BHCA Community Corner

by Suzanne Besser, BHCA President

Contractors & neighbors: working together

It is Beacon Hill’s good fortune that for generations owners of its historic 19th century homes have invested their time, talent and resources to preserve them for generations to come. Without them and the talented craftsmen they hire to restore their properties, Beacon Hill would not have remained the unique historic neighborhood that attracts visitors from all over the world.

But the restoration of these homes is often difficult for neighbors who must live with the consequent dumpsters, dust and debris as well as traffic problems and lost parking spaces. Nor is it easy on contractors, who must deal with an overload of zoning, permitting and neighborhood rules as well as narrow clogged roads, not enough parking spaces and often unhappy neighbors.

This is why in the late nineties the Beacon Hill Civic Association partnered with the Boston Transportation Department (BTD] to ease the tension by fostering better communication between contractors and neighbors, and preventing contractor abuses of the permitting process, thereby lessening the impact of construction on neighbors and frustration on the part of the contractors.

While most contractors work hard to accommodate abutters, occasionally neighbors would complain about one they feel is misusing the street occupancy permits. While these city permits were intended for the temporary parking of dumpsters, contractors would park their pickup trucks in the spaces for months. Seeing contractors’ personal vehicles in residential parking spaces did not settle well with residents of this parking-starved neighborhood.

Members of the BHCA Traffic and Parking Committee then went to BTD and pointed out that its permit process was being abused. It was then that BTD turned over the renewal process to BHCA, giving it the authority to determine if the permits were to be renewed.

That process is still being followed today. When the initial two-week permit given by BTD expires, the BHCA asks contractors to come to its office to sign an affidavit acknowledging that they will abide by the city guidelines for use of the temporary construction permits, including the prohibition against using such spaces for their employees’ own vehicles.

“This gives us an opportunity to talk with the contractor and come to an understanding of what the project is about, what he or she needs to do to accomplish it, and what the neighborhood expects in return,” said BHCA Executive Director Patricia Tully.

Tully said there are now about 25 contractors working on long term projects on the Hill. “For the most part, they come in, are super pleasant and easy to work with,” she said. “If no neighborhood problems occur after the first renewal, we will approve subsequent ones online to make it easier for them. If we have received complaints from neighbors, we work with the contractors to resolve them.”

But sometimes a contractor fails to abide by the city rules and the BHCA feels it cannot renew the permits. It happened on one Beacon Hill block last week after abutters had filed continuous complaints about the practices of a contractor working on their block all summer. They said that the individual was parking his personal vehicle in the spaces rather than using them for loading and unloading, sharing his permit with other contractors, using the spaces beyond the permitted hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., handwriting permits rather than using city approved ones, posting signs movable plastic drums and more. The BHCA opted not to renew his permit, said Tully who instead asked him to find alternative parking for the next two weeks.

For the program to work, the BHCA depends on input from the neighbors. “I encourage neighbors to call with concerns or compliments regarding our neighborhood contractors,” she said. “We want to hear from them so that we can solve problems before renewing the permits and avoid having to withdraw our approval.”

For more information about street occupancy permits or to register concerns or support of a contractor, residents may contact the BHCA at 617-227-1922 or [email protected].

Get involved

Beacon Hill Civic Association committees and special events comprise volunteers working together from all over the neighborhood to assure a good quality of life here. All residents are welcome to jump aboard.


Meetings this week

Tuesday, October 10:      Board of Directors Meeting.  7 p.m.,

74 Joy Street

Wednesday, October 11:             Cambridge Street Quality of Life Committee Meeting. 6 p.m.,

74 Joy Street

Zoning & Licensing Committee Meeting. 7 p.m.,

74 Joy Street.


Upcoming Special Event

Thursday, October 19:    Historic Home Renovation Roundtable. 6 – 8 p.m. Museum of African American History.

A lively and informative panel discussion about the unique joys, challenges, and  responsibilities involved in renovating a historic home, from the perspective of  architects, preservationists, and homeowners who’ve had the privilege of renovating some

of Beacon Hill’s most important buildings.

Participants will include:

Bruce Irving, Executive Producer for the first 17 seasons of This Old House, contributing editor to Design New England, Chair of Cambridge Historical Commission, and a real estate and renovation consultant.

Catherine Truman, architect who led the restoration of the Second Harrison Gray Otis House (85 Mt. Vernon St.), a National Register-listed, Charles Bulfinch designed townhouse and one of the neighborhood’s most important historic buildings.

Mark Doughty, President of Thoughtforms, a premier builder in Eastern Massachusetts whose projects include historic home projects in Beacon Hill and Bay Bay, and an MIT graduate leading efforts to apply advanced scientific methods to building design and construction.

The panel will also include a Beacon Hill homeowner experienced in multiple historic home renovations in the neighborhood, and an expert in the regulations governing changes to buildings in historic districts.

Register online at


Visit the Beacon Hill Civic Association website and/or call the office (617-227-1922) for more information on how to get involved.

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