Leland Cheung for City Council, 2013
Leland Cheung was first elected to the City Council in 2009 in while pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an Masters in Business Administration at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Before assuming his role as councillor, he worked as a senior associate at Masthead Partners, a Cambridge venture capital firm focusing on digital media, mobile and Internet infrastructure. He has used this background to guide his efforts on the council, and is chairman of the Cable TV, Telecommunications & Public Utilities Commission as well as the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee.
He lives in Cambridge with his wife and newborn daughter.
Compiled from the candidate’s words in publicly available sources
Council’s top achievement, in his words:
The historic MIT zoning petition to transform 26 acres of land in Kendall Square into a more vibrant, sustainable and pedestrian-friendly area. Having just graduated from MIT’s graduate school last year, this ongoing process was one to which I felt a deep underlying commitment to ensuring that the plan that was ultimately approved achieved the optimal balance of development for our students, residents and retailers. I believe that this comprehensive, coordinated and actionable plan for the square will make Kendall a more lively place for Cantabrigians to live, work and play while preserving the area’s unique entrepreneurial spirit. I feel confident that the new buildings, which house innovative combinations of retail ground floor, office space and residential housing, will be a model for future development. This new model of forcing the ratio of residential to commercial was introduced in a meeting of the Neighborhood & Long Term Planning Committee I held on developing a vision for Kendall Square, visible here.
His contribution to it:
As the most innovative square mile on the planet, Kendall Square is the birthplace of many ideas that have changed drastically the way we look at and interact with the world around us, and large companies are willing to pay any price for a taste of the entrepreneurial spirit. To keep its title, though, Kendall Square needs to evolve constantly and make room for new talent and ideas. With space at a minimum and rents skyrocketing, the entrepreneurial environment of Kendall Square will become stale if fledgling companies are no longer able to afford office space. We cannot let large companies consume all of the space, hike up rents and push startup companies out of the cluster. Throughout the council’s approval of MIT’s redevelopment proposal for Kendall Square, I was proud to spearhead a zoning change that will require MIT to set aside a minimum of 10 percent of all new space for month-by-month leases for startup companies – 5 percent for fledgling startups with under 10 employees, and the other 5 percent for midlevel startups with up to 20 employees.
Furthermore, I was able to ensure that 50 percent of all new retail, restaurants and entertainment venues are owned locally, in lieu of large businesses, and secured several community benefits – including $14 million to the community mitigation fund, additional funding to the Affordable Housing Trust, increased payment in lieu of taxes funding and $20,000 each year for the next 10 years to a workforce development program that will train Cambridge residents in the trades.
In addition, through my efforts we were able to bring the discussion of MIT’s graduate housing to the forefront as an issue that has a measurable impact on residents and, for the first time, secured a city representative on the MIT Task Force on Graduate Housing. I have put pressure on MIT and Harvard University since elected to the council to develop more housing options for their students to ensure they do not distort the city’s housing market. I believe we should maintain a ratio between commercial and residential development to stabilize our housing market. It is essential for the city to develop a long-term plan for annual increases to our housing stock that are coordinated with current vacancy rates, further stabilizing our market.
His own top achievement for the term:
My signature achievement on the council has been my work as the driving force to modernize our administration. Throughout my time in office, I’ve worked to ensure that Cantabrigians are able to access City Hall at their fingertips through initiatives such as iReport, which allows people to submit work requests to the appropriate department at the moment and location that they realize it’s needed, and our forthcoming 311 pilot, which will connect people to the services they need via voice recognition software. To make sure everyone has a positive experience navigating the city’s website, I made sure seniors can increase the font size and that non-native speakers can view a translated version of the text. I have worked to bring innovative ideas to life, including an upcoming pilot of the city’s first curbside composting program and ensuring that the Hubway bike-sharing program came to Cambridge. Lastly, with the goal of giving citizens unparalleled access with their government, I have been crowdsourcing Cambridge’s first open data ordinance, which would require all departments to release certain data sets for the use of civic app developers and other interested residents.
Cheung’s top three priorities:
From the Cambridge Residents Alliance
That Cambridge remains an affordable, safe and aesthetically pleasing community in which new families can grow and thrive. This means ensuring that housing is attainable and affordable for everyone at all stages and walks of life, improving and investing in public K-12 education, keeping our neighborhoods safe and healthy and protecting parks and open spaces for children and families to play and learn.
To strengthen Cambridge’s local economy by protecting our diverse locally owned and independently operated businesses. It is essential for Cambridge to protect, preserve and improve the unique characteristics of our local squares, fight against burdensome and unnecessary increases to business permitting and licensing fees and continue to support local businesses through initiatives such as Local Economy Week.
To work collaboratively with Boston, Somerville and local cities and towns to promote unified and comprehensive solutions to our shared challenges, including preserving the region’s natural resources, addressing our housing needs, investing in transportation infrastructure and strengthening the innovation economy.
As a new father growing my family in Cambridge, an alumnus of Harvard University and MIT and a former venture capitalist, I have a firsthand understanding of all that the city has to offer to its residents and a deep-rooted commitment of ensuring that our community continues to thrive in the years to come.
On local business:
Condensed and edited from responses given to Cambridge Local First
I was proud to work with Cambridge Local First to develop Local Economy Week. In addition to reinforcing city support of locally owned and independently operated businesses, enlarging Local Economy Week expands resident awareness of the accomplishments of local businesses and encourages them to be customers in the future.
I would continue my efforts to remove burdensome and archaic regulations that affect the ability of local businesses to succeed, including simplifying zoning regulations and removing unnecessary fees. I would make sure that local business owners are an active part of this conversation with city staff to ensure that the outcome is one that makes sense for both locally owned businesses and the city.
Cheung on the issues
From Cambridge Community Television