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Cambridge is for sale to the highest bidder

On April 8, after witnessing the Cambridge City Council vote to pass MIT’s zoning petition for Kendall Square, I came away feeling that Cambridge is for sale — to the highest bidders.

Yes, some visually blighted areas are looking more beautiful; yes, more interesting restaurants are opening up. But, who can afford to live, buy and eat out in these areas? I can right now, but, I am getting older (as much as I resist the notion), and I worry about the future of the city I have loved, lived in, and called home for more than forty-five years.

Cambridge is in the midst of great change, and I am afraid that the city as I have known it is changing in irreversible ways. In the process, we residents stand to lose some of the qualities of life that have kept me living, working, volunteering and contributing to life in the city: Diversity. Affordable housing for families with children. A sense of community. An opportunity for true community involvement in decisions affecting the life of the city.

Young families cannot afford to buy homes and are moving out. The school population is shrinking. We are losing our diversity and our middle class. And in the process, we are losing a sense of community. Our younger residents are fully engaged in their careers, and that is appropriate. But if the new demographic as I see it in the evening in Central Square, or at the innovation coffee shops in Kendall Square do not remain in the city — because there is no housing in which they can raise their families, or, as seems to be the current trend, they are looking for new jobs every few years, who will be here in 10–20 years to run for school committee or city council, to volunteer on commissions, to bring their children to River Fest? How can we build a true community if young people are moving on or moving out?

I am deeply worried that I am preaching to the choir. Beyond the people who share my concerns, is anyone listening? Residents have only three minutes to speak at City Council, and some of the timing feels quite arbitrary. Community representatives to committees are chosen by the City Manager, not by their neighbors. Votes by the City Council are sometimes taken before residents have had a chance to speak. This is not the open, democratic city I once felt confident represented the interests of all its residents. Is anyone listening?

Phyllis Bretholtz
Cambridge resident