City Council Agenda(s) Highlights (11/25 & 11/26/19)

The Cambridge City Council will hold a regular meeting on Monday, November 25 and a special meeting on Tues., November 26, 2019. Monday’s meeting agenda is fairly short. On Tuesday, starting at 5:00pm, we will again discuss the New England Development’s zoning petition to redevelop an the CambridgeSide Galleria site with much larger buildings and a mix of office, lab, housing and retail. The petition was referred out of committee on 11/14 (see committee report) and is eligible to be passed to a second reading at the special meeting). Both meetings will be televised and live-streamed on the Open Meeting Portal.

My summary of Monday’s regular meeting agenda follows.

City Manager’s Agenda

#2 Counts of Cyclists Running Red Lights: The staff shared the detailed data collected during visual counts of cyclists at several intersections since 2008. It shows that the number of cyclists is increasing and the percentage of red light violations is falling and very minimal in most cases (< 5%). The only intersection where the number of cyclists running red lights is over 10% was Brookline St at Waverly/Granite St, which could be a factor of the frequent gridlock from the BU Bridge Rotary. Obviously running red lights is illegal and can pose dangers, but based on this data I would say the trend in compliance is positive and that with continued enforcement and education we can improve safety further.

#4 Discarded Needles in Public and Safe Disposal of Sharps: The Health Dept has prepared a report on where discarded needles are most often found and has examined the scale of the problem and trends in the number of sharps discarded in parks and public places. I will not attempt to summarize the data, but the important things for us to know are: 1) never pick up or touch a used needle or syringe you find in a public place and 2) report any sharps and request help with safe disposal by calling 617-349-3300 (police non-emergency line staffed 24/7).

#6 Pedestrian Safety at Cambridge St and Fayette St: In response to complaints about drivers not yielding, there’s a new pedestrian crossing sign in the center of Cambridge St at Fayette St. It may help slow drivers turning left out of Fayette because they have to swing wider.

#8 & 9 Mitigation Funds Appropriations: Mitigation funds in the amount of $1.9M from the new Education First (EF III) building will go toward the sewer separation project in The Port. Mitigation for an Alexandria project generated $48K to support stormwater improvements in Triangle Park.

#10 Harvard Sq Kiosk Plaza Crosswalk Safety Improvements: Following the crash that killed a Cambridge woman crossing the street between the Coop and the Kiosk Plaza the staff are recommending changing the signal timing and removing a travel lane on the east side of Mass Ave to shorten the crossing width and extend the Kiosk Plaza. These changes will be discussed at a meeting on 12/5 at 6pm at the Harvard Smith Center.

#11 Funding for Central Sq Cultural District: The city manager is requesting to appropriate $107K from Free Cash to support additional arts programming and public art in Central Sq. The newly formed Central Sq BID will use the funds to supplement its budget and money it can raise for murals, banners, and free community events. This was a recommendation of the Arts Task Force.

#12 Legal Authority of the License Commission: The City Solicitor has written an opinion on the statutory authority of the License Commission as a quasi-judicial body appointed by the City Manager. She opines that the Manager has “no legal authority to direct or otherwise influence” the License Commission’s decisions, and that if a decision is appealed it is the City Solicitor that would represent the Commission in litigation. The opinion asserts what we have been told all along: that if the Manager has no authority to direct the Commission, then the Council cannot direct the Manager in matters related to the Commission’s decisions.

Policy Orders

#2 Rindge Ave Gridlock: If you’ve been on Rindge Ave during peak periods lately you’ve doubtless noticed that the gridlock is worse that ever since the installation (by the state DCR) of a “No Right on Red” sign at the intersection of Alewife Brook Parkway. Our Traffic Dept is aware and already trying to remedy this. Stay tuned.

#3 Maintain Extended Hours at O’Connell Library: During the years of construction when the Valente Branch was closed, the hours were extended at the O’Connell Branch (both branches serve East Cambridge; they are 0.4 miles apart). Now, residents don’t want to revert to regular hours at the O’Connell. The schedule of branch hours is here. There is already some differences in the number of days branches are open until 8pm, and I believe it is driven by staff being shared across branches for the late shifts.

#4 Safety Review of Walden and Saville: There have been several crashes at or near the corner of Walden and Saville St. Councillor Siddiqui and I are asking for a safety review.

#5 Resolution Condemning WeWork’s Labor Practices: I joined this resolution calling out WeWork for terminating all its cleaning and maintenance workers; they can keep their jobs only if they are willing to become contract workers with less pay and fewer benefits.  Meanwhile WeWork’s founder is reportedly walking away with $1 billion.

Committee Reports

#1 Ordinance Committee Reports from both 9/26 and 11/14 on the CambridgeSide Galleria zoning petition.

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