City Council Agenda Highlights (12/10/18)

The City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday. December 10, 2018, starting at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted here. My summary of the key items follows.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 New Net-Zero Ready Heating System at CRLS: The manager is requesting to add $600K to the FY19 bond issue to cover part of the cost of replacing an oil-fired stream boiler with an all electric variable refrigeration flow system to help meet our Net Zero ready goals for municipal buildings. The total project cost will be $1.25M.

#2 Tobin School Design Feasibility Study: The manager is requesting to add $3M to the FY19 bond issue for a design, feasibility and engineering study for the reconstruction of the Tobin-Vassal Lane Upper School complex to begin in early 2019. The architectural design firm of Perkins Eastman has been selected for the project. This is the same firm that designed the MLK-Putnam Ave School a few years ago. I have requested that a community meeting be scheduled in January to learn about the scope of work. Construction is not planned to begin until after the 2019-20 school year, and no decisions have been made as to the siting or programming.

#3 Grant for Clean Cooling and Heating Platform: The City won a $20K seed innovation grant from Yale to help CDD create a market platform that will connect interested residents and small businesses with installers of clean cooling and heating systems.

#4 Grant to Continue Civilian Advocate for Trauma Informed Policing Training: This $42K Violence Against Women Act STOP grant will be used to continue funding a civilian to work with CPD on implementing trauma-informed policing strategies.

#5 Safety Improvements on Museum Way and Craigie Bridge: This memo provides a detailed update on the City’s efforts going back to 1994 to advocate with the state DCR and MassDOT for improvements to bicycle accommodations on the Craigie Bridge. Since the recent fatality nearby, these discussions have grown more urgent. The DCR Commissioner seems willing to create bike lanes that meet today’s standards, pending more consultation this winter with stakeholders (like the Museum of Science); a travel lane would have to be removed on the bridge and there could be some impact on the Museum’s entrance flow. On Museum Way, which is a city street, we would narrow the travel lanes to calm traffic and create a wider and buffered bike lane. We also would work with the state to change the signal timing where Museum Way intersects with O’Brien Highway. None of the pavement markings can be done until the weather warms up again this spring, but the signal could be changed to allow a protected crossing phase for pedestrians and cyclists. These changes will be discussed at a public meeting on Tues., Dec. 18 at 6:30pm at the Museum of Science.

#6 Eviction Data Report: This memo comes in response to requests to establish some sort of mechanism to track evictions. Without data about how many tenants are losing their housing in Cambridge it is harder for us to develop policies to increase housing stability and stem displacement. Staff looked at court records for evictions from 2013 to 2017 and found that over that 5-year period 2,900 eviction complaints were filed against 1,937 unique Cambridge tenants. There were 1,655 judgments and from the amounts of the damages it seems that in most judgments there was unpaid rent (not only court costs). It is hard to know, however, exactly how many of the judgments resulted in actual evictions, or whether in some cases the tenants were able to stay once the claim was settled. And the numbers do not include the tenants who moved following a large rent increase or a no-fault eviction, or those who did not contest a notice of eviction. It also doesn’t show how many evicted or displaced tenants were able to move into other housing within Cambridge, or left the city. The data collection will continue in 2019 but without some type of comprehensive reporting requirement for landlords it will remain hard to know exactly who is being forced to leave a rental unit and why.

#7 Climate Resiliency Zoning Advisory Committee: This advisory group, which will develop zoning for greater climate resiliency, was announced two weeks ago and raised some eyebrows for including 4 councillors. The new list of 20 members includes no councillors.

#8 Enhanced 911 Systems: This report comes in response to a policy order I filed asking for more information about enhanced emergency communications systems that are being used to more accurately connect and geo-locate callers from mobile phones with first responders. There is a brand new systems that allows someone to send a text to 911 when a call may not be possible. In addition the Smart 911 system allows us to fill out confidential personal profiles that will help improve an emergency response, say by letting first responders know about a pre-existing medical condition or disability or providing the type of vehicle you drive or names of spouses.


We will vote on two ordinances:

#4 Surveillance Technology Ordinance: After over a year of work by the police and law departments, the council and the manager, and the ACLU, we are ready to vote on a new and ground-breaking ordinance that will regulate and provide public oversight and transparency to the acquisition and use of surveillance technology by law enforcement and other city departments. The full text of the ordinance is linked here. Councillor Kelley has offered a few suggestions for small edits in a communication on the agenda.

#5 Street Performers Ordinance: This amendment eliminates all fees for street performers but maintains a registration system to manage where performers are working, noise levels etc.

Policy Orders

#1 Compliance with Reduced Speed Limits: I co-sponsored this order to request a report by the end of January on our efforts to improve compliance with reduced speed limits both through traffic calming and enforcement. “Speed kills” and still does too often on our streets.

#2 Plant a Tree on City Hall Lawn: I sponsored this order following last week’s Health and Environment Committee meeting when we were told that Cambridge may need to plant up to 2,500 trees a year for the next 50 years in order to restore and maintain today’s canopy level, which has declined precipitously over the past several years. We will need to aggressively plant trees on both public and private land and also work harder to preserve the healthy trees we have now. One place to begin is to plant and to educate the public is on City Hall Lawn, where there is ample room to plant a good-sized tree on the side near Inman Street that can be used as a teaching tool.

#3 Airplane Noise Reduction: I sponsored this order to ask that the City urge Massport’s Community Advisory Committee to support one of the noise reduction dispersion strategies suggested in the Block II of the MIT study group. The MIT report is here. There will be a public presentation and discussion of the report on Mon. Dec. 10  at 7:30pm at Belmont Town Hall (455 Concord Ave.).

#4 Highlighting Council Goals in Budget: This order asks the Finance Dept to more explicitly highlight how the council’s goals and guiding principles are reflected in the FY20 Budget, which we will discuss and vote on in early May 2019.

Committee Report

#1 Government Operations Claims Hearing: My committee reviewed 5 claims filed against the city for property damage or personal injury. The committee hears only claims for up to $500 each. The total amount awarded will be on a future agenda as an allocation to approve.

Communications from City Officers

#2 Update on School Committee Work: The mayor has highlighted some of what the School Committee has been discussing including a change to the policy of required academic support for student-athletes whose GPAs fall below 70. To fully participate on a team a student must still maintain a GPA of 70 or above. Prior to the change only students with GPAs between 67.5 and 69.5 were placed on probation and were required to attend the homework center 3 times a week for academic support, but now student-athletes with GPAs between 60 and 69.5 also will be required to receive support. The students on probation will remain team members — an important school connection to maintain for struggling students — but cannot compete until their GPA is 70 or higher.

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