Saturday, June 22, 2024

I’d like to express my support for the “Connolly petition,” filed Wednesday by 26 Cambridge residents. This citizens zoning petition would require most large building construction projects to meet a standard of net zero emissions of greenhouse gases. It was filed by Cambridge attorney Mike Connolly in conjunction with Green Cambridge, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

I believe that we have a responsibility to make cutting-edge sustainability a top priority for the city. I would like to thank and recognize the many individuals and departments in Cambridge who have already worked tirelessly on environmental issues, including our City Council, city manager, Department of Public Works and our Community Development Department, among others.

I believe, though, that moving forward as a municipality we must take even bolder steps at the government level. Such bold steps can be done thoughtfully and with careful consideration.  I believe the Connolly petition is one such step in the right direction.

Key elements of the amendment include a review by the Planning Board to be added to the existing Project Review Special Permit process for traffic and urban design impacts, the encouragement of energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy and, finally, a requirement that all energy consumed on site, beyond renewable energy generated on site, must be from approved renewable sources or offset by verifiable renewable energy credits.

One of the reasons I think this is an excellent amendment is because it requires that developers incorporate the design aspect of creating a net zero building from the start. Designing for a net zero building is admittedly a comprehensive process, particularly in urban settings. As Connolly’s petition describes, though, net zero can be achieved in various ways, and working toward that goal from day one is much easier.

Sustainable systems are intended to mitigate humans’ impact on the natural environment. I work in sustainability management, and I’ve managed multiple projects that have saved both energy and money. I want the city to be a national leader for green job growth, clean energy and innovative solutions to fighting climate change. We have tremendous resources in technology and education here in Cambridge, and I want to capitalize on that strength.

As we move forward in the age of climate change, sustaining the city will require taking actions that are both thoughtful and bold.

Kristen von Hoffmann, candidate for City Council