Regulating Institutions

FOR YEARS, Cambridge has been powerless to regulate Harvard; now that it has been given some measure of control, the city must exercise it judiciously.

The city's community development department is currently engaged in formulating regulations to limit institutional expansion into the city's residential neighborhoods, expansion that robs Cantabrigians of housing, depletes the city's tax base, and destroys the few neighborhoods that still exist. The first draft of the regulations released last week is encouraging in some ways--the community development department has formulated a workable method of measuring and regulating expansion.

But Many in the city have complained that the regulations are too weak, and we share their trepidation. For example, it will be relatively easy under the proposed codes for institutions--universities, churches, day care centers and the rest--to expand into areas where institutional use already comprises more than half of the surrounding property. While we recognize the need for institutions other than Harvard and MIT to expand, this approach may only increase the trend to institutionalization.

As the community and the city council look at the regulations over the next few months, they should bear inmind the original goal of the legislation; to stop, as far as possible, institutional growth in Cambridge.