Envision Cambridge is Launched

Residents Urge “Planning for the People”

With bells and whistles, the Envision Cambridge citywide planning process was launched with a lively presentation at the Envision_Cambridge___Sr._Center_copy.jpgCambridge Public Library on February 11. Utile Architects and Planning, the city’s recently hired consultants, walked the audience of more than 100 residents through a slide show describing the three-year process by which they expect to reach a plan. (See a more recent meeting of Envision Cambridge in the photo to the right by Phyllis Bretholtz.)

We in the Cambridge Residents Alliance applaud the launching of a citywide planning process. In fact, we were calling for a comprehensive Master Plan for two years before the City Council approved the concept.

We saw responsible urban planning as the best way to deal with the cumulative effects of relentless and piecemeal development. We feared that a blind devotion to market forces was leading to a growing number of luxury towers, increased traffic, encroachment on open space, and, most of all, skyrocketing rents and housing prices that were driving large numbers of long-time, lower-income residents and families out of the city.                                                          

In early 2014, City Councilor Dennis Carlone, newly elected on a platform of “Planning for the People,” and his legislative aide Mike Connolly drew together neighborhood groups and community leaders from across Cambridge to begin laying the groundwork for a citywide plan that would involve substantial community input. Councilors Nadeem Mazen and E. Denise Simmons (now Mayor) joined in calling for such a plan, and the rest of the Council soon followed.

So, where does the process stand now? Utile was selected out of a field of other consultants partly because of its impressive outreach plan, according   to the Community Development Department. We hope and expect the outreach will be truly wide-ranging and inclusive and that many different voices will be brought to the table.

There is a legitimate debate in this city about how to balance growth with affordability and livability for both current and future residents. The conversation needs to include residents from all neighborhoods of the city, from diverse racial and economic backgrounds, and people with different opinions about how to shape the city’s future. That includes some of us in community groups who have expressed different views about development from the ones which have prevailed in City Hall.

Many of our voices have been excluded and ignored in the past. We were kept off of committees which were supposed to be—but were not, in our opinion—truly representative. A number of residents active in neighborhood groups have applied for the advisory committees and working groups Utile is organizing; appointments will be made by the City Manager. We will eagerly monitor and publicize the selection process.

We encourage residents to get involved in the planning process by attending one of the upcoming workshops or presentations. We hope participants will raise many of our proposed affordable housing solutions in the workshops. Now is the time to make “Planning for the People” a reality! Stay tuned.

--From the Editorial Committee

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