These dimensional standards are designed to
bring the majority of pre-existing buildings in Cambridge into conformance, meaning that they can be redeveloped or renovated without the need for a variance or decreasing the number of units; and to
ensure that lots which aren’t yet built out have the opportunity to be developed responsibly, in accordance with our housing shortage and our climate crisis, rather than wastefully.
For example, if 99 Fayerweather St. were zoned for Residence N, it could be rebuilt almost exactly as it is, as a two-family house. But it could also be rebuilt as a triple-decker, with three large 1500 sq. ft. 3BR units, or as a six-plex of medium-sized 750 sq. ft. 1BR/2BR units, providing lower costs as more units could be built on the same amount of land. In all of these scenarios, FAR still limits the building’s footprint, so the backyard is still present, and there are many opportunities for trees. (In almost every possible scenario on a lot this deep and narrow, for instance, either the front or rear setback would be significantly larger than the minimum requirement.) But in none of these scenarios is the developer required to sacrifice open space and provide free parking, adding more cars, more pollution, and more congestion to Cambridge.
“Missing middle” multifamily housing already exists all over Cambridge, to some extent, in every neighborhood; what we’re seeking is simply to make it legal to build more of it. Every neighborhood in Cambridge deserves to have more plentiful, more affordable, and more sustainable new housing. It’s time for Cambridge’s historic legacy of exclusionary “sprawl zoning” to be just that - history.