On Monday, April 9th the Cambridge City Council will hold a roundtable meeting to discuss the Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Plan (CCPR) for the Alewife area. The roundtable, which will take place at City Hall from 5:30-7:30pm, will be televised and live-streamed as usual, but there will not be a public comment period, and we will not take any votes. See agenda packet.
This will be the first opportunity for the Council to discuss the recommendations in the CCPR plan, which was released for public comment in late 2017 and builds on the prior two Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments (Part I projected the impact of increased precipitation and extreme heat, and Part II projected seal level rise and storm surge impacts). The risk projections go out to 2070. All of this work will inform the recommendations for land use and infrastructure in the Envision Alewife plan, which is nearing completion as the first phase of the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process. The Envision Climate and Environment Working Group will meet on Tuesday, April 10th (6-8pm) at City Hall Annex, and the Envision Alewife Working Group will meet on Thursday, April 12th (6-8pm) at the West Cambridge Youth Center. A City Council roundtable has been announced to discuss the Envision plan on Monday, June 11th (5:30-7:30pm).
Overview of the CCPR
Having identified the low-lying area around Alewife and Fresh Pond as highly vulnerable to flooding and as urban heat islands, the CCPR is an action plan to build resiliency along four lines: community, buildings, infrastructure and ecosystems. Recommended actions in each would be evaluated by seven criteria: impact, cost, equity, wellness, feasibility, integration with Net Zero and Envision, and sustainability. Some of the recommendations are shorter-term local actions, and some would require regional partnerships over the longer term to protect critical assets such as the Alewife T station and the commuter rail line, the Eversource electric sub-station, our water supply at Fresh Pond (at risk by 2050), our Emergency Operations Center, the Alewife Reservation, and residents especially those in the more than 400 affordable units (at risk by 2030).
Zoning Petition in Response to the CCPR
The CCPR presents a complex set of risks for the City and its residents to balance with the cost and feasibility of adaptations, while working simultaneously to reduce our carbon footprint and to chart a sustainable growth trajectory. Just since the release of the CCPR about 1.5million square feet of new development have been permitted or are in the permitting pipeline in the Alewife area, so in response a group of residents filed a petition to amend the existing zoning for an expanded Flood Plain Overlay District (Section 20.70) to require more resilient buildings. The group also drafted new zoning (Section 22.80) that requires larger new buildings in the Flood Plain Overlay to attain a minimum “Green Factor” score that would ensure more resilient landscaping and permeable open space (green infrastructure) to better manage stormwater and provide cooling and shading benefits to the community. You can read more about the petition here. The petition will be on the agenda for the City Council’s next regular meeting on Monday. April 23rd and from there will go to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for further discussions.
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA