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Citywide Growth Management Advisory Committee

April 1, 1998, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Record of Meeting

Attendees: Please see attached list

Susan Schlesinger discussed the concerns of the subcommittee on process. There is a sense that we need to get out to the community as soon as possible. A series of meetings is not the only way to reach people. It will be important to try several ways, such as a well-designed newsprint piece that would be inserted into the Chronicle, distributed widely at schools, libraries, on e-mail, etc.; possibly the "phone-in" approach suggested by Fred Fantini; and one or two large public meetings as they seem appropriate. The key question is how to get feedback.

The format of the piece has to be visually attractive and accessible. The topic would be clearly focused on the issue of open space in residential zones. Geneva Malenfant suggested that it is important to group issues: issues internal to the neighborhoods, issues of transition to districts abutting the residential areas, and issues like traffic which go beyond immediate abutters. Stuart Dash said that, rather than figuring everything out in advance, it would be advisable to get the piece out with questions still unanswered in order to get meaningful input and because time is running out. John Pitkin noted that this would not be a survey, we are just trying to get comments and to understand people’s concerns. He said that it is important that the piece be a "five-minute read" so that people will actually read it!

Susan Schlesinger noted that we still need to consider whether, if open space requirements are increased, it is still necessary to decrease FAR. In regard to keeping the language understandable, the "paved and unpaved" language is more understandable than more sophisticated wording. She said a draft will be coming out soon, and we need volunteers for an editorial committee.

Larry Bluestone presented analysis of prototypical blocks in Residence B, C, and C1. This analysis was in the form of charts showing every lot in the selected blocks with an array of data regarding lot size, % open space, height, etc.; the charts were supplemented by large maps with building footprints, paved areas, required setbacks, etc. Several committee members said that this analysis was extremely helpful in getting a more tangible feel for the issues.

Phil Herr noted that, in regard to open space, there are different ways to answer the question "What do you care about?" The 15’ rule was likely drafted to allow for use of open space with table and chairs; otherwise, you can grow pansies in slivers of open space. What are we doing? We should be concerned that the current rules would remove Cambridge character by imposing rigidly uniform formula setbacks. Les Barber also pointed out that the percent of open space would have to be very high to preserve the swaths of open space in mid-blocks; perhaps it would be better simply to increase rear yard setbacks.

Larry Bluestone then presented maps showing potential new dwelling units, on sites with 1500 or more sf of residual development potential. There are very few additional sites that could have new units as of right. In fact, very few existing sites meet all of the dimensional criteria, which raises the question of how many buildings have been built as-of-right historically.

There was discussion of the changes from C1 to C in Cambridgeport and the downzoning of Res B. Les Barber pointed out that both of these modifications have been effective in some scaling back in development.

It was agreed that, between now and the next meeting, staff will draft a mechanism for preserving open space, with discussion of the options of either increasing the % open space required or increasing rear yard requirements. There will also be language defining "paved and non-paved" aspects of the required open space. Before the next meeting, a focus group including John Pitkin, Pam Winters, and Dale Blank will review the staff draft to give feedback.

The next agenda will have the problem statement as a topic for discussion.