ABC Letter to Planning Board on 10 Essex Street

Mr. Hugh Russell, Chairman Cambridge Planning Board 344 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02139  Dear Chairman Russell, I am writing on behalf of A Better Cambridge to express our support for the 3MJ Associates special permit application for 10 Essex Street. While we see this as a modest proposal that does not fully achieve our vision for sustainable growth in Central Square, we do see it as a positive step in that direction. In recent years, residents and other stakeholders have had the opportunity to help shape the future direction of growth in Central Square through the Central Square Advisory Committee and other public processes. We believe the 3MJ proposal is a step towards a more diverse and livable neighborhood by converting an under-utilized parking lot in the heart of Central Square into more sustainable use that takes advantage of adjacent transit and other non-car transportation options. However, more should be expected from future development in Central Square.  Continue reading

Vote Tuesday for a Diverse and Livable Cambridge

This is it. Tomorrow is election day in Cambridge. Will you make time to cast your ballot for Cambridge’s future? There are important issues at stake in this election. Will Cambridge adopt policies that allow our city to grow sustainably, creating vibrant neighborhoods near public transportation where all families can afford to live, work, shop, and play? Or, will Cambridge severely restrict growth ensuring that only the wealthiest people among us can afford to live in this community? We believe a better Cambridge is one that grows sustainably, taking advantage of proximity to public transportation to expand housing choices for all Cambridge families. Continue reading

Cambridge City Council Candidate Ratings - 2013

Cambridge, Massachusetts (October 26, 2013) - A Better Cambridge - a group of Cambridge resident group working to build a more diverse and livable city on the path towards sustainable growth -- has released the results of it's 2013 City Council Candidate ratings.  A Better Cambridge looks forward to working with all nine members of the next city council to help build a more diverse and livable city. The next City Council will make important decisions that could impact the future of growth in Cambridge, and help reduce the high cost of housing for working families, young adults, and retirees in Cambridge. We believe a better Cambridge is a Cambridge that grows smart and sustainably, taking advantage of Cambridge's proximity to public and alternate transportation to expand housing choices for all Cambridge families and a sustainable future for our community. See the full ABC mission and vision at A Better Cambridge encourages all voters to consider which candidates are best prepared to make smart decisions that strengthen Cambridge’s diverse, vibrant neighborhoods and squares. These ratings, however, are not intended to be an endorsement of any individual or slate of candidates. Furthermore, the questionnaire and analysis is intended to give information about how the various candidate stand on the issues that ABC has focused on, and is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of their stance on every issue currently facing Cambridge. In low-information elections like this one, ABC knows it's difficult for voters to make the complex decisions about how they will rank candidates on their City Council ballot. To help voters understand where the candidates stand on difficult urban growth issues facing Cambridge, we distributed a 6-question survey to all 25 candidates, as well as conducted extensive third-party research using news articles and other organizations candidate questionnaires to assess their position on 4 key development issues now facing the city. Remember: In Cambridge we don't just vote for one City Council candidate, we rank multiple candidates in order of preference. The system is called Proportional Representation (you can read more about it here) and the goal is to rank the candidates in order of your preference for seeing them elected to the council. #1 is your top candidate, and so forth -- try to rank at least 4! For additional information, we encourage voters to view these additional resources: Cambridge Civic Journal Cambridge Resident’s Alliance Cambridge Chronicle Election Coverage Cambridge Local First City Council Candidate Survey Continue reading

City Council Candidates Respond to ABC Questionnaire

On Tuesday, November 5th, Cambridge voters will go to the polls to elect the next City Council. We believe that the next City Council will have a major impact in determining the future course of urban growth in Cambridge. As we look to the upcoming municipal election, ABC wants to understand how all City Council candidates approach the development challenges and opportunities facing our city. To understand the candidates' plans and priorities if elected, ABC distributed a questionnaire based on our 5-point mission to all candidates. The responses we received are linked in full below.  Stay tuned for ABC's analysis of these responses.  Continue reading

Sign Our Petition: Tell City Council & Planning Board to Vote NO on Net Zero Zoning

Sign our petition to the Cambridge City Council & Planning Board: CLICK HERE TO SIGN We believe that the Net Zero zoning proposal, however well-intentioned, is a narrow, inadequate and potentially harmful approach to reducing carbon dependence and emissions in Cambridge. For this reason, we ask the Cambridge City Council and the Planning Board to vote down this proposal to give our community the chance to implement broad and effective sustainability measures.

Net Zero Letter to Cambridge City Council & Planning Board

Mr. Hugh Russell, ChairCambridge Planning Board344 BroadwayCambridge, MA 02139   Dear Chairman Russell, On behalf of the members of A Better Cambridge, I am writing to ask you to vote NO on the Connolly Net Zero proposal. While we wholeheartedly agree with the goal of eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels in Cambridge, we believe that the Connolly Net Zero zoning currently being considered by the City Council and Planning Board would do more harm than good in our community: Net Zero affordable, multi-family housing is untested - There is no practice-based evidence that carbon-neutral, multi-family housing can built in a cost effective manner that keeps housing affordable to all Cambridge families. The proposed net zero zoning will hurt our ability to create the kinds of higher density, mixed residential and commercial buildings we need to sustain a diverse and affordable city. Net Zero in Cambridge only ignores the reality of our carbon footprint - Every hundred square feet of development in Cambridge is a hundred square feet not going up along routes 128 or 495. To the extent that this proposal moves new construction away from Cambridge, with its high standards on sustainability, and into surrounding areas, it runs a substantial risk of actually raising the very emissions it proposes to contain. Keep our Money Local - Under this proposal, developers could meet net zero requirements by paying out-of-Cambridge and out of State energy companies to offsets their emissions -- missing the opportunity to direct more funding to local programs like subsidies for conversions of existing buildings and smaller residences. Continue reading

Net Zero: Right Goal, Wrong Approach

Have feedback? Feel free to leave it in the comments below. Also, we encourage you to visit the Cambridge Civic Journal and participate in the conversation in the ongoing conversation about our statement on the net zero zoning petition. The members of A Better Cambridge thank the proponents of the Connolly Net Zero Petition for provoking such an important discussion about climate change adaptation in Cambridge. The Connolly Petition has challenged our community to take a serious look at how we will eliminate consumption of fossil fuels and promote alternative energy use across the city of Cambridge. A better Cambridge is a net zero Cambridge. Eliminating carbon emissions should be a primary goal in Cambridge. We believe that a viable approach to serious energy efficiency in Cambridge relies on a multi-pronged strategy that addresses what we require of new development and how we adapt existing buildings, with a focus on multi-modal transportation throughout. A key achievement will be that carbon emissions are reduced within our city through construction of better and more efficient buildings, without at the same time exporting emissions to communities outside of our borders. Continue reading

ABC Responds to Forest City's Proposed Design for 300 Mass. Ave

The letter below was recently submitted by A Better Cambridge to the Cambridge Planning Board, in response to Forest City's proposed design for the new building at 300 Mass Ave. Click here to read more background on this issue. August 5th, 2013 Hugh Russell, ChairCambridge Planning Board344 BroadwayCambridge, MA 02139 Dear Chairman Russell & members of the Planning Board: On behalf of A Better Cambridge, I write express our organization’s  dissatisfaction with the architectural design for 300 Massachusetts Avenue as presented to the Planning Board on July 9th. A Better Cambridge supported Forest City’s zoning petition in February of this year because the project stands to add vitality to Central Square, improve the public realm of Mass Ave, and reinforce smart growth principles such as locating jobs near transit. However, we also cautioned that in order to be a successful project, the architectural design of the building should be worthy of its highly visible location and sensitive to its neighborhood context. Unfortunately, A Better Cambridge feels the current proposal fails on both fronts. This type of corporate, nondescript architecture, if approved, will set a poor precedent and stoke fears that Kendall Square is encroaching on Central Square. We can do, and have done better. For example, 675 West Kendall Street successfully meets the needs of a pharmaceutical company while also respecting the scale and materials of adjacent residential buildings. The building is contemporary, but not corporate; and its mechanical penthouse recedes into the building. There are other examples too. Here are a few lab buildings that successfully integrate into their neighborhood context: 675 West Kendall (Cambridge) Genzyme Center (Cambridge) MIT Media Lab (Cambridge) Earth Sciences Building (Vancouver) Memphis Bioworks (Memphis) A Better Cambridge urges you to hold a high standard for architecture at 300 Massachusetts Ave (and everywhere in our city). Please vote against the current design for this important site. Sincerely, Jesse Kanson-Benanav, ChairOn Behalf of the members of A Better Cambridge