Old South End-Roxbury Feud Ignites with Missing Parking Signs: WSANA Talks Christmas Tree Lighting, Utility Nightmares

A stretch of Washington Street between Mass Ave and Melnea Cass was apparently part of the South End last month – at least according to resident parking signs – but seemingly has been annexed by Roxbury this month as the neighborhood boundary feud has once-again surfaced.

About two weeks ago, it was said that Councilor Kim Janey filed an emergency Public Works order to take down South End resident parking signs on that stretch of Washington Street without any public input. They were replaced by two-hour parking signs. While anyone can park at those signs, many in the South End are now worried about two things:  lack of due process and where to park overnight.

An inquiry to Councilor Janey’s office was not returned, and many are saying that she is particularly ‘mum’ on the issue.

It was, however, a big topic of conversation on Tuesday night at the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA), as many there are worried that the councilor might have larger visions on the horizon. They are also worried that overnight resident parkers might move over into their neighborhoods.

“All of the people on that part of Washington Street just got new South End stickers last summer,” said Desi Murphy, WSANA vice president. “Now that this is two-hour parking, where will they go to park? They will move to this area and our parking situation will become even tighter.”

He said he confirmed through another city councilor that Janey had taken the signs down via an emergency order.

Murphy said many in the area affected are convinced there is a larger design to change South End signs below Mass Ave to Roxbury resident signs – which would include areas in WSANA.

“People on Washington Street are convinced that there is a plan to re-sign everything beyond Mass Ave as Roxbury resident parking,” he said. “They say that includes one side of Mass Ave and also Northampton Street, which are both in WSANA.”

All over the South End, and in WSANA, many have been disturbed by the idea that what was the South End suddenly became Roxbury – and there are all sorts of maps to prove the point in either direction.

A map from the Department of Neighborhood Development seems to put the area – sometimes known as Lower Roxbury – firmly in the South End.

However, a map from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) puts the line of the South End on Mass Ave.

Former State Rep. Byron Rushing – a pre-eminent historian of the area – is quick to produce maps from the annexation period of Roxbury into Boston that clearly show the disputed area in the South End, or Boston proper. The line on those maps between the two seems to follow the area of Melnea Cass Boulevard. He has been a staunch supporter over the years of Lower Roxbury being part of the South End.

On the other hand, those seeking License Board permits, such as liquor licenses, will quickly see that all of the South End is listed as being in Roxbury. Businesses are far north as the Ellis South End neighborhood are classified as ‘Roxbury’ on their licenses.

Meanwhile, the federal Census and the U.S. Postal Service have totally different lines of demarcation – neither of which follow any of the above references.

The matter first flared up again – as it has many times in the past – during the debate over the Alexandra Hotel earlier this year. Lying in disputed territory, many felt that Roxbury hadn’t been duly notified, while those in the South End and Lower Roxbury felt the process had played out well.

The interesting point there is the South End Landmarks District stretches about halfway down Washington Street, but doesn’t go further.

Peter Sanborn said he always assumed that the South End concluded somewhere amidst Lenox Street.

“I always thought the South End at least extended to Northampton Street and that it got kind of gray as to whether it went to Lenox,” he said.

All agreed that they want to call a public forum on the matter soon to figure out what happened and how it happened – as well as the implications to their neighborhood.

“We are not Roxbury; we are the South End and I want that resolved at some time in the future,” said Fernando Requena.

•WSANA Board member Bob Minnocci presented a grievance on the amounts of “emergency” work done by utilities in the neighborhood, and for that matter, across Boston.

The source of the frustration has been a weekend permit exercised by National Grid on Mass Avenue for an emergency. Minnocci said it has been a nightmare situation, and he’s had trouble getting answers.

“They said it’s because Boston Water and Sewer is there working, but they haven’t been in that area for a month,” he said. “They could have done this work during the week. We’ve been going back and forth. They seem to give out these permits willy nilly when there isn’t really any kind of emergency.”

The situation is something that is fully on the radar of the administration.

During a meeting with the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce this month, Mayor Martin Walsh and Economic Development Chief John Barros said they are looking at emergency permits carefully. There, on more than one occasions, power has been cut to full restaurants during business hours due to emergency situations – and with no notice.

Barros said at that event they are looking into these situations, and while they don’t approve permits for this emergency work, they are investigating it.

“Even when it’s an emergency, they’re supposed to give us the kind of emergency and the timeline,” he said. “Frankly, we have been having conversations about whether this emergency situation is being abused. These situations happen all over the city…Please contact us when this happens because we’re collecting info on it.”

•The Worcester Square tree lighting has been set for Dec. 7 in the park. While there is some dispute as to whether or not it’s the 57th annual lighting, it still is the oldest continuous tree lighting in the City – perhaps.

Anyway, the festivities are being planned and a band has been booked.

Santa will apparently be notified of the soiree after the politicians.

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