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.

Urban Ring Rail Maps, two options, Boston and Cambridge, MA

1. Introduction.

Yesterday, at, I reported on a city council meeting concerning a small vehicle highway on the Grand Junction railroad tracks. These tracks run through the core habitat of the Charles River White Geese.

I spent considerable time commenting on the Cambridge Administration’s constant denial of reality with regard to the Urban Ring heavy rail transportation options. The Cambridge Administration has very much non stop put out the falsehood that there is only one option under consideration, the option they prefer.

2. Maps.

Here are five maps produced by the MBTA concerning the options on both sides of the Charles River.

A. MBTA Urban Ring BU Bridge Crossing (Cambridge Side).

This is the alternative which the Cambridge Administration put out a very much non stop lie that it is the only alternative under consideration.

The long hashed line parallel to and crossing the Charles River and having two dots on it is the proposed streetcar / light rail line.

The dot in the very middle of the picture is an station at Massachusetts Avenue in the middle of the MIT campus. The dot to the very left is a station at Putnam Avenue in Cambridge. The crossing would be to the immediate east of the Grand Junction line, apparently breaking off to go underground after going under Memorial Drive, thus directly impacting and harming the wildlife habitat south of Memorial Drive including the nesting area of the Charles River White Geese.

B. MBTA Urban Ring, Kenmore Crossing (Cambridge Side).

In this alternative, the Mass. Ave. Station continues to exist but quickly after going under Mass. Ave., the Heavy Rail / Orange Line alternative swings south and goes under the Charles River, a much less environmentally destructive option.

C. MBTA Urban Ring Boston Side.

The following two maps appear to be blow ups of the separate options as shown on this map.

This map is a good way to compare the relative locations of the two options and to see almost all the shared part.

The shared part is in the lower extreme of the map. The alternate lines are shown by moderately heavy broken lines.

The BU Bridge Crossing curves down from the left and meets the Kenmore Crossing which is a straight line top to bottom. The two lines meet under Brookline Avenue just before Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and curve in deep bore construction under BIDMC.

The wider black rectangle just after the curve ends is the proposed Longwood Medical Area Station under Longwood Avenue at Louis Pasteur Boulevard.

The line curves just before Huntington Avenue under the Massachusetts College of Art. It then curves again at Ruggles Street under undeveloped property of the Wentworth Institute of Technology. It ends at Ruggles Station on the Orange Line which is just off the map.

D. MBTA Urban Ring, Boston Side - BU Bridge.

The BU Bridge crossing would be constructed under University Road, which works as an on and off ramp for east bound traffic on Soldiers Field Road / Storrow Drive.

The path is hard to make out. Blowing up the photo is extremely valuable. The path is just to the left of “BU” on the map just south of the Charles River. It turns and comes to a black rectangle indicating the combined Urban Ring station at St. Mary’s and the relocated Yawkey Station. Connection to the Green Line Commonwealth Avenue branch is by tunnel under St. Mary’s dropping people on the south sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue.

The route then turns at Park Drive and comes to another underground station between Beacon Street (Green Line, Cleveland Circle branch) and the Riverside Station (Riverside Branch of the Green Line).

These two stations attempt to duplicate the function of the Urban Ring station in the Kenmore Crossing located between Yawkey and Kenmore Stations and creating one big megastation.

E. MBTA Urban Ring, Boston Side - Kenmore Crossing.

The tunnel runs under Raleigh Street in eastern Kenmore Square.

It would have a new station under Brookline Avenue with direct connections to Yawkey Station, Kenmore Station and Fenway Park, creating covered connections among Commuter Rail, Urban Ring and the three Green Line Branches. This is the black rectangle directly below "Kenmore."

Yawkey Station shows on the map as the less large black rectangle above and to the left of the proposed Urban Ring station. It is helpful to blow up the photo to see it.

The legislature is spending millions upgrading Yawkey Station. Yawkey Station is not going anywhere, contrary to the needs of the BU Bridge Crossing. Thus the legislature has spent millions subsidizing the Kenmore Crossing.

The line proceeds under Brookline Avenue to the point where it goes under BIDMC.

3. Reality and the City of Cambridge.

The Cambridge Administration and its activists and influenced organizations has spent years denying the existence of the Kenmore Crossing.

They have no meaningful argument. The Kenmore Crossing is far superior both from an environmental and a transportation point of view. It has now received millions of dollars in subsidies in the legislature's funds for the upgrading of Yawkey Station in place.

It is hard to escape the obvious strategy of the Cambridge Administration.

When you cannot possibly win on the merits, lie.

So they simply and repeatedly for very many years have denied that the Kenmore Crossing exists.