City Council Agenda Highlights (10/15/18)

The City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday, October 15, 2018, at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted online. The following Monday (Oct. 22) we will meet in a Roundtable format from 5:30-7:30pm to discuss Envision Cambridge.

City Manager’s Agenda

At last week’s meeting we voted on the property tax rates and the total tax levy. The very significant balance maintained in our “Free Cash” account (unexpended revenue) was discussed at length. It is over $220M this fiscal year but about $40M has already been earmarked for projects. This week’s City Manager’s Agenda includes a number of initiatives that will be funded with Free Cash, most significantly the Inman Square intersection and open space redesign ($5M).

#2 Expansion of Free Food for Student Breakfasts and Lunches: We will spend $160K of Free Cash to expand the free school breakfast and lunch programs to an additional 3,100 students in JK through 8th grade and to offer free breakfasts to about 119 children in the Human Services Preschools.

#4 Sherman St Rail Crossing Quiet Zone: We will spend $185K from Free Cash to pay for the interim improvements already made to the Sherman St railroad crossing to restore the quiet zone and another $50K to fund a feasibility study to install four quadrant gates across the tracks.

#5 Increased Costs of Traffic Signal Improvements: We will spend $450K from the Parking Fund on a new traffic signal at Broadway and Ellery and on adjusting the timing of the signals in Porter Square. Ironically, the new casino in Everett has pushed up the cost of installing traffic signals above our prior estimates — yet another reason why that casino was a bad bargain for the metro Boston region.

#6 Bus Rapid Transit on Mt Auburn St: This fall’s pilot of bus-bike priority lanes on the westernmost end of Mt Auburn St is being funded in part with a $75K grant from the Barr Foundation.

#7 & #9 Inman Sq Redesign Funding and Schedule and Business Impact Plan: The construction cost of the Inman Square intersection redesign, new open space and other improvements has climbed to $6M. The total project cost is now estimated at $7M, of which $2M was already appropriated and another $5M would come from the Parking Fund. The project is currently at the 75% design stage, and construction would start in the spring of 2019 and continue for 18-24 months. There will be a community meeting on Oct. 24 at 6:30pm at the Cambridgeport School to discuss the open space design. To mitigate the impact on the businesses in Inman Square, staff across several departments have developed the framework of a Business Impact Plan.

#8 Russell Field Renovation Additional Funding: The work on the two fields, which will be completed in November, was budgeted at $2M but the manager is asking for an additional $350K from Free Cash to cover its total projected cost. Both turf fields were filled with virgin rubber and 12 new trees are included in the work.

#10 Incentive Zoning (Nexus) Study to Consider Jobs Linkage Fees: An RFP has gone out for an updated incentive zoning study, which at the Council’s suggestion will consider adding a jobs linkage fee to fund workforce development programs. Currently the “linkage fees” on large non-residential developments are only used to fund affordable housing; the Incentive Zoning Ordinance requires a new nexus study this year that may recommend increasing the fee next year. The current fee is $15.95/s.f. including the CPI adjustment.

#14 Legal Services for At-Risk Tenants: We will spend $65K from Free Cash to fund a new attorney at Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services to work the City’s Multi-Services Center staff to help tenants facing eviction and homelessness.

#15 Support for YWCA Housing Services: We will spend $35K from Free Cash to fund an additional half-position at Bay Cove/CASPAR to help the 22 men living in transitional housing at YMCA find permanent housing.

#16 Study for Universal Pre-School for 4-Year-Olds: We will spend $117K from Free Cash to study models that could expand access to high-quality affordable preschool education to all 4-year-olds.

#18 Summer programming at Clement Morgan Park: In response to an increase gun violence in The Port last summer, we offered a variety of community activities in and around Clement Morgan Park in partnership with the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, the Community Art Center and Tutoring Plus. We will spend $26K in Free Cash to cover the associated costs of this programming.

#19 Relaunch of Science Club for Girls: We will spend $44K from Free Cash to fund a program director at Science Club for Girls, which is in the process of relaunching after having to suspend services for part of last year. Science Club for Girls was founded by Cambridge parents a quarter century ago and has offered after-school STEM activities to a generation of young girls from diverse backgrounds.


Charter Right #1: Last week Councillor Simmons exercised her charter right to block a suggestion, which I co-sponsored, to hold a series of committee hearings to give the Council a chance to discuss the draft recommendations of the various Envision working groups.

Policy Orders

#1 Using Commercial Trucks as Signboards: This order, which I co-sponsored, came about because a city contractor uses its cement trucks to display political messages that many Cambridge residents find objectionable and have complained to us about seeing. While political speech is protected by the First Amendment, the question we are posing is whether the City can make it a condition of our public bidding contracts that no signage other than the company’s own name and contact information may be displayed on vehicles working in Cambridge.

#4 Protections for the Tree Canopy: The 2018 LiDAR survey of the City’s tree canopy showed an alarming 18% loss since 2009. The Urban Forest Master Plan consultants and task force are meeting monthly and are considering a broad range of strategies to restore, preserve and increase our tree canopy including new laws related to tree removals on all types of land (both public and private property). Their work will be complete by April 2019. In the meantime there is a suggestion to amend the existing tree ordinance to require a permit and documentation by the city arborist whenever a significant tree is removed as part of a development. The next public meeting of the UFMP task force will be on Oct. 25 at 6pm at CRLS.

#5 Youth Outreach for Public Safety Jobs: Our Police and Fire Departments are both launching programs to try to interest and recruit more young people from diverse backgrounds to careers in public safety. This order asks to prioritize funding for these programs.

#6 Social Equity Programs in Cannabis Industry: In addition to working through the zoning of future cannabis retail stores we have been discussing how to create a ladder of opportunity and incentives to enable social equity applicants to be able to get a foot in the door in this new industry. This order follows up on a recent committee hearing on the subject.

Committee Reports

#1 Housing Committee discussion of an affordable housing overlay: The report includes the Envision affordable housing presentation, which I strong encourage everyone to read. The suggestion of a citywide overlay has prompted a great deal of debate. There are strong feelings on both sides, and if we are going to be able maintain a respectful civic discourse it’s important that we all be working from the same set of facts. A number of neighborhood groups are hosting public meetings where the CDD staff will explain the overlay concept, answer questions and hear our feedback. The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance will hold such a meeting on Oct. 18 at 6:30 at the Tobin School. The Cambridge Residents Alliance will host the CDD staff on Oct. 24 at 6:30 at the LBJ Apts on Erie St.

#2 Retail Storefront Vacancies: This committee meeting continued the work we began last term to develop and implement best practices to maintain a vibrant retail economy in all areas of the city. One bright spot is Spaceus, an arts and creative pop-up space that is filling vacant storefronts in Harvard Square and East Cambridge.

Communications from Other City Officers

Councillor Kelley writes to inform us that he remains adamantly opposed to the Inman Square redesign based on his own opinion of whether it will be safer.

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 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