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In Cambridge, a Fight Over Apartments in Building Basements

In Cambridge, there's a rumble bubbling over one landlord's push to turn the basements of its buildings into apartments.

The Zuker family, which owns the 27-building Chestnut Hill Realty Corporation, has been for about a year donating money to Cambridge City Council members, critics say, in an attempt to get the zoning law changed to allow for apartments to spring forth from basements that would otherwise be used for storage, utilities or nothing at all. Chestnut Hill originally pushed the amendment as a way to create additional affordable "workforce housing," but there was nothing in the proposed changed that would mandate the new apartments as affordable. The amendment failed twice.

The City Council, however, will likely vote on a new version this coming Monday, one without the "workforce housing" language and with a smaller geographic area where the amended zoning would apply—several blocks along Mass. Ave. between Harvard and Porter squares, what Mark Jaquith, a former president of the Cambridge Association of Neighborhoods, calls "the low-rent district."

Jaquith points out that even the amended amendment now before the council would not provide for additional parking to correspond to the new basement apartments. This is a very big deal in an area not celebrated for its ease of parking. He and other critics also object to the flooding, sewage backups and poor ventilation they claim are common to basement apartments. Plus, well, there's "the stigma associated with being a basement kid." Of course.

· Zoning Law Change Would Benefit Chestnut Hill Realty Project [Chronicle]
· Where Not to Park in Allston, Brighton, South End, North End [Curbed Boston]