Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When Open Space is Not Green

I was inspired by Marilyn Wellons testimony In City Council last evening, and asked her to write them up so I could share them with you on my blog. At issue is the development of open space as policy of the City of Cambridge. The immediate location for the moment is Magazine Beach.

Kathy, you asked for a summary of my comments at the City Council meeting last night, October 29:

The City Council's Ordinance Committee has submitted areport on a proposed zoning amendment to "incorporaterequirements for LEED standards" for large projects. (LEED stands for "Leadership in Energy andEnvironmental Design.") Here again we have the City Council making much of"green" buildings.

Real green space? The Council, our policy-settingbody, adopted a "no new open space" policy in the 2000 Green Ribbon Report.

In June, 2003, it asked theManager about the acquisition of new open space inEast Cambridge. Since there's nothing to report in the last four years, there's been no reply.

The Manager and Council agree that Cambridge wants 5000 SF "green buildings," not 5000 SF green open space.

At Shady Hill Square, city officials discouraged neighbors from asking the Council to rezone the 5000 SF park to open space. Officials also declined to designate the park a landmark.

Open space pays no taxes, does nothing for the AAA bond rating. 5000 SF "green buildings" do.

In a letter to the Council, Councillor and now State Senator Galluccio reaffirmed his "steadfast" support for the "long overdue" project at Magazine Beach. The playing fields there are now also habitat for waterfowl. Cambridge will destroy the grass there now and replace it with commercial sod for professional-levelfields.

We agree that new playing fields for the city's children are very long overdue. The problem is that we won't be getting them at Magazine Beach. At Magazine Beach we are getting ZERO new playingfields.

The city will pay $1.5 million to develop EXISTING STATE, not city, ball fields. It will destroy habitat and pollute the river, as the prototype project at Ebersol Fields in Boston has donefor the last two years.

Cambridge thus allows the development of all possible open space in the city for NEW fields as taxable,"green" buildings instead. And while Cambridge works on its bond rating, other municipalities in the Charles River watershed will help pay for any possible cleanup of the algae blooms that follow from MagazineBeach as they have from Ebersol Fields.

Kathy, I would add a question: how long will Cambridge voters go along with this thinking? Marilyn