The City Council will be meeting on Monday, April 30, at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. Below is my summary of the key items on the agenda.
City Manager’s Agenda
#1 Funding for the Abatement and Demolition of Vail Court: This is a supplemental appropriation of $200,000. Due a delay caused by ongoing litigation by the owners of the property against the City, the contractor has terminated their contract. The City then had to revise and rebid the balance of abatement and demolition work. Two bids were received which were much higher than the previous contract, given the prep work already completed. This appropriation makes up for the shortfall and includes a contingency fund.
#2 Intersection of Rindge Ave and Cedar St.: This report from our Traffic Parking & Transportation department proposes implementation of stop signs and pavement markings on the Rindge Ave approach to this intersection to make the intersection an all-way STOP. This will provide clear right-of-way between vehicles on all four approaches also increase safety for pedestrians crossing. Staff will be scheduling an open house for the community to understand the potential impacts of the proposed changes.
#3 Landmark Designation for the Foundry Building: The Historical Commission has recommended that this building be landmarked. The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority also support this action, as we all look to the Foundry’s future while maintaining its historical character. (Also related to the Foundry but not on our agenda, an operator has been tentaively designated by the CRA. The winning team is a broad group led by the Lemelson-MIT Program and Lesley University The final approval rests with the city manager. See letter from CRA.)
#4: Landmark Designation for the Cheney Read House at 135 Western Ave.: The Historical Commission has recommended that this building be landmarked. The owner has no objections and will be working with the Commission on a rear addition.
#5 “Do Not Enter” signs on Willow Street: The Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department will reinstall missing/knocked down signs within the next two weeks, to provide users of Willow Street with clearer direction on travel patterns. Staff will also determine if there are better locations to mount the signs, or if there are any other options available to indicate the restriction, such as pavement markings.
#6 and #7 English as a Second Language and Civic Education Classes: These two orders convey additional funds from a grant through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to fund ESOL and Civic Education classes.
#8 Serving Homeless Persons in Cambridge: This appropriation from a HUD grant of $4,339,723 will be used to support the work of homeless service providers in Cambridge.
#9 and #12 Funding for Police Department Training: These orders convey appropriations through grants to support Trauma-Informed trainings for our police officers. #9 is in the amount of $9,902 and will fund training in collaboration with the Cambridge Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Prevention Initiative. #12 is in the amount of $40,000 and will bring a civilian advocate to implement a Trauma Informed approach to policing.
#10 Pedestrian and Bicycle Grant: This grant in the amount of $5,625 will fund initiatives that address pedestrian and bicycle issues, including education and enforcement to reduce pedestrian and bicycle crashes and injuries.
#11 Funding for Metro Gang Task Force and Focused Deterrence Program: This supplemental appropriation of $387 from the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition’s Community Safety Initiative will be dedicated to “hot spot patrols”.
#1 Harvard Square Business Association application for a temporary lighted banner across Palmer St: I used my charter right on this application last week to give the HSBA time to reach out and engage members of the public about the future of Palmer St. in general. That space is significantly underutilized, and I hope that this can prompt a discussion about making it a more active and inviting pedestrian space. The lighted banner suspended above the street could be a good start, but I hope that any further additions would be developed through a more inclusive process.
#1 Intersection Safety at Chestnut & Brookline Streets: I sponsored this policy order to ask our traffic staff to review the safety of the intersection at Chestnut and Brookline Streets, after I was contacted by residents with concerns about traffic and drivers failing to stop for pedestrians. This intersection is near two daycares and two parks, and there is concern that there is not adequate traffic calming to account for the daily volume of cars and pedestrians.
#2 Signage Reminding Bikes to Yield to Pedestrians: I sponsored this policy order asking that our traffic staff consider signage either by paint or physical signs in bike lanes reminding cyclists to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. DCR’s new multi-use paths along Memorial Drive near MIT are marked and signed for this exact purpose, giving cyclists advance warning at locations where there is heavy pedestrian traffic. I hope that this action will complement and further our Vision Zero efforts to make our streets safer for all users.
#3 Street Performers Ordinance: I sponsored this policy order asking that our Ordinance Committee reexamine a proposed set of amendments to our Street Performers Ordinance. We discussed these changes last term as a way to support our local musicians and other performers (“buskers”) who find the permitting fees hefty, yet the Arts Council’s proposal was placed on file at the end of the legislative term. I hope we can continue this discussion as a way to support our local performing artists.
#4 Campaign Finance Reform: This order asks that the City develop a program called the “Cambridge Publicly Financed Municipal
Election Program” and a “Cambridge Municipal Election People’s Pledge” and that we look into how to best communicate this information to voters. I look forward to discussing this proposal in more detail at the City Council meeting. Here is a chart showing campaign finance stats for the 2017 City Council election. Here is a report on the bank balances of candidates in the 2017 election,.
#5 Constellation Center: Following the news that the long-anticipated Constellation Center will not be developed on Parcel C on Third St in Kendall Square, this order asks for a report on the history of the Charitable Foundation’s holdings of the site, including its tax-exempt status. It also asks that community benefits and arts and cultural components be included in future development of that site. Read an article in Cambridge Day for some of the background.
#8 Parking Permit Fee: I co-sponsored this order to begin a process of reexamining our fee for Residential Parking Permits. Currently set at $25, the fee has not been raised since 2013. The purpose of the fee is to cover operational costs associated with administering the program, and it seems reasonable to reevaluate what those costs are in 2018 and going forward. Since 2005 the number of permits issued has plateaued at just under 39,000, as car ownership has dropped even as our population has climbed. I look forward to having this discussion in the Ordinance Committee.
#10 Porter Square Bike Lanes: I co-sponsored this order to ask that protected bike lanes be prioritized in the redesign of the Porter Square intersection. Recently the DA released a report on the tragic fatality of Bernard “Joe” Lavins in October 2016, which asserted that the truck driver could not have seen Joe because of the truck’s blind spots (read story here). A protected lane through the intersection would have given him and other cyclists a safe lane to ride in away from vehicles. All trucks still should be required to be equipped with multiple mirrors and side guards, however, and drivers trained to anticipate and watch for vulnerable users that could be in blind spots.
I have placed a report from a Transportation & Public Utilities Committee Hearing that I recently held regarding bus issues. We had a very informative discussion regarding the bus priority lanes and signal priority, the reconstruction of the Harvard Square bus tunnels, and the upcoming MBTA Service Plan. A pilot of a dedicated priority bus lane along part of Belmont St and Mt Auburn St (71 & 73 routes inbound only) will begin this summer. Bus signal priority on Mass Ave also will begin this year. The reconstruction of the Harvard Sq bus tunnels has been delayed until later this year and early 2019. The City will supplement outreach by the MBTA to gather input for its Service Plan.
There is also a report from Councillor Simmons regarding a Civic Unity Committee hearing she held regarding the diversity on City Boards & Commissions. We had a productive discussion about how to increase participation in this aspect of our city government.
Councillor Siddiqui also has transmitted a report from the Economic Development and University Relations Committee regarding a hearing on the Retail Strategic Plan. Supporting small businesses continues to be a focus of the Council, and I look forward to continuing to monitor and assist in the implementation of this plan.
Communications for City Officers
Councillor Kelly has transmitted a report regarding Car Sharing. This memo looks at how car sharing is affecting the world, and how communities are reacting to this innovation in personally-owned vehicle transit. He is suggesting that we allow residents to register up to one car per household as a shared vehicle that could be rented to the general public through a car-sharing platform regardless of whether the car is stored on the street or on private property.
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 email@example.com and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA