Protecting Our Right to Civic Expression

Dear Cambridge City Councilors:

We are writing with regard to the proposal by the Chair of the Government Operations Committee to introduce a new rule restricting public comment. There is currently no rule regarding the length of public comment at council meetings, only a general practice. The proposed rule, as we understand it, would reduce the length of public comment from three minutes to two when there are fewer than fifty Cambridge residents who wish to speak and would limit public comment to one minute when more than 50 residents wish to speak. We believe this proposal violates basic norms of democratic governance and the city charter, and that it should be withdrawn.

The City Charter states that Except in the cases of executive sessions authorized by section twenty-three A of chapter thirty-nine, all meetings of the city council shall be open to the press and to the public, and the rules of the city council shall provide that citizens and employees of the city shall have a reasonable opportunity to be heard at any such meeting in regard to any matter considered thereat (c. 43, sec. 98). A standard rule of thumb for public speaking is that one can deliver approximately 110 words in the course of a minute– in other words, this paragraph would be six seconds too long. Such a blanket restriction of public participation clearly violates the "reasonable opportunity" standard.

The proposed rule was first discussed at a hearing in the Government Operations Committee where public comment was not permitted at all. The arrogance of the rule was thus baked in during its process of development. This is completely unacceptable. The usual practice in committees has been to allow five minutes for public comment, which properly allows residents to express themselves in more depth. Comment in committees should continue to be up to five minutes.  

It is not only the hearings of the Council and its committees where restrictions are being placed summarily on public participation. The Mayor recently presided over a School Committee meeting where she invoked a rule that when more than 20 people wish to speak, their time allotment can be reduced to two minutes. She then proceeded to interrupt the speakers, insisting that the Committee rules forbid mentioning individual school employees, or even individual schools, by name. 

In fact, nowhere in the committee rules is there a prohibition on the naming of individuals. Such a prohibition would be illegal. A major SJC ruling in March 2023 in Barron v. Kolenda held that “civility restraints on the content of speech at a public comment session in a public meeting are forbidden” by the assembly provision of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. And therefore, Cambridge parents who were deeply concerned (and even emotional) about their childrens’ experience in Cambridge Public Schools, were incorrectly cut off, told that their comments were “inappropriate,” and led to believe that their experiences are irrelevant to CPS school policies. 

Since the city of Cambridge was incorporated in 1846, much has been contributed by its residents to the theory and practice of democracy around the world. However, we must practice what we preach. The state of our municipal democracy must reflect our political commitments. Interference in attempts by ordinary citizens to communicate with their elected representatives directly in City Council meetings contradicts those commitments. We must remind the Council that participation in our municipal politics is already very low. Is cutting off those residents who do wish to be engaged really the way to go about improving this state of affairs?

Public comment is a cherished right in Cambridge City Council meetings. It is a democratic right that must be preserved in a meaningful way. This is something that should be understood by residents when they run for office in Cambridge.  It is entirely understandable that if there are many speakers, time adjustments can be made so that all have a chance to contribute. But such limits must be reasonable and must be applied in a way that respects the basic right to have one’s views heard in important public forums. The hostility shown by some Councilors to public comment is deeply troubling.

We therefore urge the council to reject the proposed rule and instead allow three minutes for public comment unless there are more than 50 people who wish to speak, in which case public comment should be restricted to two minutes.


The Executive Committee of the

Board of Directors of the Cambridge Residents Alliance


Honoring and Celebrating Quinton Zondervan and Dennis Carlone

More than 75 Cambridge Residents alliance supporters turned out for our Holiday Party honoring Qunton and Dennis. State Rep Mike Connolly was eloquent as the Master of Ceromonies: Photos below by Phyllis Bretholz; ofMike; Group portrait; Phyllis presenint bouquet to CResA President Lee Farris; Quinton Zondervan; a table of supporters:Mike_C_-B363AA11-7112-4095-AD2C-EC7BD2C87DCA_1_105_c.jpg





Outcome of the 2023 City Council election:

    Four of the eight candidates endorsed by the Cambridge Residents Alliance won election in the recent City Council election.  We congratulate Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Councilor Patty Nolan, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, and Ayesha Wilson on their success and look forward to working for those programs and solutions we jointly support.

    We are disappointed that Ayah Al-Zubi, Doug Brown, Dan Totten, and Vernon Walker were not elected.  They ran energetic and idea-filled campaigns, and we know they will continue to bring their voices and commitments to the City and The Cambridge Residents Alliance.

    We continue to believe it is important that councilors not accept donations from large developers doing business within the city.We will continue our work to enact the vision for Cambridge expressed in our current Platform.  We prioritize affordable housing and homeownership for low and moderate income people and the unhoused over market-driven luxury or commercial construction. We support public safety through community-led programs. We aim to be environmental stewards for climate-friendly buildings, open spaces, and sustainable transit. We value human rights and economic/racial/gender justice as core strengths of Cambridge into the future. We envision wide-ranging educational/cultural opportunities and care services across the life span for all residents.

    We will resume holding community forums on important issues facing Cambridge.  We are more determined than ever to lift up diverse community voices to shape the direction of our city.  Please contact us with your ideas for forums or other ways you would like to be involved.

    We appreciate your activism and donations during the election.  We ask that you support our educational work in the coming year by donating to the Cambridge Residents Alliance.  Thank you in advance for your support!  Together we will build a Livable, Affordable, and Diverse Cambridge.


Lee Farris, Jonathan King, Richard Goldberg, and Shelley Rieman,

Officers of the Cambridge Residents Alliance


The Cambridge Residents Alliance Announces Endorsements for the 2023 City Council Election

     The Cambridge Residents Alliance (CResA) announces our endorsed candidates for the 2023 City Council election.  These eight candidates are committed to a Cambridge which prioritizes affordable housing and homeownership for low- and moderate-income people and the unhoused instead of luxury housing or commercial construction. Our candidates will uphold human rights and public safety through community-led programs and increased accountability through charter reform. They will be bold environmental stewards for climate-friendly buildings, open spaces and trees, and sustainable, equitable traffic and transit programs. They believe in comprehensive care and education options for every generation. Theses candidates care deeply about the economic and racial diversity that is the core strength of Cambridge in the past and into the future.

     We believe these candidates have the values, commitments and experience to meet the challenges of these times as members of the Cambridge City Council. They do not accept campaign donations from large developer and corporate interests seeking benefits from the City Council and public boards.

     We encourage you to get involved in supporting these 8 candidates, and we will follow up soon with ways you can take action for a progressive majority on the City Council. The first way you can help is to donate to our Democracy for Cambridge PAC- click here. That will enable us to print literature and yard signs. (CResA has created the Democracy for Cambridge Political Action Committee as a vehicle to raise funds to inform residents of our electoral priorities.) We also encourage you to share this email widely with your friends and neighbors.

     The Cambridge Residents Alliance endorsees, in alphabetical order, are:

Ayah Al-Zubi  is a young Muslim Arab woman and resident of Cambridgeport. As an educator in ESL and leadership and confidence-building skills, she has taught hundreds of students domestically and internationally. She believes when we invest in people, especially youth, we can make a powerful difference. She immigrated to the US from Jordan at a young age, and Cambridge has become her cherished home. She is running for City Council because she is determined to address critical issues such as affordable housing, public safety, climate justice, accessible transportation, and education, especially how they impact marginalized communities.


Doug Brown  is a longtime neighborhood leader and first-time candidate for office.  Doug, a stay-at-home dad, is running on a platform of helping families by controlling housing costs, expanding childcare and after-school options, improving bike safety, and supporting local businesses. He has played a key role in Alewife rezoning, co-chaired the Climate Zoning Task Force, advocated for the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway as Friends of the Greenway founder, and authored a citywide zoning petition to end exclusionary zoning and simplify approvals for small properties. He is an officer of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance. Doug is also an avid cyclist and youth sports coach.


Patty Nolan (incumbent) was twice endorsed by the Residents Alliance and is seeking a third term on the Council. She brings long-term commitments to good governance and accountability and a history of climate activism. Patty has been a highly effective Councilor on groundbreaking climate legislation this term. She stands up for affordable housing with a focus on workforce/middle income housing and home ownership. As Finance Co-Chair, she held the first ever early public hearings on the city budget. Her 14 years on the School Committee led her to advocate for Universal Pre-K, afterschool for all, and algebra for all 8th graders. 


Sumbul Siddiqui (incumbent) brings her background as a legal aid attorney to the City Council. She immigrated to the US from Pakistan, was raised in Cambridge affordable housing, and graduated from Cambridge Public Schools. She earned a public policy degree from Brown University and a law degree from Northwestern Law. Now in her third term on the Council, as Mayor she has led on efforts like RISE UP Cambridge, which provides $500 a month to low-income families, the Early College Program with Lesley University, and the Cambridge Promise Pilot for community college students. She is committed to combating climate change and creating more affordable housing in the community. 


Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler  served on the City Council in 2020-2021 and worked on legislation to create more open space and affordable housing, ban tear gas, and increase linkage fees on corporations. Since then, he has been working as the New England Progressive Governance Director for the Working Families Party, where he works with state & local elected officials across the region. He is fighting for a municipal alternative to Comcast for internet, afterschool slots for 100% of Cambridge kids that need them, and stronger tenant protections. He is a renter, an organizer, and the son of an immigrant, and lives with his partner and their cat in Cambridgeport.


Dan Totten  is a queer renter from Central Square and a democratic socialist running to continue Councilor Zondervan’s legacy of progress. In his 6 years as Quinton’s aide, Dan helped hundreds of residents navigate housing and homelessness while advancing key legislative priorities. He is proud to have worked with the Residents Alliance on numerous initiatives, including raising linkage fees to fund affordable housing, passing the Green New Deal for Cambridge, and restricting biotech development in Central Sq. Dan started community organizing in 2016 when, galvanized by Bernie Sanders’ first campaign & terrified by the looming Trump presidency, he left his biomedical research job and became Quinton’s first campaign manager.


Vernon K. Walker  is a Democratic State Committee Member and Climate Justice Program Director at Clean Water Action. He is an advocate for climate action, racial justice, and inclusive representation. Vernon is an Inclusionary housing tenant and will fight for the implementation of rent stabilization, creation of more affordable housing, police accountability and safer streets. Coming from humble beginnings in a Philadelphia housing project, he is now a graduate student at Tufts University. In 2022, he joined the Charles River Watershed Association Advisory Board. Additionally, he was appointed by the city council to serve on the initial screening committee for Cambridge City Manager candidates.


Ayesha M. Wilson is a product of Cambridge public schools and public housing. After 4 years on the School Committee, Ayesha is running for City Council because she knows that when people have safe, stable, and affordable housing, they can contribute to our communities like she has. Ayesha’s top priorities are affordable housing, universal after school, mental health resources, elder services, and public safety. As a social worker, Ayesha is open to many policy tools that meet the broader needs of our most oppressed individuals and families. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the YWCA Cambridge and Secretary of the NAACP Cambridge.


     As you know, the Cambridge Residents Alliance is an all-volunteer citywide organization formed in 2012 to work for a livable, affordable and diverse Cambridge by fighting the displacement and gentrification that have accompanied the city’s rapidly rising housing prices. The Alliance has over 1800 supporters and is a 501c4 non-profit corporation registered in Massachusetts. It holds educational forums on community issues and encourages residents to get involved in civic life.  Our full 2023 platform can be found on our website:

We encourage you to donate to our election work here.   You can also mail a check made out to Democracy for Cambridge to Jonathan King, 40 Essex St. Cambridge MA 02139.

Thanks for taking action,

Phyllis Bretholtz, Lee Farris, Richard Goldberg, Jonathan King, Shelley Rieman, and John Roberts:

Members of the Executive Committee of the Cambridge Residents Alliance






Cambridge Residents Alliance

Cambridge Residents Alliance · PO Box 390487, Cambridge, MA 02139, United States

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Letter from State Senator Pat Jehlen

First, I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving.  It seems strange that the best way to show love to family and friends this year is to avoid seeing them in person.  The news about vaccines may give us hope that we can be together again.  

Meanwhile, too many people can only provide food and shelter for their families by working at jobs at nursing homes, or grocery stores or other dangerous environments.  And they then put their families at risk: the most common site of transmission is within households.  That's why we've worked so hard in the past few weeks to prevent evictions, which can cause people to have to double up even more, increasing the spread.

Senate passes FY2021 budget

Last week, the Senate passed its budget for the rest of FY21, several months late because of so much uncertainty about revenue and federal aid.  The chart to the right is from MassBudget, which is always the best source of information on the budget process.  I will just mention a few issues people wrote about and that I worked on.

The process this year was very fast because it was so late, and the Senate and House Ways and Means committees tried to ensure there would not be big differences to resolve.  The conference committee is trying to finalize the budget next week, resolving any of those differences.

They also tried to avoid "outside sections" of policy for the same reason, but there were a couple of big exceptions.

Most of the hundreds of people who wrote to us about the budget were writing about policy issues, since there was little room to add funding for programs in a very tight budget.

Many people wrote in favor, and others in opposition, of the ROE Act amendment.  It would allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a diagnosed fatal fetal anomaly and lower the age above which a woman can seek the procedure without parental or court approval from 18 to 16.  Both House and Senate passed versions of the ROE Act as part of the budget, in both cases by veto-proof margins. 

Many also wrote opposing increased funding for the Department of Correctionsand urging support for a amendment (325) that was adopted, requiring COVID testing of inmates and requiring the Department using tools like home confinement and medical parole to release inmates when it's safe to do so.  One woman offered to house an inmate if he were released.  A week ago, WBUR reported that MCI Norfolk had 178 COVID cases.  The state has reported 12 current clusters with 401 cases in prisons. 

Many people asked us to cancel MCAS for the school year.  I agree: learning time is even more precious this year than usual, and spending it on testing and test prep wastes that resource, especially if students are required to take tests in person.  The tests will be even less meaningful than usual, and even more than usual will mostly measure students' family resources.  This amendment was among those not taken up because it was a policy issue, but I expect it will be filed again as a bill next session, and I expect to support it.

Another popular issue was Emergency Sick Leave, which would  provide ten additional work-days of job-protected paid sick time during the COVID-19 outbreak to workers not covered by federal paid sick time protections.   I cosponsored the amendment, and had previously worked to report the bill favorably from the Labor and Workforce Development Committee and it's now before the Ways and Means Committee.  But along with other policy proposals, it was not taken up in the budget debate.

Sports Gambling was also not taken up, though many people wrote in support.

It was important to take up some policy issues because of the pandemic and its consequences.  During the weeks since the eviction/foreclosure moratorium expired on October 17, my staff and I have focused on ways prevent people becoming homeless in the midst of a pandemic surge and the middle of winter, at a time when many have lost their jobs and income and their unemployment benefits are about to expire. Many of you wrote about the problem, and - while we hoped for more - I was pleased that the Senate adopted some important improvements.  I will write more about that next week.  (You can see previous newsletters about it herehere and here.)

The Senate adopted my amendment to allow payment extensions to the unemployment trust fund for nonprofits who have had layoffs because of Covid19. This language is critical to the stability of nonprofits that have never experienced this level of unemployment.

The Senate also adopted my amendment to protect restaurants from predatory practices of delivery companies that use restaurants' logos and menus without permission.  More on that next week too.

Till then,
Stay safe, stay in touch, and have the best possible Thanksgiving.

Towards a Vision of Student Health, Wellness, and Racial Justice in Cambridge Public Schools: A Community Conversation

Wednesday, September 23rd,7:00 – 8:30pm

            In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and historic racial justice uprisings, public education in Cambridge is at a crossroads. The pandemic has exacerbated existing education disparities faced by our city’s students of color, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and those who live in affordable housing. Our MCAS driven education system continues to perpetuate racial inequality and narrow the curriculum during a time when our schools need to prioritize student health and wellness now more than ever. After tireless advocacy efforts by a coalition of educators and families, the district has shifted from a riskier hybrid model to fully remote education for older students and delayed opening for other students until mid-October.

            Please join us for a conversation with key education leaders about their collective vision for a community-driven, anti-racist and equitable recovery in Cambridge Public Schools that puts the health and well-being of the whole child at the center of learning. We'll hear from a diverse panel of education advocates about what they need during this critical time and how to realize our vision and goals.


Ayesha Wilson is a member of the Cambridge School Committee, and is the product of the Cambridge Public Schools. With over 18 years of service in human services and youth work, she is an advocate for children and is passionate about empowering students and parents to use their voices. Ayesha currently develops youth programs with the Cambridge Housing Authority’s ‘The Work Force’ Program, and is Secretary of the Cambridge Branch of the NAACP.

BetsyPrevalpic.pngBetsy Preval is a director for the National Education Association in Massachusetts. She began her career in education as a paraprofessional and just finished her 8th year as an English teacher in Cambridge. She is a cultural proficiency facilitator and a union representative, serving on the Cambridge Education Association’s Executive Board, as part of the Unit A/B Collective Bargaining Team, the Political Action Committee, and the Educators of Color Coalition Leadership Team. She is also an active member in Educators for a Democratic Union, a caucus of union educators in Massachusetts. At her core, she is an anti-racist union educator and advocates for social justice education, promoting systemic equitable policies, collaborates with community partners, and works to lift up the voices of marginalized educators, students, and families.

Kini Udovicki was born and raised in Cambridge. She has functioned as school adjustment counselor for the last 19 years, and has worked at the Cambridge Street Upper School since 2012. She is a Cultural Proficiency Seminar Facilitator at CSUS. Additionally, Kini Co-founded Friday Night Hype, a mentoring program for Cambridge youth, aiming to reduce the opportunity gap.

LeoLeo_IMG_2367.jpg Austin-Spooner (he/him/his), is excited to begin his senior year at CRLS. At school, he is one of the co-presidents of the student body as well as co-president of Project 10-East, CRLS’s gender-sexuality alliance. This summer, he was a member of the Superintendent’s COVID-19 Task Force as well as the CPSD Student Task Force to help advocate for students during the school-reopening process. Outside of school, Leo can be found doing arts and crafts, working at a youth center, and taking care of his pets.

EMWPhoto.jpegEmie Michaud Weinstock is a Haitian, Black Mother of two.  As a founding organizer of Cambridge Families of Color Coalition, Emie works hand-in-hand with other caregivers of color to uplift, empower, celebrate and nurture children of color within the Cambridge Public School District. As a Coalition member, Emie advocates  for power-sharing and decision-making partnership with CPSD that is rooted in racial, social and economic equity. In her other capacities, Emie is a cross-sector attorney and entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience in social justice advocacy, organizational development and social impact marketing. 

Lisa_unnamed.jpgLisa Guisbond, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Schools. After many years as a writer and editor, Lisa became active as a parent in the statewide movement for testing reform and against public education privatization. Her writing on education has appeared in a range of publications, including USA Today, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, Commonwealth Magazine and the Bay State Banner.

Andrew King (Moderator) is a board member of Citizens for Public Schools, and a graduate of CRLS and Cambridge Public Schools. Drew is a PhD student at UMass Boston where he conducts research on community schools, the school-to-prison pipeline and education justice organizing.


Covid-19 Testing in The Port  

  The City of Cambridge announced that mobile testing will begin in The Port neighborhood today (Tuesday, May 19), and in all Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) senior buildings on Wednesday, May 20, expanding the City’s mobile testing capabilities among more vulnerable populations. The initiative, which is being funded by the City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and coordinated by the Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD), is a collaboration with the Broad Institute, the Cambridge Fire Department, Pro EMS, and other city partners.

     “As part of our efforts to support our residents, this expanded testing capacity will allow the City to reach more of our most vulnerable populations and provide a convenient testing option in one of the most impacted neighborhoods in the community,” said Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale in a joint statement. “We want to thank MIT for their commitment to The Port neighborhood and our vulnerable populations. This new pilot program will allow more Cambridge residents to have easy access to free testing, which will in turn help us reduce the spread of the coronavirus.”  

    “The more testing that we can conduct in our City, the more information we will have to better understand the infection rate at a given point in time and continue to mitigate the spread of COVID1-19,” said Claude A. Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer. “Testing in The Port and in senior housing is critical given data that indicate higher infection rates among people of color and seniors.”

    Testing in The Port is being conducted by Pro EMS and will take place at the Pisani Center, which is located at 131 Washington Street, and will be offered to 1) residents of The Port and all other Cambridge residents, and 2) individuals who are homeless and those who live in congregate settings such as single room occupancy facilities (SROs) and sober houses. Testing is voluntary and free of charge.  

Details of the testing include:

     For residents of The Port: Testing at the Pisani Center will be by appointment only and run from 12-8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, Thursday, May 21, and Saturday, May 23, as well as Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of next week (May 26, 28, and 30). Appointments can be made by phone at 617-665-3795 or online:

     For those experiencing homelessness and who live in congregate settings: Testing at the Pisani Center will be by appointment only and run from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, Thursday, May 21, and Saturday, May 23, as well as Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of next week (May 26, 28, and 30). Appointments will be scheduled by Cambridge service providers, who support and work with those who may be experiencing homelessness or live in congregate settings.

     Testing in CHA senior housing will take place as follows:

  • Wednesday, May 20, beginning at  9:00 a.m. at 15 Lambert Street 
  • Thursday, May 21, beginning at 9:00 a.m. at 5 Temple Street,  7 Temple Street, and 55 Essex Street (contingent upon completion of testing 15 Lambert Street).

     Residents were alerted that testing at CHA senior housing sites would begin this week, and appointments are not necessary at these locations. Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics from the Cambridge Fire Department – with logistical support from the Cambridge Police – will conduct the testing, which is voluntary and free of charge.

     Results of the testing will be reported to the Cambridge Public Health Department, and staff will call residents with their results. The City of Cambridge has had a strong partnership with the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, as well as Pro EMS. With support from the Cambridge Fire and Police Departments, they have provided three rounds of rapid testing in all seven skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as in a number of homeless shelters throughout the city. Cambridge was among one of the first municipalities to work with the Broad Institute and to implement a rapid testing pilot program.  

     The City is committed to identifying new resources to help residents and businesses navigate this difficult time. For more information and to sign up to receive updates on COVID-19, please visit the City’s dedicated information page:


Call for Increased Broadband Access in Response to Coronavirus Stress

March 29, 2020

Dear Mayor, City Councilors, and City Manager,

The Board of the Cambridge Residents Alliance is writing in support of Policy Order 4 (POR 2020 #69) by Councilors Zondervan, Nolan, McGovern and Sobrinho-Wheeler.

As the Coronavirus spreads, many Americans and Cantabrigians are being asked to stay home. Businesses have closed their doors, offices have asked their employees to work from home, and schools have moved to online education. As smoothly as this transition has happened for some, many others have been left behind on the far side of the digital divide.

It is clearer now than ever before that access to broadband internet is just as much a necessity as the roads we drive on. Today and for months to come, broadband will be how we get to work, apply for government benefits, communicate with our families, and learn. Without access to this digital highway, half of our low-income families have little or no ability to provide income for their households or an education for their children, nor can they easily apply for unemployment. This may come as a surprise to some residents, but the city administration has had ample time to work on closing this gap.

The previous city manager, Richard Rossi, formed the Cambridge Broadband Taskforce to study this exact problem. At its conclusion, it provided three recommendations, one of which was to do a feasibility study for the construction of a citywide fiber optic broadband. After current City Manager Louis DePasquale took office, he disbanded the taskforce and ignored all its recommendations. The city council passed several policy orders asking for his opinion on the recommendations, all of which received no response at all from the city administration. During a committee hearing on the topic, it was discovered that Manager DePasquale baselessly believed that a municipal broadband project would “bankrupt the city.”

For the past two years the local advocacy group Upgrade Cambridge and City Councilor Quinton Zondervan have been raising awareness of the digital divide by hosting events, supporting policy orders, and having one rally. This pressure caused Mr. DePasquale to initiate a digital equity study. This study has yet to conclude, and therefore cannot provide guidance at this time.

With the closures of workplaces and schools across the country, the digital divide is moving to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Many news organizations such as NPR, Bloomberg, and the New York Times are publishing pieces about how many students will not be able to continue their education because they don’t have proper internet access at home. According to Bloomberg, AT&T is developing an unlimited data plan for school issued Wi-Fi hotspots and other cell-network enabled devices.1 As wonderful as this is, Cambridge should not be dependent on the generosity of large corporations to ensure the education of our student population. Corporate generosity often finds a way to turn into profit later, for example by selling our personal data. Moreover, the programs have contingencies. Comcast is offering two months of internet free for new subscribers—not for folks who have had the service and can no longer afford it. Moreover, individuals who owe Comcast money within the past year are also ineligible.

Many cities have already implemented their own municipal networks. Chattanooga, Tennessee provides 1-gigabit-per-second service, which is 40 times better than Comcast’s “affordable” offer for low income families. Other cities and towns in Massachusetts are considering building their own networks, including our neighbor Quincy.

Although Cambridge is behind, we can still catch up. Step number one is to develop short term solutions to get internet access to our individuals and families who need it the most. One of the fastest ways to do that is to issue cell-network activated Wi-Fi hotspots. This, however, is not sustainable long-term. A potential medium-term solution could be for the city and the Cambridge Housing Authority to work with point-to-point wireless providers like NetBlazr and Starry to place repeaters on public buildings. This would both provide free internet to the occupants of those buildings and give quick access to others by expanding the coverage area. The best and longest term solution is of course to follow up on the many years-old Broadband Taskforce recommendations and commence the feasibility study for a city wide fiber optic network.

The Coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future. We are working to “flatten the curve,” but we won’t eradicate the virus. We can eradicate the digital divide so that all residents can survive during this crisis. Please move forward rapidly on developing and implementing short and long-term solutions to close this gap once and for all. Thank you for advocating for all residents in Cambridge through your support for Policy Order 4!


Charles Franklin, Abra Berkowitz, Lee Farris, on behalf of the Board of the

Cambridge Residents Alliance



Coronavirus Structure, Vaccine and Therapy Development (v3-21-20)

Jonathan King (Prof. of Molecular Biology, MIT) and Eric Sundberg (Prof. of Biochemistry, Emory University School of Medicine)

 Structure and Organization of Coronaviruses:

Many concerned over the coronavirus outbreak  may find it useful to understand more about coronaviruses than is currently being communicated by media sources. As long-time structural biologists we offer below basic information on coronavirus, that may be of assistance to those  who have not studied virology. All viruses are parasites which can only reproduce within cells. Thus, they are very different from bacteria and fungi which are self-reproducing, often in soil, water, organic wastes, sewage or within organisms.        

 Animal and plant viruses fall into two general classes, those whose genetic material is long DNA molecules, and those whose genetic material is RNA molecules. Among the DNA viruses are Herpes, Adenoviruses, and Wart viruses. Coronaviruses use RNA molecules to encode their genes, as do influenza viruses, HIV, and rhinoviruses (common cold). The CoV-19 family infects mammals and birds. (There is some circumstantial evidence that the current strain was originally a virus of bats, and was transmitted  to humans either through eating bat meat, or other contact). 

The coronavirus particles are organized with long RNA polymers tightly packed into the center of the particle, and surrounded by a protective capsid, which is a lattice of repeated protein molecules referred to as coat or capsid proteins. The coronavirus core particle is further surrounded by an outer membrane envelope made of lipids (fats) with proteins inserted. These membranes derive from the cells in which the virus was last assembled, but modified to contain proteins specified by the viral genes.        


A key set of the proteins in the outer membrane project out from the particle and are known as spike proteins. It is these proteins which are recognized by receptor proteins on the host cells which will be infected. Another set of proteins are known as hemagglutinins. For influenza viruses it is this protein that is attacked by antibodies induced by the flu vaccine (more below).  (The name comes from the observation that when the protein was mixed into blood samples carrying anti-flu antibodies, the proteins and antibodies clumped together and agglutinated).        

Coronavirus particles are rapidly inactivated – killed - by exposure to 70% ethanol (rubbing alcohol), hydrogen peroxide solutions,  hypochlorite bleach, soaps and detergents, as well as by UV light and high temperatures of cooking.Coronaviruses infect primarily human lung cells through a receptor which normally binds the protein Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE). Many Americans take blood pressure medicines that are chemicals which act by inhibiting ACE. The virus spike protein mimics features of the ACE protein, and thus ”fools” the cell into binding the virus. This is followed by incorporation of the virus inside the infected lung cells and release of the viral RNA. These RNA molecules recruit the cellular apparatus to make hundreds of thousands of copies, and also instruct the cells to synthesize hundreds of thousands of capsid and spike proteins. These assemble into new virus particles which bud out of the cell surface membrane. The cells die and release the newly formed viral particles propagating the infection.        

Testing for the Virus:        

The nucleotide sequence of the viral RNA molecules is not found in human DNA or RNA sequences. The test for the presence of the virus, thus, tests for the presence of the viral RNA sequences in tissue samples. We thank our colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences who rapidly determined the sequence of the Covid-19 RNA genome and immediately shared it with the international community. The current assay technology is called “RT-PCR”. RT stands for Reverse Transcriptase, an enzyme in the kit which copies RNA sequences into DNA sequences. PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, which reproduces and amplifies the DNA sequences for subsequent breakdown for determining the order of the individual nucleotides strung together in the original RNA polymer. The kits also require short DNA sequences called primers, which are synthesized in the laboratory. The existence of these assays is testimony to the value of prior investment of federal National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and Dept. of Energy  funds into genomics and sequencing technology. The test requires adequate supplies of two enzymes and the primers (suppliers include New England Biolabs, Promega, Sigma-Aldrich and Qiagen), specialized instruments for running the reaction at elevated temperatures (suppliers include Bio-Rad and Thermo-Fisher), and trained personnel. Hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation provide the training needed, but not the actual employees applying the tests. Ramping up capacity to be able to perform millions of tests requires $billions of dollars in immediate investment.

The Immune System and Vaccine Development:

Our blood, lymph and organs are host to the white cells of the immune system, which are continually checking for the presence of foreign elements such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, tumor cells, and toxins. These white cells are made in the bone marrow along with red blood cells.  If the response to for  example a foreign toxin is intense yielding serious inflammation we call that an allergic response. In the normal course of events white cells that recognize the invader, for example in a person already previously exposed, will synthesize antibody molecules and secrete them into the bloodstream. These antibodies bind to the outside of the foreign agent. For viruses it is often the spike proteins that are recognized. Some of these antibodies that bind to the viral spike proteins can prevent the viral particles from infecting the cells.

Other white cells (macrophages) can engulf these compromised particles and then are cleared from the circulation.A second class of white cells are known as “killer” cells. Some of these white cells can recognize a cell that is infected by the virus, and kill those cells. The phlegm that you cough up in a respiratory infection is full of debris from infected cells lysed by killer white cells.One of the best ways to protect against infection is to stimulate the immune system with a vaccine. For example, the polio vaccine consists of inactivated viral particles. These are unable to initiate an infection, but are recognized by the white cells of the immune system. Over a period of weeks, the white cells that recognize the virus reproduce in the body. These white cells synthesize and secrete antibodies that can bind to the virus in the vaccine. If the individual is then exposed to infectious poliovirus, the circulating antibodies are already present and are able to inactivate the infecting particles. This immunity may last for decades, though that differs depending on the antigen.

Developing a vaccine requires growing large amounts of modified virus, often in animals, or in tissue culture at large scale. A modern alternative is to purify not the complete virus, but the isolated spike proteins. This is safer and easier to scale up. On the other hand, the immune system response to the isolated protein is often not as robust as it is to the organized lattice of the intact virion. Either way, enough material is needed to inject reasonable doses into millions of people.But before doing this one has to know that the vaccine works to stimulate a protective immune response. This requires recruiting human volunteers to be vaccinated, and then be challenged with the infectious virus. All of this takes time and skilled personnel and $$. However, with sufficient investment, success is highly likely in most cases  (Though high investments in developing an HIV vaccine have not yet been successful). Note that vaccination is typically preventive – most vaccines do not provide relief for someone already infected.

Antiviral Therapies for Infected Individuals

Addressing the health hazards of Coronavirus infections would benefit greatly by anti-viral drugs that act to block the replication of the virus within infected cells, though some may block the attachment and internalization process. Such therapies are in use for other RNA viruses and are generally small molecules, taken as a pill, which act by binding to and interfering with the virus proteins that are needed to replicate the viral RNA. Another class of anti-viral drugs, which are effective with HIV, act by interfering with the synthesis and assembly of the coat proteins into the viral capsid. The US pharmaceutical industry already has the capacity to produce millions of doses of small molecules, so the rate limiting step in this case is more likely to be at the laboratory research and development stage.Needed Public Investments:The system already lacked sufficient funds to continue with vaccine development for the SARS virus after that threat subsided. We need a scientific and biomedical research infrastructure that can respond to the next threats, and of course a healthcare system and healthcare financing that can insure high quality treatment for all.

Some Resources:

Cornonavirus Structure: for Disease Control and Prevention:http://www.cdc.govAmerican Public Health Association: Inactivation:

Vaccine Development:

Jonathan King and Eric Sundberg have directed biomedical research projects on viruses and viral proteins supported by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. They are both members of the Public Affairs Committee of the Biophysical Society

Please join friends and neighbors for the Cambridge Residents Alliance 

Annual Meeting on Wed., Feb. 26, 6:30-8:30 pm.  

Our meeting will be held at the Windsor Clinic, 119 Windsor St., at the corner of Washington St., near Central Sq., in the 2nd floor conference room.  Go up the stairs or take the elevator to the second floor.  
     (The clinic has a parking lot off Windsor St. If full, it may be easier to find parking on Cherry St. behind the clinic).
     We will discuss whether the City Council should renew the City Manager’s contract, and what criteria to use.  Councilor Quinton Zondervan will share his views on the Manager’s contract.  
      There will be be updates and additional discussion on other issues facing the city, including the reintroduced Affordable Housing Overlay zoning and Broadband serivce.  
     We will also hold elections for our Board and officers.
     We’ll have light refreshments, good company, and informative political discussion.  Please mark your calendar now. 

Housing Advocates Rally for Rent Control at the State House



Cambridge Residence Alliance joins State House Rally -Cathy Hoffman, Nancy Ryan, Phyllis Bretholzt, Kathy Watkins and Shelli Wortis (Lee Farris out of picture).

City Council Elections 2019:

       The Cambridge Residents Alliance is delighted that 4 of our 7 endorsed City Council candidates won, based on the preliminary election results.  The two incumbents, Dennis Carlone and Quinton Zondervan, will be returning, and both of the two new councillors, Patty Nolan and Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, were endorsed by CResA.  We worked hard for the election of our endorsees, distributing campaign cards and signs, and fielding dozens of volunteers to door knock and phone voters across the city.  Many thanks to all our candidates for running, to all of our volunteers for their hard work, and to all our supporters for voting!

      We look forward to working with all of the elected councilors for a livable, affordable, and diverse Cambridge.

Looking to the future,
The Cambridge Residents Alliance leadership

Please  contribute to support the election of our endorsed candidates!

Cambridge Residents Alliance Forms Democracy for Cambridge PAC and Announces Council Endorsements

Dear friends and neighbors,

The Cambridge Residents Alliance has created the Democracy for Cambridge Political Action Committee to raise funds to publicize endorsed candidates and carry forward its priorities through electoral participation.

The Democracy for Cambridge PAC is announcing its endorsements of 7 candidates for election to the City Council in 2019. They all seek bold change through policies and programs that create and preserve affordable housing, protect tenants from displacement in an unforgiving housing market, increase democratic participation in elections including campaign finance reform, improve equity and justice, and ensure Cambridge is preparing for climate change. Endorsed candidates have demonstrated a commitment to a future city that prioritizes affordable housing for low- and moderate-income people, improves traffic and transit policies and protects civil rights and liberties of all residents regardless of citizenship status.


Each candidate has pledged to refuse campaign donations from any large corporate or real estate interests that are seeking zoning changes or other benefits from the Cambridge City Council or city boards. Fuller descriptions of the candidates, the endorsement process and the full details of our platform can be found on our website:

We hope you will get involved in supporting these 7 candidates, and we will follow up soon with an email about ways you can take action for a progressive majority on the City Council.

The Democracy for Cambridge endorsees, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Dennis Carlone was first endorsed by the Residents Alliance and elected in 2013 and again in 2015 and 2017. He is an award-winning architect and urban planner who uses his political and professional skills to promote planning for people and prevent exploitive development. He has co-chaired the important Ordinance Committee, secured additional city funding for affordable housing, and was chief sponsor of the Net Zero and plastic bag ban ordinances.
  • Charles Franklin is a first-time candidate and a computer engineer, a founder of “Upgrade Cambridge” to bring municipal broadband to the city, a member of the steering committee of the Inman Square Neighborhood Association and a strong advocate for bicycle and pedestrian safety. He is action-oriented with a strong focus on strengthening equal access to all the City’s resources.
  • Risa Mednick is a first-time candidate who, for over 10 years, directed Transition House, a Cambridge nonprofit organization addressing domestic violence prevention and intervention. She partnered with the city to both fund the renovation of the community's only DV shelter and increase city-wide services. With the Cambridge Housing Authority, she created a groundbreaking homelessness and displacement prevention program for survivors. She will bring collaborative leadership skills and deep knowledge of city government to the Council.
  • Patty Nolan is a first-time Council candidate, after serving for 14 years on the Cambridge School Committee. She brings to the Council her long-term commitments to good governance and accountability, a history of activism in the face of the climate crisis and deep knowledge of our educational system.
  • Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler is a first-time candidate who works for a land-use policy organization in Cambridge. He grew up in subsidized housing and is a renter. As a democratic socialist, he volunteers as an organizer and activist for tenant protections and policies that stabilize rents in the city. He supports a Cambridge “Green New Deal” and programs to address wealth and racial equity gaps.
  • Nicola Williams is a first-time candidate who founded her small consulting business in Cambridge and has directed and promoted the city’s Caribbean Carnival for 27 years. She sees commercial corporations forcing out small businesses as the prices of land and buildings skyrocket. She wants to see increased affordable homeownership and is committed to bringing the voices of residents of all residents to the implementation of city development policies.
  • Quinton Zondervan was endorsed by the Residents Alliance in 2017 and is seeking a second term on the Council. An immigrant, Quinton is a graduate of MIT, a tech entrepreneur, a non-profit leader of Green Cambridge, co-authored the Net Zero zoning petition, and secured additional city funding for affordable housing. He brings his considerable skills to challenging urban issues, including bold thinking about the climate crisis, protecting our tree canopy and the future of transportation and transit.

As you know, the Cambridge Residents Alliance is an all-volunteer citywide organization formed in 2012 to work for a livable, affordable and diverse Cambridge. The Alliance has over 1800 supporters, is a 501c4 non-profit corporation registered in Massachusetts and holds educational forums on community issues and encourages residents to get involved in civic life.

Thanks for taking action,

DemocracyforCambridge PAC Officers: Richard Krushnic, Jonathan King,  Nancy Ryan

Sign the petition - Keep Public Land in Public Hands

Keep public land in public hands. We oppose the privatization of the Sullivan Courthouse site and some 420 parking spaces in the First Street Garage. By rejecting the sale of these public assets to commercial real estate developer Leggat McCall Properties, we will be able to pursue a community-driven plan to reclaim the Courthouse site for affordable housing, community and arts space, and a public park.

Public assets should serve public needs. The Courthouse site has been in the public domain for 206 years — it was part of the founding gift that established East Cambridge. Today, in the face of an ongoing affordable housing crisis, the last thing East Cambridge residents want for the Courthouse site is a massive commercial office tower, as Leggat McCall has proposed. Major commercial development is happening in literally every direction — at Cambridge Crossing, the Galleria Mall, MIT's East Campus, the Volpe site, the Met Pipe site, Union Square, Boynton Yards, and several other nearby locations. With commercial development and luxury housing going up all around us, we're calling for a redevelopment of the Courthouse site that serves our most pressing needs and speaks to our highest values as a community.

Support a People's Plan for the Courthouse site. On October 30, 2018, State Rep. Mike Connolly stood with East Cambridge residents in speaking out about the Leggat McCall plan for the state-owned Courthouse site and the city-owned First Street Garage. He followed with a letter to the Cambridge City Council outlining how we could push for a community-driven redevelopment of the Courthouse site. On November 15, the East Cambridge Planning Team unanimously voted to support Rep. Connolly's letter. Meanwhile, local residents are getting organized and working with design and development professionals to advance conceptual models for the redevelopment of the Courthouse site as affordable housing, community space, and a public park.

Trying to keep you updated

        The pace of Cambridge commercial development continues unabated, with continued pressure on tenants and affordable housing, excessive traffic and crowded public transit. We try to keep you posted on issues before the City Council, such as the inclusionary requirement for affordable units in new construction, the regulation of AirBnB units, the plans for the  the Volpe Center parcel in Kendall Square and the protection of the tree canopy.. At recent meetings we have discussed the Upgrade Cambridge proposal for public internet, additional protections for renters, and water quality issues. Councilors Carlone and Mazen discussed the very dense MITIMCO proposal for the Volpe site. At the earlier meeting Ms. Lydia Edwards reported on new ideas for protecting tenants from displacement. At the prior meeting State Represenative Denise Provost  reported on the problems with Green Line extension,and John Doherty of the MBTA Coalition reported on their efforts to protect public investment in the MBTA and protect it from privatization efforts that will weaken services.

City Property for the Public Good, and the Future of the Envision Planning Process

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 6:30-8:30pm, LBJ Apts., 150 Erie St., in Cambridgeport

  1. A) Should the city lease 420 parking spaces in the city-owned East Cambridge garage to the courthouse developer? If the city council rejects the lease, could the state look for anew approach on re-developing the Sullivan Courthouse? East Cambridge Planning Team Board member Bethany Stevens will cover the history and share ECPT’s positions. State Rep. Mike Connolly will share his ideas for how to benefit the community.
  2. B) Where is the city’s Envision planning process going? Where do we want it to go? Read their proposals under "Resources" above.

We’ll compare likely development using current zoning vs. likely development using Envision zoning ideas. We’ll look at parts of the Envision plan that conflict with each other. We’ll gather your questions about Envision to submit to the city council.

All are welcome at the general meetings of the Cambridge Residents Alliance. We’ll have refreshments, and welcome anything you’d like to bring.  

The Cambridge Residents Alliance is a group of neighbors fighting for a more livable, affordable, and diverse Cambridge by supporting housing policy which prioritizes the construction and preservation of affordable housing to prevent the displacement of Cambridge residents amid our city’s rapidly growing income inequality.

The Cambridge Residents Alliance:

Working for a Livable, Affordable and Diverse Cambridge



Take Action: Support the Cambridge Climate Safety Zoning Petition!

The climate is changing and Cambridge will experience much hotter temperatures and more frequent and severe flooding in larger areas. We’ve already seen significant flooding in parts of eastern Cambridge, Central Square and the Alewife area. Many new buildings are being constructed without enough protection for future residents and employees.

Residents throughout Cambridge want to protect the health and safety of everyone who lives and works here with a zoning proposal to make new buildings climate-resilient and require building sites to have more open space and landscaping.

Learn about and support the Climate Safety Zoning Petition

The Climate Safety zoning petition is based on the city’s latest climate studies. It allows the same amount of housing and affordable housing to be built as allowed by existing regulations. Our neighborhoods will be more environmentally equitable across the city.

The Climate Safety zoning would expand the areas in Cambridge designated as flood zones. Here are examples of requirements for larger new buildings and substantial improvements of existing buildings in the city’s flood zones:

  • Have on-site backup energy generation and/or energy storage when the power goes out
  • Provide safe access to buildings during storms and floods
  • Have emergency plans to evacuate or shelter residents during storms or floods for three days and to remove vehicles
  • Put residential units on second floors and higher above the flood level
  • Increase the amount of green space (trees, plantings, “green” roofs and walls) to cool buildings
  • Increase the amount of open space on building sites to 30%, while allowing the building to be taller
  • Get approval from the city before removing any existing larger trees, because trees cool buildings
  • Increase permeable surfaces to allow flood water to flow through, not sit on top of pavement
  • Allow reduction of required parking, making room for more affordable housing and green space.
  • One-to-three family homes will be exempted from many of the new requirements.

Support the Climate Safety Zoning Petition on June 26 and June 27!

Visit to sign up for timely notices of public hearings and read the proposed zoning and FAQs. For more info, call 857-285-2863.

The City Council's Ordinance Committee and the city’s Planning Board will hold public hearings on the zoning proposal. The City Council will revise and vote on the final version of the zoning later this year.

Send emails, attend, and speak out!

Planning Board public hearing: Tuesday, 6/26/18, 6:30PM, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor

Planning Board email: Liza Paden [email protected] Comments sent in by 4pm, Thurs. 6/21, will be given to the Planning Board before the hearing date.

City Council’s Ordinance Committee public hearing: Wednesday, 6/27/18, 5:30PM, City Hall, 2nd Floor

City Council email: [email protected] and Clerk Donna Lopez: [email protected]

Please email your support for the zoning petition to the Planning Board and to the full City Council. Your email can be brief. Letters of support from organizations and neighborhood groups are especially helpful. Speaking to the City Council at the Ordinance Committee public hearing is key.

Please BCC (blind copy) your emails to [email protected] .

How Do We Protect Our Community as the Climate Changes?

Please join us for a community discussion about the

Cambridge Climate Safety Proposal

Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 7-9pm

Cambridge Senior Center, 806 Mass. Ave., Central Sq.

Free admission. Light food and drink included.

As the climate changes, Cambridge will experience much hotter temperatures and more frequent and severe flooding in larger areas.

Residents from across Cambridge want to protect the health, safety, and property of residents and workers from these threats by requiring new buildings to be climate-ready.

These residents formed the Climate Safety Committee, which has proposed changes in how buildings are constructed, how the surrounding open space is landscaped, and how stormwater is handled. The Cambridge City Council and Planning Board will consider the zoning proposal at hearings on June 26 and 27.

Come find out about the Climate Safety proposal. Discuss how affordable housing can be created while addressing climate challenges. Think about the proposal and what you want to tell city officials. Give your input to improve the proposal. Get prepared to take action.

We’ll discuss the proposal in small groups to make sure all your questions are answered and to listen to your suggestions.

For more information on the event, email [email protected] or call (857) 285-2863.

For more information on the Climate Safety proposal:

Please reserve your space at .

Co-sponsored by the Climate Safety Petition Committee, North Cambridge Stabilization Committee, Cambridge Residents Alliance, Green Cambridge, Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, and Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods (additional sponsors welcome).


        The pace of Cambridge commercial development continues unabated, with continued pressure on tenants and affordable housing, excessive traffic and crowded public transit. We try to keep you posted on issues before the City Council, such as the inclusionary requirement for affordable units in new construction, the regulation of AirBnB units, and the disposition of the Volpe Center parcel in Kendall Square. At recent meetings we have discussed the Upgrade Cambridge proposal for public internet, additional protections for renters, and water quality issues. Councilors Carlone and Mazen discussed the very dense MITIMCO proposal for the Volpe site. At the earlier meeting Ms. Lydia Edwards reported on new ideas for protecting tenants from displacement. At the prior meeting State Represenative Denise Provost  reported on the problems with Green Line extension,and John Doherty of the MBTA Coalition reported on their efforts to protect public investment in the MBTA and protect it from privatization efforts that will weaken services.



Should Cambridge develop public internet access that is free and open to all?

What's the best way to fight back against the FCC's war on net neutrality and internet privacy? The ACLU believes that cities should build their own networks. Many of our Cambridge neighbors cannot afford the expensive Comcast services, creating a “digital divide” that is unequal and unfair. We can and must do better for ALL our residents.

Upgrade Cambridge and the ACLU of Massachusetts are excited to welcome Jay Stanley, author of the ACLU's recent report on "The Public Internet Option.”

Join us on Wednesday, May 16th -- 

7:00pm - 8:30pm -- Free and open to all

MIT Stata Center, Room 32-12332 Vassar St., Cambridge, MA 02139

If you want to know how you and our City can directly resist this corporate takeover of the internet, this event will be a great opportunity to learn more about the power of municipal networks for improving community access for everyone. We hope to see you there, and invite you to bring anyone else who might be interested in helping move the city forward towards municipal broadband! 

RSVP if you can on Eventbrite

Upgrade Cambridge has been endorsed by the Cambridge Residents Alliance

Cambridge Residents Alliance Spring Meeting

Sunday, April 8, 2018 – 3:00 to 5:00 pm

St. Bartholomew’s Church, 239 Harvard St. at Essex St. Central Square

Dear Friends and Neighbors – All are welcome at the General Meetings of the Cambridge Residents Alliance. We hope you’ll make time in your busy schedule to join us in our efforts to make Cambridge “Livable, Affordable and Diverse.” For our first meeting of the Spring, 2018 we have an exciting, informative agenda:

Upgrade Cambridge: Municipal Broadband for our City

Meet a co-founder and other members of this grassroots organization that seeks to raise public support for a city-owned network to provide high speed internet service to ALL Cambridge households regardless of ability to pay. This is an effort to address the digital divide in our City and create a 21st century network for our residents and businesses. Check them out at

Short Term Rentals Regulations Begin on April 1st

Get briefed on the new regulations and the requirements for residents who will be legally able to provide Short Term Rentals like AirBnb to register with the City. In many cases, large real estate interests are buying whole buildings and blocks of condos in Cambridge for short term hotel-style rentals, taking valuable residential apartments off the traditional rental market. More than 1500 have been identified.

Confronting Flood Dangers in Cambridge

The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance wants to see that the findings of the Envision Cambridge Alewife Working Group and the Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience Alewife Focus Group are integrated into city plans for growth. Hear their concerns and thoughts about how to move forward.

Facebook: Cambridgeresidentsalliance


Annual Meeting with Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards Sunday Feb. 11, 2-4 pm, LBJ Housing 150 Erie St



Dennis Carlone, Sumbul Siddiqui, Jan Devereux, Quinton Zondervan

Elected to Cambridge City Council!

        Four progressive representatives of our Cmabridge community - two incumbents and two challengers - will join the new Council in 2018. Members of the Cambridge Residents Alliance and of Our Revolution Cambridge were key conributors to the get out the vote effort. Thanks to all who supported their campaigns.

         Incumbents E. Denise Simmons, Marc McGovern, Tom Moomey, and Craig Kelley and challenger Alanna Mallon were also elected. For more details and School committee results see the Cambridge Day article.

Dennis Carlone (incumbent) – was first endorsed by the Alliance in 2013 and again in 2015. As an architect and urban designer who understood that Cambridge’s exponential growth required a Master Plan, he initiated, fought for, and secured the comprehensive Envision Cambridge study now underway.  He guided passage of the plastic bag ban and a 50% residential space requirement for new development in Central Square, and added dedicated affordable housing funding to the city budget. As co-chair of the Ordinance Committee, he has worked with neighborhoods for human-scaled buildings and led the effort to increase the linkage requirement.

Jan Devereux (incumbent) – was endorsed by the Alliance in her first run for office in 2015 based on her leadership of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance.  Jan understands the concrete impacts of climate change on the low-lying flood-prone neighborhoods of the city and is a safe streets activist. Jan won earlier implementation of the new citywide 20% affordable Inclusionary Housing policy, and proposes that one third of the tax revenues from the Volpe development go to affordable housing.

Sumbul Siddiqui is a native Cantabrigian and CRLS graduate who works as an attorney providing legal services to low-income communities. As an immigrant who grew up in public housing, she understands the importance of access to housing and jobs for vulnerable families trying to remain and thrive in the city. She proposes a new Office of Housing Stability to help individuals find and maintain housing in Cambridge, as well as scholarships and a local hiring program to help residents benefit from the innovation economy.

Quinton Zondervan is a bold business leader and environmental advocate who uses his technical and organizing skills to take action on climate change through local policies. He is President of Green Cambridge and co-author of the Net Zero Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings in Cambridge. He wants to increase housing opportunities by requiring universities that do commercial development to sharply increase on-campus graduate student housing.


The Cambridge Residents Alliance Announces Endorsements for the 2017 City Council Election


For more information, contact:

Nancy Ryan, 617-642-5449, [email protected] or

Lee Farris, 617-354-6740, [email protected] 

Following a summer-long process, the Cambridge Residents Alliance announced the organization’s endorsements of 5 candidates for election to the City Council in 2017. The candidates endorsed by the Cambridge Residents Alliance seek bold change through policies and programs that create and preserve affordable housing, increase democratic participation in elections, improve equity and justice, and enhance economic opportunity. Endorsed candidates have demonstrated a commitment to a future city that prioritizes housing for low and moderate income people as well as environmental and traffic/transit policies that support the lives of a truly diverse and welcoming community.

Each endorsed candidate has pledged to refuse campaign donations from any large corporate or real estate interests that are seeking zoning changes or other benefits from the Cambridge City Council or city boards.

The Residents Alliance endorsees, in alphabetical order, are:

Dennis Carlone (incumbent) – was first endorsed by the Alliance in 2013 and again in 2015. As an architect and urban designer who understood that Cambridge’s exponential growth required a Master Plan, he initiated, fought for, and secured the comprehensive Envision Cambridge study now underway.  He guided passage of the plastic bag ban and a 50% residential space requirement for new development in Central Square, and added dedicated affordable housing funding to the city budget. As co-chair of the Ordinance Committee, he has worked with neighborhoods for human-scaled buildings and led the effort to increase the linkage requirement.

Jan Devereux (incumbent) – was endorsed by the Alliance in her first run for office in 2015 based on her leadership of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance.  Jan understands the concrete impacts of climate change on the low-lying flood-prone neighborhoods of the city and is a safe streets activist. Jan won earlier implementation of the new citywide 20% affordable Inclusionary Housing policy, and proposes that one third of the tax revenues from the Volpe development go to affordable housing.

Sumbul Siddiqui is a native Cantabrigian and CRLS graduate who works as an attorney providing legal services to low-income communities. As an immigrant who grew up in public housing, she understands the importance of access to housing and jobs for vulnerable families trying to remain and thrive in the city. She proposes a new Office of Housing Stability to help individuals find and maintain housing in Cambridge, as well as scholarships and a local hiring program to help residents benefit from the innovation economy. 

Vatsady Sivongxay is an attorney, community advocate, and refugee immigrant who knows how to take problems to solutions through policy and community engagement development. Previously, she was Director of Public Policy for Boston City Council District 7. She supports stronger tenant protections, expansion of inclusionary zoning requirements for affordable housing for lower to middle-income households, and increase in university housing.  As a mother, she is passionate about maintaining healthy, connected neighborhoods that support families.

Quinton Zondervan is a bold business leader and environmental advocate who uses his technical and organizing skills to take action on climate change through local policies. He is President of Green Cambridge and co-author of the Net Zero Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings in Cambridge. He wants to increase housing opportunities by requiring universities that do commercial development to sharply increase on-campus graduate student housing.

The Cambridge Residents Alliance made the decision to endorse each of the candidates upon the recommendation of the Alliance’s Election Committee. Criteria included candidates’ answers to a questionnaire and essay question; an assessment of the viability of each candidate’s campaign; and an estimation of whether the experience, community involvement, and views of each candidate were aligned with the platform of the Alliance:

Seventeen candidates submitted responses to the questionnaire.  Some candidates were asked to participate in an interview.

The candidates endorsed by the Cambridge Residents Alliance do not constitute a slate, and therefore do not necessarily support one another. They are free to form their own slates, coalitions, or alliances, and receive endorsements from other groups.

The Cambridge Residents Alliance is an all-volunteer citywide organization formed in 2012 to work for a livable, affordable and diverse Cambridge. The Alliance has over 1800 supporters, and is a 501c4 non-profit corporation registered in Massachusetts.  The Alliance holds educational forums on community issues, helps residents get involved in civic life, and endorses and campaigns for Council candidates who support the platform of the Cambridge Residents Alliance.

The questions and candidates’ answers will be posted on the Residents Alliance website: Members of the public can ask these questions to candidates at public events and review candidates’ answers when considering how to vote.





        The pace of Cambridge commercial development continues unabated, with continued pressure on tenants and affordable housing, excessive traffic and crowded public transit. We try to keep you posted on issues before the City Council, such as the inclusionary requirement for affordable units in new construction, the regulation of AirBnB units, and the disposition of the Volpe Center parcel in Kendall Square. At our last meeting listed below  Councilors Carlone and Mazen discussed the very dense MITIMCO proposal for the Volpe site. At the earlier meeting Ms. Lydia Edwards reported on new ideas for protecting tenants from displacement. At the prior meeting State Represenative Denise Provost  reported on the problems with Green Line extension,and John Doherty of the MBTA Coalition reported on their efforts to protect public investment in the MBTA and protect it from privatization efforts that will weaken services.

Read our 2017 Platform above for more details.


If you missed the

Garden Party & Fundraiser

for the

Cambridge Residents Alliance

which honored local heroes in the struggle for a more livable, affordable and diverse Cambridge

Renae Gray (posthumously), Heather Hoffman, Carol O'Hare,

Alison Field-Juma and Peggy Barnes-Lenart

~Raising funds to support our work in the coming year

You can still make a donation with the button on the right



        The pace of Cambridge commercial development continues unabated, with continued pressure on tenants and affordable housing, excessive traffic and crowded public transit. We try to keep you posted on issues before the City Council, such as the inclusionary requirement for affordable units in new construction, the regulation of AirBnB units, and the disposition of the Volpe Center parcel in Kendall Square. At our last meeting listed below Ms. Lydia Edwards reported on new ideas for protecting tenants from displacement. At the prior meeting State Represenative Denise Provost  reported on the problems with Green Line extension,and John Doherty of the MBTA Coalition reported on their efforts to protect public investment in the MBTA and protect it from privatization efforts that will weaken services.


On Sunday afternoon, April 30, 4 -6 pm, at LBJ Housing 150 Erie Street:

Please join us to welcome and talk with Ms. Lydia Edwards - Head of the new Boston Office of Housing Stability:


         The newly created office will work to prevent displacement, unjust evictions and assist in housing emergencies. The Office will also be charged with drafting and reviewing new legislative and other public policy solutions to mitigate displacement, and will create new City programs to ensure housing stability in Boston's neighborhoods.  

         Ms. Edwards comes to the City from Greater Boston Legal Services, where she served as the Equal Justice Works Fellow. She represented domestic workers who survived labor trafficking, helping secure back wages and immigration relief. She also helped draft, implement and enforce the recently enacted Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights and coordinate state wide implementation of the new law.

Also on the agenda:

2.  Relating to the 2017 Cambridge City Council race;

- Development of the CResA Platform;

- Emerging Council candidates;

- Establishing our process for endorsement and support.

3. Issues of relevance to Cambridge before the State Democratic Party Platform Committee.

4. Updates on Inclusionary Zoning, Vale Court, Volpe site, Harvard Square and other neighborhood and development issues.



    Thank you to everyone who supported increasing inclusionary affordable housing!

On Monday April 3rd the City Council voted to increase the inclusionary housing requirement governing new residential construction to 20% of the units!  Cambridge Residents Alliance has been pushing for such an increase for years, so we are very happy. (This should have been done years ago, which would have prevented displacement of many Cambridge residents). 

CResA called for a number of changes in this proposal, and most of them were approved, including:

- Requiring 3BR units; 

- Requiring affordable units in smaller buildings; 

- More frequent review; 

- An earlier full implementation date;

- No further increases in density;

- Removing language that excludes existing PUDs from the 20% Inclusionary requirement; 

- Preventing developers’ efforts to provide a lower number of affordable units.

     City Councilors passed the ordinance with these changes because they listened to all of you who spoke during public comment, made calls and sent emails.  Again- thank you!!  Now we’ll start working for even more affordable housing measures.

For more info:

     The Chronicle story is good but has some errors.  1) The requirement starts now, and 2) in effect, the requirement is now 11.5%, and will be raised to 15% now and 20% at the end of June.



        The pace of Cambridge commercial development continues unabated, with continued pressure on tenants and affordabe housing, excessive traffic and crowded public transit. We try to keep you posted on issues before the City Council, such as the inclusionary requirement for affordable units in new construction, the regulation of AirBnB units, and the disposition of the Volpe Center parcel in Kendall Square. At our last meeting listed below Rep.Denise Provost reported on the problems with Green Line extension,and JohnDoherty of the MBTA Coalition reported on their efforts to protect public investment in the MBTA and protect it from privatization efforts that will weaken services. Our next General Meeting will focus on protecting residents from displacement.


Next Meeting

General Meeting: Sunday March 12, 4 – 6 pm, St. Bartholomew’s Church, 237 Harvard Street in Central Square, join friends and neighbors for discussions with:

- State Representative Denise Provost reporting on the status of the construction of the Green Line extension. Rep. Provost is a former member of the Somerville Board of Aldermen from 2000–2006.

- John Doherty, Coordinator of the MBTA Coalition, reporting on their InvesTnow campaign and efforts to protect T services from privatization; Doherty: is the former Director of Organizing, for the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35,and an E- Board Member of Community Labor United.

- Jonathan King and Richard Krushnic assessing federal transportation funding and Mass Peace Action’s “Build Subways not Submarines” initiative.

- Van Hardy, Chair of the Board of the Somerville Community Corporation will describe their Community Benefits Act (CBA) and the community process they used to create the CBA. This is an effort to negotiate a multi-issue Community Benefits Agreement that will reduce displacement and gentrification during the redevelopment of Union Square.

- Lee Farris on the City Council votes on Inclusionary Zoning percentages for the number of affordable housing units required for new residential construction in Cambridge;

- Updates on the Cambridge Master Planning process and collaboration with Boston’s Right to the City group.



 Please Aid Residents Displaced by Fire!

The devastating fire on Berkshire St. has displaced over 100 people, and about 60 are lower income tenants who lived in the St. Patrick's Place affordable housing units. These families are some of our most vulnerable neighbors and it is important that we aid in the relief efforts.  About 25 Cambridge Rindge and Latin School families were affected by the fire, and some have lost everything.

The most important thing right now is raising funds that will help people quickly secure replacement housing and meet urgent personal needs.  At this time, the City of Cambridge and Red Cross are asking people NOT to make physical/material donations of food, clothing, blankets, etc.  

You can make an online donation to the Mayor's Fire Relief Fund or mail a check payable to the same to: City Hall, 795 Mass Ave., Cambridge MA 02139. The Mayor's Office is also collecting donations of gift cards to nearby grocery and department stores.


Come to a Party Sunday afternoon Dec. 4, 3 - 5 pm, at the Middle East Restaurant, 480 Mass Ave.

We are celebrating the election of Mike Connolly as State Representative (and re-election of Senator Pat Jehlen).

Good food and drink, good company, good causes.

The event is a benefit for Cambridge Residents Alliance. Please RSVP and consider clicking on the lower right large Donate button to make an on-line contribution.


 Next Meeting

 General Meeting Sunday Nov 20, 4- 6 pm,  LBJ Apts 150 Erie Street Cambridgeport


Cambridge Vigil Mourns Orlando Shooting

Vigil-1photo.JPGMore than 250 people gathered for a vigil in front of Cambridge City Hall on Monday to mourn the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. Speakers expressed sorrow for those wounded and killed, anger for the continuing failure to reform gun laws in this country, disgust with those who would use the tragedy to spread more xenophobic fear and racist hatred, and solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Mayor E. Denise Simmons ended her comments by saying, “In the words of the old Black spiritual: We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around!” Councilor Marc McGovern deplored the deliberate misinterpretation of the Second Amendment by some to mean “that everybody should take up arms.” City Councilor Nadeem Mazen said, in a private comment after the vigil, that leaders of the local Muslim community met all day Sunday to try to come to terms with the horrific event and to figure out how to go forward in solidarity with others “to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, and we’re all able to be safe.”



Successful, Substantial Transit/Traffic Forum 

       More than 80 concerned residents of Cambridge and surrrounding communities attended the Saturday April _MG_0652_copy.jpg30th Public Forum organized by the Cambridge Residents Alliance and the Mass Budget For All Coalition, with cosponsorship from 350Mass Transportation Group, Green Cambridge and Fresh Pond Resident's Alliance:

Read the Forum Report.

Solving Transit and Traffic Problems in the Cambridge Corridor

      Excellent presentations were given by Mayor Simmons, State Senator Pat Jehlen, City Councilors Jan Devereux and Dennis Carlone, Conservation Law Foundation's Rapahael Mares, Ellin Reisner of Somerville Transportation Equity Partners,  MassPIRG staff Kirstie Pecci, Livable Streets Board Member Steve Miller, John Ratliff of the RaiseUp Coaltion, Elechi Kadete of Cambridgeport Neighbohood Assn., and Jonathan King of Mass Peace Action. The meeting was chaired by Mike Connolly with assistance from Nancy Ryan and Torgun Austin of the Cambridge Residents Alliance.


 Cambridge Residents Alliance testimony before the MBTA

Fiscal Management Control Board, February 29, 2016


            Good afternoon members of the Board and staff. My name is Jonathan King, resident of 40 Essex Street, Cambridge. I serve as Vice-President of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, a network of more than 1,000 households, most of whom use public transit, T and/or buses. I also serve as Chair of the Public Transit Committee of the Budget for All campaign, a statewide coalition of some 80 organizations concerned primarily with the social and economic welfare of Massachusetts residents.

            Every business, institution and entity in the Greater Boston area either depends upon or benefits in some way from the pubic transit functions of the MBTA. I work in Kendall Square. The majority of those high tech industries – Pfizer, Novartis, Genzyme Amgen, Microsoft, Google – depend upon and benefit from the T and bus services.

            A modern economy cannot grow and flourish in Eastern Massachusetts without an effective public transit system. In a modern economy these services need to be financed from the general revenues available to City, State and Federal budgets.

            The fare hikes proposed represent a regressive tax, which falls most heavily on those least able to afford it. In Cambridge, as in Boston, our senior citizens and young people – generally lacking private vehicles - are critically dependent on public transit. The proposed across the Board Fare increases obviously fall most heavily on their already overburdened pocketbooks.

            This policy is fundamentally unfair, and in the long run economically unsound. Our Interstate Highway System, our airports, and ports, were not built on user fees or property taxes. The MBTA Board should insist that the State Legislature and Federal Legislators lead the way in providing the necessity investments both to maintain and upgrade the areas trains, trolleys and buses.

            Thank you for your attention.

 Letter from Executive Committee


Dear Neighbors and Friends:

Our City is Under Pressure, Our Neighborhoods at Risk 

      Cambridge is facing massive over-development and uncontrolled growth. You see it in every neighborhood; you see it on crowded buses and subway cars, and traffic-clogged streets.

     For almost four years the Cambridge Residents Alliance has been fighting to protect and preserve all that's best about Cambridge – its quality of life, its families, its diversity and its human-scale cityscape. First formed in response to runaway development and threats of massive up zoning in Kendall Square, Central Square and other neighborhoods, the Alliance has grown to include residents from across the city who have learned that the city’s current oversight processes are rigged in favor of ever-larger developments that result in displacement of current residents.

     The organization has organized public forums attended by hundreds of people on affordable housing, development and transit that have provide valuable opportunities for education participation and citizen engagement. Our forums, website, newsletters and Platform have helped articulate critical issues that need community attention and input.  We’ve given residents the information they need to take action and get results. You can get a sense of these activites from our Annual Report.

We’re Making Gains:

            More than 1000 resident households count on the Cambridge Residents Alliance for information and organization. Happily as our numbers increase, so has our influence and reach. Our endorsements and voter education in the last election helped re-elect two progressive incumbents while bringing on a new City Councilor who supports our priorities. Our repeated demands for citywide planning and a holistic approach to zoning have become part of the ongoing development debate, and the first comprehensive planning effort is beginning. Of course, increased effectiveness in restraining powerful real estate interests brings pushback, and indeed we have encountered numerous efforts to discredit our educational and outreach efforts.

Now We Need Your Financial Support:

            In 2016, we want to involve even more residents in creating the citywide plan. We plan to hold several forums on key issues.  And we’ll try some new creative approaches too. Though we have no paid staff and no office, we do have printing, Internet, state fees, and other expenses. Please consider making a donation* to the Cambridge Residents Alliance:

use the DONATE button or send a check to:

Cambridge Residents Alliance, Inc.,

PO Box 390487, Cambridge, MA 02139.


A Special Request to Underwrite Public Media campaigns:

There are some messages whose wide distribution requires paid media – advertising. We need a few generous donors to make larger donations of $50, $100, $200 or $500. This would allow occasional purchase of newspaper ads or MBTA ads, with their broader reach. 

*Your donation is not tax-deductible. The Cambridge Residents Alliance is incorporated as a 501 c 4 organization under the US tax code that allows us to spend a portion of our income on election-related activities. Your donation will cover your annual membership dues for 2016, enabling you to vote in our general meetings when we have an issue that we believe requires our members to weigh in.

            We are so grateful to all of you for the tremendous work you have done, including testifying and sending hundreds of emails to the city council, attending long city meetings, and working to bring our issues out in the election.  We look forward to continuing to work with you in 2016 for an affordable, livable, and diverse Cambridge!


Your Executive Committee,

Nancy Ryan, Jonathan King, Lee Farris, Kathy Watson and Shelley Rieman


 Make Your Vote Count



 Cambridge Residents Alliance Annual Report, 2014-2015

Presented at the Annual Meeting -- June 25, 2015

The Cambridge Residents Alliance Annual Report highlights some of our struggles and successes as we work to bring more peoples’ voices and needs into the planning of our city of the future.

The Cambridge Residents Alliance (CResA) was formed in the Spring of 2012 to confront the citywide onslaught of development. More than 18 million square feet of new commercial and high-end residential buildings were being built or permitted, adding 50,000 additional car and transit trips per day.  As land and rental prices skyrocketed, thousands of residents unable to afford to rent or buy in Cambridge were forced to move elsewhere.  In addition to organizing and advocacy for effective housing, environmental and planning policies, we endorsed a single candidate, Dennis Carlone, in the City Council election of 2013. With his significant urban design expertise and strong advocacy for a citywide Master Plan, he won and has been a champion of our overall agenda.

The year from June 2014 to June 2015 saw the CResA expand as a citywide force supporting the formation or reinvigoration of concerned, active neighborhood groups throughout the city.

We want to share and grow the knowledge we have gained mastering zoning and other city and state regulations in order to achieve our goals of affordable housing, open space, environmental sustainability, manageable traffic and effective public transportation and more. We value the contributions you have made toward these goals and welcome -- and need -- your participation on behalf of the future of Cambridge.       

Affordable Housing or Luxury High Rise Buildings?

The Cambridge Residents Alliance has made the production and preservation of affordable housing a top priority from the beginning. We have lobbied for increases in the funding sources that produce it; and our platform calls for 100% affordable housing on city property. We have called on the City to use surplus commercial tax revenues. Yet what is being planned and built throughout the City are mostly “market rate” (read luxury) rental apartments.  Current City policies require only 11.5% of new residential development to be “affordable,” leaving 88.5% for those who can pay $2900 for a small two-bedroom unit (for example, see the Atmark). These new buildings are driving up current land prices and rents, driving out tenants who cannot afford the increases.

Most elected officials and many advocates have decided to settle for the few affordable units being built. The Cambridge Residents Alliance has taken the position that we cannot allow real estate interests to define who can afford to live in Cambridge and so we have taken controversial stands to oppose the permitting of out-sized towers full of luxury housing that will define for generations the population size and mix, the retail options, the atmosphere and sense of community in many currently diverse neighborhoods. Below is a look at some of our efforts in 2014 and 2015.

“Mass + Main” Residential Tower in Central Square -- We opposed the re-zoning of most of a city block on Massachusetts Avenue at Jill Rhone Brown Park next to McDonald’s so that Normandy Real Estate Partners and Twining Properties could build a 195-foot tower, two and a half times taller than allowed under current zoning. Supporters and opponents agreed that if anything were built on that site it should be housing; we disagreed on the impact a building of its size with 80% luxury units would have on the area.

  • We distributed 1500 flyers to the abutting neighborhoods to inform residents about the proposed tower.
  • We objected to the owners’ petition to maintain private parking facilities on the residential side of Bishop Allen Drive so they would not have to build underground parking. We lobbied for housing to be built on the surface lot. In the end the developer promised to give the City about half of the lot in 4 years following construction.
  • We lobbied for Councilor Carlone’s proposal for a shorter building on Mass. Ave. and a public-private partnership with the City to create far more units of affordable housing.
  • We objected to the very last-minute change of language from a maximum of 5% very small studio apartments to a minimum of 8% such micro units, changing the essential character of the building they had been marketing to the public.  We will be monitoring the actual number of these units when the building comes before the Planning Board for a Special Permit.
  • We urged that all of the 3-bedroom units be affordable. The developer promised at the last minute to allow the City to purchase an additional 3 units of unspecified size that could be made affordable.
  • Outcome -- In exchange for an increase in the percent of affordable units (17% for low/moderate- and 3% for middle-income units) and 10% 3-bedrooms, the City Council voted 7 to 2 to allow the entire up-zoning. We applaud Councilors Dennis Carlone and Nadeem Mazen who voted against the zoning petition.
  • The Cambridge Residents Alliance members will continue to follow this project to the Planning Board where a Special Permit for the design of this “gateway to Central Square and Area 4/The Port” will be debated.

Increasing Funds Used for Affordable Housing – The Cambridge Residents Alliance published a paper explaining the various sources of funds that create and support affordable housing, including Incentive and Inclusionary Zoning, recommended a number of improvements, and testified at the City Council hearing on the recent Nexus Study on January 29, 2015.

  • Incentive Zoning, often called a “linkage fee,” requires large new non-residential developments to make contributions based on the size of the building to the Affordable Housing Trust or else build the housing. The City Council can recalculate the fee every 3 years, but the Council had not changed it since 1988. We supported the 2014 Carlone proposal to raise the fee immediately from $4.58 to $7.83 per square foot but that was rejected by the Council.
  • A Nexus Study, done by an outside consultant, assesses the impact of new commercial development on housing needs. The last Cambridge study in 2002 had recommended raising the fee to $7.83 but that was ignored. The new study published in January, 2015 cited a need for a fee of $24.30 per square foot to support low-, moderate- and middle-income housing, but recommended an increase of only $10 to $12 per square foot. We urged 1) adoption of the $24.30 figure as realistic; 2) the City expand the sizes and uses of buildings that must pay a linkage fee.
  • Inclusionary Zoning requires all new residential buildings with more than 9 units to set aside 15% for affordable housing for people with low/moderate incomes; when a special permit for a larger building is approved, that amount becomes 11.5%. We lobbied consistently for an increase to 20% of units affordable to low-moderate incomes and 5% for middle incomes. A study was ordered by the City to determine an increase and has not been either completed or published to date.

(Inadequate) Planning and (Over) Development

Central Square (C2) Planning – During the Normandy/Twining building debate, the 2012 recommendations by the Central Square Advisory Committee (C2) to re-zone Central Square were often mentioned. The CResA testified at City Council in April, 2015 on our concerns about and differences with the C2 recommendations and the absence of a Master Plan for the City.

  • The recommendations were never formally debated and amended or adopted by either the Council or the Planning Board, with no consensus about why.
  • We objected to the statement by the late head of Community Development, Brian Murphy, that further re-zoning of Central Square would be conducted “parcel by parcel” as developers’ proposals came forward.
  • We agreed with the recommendation that surface parking be replaced with underground parking and the City consider building 100% affordable housing on some of its public lots; we even created some draft designs.
  • As our platform states, we supported modest increases in height and density to achieve substantially more affordable housing.
  • We supported the proposed “neighborhood edge” sub-districts in the C2 plan to protect existing housing and maintain a neighborhood scale.

The Sullivan Courthouse in East Cambridge  Throughout the Summer and Fall of 2014 and into the Spring of 2015, CResA members joined forces with the newly-formed Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge (NAEC) to oppose the sale of the contaminated and abandoned Courthouse to a private developer for new commercial (and a little residential) use. As a government entity, it was constructed in the 1970s to a height of 280 feet, immune to the local zoning laws in a neighborhood zoned for 80 feet.

  • CResA members in numbers joined East Cambridge neighbors protesting the preservation of the height for the benefit of the new private owner, worsened traffic snarls from thousands of employees of new commercial tenants, and added nighttime light intrusion. Only 24 housing units are proposed.
  • The intensity of the outcry forced the Planning Board to meet in a school auditorium to accommodate the concerned crowds, but the Board voted to approve the special permits needed to move forward.
  • We supported the abutting neighbors who sued the state and developer, and some of us, including Councilor Carlone, attended the arguments in Land Court. The judge found for the state, so the neighbors will appeal.
  • The redevelopment of the building cannot go forward, however, unless about 400 parking spaces are identified within a local sphere – and some of those are in the City’s municipal lot across the street, so local pressure points remain.

The Volpe Transportation Center 

            The US government has decided to sell the 14-acre campus on Broadway near Kendall Sq. that houses the Volpe Transportation Center. The City has proposed up-zoning the 10 acres that will be owned by the new developer. The Cambridge Residents Alliance has been studying and testifying about our concerns regarding this very complex transaction, which appears to be on a fast track for Council approval during the Summer and into early Fall, 2015. So far, the CResA has expressed concerns about:

  • The draft zoning package that proposes a total of 15% of housing be affordable, but only 10% for people of low- and moderate-incomes, with 5% for people of middle-incomes, below the current minimum requirement of 11.5% for low- and moderate incomes.
  • The option to build at least one building up to 500 feet (with one City Councilor advocating a 1000-foot height).
  • Radical downsizing of the active open space promised to the neighborhood.
  • The zoning proposes that 60% of the building area be for commercial/lab, and only 40% for residential, even though many councilors agree that the city urgently needs more housing.

The zoning of the Volpe campus is happening now in June, 2015 with important hearings and decision points to occur this Summer and early Fall. This acreage and the Quadrangle in the Fresh Pond area are the city’s only remaining large tracts of land which can be planned for the needs of their immediate neighborhoods and the City as a whole. 

Master Plan Advocacy 

            A founding principle of the CRA has been the desperate need for a coherent plan for Cambridge as it reacts to the enormous build-out of the city. Despite our efforts to move a Master Plan process forward, a Master Plan effort has been delayed and watered down consistently by the City Council and the administration.

  • We supported the “Carlone Petition” in 2014 to enable the City Council to vote on the awarding of Special Permits for large projects, to bring accountability and checks and balances to the process. It was defeated by the City Council, with Councilors Carlone and Mazen voting in favor.
  • We pushed hard for the hiring of an outside consultant to initiate Master Planning as new large development proposals were looming.  Instead, the Council voted to have the Community Development Department and a consultant conduct a series of “citywide conversations” about residents’ hopes for the city of the future that were convened during the summer and early Fall of 2014 with a report that was not made public until November 2014. We participated in nearly every public discussion, continuing to ask publically when the actual Master Plan process would begin.
  • We filed written comments and suggestions on the April, 2015 draft “Request for Qualifications” and scope of services for a consultant to oversee the Master Plan, including that the process should be able to be completed in 18 months to two years, as Boston proposes for its own plan, not the three years as in the draft.       
  • We urged that a housing analysis and plan be prioritized as an “early deliverable.” The RFQ has been issued without most of our suggestions. We will, however, remain engaged with the planning process to promote our goals and visions, to ensure that it meaningfully involves a wide range of residents, and that the conclusions of report have not been predetermined.

Planning Board Reform

            The CResA wrote a thorough critique of the Planning Board structure and procedures in a May 2014 letter to City Manager Rossi. We met with Mr. Rossi and successfully pressured him to fill 4 expired terms and a vacancy on the Planning Board, and to encourage the election of a new Chair. Then the CResA turned to three focuses:

  • Early neighborhood review – Groups throughout the city recognized that they had few formal methods of input into proposed large developments that would impact significantly the character of a neighborhood as well as traffic patterns, environmental safety, open space and more. Our proposed change in Planning Board rules would require early neighborhood review as part of any large development plan, along with draft zoning language with deadlines and other requirements, was presented to the City Manager and CDD staff in late 2014. In response to our concerns, the city convened a “Planning Board Focus Group” process in late Fall 2014.  A limited neighborhood review rule is under discussion.
  • Accessible Meetings – the CResA pressed for the video-taping and live-streaming of Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals meetings. Participants in the focus group process from throughout the city agreed that in this day and age, live-streaming for maximum engagement of residents should be a top priority.
  • 3-D Models of Large Project Proposals – Residents have a right to see a realistic portrayal of the height, density and placement of proposed new buildings within the context of the surrounding area. Most developers are using drawn renderings and photographs that portray large buildings from favorable and often distorted angles to minimize neighborhood concerns.

Forum on GentrificationJanuary 31, 2015

            More than 120 Cambridge residents from neighborhoods across the city braved a snowy winter day to attend the January 31 Forum on Cambridge Governance and Gentrification -- Will you be pushed out of Cambridge – who decides? Renae Gray of the Area 4/Port Coalition reflected on the continuing loss of friends and neighbors forced out of Area 4 by increasing rents and housing prices. “Who is driving the train?” she asked. “Is it development or is it housing?” The forum examined the role of City government and the Planning Board in particular, the options for the City to build more affordable housing, the amount of unaffordable housing that is being permitted and constructed, and the role of real estate interests in setting the terms of development.

Environmental Activism

Cambridge as a “Net Zero Community  As one of the nation's most densely-populated cities, approximately 80% of Cambridge’s carbon footprint comes from the energy that is used to power the built environment.

  • In 2013, climate activists, the Cambridge Residents Alliance, and neighborhood leaders came together to draft the Connolly Petition for net zero emissions, a citizen-sponsored zoning petition to promote energy efficiency and require the use of renewable energy in all large, new buildings.
  • In late 2013, the council established the Getting to Net Zero Task Force and in 2014 approved an "early-action” item, a Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance.
  • On June 22, 2015, the Cambridge City Council unanimously voted to adopt the final recommendations of the Net Zero Action Plan. Cambridge is now officially on the path to becoming a net zero community.

Now the success of the plan depends on how fast Cambridge moves to implement all of its various elements, so CResA will remain involved. 

The Silver Maple Forest  This 15-acre forest located mostly in Arlington near the Alewife “T” station protected uniquely diverse wildlife and served as a natural buffer from flooding  Sadly, the forest was destroyed in October, 2014 to make way for a 300-unit apartment building in Arlington with 500 parking spots. Members of the CResA supported and participated in lobbying efforts, demonstrations, lawsuits and civil disobedience actions to save the forest and bring attention to the destruction of forests and wetlands as a factor in future flooding due to climate change.

Gratitude and Hope

            Almost 1000 Cambridge residents have signed our petitions and registered on our web site to be part of our efforts to create and maintain a Cambridge of the future that is “livable, affordable and diverse.” We have written, testified, demonstrated, knocked on doors, researched, gathered and more. Together, we have surfaced issues involving good governance and accountability and have taken a hard look at who will be able to live in this evolving Cambridge. As we approach a new electoral season, we will have more opportunity to ask the questions raised by the efforts documented here and more. Thank you for your commitment to our community over the past year and to come.



 Next Meeting

Please join friends and neighbors at the 2015 Annual Meeting of Cambridge Residents Alliance:


Thursday, June 25, 6:30-8:30 pm

Central Square Library, 45 Pearl St.


Discussions of Master Plan process, Volpe re-zoning, City Council campaign, Affordable Housing Initiatives and more

Election of Board of Directors; review of by-laws and Annual Report

Refreshments, good company - the place to be!

It’s easy to make your 2015 dues donation with the Donate button

Our dues are set at $10 or what you can afford; please consider an additional donation to support all the printing and other costs that make ourcollective work possible.

You can also pay dues and donate by check, cash or credit card at the Annual Meeting.

Proposed Slate of Board Members and Officers for Cambridge Residents Alliance

Officers: Nancy Ryan President; Lee Farris, Vice President; Jonathan King, Vice President; Shelley Rieman, Clerk; Kathy Watkins, Treasurer.

Board Members: Torgun Austin; Phyllis Bretholtz; Gary Dmytryk; Lee Farris; Richard Goldberg; Catherine Hoffman; Jackie King; Jonathan King; Richard Krushnic; Susan Markowitz; John Ratliff; Shelley Rieman; Nancy Ryan; Paul Stone; Barbara Taggart; Amelia Taylor; Charles Teague; Kathy Watkins


House Party

Please join Quinton Zondervan of Green Cambridge and Minga Borne and Pattie Heyman of Mothers Out Front, and Mike Connolly of Net Zero Cambridge discussing issues of mutual concern.

Sunday May 31, 6 - 8 pm at a house party benefit for Cambridge Residents Alliance

At the home of Susan Markowitz and Richard Krushnic 20 Oak Street Inman Square Cambridge

Please RSVP

If unable to attend please consider making a donation by clicking the Donate button

Cambridge is facing a cascade of large-scale developments. The proposals for Northpoint, Kendall Square, MITIMCo, Forest City, Central Square and Alewife are all being considered piecemeal by the Cambridge Planning Board and City Council. This approach ignores the overall impact of millions of square feet of new construction, tens of thousands of additional auto trips per day, and tens of thousands of additional transit trips per day on our city. The proposed high-rise, market-rate housing towers do not fulfill our needs for affordable housing, and will degrade the quality of life for Cambridge residents. The Cambridge Residents Alliance is working for a livable, affordable, and diverse Cambridge.


 A call for your voice to be heard at City Council May 18:

No to more luxury towers without a citywide plan

No to more uncontrolled parcel-by-parcel development

YES to Citywide Plan that prioritizes affordable housing



Forum on Cambridge Governance Engages and Mobilizes Residents




Working for a Livable, Affordable and Diverse Cambridge;

   More than 120 Cambridge residents from neighborhoods across the city braved a snowy,cold winter day to attend the January 31 Forum on Cambridge Governance, “Will You Be Forced Out of Cambridge? Who Decides?”. After a warm welcome from Shelley Rieman on behalf of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, Renae Gray of the Area 4/Port Coalition (below right) reflected on the continuing loss of friends and neighbors forced out of Area 4 by increasing rents and housing costs. “Who is driving the train?” she asked. “Is it development or is it housing? Who is driving the train?


The Situation Many Current Cambridge Residents Face (Chairs Kathy Watkins and Barbara Taggart):

      Cambridgeport resident Barbara Taggart, founder and long-term principal of Cambridgeport Plumbing, drew on her decades of professional experience to describe the sad and systematic loss of clients as they were forced to leave Cambridge, after the abolition of rent control. Several of Barbara’s former clients were in attendance and two recounted their particular stories.

    Stephanie Guirand, one of the leaders of the recent Black Lives Matter Cambridge march, emphasized how bleak the possibilities are for young people wanting to stay in Cambridge and raise their children here. Her ally Robers Armand from Goree House (below right) described the frustration of living in a world center of innovation and technology, surrounded by MIT, Pfizer, Novartis, Google and other high tech giants, yet having very little access to their resources, jobs, or technical training.

   Robel___Stephanie__1.JPG Richard Krushnic reported on the large real estate corporations and trusts operating in Cambridge. He pointed out that four corporations -- Boston Properties, Forest City Ratner, Alexandria, and Biomed Realty -- own and operate one quareterof all commercial space in Cambridge, about 9 million square feet commercial, and also one million square feet of residential space. Three of these entities are REITS – real estate investment trusts – which distribute their profits to investors who may come from all over the world. Forest City Ratner is not a REIT, but is controlled by the Cleveland-based Ratner Family. Other large developers include HYM (Northpoint) and Twining/Normandy Partners. In the latter case it is Normandy Partners who are the major investors. Similarly the major investment behind the Rich McKinnon projects near Fresh Pond come from the multi-national Blackstone Corporation. Read his report here.

    John Ratliff reminded the audience that many critical housing and human needs programs depend on tax dollars that are returned to Cambridge from the federal budget. Unfortunately almost half of the discretionary spending – under Congressional control – still goes to the military. Many of these military programs, such as nuclear weapons modernization or military excursions in the Middle East, destabilize national security. And the failure to invest adequately in the domestic economy is lowering our standard of living and our children’s prospects. Mass Peace Action is organizing a Peace and Planet campaign to press the US to get rid of its nuclear weapons, and save a trillion dollars that can be invested into local needs of housing, healthcare, education, infrastructure repair, and environmental protection.

City Government Roles in Responding to Resident’s Needs (Chairs – Jan Devereux (right) and Peggy Lenart):


    Gary Dmytryk led off and explained that in Cambridge, the City Manager hires and fires all city personnel and directs all city agency activities. The Plan E form of Government in Cambridge seriously limits the ability of the elected City Council to oversee the manager. This form of government, in which the actual leadership of the city is neither elected by nor directly accountable to the voters, is probably one of the least democratic forms of municipal governance. Indeed, when former City Manager Robert Healy left after more than 30 years tenure, there was no national or other search for a replacement. The City Council simply appointed Healy’s long time assistant Richard Rossi, essentially continuing business as usual.

   Heather Hoffman described the functions of the City Council, and its limitations. The Council hires the city manager, approves the budget, decides zoning changes, and makes suggestions called Orders to manager. Heather emphasized the importance of residents attending to Council decisions, communicating with them, and voting. She provided the legislative basis of City Council function under Plan E.

    Nancy Ryan described the increasing frustration of residents trying to get the appointed Planning Board to respond to their concerns, rather than just rubber stamp developer proposals. Her detailed critique is here. Nancy concluded that a more active, more responsive City Council would be needed, to get substantial reform of the planning, zoning and permitting, and called on people to engage in the 2015 election.

How Can We Make City Government more Democratic and Accountable (Chairs Gary Dmytrk and Peter Crawley):

The final panel offered a range of actions:

    Lee Farris proposed establishing a form of shadow cabinet, with committees monitoring city manager, city council, and planning board activity, and regularly reporting back and creating counter-proposals. Read her proposal.

    Paul Steven Stone called for an aggressive campaign to elect two or three more progressive City Councilors who would put the interests of residents before developers. Contribution data collected by Doug Brown shows clearly the large sums real estate interests contribute to some councilors. Paul recommended that this information be widely distributed. Read his call.

    Ilan Levy argued that the appointed City Manager was the least accountable and least democratic form of government, and that Cambridge needed to change back to having a Mayor who is directly elected. That doesn’t guarantee accountability, but at least the citizenry have the opportunity to vote for someone else if they are not happy with governance.

   Michael Hawley, one of the group which has filed a lawsuit challenging the disposition and reuse of the East Cambridge Courthouse, reminded the audience of what an egregious error the original construction of this project represented, how it had avoided normal oversight, and how important it was, 50 years later, to actually correct the mistakes. He noted how dangerous a precedent is established if a project that is uniformly considered to be damaging to the community, is allowed to go forward.

Small Group Circle Discussions: What Changes Are Needed to Sustain a Livable, Diverse and Affordable City for Cambridge Residents?

       In one of the high points of the afternoon, each small table engaged in a lively discussion about the issues that had been raised. Cogent report backs were presented to the body as a whole. Reporters included Phylis Bretholz, Lee Farris, Susan Markowitz, Cathy Hoffman, Heather Hoffman, Alison Juma, Richard Krushnic, Peggy Lenart, Marie Saccoccio, and Sheli Wortis, We hope to make the summaries availablon our website soon. 

   Several common themes emerged from the circle discussions: We need to make our city government more accountable to the people who live here! Many expressed the need to elect more City Councilors who are concerned about unplanned and overheated development and will be more responsive to neighborhood groups. Some called for a challenge to the Plan E form of government. Many stressed the need for more affordable housing to preserve and expand the diversity of the city. Others discussed the need to reach out more effectively to constituencies most affected by rising housing costs, including youth, low-income residents, public housing tenants, and others. Many talked about exploring more creative use of social media and other forms of outreach.


    A full video of the forum, courtesy of Mark Jaquith, can be viewed at:

    All are welcome to the next General Meeting of the Cambridge Residents Alliance on Sunday Feb. 22, 4:30 to 6:30 pm at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Harvard Street near its intersection with Prospect. All photos courtesy of Phyllis Bretholtz Jonathan King


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