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 Cambridge Chronicle Editorial: The Critical Need For Housing Five Parking Innovations Every City Should Adopt Blame America’s Housing Woes on Zoning Laws The Road to Lower Rents in Boston 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.

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: 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 DayCambridge 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 DayBoston 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 Boston Globe Op-Ed on community land trusts Somerville: The City Where Real Estate Developers and Housing Activists Agree to Agree Why Free Parking is Bad for Everyone 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.

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 GlobeWBUR 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 ChronicleCambridge 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 GlobeBoston 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 ChronicleCambridge 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 The Frugal Traveler visits Cambridge The Hidden Reason Why Rent Is So Expensive In Cities: Parking Spaces How the Suburbs Got Poor 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.    

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 [email protected] who will then forward your letter on to the board. You might consider copying the City Councilors at [email protected] 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.

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 [email protected] who will then forward your letter on to the board. You might consider copying the City Councilors at [email protected] 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.

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 Zeren, an 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:[email protected] 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.”

Letter to the Editor: Why City Council Special Permit Granting Authority (SPGA) is a Bad Idea

Note: This letter was written for submission to the Cambridge Chronicle by ABC member Seth Zeren, a City Planner with experience working in a town where Special Permit Granting Authority was administered by elected officials. We reprint it here to help you become better informed about this complicated proposal. Click here to take action against designating the City Council as the exclusive special permit granting authority for Project Review Special Permits. Dear Editor: The City Council is discussing a zoning petition filed by Councilor Dennis Carlone that would take the authority to grant special permits from the Planning Board and give it to the City Council. I understand that some are frustrated with recent decisions made by the Planning Board; with 90 years of hindsight, few in the planning profession would suggest that the typical Planning Board process is perfect. There are many ways that we could improve it—for example, requiring early community meetings before a developer spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a complete design, or making better use of online forums to expand the number of voices who can weigh in on projects. 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. The underlying problems were: Continue reading

Protect Fair and Impartial Administration of Law in Cambridge

Housing Now! Sign our petition calling on the City Council to act on the Central Square Advisory Committee Recommendations! Dear Friends, A basic tenet of our democracy -- the fair and impartial administration of the law -- is under attack here in Cambridge, and we need your help to protect it. A petition has been introduced to the City Council which would grant the council exclusive authority to grant project review special permits, and eliminate the Planning Board's role in this process. This proposal for City Council politicizes the administration of our law. It will subject applicants for special permits to the will of elected officials most accountable to voter turnout never more than two years away, rather than to the expert-informed analysis of an appointed administrative planning board. Project review guidelines are established in the zoning ordinance which the City Council, if it sees fit has the power to change. But once a bylaw is approved and adopted, the city is legally obligated to administer it impartially and consistently. While all nine City Councilors are honorable people working in the best interest of our City, their ultimate accountability to voters makes it impossible to guarantee an impartial and consistent administration of our laws. Please join ABC in speaking against this proposal at tonight's City Council meeting (NOTE: tonight's meeting will be held at the School Committee room at CRLS - 459 Broadway).  You can call first thing Monday morning (617.349.4280) to get your name earlier in the speaking order. You should also send your thoughts to all the the City Councilors ([email protected]) or to their individual emails that are available at  Please note that, if you wish your communication to be on the official Council record, you need to cc: City Clerk Donna Lopez ([email protected]) and note that it's for the record, or give the clerk a written copy of your remarks at the meeting.

Action Alert: Tell City Council to Take Action on Central Square Housing Recommendations

In 2011, the Cambridge City Council commissioned the Central Square Advisory Committee (C2) to chart the future of Central Square. It spent a year-and-a-half figuring out how to serve the varied needs of working families and independent businesses, while promoting sustainable growth that allows residents the opportunity to live, work, shop, and play in the same community. Its thoughtful, detailed report built to this recommendation: “The most important thing that can be done to preserve the diversity of the square is to increase the supply of housing.” It’s been three years since the City Council created the C2 committee. It’s been eighteen months since it delivered its final report. And we’re still waiting for action. With every passing day, more working families get squeezed out of the neighborhood, and more local businesses fall victim to rising rents. We have the results of an extended, consultative, community-driven planning process. We know how to preserve the diversity and vitality of Central Square. But we’re still waiting for action. That’s why we’re calling on the City Council to implement the vision of the C2 process and pass new zoning that will expand the supply of housing in Central Square. We can’t afford to wait any longer. We’re asking you to add your name to those of your friends and neighbors who are speaking out in defense of Central Square. Tell the City Council to implement the recommendations it requested. Tell the Council that Central Square needs to make room for cultural, social and economic diversity. Tell the Council that we’re ready for action. SIGN THE PETITION:

1 Day Left: Take Action to Build Housing Now in Cambridge

We still need you to take action by tomorrow and tell the City Council you support Policy Order 15, an order by Mayor Maher, Vice Mayor Benzan, and Councilor McGovern on the issue of a Master Plan in Cambridge. A Better Cambridge supports strong, community based urban planning that helps us build housing now in Cambridge. We believe that the Maher/Benzan/McGovern policy order is most appropriate because it initiates a planning process facilitated by the professional staff of the Cambridge Community Development Department.  Continue reading