Denied once more
Parks Commissioner says no to Parish Café
In her decision letter, the Parks and Recreation Department’s commissioner Antonia M. Pollak noted three reasons why Parish Café would not be allowed to remove and replace one tree along Tremont St. to make room for a sidewalk café.
"The tree you are proposing to remove is in good health with sufficient room to continue to grow," Pollak wrote, adding that in addition to the community’s concerns about the tree removal, the Parks and Recreation Department had also "not seen evidence of a design effort to retain the trees, provide outdoor seating, and maintain an accessible route along the sidewalk."
Parish Café co-owner Gordon Wilcox said in a phone call Tuesday that he was not prepared to comment on the commissioner’s decision at the present time, saying he would get back to the South End News in a few days.
This is the second time Parish Café has been denied at a tree removal hearing. In 2010, the restaurant was denied after proposing to completely remove two trees in order to make room for a 40-seat café.
This year, the restaurant came back with a scaled-down 28-seat sidewalk café that allowed for a five-and-a-half-foot path of travel for pedestrians, kept one tree in its current location, and removed and replaced a second tree in a different location. Wilcox had said he would sign a ten-year agreement with the neighborhood promising to take care of the trees. Parish Café had also promised to plant two additional trees somewhere in the neighborhood as a part of the new design.
"A sidewalk cafe at the Parish Cafe will benefit the entire neighborhood, making the whole community more vibrant," said Wilcox in a letter to the South End News. "The majority of our neighbors support us--we hope to have people dining outdoors next spring."
Despite support from the Claremont Neighborhood Association and Chester Square Area Neighborhood Association, and having gone through 18-months of a design process with city agencies and neighborhood groups, many residents at an Tuesday, Oct. 18 tree hearing expressed displeasure with the plan, though all noted their approval of Parish Café.
South Ender Lloyd Fillion suggested a plan in which the café location, not trees, were moved. Glen Berkowitz, a South End resident and representative of the Cambridge-based Livable Streets Alliance, suggested removing parking spaces instead of trees to make room for a bigger sidewalk café.
"To say that trees can just be moved around for businesses while parking spaces have higher priority represents traffic engineering and urban design solutions from the 1940s and 50s. It is not what we should be doing today," he said.
Boston’s City Engineer Para Jayasinghe said a design that eliminated parking spaces would have to go through the Transportation Department and a community process before heading to the Public Improvement Commission, which oversees sidewalk café proposals.
Commissioner Pollak left the door open to Parish Café presenting another plan to her department in the future, denying their request "without prejudice."
"A solution that accommodates both outdoor tables and the trees will create a more inviting café space and will retain a healthy urban street tree that is of value to the larger neighborhood," she wrote. "We encourage you to return to this Department with design alternatives that preserve the trees and provide outdoor seating while continuing to work with the community to find a solution they can support."