City Council Agenda Highlights (2/11/19)

The Cambridge City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday, February 11, 2019, starting at 5:30pm. There will be no meeting the following Monday (Feb. 18) in observation of Presidents Day. What follows is my summary of the key items on this week’s agenda.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Water Infrastructure Report: This memo comes in response to the questions raised following the water main break on Craigie Street in late December, which inflicted substantial damage to several homes on Mercer Circle. The report details the significant and rising investments ($95M since 1995) that the City has made over recent years in maintaining and improving our water infrastructure and in trying to monitor leaks and prevent breaks. Despite these efforts it seems difficult tp predict when pipes will fail; in fact, the water pipes around Craigie Street had been inspected for leaks in early December 2018 and none were found. A 24-inch water main broke a couple of weeks later. There is also a letter from the manager to the residents of the area explaining the ongoing communication with residents following the flood and how they can file a claim.

#2 Morse School Replacement and Possible Solar Panels: The City is applying to the state for potential help in funding the replacement of the roof at the Morse School. If feasible, solar panels will be installed. The total cost of the project would be about $2.5M.

#3 Expansion of Summer Food Program: We held a committee hearing on the changes in how our summer food programs for youth are funded. State funding for meals served in parks is only available based on census tracts and that has complicated our distribution efforts. Last summer the City paid for summer food in two school parks that had become ineligible for state funding. This summer there will be three new programs, including two evening meal programs and lunch at the Central Sq Library. Also we now will be able to offer vegetarian meals at all sites. The additional cost will be about $37K.

#6 Enforcement of Blocked Bike Lanes: Did you know that since 2017 blocking a bike lane is a moving violation against the vehicle operator? Uber and Lyft drivers are responsible for many of these bike lane obstructions when they stop in the street to pick up or drop off passengers. Our Police and Traffic Departments have stepped up enforcement and are working with the TNC companies on software changes that would advise their drivers where to stop legally.

#7 Additional Safety Signage on Rindge Ave: Following a walk last month led by the traffic staff and Councilor Kelley, some new safety-related signs will be installed at various crosswalks and intersections along Rindge Ave.

#8 Don’t Block the Box in Front of Fresh Pond Mall: In response to a policy order I sponsored last fall, the City is working with DCR to try to find a way to deter motorists from stopping and blocking Fresh Pond Parkway as they enter or exit the mall. During peak congestion it causes gridlock and can provoke road rage.

#9 Food Allergy Awareness in Public Parks: Last October I sponsored an order to ask that we raise awareness about food allergies so that visitors to our parks and playgrounds handle their snacks more safely and don’t put others at risk of an allergic reaction. The staff will develop some educational signage, but do not feel they can enforce prohibitions on eating certain foods and do not want caregivers to get a false sense of security if they see signs that say, for example, “Do Not Eat Nuts at this Table.”

#10 Parking on Gore St: There was a suggestion that utility contractors working on the Gore St project be allowed to park in Twin City Plaza because street parking is already so tight for residents, but the shopping center owner (Regency Centers) is unwilling to give up any spaces. About 25 residents have taken advantage of the City’s offer to park in the municipal garage on First St at reduced rates (subsidized by Divco West, which is also paying for the work on Gore St to serve its Northpoint development).

#11 Cigarette Disposal Boxes: About 30 of these boxes were installed on Mass Ave around Central Sq in 2017. The “sidewalk butlers” are not especially well used, and some may be moved to higher-traffic locations, based on suggestions from smokers’ rights advocates. I wish there were sidewalk butlers for the disposal of nips, another source of litter on some streets.

#12 Dog Park at Joan Lorentz Park?: The suggestion last fall to fence off a portion of Joan Lorentz Park to create for a dog park in front of the Main Library was met with a good bit of pushback from some quarters, but the city has agreed to hold a community meeting to consider it this spring. No date has been set.


#1 Charter Right: I exercised my “charter right” last week to delay a vote on approving a second curb cut for a parcel undergoing redevelopment on the corner of Vineyard and May Street. (The developer wants to build a second house on the lot.) I visited the site last week and wrote a memo with photos that is on the agenda under Communications from City Officers. Subsequently the developer (Senne) produced a letter from an arborist stating that the tree is in decline and a “candidate for removal.” I am not convinced that the tree should be sacrificed to increase parking on the lot since there is already off-street parking for two cars). As a sign of good faith the developer should commit to replant enough new trees to replace any canopy lost to these changes.

Applications & Petitions:

#1 Cambridgeside Galleria Zoning Amendment: New England Development, owner of the CambridgeSide Galleria mall, has petitioned to amend and up-zone its site (currently permitted as PUD-8) in response to the changing nature of shopping malls and the evolving mixed use district along First Street. The new zoning would allow substantially greater height and density, adding 600K sf, reducing parking in the garage, and including some residential as well as office space along with a smaller amount of retail. One planning goal is to activate First Street with street-facing ground floor retail and to add safer pedestrian and bike facilities. The petition will be referred to the Ordinance Committee and the Panning Board for public hearings, and no action will be taken without considerable public process.

Policy Orders

#3 Raised Crosswalk at Windsor and Market St: This order asks to consider using a raised crosswalk at this intersection in the Port to slow traffic near Fletcher Maynard Academy.

#5 Improvements Requested in the Port: This order asks for an inventory of the (many) empty tree wells and a plan to fill them. It also asks to add some “smart” trash cans in the Port neighborhood, so that they can be emptied as needed.

#6 Increase City Funding for Affordable Housing: A year ago the Council asked that our budget funding for affordable housing be increased by $100M over the next five years ($20M per year). This order asks for a funding plan by April 23, which is around the time the FY20 Budget will be presented to us. In his recent State of the City Address the manager announced that in FY20, 25% of the revenue from building permits would be allocated to affordable housing (I estimate this could raise the amount from $3.7M to about $4.5M). In FY19 about $24M was allocated toward housing and homelessness.

#10 Three Housing Committee Hearings in March: Councillor Simmons is requesting to televise three Housing Committee meetings she is scheduling in March, presumably to discuss the proposed affordable housing overlay zoning. There is as yet no zoning draft to consider. The dates are 3/5 (6pm), 3/20 (5pm) and 3/28 (5pm).

Communications from Other City Officers:

#1 Memo on the Curb Cut at 32 Vineyard St: I submitted this memo after a site visit. In addition to the tree that is the way of the proposed new curb cut, three other trees would be removed because the developer intends to put a second house on the lot. This is a case study in why a moratorium is needed while we deliberate how to strengthen our Tree Protection Ordinance to extend to trees on private property.

#2 Report on Tenant Displacement Task Force Meeting: This new “Blue Ribbon” task force met for the first time on Jan. 29 and Councillor Siddiqui has submitted a report on the discussion, which brainstormed policy ideas and legislative and funding strategies to help tenants remain in their homes especially when properties change owners.

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.

Make a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You can make the comment area bigger by pulling the arrow. If you are techie, you can use basic HTML tags and attributes to format your comment.

Development of Responsive Tabs Wordpress Theme by Will Brownsberger.
Hosting paid for by the Devereux for Council.
Site set up by ViV Web Solutions.

Welcome! is a public forum. The site depends on your participation.

You may comment on any post on this site.

You may add a new topic on a local issue.

You do not need a password.

You can subscribe at this link for occasional email news.

Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA