1 Beacon Hill’s ADA Accessible Curb Cut Ramps Brouhaha: A Slippery Slope

In case you’ve missed it, there’s been a long simmering debate about how to bring the historic Boston neighborhood of Beacon Hill and its curbs into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Beacon Hill ADA Accessible Curb Cut Ramps 1

An example of a curb cut ramp proposed by the city featuring poured concrete and plastic tactile strip

Beacon Hill ADA Accessible Curb Cut Ramps

An example of a first generation Beacon Hill curb cut ramp which everyone agrees needs updating

Last year the City of Boston proposed to remove thousands of square feet of sidewalk bricks and replace them with poured cement and contrasting plastic tactile warning strips at hundreds of modern wheelchair-accessible sidewalk curb cuts it’s planning to construct over the coming years throughout Beacon Hill.

The neighborhood’s response to reject the city’s plan came through votes from both the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) board of directors and the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission (BHAC), a body established in 1955 to monitor Beacon Hill renovation and development projects.

Concisely, the BHCA and BHAC rejected the plan because the city’s proposal calls for historically inappropriate materials to be used within the National Landmark District of Beacon Hill where they contend those materials will adversely impact the character of the neighborhood in violation of the Historic Beacon Hill District’s enabling act and BHAC Guidelines.

What’s important to understand, and something many following this story are missing, is that as it stands now first generation brick and granite curb cut ramps are present almost universally at Beacon Hill intersections. Further, both the city and the neighborhood agree with the “what” of the city’s proposal to improve the curb cut ramps, they just differ on the “how.”

The BHCA and BHAC have stated time and again that they wholeheartedly support handicap accessibility for Beacon Hill. They merely wish for the city to use historically appropriate materials like durable wire-cut bricks for the curb cut ramps and concrete pavers for the tactile strips.

City officials have rejected the neighborhood’s counterproposal to use historically appropriate materials citing reasons ranging from cost to citywide uniformity and durability to not wanting to create “exceptionalism” where the treatment of one Boston historic district (Aberdeen Architectural Conservation District, Back Bay Architectural District, Bay State Road/Back Bay West Architectural Conservation District, Bay Village Historic District, Fort Point Channel Landmark District, Historic Beacon Hill District, Mission Hill Triangle Architectural Conservation District, South End Landmark District and the St. Botolph Architectural Conservation District) differs from another.

As a resident of Beacon Hill I’m very disappointed to learn that the mayor, on behalf of the city, has ultimately decided to sidestep the BHCA and the BHAC via a suspiciously timed Inspectional Services Department mandate for ramp improvements citing “public safety.” Further, I am concerned that with the precedent of going around the neighborhood set, the city will nibble away at Beacon Hill’s unique character unchecked over time.

Let me repeat, we all support handicap accessibility for Beacon Hill. This said, I have to wonder if the mayor and other proponents of the city’s proposal have spent anytime on the Hill? I contend that the city can construct as many modern wheelchair-accessible sidewalk curb cuts as it wants and the underlying access issues will remain. The Hill will remain arduous. The sidewalks will remain tricky and uncomfortably narrow owing to the neighborhood’s zero lot lines. And everyone will continue to travel (on foot and by wheelchair) in the street the way the people of Beacon Hill have done for centuries.

So what’s this brouhaha about? I think State Representative Jay Livingstone said it best in his comments to The Boston Courant (7/25/14), “… the mayor has decided to forgo all process and accountability and do what he wants.”

Erik Schubert

"I believe local real estate market knowledge, the ability to understand customers' needs and tireless effort on their behalf to achieve their goals make for the best client relationships." Erik Schubert, Realtor® and broker, strives daily to earn your business. A twelve year resident of Boston and real estate licensee since 2007, he brings an energetic spirit and fondness for the local area which makes buying/selling, or renting a home a rewarding and positive experience.

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Just Listed: 3 River Street Place Boston, MA

Address: 3 River Street Place, Beacon Hill
Price: $1,200,000

Tucked into a quiet corner overlooking a private courtyard, this is the quintessential Beacon Hill home you’ve always dreamed of. This charming single-family offers four levels of modern comforts seamlessly married with original details. Stride across the leafy courtyard and enter into the kitchen/dining area through the newly painted and brass fitted entry way to discover a warm and welcoming combination kitchen/dining room featuring the best of the old and new; granite & stainless including a 2013 dishwasher mingle effortlessly with the original hearth and cast iron bread oven door. One flight up, the sunny fire-placed living room features lovely built-ins & gleaming hardwood floors. Both bedrooms feature en-suite bathrooms and even the roof deck is a study in old and new; providing a private respite above the village and capturing rooftop vignettes of Beacon Hill, views of multiple steeples and the lights of the Boston skyline at night. Central AC, Alarm Sys. — MLSPIN #: 71636632

For Property Details Visit: 3riverstreetplace.info

Janine Franceschi

Listing Agent

  • Office: 617.394.8648
  • Fax: 617.507.5666
  • Cell: 508.561.1723

Save The Date: Decorating Beacon Hill’s Gas Lamp Posts For The Holidays

Beacon Hill holiday decorations

Joe Schutt decorates a lamp post at the intersection of Grove and Revere

Beacon Hill holiday decorations

Preparing the garland used to decorate Beacon Hill’s 1,100 gas lamp posts

Save the date for Beacon Hill’s annual holiday gas lamp post decorating days, December 7th and 8th. Join neighbors in wrapping garlands and attaching bows to Beacon Hill’s 1,100 lamp posts. Saturday the garlands and bows are prepared for installation on Sunday. Whether you can participate both days, or just for a few hours one day, all are encouraged to participate.

Joe Schutt

Committed to representing your interests with the highest level of integrity, I am dedicated to service excellence focused on personal attention and building a solid trust relationship. I listen carefully and make my clients feel comfortable in exploring their full range of real estate options and then encourage them to relax and rely on my expertise to insure that the details run smoothly and efficiently. Google+

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