FPRA opposes New Street rezoning petition (Evolve site)

The following letter was sent on 15 August 2018:

Dear Cambridge Ordinance Committee, Planning Board and City Councilors,

We have learned that the New Street building currently occupied by Evolve Fitness has been optioned by a developer who has submitted a rezoning petition for this area and wants to turn the site into an oversized storage facility.

The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance (FPRA), representing the neighbors and neighborhoods abutting New Street, adamantly oppose the approval of the rezoning petition. We understand that ALL of the immediate abutters and neighbors oppose the rezoning petition and lend our collective voice to express our opposition to this rezoning petition as well.

While we appreciate that the proposed building will be relatively “green” in terms of energy use (but not green open space design), we support the efforts and recommendation of the Envision process and the recommendation that this parcel be developed into a more high-value space (e.g., affordable housing) and be used in a way that will further enhance and connect the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Evolve building is one of the few places where everyone in the Fresh Pond area can come together to gather as a community. We need many more areas like this one and not yet another storage facility—the second within walking distance of Fresh Pond.

Further, a storage facility would additionally burden the lack of connectivity that already exists for those of us who use and love Danehy Park. The city has made major investments to make New Street pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, purchased the railroad right-of-way that runs parallel to New Street for a multi-use path, and overall strengthened connections between the Fresh Pond and Alewife neighborhoods. The proposed rezoning and storage use would be completely incompatible with the vision that has spurred these investments.

Thank you in advance for not approving a rezoning petition that would pave the way to losing space that currently houses a welcome community amenity and replacing it with yet another storage facility that would dominate the neighborhood and foreclose multiple opportunities of public benefit.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Sweeney

on behalf of the Fresh Pond Residents’ Alliance (FPRA)

87 Lake View Ave., Cambridge

 

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The Cambridge Climate Safety Petition: Upcoming Events

The Great Swamp Legacy

Municipal Initiatives and Challenges of Climate Change in a Historic Floodplain

JUNE 13 – 7:00-9:00 pm (refreshments at 6:30 pm)
Lesley University, 1815 Massachusetts Ave, Room 2-150
Host: Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division
Join us for speakers on biodiversity, climate change, natural systems solutions, the City’s Envisioning process, and perspectives from Alewife and watershed-wide groups:
  • Adam Sacks–Biodiversity For a Livable Climate
  • Andy Hrycyna–Mystic River Watershed Association
  • John Pitkin–Sierra Club Boston
  • Quinton Zondervan–City Councilor
    Eric Grunebaum–Friends of Jerry’s Pond
  • Sarah Slaughter–CEO, Built Environment Coalition
  • Mike Nakagawa–Envision Cambridge and Cambridge Climate Safety Committee
  • Amy Mertl– Assistant Professor of Biology, Lesley University – Moderator

Purpose: To support grassroots and municipal climate initiatives, which protect and improve the natural resources of the Alewife region for an acceptable community standard of living for humans and other species.

Climate Safety Petition Presentation

How Do We Protect Our Community as the Climate Changes?

Please join us for a community discussion about the Cambridge Climate Safety Proposal

Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 7-9pm
Cambridge Senior Center, 806 Mass. Ave., Central Sq.

Free admission.  Light food and drink included.

As the climate changes, Cambridge will experience much hotter temperatures and more frequent and severe flooding in larger areas.

Residents from across Cambridge want to protect the health, safety, and property of residents and workers from these threats by requiring new buildings to be climate-ready.

These residents formed the Climate Safety Committee, which has proposed changes in how buildings are constructed, how the surrounding open space is landscaped, and how stormwater is handled.  The Cambridge City Council and Planning Board will consider the zoning proposal at hearings on June 26 and 27.

Come find out about the Climate Safety proposal. Discuss how affordable housing can be created while addressing climate challenges. Think about the proposal and what you want to tell city officials. Give your input to improve the proposal. Get prepared to take action.

We’ll discuss the proposal in small groups to make sure all your questions are answered and to listen to your suggestions.

For more information on the Climate Safety proposal: http://www.cambridgeclimatesafety.info

Please reserve your space at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-do-we-protect-our-community-as-the-climate-changes-tickets-46822947697 .

Co-sponsored by the Climate Safety Petition Committee, North Cambridge Stabilization Committee, Cambridge Residents Alliance, Green Cambridge, Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, and Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods (additional sponsors welcome).

Cambridge City Meetings

Tuesday June 26th 6:30pm

MEETING TO DISCUSS the Climate Safety Petition in front of the Planning Board
Second Floor Meeting Room
344 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02139
  

Wednesday June 27th 5:30pm

City Council Ordinance committee meeting to discuss the Climate Safety Petition
City Hall, 2nd Floor Sullivan Chamber
795 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139

Link

On April 5, 2018, a Citizens’ Petition for Zoning Amendments was filed with the Cambridge City Clerk. Click Climate Zoning Petition Packet to access the filing packet. It contains:

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Zoning Petition
  3. Narrative climate zoning
  4. FAQs climate zoning
  5. Maps: Heat Maps climate zoning and Flood Maps climate zoning

The purpose of the city-wide zoning petition is to protect the health and safety of the residents and businesses of Cambridge from the serious threats of significantly increased flooding and extreme heat identified in the City’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA), completed last year. The studies conclude that the impact of climate change will be both severe and city-wide.

The petition proposes the creation of a new Section 22.80-Green Factor in the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to address community health and safety citywide in light of extreme heat and to improve open space, tree cover, green infrastructure, and stormwater management. It will also amend Section 20.70-Floodplain Overlay District to expand the floodplain zone to the new delineations shown in the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, and add common-sense provisions to building and site design within the Floodplain Overlay District. These changes are primarily focused on preparing for future climate impacts and on improving overall climate resiliency and community health and safety within the District.

We expect it to be on the City Council Agenda for April 23 and will post updates here.

See the Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience page for all City reports and resources.

Nov. 28 Comments on 55 Wheeler Street Development–continued Hearing Tuesday Dec. 5, 8:30 pm, City Hall Annex

FPRA comments on Planning Board case #SP330 (55 Wheeler Street)

Dear Members of the Planning Board,

On behalf of the Board of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance (FPRA), we politely submit the following comments regarding tonight’s Planning Board case #SP330, a proposal to construct 526 new residential units on a site located at 55 Wheeler Street in West Cambridge. To begin, let us say that we appreciate that the project has evolved from its original design in several positive ways. A significant number of the questions that we and others raised have been answered. That said, there are still aspects of the project which concern us greatly.

Before discussing our concerns, let us once again affirm our support for the significant points previously raised by abutters at the Reservoir Lofts. Regarding their concerns about increased traffic volume, problematic traffic patterns, construction timing, on-street parking, and construction noise and other impacts, as well as their support for ownership units, we are in complete agreement, and we ask that you support all of the conditions proposed by the Reservoir Loft owners in their letter of October 24th.

Next, we would quickly mention our prior letter to the Planning Board on September 5th, a copy of which is attached. Though some minor questions that we previously raised have been answered by the applicant, we do not believe that the bulk of our concerns regarding neighborhood impacts, fire safety, traffic increases, mobility/connectivity issues, excessive building scale, limited public open space, regional context, unit ownership, community building, environmental concerns, and resiliency in the face of climate change have as of yet been addressed. As such, we hope that you will review these prior comments as a part of your deliberations.

We would also draw your attention to the matter of community outreach. Though the applicant has continued to meet with City Councilors and abutters since their last hearing, no further outreach has been initiated by the applicant towards the neighborhood associations. We do not believe that this extremely narrow outreach by the applicant is in keeping with the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance or the Planning Board’s own rules. In short, it is difficult to engage in a community process without actually engaging with the community.

As for our specific concerns, we have several. Though we are strongly supportive of the applicant’s proposed 20% Inclusionary Zoning percentage, we continue to believe that the proposed scale of this project is much too large both for the specific site proposed and for the larger Quadrangle district. Despite comments by Planning Board members to the contrary, we do not believe that this proposal is in keeping with the spirit of the ongoing Envision Cambridge process. For example, in their presentation to the City Council last week, the Envision Cambridge team presented a Quadrangle district FAR of 1.62 at 100% buildout. Conversely, the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for 55 Wheeler Street is 2.26, a 40% increase over Envision guidelines. The new Envision guidelines translate to an approximate unit count of 377, not the 526 units proposed by the applicant. Even at 377 units, this would still be the third largest project built in West Cambridge in the past 45 years. As a result, we continue to believe that this lower unit count is a significantly better fit for this disconnected, dead-end site.

More globally, we must question whether this project is in keeping with all the components currently under review through the Envision process. How do this stock of proposed new residential units and its projected population “fit” with current master planning targets (if there are such target guidelines?)  For example, are we unintentionally increasing “dumbbell” economic conditions by building an 80% luxury/20% affordable unit mix? Instead, would more middle income units better fit with long-term City goals? What about schools? Libraries? Public utilities? In her prior letter to the Board, Susan Lapides stated the problem quite succinctly: “Think about it. Are the numbers good for the future of our city? Or only good for the developers today?”

Similarly, we are not convinced that such targets will be achieved by approving large projects of this type without a corresponding public investment in local infrastructure projects. According to the just released draft of the Cambridge Climate Change Preparation & Response Plan (CCPR), “the Quadrangle area is isolated from the rest of the Alewife neighborhood since it is bordered by the railroad on its north and east edges and by the Alewife Parkway on its south edge.” Yet, the Envision planning process has yet to address any of the fundamental issues at play in this district: namely, mobility, livability, and resiliency.

Perhaps our most fundamental concern for the Alewife region, and the single factor that most prevents it from becoming a proper neighborhood, is the lack of connectivity through and across the district. Enhanced connectivity provides relief from traffic, connects neighbor to neighbor, enhances economic equality, and creates safety in the face of climate change.

As such, we believe that no development can proceed at this site without an integrated City plan to finally solve the area’s connectivity issues. Such a plan must include concrete and near-term steps to link all four quadrants of the Fresh Pond-Alewife seamlessly. Components to be addressed as a part of that plan include clearly aligned bike and pedestrian connections, the completion of a clear network of surface streets, linkages over/under/across the rail tracks, a new commuter rail station, enhanced public transit options, enough public open space to contribute to community livability, and an Alewife Mobility Task Force to oversee any planning efforts.

We believe that the 55 Wheeler Street site sits at the heart of this district, and as such, must contribute to solving these issues in cooperation with the City and local residents. In the same way that New Street was rebuilt to clear the way for new development, Wheeler Street requires enhanced connections in all directions to facilitate better livability for all residents. In addition to prior connectivity promises, we require the following additional actions by the applicant:

  1. Clarify site circulation patterns to ensure that pedestrian paths align with neighboring properties and that noise from deliveries and trash collection don’t impact abutters at neighboring properties. Are they negotiating with neighboring properties?  Their comment regarding a “mid-block connection between Fawcett and Wheeler Streets at this location as early as completion of construction of the Project” would suggest that they are.
  2. Consider allowing short-term public parking in the proposed surface parking lot next to the park. In the latest filings, the small surface parking lot is now described as “resident parking,” even though it abuts a public street and a public park.
  3. Demand that the City address concerns with traffic entering from and exiting to Concord Avenue by making Wheeler Street one-way “IN”
  4. Negotiate and pay for a connection from Wheeler Street  to Terminal Road
  5. Contribute to the creation of an off-street, separated bikeway in place of on-street, unseparated lanes

Much remains unknown about our future climate, but it is almost certain that it will be wetter and hotter than today. Given the increasing uncertainty regarding just how wet and just how hot, we believe it is imperative to confront such concerns directly and with great caution when planning for the City’s future. Such a thoughtful approach has been demonstrated in the City’s commitment to the creation of the CCVA and CCPR Plans. In reviewing this proposal, we question whether this project demonstrates a similar commitment. To begin, we question whether it makes sense to build a so-called “resilient building” in an extremely non-resilient location (i.e. a dead-end street in a 500-year flood plain). Besides that, our continuing issues with the current design are the following:

  1. The creation of an internal “common room” for sheltering in place. Will such a space be sufficient for and accessible for all 1000+ residents? What will be its capacity and location? Will it be protected from flooding? How will it ensure clean water and proper sanitation? What duration is it intended to serve for? We need more details to adequately appraise such a proposal.
  2. The ground floor location of transformers, generators, electrical, and HVAC equipment is problematic and not in keeping with established resiliency strategies.
  3. The placement of residential units on the ground floor. The recently approved project at Lanes & Games moved all residential spaces to the second floor and above.
  4. Will upper story units have operable windows? Such openings are critical in cases where ground floor access is not possible due to flooding.
  5. Will the proposed tree plan create enough of a tree canopy to offset the district’s serious heat island effects? If trees can’t be located alongside the electrical substation due to easement issues, what is the backup plan for shielding the site?

Regarding environmental issues, we would again emphasize our concern for the soil conditions onsite. According to the applicant, “A subsurface investigation of the property identified concentrations of lead and cadmium in soil above applicable reporting and remediation standards.  The concentrations were reported to the MassDEP in accordance with legal requirements. The RAO that was filed by the Licensed Site Professional concluded that lead and cadmium detected in soil was below the default background standard for historic urban fill in the area of the property, and therefore presented “No Significant Risk” to human health or the environment. “In response, we would note that just because the soil has contaminant levels lower than what is typically seen in urban fill doesn’t mean that it is “safe”. Almost all urban fill is heavily contaminated and must be cleaned up responsibly. In light of this, we hope that the applicant will see fit to follow the careful procedures adopted by the developers of 75 New Street.

Regarding Community Development’s latest memo on the project, we would only point out that we find it inappropriate to compare this project to the outdated Goals and Design Guidelines of the 2006 Concord-Alewife Plan. The Concord-Alewife Plan is at this point completely discredited. Instead, we would prefer to see the project evaluated in comparison to the newly evolving Envision Alewife standards, regardless of whether or not the zoning has been updated to reflect those new ideas yet.

In their October 19th memo commenting on the current 55 Wheeler Street proposal, CDD staff has listed numerous issues that they recommend studying further as conditions of permitting, either by continuing in a future Planning Board hearing or in ongoing design review by staff if the Board decides to grant the special permits now. We are concerned that such ongoing design reviews have often yielded results that are less than what was promised to or expected by the community. This is particularly true if such a review is based on outdated goals and design guidelines, as are found under the Concord-Alewife Plan.

In reviewing the latest memo produced by the Traffic, Parking, & Transportation Department, we have four specific concerns:

  1. Changes to Wheeler Street Circulation: Regarding the circulation patterns on Wheeler Street, such as prohibiting left-turns from and to Concord Avenue or having Wheeler Street be one-way to or from Concord Avenue, TP& T expects to monitor the street and determine the most appropriate changes (if any) as the project is completed or at some point thereafter. We do not believe that “monitoring” alone is sufficient. We have asked repeatedly for such changes to be included in a revised Traffic Study, so that the community can better assess these possible improvements. We now ask for a revised TIS to address all of the following: Wheeler Street direction changes; a connection to terminal Road; and the impacts of new Concord Avenue traffic lights at both Fawcett Street and Smith Place. Good ideas should not be dependent on the approval of large development projects to come to pass.
  2. Ongoing Hubway Support: To support the Hubway bike share system, which will provide a sustainable mode of public transportation for residents and their guests, the Permittee Station is expected to pay an annual fee to support the operations and maintenance of the installed bike sharing system. However, the memo states that “this requirement may be reduced or eliminated upon approval by the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, and the Community Development Department, based on an assessment of the utilization of the Hubway bike sharing system by the residents of the Project.” In our opinion, this makes no sense. The viability of a single Hubway node can’t be tied to usage by a single building’s residents, because without that station, all Hubway users would suffer.
  3. Terminal Road Study Contribution: Though we are glad to see the applicant stepping forward to contribute $250,000 towards local infrastructure planning and design, including much needed “access across the MBTA rail line and/or other enhancements that improve connection between the Alewife Quadrangle and Alewife MBTA Station”, we would also point out that the City has previously received $1 million in developer contributions to study this bridge crossing. As such, we would ask that the entire $250,000 be expressly dedicated to studying the critical Wheeler Street-to-Terminal Road connection.
  4. Car Sharing Spaces: When the applicant proposes to “make available up to 2 publicly available car sharing parking spaces,” we would only note that  “up to 2” is functionally equivalent to zero. Instead, we would ask for “at least 2” car sharing spaces. In addition, we would request more than the proposed 4 electric car charging stations.

In addition, the applicant has stated in their application that “Construction sequencing has not been finalized and delivery of the units could occur in phases.” After watching projects at 603 Concord Avenue, 75 New Street, and 95 Fawcett Street be effectively mothballed indefinitely, this comment is extremely concerning to neighbors and local residents. As a result, we would request more detail about expected phasing, as well as details about how the applicant would manage the site in the case where short- or long-term delays are encountered. Such plans should be in writing and be a condition of the Special Permit.

Other issues with the applicant’s revised documents include the following:

  1. They make no mention of the city’s prohibition against construction work on Sundays.
  2. Their dust control measures are insufficient. 75 New Street has much more comprehensive guidelines.
  3. They need to connect to Fawcett Street and install the new traffic signal BEFORE beginning excavation. Otherwise, all the construction traffic will need to exit Wheeler Street directly on to Concord Avenue next to the rotary.
  4. How many days per week will trash be picked up? The document says 5 days per week, but I believe I previously read “every day.”
  5. The projected truck turnaround patterns for CVS/Trader Joe’s are untenable and likely to shut down the street for extended periods of time. All these contortions go away if Terminal Road can be connected, but only if the southern route is selected. The northern path (through the heart of the substation) will actually make truck deliveries worse.
  6. In light of recent fire safety concerns tied to the construction of large, stick-built, multi-family projects, we would respectfully request a completed fire safety planto protect neighboring residents and businesses during construction.
  7. The applicant should assess the feasibility of preserving the Abt interior courtyard and its mature trees and plants for the residents, for the neighborhood, for open space, for the temperature of the urban environment, and for local climate mitigation. Such physical space with historic notes can inform the future of the past: the elements of invention, public service, and thought that have always gone on in Cambridge as a contribution to the life of the future.  This connection adds texture to what otherwise has been and is, sterile development housing short-term residents.

Related to that last point, there has been much mention of the “possibility” of ownership units in the southern building (Building #1), but nowhere in the application is this mentioned in writing. We would request that such ownership units be made a condition of the applicant’s Special Permit.

Thank you for considering our comments; we look forward to continued discussion. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have further questions.

Yours sincerely,

The Officers of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance

 

City Council Candidate Answers on Fresh Pond-Alewife Issues

  1. What do you see as the two most important issues facing the Fresh Pond-Alewife area?
  2. What specific policy or regulatory actions would you take as a City Councilor to address them?

Dennis Carlone

I believe the two most important issues facing the Fresh Pond/Alewife area both relate to the infill of the area along Concord Avenue to the north of Fresh Pond itself. Namely, we must focus on the need for strong neighborhood building and the need for true sustainability of any new development in the area.

We must design with, rather than on top of nature to strike an environmental balance. This means building with flood mitigation and retention in mind, limiting heat island buildup, and buffering the residential neighborhood from surrounding traffic noise. A key component of this effort would be maximizing non-auto travel around Fresh Pond and Alewife. We could do this by establishing shuttle bridges and internal shuttles that serve the Alewife station and encourage Commuter Rail and Red Line use instead of solo car travel. Focusing on residential over commercial development would help reduce added car traffic and meet some of the City and region’s housing needs. This type of nature and transit-centric design will aid us in building a strong Alewife neighborhood that can connect naturally to the existing Fresh Pond neighborhood.

Building a strong neighborhood requires creating a district identity: something that expresses Cambridge’s best attributes in a way that suits this specific area. New development in the area should be primarily residential and human-scaled. Residential use more easily creates a sense of Place as public infrastructure improvements would be geared, naturally, to serve the localized neighborhood needs and desires. This includes a strong network of local and highly walkable and bike-able low-speed streets/paths and residential squares/fields; community facilities like elementary schools, pre-K centers, and a neighborhood library; open space; and small, local retail. Human-scale development encourages personal community connections and helps support local businesses better than commercial development can.

To bring these ideas to fruition, I would incorporate them into the city-wide master plan which I have championed since my first term. I would also re-evaluate the present Envision Alewife plan to better integrate all the above issues in a unified way. With mostly residential and limited, small-scale commercial development, we could build the required infrastructure using a tax increment financing strategy.

Jan Devereaux

As the founding president of the FPRA, I am keenly aware of the organization’s priorities since these seemingly intractable issues are what drew me into the political process in the first place. I am grateful that the neighborhood’s strong support helped elect me as the only new councilor in 2015, and I hope you all feel I have continued to champion your interests as a councilor. Our interests are closely aligned: living within a stone’s throw of Fresh Pond Parkway and the Reservoir I see daily how the poorly planned built environment and the pass-through traffic are detracting from the livability of our area and compromising our health and safety. Reducing, or at least better managing, the volume and speed of traffic (both on the parkway and cutting though our neighbors to avoid the parkway) and reducing the potential for major flooding remain the two greatest challenges for the area. I was a member of the stakeholder group for the state’s recent Mount Auburn-Fresh Pond Parkway Corridor Study, and I will push for its recommendations to be funded and implemented. I have also been a strong supporter of completing the Cambridge Watertown Greenway multi-use path, which will finally be constructed in 2018, and which will provide a vital non-auto connection to the fast-growing Arsenal area.

In as much as Cambridge alone cannot solve the regional public transit deficit that gives commuters few options over driving through Cambridge on Routes 2 and 16, we must create more and safer non-auto connections for our own residents to navigate the area, starting with the long-promised ped/bike bridge over the railroad tracks to connect the “Quad” to the Alewife “Triangle” and T station. I also want to create a complete streets connection between Terminal Road and Wheeler Street and through the Fresh Pond Mall parking lot to New Street; the parking lot is used as a de facto street now and the circulation pattern is chaotic and unsafe for all modes. We cannot wait decades for it to be redeveloped — the City should take by eminent domain the portion we need to create a street that connects New Street with Terminal Road. As I said at the candidate forum, I feel that the Envision Alewife plan has so far not confronted the magnitude of the area’s traffic and flooding challenges and that we should pause permitting new development in the Quad or on Cambridge Park Drive (the Vecna and Summer Shack sites could be the next major projects) for up to two years to allow time to develop a plan for increasing the green infrastructure and open space that will be needed to protect residents and critical public infrastructure including our water supply from the anticipated flooding. I also am very interested in the Tobin School reconstruction since I live around the corner from Vassal Lane. I think my continued presence on the Council will be important to ensuring that residents’ needs are addressed in the site plan, design and demolition and construction process.

Craig Kelley

The most pressing issue for the Fresh Pond/Alewife area is crossing the railroad tracks near the T station. I was the only “No” vote to rezone the Alewife area over a decade ago because the zoning change lacked a plan to connect new development to the T and I worried we’d get the overly car-dependent development we wound up getting. It is not too late to create that crossing, though it has become more complicated as parcels have been developed. I will continue to push to create this crossing, which, which at this stage will probably involve MBTA air rights over the train tracks and a development plan that incorporates both a crossing of the tracks and a commuter rail station there.

The second most pressing issue for the Fresh Pond/Alewife area is to improve the interior traffic flow to advantage cyclists and pedestrians on either side of the commuter rail. Walkers and bicyclists of all ages and abilities need to feel comfortable with the thought of getting to Fresh Pond, the T, the shopping center and, perhaps most importantly, the rest of Cambridge at all times and in all seasons. I would support a non-traditional approach to transportation infrastructure that either minimizes street size and gives cyclists and pedestrians their own transportation venues or completely rethinks surface transportation and makes many of the streets in the quadrangle and triangle bike and pedestrian priority where drivers expect to share the roadway with other users in a plaza-type configuration where the average speed is 10 MPH or less.

Marc McGovern

The two most important issues facing the Fresh Pond/Alewife area are development and traffic. Unfortunately, neither have simple answers. Let’s start with traffic. It would be naive to think that an area going from no development to significant development hasn’t impacted traffic, however, we know that over 80% of the traffic neither starts nor ends in Cambridge. It is people passing through from suburban communities both west and north. That is a tough nut to crack. Getting folks in suburban communities out of their cars would be challenging. The state needs to expand the MBTA and the Commuter Rail to provide other options for commuters. Of course, the service needs to be fast and reliable if it is going to be meaningful. What the city can do is limit the amount of parking in new residential developments in the area and require developers to provide Zip Car and Charlie Cars to their residents to discourage car ownership. City wide shuttle service should also be a consideration. We also need to require that developers properly fund a pedestrian/bike/motor bridge to make it easier for residents to get to the T.

Development. I support additional development, especially housing, in the Alewife area. But don’t confuse my support with a free pass for developers. I want to hold developers to the highest standards when it comes to flood mitigation, infrastructure and affordable housing. As I have often said, “I want developers to scream but not run away.” I think there has been a lost opportunity at Alewife that we need to correct. As these buildings were being built there should have been a greater focus on retail, infrastructure, open space and amenities. There should have been greater emphasis on creating a neighborhood where residents could meet their daily needs (which would also help to decrease car ownership). Moving forward, we must have high standards and a clear vision for the area, which is why I supported Alewife being the first neighborhood in the Envision Cambridge process.

I look forward to continuing to work with the FPRA and others to ensure that we move forward in a positive way and I appreciate the opportunity to submit my comments.

Nadya Okamoto

To me, the two most important issues facing the Fresh Pond/Alewife area are climate change mitigation/resilience efforts and ensuring affordable housing, but I see these issues as closely intertwined with issues of transportation and expanded greenspace.

My top priorities within a climate action framework include focusing on the Net Zero Action Plan, the Climate Change Preparedness Plan, and improving infrastructure around the Cambridgeport area to stop flooding.

In the Fiscal Year 2016 Progress Report for the Net Zero Action Plan, one of the objectives listed as at risk for falling behind included the market-based incentive program. The goal for the upcoming year is to partner with both Harvard and MIT to recruit student researchers to identify successful incentives for the Cambridge area. I believe I’m well positioned to facilitate this critical process. I fully support goals to increase green building requirements via zoning ordinances in Cambridge. As a city councilor, I’d speed goals toward increased building insulation within the Net Zero Action Plan. I’d also be actively involved in monitoring and engaging the Climate Change Preparedness Plan. I plan to act on the results of the Fresh Pond-Alewife neighborhood pilot, taking into account community responses to expand preparedness for all of Cambridge. Through partnership with Envision Cambridge and other community organizations, I hope to develop comprehensive plans to combat the threat of flooding within Cambridge. The economic cost and toll on families within Cambridge is something I want to actively prevent.

In the context of climate action, I would expand the Safe Routes to School program, work to create more protected bike lanes, and add more greenspace along sidewalks with native plant species. Additionally, based on suggestions from the 2016 Cambridge Climate Congress, I believe we can host more community meetings with city councilors focused on informing residents about how to install solar panels, compost, use public transportation, bike, and reduce environmental impact.

I fully support the inclusionary zoning increase to 20 percent and I also believe that we can continue taking other actions to address affordable housing in the city. I believe in greater open communication with residents to assess the status and impact of increasing inclusionary zoning. Additionally, I would work for increased university housing to decrease competition Cambridge residents face when trying to find affordable housing. I would also form a taskforce composed of representatives from the universities, the City Council, and the Community Development Department to find the most adequate solution for all. One possible solution is a city-sponsored facility that is financed by the different institutions in Cambridge for the multitude of graduate students. As a city councilor, I would also work take into account both low and middle-income housing needs.

Sumbul Siddiqui

The two most important issues that I see as facing the Fresh Pond/Alewife area are:

  1. Preparing for the impacts of climate change.
  2. Mitigating the impacts of traffic in Fresh Pond/Alewife.

Having grown up in the this area (specifically in the Rindge Towers), I am also keen on our City preserving the long term affordability of the Fresh Pond Apartments, an expiring use property, expiring in 2020. Additionally, I spoke about Jerry’s Pond at the climate forum. It’s a complex topic, and I am still learning about what actions could be taken, but I would like our City to think about the environmental injustices that exist in our city. We have to continually think about issues of social equity and displacement and who in our City who may have the most challenges.

As a City Councilor, preparing for the impacts of climate change includes:

  1. adapting existing buildings to better manage flooding,
  2. Designing neighborhood emergency response plans to natural disasters, and
  3. Requiring that new construction in Fresh Pond/Alewife present plans which use both existing natural resources and new innovations to control potential flooding.

As a City Councilor, mitigating the impact of traffic in Fresh Pond/Alewife includes:

  1. Mitigating existing traffic conditions by improving pedestrian infrastructure, such as building the pedestrian bridge between the Alewife Triangle and the Quadrangle, which could decrease vehicle trips to the Alewife MBTA station.
  2. Requiring Transportation Impact Studies for new, large-scale commercial and mixed use developments in all of Cambridge, with an eye to the potential vehicle trips through the Alewife/Fresh Pond area.
  3. Encouraging more companies in Cambridge to implement ridesharing/ridematching programs, and explore the use of private commuter shuttles, such as the Biogen bus, by multiple companies. This could reduce duplicative trips and even open up the possibility of use by members of the public who would otherwise drive to work.

Vatsady Sivongxay

Many Fresh Pond/Alewife residents have told me that they are concerned about development in an area that (1) suffers from significant traffic congestion and (2) is an at-risk flood zone. Residents are especially concerned that development does not have a clear plan for implementation and accountability.

Affordability is also a major problem for many Cambridge residents, including those who live in the Fresh Pond/Alewife area. Concerns about affordability involve housing, income equality, quality transportation, and environmental justice, among other issues.

Finding solutions to these problems will require diverse voices, broad community outreach, collaboration, and accountability.

To address these issues of unplanned development and affordability in an equitable way, I will work to:

  • Create a community-led engagement and accountability process to meet housing, development, open-space, and infrastructure goals; to address resiliency planning, emergency response, and public health concerns; and to ensure that all residents–especially underrepresented groups including communities of color, women, low-income residents, immigrants, people with disabilities, and small businesses have a voice;
  • Expand affordable and diverse housing for lower-to middle-income households in housing plan and inclusionary zoning requirements to achieve housing affordability and stability;
  • Build a stronger workforce development pipeline for youth and adults by increasing partnerships with higher education, research and nonprofit organizations, and engaging the business community to connect youth and adults with living wage jobs;
  • Expand access to quality early education and childcare so that families have a chance to climb up the ladder of opportunity.

Bryan Sutton

Affordable housing is the primary issue for most Cantabrigians, including those who live in Alewife and Fresh Pond. Inclusionary zoning is an important initiative and becoming a larger portion of the affordable housing block. The voucher program has also successfully allowed working class people find housing in Cambridge and the surrounding areas. There are more ideas that have not been tested such as a property surtax tilted toward high-end homes that would be deductible against the owner’s income tax (concessions for local retirees); This would only tax out of town owners. Recently the Council began looking into a transfer tax via an order to the City Manager. Also, on 9/18 an order was issued by the City Council that the Housing Committee begin hearings on a comprehensive Housing Plan that listed most initiatives that have been brought up as possible solutions. Although, at the time of me writing this the next Housing Committee meeting isn’t scheduled. I do agree with this approach, however. If elected I will utilize my engineering and program management professional background to implement every feasible initiative to help with Affordable Housing. I will also use my experience to measure the current status looking at an array of metrics and make the measured progress and scorecards public and easily viewable to all residents. I want to be able to confidently show the exact impact each initiative has on specific affordable housing metrics.

Secondly, the effects of climate change, specifically storm surge flooding from Alewife Brook is a threat to the Alewife and Fresh Pond areas which cannot be ignored or put off. Many if not most of our neighbors will be vulnerable. Non-English speakers and ESOL residents who might have difficulty receiving critical information, elderly and people with mobility handicaps especially if they live alone, families with young children might not be able to react quickly and people with pets create a unique but serious issue during large flooding events. After a severe climate event every neighbor who is financially stretched is at risk. In 2018 the CCPR (Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience) Plan will be released and a portion of it will focus on what will be needed for this specific issue. Adapting and implementing flood protections for current infrastructure and residences and especially new construction will mitigate future damage and help maintain equitable living in Cambridge and not further exacerbate wealth gaps. If elected I will utilize my professional skills to communicate the situation to every resident and implement the resiliency plan effectively.  Also, Cambridge’s CCPR plan should be reviewed regularly and include ongoing assessments of other cities after they are impacted by climate events so best practices can be leveraged and initiatives which proved impractical excluded.

Gwen Volmar

The Fresh Pond/Alewife Neighborhood is an incredibly important community for families, but it will not remain that way if the factors that create community are not preserved. These include, but are not limited to, walk-able neighborhoods with access to community-building commercial amenities. There is much talk about the rental crisis forcing families out of their homes, but just as insidious, there is another rental crisis forcing small and locally-owned businesses out of Cambridge. Many of these are not being replaced. In order for family-oriented communities to thrive, there must be walk-able access not only to schools and libraries, but also to bakeries and flower shops and book stores. I am committed to protecting small and locally-owned businesses by restricting formula businesses, incentivizing building-owners to sell ground-floor real estate instead of renting, and seizing vacant properties if the owner has demonstrated no intent to maintain or put it into use.

This same neighborhood is home to a large flood plain which will likely host Cambridge’s next environmental disaster if not properly taken care of. I am committed to moving Cambridge toward Net Zero, and especially to protecting the Fresh Pond/Alewife area through building regulations, maintenance of open space, and protection from aggressive and short-sided development. A commitment to environmental protection also requires that we reduce the number of idling cars in the Alewife area by improving and increasing local transit options, including bike and multi-use routes and  public transit.

This vibrant community, home to thousands of Cantabrigians, must be both preserved and modernized. We need a city council that can strike that delicate balance. Visit votegwen.org to learn more, and vote Gwen #1 on November 7th!

Quinton Zondervan

The two most important issues for Fresh Pond/Alewife imho are flood protection and open space. I spent years fighting the destruction of the Silver Maple Forest, and I was heartened to recently see a preliminary study by the city of Cambridge showing that green infrastructure can significantly reduce flood risk in the area by aggressively depaving (removing asphalt) and replacing it with permeable surfaces (allowing water to soak into the ground through e.g. gravel, cobblestones or grass). Of course most of this area used to be a swamp, providing both green space and flood storage. While we won’t return to that state of nature anytime soon, we can certainly reduce pavement in the area and build in a way that is smarter and less destructive. We need to take a good hard look at climate change and ask if it makes sense to keep building the way we are in this area of the city. My sense is that we need to do more wetlands reconstruction and green space restoration. I’m in favor of zoning the area appropriately given these concerns. We have important opportunities to rethink how we use this part of our city to address the challenges of climate change and environmental destruction. For example, there is an amazing non-profit called City Soil in Boston, and they need to relocate. Could the Fresh Pond/Alewife area be their new home, providing a site where composting, biochar and soil creation can take place? Only if we take the appropriate steps to provide a home to this kind of activity in our city. Storing carbon in the soil is an important component of our collective response to the climate crisis, yet mostly not on people’s radar screens yet. We have an opportunity to be forward thinking leaders in Cambridge, setting an important example for other cities and communities globally. How we plan out the future of Fresh Pond/Alewife is critical to the future of life on this planet.

Join our list-serve and contact us (include your full name and street address): freshpondresidents@gmail.com

 Process

We invited all City Council Candidates to attend our Oct. 3 Community Meeting, the second hour of which was devoted to 3-minute candidate statements and Q&A with the audience. Ten attended the meeting, five candidates could not attend and sent regrets. We gave all who RSVP’d an opportunity to submit a half-page written statement.  Candidates attending:  Dennis Carlone (Aide Andrew Smith second hour), Olivia D’Ambriosio, Jan Devereux, Craig Kelley, Nadya Okamoto, Vatsady Sivongxay, Bryan Sutton, Sean Tierney, Gwen Volmar, and Quinton Zondervan. (Gregg Moree first hour only).  Regrets from: Sumbul Siddiqui, Adriane Musgrave, Marc McGovern, Samuel Gebru, Allana Mallon, Paul Toner, Tim Toomey, and Ilan Levy.

FPRA is very grateful for the time and effort the candidates took to thoughtfully address the complex issues facing our neighborhoods. Thank You!

Other election info

See:  vote.cambridgecivic.com for links to all the City Council and School Committee candidates’ campaign information.

See: www.greencambridge.org/2017forum.html for candidate Q&As and video of the Candidates’ Night Climate Resilience Forum sponsored by Green Cambridge, in collaboration with Cambridge Mothers Out Front, the Cambridge Residents Alliance, A Better Cambridge, and Cambridge Bicycle Safety, on Sept. 26th.

FPRA Community Meeting with Updates and Candidates Q&A

Come to tomorrow’s Community Meeting: Tuesday Oct. 3, 6:30-8:30 pm at Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Ave. (Note: New location)

AGENDA: Updates on 55 Wheeler St. development, Tobin School site testing, Lanes & Games RIP; Plus: a 5-minute vision of What we need to do, can do, and how! Then, City Council Candidates will answer this question: What do you see as the two most important issues facing the Fresh Pond/Alewife area? What specific policy or regulatory actions would you take as a City Councilor to address them?

COME AND ASK YOURS!

The FPRA has developed the following positions that we feel are important for City Council candidates to address.  While our focus is the Fresh Pond/Alewife area, many would benefit the city as a whole.

  1. Find and support traffic solutions. We cannot continue to add population (both commercial and residential) without taking clear actions to ensure that traffic does not get worse. Improving transit, pedestrian and multi-use paths and bridges, and other local and regional solutions must be sought. Development that will create a net increase in vehicles and congestion on roadways that are not yet failing should not be allowed without a clear path to mitigating the impacts. Failing intersections should not be made worse. A highly congested area has economic, health and quality of life impacts.
  2. Improve transit and mobility. This neighborhood has a lot of potential for safe, effective and efficient mobility if, and only if, investments are made in the infrastructure that will link up roads, build multi-use bridges, and improve access to efficient public transit. This will not happen by itself. The stakeholders in this area need the support of the City to build what needs to be put in place. We believe that the infrastructure and easements should be put in place first, before further development occurs. Waiting for development to pay for it has resulted in many lost opportunities.
  3. Build for climate resilience. There is no question but that the impacts of climate disruption will be felt severely in this neighborhood. Development must integrate the best options to make not only the structures resilient, but also the community. Smaller building footprints with well-designed site plans and amenities will allow for more open space that can store floodwater, filter pollutants, provide space for trees and vegetation, public spaces for social contact and networks, and multi-use paths and other ways to increase non-car mobility.
  4. Increase green open space. We will not end up with a livable community without investment in significant new public space, particularly green/vegetated open space. Trees and vegetation will be crucial in reducing the heat island effect of the built environment. These spaces filter stormwater pollution and reduce pollution entering Alewife Brook and other local waterbodies. Green infrastructure can store floodwater while at the same time creating visual beauty and make it a place that people want to be. We need more open space for pedestrian use, facilities to store power for the microgrid of the near future, and to create gathering places that foster social interaction.
  5. Maximize affordable and workforce housing and diversity. Many cities and neighborhoods in this state are segregated due to housing availability. Our neighborhood values a diverse population and needs to provide a housing mix that supports low and moderate income families, including 3-bedrooom units. We strongly support the maximum inclusionary housing percentage.
  6. Keeping people out of harm’s way. There are engineering solutions to protect buildings from long-term flood damage, but the city needs to be sure that the people who live or work on those buildings are not put in harm’s way. This includes access to emergency services during floods, notification of all prospective tenants and purchasers of flooding risks, protocols for communication during storms/emergencies, etc. This should inform the placement of buildings, particularly residences, in floodplains.
  7. Build a stable and invested population. Transience is rarely good for a neighborhood, especially one that will be called upon to weather the challenges of flooding. A diversity of housing type is desirable and needed regionally, and the Alewife area should have a reasonable proportion of ownership units. Current development has been almost exclusively of studio and 1-2 bedroom rental units. Increasing the number of 3-bedroom units for families and ownership options will create a more invested and resilient population.
  8. Keep the pressure on climate change mitigation. Development should meet the standards set out in the citywide Net Zero policy and expect all developers to build buildings that meet the highest standards for energy and water use and conservation.
  9. Support clean elections. Not taking campaign contributions from developers sends a clear message to the public that community interests are foremost. This is especially important right now in this neighborhood where developer interests are the biggest players in the future of how this area looks, works, thrives, and survives climate change.

FPRA City Council Election Platform

Cambridge City Council candidates will discuss our areas’ priorities and what actions they would take if elected, on Tuesday Oct. 3, 6:30-8:30 pm at Russell Youth Center, 680 Huron Ave., Cambridge. COME AND ASK YOUR QUESTIONS!

The FPRA has developed the following positions that we feel are important for City Council candidates to address.  While our focus is the Fresh Pond/Alewife area, many would benefit the city as a whole.

  1. Find and support traffic solutions. We cannot continue to add population (both commercial and residential) without taking clear actions to ensure that traffic does not get worse. Improving transit, pedestrian and multi-use paths and bridges, and other local and regional solutions must be sought. Development that will create a net increase in vehicles and congestion on roadways that are not yet failing should not be allowed without a clear path to mitigating the impacts. Failing intersections should not be made worse. A highly congested area has economic, health and quality of life impacts.
  2. Improve transit and mobility. This neighborhood has a lot of potential for safe, effective and efficient mobility if, and only if, investments are made in the infrastructure that will link up roads, build multi-use bridges, and improve access to efficient public transit. This will not happen by itself. The stakeholders in this area need the support of the City to build what needs to be put in place. We believe that the infrastructure and easements should be put in place first, before further development occurs. Waiting for development to pay for it has resulted in many lost opportunities.
  3. Build for climate resilience. There is no question but that the impacts of climate disruption will be felt severely in this neighborhood. Development must integrate the best options to make not only the structures resilient, but also the community. Smaller building footprints with well-designed site plans and amenities will allow for more open space that can store floodwater, filter pollutants, provide space for trees and vegetation, public spaces for social contact and networks, and multi-use paths and other ways to increase non-car mobility.
  4. Increase green open space. We will not end up with a livable community without investment in significant new public space, particularly green/vegetated open space. Trees and vegetation will be crucial in reducing the heat island effect of the built environment. These spaces filter stormwater pollution and reduce pollution entering Alewife Brook and other local waterbodies. Green infrastructure can store floodwater while at the same time creating visual beauty and make it a place that people want to be. We need more open space for pedestrian use, facilities to store power for the microgrid of the near future, and to create gathering places that foster social interaction.
  5. Maximize affordable and workforce housing and diversity. Many cities and neighborhoods in this state are segregated due to housing availability. Our neighborhood values a diverse population and needs to provide a housing mix that supports low and moderate income families, including 3-bedrooom units. We strongly support the maximum inclusionary housing percentage.
  6. Keeping people out of harm’s way. There are engineering solutions to protect buildings from long-term flood damage, but the city needs to be sure that the people who live or work on those buildings are not put in harm’s way. This includes access to emergency services during floods, notification of all prospective tenants and purchasers of flooding risks, protocols for communication during storms/emergencies, etc. This should inform the placement of buildings, particularly residences, in floodplains.
  7. Build a stable and invested population. Transience is rarely good for a neighborhood, especially one that will be called upon to weather the challenges of flooding. A diversity of housing type is desirable and needed regionally, and the Alewife area should have a reasonable proportion of ownership units. Current development has been almost exclusively of studio and 1-2 bedroom rental units. Increasing the number of 3-bedroom units for families and ownership options will create a more invested and resilient population.
  8. Keep the pressure on climate change mitigation. Development should meet the standards set out in the citywide Net Zero policy and expect all developers to build buildings that meet the highest standards for energy and water use and conservation.
  9. Support clean elections. Not taking campaign contributions from developers sends a clear message to the public that community interests are foremost. This is especially important right now in this neighborhood where developer interests are the biggest players in the future of how this area looks, works, thrives, and survives climate change.