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Board rejects conversion of Allston laundromat into an apartment after nearby tenants express concern about where they'd wash their clothes

The Zoning Board of Appeal today granted permission to the owner of a Harvard Avenue apartment building to convert one of the area's ubiquitous basement real-estate offices into an apartment, but rejected his request to do the same thing to a laundromat on the other side of his building's main entrance.

The mayor's office and the office of City Councilor Liz Breadon both opposed owner Peter Nassif's plans for 223 Harvard Ave. near Brainerd Road after hearing from nearby tenants that they were concerned the loss of the laundromat would make it harder for them to keep their clothes clean. Nobody expressed any similar concerns about the increased difficulties of finding a place to look at apartment listings.

"It sounds like this is split the baby time," board Chairwoman Christine Araujo said as she called for a vote. The board then voted 5-2 to approve conversion of the real-estate office but reject conversion of the laundromat.

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Comments

Did not know boars were running the city.

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You're fast! Fixed.

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.

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By NIMBY'ing the building does not mean the laundromat will stay.

Nothing stopping from it closing up shop. NIMBYism won't stop that.

Landlord could jack up the rent, force out the laundromat and sit empty. Then in a year or two after it being empty, he can go back to the BPDA and try again. No laundromat to use as a reason to NIMBY a building..

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This seems like the opposite of NIMBY since laundromats generally support lower cost housing. Neighborhoods without them tend to have in building/unit laundry, which drives up rent.

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NIMBY being the build it would have replaced.

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Landlord could jack up the rent, force out the laundromat and sit empty. Then in a year or two after it being empty, he can go back to the BPDA and try again. No laundromat to NIMBY at.

The People's Central Committee might force the landlord to keep the laundry open and offer free laundry to everyone 24/7.

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Voting closed 38

that would be awesome lol

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Time to split the baby

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... that I'm living in the former Soviet Union, where the decision as to whether a given piece of real estate should be an apartment building or a laundromat is be made by the government.

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Yes, that was the defining problem with the USSR. They allowed community input before granting building permits.

The US has had zoning laws for over 100 years. LA started zoning before the USSR existed. While there is a checkered past and there can be a lot of problems, the idea that there should be some level of community input about what is built in a city is a very good idea. The density is such that every decision has an effect on many people.

You make a silly argument, if the term can even be applied.

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I have absolutely no objection to zoning; I am a big proponent.

But in no case is “the neighborhood likes having a laundromat there” reasonable grounds to deny a property owner’s application to do something else with the property. Take a look at the enabling legislation (Ch 40A if I recall correctly), which lays out the very narrow circumstances under which relief can be granted. The board could have simply found that the applicant did not show hardship as contemplated by the law, and thereby does not qualify for a variance, without stepping into the planned economy bullshit as it did. Same outcome, more likely to stand up on appeal, etc.

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Hm. Ok. Well, I don't know about you, but I grew up with using public laundromats since we never owned a washer and or dryer. Yeah, the board could of done that but, instead, realizing the value of having a laundromat to the people who lived near the laundromat apparently outweighed any consideration of "planned economy bullshit". I guess the people's concerns and their needs to have a convenient place to wash clothes (you might of noticed that they are not too many laundromats around these days, in general) outweighed economics in this case. And I find that refreshing.

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the value of having a laundromat to the people who lived near the laundromat apparently outweighed any consideration of "planned economy bullshit"

Stopping development in order to continue a third-party business is the "planned economy bullshit" part here. If the ZBA wants to declare that laundromat access is a necessary item for zoning variances, where's the "minimum laundromat per resident" ordinances going into play? Or how about new laws stating that landlords have to provide washing machines, or that the city will provide subsidized laundromats itself?

Without any of that, this just comes off as a pretty arbitrary decision based around the current availability of a single third party business. What happens if they go through all this and the laundromat closes anyway - is the ZBA going to step in to put another laundromat in that space, now that they've decided that "laundromat availability" is the most important thing for that neighborhood?

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I'm glad you find it refreshing. Would you continue to find it refreshing if, say, you wanted to, say, start a new job, with a promotion and higher pay, or go back to school for a degree, or move to a new city, but the government said "the people's concerns and their needs to have a convenient place to wash clothes outweigh your economics, so we're ordering you to manage a laundromat instead of taking that new job / going back to school / moving away."?

As I said in the other post, I have absolutely no problem with the idea of land use regulation in general and zoning in particular. And if the board had used zoning criteria to reject the application, for example by saying that the applicant hadn't made his case that a hardship existed, or that the proposed change would create excessive crowding, traffic, or nuisance of some other kind for the neighbors, I would have been fine with it.

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Gave me a chuckle.

Hope your deluxe washer dryer never breaks or you may find yourself the next Maytag repairman.

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... and that's that there's no circumstance under which I would expect the government to compel anyone to offer me a washer/dryer.

This is kind of a bizarre conversation we're having, since I'm arguably an old-school New Deal Democrat who believes in a hefty measure of government programs and government regulation, and people are coming at me on this particular issue as though I were espousing some kind of libertarian jackassery.

And, for whatever it's worth, I've spent plenty of time ass-deep in busted washer/dryers doing repairs.

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I've spent plenty of time ass-deep in busted washer/dryers doing repairs

I think it would go faster if you used your hands and arms instead.

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Everybody knows that the first step in fixing an appliance is to adjust your toolbelt for the necessary degree of trouser sag. ASHRAE standards for residential boiler repair, for example, call for 2.5 to 3.5 inches of butt crack to be visible before commencing the repair.

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When I was a poor student living in Europe, I bathed at the municipal baths and was glad to have that option over a tiny sink and a cold water tap.

I’d have no problem if consumer law required landlords to provide clothes washing facilities if no public facilities were nearby. It’s all part of providing a healthy living environment.
Refrigerators are required for food safety. Why not the means for clean clothes?

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When I was a poor student living in Europe, I bathed at the municipal baths and was glad to have that option over a tiny sink and a cold water tap.

I’d have no problem if consumer law required landlords to provide clothes washing facilities if no public facilities were nearby. It’s all part of providing a healthy living environment.
Refrigerators are required for food safety. Why not the means for clean clothes?

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He should stop renting to the laundromat tenant and rent the space to a real estate firm for a few months before seeking rezoning again?

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Shouldn't they change rental laws to mandate that landlords have to provide washing machines in their buildings? Seems like that's an easier option vs trying to mandate some kind of "laundromats per block" ratio.

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We would all assume that if there is enough demand for a laundromat, that one would open and the owner would make a good return. However, with the price of real estate so high, a laundry can't start charging $10 a load to make the place profitable, so they either close or don't open in the first place. This happens to the detriment of the community.

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Granted I only wash quilts at the laundromat, but I'm lucky if it's only $10 by the time they're dry.

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Surely there's one present here? If there's no laundromat available, then other apartment buildings nearby will either need to provide laundry machines, or lower their rent accordingly in order to get tenants who are ok with a longer trip to get their laundry done. Either way, I'm not sure why the zoning board should be involved.

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I moved into a building on the same street without knowing that the in-house washing machine and dryer were, eh, insufficient. I'm definitely not going to move out of my home and into another one just because the machines suck. I was, in fact, a regular patron of the laundromat in question until COVID hit. The mystical ~invisible hand of the market~ tends not to serve people who don't already have what they need, hence homelessness and poverty amidst overproduction of useless crap.
Would tenants in the area be willing to compromise for a rent reduction? We will literally never know.

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The problem with that is that landlord-owned washing machines are often crap. You can have problems with capacity and problems keeping them running. Since they wouldn't be a primary source of income for a landlord (as they are for a laundromat), there's no incentive to do anything beyond the bare minimum.

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Since they wouldn't be a primary source of income for a landlord (as they are for a laundromat), there's no incentive to do anything beyond the bare minimum.

I've been a landlord. The incentive is quite simple, and quite strong: You're a human being who happens to be in the business of renting out homes for other human beings. You want it to be a clean, safe, comfortable, and decent place for your tenants to enjoy life. Laundry equipment that works properly is part of that deal.

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You want it to be a clean, safe, comfortable, and decent place for your tenants to enjoy life.

Stop it, you're killing me.

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I'm not a slumlord. I grossly exceed the "bare minimum" in every regard, because my particular business model is to offer a high quality product. It seems to pay off, especially in down markets when tenants get scarce.

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I'm not a slumlord. I grossly exceed the "bare minimum" in every regard, because my particular business model is to offer a high quality product.

Good for you. Have a cookie.

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It's got bells on it!

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My friend is a landlord and her apartment had hookups so the tenant bought their own machines. The used machines require more water, and the tenants seem to have a family reunion every weekend of people washing their clothes. So to save on water the landlord bought a modern coin -op unit to install.

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> Landlord
The rest of your comments suddenly make much more sense.

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That's being a landlord in a nutshell, isn't it? We still find it possible to make other rules for safe and enjoyable habitation, even knowing that people are going to do the bare minimum to comply.

That said, this wasn't a totally serious suggestion - just more of an expression of disbelief at the ZBA's decision here.

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Obviously there's an incentive to beyond the bare minimum. That's why both Motel 6 and the Ritz Carlton can exist in the hotel business. If, as a landlord, your business model is offering the bare minimum to people who have little choice, you kind of suck as a human being.

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If, as a landlord, your business model is offering the bare minimum to people who have little choice, you kind of suck as a human being.

How are you enjoying your first day in Boston?

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Might be a good time to mention that there's a (expletive) laundromat on Brighton Ave. across from the fire station.

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Luv 2 walk 1/2 mile with all my laundry. Very practical, like most of your suggestions.

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But by that logic, government would say no to every endeavor to close a laundromat. That's not a great precedent.

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...where City should be requiring commercial landlords to house laundromats?

Or, if there is a need for such a service in a geographic area, wouldn't the free market provide as it does with, say, package stores or vape shops in the area?

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There are at least two laundromats that are closer to Harvard Ave @ Brainerd Road than that one in Union Square.

When I was a teenager and my parents didn't have a washer & dryer, I used to haul the family's washing roughly 3/4 mile to the laundromat on Comm Ave just past Spofford Road - quite a hike from our home on the other side of Packard's Corner! According to Google Street View it's still there, or at least it was as of September 2019, which was the last time that Street View was updated.

Many years later, the laundromat on Thorndike Street right next to Clear Flour Bread was my regular go-to. Either of those would probably be a closer option for the folks who use the laundromat under discussion above, should they need an alternative. But that one is right next to Clear Flour, so that's a big plus in my book.

The one on St. Lukes Road just off of Comm Ave is a shorter walk from my home, but my recollection is that I tried it a few times and found it busy and harder to get dryers, plus it had fewer amenities like carts or space to fold laundry, and getting my granny cart down the stairs was a pain.

I've always avoided the laundromat on Brighton Ave (now defunct) near Pizza Days, which has been sketchy-at-best for as long as I can recall. I'm not sure that the laundromat on Brighton Ave near Union Square even existed when I was a teenager, although it's where I spent many hours washing mountains of smoke-infused clothes for my parents after they had a house fire in the early 1980s.

Nowadays we have our own washer and dryer, but when we need a laundromat for really big loads (washing some or all of our half-dozen quilts, for example) we get a Zipcar and go to West End Laundromat in Watertown, which has plenty of standard sized washers plus the widest range of oversize machines I've ever seen in my life (besides the usual 2X and 3X, they have two additional even bigger sizes!) The dryers are kind of crap and expensive to boot, but it's worth it for those sweet sweet giant washers.

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Am I the only one here who has actually used that laundromat? Just a few times, and admittedly that was a few years ago... but it sucked.

The problem was that there was no attendant who worked there -- in fact I was completely alone in the place each time. And the machines didn't all work the way they should, and there was nobody to turn to.

When the change machine ate my dollar and didn't give me any quarters, all I could do was what the note on the wall said: leave a note for the owner, which I did, on a little piece of paper (with my phone number on it) stuck somewhere. Of course I never heard back. I ended up leaving a post-it note on the wall warning other customers about the place, but I doubt that stayed up long.

So much talk here about zoning rules I don't understand... how about a rule with minimum standards for laundromats?

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