CAMH Discusses Hillside Street Project

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

During its monthly meeting in October, the Community Alliance of Mission Hill (CAMH) heard an initial presentation for a project at 14 Hillside Street.

As part of this proposal, the building on Hillside Street would have a gut renovation and have its occupancy confirmed as a three-family dwelling.

According to Attorney Derric Small, who presented the project to CAMH, the assessing department has assessed the property as a three-family since the 1980s.

However, Small said, “When we went, and we applied for permits to do the work, they (Inspectional Services Department) said, oh, there’s no record of occupancy.”

He went on to say, “It’s very common that when you go to ISD (Inspectional Services Department), look at a building jacket they will have either no record of occupancy or they will have something contrary to what the assessing department has which we have in this case.”

With the renovation, Small said a kitchen will be removed from the basement, all new sprinkler and fire protection systems will be added, and an exterior egress will be removed in lieu of interior stairs being built within the building.

Moreover, the proposal is in need of zoning relief due to two violations, the first being off-street parking.

Small indicated that the property has “plenty of parking” from an existing 10-foot driveway on the left side of the building. However, he explained that “Because the Inspectional Services Department doesn’t consider tandem spaces to be legal spaces, they are citing us for that.”

The project has also been cited for forbidden use as the property falls within a 2F-4,000 zoning subdistrict.

When it came time to discuss the proposal, many residents in attendance had questions surrounding the units, amount of bedrooms, as well as current and prospective tenants. Currently, Small said “a couple of” professionals and “a couple of” graduate students live at the property.

Further, there seemed to be confusion for at least one resident regarding the number of bedrooms as opposed to the number of living rooms.

“We talked about this at the project review meeting, and I said there did not seem to be living rooms on the second and third floor, and now I see the revised plans have turned one of the rooms that’s currently labeled as a bedroom into a living room,” said the resident.

In response, Small explained that there was a mistake in the plan and that the room in question was “going back into a living room.” Later in the meeting, this point spawned some concern from a couple of residents about living rooms actually being used as bedrooms.

“My concern is that if the owner who is doing this renovation has owned the building for a while and there are rooms that have been bedrooms that are now going to become living rooms,” said the resident.

“I have a really hard time thinking that those living rooms are not going to continue to be bedrooms because he’s going to need to maximize income,” the resident added.

Small made the point that this concern could be policed through ISD in that the project would need to be built out to the plan’s specifications, or else it would not receive a certificate of occupancy.

Even with that said, another resident echoed these same concerns, saying, “There’s zero confidence that a landlord is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate a property, to bring it up to code with sprinklers et cetera and decrease his occupancy.”

There were also other comments about the proposal; one statement was read by an attendee from a resident who could not be at the meeting and opposed the project, citing overgrown weeds and trash issues at the property.

As the meeting progressed, several other topics were touched on, such as the safety of occupants, the use of an existing garage on the site, and more.

Since this was an initial presentation for the project, a vote was not held. CAMH is slated to meet again on November 15.

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