The Growth Management Petition (Filed as "The Pitkin Petition")
The Growth Management petition is a citywide downzoning petition that was submitted to the Cambridge City Council on May 1 by a group of volunteer residents. The campaigners for the petition, Cambridge Residents for Growth Management (CRGM), share the belief that Cambridge's zoning law should do a much better job of protecting residential neighborhoods, businesses and the quality of life in Cambridge from the detrimental impacts of development
The proposal consists of five major components designed to encourage beneficial development while protecting the quality of life in Cambridge.
The proposed changes in zoning and the principles on which they are based are summarized below:
Section A: Downzoning and height restrictions
Proposed zoning law change: Reduce allowed density of new buildings in most areas of the city.
Proposed zoning law change: Add height limits in districts where height is now unlimited and reduce height limits in districts where they are out of scale with surrounding neighborhoods.
Additional benefit of change: Reducing allowed densities will encourage preservation of existing buildings and help stabilize commercial rents. In industrial areas, this will preserve affordable spaces for start-up companies and in retail areas, this will strengthen existing squares and corridors. Limiting future congestion will preserve value of existing development.
The attached chart lists the changes to the city's common zones.
Section B: Affordable Housing
Proposed zoning law change: Permit bonuses, including a twenty-five percent increase in allowed building size, in exchange for including a percentage of affordable units in a project. (This expands a voluntary provision of the law that already exists for Cambridgeport.)
Proposed zoning law change: Increase amount of linkage payments to the City's Affordable Housing Trust required in exchange for commercial and institutional special permits. (This updates an existing linkage payment that has not been updated since 1987, and expands it to cover more projects.)
Section C: Transition Zones
Proposed zoning law change: Limit heights at the edges of high-density zones to the height allowed in the adjoining zone and allow them to increase by one foot for each foot they are set back from the property line up to the maximum height permitted. (There are many district boundaries where this provision would apply.)
Section D: Public Notice and Design Review
Proposed zoning law change: Require posting of public signs on properties before hearings for variances and special permits. (Notices now appear as "legal notice" in newspapers and are mailed to abutting owners but not tenants.)
Proposed zoning law change: Require non-binding public review of all substantial projects not otherwise subject to review within thirty days of application. (Public review has repeatedly been shown to contribute to better projects.)
Section E: Open Space Protection
Proposed zoning law change: Increase existing requirements for open space and add a requirement for green space in yards. (This only affects future permits and changes in landscaping.)
Proposed zoning law change: Designate all city parks and playgrounds larger than one acre as "open space," preventing future development on parkland. (Most city parks, including Cambridge Common, are now zoned for buildings.)