City Council Agenda Highlights (10/29/18) (One Response)

The City Council will meet on Monday, October 29, 2018, at 5:30pm. The agenda — and it’s a long one — is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. A summary of a few of the many interesting items follows.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Development Mitigation Funds Transfer: In FY18 the City received $7.9M in mitigation payments tied to various zoning amendments and special permit projects. This authorizes the required transfer from one account to another. At future meetings the manager will ask us to appropriate funds to projects. I have asked the manager to provide an itemized list of the source of the funds during Monday’s meeting and information on any expected mitigation payments in FY19. It’s very hard for us to track these payments.

#3 Bridge Repertory Partnership: The Arts Council will work with Bridge Repertory Theater, which has a residency at the Multicultural Arts Center, on outreach to help deepen and expand their audience and create more connections with the community. The requested funding is $18K. Check out Bridge Rep’s new show, “Midterm SHAKE Up: A Night of Shakespeare’s Most Iconic Political Scenes,” which opens next week.

#4 Can property owners legally park blocking their own driveway?: The answer is yes, unless there are “No Parking” signs on either side of your curb-cut in which case a car belonging to the property owner will be ticketed just like any other person’s car parked blocking a driveway. You can request to have the “No Parking” signs removed next to your driveway, but then you risk someone else blocking you in and not being ticketed.

#7 Additional Funding for Tree Planting: In response to a recent policy order, the City will allocate an additional $100K to planting trees in parks and open spaces, starting this fall and continuing next spring. The memo details the intended locations and the significant increase in the tree-planting budget over the last few years.

#8 Hearings for Tree Removals: This memo comes in response to questions about when tree hearings are held. It states that the removal of a healthy public tree that does not pose a public safety risk would not occur without some type of public involvement, whether a public hearing or after consultation with a public body such as the Public Planting Committee or the Fresh Pond Advisory Board. The Urban Forest Master Plan consultants are midway though their study of potential new regulations for the removal of trees on both public and private property, and until that time the Council will be notified if any healthy public tree is to be removed.

#9 Improvements to Goldstar Mothers park on Gore St: The sewer project on Gore St prompted questions about what can be done to improve the public park there. The water play feature has already been repaired and the dry wells and drainage will be repaired next year. In addition some new trees will be planted around the park, and the basketball courts are candidates for resurfacing in 2020.

#10  Compensation for Gore St Tree Lost during Gas Work: Last summer a utility contractor working for Divco West negligently severed the roots of an enormous healthy oak tree on Gore St, necessitating its removal. The tree was valued at $67,179.02 (2 cents?!) by an independent arborist, and Eversource and its contractor (Feeney Bros.) have compensated the City for the loss. The payment will be used to plant a new tree at that location and other trees around Gore St.

#11 Sewer Work on Gore St: This memo describes efforts that the City and Divco West have made to attempt to mitigate the impact on Gore Street residents of the sewer main replacement. As part of its Cambridge Crossing (North Point) development, Divco is replacing both the aging sewer main and the 100-year-old gas line running under Gore St. It was suggested that using trench-less technology might lessen the impact on residents, but that was considered and rejected as more even more disruptive.

Policy Orders

#1 Early Voting for City Elections: I sponsored this order along with a home rule petition to the state legislature to ask for the authority to allow early voting in our municipal elections for city council and school committee. I teamed up with Boston Councilor Josh Zakim to file a companion order there, so both cities will be petitioning state officials at the same time. Read more here.

#2 Creating a Fenced Dog Park by Main Library: This order asks to install fencing to create a safe off-leash area behind the children’s playground in Joan Lorenz Park at the Main Library. This space is already used by dog owners, and the fencing could help separate the dogs from other park users. However, fencing would effectively convert the area from shared use to a dogs-only area and doubtless some will question whether that is the appropriate division of the space. There is a committee that oversees the park’s landscaping and they should be consulted as to whether this fits their master plan for the park.

#3 Unisex Restrooms at City Hall: I joined this order to renew a request first made in 2012 to create unisex restrooms in City Hall.

#6 Purple Heart Day: This order asks for the City to recognize the national Purple Heart Day for veterans, celebrated annually on August 7th.

#7 Ride-Share Vehicles Stopping in Road: Complaints about the chaotic ways that TNCs (Uber and Lyft) stop in the middle of the road or block bike lanes instead of looking for open curb space to load and unload passengers are mounting. A solution to prevent this is elusive. But the next time you are a passenger in one of these vehicles, please ask the driver to look for a safe place to stop. Car service does not need to be literally door-to-door in most cases.

#8 Don’t Block the Box: I sponsored this order to ask what can be done to prevent cars from queuing on Fresh Pond Parkway and blocking the driveway at Fresh Pond Mall, so that cars cannot exit the mall parking lot when the signal turns green for them. This also blocks the crosswalks. The next time you are stuck in gridlock there, please resist the temptation to block the box.

#9 Extending Alewife Greenway Bike Path along RR toward Porter Sq: I co-sponsored this order to ask for an update on the suggestion to create a bike path alongside the commuter rail tracks from Alewife to Sherman St and possibly all the way to Porter Sq.

#10 Small Businesses and City Contracts: This order asks to explore ways to “ensure a level the playing field” for small businesses to better compete for municipal bids. I’m all for patronizing small (local) businesses in my own shopping, but I’m not sure how that jibes with purchasing laws that require the City to accept the lowest bid.

#11 Non-Profit Displacements in Central Square: The recent announcement by Enroot, an education nonprofit, that it will sell its building on Bishop Allen Drive because, in essence, it has become far too valuable an asset to hold onto (and likely costly to maintain since it is an older building) has thrown the local non-profit ecosystem a curveball because the building’s tenants include the Cambridge Community Foundation, Cambridge Camping, Young People’s Project, and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to name a few of the 15 non-profit organizations there. The order asks for a letter to be sent to Enroot expressing the City’s hope that Enroot will work closely with these organizations during the transition and consider maintaining the building as a non-profit center. A perfect illustration of how market forces eventually hollow out communities.

#12 Congestion on Rindge Ave: This order asks for staff to visit Rindge Ave with interested residents to observe how the congestion creates dangerous conditions at several intersections (Cedar St, Haskell St, and Sherman St). The breaking point is not far off when you look at the hideous congestion on Walden, Sherman and Rindge all together.

#13 Request for Update on Cambridge St Bike Lane Data: Since last spring we have waited for the flex-posts to be re-installed on Cambridge St and for word on the progress of the Consensus Building Institute. This order asks for an update, and I have already scheduled a committee hearing at the end of the November to discuss progress on current and future bike safety projects.

#14 Signage to Clarify Entry of Inbound Cyclist to Brattle Bike Lanes: Personally I find entering the contra-flow bike lane quite simple and haven’t had any close calls, but I co-sponsored this order because more clarity may be helpful to others. A sign on Brattle looking toward Harvard Sq might help drivers anticipate that some bikes will continue into Brattle against the flow of outbound car traffic.

#16 Update on Surveillance ordinance: The Ordinance Committee last met on this topic in mid-August and appeared to be very close to hammering out a final draft of a Surveillance Technology Ordinance that has been in the works for quite some time. It’s now almost November….

#17 Status of City Hall Renovations? There are conceptual plans to renovate the second floor of City Hall in order to create a legislative floor with office space for councillors and staff, but there is has been no indication of when this project might take place. Safe to say this Council won’t get offices before the term ends.

#18 Use of Salt Substitutes Near Trees: With the recent alarming loss of tree canopy shown in the latest LiDAR study, we are increasingly concerned about protecting trees from the over-use of road salt in winter. About one-third of the trees in Linear Park appear in decline or dead, and the order asks that a less damaging salt substitute be used there and in other places where over-salting could harm nearby trees.

#19 Protected Bike Lane on River St: With the design process beginning for the reconstruction of River St from Memorial Dr to Central Sq, we are asking that it include protected bike lanes. There is no safe bike route into Central Sq in that direction and the complete reconstruction of a major arterial like River St demands that we consider how to improve safety for people on bikes as well as to prioritize transit and safe walking.

Committee Reports

#1 Health & Environmental hearing on MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) regulations that took effect this summer.

#2 Health & Environmental hearing on our Zero Waste strategies. I will be touring the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District facility where our organic food waste (“compost”) is processed on Tuesday.

#3 Neighborhood Planning hearing on future Indigenous Peoples Day events.

#4 Ordinance Committee hearing on zoning for adult-use cannabis sales.

Communications from other City Officers

#1 Report on the first Arts Task Force meeting.

#2 Letter from the Mayor describing a proposal to build a Universal Design playground next to the Danehy Park parking lot on Field St where the city has vacant land. This playground would be fully accessible for children with disabilities and would be the first of its kind in the area. The expected cost is $2.5M. I think the plan should also include a real restroom (not just porta-potties). There is a Universal Design playground in New Bedford called Noah’s Place.

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. There is an online system for signing up for public comment that goes live on the Friday morning before each 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. If received after Thursday at 3pm, your comments will appear on the public record (under “Communications”) at the next subsequent Council meeting.

City Council meetings are televised on Channel 22-CityView and live-streamed on the City’s Open Meeting Portal and on the City’s YouTube site. Recorded versions of all Council meetings may be found on the Open Meeting Portal.

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    Jan Devereux
    City Councillor
    Cambridge, MA