City Council Agenda Highlights (3/4/19)

The Cambridge City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday, March 4, 2019, at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted here. There will not be a meeting the following Monday (March 11) due to travel by several us and the senior staff to attend the annual National League of Cities conference in Washington, DC. My summary of the key items on the agenda follows.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Mass Cultural Council Grant (History): This $9K grant will go toward maintaining the City’s historical archives. Our city is rich in history, and our Historical Commission staff is top notch, The 6 full-time employees do amazing work on a budget of just shy of $800K a year. A greater public investment surely could be leveraged to complement both educational and touristic goals. For instance we do not have a public museum where these archives can be physically displayed.

#2, #3, #4, #5, & #6  Public Safety Equipment: This week’s appropriations include funds for equipment for dive teams, gear for firefighters, third rail testing devices, and defibrillators.

#7 Mass Cultural Council Grant (Artists): This $23.6K grant will support the Arts Council’s grants to local artists and arts organizations.

#8 Appointment to the Public Art Commission: Kelly Luo, a marketing coordinator at the William Rawn Associates architecture firm, has been appointed to serve on the Public Art Commission, bringing her youth and digital media fluency to the group.

#9 Mass Cultural Council Grant (Training): This $3K grant will support arts equity and inclusion training for the Arts Council and volunteers.

#10, #11 & #12: Planning Board Opinions on Zoning Petitions: There are 3 memos from the Planning Board from recent meetings. The only one that is still under consideration by the Council is the council-initiated amendments to the zoning for accessory dwelling units (#10). We have held one ordinance Committee hearing on it and will hold another once some questions are answered by the staff at CDD.

#12 AAA Bond Rating: This marks the 20th year that the City has earned a AAA bond rating from all 3 major credit agencies. Next week’s $90.6M sale of general obligation bonds will fund school construction and sewer and street infrastructure projects. This report explains our financial position and borrowing capacity and why the rating agencies view it so favorably. Only 33 cities attained a AAA rating.

Applications & Petitions

#4 Taxi Drivers Owners Petition: This petition was triggered by a report in Cambridge Day that some taxi stands might be repurposed for Uber and Lyft drivers to use for pick-up and drop-offs. They are asking the City to take measures to save their industry and assert that the ride share services are adding to congestion (true) and eroding transit use (also true). The taxi owners whose medallions have been capped would like to see a cap on ride share vehicles ad drivers, and they want the City to file a home rule petition to get state permission for a cap. In 2017 there were 6.7M TNC rides originating in Cambridge, the first year that the state began requiring a 20-cent per ride fee, half of which goes to the originating city. The roughly $670K collected in fees is being spent on sustainable transportation initiatives.

Policy Orders

#1 Bench Dedication for Mary Jo Clark in the Sacramento Field Tot Lot. I sponsored this request from friends of Mary Jo, a beloved childcare provider and longtime resident of the Agassiz neighborhood, to recognize her contributions with a plaque on one of the benches in the park.

#2 Traffic Calming on Garden and Shepard:  Residents of the neighborhood around the Radcliffe Quad have asked that we consider a variety of traffic calming measures. I sponsored this order with Councillor Carlone.

#3 Support for Traffic Safety Bill: The state literally cannot pass soon enough “An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities,” (SD.847) which among other things would require trucks to be equipped with side guards and other safety devices to protect cyclists and pedestrians in crashes. Such equipment might have saved Paula Sharaga’s life.

#4 Traffic Calming on Madison Ave: This North Cambridge street suffers from cut-through traffic off Alewife Brook parkway.

#5 Meeting Requested for Update on Gore St Utility Project: Residents of East Cambridge are losing patience with the lengthy construction on Gore St and would like an update from DPW, Eversource and Divco West.

#6 Proposed Changes to Bus Routes: I sponsored this order to send a report of the Transportation Committee meeting I chaired last week at which many questions and concerns were raised about the impact of proposed changes to bus routes in Cambridge. The MBTA is consolidating some routes and eliminating some stops as part of its cost-neutral “Better Bus Project.” These changes would take effect in September and the MBTA is taking public comment until 3/13. Here is more information on the routes identified for changes. If you are a regular user of the 72/74/75, 1/CT1, 47, 64 or 70/70A please take a look.

#7 Condo Conversion Data Requested: This order asks for data on condo conversions to be shared with the Tenant Displacement Task Force. Back in 2000, a majority of the City Council opposed instituting stronger protections for tenants during condo conversions, but amending our Condo Conversion Ordinance is among the actions suggested by the task force. This order seeks to gather more information about the rate of conversions and who is displaced by them.

#8 Support for State Bills Following Death of Laura Levis at Somerville Hospital: Last week we held a Human Services Committee hearing with representatives from the Cambridge Health Alliance to discuss the emergency communication and other policies they are putting in place in the aftermath of the tragic death in 2016 of Laura Levis on Somerville Hospital’s doorstep. Laura’s husband Peter DeMarco attended the hearing. We are expressing our support for “Laura’s Law” (HD.1850) and another bill (HD.1346) that would remove the cap on malpractice liability for public hospitals. Thank you to Rep. Christine Barber and Sen. Pat Jehlen for sponsoring these bills.

Committee Report

#1 Ordinance Committee on Alexandria Up-Zoning (Grand Junction Overlay): There was a lot of debate about whether the requested height and density increases were appropriate for this transitional location (the former Met Pipe site). The petition remains in committee and may be revised.

Communications for City Officers

Arts Task Force meeting notes on a discussion of zoning and incentives for creating spaces for artists and the arts.

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