Add your reaction
On Monday evening, the city council adopted an amended version of my recent proposal to update the Incentive Zoning Housing Contribution rate.
Commonly known as "linkage fees," the Housing Contribution rate applies to large, commercial developers who are seeking certain kinds of special permits and is intended to offset the impact of commercial development on the local housing market.
Since 2002, the Incentive Zoning program has generated approximately $3.5M for affordable housing in our city. If that figure seems low, it's because the council has failed to update the linkage fees for well over a decade.
Section 11.203.1 of the City's Zoning Ordinance states that the Housing Contribution shall be subject to review and recalculation every three years by the Cambridge City Council. But the ordinance has been largely ignored, and as a result, our city has missed out on millions of dollars for affordable housing, even as we enjoy remarkable growth in our commercial sector.
Add your reaction
As someone who cares about biking in our city, I want to pass along news about the city's ongoing work to create a comprehensive bike plan; the project is called Toward a Bikeable Future. You can check it out by clicking on the following link: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/News/2014/05/towardsabikeablefuture.aspx
Also, I want to let people know that I recently met with Joe Poirier and John Sanzone of the Friends of the Grand Junction Path, and they gave a compelling presentation on the potential for shared uses along the Grand Junction corridor. As a result, I am now working to schedule a Transportation Committee meeting where we will look at the way forward for this very important project.
Finally, I have even more good reading for you...
At last week's council meeting, I introduced a policy order calling on the city to endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials' Urban Streets Design Guide. This blueprint for a modern streetscape demonstrates how streets of every size can be reimagined as safe, sustainable public spaces for people walking, driving, biking, and taking transit. You can review the guide online by clicking here: http://nacto.org/usdg
Add your reaction
Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced an important new policy order, calling on the city to move forward with an update to the Incentive Zoning Housing Contribution rate.
This one change has the potential to help the city obtain millions of extra dollars for its affordable housing programs. The policy order will appear as Order #2 (O-2) on Monday's agenda, and it is being co-sponsored by Councillor Mazen.
Click here to read the full text of the Housing Contribution order: http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cityClerk/PolicyOrder.cfm?item_id=42684
In 1988, the city council adopted the Incentive Zoning program to mitigate the impact of large-scale commercial development on the city's housing market. The way it works is fairly straightforward. A "nexus study" establishes the dollar amount for a one-time fee to be paid by large, commercial developers who are seeking certain special permits, and by law, the city council is supposed to review and update that amount every three years based on changing conditions in the economy and the housing market.
However, the city council has not updated the figure in many years. The last nexus study was completed in the year 2002, and it called for the Housing Contribution rate to be set at $7.83 per square foot of applicable commercial development — but the council didn't implement that recommendation, and currently, the rate is set at $4.58 per square foot. Adjusted for inflation, the 2002 recommendation is approximately $10.00 in 2014 dollars.
Over the years, the Incentive Zoning program has provided millions of dollars for affordable housing in our city, but given the extent of the challenges now facing our lower- and middle-income residents and families, we cannot afford to leave any of this money on the table in the future.
Since taking office back in January, Councillor Carlone has been working with the City Administration to ensure that we commission a new nexus study — but that process will take many months, at the very least — so in the meantime, he and Councillor Mazen are hoping that the council will implement the 2002 recommendations, creating the potential for added funding for our affordable housing programs.
Add your reaction
After an intensive debate, and weeks of speculation, the Cambridge City Council has unanimously approved our combined Master Plan policy order!
Check out the following article in today's Cambridge Chronicle --
Cambridge City Council calls upon residents to be masters of Master Plan
I cannot think of a more fitting headline myself.
To be sure, this is only the first step toward a Master Plan, and more work will need to be done in the coming weeks and months. But it's important step, and I know it would not have been possible without the advocacy of many Cambridge residents.
To everyone who called, emailed, or testified in support of this initiative, please let me say: Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The next step will be a series of meetings in different locations across the city, where independent planning and urban design professionals will engage the public on areas of interest and concern. I will be sure to keep everyone posted about those meetings as dates and times are announced.
Add your reaction
I am pleased to report that we have reached an agreement with the Mayor to reconcile the differences between our respective Master Plan policy orders from earlier this month, and we are now hoping to bring a combined proposal to a vote at the next regular city council meeting, on Monday, April 28, at 5:30 pm.
This synthesized order represents an important step forward for our city, as it calls on the city council, "to address the issue of a Master Plan and to help establish the city's urban planning and community development priorities," following a series of public meetings with resident input. Click here to read the Mayor's letter and the full text of our revised order.
One of the key differences between our original orders had to do with who would be responsible for running the public meetings. I proposed that the City Council utilize its committees, but the Mayor proposed that meetings be led by our city's Community Development Department.
As a compromise, we have agreed that these initial public meetings will be run by independent planning and urban design professionals, who will report back to the Ordinance Committee with a summary of findings by July 31, 2014.
Add your reaction
Thank you to everyone who attended, watched, or spoke at Monday night's city council meeting, where we finally had the opportunity to address the call for a comprehensive Master Plan!
Alas, our policy order didn't come to a vote — instead, we agreed to place it "on the table" to give the Mayor an opportunity to work with us to reconcile some of the differences between his proposal and our proposal.
This should come as no surprise: because of the open meeting law, it's impossible for more than four councilors to work on any one order prior to a meeting. So while we were busily organizing, petitioning, and exchanging ideas with the City Manager, City Staff, and our council co-sponsors, the Mayor actually prepared a similar order.
Personally, I think this is absolutely terrific. The more dialog, the better. The more collaboration, the better. At the end of the day, thanks to great neighborhood organizing, we have lots of officials talking about the desire for a new, citywide Master Plan.
Nevertheless, there are differences between our two orders, and it will be important to remain engaged in coming days.
As a planner, architect, and urban design consultant with nearly forty years of experience working in the City of Cambridge, I entered last year’s race for the City Council with a clear objective: to advance the goal of a new, citywide Master Plan to better guide future development and reinforce the qualities that make Cambridge special.
Now, as we enter the fourth month of the new term, I am taking action to make good on the “Planning for People” message that has generated so much enthusiasm across the city.
This afternoon, with the support of my colleagues Denise Simmons and Nadeem Mazen, I have submitted a policy order that calls on the City Council to address the question of a Master Plan – and to consider new urban planning and community development priorities with a framework for reporting on these topics by July 31, 2014.
To support our Master Plan initiative – and to provide your comments and suggestions – I invite you to visit my constituent homepage and add your name to our petition. Please visit www.DennisCarlone.org/master_plan_petition and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same!
With your participation, we intend to start a big conversation about the future of our city.
Add your reaction
More than 100 residents gathered in the cafeteria of the Tobin School last night to talk about their concerns with the unbridled development of the Fresh Pond/Alewife area — and to imagine possibilities for a new, citywide Master Plan to better manage growth and the crippling traffic along Alewife Brook Parkway.
The meeting was organized by members of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance and included updates on a number of key development proposals, including 75 New Street, the Tokyo Restaurant site, Concord Avenue by Wheeler Street, and more.
In a letter distributed to attendees at the meeting, Cambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone congratulated Fresh Pond residents for their efforts so far and invited all Cantabrigians to join him in calling for "an open process that will begin to provide a cohesive vision for how our city will grow and mature in the years to come."
"I believe that our Master Plan should be organized and presented in a manner that can be readily understood and supported by independent planning professionals and the general public," Carlone wrote. "Furthermore, I want to strengthen the design review process and take action to ensure that zoning guidelines are applied in a way that reinforces all that we love about our neighborhoods," he added.
Add your reaction
The Cambridge City Council approved a policy order on Monday evening that will appropriate some $6 million to move forward with renovations to the Foundry Building.
The order was introduced by Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan and co-sponsored by Councillor Dennis Carlone with support from his colleagues Nadeem Mazen and Tim Toomey.
The City acquired the Foundry as part of a mitigation package from Alexandria Properties in 2009, but plans to make space for educational and cultural uses have been stymied by the need for major renovations to the building, which is located at 101 Rogers Street in East Cambridge.
Prior to the vote, many residents testified on the need for additional community space, with some emphasizing STEAM education and others calling for more arts space. In addition, there have been suggestions for early childhood education and tech incubator space.
With this order, the council is moving forward with capital improvements to the building while also allowing time for residents and stakeholders to further discuss programing and development objectives. Earlier this month, the council held a special meeting to review the City's report on potential implementation approaches for the building.
For his part, Councillor Carlone encouraged his colleagues to broaden the discussion by also looking at how the Foundry Building relates to the surrounding area. "Third Street is the main corridor that connects the neighborhood and Kendall to the Foundry," Carlone said. "We have to look at the building's relationship to the new park, as well as pedestrian traffic on Third Street."
To enhance the building's relationship to the neighborhood, Carlone emphasized the need for "a public gesture," such as wider sidewalks or a small kiosk "announcing the Foundry" at the corner of Third Street.
Add your reaction
Last night, residents from across the city showed up at the Planning Board to voice concern with the proposed development at 75 New Street.
After a presentation from the developers and their attorney, members of the public testified on a range of issues relating to traffic, bike lanes, and pedestrian access to the Alewife T station. Ultimately, the board decided to postpone deliberation until another meeting, to be announced.
No member of the public spoke in support of the proposal, but thirteen individuals came forward to complain about a lack of infrastructure, including Cambridge City Councilor Dennis Carlone, who serves as the Chairperson of the council's Transportation, Public Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee. Planning Board members heard a litany of complaints about the difficulty of navigating New Street and the increased volume of traffic feeding into the Alewife Brook Parkway and the rotary.
“Making a [new] neighborhood takes a great effort and the public domain is key, but that’s not what’s being discussed here,” Carlone said. He called for widening New Street to accommodate two-way traffic along with bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and larger trees to better screen the bulk of the proposed four-story building that will stretch some three hundred feet.
Carlone also mentioned that seven different neighborhood groups have contacted him to ask for a citywide Master Plan.
In addition to testimony from Councillor Carlone and members of the newly-formed Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, members of the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge were also on hand to support fellow Cantabridgians in their call for better urban planning.
Thank you to Jan Devereux of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance for contributing to this blog post.