February 8, 2019

Dear Royal Street Neighbors,             

Thank you to everyone who came to the abutters meeting sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services on Monday, February 4, 2019 about 37 Royal Street. 

For those that did not come, I am a neighbor on Royal Street.  I live at 47 Royal Street, with my wife Victoria and our 4-year-old daughter.  These are my own opinions, and I am not advocating for any group or special interest.

I am writing to remind everyone, that anyone in the neighborhood, regardless of your owner or renter, or even temporary status, can have a huge impact on this proposed project at 37 Royal Street. 

Numbers of people on the street have told me in the past, that they thought they had no say in these matters, but the fact is that you do.  Your voice matters as much as anyone’s, and it matters far more than the developer’s voice.

This new 37 Royal Street project is put together by out-of-town investors, whose primary interest is to pull $1 Million in equity from Royal Street, in exchange for developing out the only deeded green space on the street.

These investors and developers are asking for variances from the city.  This means, what they want to do is not allowed by zoning code, and neighbors can prevent it if they object, or support the variances if they approve. 

Variances are not granted automatically, so if neighbors protest, the variances likely won’t be granted at all.   Sometimes, the voice of just one neighbor will change the direction of the whole project.

On the flip side, if nobody speaks up at all, the zoning board, neighborhood groups, and the BPDA will likely approve the plans, and allow the project the way the investors and developers want it to be.

Realizing that Allston homes are unaffordable for families, that there is a housing shortage, and that people ultimately need a nice place to live; increased density is required to sustain the neighborhood restaurants, and stores that are opening now and to keep our neighborhood thriving.

I am hoping neighbors will join me in voicing their own opinion to the city, and the neighborhood forces.  From the last meeting, it was very interesting to see the differences in opinion between neighbors on design and layout, and listen to all of the concerns.

I am going to outline my own view of the proposal and offer my own opinions, as well as an avenue for you, and your neighbors, family, roommates, and friends to have your voice heard.

In a nutshell, the investor can renovate the house by right, without neighborhood approval, but just about anything else will require variances, which means it needs your approval.  Your silence, if offered instead, will be considered your approval by the city.

Please reach out to me and I can start a Royal Street real email list.  (The list that was circulated at the meeting was given to the developer, and will likely not be able to work as a list for a forum.)

There will also be a meeting held this month TBD about a major redevelopment of the parking lot at 500 Lincoln Street.  I can update you on this as well if you are on the list.

You can reach me at
Richard Rogers
47 Royal Street, Allston, MA 02134


Property Background

The original property is a 2 family house built on a lot that is too small for even a 2 family house. Zoning requires 5,000 square feet and that house is built on 3,390 sq ft.   This is not unusual for the neighborhood.

Next to the house is a lot. Separately deeded as UNUSABLE LAND
“132 - Other Residential / RES LAND (UNUSABLE)”

The unusable land is a total of 3,453 sq ft

Because of this classification, UNUSABLE it enjoys a tax bill of just $449 per year, and anchors Royal Street with open space and trees, and provides a beautiful yard for families and children to play.

To build additional units, (more than 2) the owner would need to combine these lots to make one big lot. 

The previous owners were owner occupants for 52 years, and said they tried to build, and combine the lots so they could stay in the neighborhood, but were unsuccessful in their attempts.

This new investor wants to eliminate the open space, combine the lots to make one building lot and 'no green space' lot, and then build 3-huge 4 story townhouse units, even though with the combined lots, still only 2 units are allowed under current zoning.

These owners are 4 out of town investor buddies, residing in the US and China:
1        TANG LING
2        LIU HUAFEN
3        ZHANG SONG
4        TIAN WANG-NI

Completing this project could mean they pocket about $1 Million from developing out Royal Street’s green space. 

When they leave Royal Street with this big bag of money, and when they are gone, there will be no opportunity to get back the open space on the corner, or the setback from the street. 

These investors will likely leave behind un-affordable townhouses that will be bought by investors, and rented out to students.

Once the back yard is paved over, and they cut down the only grove of trees, if families do move in, there will be no green grassy yard for their kids to play.



Reality Check:

That said, people still need a place to live, and increased density is required to sustain our neighborhood which is so rapidly changing.   Allston needs more housing, period.

Because this is not our own Allston neighbor proposing this project; or a new owner occupant ready to move to Royal Street to start a family and rent out one unit; or even a neighborhood organization that is proposing this development, but instead a group of outside investors, it is important not to settle for less in any way.

To get approved for these variances, some of them being:

  • Increased height
    they want 4 stories and to exceed the maximum 35' height for the neighborhood
  • Combining the lots to eliminate green space
    they want to convert the existing UNUSABLE LOT to a building lot
  • Inadequate setback
    they want to build too close to the street and too close to houses next to them.



IF this happens, there should be concessions to the neighborhood, and benefits to Royal Street. 

This development should be spoken of in terms of how it can improve the street, rather than what compromises current residents are willing to accept.

The owner purchased this house for $960,000 without looking at anything but the second floor apartment during the open house. 

The owner did not have a home inspection, or see the first floor, or basement, or investigate the land before purchasing the house.

The owners outbid the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, a non-profit who wanted to rehab the house and put two deed restricted, owner occupied condo units in that space.

Someone else could still build out 2 large units in a gut renovation of this house, or put up just 2 beautiful townhouses with enough land for kids to play, and they would have at least a $¼ million in equity or more when complete.

This type of gain would be enough profit for most people. It would create a great place to bring up a family, with the ability to rent out one unit by the owner and have a nice equity cushion.

The current absentee owner investors want to combine the lots and take away the UN-USABLE STATUS on the green space forever.    

If these owners cannot get approval for the 3 units, they will likely resell the property to a more reasonable developer, and still pocket a huge short term gain. Enough to set most people up with real retirement account. 

Giving Back:
How can the new investor owners give back in exchange for neighborhood support of their variances? 
How can Royal Street and Lower Allston be compensated for the lost green space?
How about giving back some of what they are taking from the neighborhood?

How about requiring the owner to :

  • Make the new building beautiful
  • Make it conform to (not exceed) height restrictions
  • Add iron (not chain link or hollow aluminum fences to the design)
  • Eliminate the yard parking but still keep the 2 parking per unit ratio by
    increasing all garages to be 2 car garages.
  • Use stone (granite) or brick or other quality hardscape rather than asphalt or concrete for surfaces.
  • Ensure garage maneuverability so garages are not ultimately used for storage or converted to living space
    - Do this by adding lots of storage. Perhaps consider full basements for proper storage and mechanicals rather than building on a slab.

AND OF COURSE - If a 3rd unit is to be allowed, it should be deed restricted for Owner Occupancy [ask for more info on this if you need it].

This ensures that at least one of the 3 units will always be occupied by the owner, making the development more stable and sustainable, and less likely to have problem rentals.

I would hope people in the neighborhood would either outright object to the construction of the 3rd unit, or to insist that if there is a 3rd unit it must be deed restricted to owner occupied.




37 Royal Street Citations

After buying the property
1- year ago, the owner has been cited at least 6 times by the city's Inspectional Services Department for issues within her control

Why would a major construction project be managed any  differently?

These owners have already had 1-year to prove they are good neighbors, but they have actually been a continued drain on the neighborhood and city resources.



Let’s look at the primary (managing) owner:

Since buying the property ONE YEAR AGO the owner has been a menace in the neighborhood, and cited at least 6 times by the city, so why would her construction project be any different?
  • The owner has what is classified as a PROBLEM PROPERTY where it is cited regularly by the city's Inspectional Services Department for litter, uncut grass, yard parking, and other violations that are propagated by the owner. This owner was cited at least 6 times since buying the house.
  • The owner has not  posted contact info as required by the city
  • The only reason the yard has been cleaned up at all is that neighbors have helped with this. 
  • The new owner has left the grass un-cut, and the property in poor condition for months.
  • There are currently tenants living in the house, even though it is technically uninhabitable, and is full of peeling lead paint, asbestos and other hazards such as poor air quality. 
  • Basic maintenance has not been performed on the property such as securing loose exterior tiles, fixing broken stairs and so on.



37 Royal Street Citations

After apparently being cited multiple times for yard parking, the owners have expanded their driveway, with a small concrete block retaining wall and gravel, to illegally park an additional vehicle.

There is no permit filed. 

"Why would a major construction project be managed any  differently?"

These owners installed an additional parking space, with no permit, AFTER being fined for yard parking.


Things people noted at the abutters meeting:

- Ensure an adequate asbestos abatement program is in place for asbestos exterior during demolition
- Weekday construction and no off hours staging, parking or leaving of equipment
- Pull proper permits for parking or rent off site staging area 
      [Possibly the lot on Hooker Street or at 500 Lincoln Street staging space is available for rent.]
- Some people loved the design proposed
- Many people opposed the design and requested:
  - More traditional design like the corner of Holton and Athol
  - Rooflines go in the wrong direction
- The height is excessive
- There is not enough green space or open space
- There is not enough of a setback
- The plan calls to cut down all of the trees
- The plan calls for paved rear lot and outdoor parking
- Parking should be indoor without sacrificing the 2 parking per unit ratio
- Outdoor space should be designed to actually be utilized.
- Final plans should include an IRON fence not wood, aluminum, or chain link


During the meeting, when construction parking and staging was addressed, the developer did not offer a mitigating solution, but instead pointed out that he could park commercial vehicles by right in our resident parking zone.

During the meeting the proposed paved back yard parking was addressed, and the request was made to move the paved yard parking inside and to keep green space in the back yard and against the abutter’s yard. The developer stated they could possibly move it inside, but then when another Royal Street resident mentioned that with that model, only visitors would have to park on the street, the developer rebutted, “you already proposed to eliminate the visitor parking”.  I took that to imply that if they did eliminate the paved yard parking, they would not be moving the other cars inside to a garage, but eliminating their parking.




You live here, so you will have this proposed new building and missing green space forever. 

The investors will walk away with $1 million. Even the listing realtor, who was at the meeting stands to gain over $100,000 in commissions. 

With all of that money being taken out of Royal Street, let's work on keeping some of it here! 

Here is what I will propose when I write my own letters:

The current owner and developer should not be allowed to combine the lots and eliminate the deed restricted green space, in order to build a third townhouse, unless that third townhouse is itself deed restricted as owner occupied, or some other significant and ever-lasting off-set for Royal Street that will contribute to the enjoyment of all residents, such as burying the utilities for the entire street.

Without the deed restriction, at least on the 3rd townhouse, only two units should be allowed and they should be developed on the existing parcel without combining the lots so the unusable lot can remain green space. 

If the developer agrees to deed restrict the third townhouse as owner occupied, and the development proceeds as 3 townhouses, the following conditions should be met:

- The buildings should use all high quality materials and NO VINYL SIDING

- The project should be redesigned to fit in with the more traditional architecture of the neighborhood   

- The rooflines should match the direction of the roofs on Royal Street or be a flat roof. Not the opposite.

- The new construction exterior preference is for red brick to match the existing brick on Royal Street,
   or if of a different material, the color scheme should be other than grey, beige or white.

- The setback will be examined to allow for the MAXIMUM practical setback.

- At least one tree must be planted for every tree cut down with a 5 year warrantee on new plantings.

- The developer should commit to a cast iron fence (not vinyl, wood, plastic, aluminum or low quality)

- The design to pave the back yard or create outdoor parking should be eliminated.

- All parking (2 cars per unit) should be inside.

- Developer should commit to a Monday to Friday construction schedule with no Saturday work

- Developer should not use resident parking for his construction vehicles

- Developer to provide details on asbestos abatement to neighborhood before demolition begins

- Developer to maintain direct line of communication with the neighborhood regarding disruption.



Write one good letter and copy it to these people or groups:

Write a letter to Conor Newman connor.newman@boston.gov
Write a letter or cc the BPDA under zoning http://www.bostonplans.org/about-us/contact-us
Write to the Allston Civic Association: http://www.allstoncivicassociation.org/contact.html
Write to the Brighton Allston Improvement Assoc: bela@mail.com
Write to our City Councilor Mark Ciommo: MARK.CIOMMO@BOSTON.GOV
Write directly to the owner who is living in the US: tang66ling@gmail.com  

All of these people / groups will likely go on record at the ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS hearing where this project will ultimately be approved or denied.

Also write to or cc the ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS: jeffrey.hampton.bra@cityofboston.gov

If you are very passionate about this project and want to, you can also go to each of these meetings as they come up, and speak on behalf of your interests and opinions.


This will be March 26, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.
   - When this project is called, briefly state why you support or don't support the project

- Let me know personally if you   [my phone number is 617-266-8998]

   - Want a ride to the meeting on Tuesday, March 26 at CITY HALL
   - Want help writing a letter or sending a letter

- There is also an Allston Civic Association meeting March 20 at 6 p.m. at the Library

Here is a PDF from the city with a form you can detach and mail in.

If you want to be notified about any new information that I gather, or other Royal Street stuff - contact me and I will send updates to the group.


Learn more about the 37 Royal Street Development Project

Email Address








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