In response to neighborhood concern, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing — a nonprofit housing developer — agreed to lop off the fourth story of a development proposed for the corner of Haley and Salsipuedes streets and designed to provide rental housing for low and very low income residents. By so doing, the developers agreed at this week’s Architectural Board of Review (ABR) meeting to reduce the number of rental units from 46 to 40. In addition, they agreed to provide six spaces of guest parking. The size of the development — as well as the new, relaxed parking standards to which it’s held — has been the cause of mounting anxiety by business owners and property owners in a neighborhood where most buildings are one or two stories tall. The changes went a long way to assuaging similar concerns held by members of the ABR.
The project constitutes a significant test case for a new set of zoning rules — yet to be finalized into ordinance form — designed to encourage developers to build more small and affordable housing units by allowing higher densities and requiring fewer parking spaces. Last week, the city council deliberated over refinements to that new ordinance — dubbed the “average unit density ordinance” — and voted 6-to-1 to exempt some portions of outer State Street from its provisions. Under the terms of the new ordinance, the ABR will be vested with final authority to approve — or condition — such projects. Currently, the ABR’s charge is more narrowly focused on aesthetic concerns.