Planning Board to Review Cambridgeport Proposals

Two Schemes Differ on Low-Income Housing

The Cambridge City Council last night voted to send two proposals for zoning the last large tract of undeveloped land in the city to the Cambridge Planning Board after a long debate that split the council along its factional lines.

Differing only in the number of housing untis they require, the plants create zoning guidelines for buildings on a 100-acre vacant tract located in the southern sector of the city between MIT and the Charles River. The plot covers much of the Cambridgeport neighborhood.

The area has not been rezoned since the 1950s and the current regulations allow for no city control over the type of developments built on the property. Several city councilors and community groups have been struggling to design new zoning for the tract since MIT--which owns about one-half of the Cambridgeport land--announced last year that it was preparing to choose a developer for 27 of its acres.

New zoning proponents have said that without legal restrictions, MIT will opt to build more profitable commercial and industrial developments.

Both of the plans considered last night stress neighborhood concern for low and moderate-income housing and park space in any new projects.


But as in past discussions of the Cambridgeport area--the city's Community Development Department (CDD) has been working for three years to design a comprehensive zoning package--the council's principal concern last night was its own internal division.

Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci last night made a parliamentary move to reconsider a council vote last week that sent a CDD proposal that was amended by the council's liberal Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) faction.

The four CCA councilors last week increased the original CDD requirement of 100 housing units with 26 subsididzed for low-income residents to 350 units with 77 reserved for poor tenants.

Vellucci said that the amended plan restricted business interests and would consequently fail to get the support of the council's four conservative Independents. Zoning changes require seven votes for approval.

But the CCA councilors argued that once the planning board made a recommendation, the council could not make the zoning package more restrictive.

So the councilors compromised and unanimously voted to send both the amended plan and the original version to the planning board, which is required by law to design a compromise when presented with two proposals.

Cambridgeport was a major industrial area before 1950, but rising land prices and a new superhighway planned through the area forced many firms to relocate. The largest of these was the Simplex Wire and Cable Co.; which left 25 acres vacant.