December 20, 2022

Agenda packet

Planning Board Meeting Focus: Callender, et al., Zoning Petition Zoning Petition by Duane Callender, et al. (the “Petition”), to amend Article 2.000 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by adding a definition for Technical office for research and development, laboratory & research facility, and to amend Section 4.34(f) of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance such that technical office uses are changed from permitted uses to prohibited uses in Office 1, 2A, 2, 3, 3A and Business A, A-1, A-2, A-3, B, B-1, B-2, and C districts


  • The meeting began with a presentation by Mr. Callendar and other petitioners as to why they sought to regulate lab development in the proposed designated areas.
    • Petitioners stated that they want to restrict intensive biotech/pharma development that would “outcompete” housing. 
    • Re: Kendall Sq. – Petitioners stated that they are not seeking to restrict First and Second St, but they want to regulate BA-2, O-2, BA zones. 
  • During public comment, the majority of the speakers opposed the petition. 
  • MIT, the KSA and the Harvard Square Business Association all opposed the petition.  Among the points raised in opposition were:
    • The vast majority of the land in Cambridge is zoned residential.
    • Cambridge is among the top five communities with the highest percentage of affordable housing in Massachusetts.
    • Innovation and housing are not mutually exclusive.
    • There are small, independently owned labs that exist today in the proposed restricted areas that are precisely the kind of small businesses that contribute to the city’s vibrancy, prosperity, and legacy as home to the world’s most forward-thinking innovators. 
    • The Petition threatens the viability of smaller labs and over time would force them out of Cambridge to other emerging innovation hubs in Massachusetts or around the globe. 
    • Labs do not blight commercial centers, in fact centers thrive when there is a consistent workforce and resident population to patronize local restaurants and shops. Lab employees contribute to a stable local economy by supporting restaurants and retail before, during, and after their work days ensuring an overall vibrant economy in Cambridge. 
    • Despite the immense impact this petition would have on how people live, work and play in Cambridge, the language of the amendment is vague and unclear.
      • For example, it does not address how the City will accommodate existing labs in the proposed zoning areas like East Cambridge that are already established and contribute to the vibrancy of the city. Many of these existing labs rent spaces. Does this mean the building space is permitted, or are the organizations occupying the space is permitted? Furthermore, the definitions of “lab facilities”, “innovation spaces”, and “maker spaces” are too general, and run the risk of issuing a blanket regulation for lab facilities that smothers fledgling businesses. 
        • There is real confusion as to what is before the City of Cambridge for consideration here where there are multiple versions of footnote 62 in the materials submitted.  In one version of the amendment, footnote 62 deems existing labs in the zoning areas under consideration as conforming “until 2050” with no indication as to what happens thereafter, and in another version (the version linked from the City’s website in preparation for the December 20 hearing), footnote 62 does not specify a date after which these labs may be deemed conforming
    • After the conclusion of public comments, the Planning Board discussed the Petition.  In summary, multiple Board members:
      • Found the petition overbroad and confusing, 
      • Expressed concern that the Petition could stifle innovation, and 
      • Restated the KSA position that housing and innovation need not be mutually exclusive. 

    Conclusion: The Planning Board concluded that the Petition wasn’t properly structured to achieve the stated objectives, and voted to recommend against the Petition (6-1).  The Planning Board acknowledged the need for affordable housing , and suggested that there be some process whereby continued work can be done between the petitioners, City, and the business community on this topic.