Monday, December 30, 2019

Harvard University’s Harvard Square Campus to see significant destruction for the benefit of Harvard’s Expansion in the I90 Rebuild?

RE: Harvard University’s Harvard Square Campus to see significant destruction for the benefit of Harvard’s Expansion in the I90 Rebuild?

I. Introductory.
2. Two good links, which are taken from the fact sheet.
4. I90 victories.

I. Introductory.

Throughout the 15 or 16  years this blog has been in place, I have restricted posts to the Charles River.

I recall, back in 2000, when we first became vaguely aware of the outrages being worked for by Cambridge and the DCR on the Charles River, I very quickly was flabbergasted to realize the very many development initiatives which had the Charles River White Geese’ habitat smack dab in the middle.  I was also amazed at the fact that I was in the middle of them.

Well, things have expanded further.  I have done a fair job of reporting on the planning for the rebuild of I90 / Mass. Pike on the Boston side of the Charles River across from the 39 year year residence of the Charles River White Geese.  My reporting has been very heavily because of the dirty tricks involved and the targeting the animals and the environment of the Charles River.

As I have reported, Harvard University OWNS I90 in the key part of that area plus owns a now abandoned and adjacent LARGE railroad yard.  The size of the core I90 rebuild area is equal to a major part of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

My evaluation has been that this location would be the future home of Harvard Medical School so that the Medical School’s current campus would be used for expansion of the highly valuable Longwood / Harvard Medical Area (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and related facilities which could also be moved).

It  has developed that forces in the City of Cambridge are maneuvering to move part of the main Cambridge Harvard campus to the I90 rebuild location from Harvard Square, and for the City of Cambridge to PAY Harvard to move by massive increases in financial value allowed by their zoning in Cambridge.

The zoning increases would turn key parts of Harvard’s Harvard Square Cambridge campus into retail malls with a REALLY major expansion of the Harvard Square retail district.

It also happens that I was key in creating zoning which gets in the way of this nonsense.  My zoning change was focused on a question of whether the eastern end of Harvard Square would be retail or part of the adjoining residential neighborhoods.  The neighborhoods won with one negative vote on the city council and another favorable vote in the hospital.

Following is an analysis by me to a Cambridge facebook group whose leader has been trying to get more responsible development in Harvard Square.  She made the mistake of going, in accordance with advice from Bad Guys, to the Cambridge Development Department which, in turn, referred her to what appears to be a “protective” group working, as usual for such groups in Cambridge, with the Cambridge Development Department against protection.

My analysis includes a master for a leaflet / fact sheet and a copy of the relevant part of the city’s zoning map, much of which I had a major hand in creating.

Bracketed language was deleted by me from the facebook page publication because the language is far more relevant to the outrages accelerating on the Charles River. Besides, I was trying to be as nice as possible.  Since the purpose of this blog is the Charles River and since I control this blog, the language deleted from the facebook page is exactly on point with regard to our purposes.  So it is retained in this publication.

Please note that this presentation is supplemental to my detailed letter to the Cambridge City Council on the topic.  I commonly reprint such letters on this blog.  The problem with direct repeating is the massive amount of graphics which would overload my writing time and overload this blog.  26 pages including as much as six graphics per page is rather time consuming, at minimum.

2. Two good links, which are taken from the fact sheet.

For the legal language of the Proposal see link in table on page at:   (Link in table does not work when copied here.).

For our detailed Analysis recorded in the City Council records, see:, pages 298 to 323, 26 pages, up to six photos per page.  Analysis IS NOT COMPLETE.

* * * * *

It would be helpful if you review the City Council letter (second above) before reading the following.  The massive amounts of photos and subordinate parts of the zoning map are very helpful in understanding this letter.  It was targeted at people very familiar on the City of Cambridge.

I am inserting many of the edits from the Zoning Map in the City Council letter here to be minimally communicative.  But PLEASE look at the City Council letter for the photographs.  I will insert explanations as appropriate.


Enclosed is a fact sheet concisely presenting my updated analysis of the Harvard Square Upzoning.  Folks who want to protect Harvard Square and the rest of Cambridge from nonsense originating in the Development Department or its friends are encouraged to make copies and distribute.

As is the usual problem in development matters with Development Department and friends, it can be tricky fully evaluating the game.  Nevertheless, I have to reaffirm my belief that leadership in this effort is well intentioned.  It is normal in these matters for well meaning people to get persuaded to achieve the opposite of their goals.  The best way to ensure vaguely working for your goals is to keep away from the Development Department and its friends.  It is my hope that these further evaluations will be of assistance.

The Harvard Square Overlay District would be changed from FALSELY protective to being outwardly destructive.  The proposal turns residential and office districts in Harvard Square to Retail districts with names that are flat out lies.

The Inn at Harvard and its trees and yards could be quickly be destroyed for very massive essentially lot line to lot line construction.  That EXCELLENT building was forced on Harvard with the East Harvard Square downzoning.  Harvard did not want[ it] THAT EXCELLENT BUILDING then.  See how fast Harvard destroys the Inn at Harvard building when PAID to destroy it by the Cambridge City Council after passing this upzoning.  Planning and approvals plus?  Although Harvard may have interim uses.

* * * * *

At the top and to the extreme left in this cropped zoning map is the core of Harvard Square.  The former Inn at Harvard is immediately above “C-2B”.  Massachusetts Avenue runs through the middle of the orange area so marked.

The five historic homes are in two spots.  Three of them are located below the “O-2" marking.  Two are in the left part of this district.  One is to the left of this district.  The other two historic houses are in the district marked “A” between two larger buildings.  The street between these two areas is Mt. Auburn Street.  Putnam Avenue is the right boundary of the “A” district.  It starts at Mt. Auburn Street.  8-10 Mt. Auburn Street is the large building at the left end of the “A” district.  The street to its left is Banks Street.

* * * *

The five historical homes on Mt. Auburn Street near Putnam Street could readily be destroyed AND REPLACED WITH SOLID WALLS OF BUILDINGS PRETTY MUCH LOT LINE TO LOT LINE 35 FEET HIGH.  Similarly, there is a lot of room for similar outrages in the back end of the 8-10 Mt. Auburn lot.  All that destructive “improvement” would do severe harm to the heavily abutting residential area.  I believe the City Council chair at the hearing did say he would like to see an alcove as a break in the solid walls.  Then again, there are tiny open space requirements.  So, instead of historical buildings, we get ALCOVES in solid walls.

The destruction of historical properties on Mass. Ave., Bow, Arrow and Mt. Auburn could be delayed a decade or more TO THE EXTENT THEY HAVE lease obligations.  I am aware of at least one such obligation.  Clearly destruction of this excellent part of Harvard Square is a major target of the proposal.

* * * *

The block being discussed is the triangular area below the “C-2B” marking.  The top, longest, side of the triangle is Massachusetts Avenue.  Arrow street is the bottom side to the right.  Bow Street is the bottom side to the left.  Mt. Auburn Street is on the lower end of the “O-3" area opposite Arrow Street.  The massive residential building is above the bottom point of the triangle.  Its courtyard is clearly shown.

* * * *

The massive residential building bounded by Mass. Ave., Arrow and Bow Streets, could go VERY RAPIDLY, as these things go, greatly reducing housing in Harvard Square and impacting city wide housing needs as well.

The owners of that building could, SUBJECT ONLY TO PLANNING AND APPROVALS, empty the entire place and replace the courtyard in the middle for ALLOWED retail.  That building could hold retail from top to bottom.  Upper floors are less vulnerable for retail, but office conversion would be highly likely, at minimum.  The bottom floor could readily be converted to parking.  Escalators could be built all over the place.  Elevators are already in place.


Note that one of the causes that the leader of this Upzoning is fighting for is housing in Harvard Square.  It is normal for victims of the Development Department and friends to achieve THE OPPOSITE of what their goals are, but it is done to the victims very sweetly.

Six churches will be zoned for retail without FAR limits and without yard requirements.  Much pressure would be placed on their congregations / parent organizations to move out and take big profits.  Two of the six churches currently have retail allowed, but not with this massive destructive increases in floor area.  They would allow PRETTY MUCH EVERY SQUARE FOOT TO BE BUILT ON, line to lot line with ALCOVES.  Open space “requirements” are tiny, ALCOVES.

* * * *

Old Cambridge Baptist Church is above the B in “C-2B”.  St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church contains the “3" in “O-3."  It has Arrow Street above it, Bow Street to its left, and Mt. Auburn Street below it.  The structure to its right running between Arrow Street and Mt. Auburn Street is part of the facility.  Recently built, it contains their school building.  On the opposite side of Mt. Auburn Street moving left and the right most structure in the C-1 district is a Hillel House facility.  I am certain to be corrected on this, but it is my understanding that Hillel Houses are collegiate equivalents of Jewish Synagogues.  This facility is about the same age as St. Paul’s school building plus.

There are three other churches in the Harvard Square Overlay District.  One is below the C-1 district at the left.  I am including it because of the games which can be played in the Overlay District to create a retail mall with front entrance on Mt. Auburn Street.  A second is off the map to the left, located between Mt. Auburn Street and the next street below it on a park which in turn is bounded on the right by JFK Street.  Moving through Brattle Square from there and left on Brattle Street is a decomissioned church which is now a retail structure.

* * * *

[And remember the hundreds of trees already destroyed on Memorial Drive with more to come.  The NINE current incumbents have an continuing explanation: THEY DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHAT THEY AND THEIR FRIENDS ARE DOING.  But look at them yelling at the other guy.

[Particularly telling was the funding by the Cambridge City Council of the Charles River Poisoner for coming work for the destruction of trees project at Magazine Beach.  (Remember the algae blight?  That was created by the City Council's paid environmental worker.)] [omitted by me]

I should think the portion of the Harvard campus between Mt. Auburn Street and Mass. Ave. is particularly, BUT NOT SOLELY AT RISK.  Retail malls would be highly likely with offices above.

* * * *

The residence halls in question are located in the abutting BB and O-3 areas running from Holyoke Street (marked) to Bow Street.  The Harvard properties in the “O-3" area containing the X were agreed by the Cambridge City Council to be removed from the Harvard Square Overlay District by the Cambridge City Council during the pendency of the East Harvard Square Downzoning.  Neighborhood activists agreed to waive this victory in response to the flat out lie, “You have made your deal with the City Council.  Now you must negotiate with the Planning Board,” by a person who has been visible in the current upzoning.

* * * *

In the Mt. Auburn - Mass. Ave. area, a person involved in this upzoning BULLIED neighborhood folks in the East Harvard Square petition, “You have made your deal with the City Council.  Now you must negotiate with the planning board.”

That person kept ground work for destruction in place by killing our success in talking the city council into destruction of the Harvard Square Overlay District in Office zoned properties owned by Harvard.

OUR VICTORY WAS ACKNOWLEDGED BY THAT PERSON [DURING THE BULLYING].  THOSE HARVARD PROPERTIES HAD BEEN AGREED TO BE REMOVED FROM THE OVERLAY DISTRICT BY THE CITY COUNCIL.[  It is highly normal for well meaning people to be lied to by friends of the Development Department.]  The neighbors conceded without value received.

How much time will it take for ancillary groups such as the Dining Clubs to give up on Harvard Square when they are being paid by the City Council to move to I90 and sell to people who would build lot line to lot line, but with alcoves, without floor area limits?

* * * *

The left hand “C-1" district is that contiguous portion of the Dining Clubs which fit the parameters of “C-1."  There are other Dining Clubs.

2 Arrow Street is marked with an N.  10 Mt. Auburn Street is below it and to the right, at the right hand corner of Banks Street and Mt. Auburn Street.  It was saved and connected to a modern structure because of my victory in front of the Rent Control Board.  This 1890's structure was found to be under Rent Control and thus not subject to demolition without permission of the Cambridge Rent Control Board.

The following areas before the subway analysis are identified above.

* * * *

The replacement of three historical buildings in the 2 Arrow project shows how useless “historical reviews” are in reality.  Not to mention the 1890's building at 10 Mt. Auburn which I kept Harvard from destroying.

With the City Council providing major payments in the zoning, once the I90 work is settled, how much of Harvard’s campus will Harvard destroy for retail malls at the same time as moving the uses in those parts of its campus to I90 in Allston?

The Inn at Harvard building, with its trees and grass, will be destroyed first and probably long before I90 is ready.  Its use has been temporary since Harvard apparently drove out the managers of the Inn at Harvard.

For the Harvard uses being moved to I90 in Allston, there could be a delay for rapid transit construction, and probably to get their moneys worth out of recent renovations.

Harvard is floating a reverse fork of the Red Line ON TOP OF THE EXISTING HARVARD STATION.  The proposal is described as a track coming from Porter.  Deep bore construction would be used in the Allston side of Harvard Station in that expansion.  The floated plans call for Harvard Station to be destroyed in the process.

The proposal would amount to a private AND VERY EXPENSIVE subway:  Harvard University Cambridge to Harvard University I90 / Allston to Harvard University Longwood Medical Area.

My preference is for a Green Line A fork off Green Line B at the BU Bridge and Comm. Ave. running through  Harvard’s I90 campus (relocated Harvard Square and Harvard Medical School uses) to the North Allston residential neighborhood and the B School.  After going under the Charles, JFK Park is designed for construction of a connecting tunnel to the tunnel from Harvard Station which was never removed.  The design of JFK Park allows construction WITHOUT DAMAGE TO TREES.

[Those plans for JFK Park were made before the DCR and the Cambridge City Council got so aggressive about destroying tree canopy in the City of Cambridge and yelling at the other guy who is much less destructive in behavior than are the MDC and Cambridge. ]

* * * *

Not in the posting at all, but, since I am documenting, here is the plan for Green Line A as submitted to MassDOT as part of the I90 rebuild analysis.  Subsequent changes in the “throat” portion of the I90 rebuild dictated by the Secretary continue the viability of this suggestion.

* * * *

Putting in this Green Line A connector would greatly take pressure off the Red Line between Park and Harvard Stations by giving an alternative to traffic to from the Back Bay.  But Harvard, as I said, has been floating a VERY EXPENSIVE PROPOSAL which would amount to a private shuttle connecting three parts of Harvard.

I initially proposed this route to MassDOT as part of the I90 study.  I have two MAJOR victories for the benefit of Cambridge in the I90 study already.  One of the victories is truly major in its impact on the project.  The other, like the first, is major in its impact on Cambridge.  And, this victory of particular benefit to Cambridge reversed a vote of Development Department appointees.

Enclosed is that one page fact sheet.  Listen to friends / victims of the Development Department or consider an analysis from a person with a long record of achievement ON THE SIDE HE CLAIMS TO BE ON.

On general principals, I am also enclosing a zoning map of Harvard Square east of JFK Street.  All ‘OFFICE” and ‘RESIDENTIAL” zones, marked C and O, become lies, except for between Plympton and Banks below Mt. Auburn Street.  GAMES can be played..  For example, the Old Cambridge Baptist Church (OCBC) is all in the Harvard Square Overlay District because partially in it.  Another game which can be played is the discontinuation of streets by Cambridge for the benefit of Harvard.  Followed by merger of lots.

Areas of the Harvard Campus at the top are not in the district.  Nor are the areas other than OCBC above the C-2B and BB districts, or below the BB district to the right and below that VERY ENDANGERED AREA MARKED A.

The area marked A would become "Residence C-1" with retail and WITH LOT LINE TO LOT LINE CONSTRUCTION ALLOWED MINUS ALCOVES.

As with OCBC, the lot containing the 8-10 Mt. Auburn property in the A district at the corner of Banks extends by combined lots into the middle of private housing ON THREE SIDES.  There is even a narrow connector down to the western leg of Green Street.  Green Street is not marked.  It is parallel to Mt. Auburn running from Putnam and ending before Banks Street.  Double clicking greatly increases photo size and detail.  Double clicking is needed to see this part of the map.


4. I90 victories.

A little more relevant to this blog, but not to Harvard Square.

Both victories are related to the off ramp from Soldiers Field Road (the boulevard on the Boston side of the Charles) to the River Street Bridge (the next bridge west of the BU Bridge).  The ramp to that bridge from Soldiers Field Road has been a mess.

There are two lanes.  Most of the traffic goes to I90 by way of its current off ramps, to the Brighton neighborhood of Boston, and to Brookline.  The traffic is so heavy that this traffic dominates both lanes with a two lane left turn.  Significantly less traffic, but meaningful, goes to Cambridge up the right lane.  The backup onto Soldiers Field Road can be so heavy that a lot of Cambridge traffic goes to alternate routes in Cambridge.

Additionally, that left turn traffic also creates a very major traffic snarl on the inbound side of access roads to the Charles River and to  Soldiers Field Road eastbound.  The mess includes the access ramps to / from that side of the river and I90.  Needless to say, moving that traffic to the crossover I suggested creates a much simpler traffic situation and a very major improvement in the planned rebuild.

I, personally, have used the ramp from Soldiers Field Road when I lived in many parts of Cambridge, near Central Square, near Harvard Square, in North Cambridge, and in the westernmost part of Cambridge near Belmont.  Additionally a lot of traffic would go to the neighborhood west of River Street in Cambridge, with some going east of River Street.

I suggested that the left turn be closed and that this traffic be rerouted to the I90 project site and beyond to Brookline and Brighton before a hotel / industrial area east of the bridge.

This suggestion was rejected out of hand.  Supposedly because the I90 rebuild area did not extend to the River Street Bridge.  I lost contact on the dates of the working group  meetings.  The next meeting I had the particulars on and attended was a public meeting for Allston.  MassDOT had thought the matter over and created a very major change exactly where I suggested.  But they had closed the entire ramp to the River Street Bridge including the right turn to Cambridge.

My response was the only time I have ever seen a public comment interrupted by staff members.  I praised them for killing the left turn, but objected to their killing the right turn.  The meeting moderator was shocked.  Killing both turns had been supported by the representatives appointed by the Cambridge Development Department.

What killing the right turn did was reroute all the Cambridge traffic through the project site, as opposed to increasing traffic to Cambridge on the ramp by attracting people who were using alternate routes to avoid the mess on and related to the ramp. Actually, killing that right turn would increase alternate route traffic in Cambridge by making Soldiers Field Road even less attractive to get to Cambridge.

I did a lot more work to get that right turn reinstated than I did in the first place trying just to get the left turn killed.  That is the second victory mentioned in the communication in Section 3.

Here is the relevant part of the project as proposed now.

Here is a close up of the one Cambridge ramp reinstated.

Here is a close up showing the new crossover replacing the left turn (near the bottom).

Note how the crossover makes a direct connection to the new road structure being created in this area for Harvard’s RELOCATED facilities (Harvard Medical School, possible similar facilities, and former Harvard Square facilities), for I90 connections and for connection to Brighton and Brookline.  The surviving ramp is to the upper right.  The plans before my suggestion had both ramps with a much more complicated connection from the left turn into the area being created.

And to put everything in perspective, here is the official depiction of the I90 rebuild project taken from the latest public announcement.  This perspective is from near / above the Allston neighborhood of Boston.  At the upper middle is the area of Magazine Beach which has been the primary home for the Charles River White Geese for most of the last 39 years, but which the Cambridge City Council is making even less accessible for them.

This is the area where the nine members of the current Cambridge City Council are working to destroy 60 mostly excellent trees along with the Department of Conservation and Recreation.  It includes the area where the Charles River Poisoner blocked drainage for poisons first introduced by Cambridge and the DCR in the 2000's and created 2019's public health emergency of algae poisoning the Charles River.  Most recently, the outgoing City Council funded the Charles River Poisoner to do “environmental” work as part of their ongoing and increasing tree and environmental destruction and ramping up of the heartless animal abuse.

The BU Bridge can be seen to the right of the Magazine Beach depiction.  Above the point where the BU Bridge touches Cambridge is the foodless ghetto to which the Charles River White Geese are currently being heartlessly confined.  That tiny ghetto and its adjoining area are subject to separate outrage plans both from the Department of Conservation and Recreation and from the Cambridge City Council / City of Cambridge.

Planned AND ACCOMPLISHED tree destruction by the Cambridge City Council and the Department of Conservation and Recreation runs from almost the BU Bridge to slightly to the left of the structure, a private boat house, seen on the Cambridge side of the Charles River about 20% of the distance from the left edge of the depiction.  The area of the destruction that the Cambridge City Council supports and/or funds is truly massive.  But they do make lovely pious words and “regulations” targeted at the other guy.

They prove their irresponsibility in many ways including the latest financial reward for the Charles River Poisoner, while they very carefully do not want to know what they are doing..

The River Street Bridge is off the depiction to the upper left.

And, as stated in section 3, the apparent warping of a well intentioned proposal for Harvard Square by friends of the Development Department would add to environmental outrages by destruction in the Harvard Square area.