4198 Washington Street Mixed Use and Affordable Housing Project Rejected by Zoning Board of Appeal Due to Lack of Parking

We are extremely disappointed to report that the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) today rejected the zoning relief application for the 4198 Washington Street development proposal. This project has transformative potential for our community, checking all the boxes for what 21st-century neighborhoods urgently need. 40% of the units would have been reserved for lower income residents, significantly exceeding the usual affordability parameters. The project would have included a brand-new, larger space for the Rozzie Square Theater (Boston’s only improv establishment owned and operated by a woman of color), as well as enhanced commercial ground-floor spaces for Delicious Yogurt and other commercial tenants. As a result of the ZBA denial, these positive community impacts are now much further away, if they ever materialize at all.

Perhaps most important to WalkUP Roslindale’s core mission, this proposal would have leveraged its highly transit-oriented location along the Washington Street dedicated bus/bike lane in the heart of our neighborhood’s walkable commercial center, which we believe readily justified the lack of on-site parking. Moreover, the developer had pledged to subsidize CharlieCards for residents and secured leases for off-street parking for up to 20 cars within a half mile of the site. Despite the support of several elected officials who spoke in favor of this project, including our district councilor Ricardo Arroyo, three members of this 7-person board, including two administrative hold-overs (notably including the Roslindale-resident chair of the Board), voted against the project specifically due to its substitution of more affordable units and improved ground floor space in lieu of on-site parking. It is deeply regrettable that under the current zoning regime, a 4-3 vote in favor of a project means the zoning relief is rejected.

In our view, the current decision-making process in this city for most projects is untenable. Rejection of such urgently needed mixed-use development elevates the needs of cars above the needs of Boston’s residents — a 20th century view of development that is out of step with the needs of today. By forcing the developer to go back to the drawing board despite strong support both from the community and many elected leaders, we are sending the message that cars, and their associated human health, environmental, and social problems, still dominate over many more critical human priorities. Finally, forcing the developer to dedicate more space to car storage necessarily means:

  1. Less space for affordable housing
  2. Less space for community amenities like the Rozzie Square Theater
  3. More motor vehicle use in our neighborhood, with commensurate increases in traffic and pollution. Once parking spots are built, they tend to be filled, and there is no way to “unbuild” that space, even as we look to a future that must be much less car-centric.

Unfortunately, under current law, the developer cannot come back to the ZBA for an entire year. These sorts of rejections and long delays severely disincentivize developers from developing affordable, mixed-use, transit-friendly projects like this project in our neighborhood and, indeed, everywhere in Boston.

In the meantime, we have our work cut out for us. Our zoning system is fundamentally at odds with the needs of our city and neighborhood, effectively forcing everything through a zoning relief process that is tilted toward preserving the status quo at a moment in time when the status quo desperately needs to be changed, especially as it relates to our relationship with individual motor vehicle use and ownership. Supporters who believe that we need to move in a new direction and stop prioritizing cars over people should write to their district and at-large city councillors (addresses below) as well as Mayor Wu, who took office just today, and advocate for (i) the kind of forward-thinking development policies and regulation that she supported in the campaign and that would, in turn, support projects like 4198 Washington Street and (ii) new appointments to the ZBA who will put community and affordability ahead of car storage.

Mayor Wu contacts:

  • Mr. David Vittorini, Senior Advisor to the Mayor (david.vittorini@nullboston.gov)
  • Ms. Uju Onochie, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (uju.onochie@nullboston.gov)

City Council contacts:

  • District 4 City Councilor-Elect Brian Worrell (brianworrellre@nullgmail.com)
  • District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (ricardo.arroyo@nullboston.gov)
  • District 6 City Councilor-Elect Kendra Hicks (hicksfordistrictsix@nullgmail.com)
  • At-Large City Councilor Julia Mejia (julia.mejia@nullboston.gov)
  • At-Large City Councilor Michael F. Flaherty (michael.flaherty@nullboston.gov)
  • At-Large City Councilor-Elect Ruthzee Louijeune (info@nullruthzeeforboston.com)
  • At-Large City Councilor-Elect Erin Murphy (erinforboston@nullgmail.com)

Comment Period re-Opened for 4198 Washington Street and Drop-In Session This Monday Evening

We’ve previously publicized our support for the proposed mixed-use project at 4198 Washington Street — see our detailed comment letter here.

We recently learned that the BPDA has responded to some efforts to organize against this project by re-opening and extending the comment period for this proposal to May 3rd. We strongly encourage supporters of this project to submit comments through the BPDA portal or to aisling.kerr@nullboston.gov.

As a reminder, this project will provide a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. We have heard the project may be down-sized by a story and shrunk to fewer units due to some opposition. We strongly urge the developer to not “down-size” the building and recommend supporters submit similar comments to the BPDA.

The developer Arx Urban is seeking to income-restrict at least 40% of the units in the new building. Only 12% of the total housing stock in Roslindale is income-restricted, compared to 27% of total homes citywide. While we are generally supportive of new housing in Roslindale Square, we are particularly supportive of this project for that reason. We also do not want to see a smaller project given the loss of income-restricted units that would entail.

The developer is hosting a drop-in session to answer any remaining questions this Monday, April 26 evening in Adams Park from 5:30pm-7:30 pm. Please wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Attendees can receive a free yogurt or ice cream from Delicious Yogurt for their trip home too!

WalkUP Roslindale comment letter on 4198 Washington Street

This past week, the BPDA held a public meeting on a proposed development at 4198 Washington Street, the building currently home to Droubi’s Pita Bakery, Rozzie Square Theater, Delicious Yogurt, and Dragon Chef. The developer proposes to replace the building with a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. The meeting was well-attended and many neighbors praised the developer’s thoughtful approach to affordability and transportation. Now that we’ve learned more about the proposal and heard comments from the community, we’ve sent in a comment letter. If you’d like to add your voice, please drop a note to the BPDA project manager, Aisling Kerr (aisling.kerr@nullboston.gov) or fill out the BPDA comment form.

Our PDF letter is reproduced in full below.

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Public Meeting on 4198 Washington Street Development this Wednesday, February 24, 2021, at 6pm, via Zoom

Rendering of 4198 Washington Street Proposed DevelopmentWe’ve been following a proposed development at 4198 Washington Street (the building that is currently home to Droubi’s Pita Bakery, Rozzie Square Theater, Delicious Yogurt, and Dragon Chef) with interest. The developer proposes to replace the building with a new six-story, mixed-use building with 39 residential units, 4,500 square feet of retail, a custom-built community theater space, as well as ample bicycle parking. The BPDA is holding a virtual public meeting this Wednesday, February 24, 2021, from 6pm-7:30pm to discuss the proposal and receive feedback. You’ll need to register in order to attend.

We are generally in favor of the project since it will provide much-needed housing right in the heart of Rozzie Square, without creating the induced demand for more cars that would occur with dedicated parking spaces. We also understand that the developer is working to secure funding that would allow it to income-restrict at least 40% of units, a goal we support enthusiastically. We look forward to hearing more about the project at this upcoming meeting, after which we plan to send a comment letter with our collective feedback.

We encourage everyone who would like to see more housing (without more cars) in Roslindale to attend and speak up at this meeting.