City Council Agenda Highlights (12/3/18)

The Cambridge City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday, December 3, 2018, starting at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted on here.

City Manager’s Agenda

#3 Cable TV License Renewal: The manager is asking for $120K for a consultant to assist with the process to renew an agreement with Comcast as the city’s cable TV provider. The current 10-year agreement expires in 2021, and we want to make sure we negotiate a strong agreement especially with regard to maintaining the payments for community-access and government channels. The manager’s request states: “The City will be seeking a consultant to provide a range of specialized services to support this process. These services shall include: develop a plan for license renewal and strategies to implement the plan; conduct a technical evaluation of the cable system in the City; evaluate the past performance of Comcast, to include a review of its license fee payments; conduct Ascertainment of community cable-related needs and interests; assist in drafting a renewal license agreement; and, participate in preparation for informal or formal license renewal process.” This comes at a time when many residents would like the city to create a municipal broadband system, so that Comcast would not be the sole Internet provider and service and access could be more equitable and affordable than it is now. Comcast does not have an “exclusive” contract for broadband but the market reality is that it is the only company that has chosen to invest laying the cable.

#4 Water Supply Resiliency: This grant is for $78K to do a feasibility study of solar battery storage at the Water Department building, which is in a location vulnerable to flooding. A solar battery installation could help the water treatment plant operate independently if the electric grid were ever shut down. Additional grants from Mass DOER would be available to help fund eventual cost to construct and install a solar generator, which would be over $770K.

#6 Funding for Three E-Gov Projects: The manager is asking to allocate about $737K from Free Cash to fund 3 e-gov projects to improve fuel efficiency, first responder response time and firearms simulator training at DPW, Fire and Police.

#8 Vocational Employment Case Manager at the Housing Authority: About $74K will continue to fund a case manager at the Cambridge Employment Program to assist residents of public housing and others with job searches.

#10 Low Income Heating Assistance Program: Federal funding of about $997K will help about 1,100 residents of Cambridge and Somerville afford heating costs this winter. Last year 545 Cambridge residents qualified for assistance.

#11 Civic Education Program: A $5K grant from the Cambridge Community Foundation will fund a civic education program for 5 student leaders at the Community Learning Center.

#12 Strengthening and Improving Snow Removal Practices and Policies: With winter on the way reading this long and detailed memo from DPW provides insight into the complexity and increasing expense of effective snow clearance, especially as expectations have risen for clearing sidewalks and bike lanes and for using less salt around street trees.

#13 Sidewalk Tractor for Snow Clearance: The manager is asking to allocate $180K from Free Cash to purchase a sidewalk tractor to clear snow from sidewalks and bike lanes.

#14 Clean Fleet Grant: We will use a $219K grant from Mass DOER to pilot the installation of hybrid drive and idle reduction systems on 11 city vehicles to reduce fuel consumption.

#15 Big Belly Waste Bins: This $97K state grant will be used to purchase more Big Belly solar compacting bins.

#17 Grand Junction Path Report: This memo from CDD provides an update on the various rights of way that have been committed and what incentives will be needed to secure remaining ROWs in order to construct a long-dreamed of multi-use path between the BU Bridge and the Somerville Community Path at North Point. On the same agenda is a zoning petition from Alexandria that would secure the section between Binney and Cambridge St, as well as an agreement with the Housing Authority for an easement on the section abutting the Milers River apartments. The longest unsecured section belongs to MassDOT and runs west of Pacific St toward the river.

#18 Agreement with the Housing Authority for Easements for Grand Junction Path: Over the past several months the City and the Housing Authority have been negotiating a way to run a portion of the future Grand Junction Path over CHA land currently occupied by its Millers River community center. The CHA is poised to begin renovating the whole complex and now will be able to afford to relocate and rebuild its community center and to add 15 units with a payment of $5M from the City in exchange for an easement to accommodate the path. This is an excellent step forward.

Applications and Petitions

#2 Grand Junction pathway Zoning District Petition: Alexandria Real Estate purchased the former Metropolitan Pipe site on Binney St and Fulkerson St and wants to redevelop it as an 8-story lab building. The site abuts the Grand Junction Railway, and Alexandria is proposing a new zoning overlay district to incentivize the transfer of land by fee or easement to create a section of the Grand Junction Path between Binney and Cambridge St . The overlay would provide an increase in the allowed height (up to 120′) and density (2.5 FAR). This will be referred to both the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board for a full discussion.

Policy Orders

#2 Preserving Fresh Pond Apts Affordability: This order asks for an update on the negotiations with the owner to preserve the expiring use affordable units in the two towers at 362-364 Rindge Ave.

#3 Planning Recognition Events for 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in 2020: This order from the four female councillors asks that staff begin planning events and discussions to celebrate and support the centennial of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 2020.

#4 Report on Cigarette Disposal Boxes: Are they being used? Do we want more of them? Is this program successful?

#5 Davis Sq Intersection Redesign Impact on Cambridge Traffic Access: Somerville has a plan that will reconfigure the messy Davis Sq intersection by closing off a portion of Dover St and turning it into a public open space. That could impact the way vehicles enter Cambridge since Dover goes one-way from Davis to Mass Ave and other streets go the other direction. This order, which I co-sponsored, asks our staff to consult with Somerville staff on a mitigation plan.

#6 Public Consumption of Cannabis: State law prohibits people from consuming cannabis in public, and there is as yet no provision for the social consumption of cannabis, such as in bars. So there is a concern that people who do not own their homes may not have a place to consume cannabis legally. Councillors Kelley and Simmons are suggesting we discuss in the Public Safety Committee making it legal to consume — smoke or ingest — cannabis on public property where smoking tobacco is allowed. We would need to file a home rule petition and get the state legislature’s approval. If this were to happen it could not only make our streets and parks unpleasantly fragrant for the non-consuming or allergic public, it could turn Cambrdge into a cannabis-consumption mecca for residents of other places whose towns continue to prohibit public consumption.

#7 Retro-fitting Flat Roofs on Houses to Eliminate Central Drains: The flat roof zoning petition that has been discussed twice over the past few years, each time without resolution, appears to be back for a third round. I can’t tell what exactly is different this time around. The problem being addressed is that many flat roofed houses have central drains that carry stormwater into the sewer system when if the roof were raised and pitched slightly the rain and snow could drain naturally. The expense of doing this seems to require some type of incentive like a bonus amount of living space that would typically not be allowed under the base zoning.

#8 Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance Amendment: This order would make it slightly easier for owner-occupants of single and two-family houses to create an accessory dwelling unit. This will be referred to both the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board for a discussion.

#10 Changes to Loading Zone Fees and Regulations: We have had a great deal of discussion about how to better manage our limited curb space to keep loading zone spaces open for delivery vehicles and to deter trucks and ride-share vehicles from blocking bike lanes. Boston recently raised its fees from blocking loading zones and bike lanes and this order, which I co-sponsored, asks to review of fees and regulations.

#11 Inclusionary Tenants Association: This order suggests creating a tenants association to represent and bring together people living in the city’s inclusionary affordable units, which now number 1,100 units.

#12 Making City Web Forms Gender Neutral: This order asks that online forms on the city’s website (such as applications for boards and commissions) be made gender neutral.

#13 Ordinance to Help Displaced Tenants: This order asks for the city solicitor’s help in determining whether Cambridge could adopt or would need a home rule petition to pass an ordinance similar to the one Portland (OR) has that requires some landlords to pay a relocation fee to a tenant in the event of a no-fault eviction or a rent increase of 10% or more in a year. Landlords who are owner occupants or who are displacing a tenant to rent to an immediate family member would be exempt, and there would be several other exemptions.

Committee Reports

We have held a large number of committee hearings this fall and there are 9 reports on this agenda. I will just list the topics:

#1 Licensing and permitting software upgrades (Viewpoint Cloud)

#2 Envision climate and environment draft goals

#3 Short-term rental enforcement

#4 Cannabis social equity program

#5 Public financing of elections

#6 Safety of natural gas infrastructure

#7 Zoning for adult use cannabis sales (sent to the Council with a favorable recommendation and potentially can be ordained at our Dec. 10 meeting)

#8 Inman Square redesign

#9 Small cell (5G) technology regulations

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