A strange thing happened at both the Planning Board and City Council public discussions of the Garage question at the heart of the Sullivan Court House Debate. In both settings, the PRO-Leggett-Mcall speakers were massed together at the front of the long speaker's list ahead of the opponents, forcing the latter (of nearly equal number) to speak after a very long wait. This is very different from how both meetings are usually run, where speakers from both sides are more evenly dispersed. Strategic control of community speaker sign-ups seems to have been a key factor in this. How was this done? At the City Council meeting, citizens were not allowed to use the call-in sign up as usually happens for City Council discussions, but instead were told there would be separate special sign up available from 5:30 on. Alas, there was no sign up available then. And even when the Mayor announced the sheets would be brought out at 6 PM, the sheets were not on the table where they usually are, and indeed, they were no where to be found, despite several inquiries into the Council Office. Instead a group of Leggett-McCall allies had taken the sheets to the other side of the hall filling out the pages with their supporters. It was stated that some supporters were even able to get ahold of an online sign-in means by way of a special URL set up. (The Mayor denied this, but there clearly was manipulation. Few knew even if their attempt to sign up had worked. And, as we signed up, we were asked whether we were PRO or AGAINST the plan, suggesting that this data also may have been used in selecting who could speak when. They Mayor was clearly reading off of multiple lists throughout the night.
Hundreds signed up to speak, but the order in which they were allowed to speak was clearly being manipulated through various means. This resulted in a completely off-balance parade of speakers before the Council on this key issue. Many of those opposed to the Leggett-McCall proposal were forced to wait until late into the night to speak, while those in favor were able to speak at the outset and then head home to their families. This is hardly fair, nor is it what the City should be allowing to happen clearly to the benefit of developers.
Ironically who showed up to speak, or rather, those who were allowed to speak at a reasonable time, is also being used by proponents of this plan. Indeed yesterday, the Communications Director of ABC AF posted a map showing where the speakers came from, arguing that only nearby residents should be taken seriously. Alas, many speakers who opposed this simply did not have the time to wait until close to mid-night to let their voices be heard. Nor did the Council provide us with a copy of all the letters, pro and against, so we could see for ourselves. Below is a map posted on twitter by ABC AF showing where those speaker who were able to stay for this meeting and speak reside.
What does Leggatt-McCall think? Well clearly they see this as a city-wide issue. They have sent the SECOND very expensive full color large postcard to every resident of Cambridge to try to win voters city-wide to their cause.
This IS a Citywide issue - see the message on the flier above! Indeed as this advertisement points out. Why would the city choose to give away public land for more administrative offices - for a teaspoon of additional affordable housing (22 units), removing needed public parking? Clearly this kind of action would not be part of any city-wide plan, had Cambridge allowed Utile to undertake an actual Citywide plan as part of the expensive Envision planning process. There is an easy compromise plan that should be considered now.
$45 million is the estimated cost of tearing down the Courthouse building. Divide this cost between the city, the state and the developer ($15 million each). Then provide this developer with roughly half the land for its use (at a cost reduced by their share of the removal of the building) and use the other half to build affordable housing with ground floor commercial space and other amenities. Parking could be underground for both.
Sometimes members the pro-developer ABC-AF group have sought to undermine community members who speak at Planning Board, CHC, City Council and other meetings by insisting that we do not represent the community as a whole because most people who have to work or take care of children are not able to attend. In this case, however, these same proponents are suggesting that if you do not live near to the Court House you should not have a voice in this matter. To the contrary, speakers at Monday night's meeting began to take notice of some of these issues. One speaker noted that many of those in favor lived in a building owned by the developer; another speaker requested that before any Councillor voted on an issue they must state if they had received developer funding. What we are lacking on this - and many other issues coming before Council - is transparency, planning, and valued input from local neighborhood groups.
There appears to be too little time nowadays to get even the most important things done – or at least done as well as we would like. So addressing how to have the greatest impact while wasting the least time doing it is incredibly important.
How to influence the Cambridge City Council is a puzzle I have wrestled with for over 60 years. Speaking at preliminary Council hearings goes a long way to help recruit support from other residents and Councilors both. But my major realization is that written communications submitted in advance of Council hearings have ten times the impact of last-minute speeches or letters put in the basket during public comment on the night the issue comes to a final vote.
That said, it is tempting to feel that speaking at final hearings - or even attending them – is simply a waste of time, given that 99% of Councilors’ minds seem to have been made up 99% of the time before they even set foot in the Sullivan Chamber for the final vote. Not so - to be seen in the chamber on voting night (and ideally to be heard, in case you weren’t noticed in the crowd) sends the vital signal that every Councilor’s vote will be noticed and remembered - and that you back your views by coming to monitor the procedure in person. That level of commitment is always noticed – and strengthens the impact of your future letters on future issues as well. Pleasant as it is to watch the final vote in the comfort of home on live TV or play it later from the Open Meeting Portal, “being there” makes a big difference in the long run – occasionally perhaps even in the short run.
As to the most effective content of letters to the Council, the “100% Affordable Housing Overlay" (AHO) battle has been a valuable lesson. Proponents concentrated from the outset on the one vague, emotional claim that Cambridge has a housing crisis so extreme that it justifies overriding every other consideration, and any opposition whatever is therefore deplorable. Those of us seeking a more balanced remedy detailed our most important objectives and proposed constructive ways to achieve them. Big difference.
Defeat of the AHO has unleashed an avalanche of deplorable statements from the proponents, again labeling all AHO opponents as deplorable. No change there. Our response must just be to reassert the key objectives of balanced remedies and resume the fight to get them adopted. That entails letters of gratitude and continuing persuasion to Councilors Carlone, Devereux, Kelley and Zondervan who defeated the AHO, all possible support for Carlone, Kelley and Zondervan in their re-election campaigns, and diligent efforts to identify and support all new Council candidates who share our commitment to a balanced program for a more livable Cambridge for all.
City Councilor Dennis Carlone –former architect and urban planner – points out that Cambridge has some 30 housing proposals pending. But the City put forward the woefully unbalanced Affordable Housing Overlay petition as its only offer to deal with our complex housing needs, and fought every effort to overcome its many major flaws.
We need to find far better solutions, and that requires campaigning for and electing a new City Council with the wisdom and courage to implement them.
Author Francis (Fritz) Donovan is a Cambridge Attorney and President of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association
We plan to publish the names of the Cambridge Citizens Coalition Board Members shortly on our website but here is some information on what (or rather who) one can anticipate to find here. A key criteria has been diversity in order that our Board convey the broad geographic spread of the city. We also were looking for people who have been active as leaders and participants in various domains as well as people who think broadly and deeply about issues and enjoy working as a community to achieve larger goals. As we grow in the years ahead we hope to maintain and further expand on our diversity of back grounds, settings, and interests.
Demographics: CCC’s Board currently comprises circa 21 members (we are waiting to hear from several more). All are local activists and leaders. Nine are women and five are members of historically under-represented groups (African, African American, Asian, and Latin American) with a cross-section of ages. We were born on five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America).
Education: We have attended a broad array of local educational institutions – Babson College, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern - as well as others both in the U.S. and abroad. We studied a wide variety of subjects –from economics to software design, from art history to biochemistry.
Our careers have included, among others: administrator, attorney, author, company founder, consultant, documentary filmmaker, economist, energy advisor, foundation director, graduate student, high school teacher, investor, landscape architect, psychologist, professor, realtor, rock musician, scientist, software designer, and talent consultant.
Our residences are throughout Cambridge and represent the diverse spectrum of our city’s neighborhoods, among these: Cambridge Highlands, Cambridgeport, East Cambridge, Fresh Pond, Huron, Harvard Square, Mid-Cambridge, MIT/The Port, North Cambridge, Porter Square, Riverside, and West Cambridge. Our homes range from condos, to multiple family structures, to rental apartments, to single family residences.
Our local volunteer work and activism include, among other things, little league coaching, local and regional non-profit Boards, local and regional school boards, local zoning initiatives, neighborhood association leadership, publishing a kids’ newspaper, preservation and restoration efforts, recycling projects, and condo association activities.
We also have created two separate advisory groups comprising various specialists.
1) Our Research and Advisory Committee
2) Our Architectural and Design Review Committee
The names of these individuals will be published shortly when our Board of Directors is published.
We have a small group of officers - a President, Treasurer, Clerk and Vice President. We also have named a President-Elect and have in place a timely order of succession. In addition we have in place a process by which new members are brought onto the Board as well as a line of succession within the leadership structure. We have decided that CCC will be a membership organization, with annual dues of $50.00, a cost can be readily decreased in cases of hardship.
CCC is a young organization, and still growing, and we will work together on our key shared goals of accountability, good government, and transparency, as well as a larger community engagement in the workings of the city. This is a primary issue of CCC as a whole, alongside other critical concerns, comprising six main areas of engagement:
1.Accountability, Transparency & Good Government
2.Affordable Housing, Displacement, and Gentrification
2. Community, Equity & Neighborhood Engagement
4. Environment, Green Issues, Sustainability
4. Planning, Infrastructure, Smart Growth, and Design
6. Public Programs, Arts, and Education
Cambridge has surpassed state mandated affordable housing goals. Yet we can, by making smart choices, do more to . create equitable and sustainable housing choices. Among the possibilities explored in progressive cities or advocated by progressive politicians elsewhere are the following:
*Create a Cambridge Housing Trust Fund - create an alternative housing production system through a non-profit that will acquire properties through purchase, donations, or bequests to serve this purpose, advanced in part through city tax rebatements, housing subsidies, and other means. Invite property owners to commit a percentage of appreciation of their homes/property to this Cambridge Land Trust. Help set up a program so seniors can deed homes & continue to live here.
*Tax credits for renters
*Create a housing investment at birth (baby bonds): By 18, children born into lower-income families would have nearly $50,000 to invest in a down-payment on a home.
*City financing to remodel to create low income accessory dwelling units and multi-family homes.
*7% rent stabilization for tenants who meet income criteria in buildings owned by persons or entities who have more than 4 rental units.
*Require new property owners to notify the city of tenant names and contact information; Provide legal representation for people facing lease termination or eviction.
*House the city homeless and provide aid.
*Build new mixed low and middle income affordable housing on city property (parking lots, vacant areas, above libraries and municipal buildings.
*Create a Mutual Housing Association (e.g. Housing Coops) to help individuals to buy property to live in with others.
*Starting a program of Home sharing: Both HUD and Habitat for Humanity have supported these.
*Provide a path to home ownership for low and middle income tenants with city-funded down payments.
*End restrictive zoning that precludes multiple family units (currently 7% of Cambridge housing.
*Lobby to Allocate state funding bonuses for transportation and other funding for cities (like Cambridge) that have already met state affordable housing goals.
*Acquire shared interest affordable housing (for artists, teachers, social workers, others.
*Limit tax benefits to one home per family.
*Tax any vacancies in housing and commercial properties that exceed three months per year.
*Improve public transportation. Streets are clogged with traffic and little action is anticipated in the near future. Neither the city nor the state have added more public transportation. This much change.
*Curate commercial and residential areas in order to provide needed amenities for local residents - from grocery stores and laundry facilities to parks and health facilities.
*Modernize city infrastructure. With the city's recent large scale growth the city infrastructure is under duress. In December 2018, just before Christmas, a Civil War era water main in West Cambridge broke flooding basements and causing millions of dollars in damage - none of it covered by the city. In East Cambridge, the large increases in labs and other commercial developments has introduced a crisis in electricity capacity, and pressure to address brought new concerns to this hard hit neighborhood to accept a massive towering electric substation next to a local primary school to help address capacity. The city needs to integrate neighborhood needs and concerns into growth plans.
It was well after mid-night when the Cambridge citywide up-zoning proposal known as the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay which would have brought between ZERO and 40 new units more of affordable housing to the city was voted to be tabled. This proposal removed all related (current) citizen rights of appeal AND removed the current oversight role of the Planning Board in all related design decisions in a plan that allowed (indeed) encouraged the removal of city open spaces and mature trees and the addition of massive box-like economically segregated housing projects citywide. Now on to the hard work of making sure we elect a FAR better City Council. With all your help we can do that too. We - the public and the Councillors who sought key amendments of this petition that were rejected by the majority won (survived) this round, but it is not a time for celebration but instead to work harder to bring a viable plan for affordable housing.
Cambridge residents are being polled by an anonymous group for views on current city councillors, issues facing the city, and their positions on the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) coming up for a vote. Who is paying for this poll? And, equally importantly, what questions is it asking? And why?
Poll is coming from a telephone number in Marshfield , Ma.
Here are the questions
*as best transcribed and recalled live at the time.
I. What are your views on current city councillors?
Answer possibilities: favorable unfavorable, unsure, don’t know.
*Note this poll includes Jan Devereux who is not running for reelection - which is strange.
II What issue concerns you the most currently in the city?
* Note that the term "affordable housing" means many different things. We all support more affordable housing,
but to some this means rent control, to others it means renter protections, to still others it means building more
market rate housing, to still others it means adding more inclusionary housing. None of this is spelled out here.
**note too, that there is nothing in this poll on climate change or the environment, infrastructure or planning. Why?
III What do you think about the work that has been done to improve the city squares?
*Note: there is nothing here on Harvard Square, Porter Square, Kendall, or even recent city-approved
development projects in East Cambridge, Alewife and elsewhere.
IV What is your view of City Council
*Note: there is nothing in here asking our views of the "City" (the City Manager - who is coming up for
reappointment next term.
**Note too: there is nothing in this poll about approval of the city's Community Development Department that is
behind the deeply flawed Affordable Housing Overlay proposal,
V Are you aware or the Affordable Housing Overlay
*Note: good question, but will the poll-takers actually share the results with the public?
VI The Affordable Housing Overlay will enable the city to build 100% affordable housing throughout the city by changing some of the restrictions currently in place (rough transcription).
Do you support it?
Do you oppose?
*Note: the AHO is very complex, why do they not ask separately if we oppose or support individual elements of the
proposal, like four stories everywhere, seven stories on the corridors, "as of right" (taking away current citizen legal appeal, or the change in design standards and review oversight.
IX Education level
In the end key questions remain about who commissioned this poll (an expensive endeavor): is it one of the current city councillors who supports the AHO? Is it a political PAC supporting the AHO (A Better Cambridge most notably)? Was it the City of Cambridge? Who ever it was, they did NOT provide any information of who has paid for this political message/poll? Why did they leave out critical other issues and concerns in the city?
DON'T SET A BAD PRECEDENT! Stop Developers from Increasing CambridgeSide Building Heights by 82% by Marlene Lundberg and Rafi Mohammed
Sign the Petition HERE:www.cambridgepetition.com/
New England Development (NED) is petitioning the City of Cambridge to rezone the CambridgeSide Mall area to allow high-rise buildings that are 82% higher than current zoning regulations. Retail space will be scaled back, some housing will be added (market & affordable) ‐ but the vast majority of total square footage will be devoted to lucrative office and lab space which rent for roughly over 500% higher than the current retail space.
NED’s key argument for rezoning the CambridgeSide area is to “save the Mall” due to the impact ecommerce has had on brick & mortar retailers.
By staying within its current zoning ‐ maintaining the two core floors of Mall as retail and converting the rest of the square footage (plus garage) to offices/labs ‐ the gross upside in value is as high as $1.2 billion. If the 82% increase in building height is approved, the gross upside in value of the Mall area skyrockets to as high as $2 billion+. Note: these figures do not include costs; NED has been asked to provide its cost estimates and it has declined.
Even if you don’t live in this immediate area, the final decision on the Mall redevelopment zoning will set a precedent that will likely affect you and your neighborhood in the future.
ContactCo-chairs Marlene Lundberg and Rafi Mohammed are both residents of the Canal Park neighborhood. Our goal is to bring neighbors and the greater Cambridge community together to protect the architectural and urban planning harmony of one of the loveliest spots in the city, Canal Park. We are also concerned about the costs to Cambridge residents of worsening-by-the-week rush hour traffic at Land Boulevard and Route 28, as well as the need to build additional infrastructure to support increasing development.
In the coming weeks, we hope to engage our Cambridge residents in conversations about NOT setting a building height upzoning precedent that can harm all neighborhoods in the city.
Please use this form to reach out with questions, comments, requests, ideas, or concerns.
On Nimbyism, Yimbyism, and Planning…
We are into history here: Let us look back and consider some important examples of good and bad planning, good and bad development, good and bad Nimbyism, good and bad Yimbyism.
Over a period fifty to sixty years ago, city and state planners came up with plans that became a severe threat to the fabric of the city. State officials wanted to build the Inner Belt Expressway through Cambridge. Cambridge Redevelopment wanted to do urban renewal in East Cambridge, Cambridgeport and Riverside. The total number of housing units to be demolished in Cambridgeport alone by the combined effects of highway and urban renewal was 4,400 units, about 2/3 of all the housing in Cambridgeport. The highway route was along Brookline Street, an alignment invented by the Cambridge Planning Director, who spent a dozen years trying to sell it to state officials before state engineers finally adopted it in 1962. Behind all of these programs was the Federal Government, in the form of the Bureau of Public Roads and Housing officials in the Commerce Department.
All three levels of American government -- local, state and Federal -- were doing the wrong thing. Fortunately, a Cambridge City Councillor, Pearl Wise -- endorsed by the pro-urban-renewal citizens group, Cambridge Civic Association -- changed her vote and voted no. Urban renewal in residential areas basically went down the tubes in this city and never came back. People just said no. In December 1964, the Civic Association, recognizing the sins of its past, came out with a new position opposing any route for the Inner Belt through Cambridge. No Inner Belt in Cambridge, they said, in a direct rebuke to the City's Planning Director.
Cambridgeport citizens organized against the Inner Belt in 1965 and stood up to say No. They formed a group called Save Our Cities, with partial funding from the Archidiocese of Boston. The goal was not to put the road in somebody else's back yard. It was no road at all. In Roxbury, citizens formed a group called Operation Stop. That says it all.
Anti-highway protests spread to neighborhoods: Jamaica Plain, Alewife, Tip O'Neill's neighborhood of North Cambridge, Milton, Lynn, and many others who felt that highway building in the City was often simply wrong. Unknown to many of them is that President Eisenhower in 1959 sat down with his public works advisor, Major General John Stewart Bragdon, and both agreed that building Interstate highways in cities was wrong.
By 1971, the highway controversy had grown so heated that Governor Francis Sargent announced that he was cancelling the Inner Belt. In his speech about past highway policies, he admitted "We were wrong." The naysayers were right. The mighty highway lobby was stopped dead in its tracks, and Massachusetts went on to build two major transit projects -- the Red Line to Alewife and a relocated Orange Line. The Big Dig project was completed at great cost, without taking a single house.
The final victory for Cambridge is that MIT agreed to serve as the developer for Elderly Housing on Erie Street in Cambridgeport. The Lyndon Johnson Apartments were built with Federal housing funds, right smack where the Inner Belt was supposed to go along Brookline Street. This new housing structure gave us needed elderly housing. It also blocked the Inner Belt. This building still delivers a message: No Highway.
Near Beech Street in North Cambridge, the St. James Church is a wonderful architectural gem, of great historical and aesthetic value. An adjacent parcel that used to be the Long Funeral Home became a famous example of disastrous development. No one in their right mind would defend it. Bad Yimbyism.
Just across Mass Avenue is a large office building, sheathed in glass, with a Le-Corbusier-inspired parking lot underneath the structure. Civilians walking along the street get to see a deep black hole filled with the murky forms of parked automobiles. Another architectural disaster.
As an example of a new building that serves humane needs, I offer the new City Library, very popular with the public and created by an architect who is decidedly non-Brutalist.
The role of architects in creating unfortunate new buildings should be assessed when we consider increasing building densities in established neighborhoods. In general, architects have failed to inspire public confidence. They spend too much time giving each other awards. Zoning is one of the few limits on their egos and excesses. Because the proposed AHO zoning petition seeks a loosening of zoning (an up-zoning), it represents an undermining of zoning protections. If anyone supporting the still-flawed Overlay petition is an architect or in the real estate business, they should declare those interests openly, because greed is an important motivator. And shame on them if they allow greed to take control of their moral judgment.
Suppose greed does win out, and the Council approves the up-zoning. What recourse do citizens have? A court appeal, of course. It is their right, by the Constitution. Anyone unfamiliar with Article 7 of the Declaration of the state Constitution should read up on that too. It says government should serve the common good, and not the profit of special interests. The words were written by Founding Father John Adams, a favorite on many conservative thinkers. Nothing wrong with that -- since conservation of our city should be foremost in our thoughts.
Stephen H. Kaiser, PhD Citizen Engineer & Historian
To read the fuller version of this issue see Stephen Kaiser's report on Cambridge citizen opposition to the Inner belt where the image at the top of the blog is found: www.cambridgema.gov/~/media/Files/historicalcommission/pdf/innerbelt_kaiser.pdf?la=en
This afternoon CCC was forwarded a letter in support of the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) by an advocate that was forwarded to local list serves and to City Council. We want to share with you our opposition to what is being stated in this letter about the overlay and opposition to the overlay proposal itself.
The text of the original letter is in black; CCC’s responses are in red
Dear Friends and Family,
For the last 15 years I have worked on affordable housing issues…. The Greater Boston region is one of the priciest housing markets in the country and I believe that we have room to grow in Cambridge that will make our city more economically and racially diverse.
We need much more affordable housing in Greater Boston—The region is not building the units necessary to support population growth particularly for people earning low to moderate incomes including young people, teachers, firefighters, small business owners and others.
+The city of Cambridge, is well ahead of state mandates for affordable housing construction. Our neighboring cities in Greater Boston are way behind us on this. Yes we need affordable housing, but the AHO is NOT the way to go. It is a deeply flawed proposal, and a highly risky one. Nowhere else in the country has this been tried.
The proposal make sense for Cambridge because:
We have good access to public transportation--T, commuter rail and frequent bus service meaning fewer people will rely on cars.
+Many parts of Cambridge that the AHO covers do NOT have good access to public transportation, and this transportation at its best is inadequate much of the time. Many people living in affordable housing need to work to pay a portion of the rent, and often these jobs are at night, or in places not accessible by public transportation.
Many neighborhoods have little affordable housing--it tends to be concentrated in places that were redlined by the federal government in the post WWII--a policy that created many of the segregated. neighborhoods we see in our city today.
+Unfortunately these areas of the city also frequently are the most expensive properties in the city and have the largest green spaces and number of mature trees. Purchasing properties in these areas is less financially viable for affordable housing than less properties which have less value. Moreover we have lost some 22% of our tree canopy in the last 10 years. The AHO will allow the removal of mature trees here and elsewhere in the city. Not only must we preserve our trees, but we also need to find other places in the city to plant even more trees. The sizable setback cutbacks in the AHO make mature tree growth (even for new trees) very difficult.
The AHO can help to provide housing to middle income residents. Since the end of rent control, the middle class has been squeezed out of Cambridge by high housing costs. The AHO defines affordable as 100% of area median income which is $113,300 for a family of 4.
+The AHO will bring very little relieve for middle income residents. The majority of the AHO units will be for those making 30-40% of AMI, and in some cases those who meet Section 8 housing requirements. Furthermore, we now have 19,000 people on our affordable housing list, so to put out the false promise that this will help things is unfair. The Cambridge Community Development department itself has said that the AHO is likely to bring between zero and 40 to 60 units a year – hardly enough to help the many middle income earners in need of less expensive housing in the city.
The AHO doesn’t throw out the public process rather it allows 100% affordable projects to go through the normal permitting process rather than the variance process. The planning board reviews projects and allows for public comment. The AHO doesn’t allow for endless litigation which can make it difficult for developers to afford to build 100% affordable housing projects.
+Opponents to the AHO have never stated that the AHO “throws out” the public process, instead we have correctly pointed out that the current Oversight role of the Planning Board will be diminished to an advisory role only. Currently developers have a real interest in working with neighborhoods to get the best design possible because the Planning Board often will support design choices of local residents and because if the developer and the neighbors do not agree, there is always the treat of legal action. The AHO removes current citizen legal rights of appeal, leaving the final decisions on design, and other things to the developer and the unelected city manager.
The AHO will not transform Cambridge. It is really difficult to put financing together for 100% affordable housing projects. Developers need a combination of public and private funds through the low-income housing tax credit, rental voucher programs and other vehicles to make the project work financially. And because developers cannot charge rents that would make tenants or homeowners cost burdened (paying more than 30% of their income in housing) they have to get the financing to allow them to offer below-market rates while still being able to afford to build the project.
+True, however the city has been extraordinarily successful in adding affordable housing through the current inclusionary plan without the need to up-zone the whole city, allow the demolishment of trees, and remove current citizen rights of appeal. Cambridge has met and beat significantly state affordable housing mandates through this means, and are way ahead of neighboring cities on this.
I share people’s concerns that the projects could be ‘ugly’ but I find that is true with any development. There are plenty of market rate developments near Huron and Concord that I find ugly---the project going up on the corner of Concord and Walden is one example. But there are others that fit in with the streetscape like the one behind the store fronts on Concord Avenue near Huron. The AHO proposal has design guidelines that follow the idea of form-based code put forward by the New Urbanists—an organization that focuses on making cities livable and walkable.
+The “ugly” buildings that have gone up already, at least have met current design review requirements, and neighborhood insight. Alas, the AHO proposal does NOT meet New Urbanist form-based code guidelines. Not only will this housing NOT be built exclusively along the main city corridors and squares near transit hubs, as recommend in the Final Report of the city’s recent Envision Process, but form-based codes are created after considerable consultation with the neighborhood members where it will be built. None of this has happened in Cambridge with the AHO – and nor will it likely be done.
And finally increasing density (by allowing up to 4 stories in most residential parts of the city) will contribute to reducing climate change. By allowing more people to live closer to public transportation, we’ll need fewer cars. Now many owners and renters are forced out of Cambridge, often into the far suburbs, contributing to clogged traffic on our region’s highways and all of the pollution associated with gridlock and driving.
+Allowing up to 4 stories (45 feet and 50 feet if there is an active ground floor, or 7 stories along the main corridors) will NEGATIVELY impact the environment – adding further to climate change. NO on site parking is being required, meaning that all these residents will need to find parking on the street. Some of these developments will be very large (44 units or more) and many of these residents will need cars if they need them to get to work, or if they have physical mobility problems or for other reasons. The removal of mature trees and green spaces will further the negative environmental impacts. Cambridge is already top five most dense cities in the U.S. with populations over 100,000. And we are a very historic city, with the potential to have many of our rich historical architectural heritage lost to massive big box housing, “ugly” or otherwise.
I urge you to support the Affordable Housing Overlay for Cambridge.
We urge you NOT to support the Affordable Housing Overlay for Cambridge.