In lieu of a regular meeting the City Council will hold a Roundtable discussion on Mon., Oct. 22 from 5:30-7:30pm to hear an update on the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process. The meeting will be televised and live-streamed on the Open Meeting Portal, but there will not be any public comment period and no votes will be taken. It is intended to be an informal working meeting.
Envision is a holistic planning effort that began almost three years ago and has convened several topic-specific working groups and many community meetings to try to develop a better understanding of our shared goals and priorities for land use, economic development, transportation and connectivity, open space, community wellness, sustainability, and housing.
A plan for overall housing production, and the addition of more housing that is subsidized to be “affordable” to a range of incomes, is only one aspect of Envision’s scope. Lately the presentation of three so-called scenarios related to housing has become synonymous with “Envision.” That is unfortunate — and has led to considerable confusion and outright alarm in some quarters — because housing growth cannot be viewed in a vacuum without considering the over 150 other Envision draft recommendations and how they might complement and support each other, or possibly even work at cross-purposes. The three scenarios presented (the 100% affordable housing overlay, a “super-inclusionary” density bonus, and a density bonus for Net Zero emissions before 2025) are not formal zoning proposals, nor are they even staff recommendations to turn into zoning language. In my view they are more along the lines of analytical thought experiments that are being run up the flag pole for the public’s consideration in response to perennial questions about the supply and demand for housing in our increasingly desirable city.
I have heard from many residents who have posed thoughtful questions about whether these scenarios would actually work to achieve the goals they set or might instead have unintended consequences. I will continue to listen to your suggestions and comments, but I ask that everyone please consider the fact that this is a collaborative process and encourage each other to tamp down some of the overheated rhetoric. Cooler heads will be needed to maintain a civil dialogue about a complex challenge (accommodating and managing population growth) that is, at root, deeply personal (who can afford to live in Cambridge, and where and how?) and in order to make progress and improvements.
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA