City Council Agenda Highlights (6/3/19)

The Cambridge City Council will met on Monday, June 3, 2019, at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted on here. The Council will meet all four Mondays in June and then will take a break from regular meetings until the Special Summer Meeting on July 29. Committee hearings will continue over the recess; in fact, an Ordinance Committee meeting has already been scheduled on Tuesday, July 2 at 5:30pm to discuss the proposed Affordable Housing Overlay zoning.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1 Closing Out the Books on FY19: We voted to adopt the FY20 Budget at our last meeting and the city manager needs our approval to close out the books before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

#2 Energy Rebates: About $44K in energy rebates received from Eversource in FY18 will be added to the FY20 budget for energy efficiency projects at schools and municipal buildings.

#3 Mapping Feminist Cambridge: This initiative will begin in Inman Sq this summer with maps printed for walking tours on feminist history.

#5 Traffic Enforcement Grant: This grant allocation totaling about $18K will fund high visibility enforcement of impaired driving and seatbelt laws.

#7 River Festival Funding: $20K from Free Cash will go towards the Cambridge Arts River Festival, which will be held on Sat. June 1 in Central Sq from 11am-6pm.

#8 Traffic Calming and Bike Safety on Garden St: The Traffic Dept has responded to a policy order I submitted earlier this year asking about how to slow cars on Garden St especially between Linnaean and Shepard. Speed data collected indicate that 15% of vehicles travel over 28mph in that section (reported as the 85th percentile is 28mph). Volumes are about 9,200 vehicles a day so it is quite busy. There are not protected bike lanes but there are painted lanes on the westbound direction in a couple of sections. One option to improve safety is to complete and connect the two sections of painted lanes by removing parking along the Radcliffe side of Garden St between Shepard and Linnaean. This would require a community meeting. Shepard St is in the 5-Year Plan for Street and Sidewalk Reconstruction in 2021 and at that time we would be able to add physical traffic calming features to the crossings at Garden St and Walker St.

#10 Bicycle Count Data: This memo summarizes the data we have been collecting on bike counts at various high-volume intersections since about 2002. There also are before-and-after counts on streets hat have had major interventions (like Western Ave, Brattle St and Cambridge St) and data from the Eco-Totem in Kendall Sq. There are upwards trends across the board, though construction and poor weather do affect the counts. Casino mitigation funds will be used to install more sophisticated continuous multi-modal counting sensors at several intersections.

#11 Bed Bugs: The city manager will continue to work with the Public Health Dept and other departments to track bed bug infestations and to help residents and property owners identify and remedy the source of pest problems. However, the manager does not think a fund to help low income and elderly residents with bed bugs is appropriate at this time. The DPH has published a useful guide on bed bugs. Not all small pests are bed bug so it’s important to identify them correctly before taking action.

Policy Orders

#2 Menstrual Products in Public Restrooms: I sponsored this order to renew the request we made last term to offer free menstrual products in public (municipal and school) restrooms. We piloted a program in 2017 but I don’t think we ever got a report on whether it would be continued or expanded. Brookline recently voted to do this.

#3 Reducing Costs for Affordable Housing Development: I sponsored this order to suggest we discount the various building permit fees associated with renovation and construction projects that are 100% affordable housing. Affordable developers tell us their costs are too high: fees are one cost we have control over and could reduce. Another cost we control property taxes, if we can legally provide abatements to properties that are 100% affordable.

#5 Local Regs for TNCs: This order asks to draft a home rule petition that would give the city the power to regulate TNCs beyond what the state does. While I am as frustrated as anyone with the impact of TNCs on street safety, congestion and the taxi industry, I declined to co-sponsor this order because I don’t feel it is realistic to implement or enforce different regulations for TNCs operating in Cambridge. Instead cities should work together through the regional agencies like MAPC and MassDOT to strengthen state regulations.

#6 Community Meetings on Affordable Housing Overlay: This order suggests organizing meetings in neighborhoods for residents and staff to discuss the proposed overlay in more detail than has been possible through public comment periods at committee hearings. It think it’s a good idea to but am concerned that there may not be enough time since the first Ordinance Committee hearing has already been scheduled for July 2 and the Planning Board likely will meet on it the last Tuesday of June.

#7 Safety of Gas Repairs at Inman Sq: This order asks for confirmation that all gas line survey and reconstruction related to the Inman Sq project are being conducted and supervised according to meet safety provisions.

#8 Net Zero Stakeholder Group for 2020 Review: Recently we held a Health and Environment Committee meeting to hear the annual report on our Net Zero action plan. One requirement in the Net Zero Ordinance is to convene a stakeholder group after five years (in 2020) to review and potentially update the plan. This order asks for a timeline on forming the group.

#9 Net Zero Amendments to Zoning and BEUDO: At our recent committee hearing the staff told us they will be bringing forward several zoning amendments to meet various Net Zero and Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance benchmarks. This order asks that the draft language be shared immediately with the Council so that the ordinance committee process can begin this summer.

#10 Jerry’s Pond Area Landscape Improvements: This order revives requests for the city to work with the MBTA to make landscape improvements around Jerry’s Pond (Pit) including removing dead trees and planting others, installing benches and potentially an information kiosk about the Pond’s (Pit’s) history.

#11 Eversource Demand Projections: There is considerable public debate over Eversource’s stated need to expand its Putnam Ave electric substation and to add another on Fulkerson St on a site near the Kennedy Longfellow School. This order asks the utility to share its projections for future demand and data on historical demand. Given our Net Zero policies, it is reasonable to ask what Eversource is doing to help us reduce demand rather than expanding substations.

#12 Support for Two Environmental Justice Bills: “An Act Relative to Environmental Justice in the Commonwealth” (H.826/S.453) and “An Act Relative to Environmental Justice and Toxics Reduction in the Commonwealth” (H.761/S.464), would codify environmental justice into state law for the first time, and are being heard in committee on June 4 at the State House at 1pm.

Committee Reports

#1 Health and Environment meeting on the Zero Waste Master Plan and reducing single use plastics.

#2 Neighborhood and Long Term Planning meeting on the Memorial Tree program and how to expand it.

#3 Housing Committee meeting on the Affordable Housing Overlay (the April 16 hearing devoted to public comment).

#4 Ordinance Committee meeting on the cannabis business permitting ordinance.

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