Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 10, 2016

Up the Inclusionary – Hot Topics on the April 11, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:20 pm

Up the Inclusionary – Hot Topics on the April 11, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Inclusionary ZoningHere are the relatively few agenda items that seem interesting this week:

City Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, recommending the reappointment of Conrad Crawford to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority.

City Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, recommending appointment of Naomie Stephen to the Cambridge Housing Authority.

These are the only two City Boards for which City Council approval is required for appointments by the City Manager. Under recently amended protocols, these will each have a City Council committee hearing prior to coming back to the City Council for a vote.

City Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study.

This is by far the most significant agenda item. Any change to Inclusionary Zoning would be a zoning amendment, so this matter will now have to be referred to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board for further deliberation. The study and the Manager’s recommendation call for a substantial increase in the inclusionary requirement. If I read it correctly, the current 15% requirement (which ends up being under 12% of the new units created after the density bonus is added in) would go up to somewhere between 17% and 20% after the density bonus is added. Some activists will, no doubt, want an even higher percentage, but there are at least some indications that the sky is no longer the limit in terms of housing prices and rents. There may be some logic in exercising at least a little caution in increasing the mandatory requirements.

Resolution #4. Resolution on the death of Dorothy Steele.   Councillor Toomey

If you didn’t see the recent Eric Moskowitz article on Dorothy Steele on the front page of the Boston Globe (Apr 5, 2016), you really should. It was one of the most beautifully written tributes I’ve ever read in a newspaper.

Order #2. That all future Government Operations, Rules and Claims Committee meetings related to the selection of a new City Manager be televised.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Devereux

The actual level of interest in this process among the general public is not nearly as great as the sponsors of the Order seem to think. Interest will definitely pick as we get nearer to an actual vote, but for now it’s just the usual suspects.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to write a letter to the Department of Public Health indicating the City of Cambridge’s non-opposition for Sage Cannabis Inc., application to operate a RMD in the Business B-2 (MMD-3 Zoning) District within the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.   Councillor Cheung, Vice Mayor McGovern

I can certainly understand why the City Council might support a zoning change to allow Sage Cannabis to operate a medical marijuana dispensary at a location not previously permitted under zoning, but does the City Council really have to also write them a letter of recommendation? Surely the zoning change should be sufficient. – Robert Winters


  1. My sense is there will be a push to go to 20% on inclusionary. This would create an effective density bump of 40% on any given parcel. However I wager doing so would have the effect of inordinately crushing smaller scale projects and pumping up larger ones. I wonder if anecdotally the push to 20 comes from a project like Mass and Main …which is 22% affordable. However, to get that 22% they got a plus 3.5 to their FAR. My guess is if this passes, M&M will be the last residential project in Central for another decade or so; if it gets built at all. It should be called the New Holmes Building.

    Comment by patrick barrett — April 11, 2016 @ 12:32 am

  2. Hi Robert. Thanks, as always, for breaking down the agenda. I’m always interested in what you and others have to say. Regarding the IZ report: It is the first step of a long process. I have always taken the position that I want to find the highest percentage without stopping development. Regarding Ms. Steele: Horrible tragedy. She was well known in the community and will be missed. Regarding the Gov’t Ops: I don’t have the same reaction to televising meetings as some of my colleagues do. In fact, I think it can show the Council working in a different light, but I think you are correct in that I don’t think many people would watch. Regarding the Sage letter: Any dispensary looking to open in a community needs a “non opposition” letter from that community. Its part of the process. In Cambridge, that letter has to come from the Manager, and in the past he has looked to the Council to direct him. Thanks.

    Comment by Marc McGovern — April 11, 2016 @ 3:18 pm

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