Tokyo: From Sushi to Snow Shoveling Scofflaw

Tokyo_snowLast year at this time the possibility of the long-shuttered Tokyo restaurant being redeveloped weighed heavy on neighbors’ minds. The proposed design for a 4-story apartment building seemed overly large for the site, capitalizing on the parcel’s commercial (BA) zoning to maximize density through reduced setbacks from the street. Questions were raised about how close the building would be to the heavily trafficked pedestrian and bike route to Fresh Pond (see post from 3/7/14).

Fast-forward a year and part of that route has been impassable for weeks, owing to the new owner’s refusal to shovel his sidewalk frontage along Vassal Lane. Further, the temporary chain link fence that the former owner put up to secure the lot is leaning out into the public way, presenting a hazard to passersby. Numerous complaints via the city’s iReport mobile app have not prompted any action by the new owner to remedy this dangerous situation.

This negligence is all the more galling since the new owner operates the auto repair business next door, which many residents of the area have patronized over the years. The Tokyo lot is now actively used, without the required special permit, as spillover parking for cars in the repair queue. The fence is leaning over the sidewalk because snow inside the lot has been plowed up against it. The owner takes care to plow the lot itself but does not bother to shovel the Vassal Lane portion of the path his own employees would use to walk between the garage and the lot.

Last November, EMJR Properties, Inc. (registered at 325 Fresh Pond Parkway) paid $3.1m to acquire the parcel from the Tokyo owner. It’s hard to believe the derelict restaurant building won’t one day be demolished and the site redeveloped, but no information has been forthcoming. A special permit would be required to expand the adjacent repair garage, as the Table of Uses below specifies. The parcel falls in the Parkway Overlay Zone, which imposes additional design standards to “reduce haphazard development and visual confusion” and to “enhance the use and enjoyment of public open space resources.” The coup de grace? Two snow plows are parked illegally in the open space (a grassy area in warmer weather) in front of the repair shop.

Table of Uses (BA Zone)


  • Sales place for new and used car, rental agency for autos, trailers and motorcycles, conducted entirely within a building and provided no major repairs are made

Permitted by special permit

  • Automobile parking lot or parking garage for private passenger cars, where not an accessory use, and no repairs, servicing, or sale of gasoline is carried out
  • Sale of new or used cars conducted partly or wholly on open lots, or rental agency for automobiles, trailer, motorcycles, conducted partly or wholly outdoors
  • Automobile service station where no major repairs are made, provided that all lubrication and repairs are carried out within the building
  • Automotive repair garage not including auto body or paint shop, provided that all servicing and repairs are carried out inside the building

Not Permitted

  • Auto body or paint shop
  • Truck or bus terminal, yard or building for storage or servicing of trucks, trailers or buses, parking lot for trucks
  • Dismantling or wrecking of used motor vehicles and storage or sale of dismantled, inoperative or wrecked vehicles or their parts
Vassal Lane frontage impassable due to unshoveled snow and leaning fence

Vassal Lane frontage impassable due to unshoveled snow and leaning fence


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