City Council Agenda Highlights (7/30/18)

The Cambridge City Council will hold its Special Summer Meeting on Monday, July 30, 2018, starting at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted online. Because the agenda is so lengthy, it could run into the wee hours, which is one of the downsides of the time-honored tradition of observing a summer “recess.”  In fact, we have been holding committee hearings all summer, and the demands on our time and on the staff’s do not lessen during July and August. And our next regular meeting will not be until Monday, September 17, so I would expect it to be equally long, So here’s my attempt to highlight what’s on our plate this Monday.

City manager’s Agenda

4. Open Data Review Board: New member appointed: Alisha Ukani

5. Fresh Pond Advisory Board: New member appointed: Sophia Emperador will represent the Public Planting Committee.

6. Conservation Committee: New member appointed: David Lyons. (There are two seats still available. Apply by 9/7.)

7. Library Board of Trustees: New member appointed: Omo Moses

8. New “Rossi Room” at the Main Library: The Beech Room will be renamed in honor of former City Manager Rich Rossi.

9. Fun on City Hall Lawn: We asked to organize some fun activities on City Hall Lawn on some summer afternoons. This response suggests the City can do this so long as the activities and opportunities to participate are open to all and there is no charge. This is a rather legalistic response to an order that suggested placing a few games (like corn hole) on the lawn. The more I think about it, the more I think we should let people use the space how they wish and not attempt to micromanage it. It’s well used and appreciated just as it is.

11. Leaf Blower Report: This comes in response to my policy order requesting an update on our increased education, outreach and enforcement efforts. Information about the law for landscape contractors has been translated in Spanish and Portuguese, and the new registration process helps the License Commission better track where companies are working when violations are reported. The fine is $300 per violation following a hearing before the License Commission. The majority of complaints come in through SeeClickFix and email. There were 47 complaints from Jan. 1-July 9, 2018, and most of about blowing out of season or during prohibited hours. If you are not familiar with our leaf blower ordinance, please read this. Blowers are prohibited between June 15 and Sept.15.

14. Porter Sq. Traffic Safety Improvements: This memo describes all the safety improvements that will be made later this year to the Porter Square intersection including simplified traffic signal phasing and more clearly marked bike lanes. In response to requests to add physical protection for cyclists turning right from Somerville Ave onto Mass Ave, a raised cycle track will be created from While St to Mass Ave. More significant physical changes will be discussed during a future public process.

15. Traffic Calming on Walden St between Concord and Sherman St: I had asked for a safety review of this busy stretch of Walden St. The staff have extended the Walk signal at Garden St to give pedestrians slightly more time to cross before cars begin to turn. Once the construction at the former Masse’s site is complete, the staff will revisit that intersection to determine if adjustments to crosswalks and signals are needed.

16. Traffic Calming on Clinton St: Residents of Clinton St petitioned us to prevent speeding. The speed data collected indicated that no cars exceeded the posted 25mph speed limit and most traveled at 22mph. The staff do not think changes are warranted, but clearly 25mph feels too fast for the people living there, so I think we should consider making this street and other narrow one-way streets 20mph zones.

17. South Mass Ave. Vision Zero Project Outreach: This memo details the community outreach efforts to seniors and others prior to making traffic safety improvements on Mass Ave between Sidney St and Memorial Dr. this fall. A wikimap to collect feedback on the project area is here.

18. Traffic Calming on Museum Way: The speed data collected does not support making physical changes, but the two turning lanes will be reduced to one at Charles River Dam Rd. and enforcement will be increased to deter people from speeding up to beat the light.

19. LiDAR Tree Canopy Studies: The April 2018 LiDAR canopy data has been received and is being analyzed to inform the ongoing Urban Forest Master Plan work, and will be available next spring. It will be compared to the data from the prior LiDAR studies in 2009 and 2014, which indicated canopy loss. LiDAR studies will be performed every 2-3 years.

20. Cambridge Common Drainage: Despite its recent renovation, the Common has 3-4 areas where stormwater does not drain well. New dry wells will be installed this fall to improve drainage in those areas.

21. Planning Board Recommendation to Reject the “Climate Safety” (Brown) Petition: This memo explains the Board’s reasons for rejecting the petition, but expresses the hope and expectation that some of the concerns raised will be addressed in future climate change resiliency planning and zoning through Envision. The Board notes that it is already applying the 2070 flood projections to projects and that aspects of the petition like tree canopy, heat island mitigation, and green infrastructure will inform their review of projects.

22. Zoning for Adult Use Cannabis Sales, Testing and Production: The draft zoning will be referred to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for discussion. It lays out which zoning districts will allows cannabis sales (with a special permit from the Planning Board), the 500′ buffers from schools and playgrounds, minimum distances between cannabis outlets with some exceptions for Economic Empowerment applicants.

23. Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant: A total of $118K from the state’s new MPV program will be spent on 3 projects to increase resilience to climate change. The projects include evaluating the adpative capacity of the CRLS/War Memorial/Library complex to serve as a community emergency center, creating a business plan for 2 neighborhood resilience hubs, and developing 4 climate change toolkits for renters, homeowners, and small and large businesses.

24. Airplane Noise Abatement Update: This memo explains the MIT study funded by Massport and the FAA on reducing the noise over North and West Cambridge from flights taking off on Runway 33L. Recommendations from the study may be found here.

25. Improving MBTA Bus Service for CRLS Students: The City is coordinating with the MBTA through its Better Bus Project to continue to improve service on routes that serve CRLS students including the 68 and 69 buses. There will be 5 public meetings this fall to gather input for citywide service improvements.

26. Jerry’s Pond Update: As directed by the Council, CDD looked into whether Jerry’s Pond could qualify for funding under the EPA’s Targeted Brownfields Assessment grant. Because the site is privately owned CDD asserts that it is not eligible for this funding, though that appears to contradict what we have been told by an official at the EPA (exceptions may be possible). Also the current owner (GCP Applied Technology) has responded to the recent email campaign by Friends of Jerry’s Pond supporters that the company is not interested in discussing a future recreational use for the pond. Short of eminent domain, I am not sure how to reclaim this area for public use when its owner appears unmotivated to put it to any use at all.

Policy Orders

1. Bollard to Prevent Blocking Bike Path and Sidewalk on Fresh Pond Parkway: I sponsored this order to work with DCR to install retractable bollards to prevent trucks from parking on the bike path and sidewalk in front of the Sunoco gas station on Fresh Pond Parkway. This is a regular occurrence that is dangerous and unnecessary.

2. Grand Junction Path Zoning Update: I sponsored this order to ask the staff to update us in September on progress toward creating aGrand Junction Path zoning overlay district. Both the Miller’s River affordable housing project that just received a 40B permit to expand and the former Metropolitan Pipe site that is poised to be redeveloped border MassDOT’s right-of-way, and we need to create appropriate incentives and requirements to protect and further the creation of this critical path.

3. Sherman Street Quiet Zone: This order, which I co-sponsored, formalizes our support for the city to prioritize the creation of a Quiet Zone at the Sherman St grade crossing. At last week’s community meeting we learned about the interim and permanent changes that we are making to restore quiet. Even the “quick fix” will take at least 2 months, though, and has raised traffic concerns among residents of Bellis Circle. All updates will continue to be posted on the project webpage.

4. Cooling Center for Extreme Heat Events on Sundays and Holidays: There was an extended heat wave around the Fourth of July holiday, and the municipal buildings that could be used as cooling centers were all closed. I sponsored this order to ask that we determine which public building(s) could remain open on Sundays and holidays during heat waves.

5. Grant Program to Aid Victims of Domestic Violence: This order requests the creation of a grant program to help DV victims. Police statistics show that DV reports of aggravated assault are increasing. Leaving an abusive relationship can pose financial hardships for many victims.

7. Resolution in Support of Ending the Lockout of National Grid Workers: In addition to expressing support for the union workers seeking a fair contract, this order asks the city for more safety oversight of replacement gas workers during the lockout period and not to grant permits for non-emergency gas line work during the lockout period.

6. Envision Roundtable on October 22: This asks that we hold a roundtable for an update on the Envision Cambridge planning process on Monday, Oct. 22. instead of on Oct. 15, as originally announced.

9. Evening Activities to Prevent Violence: This order asks the city to plan more evening activities in parks and public spaces during the summer as a means of preventing violence. I would be curious to know about attendance at the various movie nights and Summer in the City family events before planning more events.

10. Housing Discrimination Questions: This is a list of follow-up questions to the Human Rights Commission from our last Housing Committee meeting when we discussed their efforts to investigate and mediate instances of housing discrimination.

13. Resiliency Advisory Group to Discuss Climate Safety Petition and Envision: This order asks for the formation of a very short-term advisory group to work through some of the climate change resiliency issues raised with the Climate Safety Petition and Envision. If this such a group were to be formed it likely would need more than the 90-day period (Aug-Sept-Oct) the order sets to make any meaningful progress.

14. Mitigating Health Risks of LED Streetlights: There is concern that prolonged exposure to the 4000K LED streetlights can be detrimental to health and sleep. I co-sponsored this order to replace the 4000K bulbs with warmer ones as they age out and to more proactively screen and disperse light intrusion into homes from streetlights.

15. Events for Indigenous Peoples Day: A committee hearing is proposed to discuss what events are being planned for Indigenous Peoples Day on Mon., Oct. 8 (there will be no City Council meeting that night).

16. Which Navigational Apps Give Us Editing Capability? How much control can cities have over the instructions Google Maps and WAZE give drivers? This is proposed as the topic of a future Transportation Committee hearing.

17. Survey on Bias Experienced by Inclusionary Tenants: This order asks that the City hire an independent survey company to assess the experiences of residents of our inclusionary housing units especially with respect to bias.

Committee Reports

1 Early Childhood Education (Humans Services, May 2)

2 Affordable Housing Overlay District (Housing, May 15)

3. Climate Safety (Brown) Petition (Ordinance, June 27)

4 Inclusionary Zoning (Housing, April 10)

5 Licensing and Permitting Process (Public Safety, June 19)

6 Short-Term Rental Ordinance Update on Enforcement (Public Safety, June 13)

7 Arts Overlay District (Economic Development, May 23)

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 and cc City Clerk Donna Lopez at 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’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