City Council Updates (week of 1/2/17)

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What follows is the text of my 12/31 email:

Due to the New Years holiday city offices will be closed, and the City Council will not meet on Monday, 1/2. But we will be back in action with two committee hearings this week and a regular council meeting on Monday, 1/9.

Changes at the Police Dept.
Acting Police Commissioner Chris Burke has announced he will retire as of 1/6 after 32 years on the force. He is the third generation in his family to serve as a Cambridge police officer, and 2017 marks a century of service for the Burkes. A new acting commissioner will be announced on 1/9, and City Manager Louie DePasquale will lead a search process with opportunities for public input. We hope to name a permanent commissioner within 6-8 months.

Affordable housing update
Some may have seen the recent article in the Boston Globe about a “looming showdown” over increasing the required percentage of affordable (“inclusionary”) units to 20%. Opposition from developers and the Chamber of Commerce, now led by Councillor David Maher, comes as no surprise to any who attended the numerous Housing Committee meetings we held this term. As a member of the Housing Committee, I voted to support the increase to 20% on the recommendation of the Affordable Housing Trust, the Community Development Department, the Planning Board, and the consultant hired to do the economic study. I remain committed to the increase, which would go into effect as of June 30, 2017. The proposed new requirements will go before the Ordinance Committee on Wed., 1/4 at a televised public hearing from 3-5pm. Read a recap of the process up to now.

Including more affordable units within new developments and preserving existing affordable housing are both crucial. Read this article on the new obstacles in funding much-needed renovations to our aging public housing stock.

More changes in Harvard Square
I’m sorry to report two more losses of longtime businesses in the Square: Hidden Sweets has closed, and the Crimson Corner newsstand (aka Nini’s Corner) has been given notice to vacate by the end of January after 55 years in its location next to the Coop. (Both are tenants of the Dow Stearns Trust, which sold some of its other properties including the Curious George building to Equity One last year.) A fast-casual chain restaurant based in Washington called “&pizza” has applied to combine the newsstand’s space with the former Toy Row space. Fast food restaurants in the Square need design review and special permit approval from the Harvard Sq. Advisory Committee and the Board of Zoning Appeal as well as storefront alteration review by the Historical Commission. The &pizza application will be discussed on 1/5 at the CHC, on 1/9 at the HSAC and on 1/12 at the BZA.

At our 12/19 council meeting there was a long discussion about whether landmarking the Curious George building (formally known as the Abbott Building) would afford it any additional protection over and above its being within the Harvard Sq. Conservation District. I had sponsored a policy resolution in support of the CHC initiating a landmarking study, but we never got to take a vote because Councillor Toomey used a parliamentary procedure to delay it until our next meeting, which isn’t until 1/9 — a few days after the Historical Commission meets on 1/5.Read a recap of the debate or watch the video (the relevant section starts just before the 38 min. mark).

New frontiers in road safety education
The City has published Street Code: Rules and Etiquette for Getting There Together, a 20-page illustrated safety manual for anyone walking, biking, driving or taking the T. It’s definitely worth a close look. And please use the “Watch for Bikes” stickers enclosed with your 2017 resident parking permit.

London truck drivers are required to enroll in a Safe Urban Driving course, and one portion of the curriculum puts truckers on bikes to better appreciate how vulnerable cyclists feel in city traffic. A company executive said: “What has been fascinating is that most drivers are initially reluctant to get on a bike. However, when they do it they are vocally supportive, highlighting how useful the exercise was and just how scary heavy goods vehicles can be when on a bike in the drivers’ blind spots.” Read more.

Resolved to get involved
The Human Services Commission is seeking a new member. This is an opportunity to advise the Human Services Department on needs, policies and funding to enhance our quality of life. Apply by 1/11.

Noteworthy public events and hearings this week: 

Sun., 1/1, 10:00am-12:00pm, Fresh Pond
New Years Bird Walk. Registration information here. 

Mon., 1/2, City Hall and city offices closed. No City Council meeting and no trash collection.

Tues., 1/3, 3:00-5:00pm, City Hall (795 Mass Ave.)
Ordinance Committee hearing to continue our discussion of citywide zoning for medical marijuana. The last hearing was continued without a vote to give the Planning Board the opportunity to weigh in again when it meets on the evening of 1/3, but now another committee meeting has been scheduled for that same afternoon. This meeting will be televised and live-streamed.

Tues., 1/3, 7:00-10:00pm, City Hall Annex (344 Broadway)
Planning Board meeting to discuss medical marijuana citywide zoning and the 47 Bishop Allen Dr residential development (23 units).

Wed., 1/4, 3:00-5:00pm, City Hall (795 Mass Ave.)
Ordinance Committee hearing on the inclusionary zoning petition. This meeting will be televised and live-streamed.

Wed., 1/4, 6:00-8:00pm, Aeronaut Brewery (14 Tyler St, Somerville)
Bike Talk Social Hour with guest speaker Laura Borrelli, faculty adviser to the CRLS Bike Advocacy Club.

Thurs., 1/5, 12:00-2:00pm, Main Library (449 Broadway)
Housing Information Sessions for people interested in affordable rental and home ownership programs. Each session lasts one hour.

Thurs., 1/5, 5:30-8:00pm, Police Dept. (125 6th St.)
Volpe Working Group meeting to continue discussing the desired characteristics of open spaces, community amenities and ground floor uses. See a presentation with comparisons of place-making options shown at the prior meeting.

Thurs., 1/5, 6:00-10:00pm, Senior Center (806 Mass Ave.)
Cambridge Historical Commission meeting. Landmarking petitions for the Abbott Building, the Foundry and 207 and 227 Cambridge St. Storefront alterations for 1-3 Brattle St (&pizza, see above). Potential improvements to public noticing requirements for demolition of potentially significant older buildings. See full agenda.

Sun., 1/8, 3:00-4:30pm, Central Sq. Library (45 Pearl St.)
Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Rev. Mark Scott.

Note: Christmas tree curbside collection runs through Fri., 1/13 on regular trash days. Do not wrap a plastic bag around your tree. More on holiday trash schedules.

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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA