City Council Agenda Highlights: Summer meeting (7/30/19, Part II)

Our 2019 Special Summer Meeting has been postponed from Monday, July 29, to Tuesday, July 30, at 5:30pm.

This is Part II of my summary of the 1,748 page meeting agenda. Part I covered what is on the City Manager’s Agenda portion.


Charter Right #1, Volpe Curb Cut: At our last meeting in June one of my colleagues exercised his charter to delay a decision on an application for a curb cut on Binney Street as part of the new Federal Transportation Building that MITIMCo is building for the General Services Administration. There are existing curb cuts on this section of Binney that can be used during the two-to-three years of construction and moving the entrance of the new building closer to the Sixth Street during construction crossing poses safety and circulation challenges with the heavy truck traffic. To date, a comprehensive circulation plan for the redevelopment of the Volpe site has not been presented and in its absence I am hard-pressed to support this application.

Applications and Petitions

#4 Sidewalk Seating for &pizza in Harvard Sq: I’m not opposed to sidewalk seating outside the pizza store (it wouldn’t be in front of Milk Bar near the corner), but the application doesn’t say anything about umbrellas (type, color?) or show any planters or flower pots, which I’m told are part of the plan and would make the seating area more attractive. Given all the sensitivity about that area, this information would be helpful.

#10 Cambridgeside Galleria Up-Zoning Petition (Revised and Resubmitted Version): This will be referred to the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee for public hearings, so I don’t think it will be discussed in any detail on Tuesday. New England Development has revised its ask and its community benefits in response to comments, but I haven’t studied the new proposal closely yet.

#11 Ban Dogs at Sacramento Field: A group has submitted a petition with some inflammatory anti-dog language that demands we ban dogs (both those on and off-leash) at Sacramento Field. To me, this conflict underscores that Cambridge and Porter Square in particular are woefully short of public open spaces. Sacramento Feld serves the nearby Baldwin School, making the potential for conflict more fraught. The school was built many years ago without access to adequate outdoor recreational space, and at that time the land that today is the field was used for light industry (a laundry operation, I think). It was acquired from Harvard in a friendly eminent domain taking in 1980. Over the years the surrounding Porter Sq neighborhood has grown more dense around it, and no new public parks have been created to serve residents with and without dogs. These days, more city residents have dogs and fewer have children. (Dogs outnumber children in San Francisco, and one day the same may be be true in Cambridge.) All of us need safe, attractive parks, and all of us need to respect each other’s health and safety. I have a dog but I don’t take him to parks because he is not good with strangers or other dogs. But people with well-behaved dogs should be welcomed in our parks.

Policy Orders

#2 Maintain EV Rebate Program: I sponsored this resolution in support of maintaining the state’s MOR-EV rebate program that incentivize the purchase or lease of electric vehicles. Our goal is to get 300K EVs on the road by 2025; we are only at 18K. Funding for the rebates may be cut this fall. Here’s the state bill.

#3 Help the Pod Patrol Get Rid of Black Swallow-Wort: I sponsored this order to support the efforts the Pod Patrol and others who have been sounding the alarm for years about the dangers of the invasive vine known as Black Swallow-Wort. If you have this in your garden please dig it up by the roots and dispose of it in your trash in a sealed bag (not in yard waste). Learn more.

#4 Restore JFK Fountain: I sponsored this order to ask that DCR, Harvard, the Charles Hotel and the City work together on a plan to restore the memorial fountain in JFK Park on Memorial Drive. The park and the fountain belong to the state, but we all have an interest in seeing it working again and cleaned of graffiti.

#5 Patching Pavement for Smoother Cycling: I sponsored this order to ask that DPW report on how it prioritizes streets for interim re-paving. Many of our streets have been patched repeatedly and are in rough shape for cycling.

#6 Oppose Federal Proposal to Allow Larger Trucks: I sponsored this resolution to our US Congressional Delegation to oppose a federal proposal to allow larger, heavier semi-trucks and trailers. These trucks already pose a significant danger on city streets, and if they are allowed to be larger it will be even worse unless cities are allowed to restrict their travel on our streets.

#7 Navigating the Open Meeting Law: I co-sponsored Councillor’s Kelley’s order to hold a Government Operations Committee meeting (I chair that committee) to discuss ways to train appointed members of boards and commissions and elected officials to comply with the complex requirements of the state’s Open Meeting Law.

#8 Anti-Idling Reporting and Enforcement: I sponsored this order to consider adding ways for people to report idling vehicles through SeeClickFIx or by text message and to maintain stats on tickets issued for idling on the Open Data Portal.

#11 Outside Legal Advice for Councillors: I co-sponsored Councillor’s Kelley’s order to hold a Government Operations Committee meeting (I chair that committee) to discuss allocating a budget for councillors to seek the advice of a pre-approved private attorney instead of relying exclusively on the city solicitor who represents the city administration.

#13 Increase Funding for Multi-Service Center Grants: The amount of the grants that can be given to low-income tenants experiencing housing instability has not been increased since 2014.

#14 Ant Bikes Underfoot: I’m all for making biking easier but I agree with Councillor Kelley that  the green Ant Bikes being left all over the city poses problems. The company is operating without a permit, and Bluebikes (through Motivate, which is no owned by Lyft) has an exclusive contract to operate the municipal bikeshare system. If you see one that has been left for a days in inappropriate place you can use SeeClickFix to report it.

#15 Inman Sq Construction Plan Safety: Councillor Kelley will hold a Public Safety Committee hearing to go over the plans for managing traffic and pedestrian detours during the reconstruction of Inman Sq.

#16 Brick Sidewalks: I co-sponsored this order to ask that the Neighborhood and Long Term Planing Committee discuss policies related to preserving brick sidewalks.

#17 Shared Mobility Zoning Amendment: The possible pilot of shared electric scooters necessitates some minor changes to the zoning code, which Councillor Kelley has suggested. Basically, the amendment defines what a “shared mobility device” is and where one can be used (in all zoning districts). This will be referred to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee.

#18 Educating Minors About Their Legal Rights: Councillor Kelley will hold a Public Safety Committee hearing to discuss how minors are informed and educated about their legal rights and obligations and what might be done to ensure that they know their rights especially with regard to law enforcement interactions.

#19 Short-Term Rental Registrations: I agree with Councillor Kelley’s suggestion that we require hosts to include their city STR registration number in their description on Airbnb or other listing sites. Only 234 hosts have registered, which is about one-third of the listings online. See registered hosts on the Open Data Portal.

#21 Facial Recognition, Amendment to Surveillance Technology Ordinance: The ACLU has asked us to add protections against the City’s use of face recognition software to the Surveillance Ordinance we adopted late last year. The proposed amendment will go first to the Public Safety Committee, and then to the Ordinance Committee.

#23 Cambridge Energy Alliance Usage: This order asks to know how many property owners have taken advantages of the free services the CEA offers to help them improve energy efficiency in their buildings?

#24 Making Memorial Drive More People-Centered: I sponsored this order with Councillors Zondervan, Carlone and Kelley to express our support to DCR for making Memorial Drive safer and more attractive for people on foot and bikes and for planting more trees. Councillor Zondervan and I signed on to a letter to DCR from the newly formed Memorial Drive Alliance, a coalition of groups that seek to “put the park back in the parkway” by dedicating a travel lane to a two-way protected bike lane to separate bike traffic from foot traffic and planting more trees along the riverbanks. The entirety of Memorial Drive, including the roadway itself, is legally designated as a park and we have allowed it to become a highway where people are relegated to sharing narrow paths and the trees suffer from too much pavement and road salt.

#25 UpperWest and the License Commission: This is such a long, tangled story that I cannot possibly summarize it except to say that it’s an embarrassment that has gone on far too long.

Committee Reports

There are 9 committee reports on the agenda. They would not fit in our binders this week so were distributed in a separate envelope. I’ve included links, if you care to read any of them.

#1 Health & Environment Committee meeting on Affordable Housing Overlay’s potential impact on tree canopy and environmental considerations.

#2 Ordinance Committee meeting on the New St Storage Up-Zoning Petition. The committee sent it to the Council without a recommendation. There is not consensus. It can’t be voted on until our 9/9 meeting. I remain opposed.

#3 Ordinance Committee meeting on the Alexandria Grand Junction Up-Zoning Petition. For me, the Eversource substation question clouds this decision.

#4 Ordinance Committee meeting on Cannabis Business Permitting: See my blog post on this. We are waiting for answers from the city solicitor and negotiations continue. I don’t know when we will meet on this again.

#5 Human Service Committee meeting on opioid prevention and harm reduction strategies.

#6 Health & Environment Joint Meeting with Climate Resilience Task Force

#7 Ordinance Committee Meeting on the Affordable Housing Overlay

#8  Civic Unity CommitteeMeeting on Pay Equity Law

#9 Housing Committee Meeting on Updating Preferences and Priorities for Inclusionary Units

Communications from Other City Officers

#1 Arts Task Force Final Report. Thank you to Councillor Mallon and all who participated. Link to the report.

#2 Councillor Carlone’s comments on the Affordable Housing Overlay Zoning. Link.

#3 Mayor McGovern and Councillor Mallon’s suggestions for amendments to the Affordable Housing Overlay Zoning. Link.

I will reserve my comments on #2 and #3 for a separate blog post prior to our next Ordinance Committee meeting on 8/1.

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 day 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 the day of the meeting. 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