The agenda for the Cambridge City Council’s meeting on Monday, September 18, 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 Appointments to the Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship: The City Manager has appointed three people to serve on the Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship: Karin Lin, Elena Chopyak, and Nick Lopez Cortes. Learn more about the Commission’s work here. Please note that this group will change its monthly meeting time to the fourth Thursday of the month, beginning on Sept. 28.
Charter Right #1 & 2 Transfer Tax: Councillor Toomey exercised his Charter Right on these two Orders last week, pushing them to this week’s meeting. One of these Orders, which I cosponsored would put the City Council on record in support of H.3512 in the MA Legislature, which would allow Massachusetts to enact a fee on large real estate transactions to put towards affordable housing. The other Order asks our staff to prepare a Municipal Transfer Fee Ordinance and a corresponding Home Rule Petition to implement a transfer fee on the sale of properties.
#1 Zoning Petition to allow for the creation of Innovation Office Space in 2 PUD districts: This application, filed by Alexandria Real Estate, asks for two of their PUD districts in Kendall Square to receive an FAR exemption for up to 10K of Innovation/Office Space, at least 25% of which would be required to be rented below market. This petition will go to the Planning Board and the City Council’s Ordinance Committee for review.
#2 Honoring Cambridge Arts Council Executive Director Jason Weeks: I sponsored this resolution congratulating our Arts Council Director Jason Weeks for being awarded the Maud Morgan Spirit Award. Jason has been with the City for 17 years, and is well-deserving of this honor. The Spirit Awards, held as a benefit for the Maud Morgan Arts Center, is scheduled for Sunday, 9/24 at 6:30pm.
#1 Supporting an annual increase in the Renewable Portfolio Standard for utility companies: I sponsored this Policy Order to put the Council on the record in support of raising the Renewable Portfolio Standard for utility companies to 3% annually. The RPS currently requires utility companies to increase their rate of renewable energy sources by only 1% each year. This matter will be before the State’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy on Tuesday 9/19 at 1pm. Thanks to Mothers Out Front for their advocacy on this issue.
#2, 8 Lighting Updates: We have two Policy Orders on our agenda that relate to outdoor lighting in Cambridge. The first asks for an update on the work of the Light Cambridge Committee, which was created in 2016 to enhance the lighting of prominent locations in Cambridge. I sponsored the second Policy Order to ask for an update on the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance, which seeks to “permit an amount of outdoor lighting that is appropriate to allow for the safe use and enjoyment of outdoor areas, while also mitigating light trespass and glare to abutters and the public at large, while also reducing light pollution and promoting energy conservation.” After hearings the draft ordinance was sent back to the Community Development Department for clarifications and revisions at the start of 2017. We’ve had no recent updates on this process, which has been underway for over three years. Excessive lighting continues to be a frequently heard complaint.
#3 Linkage Contribution Rate: The City’s linkage contribution rate was raised to $12 per square foot in 2015. It currently sits at $14.50 per square foot, and will be increased to $15.50 per square foot later this month. This Order asks if there are plans to adjust the rate in November 2017, if there is an increase in the Consumer Price Index. The Order also asks that City staff report back to the Council on the total amount of contributions received in the past two years. Linkage fees are assessed on new commercial and institutional development and go toward affordable housing. For example MIT estimates that linkage fees for its Volpe development would total about $26M if the rate is $15/s.f.
#4, 13 Affordable Housing: The Mayor sponsored these two Policy Orders, both related to housing. The first asks for hearings of the Housing Committee to review the Comprehensive Housing Plan that the Mayor has submitted. The second asks for City Staff to look into the feasibility of reaching out to property owners “with a view towards purchasing …properties…and converting these properties into affordable housing” when the owners sell their homes. I’m interested in hearing more about this proposal, which aims to prevent developers from purchasing such homes and converting them into luxury housing.
#5 Campaign Finance: This Order, sponsored by Councillor Toomey, asks for the Cambridge Election Commission to add a link to the State’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance to their website. This link already exists on the Election Commission website—check it out here.
#6 Idling Law Enforcement of CSX Train: This Order asks for the Police Department to enforce the state’s idling law due to complaints of the CSX train idling in residential areas. I find that with cars the 5-minute idling restriction is often ignored.
#7 Additional Bike Corrals at CRLS and the Library: I cosponsored this Order, which asks for additional bike corrals to be installed at CRLS and the Library campuses. This is even more important now, as demand has grown due to the recently-completed Cambridge Street protected bike lane, which many students and library-goers use.
#9, 12 Marijuana Enforcement and Regulation: These two Orders, sponsored by Councillors Kelley and Toomey, relate to marijuana enforcement and regulation. The first asks for the Police Department, Community Development Department, and the Cambridge Health Alliance to provide clarification on how the city “views its obligations and constraints regarding marijuana enforcement and regulation.” The second asks for staff to determine if marijuana usage is included in our Municipal Ordinance, “Restrictions on Youth Access to Tobacco Products and on Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places.”
#10 Skilled Labor Trades Program: This Order asks for our Office of Workforce Development to establish a skilled labor trades program to increase the number of Cambridge residents employed in skilled labor trades.
Our agenda contains three committee reports this week. One pertains to a Housing Committee hearing in May where we discussed tenant protections, anti-displacement policies, Inclusionary Housing tenant selection policies, and the CHA Choice Vouchers. We also have a Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee report from a hearing held in July where we received an update on the plans for the Foundry Building. I also have a report from a recent Health and Environment Committee hearing, which I chaired last week, where we received an update on the City’s Net Zero work.
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.