City Council Agenda Highlights (2/4/19)

The Cambridge City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday, February 4, 2019, starting at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. My summary of key items follows.

City Manager’s Agenda

#3 Excise Tax for Recreational Cannabis Sales: The manager is recommending that the Council vote to take advantage of the ability to impose a 3% local excise tax on retail cannabis sales. This is the maximum allowed for a local excise tax, and would be in addition to the state taxes (17%) and a possible community impact fee (up to 3%). The taxes do not apply to sales of medical cannabis.

#4 Streets Designated for 20mph Safety Zones: Following up on our directive to reduce the speed limit to 20mph on primarily “local access” (residential) streets, the Traffic Dept has provided a list of the streets it recommends for reduced speeds (the citywide limit would remain 25mph on all other streets). The major Squares already became 20mph “safety zones” last year, and this would reduce the speed limit on the majority of residential side streets. The exceptions are a few higher-volume arterial streets, very short streets, private ways, dead ends, and state roads we don’t have jurisdiction over, which would remain 25mph except where already marked as school zones. The map and list of streets are linked here.

Charter Right 

#2 Financial Assessment for Upzoning: This order from last week was charter-righted. It asks that when a developer seeks to upzone a property they provide a financial  analysis of the potential gain so that the Council can better evaluate whether the tradeoffs. I support it. Such an accounting would help to inform the debate over Alexandria Real Estate’s petition to upzone the former Met Pipe site on Binney and Fulkerson St.

Policy Orders

#2 Televise Tree Protection Ordinance Meeting: The Ordinance Committee hearing to continue our debate over amending the Tree Protection Ordinance has been scheduled for Thurs. Feb. 14 at 5:30pm. This order asks for it to be televised and live streamed.

#3 Eversource Substation on Fulkerson St: This order asks for a full review of the additional electrical capacity that is projected to be needed to support the anticipated development in the Kendall/East Cambrdge area. Eversource recently acquired the former taxi garage on Fulkerson Street (for $13M) and residents are very concerned about putting a substation directly across the street from a public park (Ahern Field) and the Kennedy Longfellow School. The location of a future substation has come up in the debate over the Alexandria rezoning since the sites are abutting and there has been discussion of a land swap and the creation of a park next to a possible substation.

#4 Inventory and Database of Local Arts Organizations: This order asks for the creation of a public database of all the arts organizations in Cambridge that could be used as a resource to connect artists, organizations and funders.

#5 Sidewalks and Tree Wells near Carl Barron Plaza: This order asks that the scope of the River Street/Carl Barron Plaza redesign project be widened to include improvements to the asphalt-patched sidewalks and empty tree wells on Mass Ave in Central Square.

#6 Support for State Traffic Safety Bills: I sponsored this order to express our support for three bills before the State Legislature related to traffic safety and Vision Zero. They include a bill to require cell phone use by drivers be hands-free (SD 1383), a bill that would allow automated speed enforcement by camera (SD 1461), and a bill that would require truck side guards and other safety features on state-owned or -contracted trucks and safe passing distances between vehicles and vulnerable road users (SD 847).

#8 Televise Economic Development Committee Meeting: This order asks to televise and live stream the Wed. Feb. 13 meeting of the Economic Development Committee, which will again discuss retail vacancies. The meeting is from 12-2pm.

#9 Bed Bug Remediation: This order asks to create a grant program to help elderly, disabled and/or low-income residents control bed bug infestations.

Late Policy Order

#1 Sealing Eviction Records: In 2013 the Mass Trial Court began placing eviction records online. Unfortunately the information remains publicly available to future landlords and others even for tenants who were involved in no-fault evictions or whose cases were dismissed or resolved without an eviction. These are records are being used to deny them housing to many vulnerable residents. The order asks that these records be sealed.

Committee Reports

#1 University Relations Committee (12/12/18): Discussion of how to better involve university students in civic affairs.

#2 Human Services Committee (10/25/18): Discussion of how to better serve young residents with our Summer Food Program.

Communications from City Officers:

#1 Councillor Kelley’s thoughts on the Tree Protection Ordinance and how to identify a significant tree: Read it if you are interested. He asserts that if actually preserving significant trees (rather than merely collecting payments into the tree protection fund to compensate for trees removed) is the goal of a proposed “moratorium,” then a moratorium on granting special permits for either large or infill developments would be more effective.

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