top image: 154 Thorndike Street (the first beneficiary of the new City Council vote to end Parking Minimums.
BLOG UPDATE (July 30, 2023)
On July 29, 2023, a Cambridge resident, who not only sits on the Board of the pro-developer pac, A Better Cambridge (ABC), but also has served on the Election Campaign Manager of ABC candidate Burhan Azeem published an opinion piece on Cambridge Day extolling the benefits of ending Parking Minimums in the City of Cambridge HERE The author chose NOT to identify herself in any of these roles. The ostensible rationale for the opinion piece is an 18-unit East Cambridge condominium complex with four affordable units. While new housing is good, most likely this also would have been approved by the BZA, had the once-necessary special permit been sought. The author points to the related question of parking, noting that the residents: "...can pay for a reserved parking space in a nearby garage or use publicly subsidized free parking (also known as on-street parking). Some may chose to use a combination of public transport, biking and occasional car-sharing options instead of owning a car." There is also The Lechmere T stop, she adds. All this is true, but her piece misses (leaves out) the broader implications of this unfortunate bill. Not only does it (as here) lead to important class and financial differences in available city housing (which residents will have on site parking or the financial means to pay for it. The piece also leaves out the huge environmental impacts of this bill, names that it allows for the removal of critical green spaces and trees in favor of denser housing, worsens our severe problems with environmental justice (and heat island impacts in our denser neighborhoods, and runs counter to the Envision Report recommendations to increase green spaces and trees in our most dense neighborhoods. In addition as a result of this bill, even more residents will be circling the denser neighborhoods looking for places to park so they can get to work or to the doctor's office - adding to the negative environmental impacts.
A different recent example of why this decision to end parking minimums has been harmful in the city can be seen in the recently presented 22 White Street condominium complex (see below drawing ) that came before the Cambridge Historical Commission in February 2023. This is a market rate multi-story development directly adjacent to the Porter Square parking lot (with plenty of available parking AND a T stop a few hundred feet away). What happened in this case? The developer insisted on adding parking within the building itself, taking away critically needed units (none of which would be affordable because the basic unit number requirements were not met). In this case, as in the first example explored below (that occurred the night the parking minimum bill was approved), market rate developers generally chose to add parking on their property (even if not required) because they can make far more money from the sales of units with on site parking. What these examples make clear is that this policy promotes an even greater divide between "haves" and "have nots" - those in affordable housing for the most part will NOT be able to park the cars they need to get to work easily and will continue to struggle to find increasingly rare on-street parking in the neighborhood, generally after circling the blocks numerous times. Or, they will have to pay steep fees for parking in private garages.
The City Council move to end parking minimums was OPPOSED by the Cambridge Housing Authority because it would make harder for Affordable Housing developers to compete with market rate property developers in acquiring these properties. Specifically they state "The Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) is writing to express its concerns regarding the proposed petition to revise the City’s Affordable Housing Overlay to make off-street parking consistent with base zoning. The proposed petition has both immediate and long-term effects and should not be adopted." Read the December 2021 CHA letter to City Council on this problematic legislation HERE
Sadly, this author (consistent with her association with the builders' pac, ABC, also misinforms readers on the number of Cambridge residents on the Affordable Housing List. As even ABC councillors now admit, some 3,000-3,500 city residents are on these lists currently NOT 21,000. The latter number represents the full sweep of individuals in need around the broader are nd country who would like to live in Cambridge housing, usually signing up for multiple lists at the same time.
IMPACTS: THE ENDS OF PARKING MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS (OCTOBER 2022)
On Monday October 24, 2022, Cambridge City Council ended parking minimums: As CCC noted in our recent blog post, removing parking minimums in other cities like Buffalo NY has NOT meant that people create fewer parking spaces on their residential or commercial properties (indeed they often increase) but rather that the city has less control over these decisions. What this means is that the rationale that Councillor Burham Azeem and other supporting City Councillors used to justify this decision was both faulty and disingenuous. Councillor Dennis Carlone was the sole voice in opposition. Councillor Toner added an amendment to require the city to study impacts of this decision every three years, which passed, and this is fortunately now part of the city-wide ordinance.
The problem for us as a city is that our policies now are driven more by ideology than on facts or real world consequences. We have many more people moving in, many more jobs and all that will happen is that lower income people and seniors and people with families who need cars to get where they are going will have a much more difficult time here – and the environment will suffer as they look for parking on the street unless they live in the wealthier neighborhoods where onsite parking is the norm
As CCC has pointed out, most likely this will result in more multi-million dollar infill luxury housing will be built benefitting developers and investors at the expense of local residents, pushing up property values and taxes significantly for everyone, and impacting very negatively the environment..
There was one case at the BZA with parking minimum concerns when the City Council was voting on parking minimums. In short, we already have the first example (see image above).
This case is 154 Thorndike, a nearly $1.7 million East Cambridge infill luxury home project. You can find it on Zillow. (See image at top of page).
What is for sale here is a freestanding unit in a three-unit condo. The other two units are in another building that was mostly already there. The owner/developer decided to give the tandem parking spaces to one unit in the other building and a single space to this new unit. The other unit doesn't get one. Take a look at the site plan presented to the BZA, we have now allowed for one unit to get two parking spaces - completely at odds with the intent of the new order.
Moreover this freestanding unit was conveyed to the lender by a deed in lieu of foreclosure from Massimino's company, and the current beneficial owner appears to be The Grossman Companies.
Often this type of situation of a deed in lieu of foreclosure raises serious red flags with oversight agencies (think Trump properties kinds of issues).
In addition, pretty much the whole yard is now paved over – which is terrible re our serious issues around climate change.
In short this first example is not bringing down housing costs (just the reverse)
In short this first example is not helping the environment (just the reverse)
In short this decision by City Council it is taking away one of the few points of scrutiny in the process that might allow neighbors and others to address related impacts.
Welcome to the current era of ideologically driven City Council decision making aimed at largely benefit the developers at the expense of everyone else.
And when we look at how long it takes current Cambridge residents to get to work we can see the impacts of this kind of decision potentially on local residents.