Go to the Affordable Housing Meeting. Seriously.

Remember when the collective of people who think the sky is falling in at the slightest whiff of change in the air totally shit their bermuda shorts at the thought of a windowless green building being erected in the spot where the putrid hulking corpse of Cameron’s is?

I’ve had a handful of people come up to me at various bars, sidewalk bazaars, and downtown block parties to say “those posts were great. I’m glad someone is calling people out on their concern trolling and NIMBYism.” This actually happened. I had thought since we were crazy busy with Snotbot and took some time off that people had perhaps forgotten your beloved the Clam existed, but I guess you people had longer attention spans than we thought. Weird. 

Well, tonight is the next community meeting about the space (spoiler alert: the building has fucking windows and won’t look like a sad space station). While there are reasonable people attending who have reasonable concerns and questions and want to be part of a collaborative conversation to move the project forward in a favorable manner, there are some who aren’t so reasonable. And you, as Clam readers, should show up to outnumber them. Why support this thing? Well, here:

  • Residences on Main Street aren’t a bad thing. There have been a lot of comments that housing should be kept off Main Street. I’m not sure why – while we have a great thriving Main Street, something other towns aren’t as lucky to have, we have more retail space than businesses wanting to fill it, and that problem is exacerbated with the recent closing of businesses like Palazola’s, Island Art and Hobby, La Trattoria, etc. When housing units are added to Main Street, businesses have more local clients, and local workers. There is already a good amount of housing stock on Main Street as it is – I have friends who live there, I almost rented an apartment above Stones (but felt my liver wouldn’t survive the year-long lease). We don’t have an excess of housing stock – in fact, it’s incredibly hard to find a reasonably priced apartment in this town, because so many places are summer rentals.
  • Thinly-veiled classism couched in faux-concern for residents is rampant already with this project. “How can kids live downtown without a yard?” Uh, ask every family in Manhattan or any other urban area of which our country has many. Turns out kids survive just fine if they have to undertake a short walk to the nearest playground, and the YMCA is around the corner. “How will they park?” Newsflash, middle-class hand-wringers: not everyone has a car, and the developers have made sure there’s parking for each unit.
  • There’s also just outright selfish judgement about the project. “People from scary Lynn could move here!” “It’s a tax on the school system!” “Low-income housing might lower my property values!” “Wow, a brand new downtown residence? How come I don’t get one and THOSE PEOPLE do?” And more I can’t even really repeat because it’s gross and I don’t feel like barfing right now. There are people who literally think these bullshit reasons should preclude other humans from having a needed downtown living space.

What downtown Gloucester will look like, apparently.


Low-income residents aren’t garbage people. They’re not. They’re our neighbors, sons, daughters, mothers, grandparents, best friends. We have to stop treating them like weird aliens that have come to destroy our idyllic city with their crime and their terrible work ethic. Newsfuckingflash: It’s hard to get low-income housing but incredibly easy to have a low income in 2015. Section 8 is a slog of a process with an interminably long waiting list during which time a lot of people lose whatever savings they had. Why are we making it harder for people to survive? Why is that the America some people want?

Go to the meeting. It’s at 6 PM at the Rose Baker Senior Center. Bring your questions and your reasonable brains.


Snotbot’s Final Frontier.

Today and tomorrow mark the last hours of our Snotbot project. And we still really need your help.



You should support this, and back us, for a ton of reasons. We’re awesome, this was a Clam project (that, up there, is your Clameditor Jim annoying Sir Patrick Stewart), and all that. And don’t worry, your The Clam will be back in full swing after this week. But beyond this local blog, this changes the world for the better. We take drone technology that was developed by the military and turn it to saving our oceans, whales, and the planet. We take 3d printing technology and do the same. We can solve mysteries like why the f*ck do whales keep getting stranded in Alaska and focus on why are we allowing f*cking Arctic drilling when the acoustics are almost guaranteed to be hurting whales and other animals.

Perrin Ireland from NRDC made this wonderful thing that explains it better than I can.

Perrin Ireland from NRDC made this wonderful thing that explains it better than I can.

And this is all happening in Gloucester, your Gloucester.  Without funding, this stuff doesn’t happen, and whales don’t get cool drones flying above them to test how stressed they are, whether they’re infected, pregnant, who they are, and so much more that’s really crucial to learning about how the changing ocean is affecting these animals.

I can’t explain enough how much we really need this fish.


I mean money.


God,  I have to stop watching Wicked Tuna.


(To donate, please click here.)


Camp Trump

For the record I am a strict adherent to the corollary to Goodwin’s Law stating anyone who brings Nazis into an argument automatically loses. With that in mind, the following has to be said:

Current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, the guy who your asshole buddy at work says, “What harm could he really do?” owes his current leading position in the GOP primaries to his repeated calls to round up 11 million undocumented workers in the United States and deport them. He’s said it literally dozens of times. 11 million civilians, many of them children, would be taken unwillingly by force and sent out of the country. He has 25% support among Republicans right now.

I’m not going to get into an argument about the bullshit term “illegals” and how they are breaking laws and all that. There are obviously reasonable arguments about how laws must be adhered to (otherwise what’s the point of having them in the first place?) and so on. There are salient positions regarding the shape and nature of the American workforce, against profiteering by companies who exploit cheap labor (like Trump’s) and an unsafe, untaxed underground economy. There is plenty of room for normal discussion and which workable strategies might be deployed to correct this problem.

But I want to ask Mr. Trump, where are you housing these 11 million people once you round them up in large groups? Are they going right on buses heading south with sack lunches and chaperons? How are you preventing them from walking back out into the street, it’s not like you can put them in our already overcrowded jails.

Camps, motherfuckers.

The only way to do this would be with camps. Camps with guards and barbed wire. It’s the only (final?) solution for moving 11 million people against their will. To logistically execute Donald Trump’s plan it would mean putting all the undocumented immigrants in situations where they would be…oh…what’s the word I’m looking for here? That word for when you get a lot of something in one place? Rhymes with “vaccination” (which Trump, btw, says is a cause of Autism)?  These would be what kinds of camps? Help me out here?

Let me spell it out: Donald Trump and his 25% support in the GOP are suggesting a course of action that would necessitate the construction and maintenance of Internment or “concentration” camps in the United States of America.

Sort of like this, right?

Sort of like this, right?

There is no other way around the statement above. Nothing else would work, what are you going to do, put up them in hotels and lock the doors from the outside? There are only 5 million hotel rooms total in the US anyway. So Donald Trump is running and winning on a proposal entirely dependent on rounding up civilians and placing them in guarded camps and lot of people, some of them people you know, support him in this.

Laugh away, late night talk show hosts. Call him Fuckwit Von Clownstick or whatever. I certainly have done my share. But I’m starting to get that same feeling I did when I pulled that piece of sheathing away from my porch and watched all the ants come scurrying out. All at once I saw how much rot there was underneath, in the dark places where I sort of had been avoiding looking up till that point.

You start to ask yourself: “Yeah, the structure is still standing. But how deep does the rot go?”


The Green Monster

We here at The Clam have been watching with interest the proposals for affordable housing at the Cameron’s site. More specifically, we’ve been watching the reactions to the proposal with interest. The project is, as you may have guessed, meeting a lot of resistance from local residents.

Recently, images emerged which represent the basic layout and shape of the proposed structure. They literally made the drawing lime green and orange, and included exactly zero architectural features which would define this as a building. It’s essentially a representation of the mass and spatial occupation of the proposed building.

Seriously, there are no windows or doors. It’s just a shape. A green and orange shape.

People thought this was real.

The beauty of the local dissension is twofold, really. First, a lot of people apparently cannot fathom that this big green and orange windowless, doorless shape in the pictures is not actually how the building will look. It’s delightful.

Secondly, there’s a big dose of ugly classism being disguised as concern for the logistical soundness of the plan. This is less delightful, though not entirely surprising to be honest.

Below are actual comments from your fellow townspeople, lifted from the internet, with helpful translation as to what they really mean.

” Is “Affordable” a fancy word for Section 8?”Translation -“Keep the poors out of downtown. Also I’m probably a little bit racist.”

“Why is it so ugly? And where are the windows?”Translation – “I’m dumb “

“Keep housing off Main Street !”  Translation – “The new housing I mean. All those people who live there already are obviously not scary poor folks, they’re Gloucester locals. “

“No more section 8 in Gloucester” Translation – “I dislike poors in general. Also I’m kind of racist. No I’m a lot racist.”

“awful design! No windows. Lime green and orange!! No charm, In a charming city. Please don’t build this!!” Translation – “I actually believe this is a design which would be built, this actual green and orange box is something I think could come to fruition.”

” how can this even meet code…no windows. ..what if there is a fire..how do you get out…how does it get vented other than thru the roof…are the architect’s crazy. ..or just dumb..A kindergarten could do better” Translation – “I think I’m being clever in pointing out building code violations.”

” Ugly. Just plain ugly. And, although they might be well intentions, to bring affordable housing, these things usually don’t end up well. Check out Red Road flats in Scotland, Divis flats in Ireland, and the Projects in Southie.” Translation – “Poor people just don’t know how to behave.” 

“Kids need green space and elderly do not need to inhale toxic fumes. Downtown is not the right spot for housing!” Translation – “WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?” 

“Not to mention that fire code requires windows and fire escapes on anything two or more floors…at least in NYC’ Translation – “I don’t know how you bumpkins do it, but us city folk have things like windows on our buildings.”

“My Mother was born in Gloucester. I wish I could have a say in this.”   Translation – “Native born Gloucester people are more important than transplants.” 


We thought some of these folks may want to make counter proposals, as you do when something is so important to you.  We’re helpfully providing some examples which we think they’ll find to be much more suitable for Affordable Housing, so that they can make a nice presentation for City Hall. Obviously these should be nowhere near Downtown. Maybe Dogtown or West Gloucester. You’re welcome!

At least this one has windows. They should be thankful.

A tidy way to round up all the poor people into one spot so they can fend for themselves.

West Gloucester does have a ton of room.


No Snark Sunday: Affordable Housing Downtown by Josh Turiel because we can’t even

WTF is the deal with this Affordable Housing thing?

by Josh Turiel

Every city in the state deals with the issue. As has been mentioned in these pages before, I’m an Actual Real-Life Elected Official On The North Shore (I’m a Ward Councillor down the line in Salem). We deal with this issue, and the misconceptions (and real-life issues) that affordable housing mandates bring to all of our communities. I’m not gonna BS anyone. There’s structural problems in our real estate markets, and many of our programs. But there’s also a lot of bias, predjudice, and just plain idiots out there when it comes to this stuff. I know that idiots don’t read the Clam, so I’m writing this for the rest of you. And making fun of the idiots.

A lot of people are reacting to the fact that the building will be lime green with no windows. We so just can't even.

A lot of people are reacting to the fact that the building will be lime green with no windows. We so just can’t even.

First of all, basically every community in Massachusetts is mandated to make sure that at least 10% of their housing stock is maintained as “affordable housing”.  What is affordable housing? At it’s simplest (the whole thing is pretty complicated), it’s homes that can be rented by people at income levels generally 80% of the median income in the area or lower (to a point). This is a gross oversimplification. Don’t post hundreds of comments with the precise numbers – it’s not about the exact numbers.

If your income qualifies you, you can be eligible to rent properties within that affordable inventory. Depending on actual income, you may be eligible for other programs to help you make those rent payments. The best known program is the federal Section 8 program – which provides subsidy vouchers to low-income tenants. Basically, the government helps pay rent directly to the landlord.

In our state, we have another program called Chapter 40B. It simply says that if your community has less than the 10% affordable housing stuck mandated, than a developer can take 20% of the units in a development, designate them as affordable (with rents according), and bypass most local zoning bylaws.

A lot of developers have used this to build complexes far larger than would otherwise be permitted in communities.

So the challenge that most cities have is to try and keep their affordable housing levels as close to the magic 10% as possible, without going under and giving developers a chance to get the nose of the camel in the tent. Salem’s at nearly 14%. So there’s no 40B bypass here. Manchester By-The-Twee? Under 5%. Somebody identifies and buys a plot of land there, they can ram through whatever they want under 40B.

Another thing about cities like ours – they’ve become pretty hip places to live for a lot of people. Young families, refugees from the cities, empty-nest couples – as much as our real estate prices have exploded, it’s worse in Metro Boston. Way worse. I have a friend with a good job who is nearly 40 (yes, I know it’s an anecdote). He’s interested in moving closer to the city – lives in an outer suburb right now up in the Merrimack Valley. Salem is about as far as he might be able to find a place – and most are out of his price range. If he moves into, say, Somerville? He’s going to have to get a roommate. A middle-aged man with a perfectly good job. Why? Because the rental housing market has become so distorted due to exploding real estate values.

In other words, when you’re on Facebook and your racist friend is ranting about all the (fill in your minority group of choice here) who are getting free homes from the government, or living in your neighborhood, you can mostly ignore them. There’s a lot of people. I mean a LOT of people, who work for a living, have real jobs, and simply can’t afford to live in their communities. We need these people almost as much as the Wicked Tuna guys NEED THIS FISH. They make our cities run. They work in the pharmacies, the supermarkets, the restaurants. A lot of them have jobs that are “up the ladder” from traditional service jobs, and they can’t make things on their own, either. A lot of the people reading this are a couple of missed paychecks away from not being able to afford their rent.

Are there freeloaders? I’m sure there’s people out there playing the system. We’ve got them, you’ve got them. You don’t have rules without people figuring out ways to bend them. But that’s not the mainstream. It never has been.

Besides all this, we’ve got hybrid non-profit/for profit entities that try and serve this market. In our area, we have groups like the North Shore CDC. They do a lot of work in Salem – I know most of the management well from their work here. They build and rehabilitate housing in downtown cores and generally improve the areas where they provide affordable housing. How? They police their units better than most hands-off private landlords would. They maintain them centrally, and in doing so, they make money. Which they then use to expand their portfolio and provide more services. Also, a lot of communities that implement the CPA (Community Preservation Act) use the CDC and similar agencies to help implement the affordable housing percentage mandate in the law.

It’s like capitalism and socialism, all tied up neatly with a lovely bow.

So in Gloucester, it starts to get a little weird. Right now you’ve got an affordable housing project that the North Shore CDC is working with your Action Inc. to design and build. It’s on Main Street (https://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/affordable-housing-downtown-site-plans/). Now I don’t know Main Street like a native – I hang out in Gloucester some, the site admins are friends of mine and we’re all like hanging out on the Interwebs being funny together. I’ve been through a few projects here in Salem in my four years of doing government. Bear with me here..


Really. it's Sunday morning, we're reading facebook comments and drinking paint thinner mixed with mouthwash.

Really. it’s Sunday morning, we’re reading facebook comments and drinking paint thinner mixed with mouthwash.

There, I feel better having said that.

I read the article, and virtually every one of the commenters on it should have their keyboards taken away, and their iPads replaced with Etch-a-Sketches. You lose your Internet license.

What you are looking at in those photos are basic design concepts that are intended to show what we refer to as “massing”. It’s the basic profile of what the building shape would be, how the access would work, and where things are located. The floor layouts are approximate as well. Once the basic shape of the building is established, then a full design with materials and real layouts would be drafted and the whole design review process starts. Given that I think Gloucester may not be at the 40B number, you would be stuck with whatever they want to do, basically. It’s good regardless that there is a public process you’re going through with it.

What it is NOT, is a final design. There is NO BUILDING BEING BUILT WITH BLANK GREEN WALLS GOING UP FOUR STORIES. Real buildings have things like metal, brick, and glass. Massing studies do not have these things.

So the bottom line message to my friends on the other side of the bridge is this: Trust the public process. Feel free to weigh in on the design, when there is one. I’m generally happy with the work that the North Shore CDC has done here in Salem – though they have opponents and I’m not always on their side here. That’s the political process at work, and it usually results in better outcomes across the board.

Having people living in your downtown is good for the downtown, and the businesses there. It’s helped us a lot, it’s good for you too. And from an affordability standpoint, it’s also good to see people be able to live in the communities they love and work in – even if they don’t get paid the big bucks.