Your Help Needed. Important Safety Issue before the City Council on 6/22.

Missing sidewalks make travel difficult.

Missing sidewalks make travel difficult along Huron Ave.

The FPRA has helped Councillor Nadeem Mazen draft a policy order for the Monday, June 22nd Cambridge City Council meeting, calling on the City to add sidewalks to the north side of Huron Avenue between Fresh Pond Parkway and the Haggerty School. As many residents know, this portion of the Fresh Pond side of Huron Avenue is completely without sidewalks, thus forcing people (including schoolchildren) to walk or cycle in the road on the way to and from Haggerty, Glacken Field, the Fresh Pond municipal golf course, the branch library on Aberdeen, and the West Cambridge Youth Center.

Here are more details about what we are requesting from the City to improve the safety of this busy road:

http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cityClerk/PolicyOrder.cfm?item_id=49975

If this is an issue that concerns you as it does us, we urge you to email the City Council at council@cambridgema.gov or attend the Council meeting Monday, June 22 at 5:30 pm at City Hall to express your support for Policy Order #6. Call the City Clerk on Monday morning after 9 AM to sign up to speak (617-349-4280). And to get more involved, you can also contact us directly for more info.

Pedestrians are frequently forced to walk in the street.

Pedestrians are frequently forced to walk in the street.

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Our Priorities for 2015 — And How You Can Help

IMG_1568As 2014 comes to a close, we wish to share what the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance has accomplished since our launch less than a year ago, and to ask for your financial support to address the challenges and opportunities 2015 presents.

First and foremost, the FPRA has given voice to residents’ concerns about the impact of future development of the Fresh Pond/Alewife area. Until our grassroots group coalesced last spring, there was no forum to sound the alarm about the stampede of development on the horizon, and no organized group to advocate on the community’s behalf. As Ralph Waldo Emerson might have said, “Development was in the saddle and riding herd on City Hall.” After ten months of tireless wrangling, the FPRA has shown the city there is a large group of voters and taxpayers who can no longer be ignored in decisions on how Cambridge’s western frontier is redeveloped and settled. Continue reading

Consider the Record

Building green on Concord Ave & Wheeler Street

Building green on Concord Ave & Wheeler Street

A fact for your consideration:

Since the creation of the Project Review Special Permit in 2001, the Planning Board has never voted to deny a developer’s application for Sec. 19.20 zoning relief, with 49 approvals, 0 denials, and 2 withdrawals during the recession of 2003.

Think about it: NO very large project has been deemed a detriment to traffic and EVERY large project adheres to the urban design guidelines. 
 
Seriously? Then I’ve got a bridge to sell you! 
 
Come to City Hall Annex (344 Broadway) tonight (8/5) at 7pm to hear the Carlone petition’s case for giving the City Council final say over this category of special permit while the city develops a new Citywide Master Plan. 

Carlone Zoning Amendment: A Positive Step

Wheeler St & Concord Ave development

Wheeler St & Concord Ave development

As those on the FPRA’s listserv and others following local development politics know, Councilor Dennis Carlone introduced a zoning amendment that would change the process by which special permit decisions are made while the city is in the midst of a master planning process. If passed, the Carlone Amendment would make the City Council the exclusive special permit granting authority for “Project Review Special Permits” as described in Section 19.20 in the city’s Zoning Ordinance. The change would restore a power that the Council (our elected officials) has had all along, but had delegated to the Planning Board, volunteers appointed by the City Manager. Unlike a moratorium, which many residents have called for to pause large-scale development during the master planning process, this procedural change would not affect smaller proposals or any “by-right” development.

The Carlone Amendment represents a reasonable response to citizens’ concerns that the rapid pace and scale of development, especially around Alewife and Fresh Pond, undermines the citywide planning process, and that special permit decisions during this critical period should be made by the policymakers who are directly accountable to voters.

Quoting the text of the online petition that Councilor Carlone is circulating in advance of the June 30 meeting when the Council will take up the amendment:

As we move forward with a process to create a citywide Master Plan, this procedural change will enable the City Council to impose reasonable conditions on large, new development projects as part of the ongoing planning process.

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40A, Section 1A, the Cambridge City Council may act a “special permit granting authority” — but as stands, the council has delegated this oversight to the Planning Board, an unelected body.

To be sure, the professionals who volunteer to serve on the Planning Board deserve our gratitude and respect – but when it comes to the big decisions, such as redevelopment of the Sullivan Courthouse, or large-scale development along the Alewife floodplain – we think elected policymakers ought to assume a more meaningful role in the process.

Under Article 19 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance, Project Review enables the special permit granting authority to encourage the production of affordable and middle-income housing, mitigate against the impact of added traffic, promote the use of alternative modes of transit, apply strong Urban Design criteria, and more.

Perhaps most importantly, City Council Project Review will create a better system of “checks and balances” — we will continue to draw on the expertise of the Planning Board and the Community Development Department. But with this change, the City Council will also have a say on projects that are likely to have a significant impact on abutting properties and the surrounding urban environment.

Sign the petition in support of the Carlone Amendment.

Residents may also wish to email City Councilors and to attend the June 30 meeting to express their views on this proposed change. The Council meeting will be held in Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at 459 Broadway (where the School Committee usually meets), not the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

View of Wheeler St project from the Trader Joe's parking lot.

View of Wheeler St project from the Trader Joe’s parking lot.

 

Support the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons Master Plan Order

photo (1)Dennis Carlone’s petition for a new master plan is the basis for a very important policy order, co-sponsored by Councillors Nadeem Mazen and Denise Simmons, on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Monday, April 7 at 5:30 pm.

Read full text of the Carlone policy order here.

We support the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons policy order over another planning-related policy order sponsored by Mayor David Maher, Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan and Councillor Marc McGovern.

The two policy orders come in response to growing public concern about the impact that the recent surge in development is having on traffic congestion, housing affordability, social equity, pedestrian/bike safety, the environment and open space – to name a few. While both policy orders recognize that residents citywide are demanding – and deserve – a greater voice in the planning process, we believe that the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons order goes further toward ensuring a more democratic and comprehensive process because it places our elected City Council at the helm, rather than appointed staff.

In our opinion, the competing policy order would more likely sustain the unsustainable status quo that has residents in the Fresh Pond area and across the city up in arms. Quite frankly, we don’t think that we could have filled the Tobin cafeteria at our first meeting on March 24 if the status quo was giving residents a meaningful say in the planning process. Monday night’s Council meeting will no doubt spark a lively debate, and a favorable outcome could be critical to the future of our neighborhood.

What you can do to help NOW

1. Contact the City Council in support of the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons master plan initiative (Policy Order #14). Send emails to council@cambridgema.gov and cc dlopez@cambridgema.gov to be entered into the public record. Or call (617) 349-4280.

2. If you have a relationship with Councillors Kelley, Cheung, or Toomey (the three who are not co-sponsoring either policy order), please contact them directly to ask that they support the Carlone order for a master plan.
ckelley@cambridgema.gov
lcheung@cambidgema.gov
ttoomey@cambridgema.gov

and/or

3. Attend Monday’s Council meeting and speak in support of the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons master plan initiative. Call (617) 349-4280 after 8:30 am on Monday to sign up to speak, and/or sign in when you arrive at City Hall (by 5:30 pm) to add your name on the public testimony list. You will be given three minutes to express your views.

If you can make it to City Hall on Monday at 5:30 pm, we encourage you to do so. Even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking, you can applaud other speakers to show your support, and the debate is sure to be instructive on many levels.

Need talking points for your comments?

The Cambridge Residents Alliance has developed a MENU of TALKING POINTS that you could use to frame your emails and comments to the Council.

Learn More

You are also welcome to attend the CRA meeting TODAY at 4:00 pm (Sunday 4/6) at St. Bartholomew’s Church off Prospect St. (next door to the Area 4 Youth Center). The group will be discussing the Carlone policy order and why a comprehensive master plan is so urgently needed.

Other Important Actions

75 New Street is on the Planning Board’s agenda for Tuesday, April 8, at 7:20 pm at City Hall Annex (344 Broadway). Thank you to everyone who submitted comments by email. We need folks to come and speak at the hearing, too. The 3-minute rule applies, so focus your comments on the aspect of the proposal that most concerns you.

Please forward this link to neighbors & friends. You and they can request to join our list by emailing FreshPondResidents@gmail.com.

Thank your for caring enough about the future of our neighborhood and our city to read to the end of this post.

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