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'At least she has a kitchen again'

BuzzFeed looks at gentrification in Chinatown through through the lens of two sisters forced out of their apartment.

Meanwhile, a City Council committee holds a hearing at 4 p.m. today on a proposed "just-cause eviction" ordinance that would require landlords to state reasons for evictions - and mediation for large rent increases. The hearing will be in the council's fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.

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A top comment on the Reddit post showed this article's map of Chinatown vs an actual city map defining Chinatown and from that it certainly appears that the Buzzfeed article was "generous" with the borders to fit their narrative.

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It's BuzzFeed!

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n/t

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Yes, that is an amazing definition of Chinatown. All the way up to Charles Street and all the way down to East Berkeley?

I guess they're taking the any sign that says "Chang" as an indication they're in Chinatown.

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The map comes from here: Page 8, Chinatown Master Plan 2010.

Throughout its history, Chinatown's boundaries have both expanded and contracted. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) defines the Chinatown District as bounded by Essex Street to the north, Surface Artery/1-93 to the east, Marginal Road to the south, and Washington/Tremont Street to the west. The boundaries of the Chinatown /South Cove Neighborhood Council define the community as bounded by West/Bedford Street to the north, Surface Artery/Albany Street to the east, East Berkeley Street to the south, and Tremont/Charles Street to the west. The study area for Chinatown Master Plan 2010 combines the boundaries from the BRA Chinatown district zoning and the Chinatown /South Cove Neighborhood Council. The study area is for planning purposes and is intended as a guide to understand the growth and change in the community.

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Which seems to be made up by the community? The BRA's original master plan (https://archive.org/stream/chinatowncommuni90bost#page/n13/mode/2up) in 1990 has a pretty normal map. I don't see how in 2010 they could claim the entire Leather District (been there forever), or all the way up to Park Plaza/Public Garden, or how one could claim Lower Washington or the across the Pike. Admittedly, Chinatown did have (minor) expansions both into the Leather District and the super market over across the pike, but I still wouldn't call them Chinatown proper or include them in a map of Chinatown.

The link kind of just glosses over this when they mention that the BRA defines it one way, but the community defines it another? Just say its a pretty broad net they are casting there.

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The study area is for planning purposes and is intended as a guide to understand the growth and change in the community.

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And using it to paint a Chinatown that is becoming more 'white' is ridiculous, same with a rising income level - all it shows is that more housing and upper/middle class people are moving into the surrounding areas (obviously), and that the Asian population is actually growing in Chinatown, too. Including the other neighborhoods into the area is disingenuous - I am surprised they didn't just through Bay Village in there or stopped at Park Plaza.

The comparison to be meaningful should be the actual Chinatown boarders today to that of Chinatown in 1990 - which is still the same boarders. In fact, I didn't check, but on their stats what are they using from 1990? The huge combined area or just actual Chinatown? Cause the cited BRA 1990 report is only Chinatown.

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Plans get updated and supplanted. This is the official plan today. No need to date yourself with plans from 26 years ago. You don't like it, take your time machine back to the comment period.

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The border goes to East Berkeley when it's convenient for Chinatown - like when locals want remediation money. When there are other problems like crime, homeless, drugs or even trash, that area quickly becomes not-Chinatown....

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Time and time again there are articles about the gentrification of Chinatown. Guess who is the majority selling these properties to developers - here is a strong hint - other Chinese / Chinese Americans.

Boston neighborhoods are always in flux. If someone came out with an article 25 years ago that said we need to preserve this area called South Boston for working class Irish people you would have been laughed off of the face of the earth for the lunacy of it. Not for the need to preserve worker's housing, but the fact that you wanted to keep an area somewhat ethnically homogenized for no other reason than skin color / ethnic origin.

Chinatown actually has more housing units now than 20 years ago. The addition of the Metropolitan and One Greenway had large affordable components. There is a larger Chinese population in the area, but settlement patterns, like every ethnic group in the area, has moved to streetcar suburbs away from the urban core.

Chinatown has moved organically, to Quincy and to Malden. Like the Jewish neighborhoods of Boston before it, the neighborhoods cultural institutions moved with the people. Have any of you seen where South Cove Manor is now? Not Chinatown.

If any of you support rent freezes and housing controls, please give me back my 2.5 bedroom on Appleton Street with all utilities included for $1,050 per month. Thx.

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The Suffolk Registry of Deeds does show that the property in question in the BuzzFeed article -- 103 Hudson St. -- was sold by CHUNG YOUN T and WING ELIZABETH J to FIRST SUFFOLK LLC for $480,000 in January, 2015. The story says that the property had numerous code violations under the prior owner as well. The narrative seems to write itself -- the previous landlord (slumlord?) charged cheap rents to tenants who were unaware of their rights or unwilling to bring the violations to the attention of the authorities. Does the fact that the owners were (presumably based on the names) Chinese-American make it better? Why didn't they eschew the higher offer from the developer and sell to the Chinatown Land Trust?

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$480k is a steal for a 4 family brick building, even if you have to put $100k a floor in. 3 Deckers are going for over 800k on the ass end of Rozzie/Belgrade. Price of this is like Grove Hall/Four Corners/Uphams prices for decrepit wooden 3 deckers.

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It's a pretty good price if you figure that the building is almost certainly going to be torn down.

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Great post, John

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You having an apartment on Appleton Street (presumably) didn't contribute that much to the fabric of this city, whereas Chinatown does.

It isn't about preserving a few ethnically homogenous blocks based on “skin color” as you put it, it’s part of what makes this city great. When tourists ask for directions all summer long, what are they typically looking for? The North End, Chinatown, “Fanooli Hall”, and, to a far lesser extent, perhaps Newbury Street.

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Is full of yuppies paying a million for a rat-infested shoebox who prices out the old-timers ages ago, and no one seems to be shedding any tears over it. What makes Chinatown exempt from the same fate if there are in fact plenty more yuppies willing to pay a million for a rat-infested shoebox?

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They rely on each other because they share a common language.

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The personal story at the core of this article is really powerful, but it brushes over the high level challenges and trade-offs of trying to keep housing prices in Boston at a reasonable cost.

WBUR in December did a great profile of San Francisco, which has a just cause eviction rule, as well as rent control and other tenant protections. Their land use regulatory structure, like ours, makes it very difficult to build dense new housing in most of the city. The result is a system that may prevent some of the individual-scale tragedies like the one profiled in the BuzzFeed article, but contributes to a "macro" tragedy of housing that is extremely expensive across the city and region, making it tremendously difficult for anyone who is not very rich or very poor to live in the city.

http://radioboston.wbur.org/2015/12/16/evictions-san-fran

I'm not saying Just Cause eviction isn't a good rule--I'm not really sure--but we need to be very careful about our good intentions possibly making the problem worse.

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The version of "just cause eviction" proposed here in Boston treats every absentee landlord as a "corporate" landlord, regardless of the number of units. So if you own a condo or a single-family home and rent it out -- for a temporary assignment, for a year or two abroad, or whatever -- suddenly you have no right to move back into your own home until the tenants have been granted months or years of foot-dragging through the courts. And of course they won't be paying any rent during that process, because why would they?

I'm okay with most of the proposal, but that part has immediate consequences for me and my neighborhood. I was going to finish up major renovations on my upstairs unit this year (I own a 2-family) and then rent both units while I spend a couple of years overseas. If this "just cause" ordinance goes through, no way will I risk renting out my own home to someone who might decide not to return it at the end (and where will I live while we're "mediating" the whole mess? In a cardboard box?) -- I'll AirBnB the sucker instead, and three bedrooms will fall out of the available housing market for good.

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Actually, I just listened to the latest Radio Boston piece and it seems that most of my major concerns have been addressed in the latest version of the proposal. I'm still very suspicious of how this new one will be treating "absentee" landlords (remember, that includes anyone renting out their own personal residence!) since that aspect was conveniently glossed-over in all the discussion of the last version.

The advocates destroyed a lot of trust by getting greedy in the early versions, and a lot of small-time landlords like me are still convinced that any version of the ordinance will come 'round to bite us, we're just waiting to find out exactly how.

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This is not USSR - I, the owner, get to choose what to do with my property, not the politburo. Just enough for you?

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This is what the angry anti-NIMBY crowd wanted though: build, build, build! Force people out of their homes in the name of building more and more and more and more luxury highrises. Congrats on kicking longtime residents out of their homes so the 1% can buy their 6th pied-a-terre luxury condo.

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Yeah, these "long time residents" go all the way back to 2013!

There are undergrads in this city with deeper roots in the neighborhood.

Not sure what the people are looking for in this situation. Would it have been better for them to stay in an unsafe building for cheap rent? Or did they want the owner to buy it, spend a large chunk of money fixing it up and then let them move right back in at the same rent, causing him to lose millions of dollars? And if he doesn't agree to throw his money away, he's a scumbag?

Mind boggling.

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One immigrated here in 2008 and her sister in 2010.

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The challenge with these articles is that change is a given. There's no entitlement to live in the same neighborhood in perpetuity. It is sad, it is hard, but no laws or regulations, short of changing our government to some form of strong (read: Fascism, Communism) central government is going preserve these neighborhoods. Call it gentrification, call it progress, call it whatever you want, it's all just change at the end of the day. Do we want to force people to stay in a neighborhood when it goes bad? Change is hard.

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I was just going to make the same comment about neighborhoods turning bad. We don't pearl-clutch and go insane about preserving the character of a neighborhood when it starts to have problems with crime and become less desirable. Usually when property owners complain about that, they get tarred and feathered for classism (or racism, if the two groups are of different races.)

Hypothetically of course, let's say the Back Bay started to turn into a rough place. You will never see someone flip out that the character of the Back Bay is white college educated professionals and minority working class newcomers are ruining the neighborhood, that artisinal cupcake shops are turning into check cashing shops, that Starbucks are turning into Tedeschis, that boutiques are turning into sketchy thrift stores, that breakins and public drug deals are threatening families.

People wouldn't be allowed to complain. They would just quietly leave. But when a neighborhood gets better, everyone gets to complain about it?

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You mean like this 1964 report saying that the Back Bay is turning into a slum and begging the city to tear down all the homes on Comm Ave and replace them with high rise apartments?

You're right, nobody would ever be allowed to complain, the neighborhood would just fall apart.

*eye roll*

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Good Article. It's insane how much most of the new housing in Boston costs.

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This was a great article. I thought that it was relatively balanced in terms of communicating both the position of the tenants/community and the purchaser of the property. This is a tough issue. The chinese are moving to Quincy (and I guess Malden). How do we preserve a unique and historical community? Should we? If so, how to we balance that with the rights of private property owners (including members of the Chinatown community) to do what they want with their property and to upgrade old properties in horrible conditions. This article could have been written about any neighborhood in Boston.

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"Just-cause eviction" is just another name for rent control. Rent control is illegal in Massachusetts and will never pass again.

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rent control has played a big part in the skyrocketing rents around Boston.

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A failure of supply to keep up with ever-increasing demand for Boston housing is what has caused prices to skyrocket.

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22 years ago. How do you figure it's contributing to rents rising now?

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Rent control was why deferred maintenance, abandoning condemned buildings, and arson for profit were rampant in the city.

Price control never benefit the majority of consumers any more than monopolies.

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So will there be 'mediation' when it's time to pay city property taxes? Or raises due to politicians?

Politicians are always willing to be generous with private citizen's money. Joe never has any problem robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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The apartment is in uninhabitable condition. The previous owner faced legal penalties because of the condition of the apartment. The new owner is renovating the apartment to make it habitable again.

In the meantime, the residents are put up in a hotel. (Note that it would also be illegal for the landlord to conduct major renovations without moving the renters somewhere else, since extensive renovations are disruptive enough to daily life to be considered harassment and an attempt to drive tenants away.)

The current owner has stated repeatedly that the current tenants will be allowed to move back into the renovated apartment.

What exactly do they WANT? A guarantee that the rent will never change for the rest of their lives? Not even buyers get that -- ask any owner in Eastie about their property taxes this year.

The new landlord sounds pretty benign and well-meaning. The tenants sound -- to put it kindly -- very confused about the situation. There is simply NO way they can remain in the apartment in its present condition. The repairs have to be done, therefore the tenants have to be (temporarily) displaced. This is the law. It's not even up to the landlord.

Oh nooo, a few months of mild inconvenience. Temporarily moving over 12 blocks isn't fun, but what alternative have the tenants proposed?

This article just made me angry because it seems to be picking out arbitrary heroes and villains in order to serve a broader narrative without acknowledging the unlivable conditions of this particular property.

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