City Council Summer Meeting Update (8/11/17)

The City Council held its special Summer Meeting on Monday, 8/7. We were in session for over 7 hours (until 12:45am!), and covered several important topics. Here’s an update:

Short-Term Rentals: Legal under certain conditions as of April 2018
We passed the Short-Term Rental Ordinance, with a few amendments. We included a requirement that both the property owner (landlord) and the condo association, if applicable, give written consent before the occupant can host and kept the provision that allows hosting in one “owner-adjacent” unit. The law, which requires that all hosts register with the City, will take effect on 4/1/18. The required safety inspections will begin this October. This law should deter non-resident investors from buying units or whole buildings to convert to de facto hotel rooms. You can read more about the vote in the Boston Globe.

Bike Lanes: Progress won’t be halted, but communication will improve.
Three of my colleagues sponsored a Policy Order, which asked for a formal review of recent pop-up bike lanes throughout Cambridge, for staff to meet with neighborhood representatives, and for all further implementation of protected bike lanes be halted in the meantime. It is critical that street redesigns are reviewed by the community and stakeholders, and in the case of Harvard Square there was not enough communication, but this order went too far in calling for a halt. We amended the order to hold a meeting within 10 days with our traffic and planning staff, the Interfaith community, business associations, neighborhood associations, and residents to discuss “how to expediently communicate our accelerated efforts to establish additional bike lanes…”. The Council received over 200 emails in support of protected bike lanes, and I appreciate everyone’s advocacy. Unfortunately the headline in this week’s printed Cambridge Chronicle saying that progress has been “halted” is factually incorrect; the online version was corrected. Read a recap here.

Retail Pet Sales: New law requires responsible sourcing
We passed an Ordinance to restrict the sale of animals in pet shops to those sourced through rescue or shelter organizations. Cambridge has only two pet stores and neither sells dogs or cats, but the restrictions also apply to small animals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, which like many puppies and kittens are inhumanely bred in “mills” and have a high mortality rate in transit to stores. I supported this Ordinance from the start, and am glad to see Cambridge stepping up in support of all animals. You can read more here.

Public Financing
I voted in support of a Citizen’s Petition filed by Cambridge Residents for Responsible Elections, which sought to ask voters if they would be in favor of the City adopting a to-be-determined program for the public financing of municipal elections. Even though it seemed as if we had 5 votes to put this non-binding question on the 2017 municipal ballot, Councillor Cheung exercised his Charter Right, essentially defeating the effort. You can read more about what comes next here.

Additional Updates

Harvard Sq &pizza: Still no decision
At Thursday’s Zoning Board hearing, &pizza was granted a continuance in order to give the applicant another chance to improve its design with help from city staff. Procedurally, this case has been a mess from the start. The BZA has already voted once to deny. As best I can understand it, &pizza can submit new designs to the Planning Board on 9/5 for review. With the PB’s consent, the new designs would return to both the Harvard Square Advisory Committee and the Zoning Board, which has calendared 9/28 at 7pm for a continued hearing on the case. In the meantime the storefront is neglected, dark and depressing, and now will remain so while this drags on — unless the owners step up and take interim action to prevent their vacant spaces from blighting the Square (they also own the former Hidden Sweets). These are the same owners who stand to make a nice profit in the disposition of their Brattle St commercial holdings, which are valued at $95M.

Cambridge Street Bike Lane: Installation to start 8/20
Due to a delay in acquiring the flex-posts and other materials, the installation of the Cambridge Street Bike Plane has been delayed from 8/14 to 8/20. It should be in place before school starts at CRLS.

Office Hours: Two more this summer
I’ve been holding my summer office hours in cafes all around the city. Join me at Sofra on 8/23 at 8-9:30am or at Sarah’s Market on 8/30 at 8-9:30am. I picked local coffee shops because a significant focus of my work this term as chair of the Economic Development Committee has been on supporting local retail and small businesses. Drop by and let me know what’s on your mind. Have questions or want to set up a meeting? Contact my Legislative Aide Nora Bent (617-349-4277 or nbent@cambridgema.gov).

Mark your calendars: Two September Committee Hearings
I will be chairing two Health Environment Committee Hearings this September at City Hall. Net Zero: The first will be on Weds., 9/6 at 3:30pm to discuss the recently published “Getting to Net Zero Action Plan: Fiscal Year 2016 Progress Report” and to receive a general update on the City’s Net Zero workTree Protections: The second will be on Tues., 9/26 at 3pm to follow-up on a Policy Order I submitted to review our City’s Tree Ordinance to better protect trees on private property.

Community Meeting on Airplane Noise
Please join me at a community meeting to discuss the ongoing airplane noise issue in West & North Cambridge on Thursday, 9/7 at 7pm at the Russell Youth Center (680 Huron Ave.) I’m co-hosting this meeting with Councillor Kelley, State Sen. Pat Jehlen, State Rep. Jon Hecht, Bill Deignan of CDD, and staff from the offices of Rep. Capuano and Rep. Clark. Come learn what our state and federal officials are doing on this issue.

Visit the Calendar section of my website to see upcoming public events and meetings. Our next Council meeting will be on Mon. 9/11 but there is plenty going on before then!

JOIN ME on Mon. 8/14, 6:00pm, Fresh Pond (meet outside Water Dept.)
“What’s behind the fence?” preview tour of the area along the parkway that’s being re-landscaped. Let Ranger Jean know if you are coming. (jrogers@cambridgema.gov)

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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA