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A Diverse and Dynamic City on the Path to Sustainable Growth


Tuesday 1/27 Planning Board Hearing Postponed Due to Blizzard

Due to the impending blizzard, the City of Cambridge has cancelled all public meetings including Tuesday's Planning Board hearing on the Twining Properties zoning proposal for Central Square. ABC will keep an eye on the Planning Board calendar, and let you know as soon as this important hearing is rescheduled. 

Why not take advantage of tomorrow's snow day and email your comments to the Planning Board? Also, it's still worth sending a letter to the City Council Ordinance Committee if you haven't already. 

For talking points to help draft your letter and information about where to send your comments, please see last week's ABC Action Alert on our website.

Stay safe and warm! 

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Tell the Planning Board: Yes to Affordable Housing in Central Square

Thanks to your action last week, the City Council Ordinance Committee heard a clear message: Cambridge residents support zoning that will bring more affordable housing and transit-oriented development to Central Square. 

Click here to read last week's Action Alert and learn why ABC believes the Normandy Partners/Twining Properties' proposed zoning for Central Square is a productive step towards building a more diverse and sustainable city.


Now we need you to send the same message to the Planning Board:


1. Attend this week's Planning Board meeting to publicly testify in support of the Normandy/Twining proposal:

  • Planning Board - Tuesday, 1/27 at 7:00 P.M. in the Second Floor Meeting room at 344 Broadway.
  • NOTE: The City of Cambridge is preparing for the forecasted blizzard, and it possible the meeting will be postponed. ABC will monitor the situation on Monday and Tuesday to notify you ASAP if there are any changes to the meeting schedule.

2. If you cannot attend the meeting, email the Planning Board by Tuesday to register your support for this proposal. Even if you can attend, consider sending an email to reinforce your support:

  • Address to Chairman Theodore Cohen and send it to lpaden@cambridgema.gov who will pass it along to the Chairman and other Planning Board members.


3. Still haven't sent a letter to the City Council? It's not too late:

Be sure to read last week's Action Alert for talking points to include in your comments to the City Council and Planning Board.

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ABC January '15 Newsletter: An opportunity for more housing in Central Square

A belated happy New Year from A Better Cambridge. Below you will find the January ABC Newsletter. We are now officially in a Cambridge election year. Expect development to be a top issue of discussion.

Did someone forward you this email? Make sure you don't miss another newsletter or announcement from A Better Cambridge by signing up on our website: http://www.abettercambridge.org/sign_up.

DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

ABC has released a statement in support of the Twining/Normandy zoning proposal. The proposal would bring much needed housing including a significant number of affordable and three bedroom units.
ABC Action Alert

The average Boston area rent rose 5 percent from 2013, approaching $1,200 in 2014. Note that according to a survey of rents in 2013 referenced on the CDD website, the median rent in Cambridge for a one-bedroom was $2,385.
Boston Globe

The City Council continues to discuss the vacant Vail Court and possible actions that can be taken to get something done about the abandoned property right off Central Square.
Cambridge Day

CDD released a proposal for zoning changes for the eventual redevelopment of the Volpe Center in Kendall Square. The Federal Government has yet to release any proposal for the site.
City of Cambridge

The Harvard Square Advisory Committee is seeking new members. Applications are due by February 6th.
City of Cambridge

UPCOMING EVENTS

The next A Better Cambridge general meeting will take place on Thursday, February 26th at 7 pm. Location TBD.

On Thursday, January 22nd at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber, the Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on the Normandy/Twining zoning petition. The proposal is to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District. If you cannot attend in person we encourage you to send an email to the Council at council@cambridgema.gov AND City Clerk dlopez@cambridgema.gov

The Planning Board will also be holding a public hearing on the proposal on Tuesday, January 27th at 7:00 PM at City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. You can email the planning board at lpaden@cambridgema.gov

On Saturday, January 24th from 10 am to 1:30 pm at the Andrew Peabody School Gym the Center for Families is hosting a Winter Family Fun Day for families with children aged 0-8.


LINKS OF INTEREST

DID YOU KNOW?

The MBTA operates 29 bus lines through Cambridge in addition to the one Green Line and five Red Line stations.

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ACTION ALERT: Support Affordable Housing & Smart Growth in Central Square

I’m writing to ask for your action to build a more diverse and sustainable Central Square. 

Right now the City Council and Planning Board are considering a major proposal from Normandy Partners/Twining Properties to build a mixed residential and commercial development that would add more affordable housing just steps from the Central Square T. 

A Better Cambridge has urged the City Council to pass zoning to create more housing along Mass. Ave, other major corridors, and transit centers in the city. We believe that zoning changes proposed by Normandy/Twining are a productive step towards address the challenges we face as a city -- encouraging our dynamic economy while creating enough housing to give families of all income levels the opportunity to live here. 

Read more
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ABC News for Dec. 2014: New Year brings major prosposals

DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

Vice Mayor Benzan, Councilor McGovern, and Councilor Cheung presented a Policy Order that will send the K2C2 studies to the Ordinance Committee to discuss. The order was passed unanimously. ABC supports the studies and it’s a welcome sign that the Council is finally doing something with the recommendations.
Cambridge Chronicle

The first of numerous roundtables with the City Council and the Planning Board to discuss citywide planning and how the process can be improved.
Cambridge Chronicle

Twining Properties and Normandy Real Estate presented a proposal to the City Council to raise the allowed heights in around the intersection of Mass Ave. and Main Street to develop the Quest Diagnostics properties into apartments and retail. The developers have already held two open houses to discuss the project and there will likely be additional opportunities for public engagement.
City of Cambridge (PDF)

The City of Cambridge has been working to reduce the number of drive-alone trips and promote walking, biking, taking transit, and carpooling since the 1990s. Carshare services, such as Zipcar and Enterprise Carshare, have become an important part of accomplishing these goals. The Cambridge Community Development Department is working with residents to explore ways to formalize carsharing in zoning regulations including conducting a survey.
City of Cambridge survey

UPCOMING EVENTS

The next A Better Cambridge general meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 14th at 7 pm at the YWCA board room. This will be a very important meeting to discuss strategy and initiatives in 2015.

The next roundtable to discuss citywide planning will take place on Monday, January 12th at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber. There is no public comment at the meeting.

The City Council Housing Committee will conduct a public hearing to receive an update on the incentive zoning study from the Community Development Department on Tuesday, January 13th at 5 pm in the Basement Conference Room of 831 Mass Ave.

On Thursday, January 22nd at 5:30 pm in the Sullivan Chamber, the Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on the Normandy/Twining zoning petition. The proposal is to amend Article 20.000 of the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge by adding a new Section 20.800 entitled Mass and Main Residential Mixed Income Subdistrict within the Central Square Overlay District.


LINKS OF INTEREST

DID YOU KNOW?

According to the U.S. Census the population of Cambridge was 120,740 in 1950. As of 2010 the city was still below that peak with 105,162 residents.

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ABC Newsletter - November, 2014

Below please find the ABC November newsletter. As year-end approaches some of the more controversial issues and developments are not currently front and center, but important proposals and initiatives to keep an eye on are emerging.

Did someone forward you this email? Make sure you don't miss another newsletter or announcement from A Better Cambridge by signing up on our website: http://www.abettercambridge.org/sign_up.

DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

Vice Mayor Benzan, Councilor McGovern, and Councilor Carlone presented a Policy Order to the City Council that will explore the development of city owned parking lots in Central Square into affordable housing.
City of Cambridge

New appointments to the Planning Board were announced amid continued discussion of reforms for the Board that the city hopes will address community development concerns.
Cambridge Day
Cambridge Chronicle

The city approved a six-month pilot program for Bridj, a private transportation service based in Cambridge. The private shuttle service seeks to provide transportation connecting areas such as Coolidge Corner to Kendall Square.
Cambridge Day
Boston Globe

For the first time ever, Cambridge is allowing the community to decide where to spend a portion of the budget. The participatory budget program sets aside $500,000 to be spent within the community based on citizen input.
City of Cambridge

UPCOMING EVENTS

CDD is hosting a Bike Plan Open House on Thursday, December 4th from 5-8 pm. The event will share a draft of Cambridge Bicycle Network Plan along with an opportunity to provide input on the plan.

The Harvard Art Museums reopened this weekend after six years of renovations.

The 1st Annual Great Gobble Give-Back takes place on Saturday, November 22nd from 1-3:30 pm. The volunteer event will include trail maintenance and invasive species removal to protect the Fresh Pond habitat.


LINKS OF INTEREST

DID YOU KNOW?

According to the 2010 Census, 65.4% of all housing units in Cambridge are rented and 34.6% are owner occupied (including owner occupied condominiums). Approximately 14% of the entire housing stock is subsidized in some form.

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ABC Newsletter - October, 2014

Welcome to the ABC Newsletter for October, 2014. Going forward, if there are any community events you'd like to publicize in this email, please feel free to contact me.

Get the ABC newsletter delivered to your inbox each month! Click here to sign up for our mailing list.

DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

In Boston, Mayor Walsh announced a plan to build 53,000 new housing units in the city by 2030 including 20,000 units for middle-income residents. With the population expected to grow by 15% over the same period this is a very important plan to address the affordability and housing issues faced by our region.
Boston Globe
WBUR

On September 30th the Planning Board unanimously voted to grant the special permits needed to convert the Sullivan Courthouse in East Cambridge to a mixed-use office and residential development. There are still conditions to work out including a parking lease for the First Street Garage which will require City Council approval and likely lawsuits. It's notable that of the 24 housing units one-third will be low-income and one-third middle income.
Cambridge Chronicle
Cambridge Day

Though not in Cambridge, the recent announcement of plans to build a new transit station as part of the development of the Allston rail yards and straightening of the Pike is significant given the proximity to Cambridge. The new West Station may eventually connect Allston with Kendall Square and North Station. This is an important opportunity to build a new neighborhood with significant housing and transit potential for our region.
Boston Globe
Boston Globe

The Planning Board unanimously approved the special permits to convert a parking lot near the Alewife Station into additional housing and commercial space. The developer must still work out parking details with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department. As part of the affordable unit allocation, the developer agreed to have six three-bedroom units designated affordable due to pressure from the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance. This is welcome news given the lack of this size of affordable units across the city.
Cambridge Chronicle
Cambridge Day

UPCOMING EVENTS

The next A Better Cambridge general meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 12th at 7 PM. Location TBA. 

The Boston Symphony Orchestra will host a free community concert at the Cambridge Public Library from at 3 pm on Sunday, October 19th.

The second annual Cycle to the Source bike ride takes place Sunday, October 26th.  Sponsored by the Cambridge Water Department, the bike ride is a tour of the Cambridge watershed.

The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund is holding a fundraiser, Open Doors for the Homeless, on Thursday, November 13th at the Charles Hotel Regattabar.


LINKS OF INTEREST

DID YOU KNOW?

Cambridge employs more people, but fewer Cambridge residents. Since 1970, the number of jobs in Cambridge grew by over 40,000. Meanwhile, the proportion of Cambridge residents employed in Cambridge fell steadily from 54% in 1970 down to 45% in 2010.

 

 

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ACTION ALERT: Tell Planning Board - No to City Council Special Permits

TONIGHT: Planning Board public hearing on Carlone Petition to give City Council exclusive authority grant special permits for certain large developments.

Tuesday, August 5th at 7:00 P.M.
Second Floor Meeting Room - 344 Broadway, Cambridge

ABC opposes this petition because it politicizes the administration of law in Cambridge. Read this important column by ABC member Seth Zeren to learn more.

Can we count on you to take the following actions and express your opposition to this proposal?

1. Send a letter expressing your opposition to the Carlone Petition to Chairman Hugh Russell and members of the Planning Board by emailing lpaden@cambridgema.gov who will then forward your letter on to the board. You might consider copying the City Councilors at council@cambridgema.gov.

2. Attend the Planning Board meeting and make voice your opposition directly to the Planning Board members: Tuesday, August 5 at 7pm in the Second Floor Meeting Room at 344 Broadway.

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City Council Special Permits: Moving Cambridge in the Wrong Direction

ABC opposes the Carlone Petition, currently before the Planning Board, which would give the City Council exclusive authority to grant certain large Special Permits for development in this city. We are concerned that it could seriously hurt our ability to create new housing at the scale needed to meet the needs of all Cambridge families.

Can we count on you to take the following actions and express your opposition to this proposal?

1. Send a letter expressing your opposition to the Carlone Petition to Chairman Hugh Russell and members of the Planning Board by emailing lpaden@cambridgema.gov who will then forward your letter on to the board. You might consider copying the City Councilors at council@cambridgema.gov.

2. Attend the Planning Board meeting and make voice your opposition directly to the Planning Board members: Tuesday, August 5 at 7pm in the Second Floor Meeting Room at 344 Broadway.

Last week, ABC member Seth Zeren wrote in the Cambridge Chronicle:"I have worked for a municipality where the legislative branch had taken on the power of granting special permits. The system was so problematic that there were active attempts to move away from it."

With Seth's experience in mind, we need your help to make sure Cambridge doesn't move toward a system that:

  • Increases the politicization of development, 
  • Relies on the opinion of City Councilors who are not experts on development, zoning, or city planning,
  • Increases uncertainty in the planning process, which will help ensure only large, wealthy developers can pay to build in our city -- and likely result in new developments that don't meet the needs of our diverse community.

Your action will be critical to helping stop this misguided and potentially disastrous proposal for Cambridge families. I hope we can count on your support.

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ACTION ALERT: Protect Fair and Impartial Planning in Cambridge

We need your help to protect the fair and impartial administration of zoning law in Cambridge.

A few weeks ago I wrote to you about a petition submitted by one City Councilor that would shift the Special Permit Granting Authority for certain large developments from the Planning Board to the City Council. This is an arcane proposal, but could seriously hurt our ability to create new housing at the scale needed to meet the needs of all Cambridge families.

Please join A Better Cambridge in speaking against this proposal at tomorrow’s City Council Ordinance Committee meeting (PLEASE NOTE that the meeting will be held in the School Committee Meeting room at CRLS due to renovations in City Hall):

Wednesday, July 30th
4:00 P.M.
School Committee Meeting Room (CRLS)
459 Broadway

A Better Cambridge is steadfastly opposed to this proposal because:

  • It politicizes the administration of our law by subjecting applicants for project review special permits to the will of elected officials, rather than to the expert-informed analysis of an appointed administrative planning board;
  • It favors insider deal-making, rather than good urban planning, by encouraging developers to negotiate the details of projects with individual City Councilors in order to ensure they win the councilor's support and ultimate approval;
  • It risks Cambridge’s legal obligation to administer the zoning bylaw impartially and consistently, and may open our city up to litigation by applicants who feel they were treated unfairly by the council during the permitting process;
  • It increases uncertainty in the Cambridge planning process and may encourage developers to go with “safe-bet” large, luxury developments -- rather than engage our community in discussions that lead to the creation higher density developments that can provide affordable housing for all families in our community.

For more information check out this letter from ABC member Seth Zerenan urban planner with experience working in a local community where the Special Permit Granting Authority is controlled by elected officials.

If  you cannot make it to tomorrow’s meeting, I encourage you to send your comments directly to all members of the city council:council@cambridgema.gov. Please address your comments to the Ordinance Committee co-chairs: Vice-Mayor Benzan and Councilor Carlone, and be sure to note your opposition to the “Carlone petition for City Council Special Permit Granting Authority.”

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We're Working to Build A Better Cambridge - A Diverse and Dynamic City on the Path to Sustainable Growth