Something smells rotten in Cambridge.
The city is experiencing runaway development and explosive growth that critically endangers its character, diversity and quality of life. So say a growing number of city residents and neighborhood groups.
“Not so!” say a majority of City Council members who consistently vote to allow unfettered development and who recently turned down an opportunity to take responsibility for projects too large (over 50,00 square feet) to be trusted to a Planning Board that never learned to say “No.”
Those same City Councilors cynically—or perhaps ignorantly— hide behind the urgent need for low- and middle-income housing to justify their support for developments that will spike local rents and most likely displace the people they profess to be helping.
If they truly worried about displacement they’d ask the Community Development Department or the City Manager to report on the net gain/loss of affordable units through the special permit process.
But why ask a question whose answer you don’t want to hear?
Or perhaps they realize what most of us already know— that we can’t trust any of the city’s administrators when it comes to dealing honestly with the problems of wide-scale unfettered development.
Can we trust Susan Clippinger, Director of Traffic and Parking, who has never found that a proposed development significantly added to traffic problems, not even in Alewife? Of course, in her rush to approve projects, Ms. Clippinger consistently resists the temptation to measure the combined impacts of developments.
Can we trust Susanne Rasmussen, Cambridge’s Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning, who publicly states “The amount of traffic on the street in Alewife has been pretty flat over the past 15 years.” This of course the same Suzanne Rasmussen who made a presentation to the Central Square Advisory Committee citing 40% available capacity on the Red Line during rush hour; who also cited “50% of residents within a ¼ mile of the T as having no cars.” I don’t dispute the numbers, only the fact Ms. Rasmussen neglected to mention her survey population included student dorms.
Can we trust a City Manager who responds to a groundswell of anger against the Planning Board by appointing new members, all of whom appear just as beholding to the development community as their predecessors?
Not exactly rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but close.
Can we trust a city council that no sooner agrees to a Master Planning process than puts it under the direction of the planning agency whose lax planning and arrogant behavior contributed to the public outcry for a master plan?
Speaking of Community Development, can we trust a planning agency that seems intent on ramming through zoning changes and creating de facto zoning policy? Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development recently announced to the city council that CDD would not put forth zoning recommendations developed by the K2C2 committees and would instead deal with zoning changes on a project by project basis, thus shutting out the council and the city’s residents from any hope of a coherent, transparent zoning process.
In the last four years, Cambridge has seen almost HALF the construction projected for the next 20 years either built or permitted. Far from creating a growing sense of community through our zoning process, we are growing our city chaotically, almost totally driven by market forces which, left to their own devices, will gentrify our city, expunge our racial and economic diversity and create something far different than the Cambridge we love.
Yes, something smells rotten in Cambridge. And if our “leaders” and “planners” have their way, the smell will only get worse.