An open letter to the Cambridge City Council asks action on Envision, ending decades without plan
In the past 42 years, the city has spent millions of dollars with the help of hundreds of residents volunteering their time to address a number of zoning-related projects:
- 1979: The Fish Book/Alewife Revitalization Plan
- 1993: Toward a Sustainable Future (updated 2007)
- 2001: The Alewife Master Plan
- 2001: The Eastern Cambridge Planning Study
- 2005: The Concord-Alewife Planning Study
- 2011-2013: K2C, the Kendall Square and Central Square Planning Study
- 2019: Envision Cambridge
Have these plans ever been implemented?
Most recently, the city spent $3 million and thousands of city personnel (and community) hours on the Envision report forwarded to the council in 2019, which has yet to be finalized and approved. With development happening all over the city and the lack of a ratified plan governing development, Cambridge is at risk of losing its identity as a center of innovation and excellence. This is not acceptable, and the impacts are huge in neighborhoods across the city.
The results of the City Council’s unwillingness to approve Envision mean that in essence:
- Developers can exploit the city’s piecemeal, development-by-development approach, rather than following actual urban planning priorities, and we get poor results: Just look at the Triangle, East Cambridge, Inman Square.
- Developers can cherry-pick what they want.
- Developers’ amenities are accorded a higher merit than the needs identified by neighborhoods.
- Neighborhood associations and other community groups are addressing zoning, infrastructure and open space issues for which the city should be responsible
Enough! We implore that you, the councillors, to take charge and write zoning that ensures developers are committed to sharing and realizing Envision for our city’s future:
- Postpone active development proposals, such as Cabot, Cabot & Forbes’ rezoning petition, until you address and approve Envision Cambridge.
- Calibrate the Envision report to reflect the new state of affairs for the city during and after Covid
- Commit to moving Envision forward to implementation plan
- Approve the Envision implementation plan
- Once approved, hire a firm to write the zoning guidelines for each part of the city.
The boards, advisory committees or coordinating committees of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods; Cambridge Highlands Neighborhood Association; East Cambridge Planning Team; Fresh Pond Residents Alliance; Harvard Square Neighborhood Association; and Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association
this reserected step should have been completed before other zoning plans absconded with quoting contents before being finalized. Bits and pieces are included in poorly considered zoning plans for bigger development before issues and challenges presented in Envision have yet to be clarified. It has brought up problems that need looking at. Because it has not been debated or codified, pieces should not be used as a template. All the more reason to revisit to keep developers from creating their own whack-a-mole attempt at getting their individual plans through without a solid master plan. Cambridge cannot keep going in the direction it has without hard debate and agreement. After all, contradictions need clarification even in the original draft. All the more reason to call for a moratorium on developing until infrastructure (electricity, water, sewage, traffic, transportation, open space, setbacks, neighborhood context, building materials, land use and city-owned land) are considered. We do not have Envision Cambridge until it is finished and voted on. (And in it, is also consideration of individual neighborhoods…)