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Weston couple renovating Back Bay pied-a-terre wins approval for below-grade garage over objections of many neighbors

Judy Pagliuca before the Back Bay Architecural Commission

Judy Pagliuca makes a point to commission members.

Judy and Steve Pagliuca hit .500 before the Back Bay Architectural Commission Wednesday night: The board gave them permission to add an addition that would house a two-car garage and a deck in the rear of their house at 362 Marlborough St., but rejected a similar request for a smaller house they also own at 352 Marlborough.

The City Hall hearings on the two proposals turned into a contentious debate on the future of a historic neighborhood where even exterior changes visible only from its numerous service alleys - and the removal of trees - require commission approval.

In a 6-3 vote, the commission gave the couple - yes, he's the Bain Capital/Boston Celtics/Boston 2024 Steve Pagliuca - permission to nestle the garage next to a small extension, or "ell" in the rear of 362 Marlborough and put a deck atop it. The deck will be screened with shrubs so nobody walking by might be offended by the sight of deck furniture, should they somehow be able to see over a brick privacy wall along Hereford Street or look into the property from the alley behind their house.

And the couple - Judy Pagliuca attended the hearings, her husband did not - can tear down a tree in the rear of their property to make way for a city-mandated water "recharge" system to pump rainwater back into the ground and excavate a sloping ramp from the alley down to the garage. The Pagliucas will plant a new tree to replace the old one and an additional one in the front.

Commission Chairwoman Kathleen Connor said she found the garage and deck "extremely respectful" of the existing building. Although the couple would cut into the facade of the ell to build the garage, the commission decided that was OK in part because the ell was built as an addition - in 1912 - and so is not as historically important as the rest of the building.

But opponents said the commission, to which Mayor Walsh recently appointed several new members, is setting a dangerous precedent that will let lots of residents get permission to carve out their own garages and tear down trees in what they said would mean a blow to the neighborhood's historic nature - the suburbanization of this most urbane of urban neighborhoods.

Sherry Robinson of Hereford Street objected to the shrubs around the deck. "I don't really want to look at a hedge row," because that's something you only find in suburbs. What she wants, she said, a tree.

"This is a suburban makeover," with the garage door becoming "the main feature of this house on a public way," Shirley Kressel of Hereford Street said.

Both the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and the Garden Club of the Back Bay opposed the Pagliuca request, questioning both the change to the building and the need to remove the tree.

Jackie Blombach, co-president of the garden club, wondered, if Boston is such a walkable city, "why, then, are we building more garages?"

A NABB member said that in 64 decisions going back 30 years, the commission had never approved a new garage.

Peter Der Manuelian, who lives on Marlboro Street, and who prefaced his remarks by saying he teaches at Harvard, said a commission vote for the Pagliucas would start "an unprecedented and radical transformation" of the neighborhood as less historically respectful residents rushed to add on walk-out decks and the like, and leaving the neighborhood subject to "the whims of money, of political influence and power."

For decades, he told commission members, "It's been your job to say no, and the neighborhood has been for the better."

The proposal had its supporters.

Ian Reynolds of Marlborough Street said that while he loves the historic nature of the Back Bay, he also appreciates people willing to invest in their homes. "The garage doesn't stick out," he said.

Laura Martin of Commonwealth Avenue, who announced she is a Millennial, said she sees nothing wrong with a homeowner wanted to protect their cars and other belongings in a garage, both from the elements and from car thieves and burglars.

Joe Pagliuca - Steve and Judy's son - said it's now "a complete hassle" for him to deal with getting his car out of an alley, after avoiding all the glass, just to bring his two-year-old daughter up to Ipswich for a day at the beach.

Judy Pagliuca, accompanied by a zoning lawyer, architects, an arborist and a project manager, did not sit silently. She said she wants to beautify the alley, that she loves trees, too, and that the garage "is not a suburban garage, a big thing hanging off the house." She said she be happy to work with the garden club on determining the best trees to plant at the two houses.

And maybe, she said, it's time for the Back Bay Architectural Commission to add a new goal to its charter: Increasing "social cohesion" by maybe giving homeowners an easier way to add units that would let more people live in the Back Bay, rather than just the extremely well off. However, neither of her proposals called for affordable housing.

The board rejected the Pagliuca proposal for 352 Marlborough Street because, unlike at 362, creating the garage would involve cutting through the building's original facade.

362 Marlborough proposal, showing sloping ramp from alley to garage topped by shrub-lined deck:

Pagliuca proposal
Neighborhoods: 

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Comments

I understand this is written late at night, but there are 5 addresses used in an article about 2 buildings. And there is at least another typo. And I make a horrible proof reader.

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The addresses are 362 and 352 Marlborough. Fixed.

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The Pagliucas live in Weston, not Back Bay, so I've changed the headline, which made it sound like they were Bostonians.

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How come the Back bay doesn't have any affordable housing??
It's home for the wealthy, they can't be knocking down tree's and add westonlike garages for their maybach Mercedes benz's.
LoI.. I thought liberal bohemian types lived in the back bay, had no idea it was also home to conservative hedge fund billionaires.

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"Joe Pagliuca - Steve and Judy's son - said it's now "a complete hassle" for him to deal with getting his car out of an alley, after avoiding all the glass, just to bring his two-year-old daughter up to Ipswich for a day at the beach."

Him saying this without understanding how 99% of people won't sympathize with the trivial problems of the
super rich is just astonishing. A complete hassle is getting your car from it's deeded spot in the back bay? Coming from a guy who's never had to take the T to work once in his life. Please.

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Agreed - this guy sounds like a complete BABY! A complete hassle to get your car out of a dedicated spot!? Cry me a river dude. How about pick up a broom once in a while and sweep the glass up if it's an issue. Me and my wife rent a spot in one of these alley's and it has never been a "complete hassle".

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Why should he need your sympathy to do with his property as he wishes?

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Zoning places limits. Want to go beyond those limits? You need to demonstrate the "why." That's where the sympathy comes in -- not of an anon poster on UHub, but from at least five people in the front of the room.

Not just zoning either -- historic preservation, etc.

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I don't think this hearing had anything to do with zoning. That's dealt with at the zoning board of appeal. for all I know, this may not have needed any zoning variances. this is a landmarks case.

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But he brought up his plight of trekking through a back bay alley to support their argument of why they need to alter the landscape of a historical part of the city just to accommodate more convenient parking. They can have all the garage space they want in Weston.

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his daddy's property you mean....

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A helicopter would be so so so much more convenient. Let him install a helipad! It's his property, right?

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When you are born into millions like Joe Pagliuca and never have to work then I guess driving a car through an alley seems like the challenge of a lifetime.

And props to the woman who pointed out that there should be no garages in one of America's most walkable neighborhoods.

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This family deserves its own reality show. I'd totally watch it.

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"Avoiding glass" there must be bums drinking out of glass bottles, or diamonds must be falling from the sky shattering into glass as it hits the streets of the back bay!

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Herb Chambers was permitted to open the back of his building on Comm Ave for a garage-so not really an addition which may be what they are talking about. But it sounds like if you are rich AND famous you get what you want.

The merely rich? No garage for you.

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herb chambers rear facade had already been altered..that's the difference

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well, that was also why Pagliuca was approved. The property with a previously modified facade was approved, the one that did not have a previously modified facade wasn't.

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Also gets to flout parking and traffic laws in front of his Comm Ave dealership.

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I needed to buy a new Toyota and was looking forward to seeing a dealership with, what I imagined were offices with names like Parsley Parlor, Sage Salon, Rosemary Room, and Thyme Terrace.

Alas, there was no place to park on Commonwealth Avenue, so I bought my Matrix from a non-herbal dealer that had a parking lot.

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how do these people even cope

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For the building on Temple St in BH there were complaints that at peak travel times (8-9 in the morning 4:30-5:30 in the evening) there might be an additional 7-9 cars an hour.

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Yea, who do they think they are trying to build on their own property?! That property is historic! I must have a say!

No, not first world problems, an overly powerful government problem.

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We live in a community with laws and where peoples actions affect their neighbors. Like when this same idiot tried to force the Olympics down our throats and steal our money we told him to shove it. Check out Somalia if you want small government and tell us how you like it.

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So your argument is that altering the facade of his property will lead to anarchy?

Should us poors be subject to the same control over our property? Appeal to a governmental agency to change a minor structure (beyond mere building permits)

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My argument is that people should be able to voice their opinions on what goes on in their neighborhood and that not all laws and regulations are bad. Not having garages in a neighborhood like the Back Bay is a good regulation. If you want such a thing get the hell out of the city. That is common sense.

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Laws that prevent someone from making a minor modification to their own property with minimal impact on the neighborhood are terrible.

The boards reasoning was because a small portion of the facade would be altered, really? REALLY?

The boards decision had nothing to do with what the structure was so your point about it being a garage is without merit.

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We have zoning laws because everyone agrees that there should be guidelines about what you can and can't build in a densely-populated area where your building might well be six inches away from the adjoining one. If you want your zoning laws to have teeth, they need to be hyper-specific to keep someone from rules-lawyering their way into things that are clearly against the intent of the legislation. If you want to have zoning laws, you have to enforce them universally, or else you get accused of favoritism or corruption. Your definition of "minor modification with minimal impact" is completely subjective, and thus we have public hearings about variances.

This is what the rule of law looks like. As Kinopio points out, if you want carte blanche to upgrade your own parking facilities, you can move to Weston and build a garage, or move somewhere without the rule of law and build whatever the hell you want. The rest of us will be enjoying the social contract.

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Zoning requires universal enforcement. Many people here post different opinions when it's some developer putting a huge luxury condo project into an established lower density middle class neighborhood.

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Folks, this is not a zoning issue.

Zoning = Board of Appeal Hearing
Historic District = Back Bay Architectural Commission Hearing

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It's still asking for special variances, and the sentiment still applies.

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the no garages in the back bay statement. If you walk these alleys (and I have extensively) you would note that there are MANY MANY garages in these Back Bay Alleys. Should the fact that the guy who owned the place a hundred years ago didn't build one prevent you from building one now? If it is tastefully done and fits in with the look of the neighborhood I see no problem. I respect the committee's distinction regarding tearing into original parts of the building while allowing it to newer parts or additions to the property. I think that is important.
As far as putting garages up, I can see why people would want that. those alleys are accessible to anyone and I have never seen a police cruiser patrolling one. I HAVE seen a lot of people pissing on dumpsters, doing drugs, and milling about and/ or sleeping back there. If you are rich and want a garage so your Benz doesn't get broken into, I see no issue with that. That's why the committee exists, to make sure any construction is tasteful and no monstrosities are built. One guy I ran into down there had just completely redone the alley-side façade of his building, it looked very nice but was out of place as it did not look "historically accurate." He claimed the project cost upwards of a million dollars and that somehow got approved, but putting a garage/roof deck in is somehow an issue? There are dozens upon dozens of them littering these alleys already.

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Their job is to interpret the guidelines for the historic district. Garages have certainly been approved in that time, new and renovations of existing. The guidelines are clear that the alleys are for service--a garage seems way more appropriate than a tree. It's not a suburban back yard, it's an alley.

The Commissioners are good at what they do and most of them have been doing it for a long time. Newbury Street is a unique draw in Boston because of their work. Everyone freaking out about this really needs to learn more about historic preservation.

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They knew about the restrictions when they bought in, and benefit from them in terms of increased livability and property values. This is not a new restriction that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

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But this:

They knew about the restrictions when they bought in

is an assumption. You can argue, if you'd like, that they should have known, but that's completely different. People can't be expected to know everything about a place before they move there. It's next to impossible.

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If you're spending millions on a place, you better be looking in the darkest corners of the contract. Otherwise you're just dumb.

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In the rural community where I grew up, you can build anything you want on property you own. My pops built a house, and didn't have to pull any permits, submit any plans, check any zoning, get any inspections, or, frankly, tell anyone other than the builder and the bank. If you want that freedom, move to a similarly unregulated environment.

Here in Boston we have a community, and the tradition of community involvement in planning dates back to 1630. In our historic neighborhoods, the fierce protection against change is what has made them so desirable.

Don't want to get permission to make changes? Simple, don't move to a historic Boston neighborhood.

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My pops built a house, and didn't have to... get any inspections

Building codes aren't a new thing. No inspections? When and where did this construction happen?

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Deepest Appalachia.

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Their location. You could bulldoze Back Bay, put in a trailer park, and it wouldn't cost a nickel less to live there.

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It costs more to live in nice houses than a trailer park.

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Do you know what happens when you let people do whatever they want with their property? Shit like this:

http://www.businessinsider.com/chinese-man-builds-mountain-home-on-top-o...

Are you saying we should become like China?

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It's a public alley, so Google has the street view. I was actually surprised at how scumbari the back entrances were. Plywood walls, spray painted "No Parking" signs, 10 year old Toyotas, really low class.

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And said they want to clean all that up and make the alley a better place.

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He doesn't need the city's permission to eliminate the plywood in the driveway or to buy a No Parking sign rather than use black spray paint to make his own.

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This city needs a hero clean-up crew!

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I didn't know (a) people outside my family / former neighbors used that term (b) how it was spelled. Hat's off to you anon.

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It depends on if he a member of the same group or not, otherwise he is just disparaging another group in a way that is completely unnecessary.

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I've also seen it spelled "scumbati". Of course, to get the full effect the authentic pronunciation should be used. Phonetically, it looks something like this:

scoom-ba-dee

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That is an ethnic slur. Completely unnecessary. Others would not be tolerated, and it probably slipped by Adam, as it would most people. Frankly, none should be tolerated.

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We don't need any here anyway when the discussion is about zoning.

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Too bad can't edit the original post. Basically just intended to say it's unnecessary in this conversation.

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Not an ethnic slur in the least. My Italian-American family, especially the older members, use that word all the time for something run down or shabby. Nor would we feel particularly offended if a non Italian-American used the word for the same purpose. As far as I can see the word was used in the correct context and I got a big kick out of it. Its such a colorful word.

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Scumbari means disheveled or sloppy. It's Italian American slang. I suppose if you called a person scumbari it would be insulting to a person, but it's not a slur in the sense of insulting to a group of people (Italians, Catholics, etc.). It's just a word, and because somebody mentioned it upthread, yes, it's a word I grew up with in a NY-area Italian American family.

My mother would call the person who claims scumbari is an ethnic slur a stunad. My brother might call him a chooch. My father would just say vaffangul to his face.

Capiche?

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And a lot of people get along fine without using any of those words.

Also, many have no clue what it means and can start using it directed against a group of people even if they aren't a part of it.

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I'm not sure I get the gist of your argument. An Italian American uses the word "scumbari", (a word that is not a description of a person), other Italian Americans post they are fine with anyone using it, but you insist that this word which I have heard in use in my Italian household for years, is suddenly on the verge of becoming an outrageous ethnic slur. Against whom? Talk about over sensitivity. Do you advise that Jewish folks stop sprinkling their conversation with the word "yenta" (a word that IS used to describe a person) also? I'm not even Jewish and I can think of plenty of people (of all persuasions) I might good naturedly consider "yentas". Does this suddenly put it on the verge of being an "ethnic slur", anti-Semitic, or a word people should not use?

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Your last post was a bunch of various insulting you said would apply to someone who misunderstood the word. The definition of the original word you used has different interpretations.

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And a lot of people would call anyone who verbal insults someone for simply disgreeing with with the definition of a word plenty of other things that aren't too kind.

Good for you though, you shoehorned in a way to demonstrate that you knew a few more ethnic words.

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The problem is that many people have no idea what it means or what the persons intent is behind saying it.

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Type the word in google. You'll get the definition. As for intent, well, that's true of all posts.

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That's par for the course for many of those streets.

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"It's been your job to say no, and the neighborhood has been for the better."

"...your job to say no..."

...and therein lie so many problems.

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Must be rough having to walk around a tree to get to your BMW in the back of Daddy's million dollar condo every morning... not sure how I'll be able to sleep at night. Anything else bothering sensitive man-baby? Flowering Magnolia trees on Comm. Ave. upsetting him as well? Birds chirping in trees awake him before 10AM? awwww...

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Adam,

Did they discuss groundwater needs or resilience?

That area is all fill...I hope the public discussion led by these aesthetic stewards included a review of the state of groundwater/flooding preparedness, and what impacts the proposed design changes would have on that.

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And the couple - Judy Pagliuca attended the hearings, her husband did not - can tear down a tree in the rear of their property to make way for a city-mandated water "recharge" system to pump rainwater back into the ground and excavate a sloping ramp from the alley down to the garage. The Pagliucas will plant a new tree to replace the old one and an additional one in the front.

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The broader question would be whether the Boston Ground Water Trust (look it up) was engaged in this plan or if they have any authority to weigh-in or oppose.

Their mission is to oversee the ground water needs of that entire back Bay area to assure none of the buildings are compromised from a lack of the needed ground water. The trust maintains dozens of special pump systems (map on their web site) that actually inject water into the ground to assure this is the case. In this case there is one on Marlborough St diagonally across from their front door but none lining the public alley to the rear.

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I haven't done work in Boston in a while. I do recall many discussions on the pros and cons of green roofs due to preventing rainwater from getting into the soils.

The Ground Water Trust site does have project letters and this project is not listed. In fact they have fewer letters than I expected.

They oversee more than just the Back Bay. But in any event, this project is below grade. And as such, isn't it removing soils which will allow adjacent soils to have more groundwater?

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Something I once read about suburban sprawl stuck with me.

One challenge in building a 'neighborhood feel' in some burbs is when everyone has a garage. It's possible, even easy, to leave your house for work or errands, then come home at night, only entering/exiting through your garage.

With tinted windows on a car, you might "NEVER" meet or even see your neighbors.

Not saying this should influence zoning/historic considerations, but I believe garages are generally bad, if anything, for social cohesion.

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But how much do Back Bay neighbors chat in the public alleys after parking their cars in an uncovered space?

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I rarely drive, but use the back entrance. Know most of my neighbors (including one in that lead picture). I'd say i say hello or chat with a neighbor in the alley 2-3 times a week. Sometimes a brief hello and sometimes we'll chat for 30-40 minutes depending on who it is. I'd say I see my neighbors on the alley at least as often as I see them on Comm Ave or Newbury. Alley "life" is actually critical in many ways from simple logistics to utilities to social life.

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Well, if you want that, how about we bulldoze everybody's house and make it a swamp again?

"I don't want to look at shrubs." Well, then look in another direction. What are you, a fish? You have a 360 degree field of vision. Use it. I haven't an iota of sympathy for anybody who lives in Back Bay.

I want to produce a reality show where a bunch of hood folks move in to a place on Marlborough, and the neighbors have to grit their teeth and pretend that they're okay with it.

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It's historic building preservation... face-palm. No one is forcing the rich to move to or live in historic neighborhoods with strict regulations. Is it really rocket science to do your research before buying multiple million dollar properties?

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Your usage of the word "obtuse" here pleases me.

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Why bully a guy over shrubs and a parking garage? Get a life.

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It's a slippery slope. First it's shrubs and a garage, then someone asks "we didn't bully that guy, why bully someone who wants to build a mermaid fountain?"

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A lot of people here speaking out in favor of zoning enforcement complain about the same laws when a big developer wants to put in a huge apartment or condo building with prices out of reach of most residents to make a quick profit. Those buildings don't much to reduce housing costs.

Zoning is a good thing in general.

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The look on the face of the female commission member on the left is absolutely priceless. It says it all.

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The addition of the garage underneath the existing bump out is done quite nicely and doesn't appear to affect any sightlines. It also doesn't change the overall footprint much except on the street side where there is no neighbor to complain about zoning.

If I had the means I would have done the same thing. Great return on investment in the long run.

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Anybody else game for leaving empty glass bottles in front of his garage?

What's next, his own personal access ramp to I-90 so that he doesn't have to deal with the scourge of commoner traffic?

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When you consider yourself above the rules and regulations The Lowly Commoners abide by then of course your wouldn't want to mix with the little working people on the Pike when your driver brings you to Mumsy's and Dada's in Weston. Mumsy, Dada! I don't like parking my car in one of the most expensive alleyways in Boston. I want a garage! Build it for me! Cut down those trees! Off with their heads!

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Back in the 1870s when the Back Bay row houses were built, what was in the alleys?

Residents definitely didn't store their horses and carriages outdoors in all weather, like so many people do today with cars.

Were some of the stables and carriage houses in the alleys? Or were they all in dedicated buildings on Newbury between Mass Ave and Hereford as http://goodoldboston.blogspot.com/2012/03/back-bay-stables.html says, and your driver would have to bring the carriage around when you needed it?

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Strict zoning is nothing new to the Back Bay. From the original 1848 legislative act authorizing the fill onward, it has been one of the most restrictive neighborhoods in Boston. Keeping horse and carriage at home was prohibited on practically every residential street in the Back Bay. There were exceptions for hotels (like the Vendome) and clubs (like the Algonquin), but any homeowner who wanted a carriage house at home had to get the 19th century equivalent of a variance.

Some were granted, as evidenced by the rather attractive barrel vaulted carriage house in alley 435 between Clarendon and Dartmouth. (I haven't actually researched when it was built, but it looks 19th century.)

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To answer my own question, https://google.com/search?q=site%3Abackbayhouses.org+stable shows lots of stables in the alleys. It was very common for stables to be converted to garages, and wealthy residents of Back Bay were more likely than the average person to be early adopters of cars.

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So? Get a horse if you want a stable attached to your 19th century urban brick condo. Oh wait... it's 2016. Cars have been surviving for years outside in the rain and snow, I promise you.

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I would be thrilled to use a horse for my daily transportation in a 19th century neighhhhborhood. But it's not going to happen.

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People can sleep outside as well. But that doesn't mean houses should be illegal.

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Unbelievable amount of information.

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for the Grey Poupon?

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this morning, after reading UHub's report. They admit they werent there, as Uhub apparently was, but they dont admit that the only reason they're reporting on this is because Uhub broke the story.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/06/09/pagliuca-family-gets-spl...
Great job Adam!

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I have to admit, I don't normally attend the hearings of this commission (well, OK, I'd never attended a single one). So in turn, I have to thank the person who tipped me off to the fact the meeting would be interesting enough to go to.

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I find it funny that Joe Pagliuca has the nerve to say it's a complete hassle for him to deal with his car getting out of the alley go to the beach with his family, yet the entire winter the area in front of 362 Marlborough has never once been shoveled and been a danger to walk through after a snow storm.

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