The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, June 4, 2018, at 5:30pm. The agenda is online. Starting at 4:00pm there will be a gathering in the Mayor’s Parlor to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month and the opening of an exhibit of photos by Mario Quiroz (“I + You Makes We”). What follows is my summary of the key items on this week’s agenda. The most important and contentious is an item held over from two weeks ago related to the redesign of Inman Square (see the Calendar section below). Our June 11 meeting will be a roundtable on the Envision Cambridge planning process, and then we will have two more regular meetings in June before taking our summer recess from regular Monday meetings.
City Manager’s Agenda
#3 & #4 Mitigation Funds to HomeBridge Program: There are two appropriation requests directing mitigation funds collected from large development projects toward the City’s HomeBridge housing program, which helps qualifying middle-income homebuyers (those earning 100-120% of Area Median Income) purchase market-rate housing. The amounts are $125,000 from the Novartis project on Main Street and $134,835 from Forest City’s project at 300 Mass Ave. Learn more about the HomeBridge program.
#6 Fire Truck Purchase: This requests a $575,000 appropriation to replace an aging 19-year-old fire pumper truck with a more compact model that will be more maneuverable on our increasingly multi-modal streets. The memo notes that Free Cash is being used rather than putting this into the FY19 Capital Budget because of the high cost of this equipment.
#7 Renovation of Basement at 51 Inman Street: This requests that $500,000 from Free Cash be used to renovate the lower level of the municipal building at 51 Inman Street as offices for the Center for Family Services and Baby University. The space was last used by Community Legal Services and Counseling, which moved into larger quarters in East Cambridge (47 Thorndike St.).
#11 Block Grant for Affordable Housing: This requests an allocation of $370,300.73 (why not a round number?) from a Community Development Block Grant to fund various affordable housing programs.
#2 Inman Square Redesign Home Rule Petition: This was on our May 21 agenda and was “charter-righted” to delay the vote. To recap: The proposed design to reconfigure the Inman Square intersection to make it safer necessitates “bending” Hampshire Street so that the road would turn across part of Vellucci Plaza, which is legally designated as open space. A new public plaza of identical size would be created on the other side of Hampshire Street and both spaces would be re-landscaped. Any change to open space requires a vote by the City Council to send a home rule petition to the state legislature for their approval. While I recognize that some feel strongly about preserving Vellucci Plaza as it is, I support this change. Multiple designs have been presented and debated publicly over the past two-plus years, and there is no viable “Plan B” that would do a better job of prioritizing safety, while balancing the many different considerations and constraints including protecting bus and fire service. I will advocate for planting larger-than-usual trees in Inman Square to reduce the canopy loss in the short-term. In addition trees will be added to the municipal parking lot on Springfield St. The design has the support of the Mass Vision Zero Coalition, WalkBoston, LivableStreets Alliance, Cambridge Bicycle Safety, the Boston Cyclists Union, the Cambridge Pedestrian Committee, Inman Square Neighborhood Association, and many other residents. Please see the FAQ compiled by city staff that addresses many of the questions about the design.
#1 I-90 Improvement Project: I sponsored this order to ask MassDOT and state officials to work with Cambridge to address our concerns about noise, impact on parkland and access as it finalizes its “Preferred Alternative” for the reconstruction of the Mass Pike interchange and Storrow Drive in Allston. See the project page.
#3 Support for State Bills Addressing Homelessness: This order expresses our support for seven bills that would create and fund programs for persons experiencing homelessness that are pending at the Statehouse. Each of the bills is linked in the policy order.
#4 Citizens’ Academy: With growing interest in re-energizing civic engagement, some towns are launching training programs for residents to learn about municipal governance and services. For instance Pittsfield and Lexington each offer a 10-session course (20 classroom hours) to residents 18 and up that they call “Citizens’ Academy.” Attending an evening class for 10 weeks is a fairly big commitment and present family and work conflicts. I worry that these classes would tend to attract older, more affluent residents. I wonder if the City could instead create a series of webinars that can be watched at any time by people of any age? Questions could be posted on the webinar and answered by staff and other residents, so that an online FAQ is available to supplement the recorded curriculum.
#5 Public Art for Women’s Suffrage Movement: The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote will mark its 100th anniversary in August 2020. The four women councillors are suggesting that public art of some type be created to commemorate the efforts of Cambridge suffragettes.
#1 The Health and Environment Committee, which I co-chair with Councillor Zondervan, heard an update on the Net Zero Action Plan and the Low Carbon Energy Supply Study. We anticipate a couple of zoning amendments to be put forward by CDD staff later this year to further our Net Zero goals.
#2 The Transportation Committee, which I chair, held a hearing on bike sharing and the emergence of dock-less bike share systems that explained the contract with Motivate to operate the BlueBikes system in Cambridge, Boston, Somerville and Brookline. Neighboring towns are beginning to license two dock-less companies (Lime Bike and Spin). Eventually a hybrid system may emerge, but at present we remain committed to our BlueBikes partnership, which is planning a major expansion and offering new discounts.
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 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 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