ABC News, November 2021: Book discussion, AHO and zoning activity, campaign finance and more

(Sent on November 23, 2021.)

The ABC book club has returned! We will be reading Tufts professor Eitan Hersh’s Politics is for Power -- an analysis of the perils of “political hobbyism” -- and meeting in person to discuss it on Sunday, December 5, 1-3pm, at Darwin’s on Cambridge Street.  For more details (especially if you might be interested in a follow-up Zoom!), contact Matthew Wallace at [email protected].

Additionally, for those who live in Cambridgeport or near MIT (specific ward/precinct info here), there is a special election for State Senator occurring on December 14th! You can read candidate statements from Lydia Edwards and Anthony D’Ambrosio in Cambridge Day. While ABC has not had time to conduct an endorsement process, we will note that Lydia Edwards has been endorsed by 5 ABC-endorsed City Councillors among many other state and local elected officials.

Committee hearing updates…

  • The new advisory review process continues for more affordable housing made possible by enactment of the Affordable Housing Overlay. Just-a-Start’s plan for 100+ new units at 52 New Street was well received by the Planning Board in late October. Not quite so much for Cambridge Housing Authority’s reconstruction/expansion of Jefferson Park on Rindge Ave, where some PB members were preoccupied with exterior design, trees, and project costs. (CHA will further address these issues at its second design review, but emphasized the unique cost drivers for Housing Authority projects.) Winn Development requested a postponement of the PB review for Walden Square II off Sherman Street, while POAH is working on its proposal for conversion of three buildings at Sacred Heart Parish on Sixth Street. 
  • Winn’s Walden Square II proposal has drawn substantial public opposition, leading to two resident-drafted zoning amendments that would undo some of the AHO’s advances citywide. The Ordinance Committee will hold a public hearing on increasing required setbacks on December 8 and on restoring minimum parking requirements on December 15, both at 5:30pm. A Planning Board hearing on these AHO rollbacks will occur on December 21 at 6:30pm.
  • A revised version of the expired Donovan Petition, the CCC’s 2020 reaction to housing issues in Cambridge, was reviewed by both the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board on November 16. The proposal would allow limited, largely invisible changes to existing 1-2 family homes. It would also require reports from Cambridge’s large employers on their plans for housing their employees. While neither body seemed keen to advance the particulars of the Donovan petition, it revived the conversation on how to end exclusionary zoning. The next steps are likely to be a PB discussion early next year, incorporating ideas from this discussion and from the 2021 ABC/Sunrise Missing Middle Housing Petition


  • A long-discussed ordinance that would restrict campaign donations from certain classes of people has arrived at the City Council floor, and faces a number of questions and confusions as to which people it would actually affect. The Harvard Crimson’s editorial board has called the measure outrageous and anti-democratic. The proposed law is currently on hold pending legal input from the Law Department. If passed, it may still require approval from the state legislature.
  • Our Cambridge Street,” the city’s planning study of road conditions and land use on and around Cambridge Street (from Inman Square to East Cambridge), is having a public Zoom meeting at 6pm on Wednesday, December 8th.
  • All-star zoning researcher Amy Dain and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy have teamed up to produce A Reformer’s Guidebook to Zoning’s Knots - a high-level overview of the different approaches to zoning and planning for multi-family housing in Greater Boston, with suggested philosophies and approaches for those seeking reform.

  • The New York Times recently released a terrific opinion video explaining why and how “Blue States are the Problem.”  Some blue cities, too.