ABC May News: Planning Board vacancy, exclusionary zoning updates, & more

(Sent May 27th, 2021.) The City of Cambridge is seeking applicants for residents interested in serving on the Planning Board, which reviews proposed zoning amendments and special permits for development. Despite its tremendous influence over Cambridge’s future, the Planning Board’s membership is not representative of the city’s diverse, majority-renter population. If you or someone you know may be interested in serving on the Planning Board, please apply or encourage them to apply! The deadline is June 25.

Missing Middle Housing updates...

  • The MMH petition now goes before the Council’s Ordinance Committee on June 10, which will be the most significant make-or-break hearing in the entire process. Please tell your friends to take action to help it to a successful finish!

Elsewhere in Cambridge…

  • The request for a Mass 40B permit for 48 units of affordable housing near transit, at 2072 Mass Ave, has again collided with the BZA’s determination to “protect” current Porter Square residents from too-tall buildings. At a recent hearing, the amended 9-stories-on-Mass, 5-on-Walden plan was supported by Mayor Siddiqui, Vice-Mayor Mallon, and Councillors Simmons and McGovern, but opposed by 4 out of 5 BZA members. A rematch between the city’s needs and the BZA members’ views is scheduled for September 9.
  • Nearby, at Walden Square Apartments, a newly-formed group of neighbors is trying to contest an Affordable Housing Overlay permit for 103 additional units above a parking lot. They’re collecting signatures on a petition calling for the plan to be sent “back to the drawing board” and for the AHO itself to be repealed or modified.
  • The City Council has unanimously asked the City Manager to work up for future Council consideration a plan to “more than double the City’s stock of affordable home ownership units over the next ten years” by adding at least 100 units a year.
  • With a new Huron Village NCD proposal in the works, and the proposed East Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District now in a multi-year period of rehab/demolition restrictions while “under study”, some Cambridge residents are seeking to re-balance the NCD establishment process “for more district commission diversity, more city council oversight, more consent, and more democratic participation.”

In other news…

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren gets it! It’s great to hear her put issues like multi-family bans and minimum lot area per dwelling unit on the national agenda in her recent discussion with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge.
  • In both the Walden Square and 2072 Mass Ave debates on affordable housing, nearby residents expressed concerns that free, city-provided parking spaces might become less easily accessible from their homes. They apparently haven’t read this succinct and compelling article from The Atlantic on “How Parking Destroys Cities.”
  • Can you imagine a contemporary version of the classic three-decker, a modern, affordable multi-unit structure that could be built on a small lot? The Boston Society of Architecture, in cooperation with the City of Boston, is seeking such ideas and ABC member/architect Bill Boehm is looking to organize a team to meet this challenge -- no expertise required. Please contact Bill if you’re interested in the future of Boston/Cambridge multi-family housing.