Please Support Victims of the Cambridge Fire

By now I'm sure you've heard of the devastating fire that impacted Cambridge's Wellington-Harrington neighborhood over the weekend. As we understand, over 60 families have been displaced. Among those neighbors displaced were residents living in St. Pat's Place, an 18-unit affordable housing development in the former Catholic church now owned by Just-A-Start Corporation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families impacted but the fire.

While we are so lucky that no serious injuries or worse occurred as a result of this fire, we are devastated for the many families now made homeless. In the aftermath of this awful event, Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons has established a Fire Relief Fund to assist those families impacted. I hope you'll give generously to help our neighbors in this difficult time -- but donations in any amount will be useful:

At this time, the City of Cambridge and Red Cross are asking people not to make physical/material donations of food, clothing, blankets, etc. If you wish to make donations of Target or all-purpose gift cards I understand that those will be accepted in the Mayor's Office at City Hall.

Thank you for supporting our neighbors in need.

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ACTION ALERT: Support the Central Square Restoration Petition

A few weeks ago I was excited to join with over a hundred other neighbors from in and around the Central Square area to add my name as a signatory to the Central Square Restoration Petition (CSRP). Primarily sponsored by Nabil Sater, longtime Cambridge resident and owner of the historic Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub, this zoning amendment would implement a number of changes that I believe will help strengthen and expand Central Square as a vibrant and diverse mixed-use district while allowing for new, desperately needed housing development in this transportation-rich neighborhood.

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ABC October Newsletter: Early Voting and Housing Guidance from the White House

Don’t forget election day is November 8th, but early voting started on October 24th. See the below link for information on poll locations and times.  


Early voting begins October 24th at five locations around the city.
City of Cambridge

Envision Cambridge is seeking volunteers for four Working Groups on the following topics: Housing, Climate and Environment, Economy, and Mobility. Applications are due November 18th.
Envision Cambridge

The Obama Administration released a white paper on the negative consequences of restrictive zoning including increased inequality, lower economic growth, and segregation. The paper outlines policies that communities can take to increase housing production.
White House Housing Development Toolkit
Slate: The White House Is Finally Targeting the NIMBY Nonsense That’s Made Cities Unaffordable

The Boston Globe published an editorial on the subject of Obama’s housing push that cites the proposed downzoning of Riverside as a prime example of excessive local regulation.
Boston Globe: Obama’s YIMBY Moment


The next ABC general meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 16th at 7 pm. The location is TBD.

The Cambridge Historical Society is hosting the second part of a three part symposium on housing in Cambridge. The event titled, "What have been the successes & failures of affordable housing planning & activism?" takes place on Thursday, October 27th from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Cambridge Community Center. 
Register Here

Magazine Beach Park Cleanup will take place on Saturday, November 12 from 9 am to noon. Gather sticks, rake leaves, pick up trash. Prepare the park for the winter. To sign up contact



The total assessed value of all residential property in Cambridge is $24.5 billion.

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Obama's YIMBY Moment

I wanted to make sure you had a chance to read yesterday's Boston Globe editorial about "Obama's YIMBY Moment."

As the editorial describes, President Obama recently released a white paper calling for cities to eliminate exclusionary zoning and increase density in order create more housing opportunities for all families, including low- and moderate-income individuals. But as a famous Cantabrigian once said, all politics is local -- and to help make the President's case, the Globe editorial board described the ongoing situation with the downzoning in Riverside which A Better Cambridge has actively opposed:

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ACTION ALERT: Tell City Council - Yes to Housing; No to Down-Zoning Riverside

I need you to take action right away to oppose new restrictions on housing development in Cambridge's Riverside neighborhood.

Back in May I sent you an email (click here to see my previous message) asking you to contact the Cambridge Planning Board in opposition to a proposed down-zoning in Riverside which would make it harder to develop much-needed new housing in accessory dwelling units in that neighborhood.

You responded and the Planning Board agreed, calling for the City to adopt a Riverside Neighborhood Conservation District instead of down-zoning. A neighborhood conservation district could ensure that the design of new housing in Riverside reflect the surroundings -- without making it harder to build critical new housing in Cambridge. ABC finds this a sufficient compromise in the midst of a serve housing shortage in our region.

But apparently some members of the City Council do not agree with the Planning Board, and have re-introduced the Riverside down-zoning for consideration at this Wednesday's Ordinance Committee meeting. In the midst of an ongoing housing crisis, ABC remains opposed to any effort to make it more difficult to create new housing for Cambridge families. 

I ask you to join us in opposition by speaking against the proposed down-zoning at Wednesday's Ordinance Committee meeting:

Ordinance Committee Meeting (Click for Agenda)
Wednesday, October 5th
5:30 P.M.
Cambridge City Hall
2nd Floor Sullivan Chambers

If you cannot attend the meeting, or to reinforce your message, please email statements of opposition to all nine members of the City Council at council@cambridgema.govMake sure to "CC" City Clerk Donna Lopez at to get your comments on the official record of the Ordinance Committee proceedings.

Thanks for your support and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.

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ABC September 2016 Newsletter: A New City Manager and Volpe Updates

As summer comes to a close the City Council is back to regular weekly meetings with some big decisions to be made in the fall.



The search for the next City Manager has been narrowed to three finalists. A “Meet the Finalists” forum will be held on Tuesday, September 20th from 6-9 pm at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. The City Council will conduct public interviews of the candidates starting at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 21st at City Hall. The Council will vote on the appointment on Thursday, September 29th.
City of Cambridge
Cambridge Chronicle

ABC and Chairman Jesse Kanson-Benanav were featured in the Boston edition of Metro. The article discusses the broader YIMBY movement to increase affordability and sustainability in urban settings.

The Cambridge-based Lincoln Institute's Landlines magazine recently released an article about infill development in Cambridge and other cities. 
Lincoln Institute: Landlines

The Boston Globe recently reported on the continuing process and plans for the Volpe Center in Kendall Square.
Boston Globe: Cambridge wonders ‘What’s the plan?’ for Volpe site


The next ABC general meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 27th at 6:30 pm at the Central Square Library at 45 Pearl Street.
A Better Cambridge

The Port Pride Day will take place Saturday, September 24th from 12 pm – 5 pm at Clement Morgan Park.
Port Pride Day



According to CDD 42% of Cambridge’s land is residential and 20% is used for open space.

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Marijuana Legalization & Kendall Square on ABC September Agenda - Join us?

I wanted to make sure you knew about the upcoming ABC general meeting. I really hope you can join us!

Tuesday, September 27th
6:30 - 8:30 P.M.
at the Central Square Library
45 Pearl Street in Cambridge
We have a great agenda lined up that will cover two issues that are likely to have a major impact on our community:
  • The Yes on 4: Campaign to Tax and Regulate Marijuana will address our group about their effort to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts. They'll talk to us about the regulatory system that will be established if voters approve the ballot initiative this November, including how the ballot question will impact the rights and responsibilities of communities like Cambridge to zone or otherwise regulate legal recreational marijuana shops.
  • The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRedevA) and Boston Properties will present about a major redevelopment plan in Kendall Square. Last year, the CRedvA approved changes to the "Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan" which for decades has guided development in that part of the city. Guided by these changes, Boston Properties -- a major developer and property owner in Kendall Square - has proposed a comprehensive redevelopment of their Kendall Center complex at 145 Broadway which will include over 1 million square feet of new development. Come hear about their plans and how it may impact the Kendall Square/East Cambridge and surrounding neighborhoods.

As always, our general meetings are free and open to the public. Whether you're an ABC veteran or planning to attend for the first time, I hope to see you next Tuesday!

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ABC July 2016 Newsletter: Updated and Open Houses on Cambridge Developments

With summer in full swing there are numerous meetings and updates regarding a variety of important projects in Cambridge.


The Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust shared inclusionary housing recommendations with the City Council based on an Inclusionary Housing Study recommending an increase in the percentage of units set aside for subsidized housing in new developments. Changes to the requirement are likely by the end of the year.
Cambridge Chronicle

Developer DivcoWest is preparing to begin construction on retail and commercial buildings in North Point.
Boston Globe

The Boston Globe released an editorial on two reforms for the MBTA to save money.
Boston Globe


On Tuesday, July 19th from 3-5 pm at City Hall, the Public Safety Committee and Housing Committee will conduct a joint public hearing on the operation of short-term rental units through programs such as Airbnb.
City of Cambridge

An open house and community discussion on infill development in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area on Tuesday, July 19th from 5-8 pm at the Marriott Hotel, 50 Broadway.

 Envision Cambridge is holding an Alewife Visioning Workshop Thursday, July 21st from 630-830 pm at the Tobin School Cafeteria, 197 Vassal Lane.

A public presentation on the redevelopment of the Foundry Building will take place on Thursday, July 21st from 630 to 830 pm at City Hall.
Cambridge Redevelopment Authority

There will be an open house to discuss updates and designs for the Mass + Main project in Central Square on Tuesday, July 26th from 6-8 pm at 435 Mass Ave.

 The 3rd annual Cambridge Jazz Festival will take place Sunday, July 31st from 12-6 pm at Danehy Park, 99 Sherman Street.
Cambridge Jazz Festival



The average apartment in Greater Boston rented for $2,046 a month in the three months ending June 30, according to real estate data firm Reis Inc., a sum that trails only New York and San Francisco nationally.

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ABC June Newsletter: Zoning Reform Passes the State Senate But There is Still Work to Do

Happy 4th of July from A Better Cambridge. Though the City Council is taking a break until August there are Envision Cambridge meetings coming up as well as an ABC social event.


The state Senate passed a much needed zoning reform bill that would make some important changes to encourage more housing throughout the region. The prospects for the bill in the House are unclear.
Boston Globe: Disco-era Zoning Rules Need a Fix, and State Senate Has a Solution

Market Urbanism

The group A Better City released a report on the state of Greater Boston’s infrastructure. The report outlines the challenges the region faces with population expected to increase to 4.5 million by 2030.
A Better City

Boston Globe

In case you missed it, ABC Chairman Jesse Kanson-Benanav spoke with the Globe about ABC and the broader YIMBY movement.
Boston Globe


ABC is hosting an informal social at The Field on Thursday, July 7th from 6:30-8:30 pm. Come grab a beverage and have some conversation!

There are multiple upcoming Envision Cambridge events:

Panel Discussion: Changes and Opportunities Facing Cambridge Thursday, June 30th from 6-8 pm at the Main Public Library.

Engagement and Communication Working Group Tuesday, July 12th from 530-730 pm at the City Hall Annex.

Alewife Visioning Workshop Thursday, July 21st from 630-830 pm at the Tobin School Cafeteria.




Only 22 buildings in Somerville are legal under current zoning.

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Did you see ABC Chairman Jesse in Sunday's Boston Globe?

Hi! Pamela Thilo here - I'm a member of the ABC leadership committee. I don't usually send our email blasts, but am jumping in today because ABC's Chairman Jesse Kanson-Benanav is too modest to self-promote this great interview about his background and work with ABC that appeared in Sunday's Boston Globe:

Five Things You Should Know About Jesse Kanson-Benanav: Community organizing with a focus on housing

One of the things you'll read in the interview if that Jesse recently attended the first national YIMBY conference in Boulder -- a convening of organizations and individuals from around the United States saying Yes In My Back Yard to more housing and sustainable development in our cities. Jesse has told me how excited he was after the conference to not only build on our successes in Cambridge, but to also help grow this work around the Boston region.

I wanted to make sure you know that Jesse will be giving a report back from the YIMBY conference at tomorrow's ABC meeting. While this certainly won't be the last time ABC tells you about the growing national YIMBY movement, tomorrow's meeting will be an opportunity to hear directly opportunities and challenges YIMBYs face in our work moving forward.

ABC June Meeting
Tuesday, June 28th
7:00 P.M.
at the Citywide Senior Center
806 Mass Ave in Central Square

Thanks! Let us know if you can make it tomorrow by RSVPing on our website. I hope to see you then.

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