The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee held a very well attended meeting on January 22, where neighbors packed the room to discuss issues they had with several projects on the agenda.
387-399 Centre St.
First on the agenda was 387-399 Centre St., at which the project proponents want to convert an existing beauty salon into a piercing studio, which the piercing studio team said has 30 signatures of support.
There are two other body art studios in the neighborhood, and the team said they ave 18 years of experience with body piercing in Providence, Rhode Island. The team proposed to make changes to the facade, including removing the metal grating, painting, and redoing the exterior lighting.
The issue at the meeting was not with the proposal itself, but with a dispute between the body piercing team, the hair salon owner, and the landlord of the building.
The owner of the hair salon, called Beauty Master, is Saul Cifuntes, who said he has operated that salon for 15 years. He said that the owner of the building increased the rent and “didn’t come clear to me with a new lease,” asking him to “take it or leave it.” He said he has signa-tures from his customers and neighbors supporting him, and a dozen or more people came to the meeting in support of him as well.
The piercing team said they had a private meeting with the landlord, Lindsey Santana from the Mayor’s Office, and Cifuntes “under the impression that this matter was settled.” They said they have signed a lease and paid first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. They also said they applied for the space after seeing a “For Lease” sign in the winder in late June or July of last year.
“I think someone should be paying attention to this and doing something about this, but what are we supposed to do about it?” David Baron, Chair of the JPNC Zoning Committee, said. He said this was an issue involving a landlord and a displacement of a business, and is not really a matter to be decided upon by the Zoning Committee.
“I don’t want to recommend a denial on something that has nothing to do with this tenant and this business, but on the other hand why is this happening?” he continued, referring to Ci-funtes showing up to the meeting “feeling like [he] got a raw deal.”
Santana confirmed that after the abutters meeting, she met with Cifuntes, the piercing team, and the landlord, but she was unsure if Cifuntes and the landlord made any deals in writing.
“This is something that should have been settled long before it came here,” JPNC Zoning Committee member Marie Turley said.
One of Cifuntes’ customers said that Cifuntes has been telling him how “stressful” the process has been, and how he has talked with the landlord about sharing the space with the piercers but no agreement has been reached.
After further discussion, the Zoning Committee voted to defer this proposal until the matter can be resolved with the landlord. Baron also recommended that Cifuntes reach out to Hyde/Jackson Main Streets to see how they might be of assistance as well.
35 Brookley/10 Stonley
The proposal at 35 Brookley Rd. (officially referred to as 10 Stonley by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) has been one that has caused great opposition throughout the community (and especially the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA), as many feel that the size and scale of the project is not appropriate for the neighborhood. The Zoning Committee voted to oppose the project based on feedback heard from the community and the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association.
The proposal for the site consists of 45 units in a four story, 49 foot tall building. Five of the units will be affordable artist live/work spaces, along with five additional affordable units. There are 19 parking spaces. There will also be a mural by the entrance of the building.
The team said that they have gone through BPDA small project review and have been ap-proved, and are now seeking zoning relief. The building needs relief for use, Floor Area Ratio, height, rear yard setbacks, and parking.
“What we have currently approved by the BPDA works financially,” said developer Matt Zah-ler. “We have engaged with the SNA on many occasions,” he continued, and said they contin-ue to work with the SNA subcommittee “to refine the design and make changes that people requested.” Additionally, he said they met with the JPNC housing committee, who wrote them a letter asking them to continue working with the SNA on the specific concerns they have around the project.
Jennifer Uhrhane, who is a member of the SNA and the co-chair of its subcommittee regarding this project, said at the meeting that “there have been some changes made, but our opinion is that the project has not changed in footprint or density since first proposed to us in May.”
As has been said at several community meetings, she said the SNA believes that the project team has made a lot of good aesthetic changes to the building, but the footprint of the building has not really changed.
Uhrhane said the SNA is also opposed because it does not comply with PLAN: JP/ROX, and shadow studies show it will block light from nearby triple decker homes. “Stedman Street will only have light at noon” three seasons out of the year, she said. “None of the setbacks are in compliance with the PLAN:JP/ROX.”
She also said another issue the SNA has is the small space it creates between the abutting building on Stonley Road. The organization has asked for a centralized green space in this lo-cation. Uhrhane also said that the SNA would like to see the elimination of the units facing 76 Stonley, but was told this was not possible.
“We’re not asking for nothing to be there; we’re not asking for triple deckers,” she said. ‘What we’re asking for is a better proposal. We certainly do want to have affordable units—we want to hear how many units could happen with a smaller project,” she said. At its January meeting, the SNA voted to submit a letter of opposition for this project to the city.
Another neighbor made the comment that she believes the shadow studies are “being glossed over,” as the shadows cast by this building will impact the quality of life of those who live in the surrounding triple deckers. “We are not against your development; we need to work with you more. It’s dismaying to me that it sailed through the BPDA.”
An abutter on 42 Brookley said that there was an overall concern about the size of the build-ing, the density, and the parking ratio on the surrounding streets. Zahler said they are in dis-cussion with the Boston Transportation Department about street parking along Stonley and Brookley.
Emma Wright, an abutter at 31 Brookley and also a co-chair of the SNA subcommittee, said that a smaller building was needed as well, and that she worries about “creating a speed tun-nel” through these bigger developments to the smaller surrounding buildings with yards.
“I want something there…and people who are members of the community,” she said, but she said wants the building to have less massing.
Zoning Committee Kevin Moloney thought the project should be deferred, as it does not yet have a Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) date, and he said it doesn’t comply with several guide-lines. “We owe it to the SNA and the neighbors to support them,” he said.
One member of the Zoning Committee said he fully supports the project and “thinks it looks awesome,” but he understands the concerns put forth by the direct abutters about how it will affect their quality of life.
Turley said that the consensus seemed to be that neighbors aren’t opposed to development, but they want something that fits better within the context of the neighborhood.
“We are at the end of the road financially,” the team said, adding that they wanted a vote in-stead of a deferral.
The Zoning Committee ultimately ended up voting seven to four to oppose the project.
3305 Washington St.
A proposal for 15 units and a commercial space was present for the lot at 3305 Washington St. Project proponents said that the lot is currently not occupied, and includes one apartment and a commercial space. The commercial space was proposed to be used as office space.
Of the 15 proposed units, three will be affordable, and all units will have an exterior balcony. There will be interior trash and bike storage as a result of previous meetings with the community. The team said they started working on this project in mid-July of last year, and have been talking to neighbors and getting feedback.
The team went through more of the design of the project, which includes all non-wood materi-als for the facade, and the incorporation of the existing building into the new one.
Several neighbors expressed concern with the size of the building, the height, and parking and traffic issues. One said that the design was appreciated and liked that it would be a residential building.
The Zoning Committee voted to approve this project.