Rezoning Activists Offer Compromise
Square Developments Still Threatened
A neighborhood association seeking to limit development in East Harvard Square, blocking a possible University plan to build a hotel across the street from the Freshman Union, has decided to compromise on its proposal to drastically rezone the area.
At a meeting of the City Council last night, Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55 explained amendments that slightly tone down zoning changes suggested in the group's original petition.
Under the new proposal, land owned by St. Paul's Church on Mt. Auburn St. would not be rezoned, but development rights on the former site of the Gulf station would still be severely limited.
The Crimson would also be allowed to continue planned renovations next summer under the conditions of the amended plan.
The East Harvard Square Neighborhood Association decided to call for compromise zoning after realizing that their chances of pushing their original petition through the council were slim, petition author Terry Crystal said in an interview last night.
"Zoning is not written in stone," Crystal said. "We were aware that some councillors might find the original plan too restrictive."
Changes to the city's zoning laws normally require the approval of six councillors, or six of nine votes, but if the owners of 20 percent of the land in the area affected oppose the change, a seventh vote is necessary. Harvard, which owns about half the land covered under the Crystal petition, has already registered its opposition to the plan.
Crystal's original petition, which was submitted to the council in January, called for drastic changes in the zoning of the East Harvard Square neighborhood. The change was designed to halt two major developments slated for construction in the area--Harvard's proposed hotel and Graham Gund's "Zero Arrow Street" development, a six-story complex of shops and offices.
Although the compromise petition slightly increases developers' options in building on the two lots, it would not allow the construction of either project.
Under the new plan Harvard could build to a height of 45 feet on the gulf station lot, at a floor-area ratio (FAR) of 1.75. FAR is the proportion of a building's total floor area to the size of its lot.
The original plan would have limited new building on the site to 35 feet high at an FAR of 75.
University officials have criticized the plan, saying that the restrictions it imposed were far too harsh.
But Crystal said that her proposal reflects the desires of many East Harvard Square residents.
"What we came up with was what the community wanted," said Crystal.
Because the city council is divided, 4-5, between members backed by the liberal Cambridge Civic Association and the more conservative Independents, controversial zoning changes do not often receive enough votes to pass. But Crystal said she hopes her group can obtain the necessary votes.
The group has scheduled a slide presentation at the next council meeting on April 24 to win the support of councillors.
Duehay said the amendments have not been written in proper legal form yet but should be by the next council meeting.