Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Clarification / Correction: Alewife Brook Area Zoning

A few days ago, I quoted Councilor Cheung’s comments with regard to a zoning change impacting North Cambridge, that portion of the City ending at Alewife Brook. Alewife Brook, at this point, is the border between Cambridge and Arlington. These comments were posted at

I am highly concerned about the future of the environmentally sensitive zoning on Massachusetts Avenue approaching Alewife Brook. It has a lot of small scale (for Cambridge) housing limits. As a result, while things are not perfect, the zoning is sensitive to the beauty of the Alewife Brook Reservation.

I made a serious mistake which was the basis for my comments.

That serious mistake was in listening to the Cambridge Development Department or other people opposed to responsible zoning describing the change. The descriptions I saw gave me the understanding that zoning protections were being destroyed right up to the Alewife Brook Reservation, all zoning on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge right to the Arlington line.

My problem is demonstrated in the Cambridge Chronicle article on the zoning change which is posted at

Basically, all reports on this change have referred to “improvements” to the zoning of Massachusetts Avenue in North Cambridge, period. The difficulty lies in people who do not fully understand the zoning situation making general comments which should not be made in a general manner.

I responded to Cheung’s comments because the comments exactly fit the nonsense which keeps on getting spouted by The Machine: retail, retail, retail, as much retail as they can get and destroy, destroy, destroy first floor open space and first floor housing. The Cheung comments fit the excessively general pattern as well. He made no distinction between areas of Massachusetts Avenue in North Cambridge whose zoning protections have already been destroyed and those areas of Massachusetts Avenue in North Cambridge which have not been subjected to these bizarre attacks on zoning protections. The area near Alewife Brook Parkway falls into the latter category.

I dug out the zoning change on line and reviewed it in detail. What I was able to find affects only the irresponsible zoning imposed already on Mass. Ave. in North Cambridge on Mass. Ave. The Machine is making irresponsible zoning more irresponsible because developers are looking at the area and are being more responsible than The Machine. Developers are looking at a residential neighborhood and putting in a residential neighborhood in a larger scale. The Machine is horrified that its goal of wall to wall retail no matter how dumb is not being implemented. So they passed the change that Cheung was bragging about to make bad zoning worse.

As far as changes to the responsible zoning near the Alewife Brook Reservation goes, the language I saw on review only impacts areas whose zoning was previously irresponsible. The language I saw does not impact the “small” residential zoning next to the Alewife Brook Reservation.

So, with this very major caveat, I express my regrets to Councilor Cheung.

But, on the other hand, if it turns out the folks saying zoning is being changed to the Arlington line were correct, please let me know. Thank you.