City Council Agenda Highlights (9/9/19) (One Response)

The Cambridge City Council will hold its first meeting of the fall season on Monday, September 9, 2019, at 5:30pm. The agenda is posted here. At 6:30 we will convene a special meeting to discuss the First Street Garage Disposition and once that is over we will resume the regular meeting. Be prepared for a long night.

City Manager’s Agenda

#1, #2, #3 Appointments to Boards and Commissions: Congratulations to all the new and returning volunteer members of the Foundry Advisory Committee, the Pedestrian Committee and the Bicycle Committee. There are vacancies on three other boards and commissions (learn more).

#6 Planning Board Report for Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay Petition: The Board did not make a recommendation but the petition has been amended since and will come back to the Ordinance Committee on Tues., Sept. 10 at 12pm. There appears to be agreement about the substance of the petition and Alexandria has offered to purchase the abutting site on Fulkerson St where Eversource wants to build an electric substation, but a new location for the power station has not yet be worked out. I believe the action desired at the 9/10 hearing is for the committee to send the petition to the full council so that it can potentially be adopted before it expires on Oct. 9.

#7 Planning Board Report on Affordable Housing Overlay: The Board gave the AHO a favorable recommendation at their meeting on Sept. 4. I The lack of consensus they displayed when they discussed the petition back in July morphed into a favorable, though not unanimous, recommendation.

#8 Planning Board Report on First St Garage Disposition: No one should be surprised that the Board voted to recommend the 30-year parking lease that is essential to support their 2014 decision to grant Leggat McCall a special permit for the Courthouse redevelopment; the permit left unresolved how they would meet their parking requirement for an additional 420 spaces.

#9 First Street Garage Disposition: We were supposed to vote on this in July but the disposition meeting had to be postponed. The crux of the debate is whether one-third of the municipal garage should be leased on a long-term basis to enable the contested redevelopment of the Sullivan Courthouse into an office building 258-feet tall with 24 affordable housing units. The residential space would constitute only about 5% of the 476K sf building. The FAR would be as astounding 7.97. Open space comprises just 1.4% of the lot. I opposed the project before I was elected and continue to feel it is the wrong choice for East Cambridge and the city so I will not vote to lease the developer parking in the city garage. Here are all the materials.

Charter Right

#1 and #2 UpperWest and the License Commission. Both orders were originally on our summer meeting agenda. The owners of the UpperWest wine bar in North Cambridge have been embroiled in a long-running dispute with the License Commission that has prompted renewed questions about the Council’s authority over the Commission. The mayor said there may be a council roundtable to discuss this but no date has been set. An article in Cambridge Day explains more.

Unfinished Business

#7 Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance: Technically this could be adopted any time since it has been passed to a second reading but there still is no consensus on how to help Economic Empowerment and Social Equity businesses get a foothold in the market. The latest version of the “Simmons Compromise” (see Communications for City Officers #2) inaccurately identifies the Central Sq BID as having agreed to manage a non-profit accelerator fund, and residents have been receiving deceptive anonymous flyers about the compromise.

#8 New St Storage Overlay Petition: This upzoning petition could be voted on at this meeting. While I remain opposed to passing the petition as is for the reasons stated at length on my blog, I have offered amendments supported by Councillor Kelley in the hope of improving the outcome for the community. See the amendments in Communications from City officers #3.

Applications and Petitions

#1 Alewife Quad Zoning Petition: There is a new petition submitted on behalf of developer Cabot Cabot & Forbes for a substantial chunk of the Alewife Quad (the area is on Mooney St and Smith Place). The residents who submitted the petition appear to be members of the rock climbing gym on Smith Place, which may be accommodated in a future redevelopment if the allowed height for non-residential buildings is increased to 85′ as the petition asks. The petition will go to the Planning Board first and then the Ordinance Committee.


#16 Fresh Pond Market Closing: Sadly, the Market will close on 9/14, ending a family-run business that has operated for 97 years. Marking what is truly the end of an era for Huron Village, I submitted a resolution thanking Marc and Crosby Najarian and their dedicated staff. There will be a community-organized event to say goodbye on Sept. 14 from 11-1 outside the Market on Huron Ave. There is much speculation about the future of the building including the possibility that Formaggio Kitchen will operate a market in the space, but nothing is certain yet — except that the space will need to be gut-renovated for any new tenant and that we will miss our old friends in the store.

Policy Orders

#1 2020 Census Outreach Efforts: This order asks for the City to work with the US Census Bureau and come up with an outreach plan to make sure all Cambridge residents are counted during the 2020 census, which will be the first to offer the option to respond online.

#2 Climate Prep Week Designation: I sponsored this order to permanently designate September 24-30 each year as Climate Preparedness Week in Cambridge. Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW) organizes events throughout the week in conjunction with schools and advocacy organizations. I’ll be participating in various events during Climate Preparedness Week, including hosting a book discussion on sea level rise on Sept. 24 (the book is called “Rising” and it’s by Elizabeth Rush). On Wed. Sept. 11 Councillor Zondervan and I are co-chairing a Health And Environment Committee hearing with the Climate Resiliency Task Force.

#4 Support for An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility: This is a resolution in support of a state bill that proposes to allow a person to obtain a driver’s license regardless of citizen documentation status. In states where this policy is in place, road safety has increased and there has been a positive impact on the economy. Here’s the state bill.

#5 Sullivan Courthouse Asbestos: This order from Councillor Mallon and Toomey comes in response to a campaign organized by supporters of Leggat McCall that has stoked fears that the asbestos long known to be inside the Sullivan Courthouse could now be leaking outside and putting residents at risk. I have posted here an explanation from the city manager’s office on what is being done by state agencies including MA DEP to ensure that the building does not pose a public safety risk.

#6 Better Lighting in Danehy Park: This order asks for an update on the status of public safety in Danehy Park following the still-unsolved murder last January and whether a review of its pathway lighting is planned.

#7 Keep Bus Stops Clear: I co-sponsored Councillor’s Kelley’s order to ask for increased efforts to keep bus stops clear and accessible for the buses and their passengers. The order suggests pavement markings to reinforce the no-stopping laws and asks for enforcement of illegally stopped vehicles to be stepped up

#8 Alewife Garage Conditions: This order asks for an update on the deteriorating conditions at the MBTA garage at Alewife and about any plans for repairs or rebuilding.

#9 Safety on Raymond Street: I co-sponsored Councillor’s Kelley’s order to ask the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to review speeds on Raymond Street and provide a schedule for 20 MPH sign installations there and citywide. There are concerns that Raymond Street sees a lot of app-driven cut-through traffic, and a recent roll-over crash indicated that cars may be traveling much faster than is safe on this street. At the same time, Raymond is designated a safe alternate route for cyclists and is scheduled to have its speed limit reduced to 20 MPH, along with many of the streets in the city. It will be helpful to know when we can expect the new speed limit to be posted and enforced.

#10 Public Hearing to Review Envision Cambridge: The Envision Cambridge planning process is complete and its report has been released, but the final recommendations have not been clearly publicized or discussed with the City Council. I co-sponsored this order with Councillor Kelley to ask that the City Council and members of the public be given an opportunity to discuss and review the plan and recommendations in an upcoming Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Committee public hearing.

#11 Traffic Safety at Fayette St: This order asks for a review of additional traffic safety measures that could be added at the Fayette Street and Cambridge Street intersection to make crossing safer for pedestrians when vehicles are turning.

#12 Resolving Issues with City’s Online Permitting System: ISD recently transitioned to a new online permitting system, which has unwittingly resulted in certain historical permit records no longer being available online. This order asks that ISD work to add links to those archived permit records, in order to streamline the process for applicants.

#13 Taxis and Bus Lanes: I co-sponsored Councillor Kelley’s order to explore the feasibility of allowing taxi cabs to use to travel with fare-paying passengers in dedicated bus lanes. It would not allow pick-ups or drop-offs in bus lanes, however.

#14 E-Hail Applications for Taxis: I co-sponsored Councillor Kelley’s order, which introduces Municipal Code amendments aimed to allow taxis to use e-hail applications to help them compete with transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft. View the amended language for section 5.20.

#15 Preventing Another Cambridge Carnival Cancellation: The Cambridge Carnival, a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture that has taken place annually in the city for the last 27 years, was canceled this year due to security concerns. Councillor Zondervan’s order asks that an alternative event be organized on the Carnival’s upcoming rain date (Sept. 22), that the City Manager convene stakeholders to ensure future Carnivals will go ahead as planned, and that the City Manager ask the City Council for any funding appropriations that would help make the Carnival run safely and smoothly in future years.

#16 Short-Term Rental Registration and Enforcement: The City of Boston recently reached an agreement with Airbnb that requires hosts to post their city registration information. This order asks that the City review whether a similar agreement would be helpful in maximizing compliance and enforcement efforts in Cambridge. It also asks that the City consider the possibility of conducting sting operations to identify and take legal action against illegal short-term rental operators.

Committee Reports

#1 Transportation & Public Utilities meeting on the Interim Policy and Regulations for Small Cell Wireless Installations on Public Ways in use by the Pole & Conduit Commission and the Historical Commission. The City Council does not have oversight over the policy used by these city commissions, but asked for an update on how applications will be dealt with in light of an FCC rule-making that is currently being challenged in the courts.

#2 Government Operations meeting on public financing for municipal elections. This hearing covered Councillor Toomey’s proposals, which pose some legal concerns according to the City Solicitor. The committee formalized our order for the full Council to consider making a request for the formation of a working group that would consider the goals and options for publicly financed elections.

#3 The second Transportation and Public Utilities meeting on the proposed Eversource electricity substation on Fulkerson St. It is abundantly clear that the proposed site is a no-go from the public’s standpoint. Eversource, the City, and large property owners are working to find a feasible alternative. This hearing was unfortunately not video-recorded, so this committee report is this only official record.

#4 Transportation & Public Utilities meeting to discuss a pilot program for regulating and permitting shared electric scooters to operate in Cambridge. We are still awaiting a change in state law that would regulate scooter use and make the equipment legal, but the City Staff have been working with other MAPC communities to flesh out a potential plan that can be put into action quickly. At this point, it appears unlikely that we would have a pilot program up and running before spring 2020.

#5-#8 Series of Ordinance Committee meetings on the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO). Back in August, several lengthy hearings took place to debate, discuss and vote on amendments to the proposed AHO zoning. A final Ordinance Committee hearing was held on Sept. 3, but that committee report is not yet available. The materials released before that meeting, including the most recently updated zoning language, may be found here. The Committee forwarded the petition to the Council with a favorable recommendation by a vote of 5-4. The next step would be for it be to be “passed to second reading” on 9/9. The soonest it can be voted on is 9/23 and it requires a super majority of 6 votes to pass. It will expire on 9/30 but that is a holiday so there is no meeting.

#9 The third Transportation and Public Utilities meeting on the proposed Eversource electricity substation on Fulkerson St. Alternative sites are being explored, but the City and Eversource are not yet ready to identify those potential sites to the public. Another hearing is scheduled for September 25 from 3-5pm. We are hoping for more concrete progress by that date.

Communications and Reports from Other City Officers

#1 Report from a Supervised Injection Services (SIS) Fact-Finding Mission. The Mayor and a coalition of City representatives visited Montreal back in January 2019 to learn more about SIS and tour sites firsthand. Thank you to Mayor McGovern for his commitment to exploring potential harm reduction measures and helping to combat the opioid epidemic. Link to the report.

#2 Memo from Councillor Simmons, following up on her amendments to the Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. The memo clarifies that RMDs will voluntarily pay into a fund for EE applicants. It is not yet clear what entity will hold and distribute that fund (the memo is inaccurate in stating that the Central Sq BID will be involved; they will not). In addition, 50% of local cannabis sales taxes and 50% of Host Community Agreement (HCA) community impact fees will be deposited into an accelerator and incubator fund to benefit qualifying EE Applicants. RMDs will not be allowed to co-locate adult use stores until Jan. 1, 2020, and the City will be encouraged to expeditiously issue priority applicants’ Special Permits and HCA’s. Link.

#3 Suggested amendments to the New Street Overlay District (Self Storage) Zoning. Councillor Kelley and I have submitted amendments that would ensure that a larger proportion of affordable housing would be built as part of the development of any site in the proposed district. Link.

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 Anthony Wilson 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