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