The Cambridge City Council will meet on Monday, October 21, 2019, at 5:30pm at City Hall. The agenda is posted on the Open Meeting Portal. As usual, the meeting will be televised and live-streamed on the Portal.
#1 City Solicitor To Review Requested Ordinance Amendments Before Hearings: I filed to “reconsider” a policy order we adopted at our last meeting related to referring a matter to the Government Operations Committee, which I chair. Since it is a request for a relatively straightforward ordinance amendment, it seems more expedient to me to refer the order directly to the Ordinance Committee. The adopted order also included an accidental duplication of the “Ordered” line.
City Manager’s Agenda
#8 Bus Priority Lane Re-Painting & New Flex-Posts: The red paint on the priority bus lanes on Mt Auburn St and south Mass Ave needs a refresh. And flex-posts for existing bikes lanes will be replaced, as needed. This work will take $300K from Free Cash.
#9 Green Line Extension Payment: The City is making its second $5M installment on the $12.5M total Cambridge committed to the GLX project in 2016. The four annual payments are due each November 1, and the money comes out of Free Cash. Divco West also committed $12.5M and Somerville committed $50M. The memo notes that the current Lechmere station will close in May 2020 and “a major bus operation” will carry Green Line passengers between East Cambridge and Boston. The “first phase” of the GLX, which I assume includes the new Lechmere station, is expected to open in the “late spring” of 2021.
#10 Funding for Census 2020 Outreach: The City will be hiring part-time census outreach workers and organizing other promotional activities to ensure broad participation in Census 2020. The Census forms will be mailed on April 1, 2020.
#11 Funding for Eviction Prevention Services: In response to recommendations from the Tenant Displacement Task Force, the City is increasing funding for services to prevent evictions. (The task force report should be released very soon.) The requested increase, to be funded out of Free Cash, is $163,707 and includes more money for legal services, tenant education and assistance with back rent and moving costs. As best I can tell from the memo, the total budget for eviction prevention services is about $445,000.
Charter Right #1 A sandwich board sign for &pizza in Harvard Sq was requested. I oppose this because this chain business already has plenty of signage and it is located on a busy corner. We need to rein in sandwich board signs. They are intended to help stores that don’t have good street visibility. Some might say this one is a little too visible.
Charter Right #2 Pro-forma for Cambridgeside upzoning: I was among the sponsors for this order asking for an independent financial analyst to do a confidential review of the pro-forma for New England Development’s upzoning of the Cambridgeside mall. The Council is being asked to weigh community benefits against a very significant upzoning and we really have no basis on which to judge what is reasonable to require. This is a problem with all contract upzonings. Councillor Simmons charter-righted it.
Applications & Petitions
#2 Alexandria Zoning Re-Filed: This is the third submission for this petition. It was allowed to expire last month in light of the continued uncertainty over the electric substation proposed by Eversource on the abutting lot (a new location has not yet been announced but the quick re-filing indicates there may be progress behind the scenes). The zoning petition itself is unchanged, but the letter of commitment has been revised to advance to conveyance of the land for the Grand Junction Path to when special permits are granted (rather than waiting for the Certificates of Occupancy).
#1 Expediting Demolition Permits for Structures Destroyed by Fire or Disaster: The order suggests reducing the time it takes for property owners to obtain demolition permits to rebuild structures destroyed by fire or natural disaster. On Tuesday we will have an Ordinance Committee hearing to discuss a proposed change to the Demolition Delay Ordinance that would increase the delay review period from 6 months to one year. for buildings considered historically significant. I don’t know what inspired this order, but likely there’s a specific instance where a fire damaged a building to the point where it needs to be demolished and there has been some red tape leading to delays (maybe it’s the building on Cambridge St across from the new school?).
#2 Additional Policing for Public Housing: This order goes back to discussions in 2016 over whether to assign more police to public housing in the Port and Central Sq in response to residents’ continued concerns about safety and gun violence.
#3 Dog Park Working Group: The mayor suggests forming a new working group to discuss shared-use and off-leash areas. Residents had been promised a pilot of early morning off-leash hours in Sacramento Field but the city administration seems to have backed off of that promise. I support this.
#4 Fire Cadet Program: Following the success of the new Police Cadet program, this order suggests creating cadet program to recruit new firefighters.
#5 Tudor St Dog Park Surface: Some dogs are eating the small stones and getting sick…I’m wondering if this is the same surface as in Danehy’s dog park.
#6 Sidewalk Repairs at 670 Huron Ave: Apparently the sidewalks in front of the Fresh Pond Place apartments and near the West Cambridge youth center are in rough shape (as are many citywide). At least there are sidewalks on that side of the street; the lack of sidewalks on the Fresh Pond side of Huron Ave has been a bone of contention for years and may be partially addressed in the proposed renovation of Glacken Field. By all means let’s make sure the existing sidewalks are passable, everywhere.
#7 Review of Artificial Turf Use: I sponsored this order after reading an article in the Boston Globe about new research that indicates that artificial turf fields contain toxic PFAS materials. The use of “crumb rubber” fill has raised concerns for years and now there are concerns about the plastic grass “blades” themselves. I know why artificial turf is appealing from a maintenance standpoint, and I realize that it affords nearly unlimited playing hours, but I have long felt that we should stick with natural surfaces. Maybe we need to adjust our expectations about the extent to which we can “compete” with suburban towns in offering high-intensity field sports. I know that may not be a popular stance. More indoor swimming pools and public fitness centers would provide space for people to exercise year-round, and in a warming climate exercising indoors may be healthier in the long run.
#8 Mobile On-Demand Fueling: I sponsored this order to prohibit startup services that offer “on-demand” fueling to car owners. Whn we are working to reduce fossil fuel emissions and to promote EVs, we do not need to invite trucks carrying flammables to cruise residential areas to fill up cars whose drivers don’t want to go at a service station. Not every “innovation” is smart.
#9 Help for Tenants at 808-12 Memorial Drive: I sponsored this order asking for coordinated outreach and individualized counseling to tenants in affordable units at 808-12 Memorial Drive who are bing asked by the property owner (HRI) to convert their HUD vouchers to CHA project-based vouchers. Some have been confused by what is being asked and are worried they may be giving up rights in ways they don’t fully understand.
Communications from City Officers
#1 Street Dedication Signs Approved by the Dedication Committee includes ones I sponsored for the late musician Asa Brebner and for Fresh Pond Market.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and cc City Clerk Anthony Wilson at email@example.com. 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