The Zoning Board of Appeal, getting a little fed up with nine-unit development proposals that skirt the city minimum for affordable housing, today told a developer who wants to put up a nine-unit building on Albany Street in the South End to try to shrink some of the units so that he can fit in at least one that could be rented or sold as affordable.
Andrew Brassard was before the board today seeking permission to replace the falling-apart former Baha'i center at 593 Albany St. at East Canton Street with a six-story, nine-unit residential building. Brassard needs board approval because the building would be taller than allowed by the lot's zoning, the proposed parking would be more difficult to maneuver in than allowed and would not have enough distance between it and the building to its rear. Also, while multi-family buildings are allowed, they are "conditional" - meaning the board has to formally approve them.
Under his plans, the building would have four one-bedroom units, each of about 1,000 square feet, four two-bedroom units, each with about 1,430 square feet and one three-bedroom unit, with 2,100 square feet. The proposal also called for seven parking spaces, some to be reached via a new curb cut on East Canton, some via a private way off East Canton. Also proposed: Two roof decks, one for all residents, one for the residents of the top floor unit.
The city's affordable-housing requirement, under which developers have to set aside at least 13% of their units as affordable - or commit money to a BPDA affordable-housing fund - only kicks on with proposals of at least ten units.
"These units seem very large and we're at 9 units," board member Joe Ruggiero said, wondering if Brassard had considered making any of the units smaller to accommodate at least one affordable unit.
Brassard's attorney, Marc Lacasse said that, all things considered, the units weren't really that large - because the one-bedroom units include space for a home office in the pandemic age.
Brassard added that because the site itself is so small, the lot is just 2,693 square feet, it would be difficult to fit in another another unit without cramping the shared space in the building, such as hallways and the elevator.
But board Chairwoman Christine Araujo told Brassard he needs to try, especially since the curb cut he wants would require removing at least one metered space on East Canton Street.
"In fact you're maximizing to the extent possible the use of the space the entire lot, end to end, and taking away X number of meters on East Canton and providing very little in return," she said.
She said she wanted Brassard to go back to the drawing board and see if he could shave some space off the one-bedroom units for a 10-unit design that would require him to set aside one unit as affordable - and then commit an additional amount to the BPDA affordable-housing fund.
In addition to the affordability issue, the Boston Transportation Department opposed Brassard's parking plans, urging the board to limit the number of cars in a proposed garage to five, saying the space was simply too small for seven cars.
The board agreed with Araujo to defer any action on the proposal until a meeting on March 8.