Parking vs Morality Meet in New French Club Proposal at ZBA

By Seth Daniel

For some, the problem was parking and traffic, while others believed the problem was a lack of human sensitivity.

It was nearly a first as a 34-unit affordable housing building at the old French Club ran up against opponents who were concerned about the effect on traffic an parking, while supporters criticized the critics on moral grounds for not being humane.

The Neighborhood Developers (TND) presented the new plan at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Tuesday night and outlined the second iteration of the French Club development on Spencer Avenue. The changes include going down to four stories, providing 34 parking spots for 34 units, returning the street and, perhaps, selling the triangular piece in the front back to the City for open space. The new design featured different materials on the outside, including metal, clapboard, wood shingles and brick, and it would have a parking garage entrance/exit on Stockton Street.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he didn’t agree with the previous project, but believed that the developer had responded well to the concerns of neighbors.

“Listening to neighbors and responding positively to neighborhood concerns, when that happens, the City needs to support that developer,” he said.

Many of the immediate neighbors, however, felt the project had improved, but needed to go further.

“It’s a good project, but I think it has to come down one more level to make this right for parking,” said Barbara Richards. “The zoning is 1.5 spaces per unit, not one space.”

“I like affordable housing and I wouldn’t be where I’m at now without it,” said Christine Pawlak. “Parking and infrastructure is a major thing. Public safety is a major issue. The project is beautiful and I appreciate that you listened to us. Care just a little bit more, though.”

Others said the issue of affordable housing was a moral issue, and those against the project were lacking humanity or sensitivity.

“I heard a lot of people speaking against them and I ask people to have some humanity,” said Gloria Amor, speaking in Spanish. “I hear parking and trash and they’re talking like it’s TNDs fault. I’ve been living here 20 years and there’s always been a problem with parking. The rents are going up, up, up and we do want to live here and stay here.”

A woman from Beacon Street only giving her name as Monica said opponents need to understand the plight of the poor.

“Chelsea has been prospering,” she said. “People like my family are being displaced because rents are too high. I agree with parking. I live on Beacon Street and park two streets away from my home because parking is a mess. Let’s be more humane and stop complaining about parking. We need to be more sensitive to these families.”

The matter will go to the Planning Board next week, and then come back to the ZBA for a vote on Jan. 12.

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