The good guys have a major victory.
The ongoing and increasing outrage on the Charles River stems from decades of outrageous behavior in the City of Cambridge. The core is the city’s Development Department, but they could not achieve these terrible things without the Friends of the Development Department running around fooling good people into doing very terrible things, while lying that they and their accomplices are defenders of the City of Cambridge. This outrage includes very much nonstop bragging and praising each other, IN GENERAL TERMS, of terrific records which very much do not exist.
I have stood up to this outrage with a lot of success, almost certainly more wins than losses.
At its latest committee hearing on the Harvard Square Upzoning, the Cambridge City Council gave those who love Cambridge a major win on some of the worst parts of the Harvard Square Upzoning. We need to clean up the rest.
As I repeatedly comment in my City Council / City Manager letter, reproduced below, it is my strong opinion that the most visible of the victims of this latest terrible situation are people trying to do good, but who have been subjected to fraud by the Cambridge Development Department and its Friends..
If you want to do good on develpment matters in the City of Cambridge, you have to keep as far as possible away from the Cambridge Development Department and their Friends. The very terrible aspects of this petition in Harvard Square are yet another example of good people being conned into achieving the opposite of their goals.
The following letter is being formally delivered to the Cambridge City Council on February 10, praising them for what they have done so far while asking them to go further than what they have done already to clean up this bad proposal.
The letter goes into detail putting this outrage in the context of very destructive people who have conned their way into too many outrages and mentions many of those outrages. The letter was received by the City Manager on Thursday, February 6, 2020.
I hope that the Cambridge City Council will clean up the dirty tricks foisted on this well meaning person so that the harm she is fighting for to the City of Cambridge will be reversed.
The reality is that it that the petition should be refiled. I recommend what I think should be done in the refiling.
The most blatant fraud is restated three times in different parts of the letter. I hope that makes the point adequately clear.
The City Council and City Manager should get aggressive on standing up to and should end this ongoing villainy. The river poisoning, massive tree destruction, habitat destruction and heartless animal abuse on the Charles River are just part of this very bad problem.
Included in the letter is one action which rather clearly seems to warrant firing.
Regrettably, I comment on some bad stuff in the petition on which I think the good guys are probably unable to win.
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RE: Harvard Square Upzoning Proposal (Blier and others), Ordinance Committee Changes.
Gentlemen / Ladies:
2. Business B only for the killing of meaningful FAR limits.
3. Putnam Square makes no Sense for Business B as part of the Harvard Square Overlay District with this upzoning.
4. Impact on Brattle Square Neighborhood.
(B) Story and Hilliard Streets.
(C) Two Churches.
5. Conversion of residential and office districts to frauds.
The City Council Ordinance Committee, a committee of the whole, met on January 30, 2020, to discuss the Harvard Square Upzoning.
There was one significant improvement made while some very significant bad parts remain. Perhaps the City Manager passed on to one or more City Councilors my letter filed earlier that day which was also sent to the City Council and is posted is posted in the city council complete agenda of Monday February 3, 2020 at Communication 1, Harvard Square Upzoning Proposal, destruction west of JFK Street, fully reproduced at http://cambridgema.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2187&Inline=True, pages 104 to 113.
If the City Manager did pass on that information, that forwarding is only part of the reasons why I note FAVORABLY the notice of the City Manager to the City Council that he would like to extend his contract beyond January 1, 2021.
2. Business B only for the killing of meaningful FAR limits.
One of the extremely bad changes noted in my letter has been modified downward. The wiping out of FAR requirements would no longer be combined with the massive retail upzoning to threaten the office and residential districts and the Business A district and their neighbors. It only applies to the Business B districts.
As such, it will greatly increase the size of many buildings currently at the largest they can build, BY MAKING THEM HIGHER OR WIDER. As is usual with Development Department influenced upzonings, this achieves the opposite of the goals of the principal advocate of the zoning change.
The croppings of the relevant parts of the City Wide overlay district and zoning maps are, in that order:
While the upzoning will create major infill construction, the big obvious negative changes from current zoning are in East Harvard Square and beyond, and in Brattle Square.
3. Putnam Square makes no Sense for Business B as part of the Harvard Square Overlay District with this upzoning.
Putnam Square at Putnam Avenue and Mt. Auburn Street has MAJOR IMPACT ON ABUTTING RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS. It is a good distance from the real Business B district. Harvard Square proper, separated by Residence C-3 (Harvard properties), Residence C-2B, Office 3, and Office 2 districts. This small Business B zoning districts directly abuts residence C-1 districts on three sides.
My omission of the area from two petitions, the East Harvard Square, and the La Trémouille Downzonings was deliberate. It came because this area was more densely developed than the adjoining areas on Mass. Ave. and side streets from the zoning we considered appropriate for the zoning changes we were proposing. But the Business B areas is not so far out of scale as to justify building strikingly large buildings POSSIBLY appropriate in core Harvard Square which is what the inclusion of this area in the Upzoning does. The omission of the application of the FAR exemption from the residential and office districts as the Upzoning currently stands, DRAMATICALLY points out the lack of appropriateness of Business B / Harvard Square Overlay District zoning for Putnam Square.
Here are the corresponding maps cropped.
The Overlay District map, below, runs from, upper left, Harvard Square proper to Putnam Square, lower right. The zoning map crop (next page) [ed: 2d] places the Business B area in the middle of the zoning map to clearly show just how much out of place that Business B district is.
The Business B solely commercial buildings generally do not even approaches the 80 foot maximum height subject to silly reviews.
The block on the north side of Mass. Ave. between Remington and Trowbridge contains a residential tower with much lower retail to allow a transition for the residential neighbors instead of a solid wall. The recently constructed building at the northwest corner of Trowbridge and Mass. Ave., by agreement between the two owners with BZA [Ed.: Board of Zoning Appeals] approval fills its lot. It has retail at the ground level with parking underneath and housing above. It is constructed to take advantage of the open space in the rear which is used as parking but as a buffer for the construction at Mass. Ave.
Both configurations were created with BZA approval.
The Overlay District applies Overlay rules to the entirety of any lot in the district in part or in whole. The lot for the tower building extends to adjoining residential lots on Remington and Trowbridge keeping sunlight available to the neighbors AS PART OF THE BZA DEALS under which they were built.
The Upzoning allows 80 foot high construction at those lotlines, destroying the carefully considerate construction, subject to silly reviews. Nonsensical 80 foot construction subject to silly reviews can fill the entire area which has deliberately kept open for sunlight for neighbors.
The Business B / Overlay District store building on the northeast corner of Trowbridge and Mass. Ave. has two retail floors and a parking lot providing the same sunlight and elbow room for the residential neighbors.
The office building on the southeast corner has a larger yard on the side toward the residential neighborhood. The next building to its east is in the irresponsible zoning area created by a friends of the Development Department. These guys were a rogue steering committee falsely claiming to represent a neighborhood association for whom I wrote the La Trémouille petition. This group was disavowed by their neighborhood association after the rogue group did its harm. The real neighborhood association with my participation did salvage responsible downzoning east of Hancock Street on Green Street.
The individual who bullied the Harvard Dorms out of the East Harvard Square Downzoning (“You have made your deal with the city council. Now you must negotiate with the planning board.”) was a member of the rogue steering committee. That “activist” was a member of the current “citizen group” until I disclosed his record. The chief zoning change person is achieving the opposite of many of her goals in this upzoning. BUSINESS AS USUAL WHEN DEALING WITH THE DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT AND ITS FRIENDS.
Building in the rogue steering committee’s zoning area deliberately was allowed to go to the south lotline. A resident of Green Street south of the construction area when it was still in the future went to the development department because of concern it could be built to the lotline.
The Development Department lied to the abutter. I explained the situation to the abutter and she got the rogue steering committee’s zoning modified to require a 20 foot yard.
The killing of the FAR limits combined with yard requirements allows the owner of the corner building to fill in this neighbor beneficial yard, every square foot, to a height of 80 feet subject to silly reviews DIRECTLY NEXT TO RESIDENTIAL C-1 PROPERTIES on Green Street, in addition to the existing large building occupying half the lot.
The responsible change in this area is to remove the Business B from the Harvard Square Overlay District. It is not Harvard Square. It should not be treated like Harvard Square. Similarly, the office and residential districts in the Harvard Square Overlay District should be removed from the Harvard Square Overlay District. Those properties are not retail. They have great historical and beauty value. They should not be destroyed for retail or to pay Harvard to move dorms to their coming I90 campus.
4. Brattle Square Neighborhood
In Brattle Square, the one story structure at the T entrance and two church buildings are certain to be destroyed. Other massive increases are likely in many infill projects increasing the size of existing buildings. To the best of my knowledge, the Development Department and its friends have kept REAL IMPACT AS SECRET AS POSSIBLE. The reality is that I feel the same toward the one story block. I like it and think it should stay. The powers that be have been trying to destroy it as long as I have been working on development issues, which dates back to 1976. I cannot win. That does not mean I like it.
The two churches are a different matter. As is the residentially zoned block of Brattle between Story and Hilliard.
BUSINESS AS USUAL COMING FROM DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT RELATED CHANGES.
Here is the Brattle Square portion of the Harvard Square Overlay District cropped from the Citywide overlay district map, and the Harvard Square Zoning cropped from the Citywide map.
Church Street shows at the top of the overlay district map. And to the right of the BA in the zoning map. The City Council is to be commended for removing Church Street from this upzoning.
(B) Story and Hilliard Streets.
The middle of the west (upper on overlay map, left on zoning map) side of Story Street is removed from the Harvard Square Overlay District because it is obviously not part of Harvard Square proper.
BUT the block of Mount Auburn Street below that opening on the zoning map is in the Overlay District. That block is also 100% residential, nice residential. “Somebody” lied that the Overlay District provides protection. Development Department, friends of the Development Department or both.
This block is, horrors, on Mt. Auburn Street and therefor is changed from Residential Zoning to FRAUDULENT residential zoning with Retail as of right. Part of the fraud involved in this upzoning is the language which makes a property allowed to be retail is that the “main entrance” is on one of the magic streets. So a strip mall can be created with the main entrance on Mt. Auburn Street in the location of one of these excellent houses, and stretching as far up the RESIDENTIAL SIDE OF STORY STREET as the developer can put together. Once the parcel is put together can be merged as one lot. The Overlay District says that any lot which is both in and out of the Overlay District is FULLY IN THE OVERLAY DISTRICT.
So that side of Story street with residential zoning now has FALSE residential zoning, thanks to this upzoning. THE SAME APPLIES TO HILLIARD STREET. C-2 on Story allows 65 feet, reduced to 60 with silly reviews raising to 80 feet. That part of Hilliard is Residence B
And there is the crucial fraud, as usual.
The key zoning paragraph, 20.54.3 paragraph 1, allows retail AS OF RIGHT on the selected streets. After this paragraph, there are three pages of lovely and ALMOST TOTALLY FAKE “protections.” They are almost totally fake because almost all residential and office districts are on the magic streets or subject to the merger games on Story and Hilliard Street. Immediately following the crucial sentence appear the following words:
“For all other lots. . .”
Typical of zoning proposals from Development Department and friends, you have two REAL SENTENCES followed by THREE PAGES OF, FOR ALL MEANINGFUL PURPOSES, FRAUD.
(C) The two DOOMED churches.
The Brattle Theater has been deconsecrated since before I returned in Cambridge, my place of birth. It appears on the above maps as follows: On the overlay district map, below Church Street on Brattle Street. On the zoning map the second of two small buildings to the right of Church Street (marked BA).
That horrible word is regularly used with regard to the EXTREMELY VALUABLE Brattle Theatre, “Underutilized.” Well it is in Business B with NO FAR LIMITS UP TO 80 FEET SUBJECT TO FAKE REVIEWS. How long will it last?
The second probably doomed Church. This appears on the Zoning Map below and across the street from “BB” with Winthrop Park, marked OS between it and JFK Street. On the Overlay District map, it is blue in the lower right corner. It already has retail uses, Grendel’s Den and Peet’s Coffee, at minimum. I am not certain if it is deconsecrated. It looks still in service. Clearly increasing its value if destroyed does not say much for its future. The blue color MAY indicates Harvard ownership, but there are a number of errors in coloring in the map.
For the record, I did the writing which responded with the first relatively small lot open space district, in the Maple Avenue Downzoning, on the corner of Marie Avenue. My petitioners were smart enough that they knew better than to trust the always present friends of the Development Department. They achieved what they wanted to achieve in a zoning proposal which was very careful to create a district which had property appropriate for the new district. I have seen at least one open space proposal negatively impacted in a key way by friends of the Development Department.
The exemption from FAR up to 80 feet with silly reviews combined with the retail upzoning could be crucial in the destruction of these churches.
The Brattle Theater building is certain to be destroyed. Also probable for destruction is the church fronting on Winthrop Park. Both are excellent structures which are of great value to Harvard Square and should not be destroyed.
5. Conversion of office and residential districts to frauds.
Continuation of destruction of the office and retail districts would destroy the core character of Harvard Square, including the most loved newish building in Harvard Square, the former Inn at Harvard, WITH ITS TREES AND OPEN SPACE. It will destroy the collection of historical structures in the Mass. Ave. - Bow - Arrow triangle, plus the historical structures to their east, five historical buildings on Mt. Auburn near Putnam, and a block full of residential structures on both sides of Mt. Auburn Street west of the Post Office, and destroy the Harvard Dining Club buildings on Mt. Auburn Street or which could be combined with a lot on Mt. Auburn Street.
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My estimate that the Inn at Harvard will continue to be destroyed comes from the nature of retail use. Retail uses beloved by the Development and friends routinely destroy yards and build to the lotline. Nothing complicated about it. The retail fanatics, without mentioning it, routinely destroy yards and trees.
[ed: the following photos were presented on the right side of the page with the text on the right side, doomed buildings.]
The Mass. Ave. face could be assumed to be destroyed (one of the magic streets), and the Harvard Street face destroyed to maintain a similar pattern, while having the front entrance on Mass. Ave. The building was constructed with a large atrium. Without the retail upzoning, Harvard could most likely build in the atrium for added floor space while keeping within FAR limits. The retail upzoning rewards and encourages destroying the excellent Mass. Ave. and Harvard Street faces, trees and open space. Total destruction of the building would be likely with the FAR nonsense.
See my letter made part of the City Council meeting on November 16, 2019, Communication 1, pages 298 to 323 of the Complete Agenda at http://cambridgema.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2164&Inline=True.
I understand that word is out that the City Council, by paying Harvard for retail conversions of dorms with this zoning change, is paying Harvard to move the side street dorms to Harvard’s coming I90 campus. The big destruction (not counting infill) will be, first of all, destruction of the excellent Inn at Harvard, followed by the excellent Mass. Ave. - Bow - Arrow block, ESPECIALLY CONVERSION OF THE VERY LARGE RESIDENTIAL BUILDING followed by the side street dorms starting with Bow Street and moving westward to Smith Center. Dining clubs on Mt. Auburn can follow, probably with the Hillel House.
Encouraged destruction spreads through the Office-2 district both on Mass. Ave. and on Mt. Auburn including the historical building between the O-2 district and the back of 2 Arrow Street.
Once again, destruction of housing is exactly the opposite of a principal goal of the most visible advocate, but this is a Development Department related zoning change, so well meaning people NORMALLY achieve the opposite of their goals if they have been fooled into trusting the Development Department and their friends.
The key fraud is the proposed section 20.54.3 paragraph 1 (as originally submitted). This section destroyed the residential and office districts. There are THREE PAGES OF NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS.” The three pages of NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” apply to almost no part of the Harvard Square Overlay District. This is, of course, insofar as silly reviews have any real protective value at all. I remember the three historical buildings replaced by 2 Arrow Street.
The sentence which belies the NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” is the first sentence of paragraph 1 followed by the beginning of the second sentence. Sentence 1 destroys the residential and office districts for buildings with front doors on stated streets. The beginning of sentence two is;
[Ed: Text large, surrounded by thick lined bold box.]
“For all other lots.”The three pages of NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” VERY CLEARLY APPLY TO ‘ALL OTHER LOTS’ THAN LOTS WHICH CAN HAVE MAIN ENTRANCES ON THE STATED STREETS.
So the three pages on NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” apply to almost no properties, and even THE VERY SMALL NUMBER OF LOTS to which the three pages of NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” are applicable commonly can evade the NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” by joining lots and having the main entrance on one of the stated streets.
One example of the joining lots game would be the Residence C-2 zoned residential properties on Story Street which could be merged with the residential properties zoned C-2 on Mt. Auburn Street (one of the magic streets) west of the Post Office. That “main entrance” on Mt. Auburn Street thus becomes the reason to destroy these excellent and valuable examples of housing. A skinny building with a tiny face containing the “main entrance” and NONSENSICAL “PROTECTIONS” disappear.
The same game applies on the eastern side of the next street, Hilliard Street, albeit with Residence B zoning on the side street.
Another such example is in the Dining Houses district in which, with street abandonment of Winthrop Street, a FOURTH church (University Lutheran Church) could be destroyed / converted. This would bring churches in the Harvard Square Overlay District, consecrated or otherwise, down from six churches to two THREATENED churches (Old Cambridge Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Catholic Church) until those congregations decide to take their profits from the upzoning and run. Interim changes in the two could involve combining retail construction with religious use, as could be done with the church next to the Harvard Dining Houses. The Harvard Dining Houses church (the University Lutheran Church) and Hillel House could move to Harvard’s I90 campus as first floor uses.
An excellent example of what can happen if a congregation decides they must take very generous money is the destruction after 50 or 60 years of the magnificent Massachusetts Bay headquarters of The Salvation Army formerly across from the headquarters of the Boston Police Department. The latter has also been given up on by its now former municipal owners for big profits. The City of Boston did save the Police Headquarters building from destruction. The Salvation Army, after MORE THAN A CENTURY in Boston, gave up on having its Massachusetts Bay headquarters in Boston for a modern building in the suburbs.
Here are AFTER photos of the 50 year or so Massachusetts Bay Headquarters of The Salvation Army taken from Columbus Avenue and from Berkeley Street. The building beyond the replacement on Berkeley was formerly taller (not much) than The Salvation Army building. The building seen from Columbus Avenue in the distance and slightly to the right is the Park Plaza Hotel. The nearer building on Columbus Avenue, visible in the Berkeley Street picture, was slightly lower than The Salvation Army headquarters building. The line at the top of the street faces is probably comparable to what is rewarded in the Harvard Square Overlay district before silly reviews. The Salvation Army headquarters had a private parking lot with frontage on Columbus Avenue about the same size as the building’s footprint.
The now destroyed headquarters building of The Salvation Army, in a similar use to possible relocation of churches forced out by the upzoning, included a church on the first floor. First floor churches would likely be done with moves to high rises in the I90 campus. Hopefully, churches moved to I90 would survive on a larger scale than the lovely little church in the Massachusetts Bay headquarters of The Salvation Army. But the opposite of value for Harvard Square would be created by the destruction of churches in this upzoning.
What should be done with the residential and office districts in the Harvard Square Overlay District? Remove them from the Harvard Square Overlay district. That would save Harvard Square from the worst of the raping proposed with the usual word games giving false impressions.
Friends of the Development Department do not want people to look at it, but “For all other lots” is in there and “For all other lots” renders those three lovely but silly pages even more meaningless.
A related improvement would be to remove the to be separated Business B district at Putnam Square from the Harvard Square Overlay District, and thus prevent adding of floors under the FAR games from impacting the abutting residential areas in Riverside and Mid-Cambridge.
This zoning petition fits a distressing pattern. People who have goals they want to achieve are best advised to keep away from the Development Department, NO MATTER HOW LOUDLY FRIENDS OF THE DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT TELL THEM TO DO SO.
The Cambridge City Council has spent millions on development consultants who should not have had to be hired.
The fact that they have been hired is a display from the Cambridge City Council of the lack of confidence the Cambridge City Council, FOR GOOD CAUSE, has in the Cambridge Development Department.
The way to intelligently develop Cambridge is to hire responsible people in the Development Department and ignore the Development Department rubber stamps in the community. A good way to recognize the rubber stamps is to look at the real behavior of the supposed protective groups recognized as responsible by this irresponsible department. It is not a certain way, but a useful way.
An excellent example of apparent rubber stamps is the recent funding of the Charles River Poisoner by the Cambridge City Council for ENVIRONMENTAL ADVICE ON THE CHARLES RIVER based on the recommendation of the Development Department through yet another skillfully controlled committee. The Charles River Poisoner is playing a key part in the ongoing destruction of 300 to 400 trees and animal habitat on the Charles River. Additionally, the poisoning of the Charles River itself is yet another reason to condemn the Development Department for recommending her.
The City of Cambridge, funded by the Cambridge City Council on Development Department advice, hired a woman to do environmental work on the Charles River who created a PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY on the Charles River.
I promptly objected to this PUBLIC HEALTH OUTRAGE to the Cambridge City Council and followed up.
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Algae accumulates in the Charles River off Magazine Beach resulting from DCR / Cambridge poisons being rerouted into the Charles
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The particular paid task for the Charles River Poisoner is to prepare grounds for the destruction of the excellent grove of trees across Memorial Drive from MicroCenter. She is destroying parking. The Department of Conservation and Recreation excuse for destroying these PARTICULAR excellent trees WITH HER ASSISTANCE is to replace the parking she is destroying and other parking.
This destruction is part of the ongoing destruction of 300 to 400 mostly excellent trees on the Charles River, plus animal habitat, with her smack in the middle. Excuses tend to vary with what the other person will swallow or what can successfully be kept secret through Company Union tactics.
An excellent reason to fire people.
In my individual capacity, I will go into further analysis of the Harvard Square upzoning in a later letter or letters.
And remember, the Development Department in its presentation of the zoning history of Harvard Square to the Planning Board omitted the zoning change, passed against the recommendation of the bureaucracy, which created much of the zoning now proposed to be destroyed. That Development Department kept secret that activist initiative, with key changes initiated by the City Council, which resulted in the East Harvard Square Downzoning. I participated in a key capacity in that change. Plus I have many other major successful initiatives in Harvard Square, on Massachusetts Avenue and on nearby streets.
You have made a good improvement. Please do more.
Robert J. La Trémouille
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The official record of this letter is published in City of Cambridge records at http://cambridgema.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2194&Inline=True, pages 140 to 148.
There is a doubling of three lines in the official version apparently due to overworking my word processor with all the graphics. I spent hours cleaning up the results of the overload on the application. I finally had to separate the letter into two files to stop the phantom elements. I missed that one. I hope the phantom nature of the duplication is adequately obvious.