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Open Space

Open space in Cambridge is a precious commodity, as was recently shown by the neighborhood reaction to the city proposal to expand the main library into the adjoining park. As back yards get built in and paved over, there is a growing awareness that open space in Cambridge needs to be protected.

Our petition seeks to preserve more of the city’s open space through several changes in the zoning ordinance. One change will require ‘green space’ on each lot, and a second change will protect the large public open spaces.

The current zoning requires each residential lot to have a certain percentage of ‘usable open space’, which must be reasonably flat and at least 15’ by 15’. This ‘usable open space’ is basically a play yard, and may be paved. Current zoning regulations allow the complete paving of a lot, although it cannot be all designated as parking.

Our petition keeps all of the regulations on ‘usable open space’, and adds a requirement for ‘green space’, which is simply land that is not paved or under a building. Each parcel will be required to contain a percentage of ‘green space’, equal to the amount of ‘usable open space’ currently required.

Green space benefits the city in several ways. It absorbs the rain and keeps it out of the sewage system, saving the city money. This rainfall absorbed into the ground keeps our trees alive. The trees, shrubs and plants add beauty to our city and improve its quality of life.

It is possible that a small lot with parking, driveway and walkways might not meet the new ‘green space’ requirements, so an exemption has been added, assuring that this requirement will not prevent reasonable walkways, a driveway and at least one parking space.

To preserve the large public open spaces, we propose to change the zoning of roughly two dozens parcels to Open Space. Danehy Park is zoned Open Space, and is protected, but many other public spaces are not protected. The list includes the Cambridge Common, Donnelly Field, Sennott Park, Riverside Press Park, and is simply all public spaces larger than one acre.

As the controversy about the library has shown, the city may try to fill in these spaces with buildings or parking lots if they are not protected.