Wednesday, July 24, 2024

From Juliet Blackett, of North Cambridge, on April 29: The City Council voted in favor of furthering the Twining/Normandy tower proposal for Central Square at the meeting April 27 by voting 7-2 in favor of a second reading of the petition. This vote was taken at the end of the meeting when most of the public had left Sullivan Chamber, and unless those of us who attended the meeting rushed home to see it on television, we might not have known until the following day who voted yea or nay or witnessed the evident confusion as to exactly what the councillors believed they were voting on – i.e., for a further reading at a later date, passing it along to the Planning Board or letting it die the death here and now. There was an element of the Keystone Cops in action as they tried to sort it out until Mayor David Maher finally managed to bring order to the proceedings.

LetterI spoke at the meeting, expressing serious reservations about the project as it is conceived, with particular emphasis on the process by which the development will or will not be approved. My chief points were as follows: Those who are entrusted by residents of Cambridge to finalize development planning are appointed, not elected, and our chief leverage in the process, especially if we oppose the project as it now stands, lies entirely in lobbying the councillors we vote into office with the grim expectation that they will exercise critical thinking and reasoned argument, especially in a project as controversial as this; and the trend toward the manipulation of zoning regulations on a development-by-development basis serves chiefly to do an end run around citizen concerns, inevitably confers great benefit to developers and affects the entire citizenry because it undermines the democratic process.

Another point I did not have time to elaborate on is this: The Twining/Normandy project, on the face of it, appears to be to the benefit of residents in need of affordable housing in Cambridge but will almost certainly have unintended and unforeseen consequences that will counteract the perceived benefits: Such a development and others that will surely follow will become super-magnets by attracting a higher-income population from the universities and tech industry (not only from Cambridge but the Metro area in general) and will affect in the most negative way rents and cost of living for residents and commercial enterprises throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. We need only take a look around Porter Square in North Cambridge or Davis Square in Somerville to comprehend this outcome.

It is unfortunate and alarming that members of the council could not see this when they voted to keep the proposal in play on Monday night.