The agenda for the Cambridge City Council’s meeting on Monday, October 16th 2017, is posted online. The meeting will be televised and live-streamed, as always. What follows is my summary of the most important items on this week’s agenda:
City Manager’s Agenda
#1, #2 Low-Income Heating Assistance: The City Manager has reported on two appropriations which will support heating assistance for low-income residents in Cambridge. The first is in the amount of $1,172,105 funded by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to support the Low Income Heating Assistance Program. In 2017, the program served 1,291 people in Cambridge in Somerville (587 in Cambridge). The second is a grant of $15,000 from the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, which will be used to supplement fuel assistance payments.
#3, 4 Homelessness Prevention and Support: These two grants will work to support homelessness prevention, tenant support, and transition support. The first comes from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and totals $116,748 and will be used for the Support for Tenants at Risk program and to provide a clinician who will be based at the Cambridge District Court to give legal advice to assist with tenancy preservation/homelessness prevention. The second is a grant in the amount of $95,281 from the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance to support the Carey Men’s Transitional Program which assists homeless men end their homelessness by providing transitional housing, counseling, and case management.
#7, #10 Higher-Education Support: These two grants will support Cambridge residents as they pursue higher education. The first is a grant form the Friends of the Community Learning Center in the amount of $22,953, which will fund classes, advising, and coaching for Bridge to College program students. The second is a grant of $12,500 from the College Success Program to the Cambridge Housing Authority to support a portion of salary costs for a part-time college success coach to work with CHA residents who are attending Bunker Hill Community College.
#11 Police Sub-station in Central Square: Our new Police Commissioner has respond to a Council request for an update on the proposed police substation in Central Square. The Department is studying the pro/cons of having a mobile sub-station, a portable but fixed sub-station, or a sub-station in a fixed location. In the interim, the CPD has significantly increased its presence and community-policing efforts in Central Square.
#12 Computerized Traffic Signals: Our Traffic staff have responded to an Order I submitted requesting information on the feasibility of installing computerized traffic signals along the city’s main corridors to ease traffic flow while also keeping speeds safe for cyclists and pedestrians. Significant upgrades are needed to improve our signals and this report provides a detailed analysis of the options that exist. We are testing the technology at the Sherman/Garden/Huron intersection.
#14 Sidewalk Tractor: Our DPW will be purchasing a “Sidewalk Tractor” in the amount of $135,000 to increase timely snow clearance on sidewalks and bike lanes throughout Cambridge. This new tractor will replace an older one that broke down this summer.
#15 July Gas Leak on Binney Street: After this past July’s major gas leak on Binney St., I asked our staff to report back on what we are doing to prevent these types of accidents from occurring. All contractors and utility companies must follow DigSafe protocol and be properly insured. They are also required to attend weekly construction meetings to coordinate construction, participate in safety presentations, identify any conflicts, and address community relations issues.
#18 East Cambridge/Kendall Square Open Space Planning Study: Our staff has responded to a request for an update on the 2015 East Cambridge/Kendall Square Open Space Study. Staff have been working on the design of four public spaces (5 acres total): Rogers St. Park (Rogers St. between Second and Third Streets), Binney St. Park (Galileo Way between Broadway and Binney St.), Triangle Park (Land Blvd. and First St.), and Point Park (Main St. and Broadway; this project is complete). This report provides an update and timeline of each project.
#19 Sacramento Field Renovation Funding: This request to the Council is for $150,000 to support completing the Sacramento Field renovation. The original funding was for $850,000 and the contract was awarded at $839,000, leaving little room for contingencies. Numerous changes that came up during the community design phase and construction phase (upgrade of surface path, addition of 6′ cedar fencing along property boundary, addition of ornamental steel picket fence at front of community garden pathway) necessitate these additional funds. Most of the project will be completed in fall 2017, but the field area will not be available for use until late Spring 2018.
#20 Airplane Noise: Our staff has reported on the frequent airplane noise over North and West Cambridge, due to the RNAV runway routing system that was implemented in 2013. The City is participating in a Noise Study Citizen Advisory Committee and the Massport Advisory Committee. I held a community meeting last month to discuss this issue, and will be sending a follow-up letter to Massport next week. Additional concerns have arisen due to the proposed Millennium Tower at Winthrop Sq. in Boston. At its proposed height of 775 feet, it would increase use of the runway that heavily impacts Cambridge. The FAA issued a Notice of Presumed Hazard in August, proposing that the structure be reduced to 518 feet to be immediately approved by the FAA or to 702 feet for further study. Our staff will continue monitoring this situation to try to protect our residents from this crippling noise.
#21 Council Goals: For the past year, the City Council has been working with a consultant to set new goals to guide our work. This report lists the guiding principles and the broad goals on which we have agreed. City staff is working to create actions and performance measures for each of the 12 goals and 53 associated objectives–this will continue into 2018. At this week’s meeting, we will be asked to adopt the guiding principles and goals so that they can be incorporated into the budget process, which begins in December. I have been actively involved in this process, attending every meeting, and look forward to continuing the discussions.
#1 Sidewalk Repairs at 349 Norfolk St and 32 Elm St: Residents have expressed concerns about the sidewalks at these locations due to the roots of a large tree that have damaged the sidewalk. This Order asks for the Arborist and DPW to determine how best to repair these sidewalks.
#2 Signboard Requirements at Development Sites: I sponsored this Order, which would make developments that require a Large Project Review or Special Permit post a signboard at the development site that would include: contact information for a site manager, brief description of the project (residential, commercial, or mixed use, and the number of units/inclusionary units if residential), expected completion date, rendering of street-facing elevation, and a web link with more information. There is so much development activity that it is hard for residents to stay up to date–I hope this would help.
#3 Menstrual Hygiene Product Pilot: This Order, which I submitted, asks for an update on a pilot program that ended on July 30, 2017, to provide free menstrual hygiene products at certain public locations in Cambridge. As a basic tool of hygiene and health care, women and girls must have free, equitable access to these products. We’ve heard no update on how the pilot went or if it will be continued on a temporary basis, which I’ve requested in the Order. This order was inspired by outreach from the Women’s Commission and the Cambridge Police Youth Boxing Program, which has expressed concern that their participants, who are at-risk youth or youth who have recently experienced trauma, are prevented from participating in the athletic activities that inspire confidence, self-esteem, and a positive body image, due to a lack of access to expensive menstrual hygiene products.
#4 Appleton St. Enforcement: This order asks for increased enforcement and signage to slow speed of drivers cresting the hill on Appleton St., which has been the topic of much concern from residents.
#5 Website Roll-Out and Energov Implementation Update: I asked for this update on the recent redesign of City of Cambridge website–some departments still have a mixture of the old and design design. Our city departments that issue permits have been upgrading to Energov, a service which could streamline permitting across departments. I would like to where we stand with both these major IT projects.
#6 Fracked Gas Infrastructure: Councillor Cheung and I cosponsored this order, in support of a Sierra Club campaign to ask local public health boards to sign a letter addressed to Governor Baker to require a comprehensive health assessment before work can begin on new or expanding fracked gas pipelines. This infrastructure can have significant health and environmental consequences. Many cities have signed but Cambridge has not yet.
#7 Neighborways: I sponsored this order, which asks for the city to explore the possibility of implementing “neighborways” in Cambridge. These are streets where residents work together to create public art on the street to signal safety, shared use and slow speeds. These are popular in Somerville, Oregon, and Washington state. We frequently hear that streets are in need of traffic calming measures, and this approach serves as a way to slow traffic without costly infrastructure changes or removing parking, while bringing the community together to create art. You can learn more about Somerville’s neighborways here.
#8 Trees: I sponsored this order, requesting that our staff immediately consider the conservation of our tree canopy as necessary for maintaining public health and safety, and to propose immediate measures to improve our canopy before an upcoming Urban Forest Master Plan is complete (which I also requested and will be extremely useful but will take a year to complete). I’ve been fighting for conservation of our trees throughout thsi term, and hope that concrete solutions be implemented as soon as possible to protect our trees as they are a critical mitigation against climate change.
Committee Reports (trees and beekeeping)
We have two committee reports on our agenda this week. One is of a hearing of my Health and Environment Committee that I held in late September to discuss what could be done to protect our trees that happens to be on private property while also protecting property rights. We had a great discussion and our staff will be examining our existing Tree Protection Ordinance to see where we can include protections for trees on private property. I encourage you to look at the report to see what other cities are doing in this respect. There is also an Ordinance Committee report, which discusses a proposed zoning amendment on beekeeping. This process has been underway for years, and the committee as a whole was frustrated with the slow process. We should be getting Public Health Regulations from the Cambridge Public Health Department by December, but the zoning petition expires in January, so we will need to move quickly. I look forward to continuing this important discussion.
Public Comment and Viewing Meetings:
Public comment begins at 5:30 pm. Each person is allowed to speak for up to 3 minutes on any agenda item except for communications from other members of the public. You may call 617-349-4280 on Monday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign in when you arrive (before 6:00 pm). To submit written comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at email@example.com. Your comments will appear on the public record (under “Communications”) at the next regular Council meeting.
City Council meetings are televised on Channel 22-CityView and live-streamed on the City Council’s website. Recorded versions of all Council meetings may be found on the city’s Open Meeting Portal.
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA