ABC Response to Proposed Alewife Floodplain Overlay Zoning

I'm writing to ask ABC members and supporters to attend Tuesday’s (6/26) Planning Board meeting and/or Wednesday’s (6/27) City Council Ordinance committee.

Next week, both groups will hear public testimony on a proposed zoning petition that supporters believe will help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Cambridge. This Floodplain Overlay District seeks to address the impacts of flooding, stormwater management, and increased heating of our environment by placing more stringent requirements on new development in floodplains. This petition’s recommendations are based, in part, on both Cambridge’s recent Envision Cambridge planning study and Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA), and are a sincere, but nevertheless deeply flawed effort to address the consequences of climate change identified in these two reports. (Please read the second part of my email below for more details on our position)

Will you attend Tuesday’s Planning Board Meeting meeting and/or Wednesday’s Ordinance Committee meeting to tell them that you stand with ABC? Say that you believe we can address climate resilience flooding without sacrificing Cambridge’s affordable housing and sustainable smart growth goals.

Right before Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, ABC members and supporters will gather for an “ABC Team Meeting” to review our position on this proposed zoning and to prepare you to address the both committees.


What you can do to help

TUESDAY, June 26: Attend the “ABC Team Meeting” at 6pm and the Planning Board at 6:30pm - both the ABC team meeting and the hearing will be held at City Hall Annex - 344 Broadway.


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27: Attend the City Council Ordinance Committee at 5:30 at Cambridge City Hall.




Below is a summary of ABC’s position on this proposed zoning. Please click here to view a much longer, detailed ABC document outlining our response to this proposal.

ABC believes that much of what is proposed in this petition deserves serious review and discussion by the Planning Board and City Council. ABC is very encouraged by their inclusion of reduced parking ratios, green roofs, and allowances for increased building heights. We support these concepts wholeheartedly and look forward to working with the proponents to strengthen these areas of the petition.

Before the city council adopts any zoning with such major implications, the city must undertake a comprehensive analysis of all elements included in the zoning to ensure it does not negatively impact other critical community goals or exacerbate our current housing affordability crisis. The proposed zoning is an incredibly detailed document written by community members who may or may not be experts in climate change, zoning, or affordable housing.

Unfortunately, ABC believes that many of the petition’s environmental recommendations severely undermine other critical city policy goals, such as the creation of much-needed affordable housing.  Many of the petition’s goals and overly-stringent recommendations are crafted solely through the narrow lens of flood and heat buildup protections, as if other critical city needs - such as affordable housing and other environmental quality goals - are not equally important. Such burdensome new requirements will render infeasible projects with the number of units that affordable housing developers need to secure competitive state and federal funding. This will stifle most new housing, and significantly increase costs for both property owners, developers and residents of the new units that are built. A more expensive Cambridge is not a more liveable Cambridge.

Furthermore, many of the petition’s recommendations seem to ignore, impede, and even economically stifle many other major recommendations and Smart Growth practices called for by the Envision Cambridge Plan that address these other critical needs – such as a much needed increase in the supply of new housing for our city’s residents – particularly in Smart Growth and TOD zones, such as Alewife, which are located near transit stations, both existing and proposed (a new commuter rail stop at Alewife now in the discussion stage), and major bus commuter routes.

Before any approval by the Planning Board or City Council, the petition’s complicated recommendations will require a much more complete understanding of the impact they may have, particularly in combination, on the viability of future building and housing development in the impacted overlay district.