City Council Agenda Highlights (5/14/30)

The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, May 14, 2018, at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. My summary is below.

City Manager’s Agenda

#3 Harvard Square T Station restroom maintenance: This memo responds to a policy order I filed this winter after hearing complaints and observing how filthy the restroom in the T station often is. It is frequently closed for maintenance. The order spurred our staff to again raise this issue with the MBTA. The memo reports that keeping this restroom clean: “is a constant struggle for the MBTA. The MBTA cleans the bathroom at least once daily, and deep cleans it monthly. In addition to this regular maintenance, the MBTA’s plumbers and cleaners responded 14 times between January 1 and March 30 of 2018 to address issues directly related to facility abuse. These issues include frequently clogged toilets, jet-cleaned drains, and cleaning of feces and urine on the floor.” Honestly, I don’t have a lot of confidence the conditions will improve much.

#4 Increasing public access to Electric Vehicle charging stations: This memo comes in response to a policy order I filed last term to ask for an update on how we can increase access to EV charging stations. To meet the state’s ambitious goal for getting up to 300K EVs on the roads by 2025, all cities will need to provide more places where residents without driveways and garages as well as visitors can re-charge. Cambridge’s portion of the state goal could see as many as 4,000 EVs registered in the city by 2025. The FY19 capital budget includes $100K to fund three new charging stations in municipal parking lots with the capacity to charge six vehicles at a time. In addition Eversource has a “Make Ready” program with $45M in funding for installing new EV stations statewide, so Cambridge may be able to get some additional stations paid out of that budget. Longer term, there is also the potential to retrofit electric poles with the capacity for on-street charging. The City is also looking at ways at other technology to green our own fleet; the bulk of our transportation emissions comes from DPW, police and fire vehicles.

Applications and Petitions

#1 Clinton Street Traffic Calming: Residents of Clinton St. have submitted a petition to the City Council requesting three speed bumps on their street, to reduce speeding. See below for information on Policy Order #3 I cosponsored that relates to this request.

#3 “Welcome to Historic Harvard Square” banners: The HSBA has requested permission to install 38 banners on utility poles along Mass Ave from June through November. The banners would promote Harvard Square as a destination for visitors. Competition among retail districts is stiff these days; the need to promote Cambridge’s (and one of the state’s) premier tourist destinations with banners probably would have seemed unthinkable in the old days.

Policy Orders

#1 Outdoor Lighting Update: I sponsored this Policy Order, which asks for an update by June 11 regarding the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance that was discussed at length last term. The Planning Board and Ordinance Committee both reviewed this last term and were generally supportive. The draft was sent back to the City Manager with recommendations, and has yet to be resubmitted for further consideration. Light pollution is a nuisance to many residents, a known health risk, and a waste of energy. The order asks for an update on the Light Cambridge initiative to plan appropriate lighting some of the city’s most historic and architecturally significant buildings.

#2 Revitalizing Gannett-Warren Pals Park: This order asks for overdue repairs and updates to the park and playground, which is on Jefferson Street in the Wellington-Harrington area.

#3 Clinton Street Traffic Calming: I cosponsored this Policy Order that responds to the Petition (see above) submitted by Clinton St. residents. The petition asks for traffic calming on this street, and the Policy Order asks for the staff to recommend what can be done. Typically speed bumps are deemed problematic for emergency vehicles. The street runs one-way and has room for parking only on one side, so it is already quite narrow, which makes speeding especially unsafe.

#4 Tree Canopy Study: I cosponsored this Policy Order, which asks for a tree canopy study to be completed by the end of this year, based on the recently completed LiDAR data. It also asks for future LiDAR-based studies to be conducted about once a year, so that we can measure our tree canopy loss (or hopefully gain!) at more consistent intervals. The most recent study based on data that is already several years old showed a 7% decrease.

Committee Reports

There are three committee reports: #1 is on the proposed surveillance ordinance, #2 is on marijuana education, laws and enforcement, #3 is on housing.

Communications for City Officers

#1 Report on Joint School Committee-City Council Committee: This new committee met for the first time on April 24. I am not a member, but I attended to listen. The discussion included a suggestion to create a parking pass program or to grant parking waivers for teachers without resident permits. This was deemed infeasible by the city manager. The manager also gave the first public update on the Tobin Vassal Lane School project. While soil testing has not been completed, it has always been known that the Tobin site contains hazardous materials and that any construction involving excavation will pose technical challenges. The staff stressed that the building is safe for the current school population and that no decision has been made about whether to demolish the building and start fresh, or where to place a potential new building on the site. There will be a community meeting in June (date tba) to discuss some of the preliminary findings of soil and geological testing and various siting options. The construction period would run from the summer of 2019 through the summer of 2024. Once the school re-opened in 2024 there would be another year of work to install a new stormwater detention tank and to repair the fields. This project could cost over $200M, and the amount has been factored into the bond schedule. $10M is allocated this year fro design and planning services.

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. A new online system for signing up for public comment was recently launched, and it goes live on the Friday morning before the Monday meeting. Here is the link. You also may call 617-349-4280 on the Monday of the meeting from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm to sign up to speak, or sign up when you arrive at City Hall by going to the City Council office after 5:00pm and using the public computer terminal on the desk by the door. Regardless of how you sign up you should do so before 6:00 pm on Monday. To submit written comments, please email council@cambridgema.gov and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at dlopez@cambridgema.gov. 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 and on the City’s YouTube site. 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