFR) zoning subdistrict. It would need variances for minimum lot width, side yard, rear yard, floor area ratio, height, open space, and parking.

However, under zoning that has been proposed through PLAN: East Boston, which was adopted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board earlier this month and awaits adoption from the Boston Zoning Commission, the lot falls within a new zoning subdistrict East Boston Residential (EBR)-4.

Therefore, Lynds pointed out that the items listed previously, which require variances under current zoning, largely comply with the proposed zoning from PLAN: East Boston.

It should be noted that Lynds listed both the open space and parking requirements as facets of the project that would “to be determined” regarding their compliance with proposed zoning.

Specifically, he said they were “pretty confident” in terms of compliance with the open space requirement.

As for parking (zero proposed spots), Lynds asserted that only one space would be required under the proposed zoning. 

“We believe the interpretation under zoning will be one space, and the reason for that is under proposed zoning, the first three units — up to three units — does not require any off-street parking. It’s only when you get to four units that one space per unit is then required,” said Lynds.

“We believe that the intent of the code is that anything under four units does not require parking; it’s only the fourth unit that starts the parking requirements, and therefore, again, for the same reasons, we believe one parking space is all that’s necessary and that the city would prefer not to have access by way of either curb cut or off-street parking for one spot based upon its policy as articulated by the Boston Transportation Department,” he added.

Later, during the meeting, Sebastian Parra from City Councilor Gabriela Coletta’s office clarified the parking requirements under proposed zoning, which conflicted with Lynds’ interpretation. 

“I have spoken at length about this specific topic with the team at [the] BPDA for PLAN: East Boston, and they have explained to me that it is — starting at four exactly a one-to-one parking ratio, and I had them specifically mention that it was at four units you are required to have four parking spots,” said Parra.

In response, Lynds, in part, stated, “We go to purpose and intent of the code, and the intent of the code is to exempt the first three units from parking requirements and therefore just because we go to a fourth unit shouldn’t mean that we have to go to four parking spaces and we’ll have to argue that but that’s our position based upon past practice with parking interpretations.”

There were also several comments and questions about the project before the GSCA meeting ended. One primary concern from multiple attendees was the lack of parking proposed.

“A three-bedroom unit is more typically seeing three cars. To add this many units to the street, I don’t know where those cars are all going to park in a neighborhood that already is struggling for parking,” said one attendee.

“We need to stick to that; we need to stick together to prevent these buildings to just go up without these spots. At some point, it just doesn’t work,” said another attendee, referencing the parking requirements under proposed zoning.

Lynds also discussed the abutters’ meeting for the project and explained that the questions about parking during the GSCA meeting were similar to the abutters’ meeting. He also said that, for the most part, the building was “received.”

It should also be noted that an abutter confirmed concerns about parking during the abutters’ meeting and also brought up the point that there was some concern regarding the distance between buildings.

Ultimately, as previously mentioned, the GSCA supported the project by a vote of 10 to 5, and construction is predicted to begin this summer following a Zoning Board of Appeal hearing, BPDA design review, and permit issuance.

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