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Ward3demoPermitSlideLast Thursday a special meeting of the Zoning & Planning Committee discussed #237‐14, Alderman Amy Sangiolo’s request for a one-year moratorium on demolition of single- and two-family homes, while the Board of Aldermen addresses issues of the size and scale of new construction, the conversion of single-family to two- and more family structures, the definition of two-family vs attached dwellings, snout and sideways-facing houses, regrading and retaining walls, and loss of trees and green space. (This was a followup to an earlier discussion I wrote about in June.)

Both the meeting audio and Amy’s PowerPoint presentation (appended to the meeting Report) are on the city website, so you can look and listen at the same time.

The mayor has told Amy that he’s against the moratorium, and he wants instead to proceed with zoning reform. But aldermen in favor of the moratorium including Sangiolo, Vicki Danberg, Brian Yates, and Dick Blazar, make the point that if we wait for Phase 2 of zoning reform, hundreds more houses and much of the character and diversity of income that we’re trying to preserve will be lost in the interim. The Planning Department’s memo (scroll down below the agenda) reports 102 demolitions in FY14, up from 80 in FY13. July’s Newton Historical Commission agenda included 23 requests for full house demolitions.

The map above shows demolition permits issued for Ward 3 from 2005 to mid-2014. You can see the other ward maps in the PowerPoint. This is only the last ten years, so it doesn’t include older teardowns such as the infamous ‘snout houses’ on Tanglewood Road, which were built in the late 1990s. And it only includes permits for full demolition, not partial, so doesn’t fully reflect the loss of naturally affordable housing. (For example, the house on Parmenter Terrace in this video of a few months ago — not a full demolition, but an expansion in at least three directions, left, right, and up! You can see the before & after in the PowerPoint.) The maps show many geographical concentrations of demolition permits, so while Planning seems to not consider .5% of the housing stock being demolished per year to be a problem, residents in the areas of heavy concentration may feel differently.

Ward 8 as you’d expect, has the most (and I think is nearing the point limit for free Google maps). But I’m showing Ward 3 here because it’s my ward, and we’ve got a Ward Alderman election coming up, and I’d like to know which of the four candidates would support a moratorium of a year, or through the end of the aldermanic term (as even those not supporting it have suggested would make sense if they’re going to do it).

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