Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 21, 2012

Help Shape the Future of Central Square

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,planning — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 9:07 pm

HELP SHAPE THE FUTURE OF CENTRAL SQUARE

The Central Square Advisory Committee: 2011/2012 and the City of Cambridge invite you to help plan for the future of Central Square. Learn about the planning process to date and the vision emerging from Advisory Committee discussions informed by the two public meetings held in June 2011 and April 2012.
Please join the discussion – your voice is essential to the success of Central Square!

OPEN HOUSE CHARRETTES:  Hear about the Committee’s work and share your thoughts and priorities for the area.
Light refreshments will be served.  Please join us at any of the venues.

Mid-Cambridge
Thurs, July 12, 2012, 6:30–8:30pm
Cambridge Public Library (Main Branch) Community Room      
449 Broadway
Cambridgeport
Mon, July 16, 2012, 6:30–8:30pm
Morse School – Cafeteria
40 Granite Street
Area Four
Wed, July 18, 2012, 6:30–8:30pm
Area Four Youth Center
243 Harvard Street
Riverside
Thurs, July 19, 2012, 6:30–8:30pm
Cambridge Senior Center
806 Mass Avenue

MONDAYS IN THE SQUARE: Staff will be available to hear from you and to discuss the project.
Light refreshments will be served. Please stop by at your convenience.

Jill Brown-Rhone Park
Mon, July 9 & 23, Aug 6 & 20, 2012, 5:30–7:30pm     
Lafayette Square, Main St. & Mass Ave.
Carl Barron Plaza
Mon, July 16 & 30, Aug 13 & 27, 2012, 5:30–7:30pm
Intersection of Mass Ave. & River St.

Please spread the word to others who might be interested.
All ages are welcome and we encourage you to bring a neighbor or a friend.

For more information or to become involved, please contact Elaine Thorne at ethorne@cambridgema.gov (617-349-4648) or Iram Farooq at ifarooq@cambridgema.gov (617-349-4606).
Visit the K2C2 website at www.cambridgema.gov/k2c2.

Before
Lafayette Square (2002)
After
Lafayette Square (2009)

Hasson J. Rashid Announces Write-In Candidacy for 25th Middlesex State House District

Filed under: 2012 election — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 11:59 am

Press Release – June 20, 2012

Campaign Announcement – Hasson J. Rashid

Write-In Candidate for 25th Middlesex State House District

“THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD (SO WRITE ME IN).”

Dear beloved public citizens and residence, this is an official notice directed, towards informing the public of Cambridge, MA of my intentions of becoming a Write-In Candidate. I, Mr. Hasson J. Rashid of 820 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA have entered as a “Write-In Candidate for the Public Office,” that represent the “Twenty-Fifth Middlesex (25th) Commonwealth of Massachusetts Legislative District” of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the Massachusetts House of Representatives. My registered voters party affiliation is that of Republican. As an older returning adult student, in May of 2003, I graduated from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA with an undergraduate BS degree in Human Service/ With a Specialization in Counseling. On May 12 of 2007, I graduated from Springfield College’s, MA School of Human Service, Springfield, MA, with a MS degree in Human Service Organizational Management Leadership, with instructions anchored in Springfield College’s guiding philosophy as Humanics, which emphasize the dedication of spirit, mind, and body. My academic experience has nurtured me to go out into the community, and practice caring, and this is the attitude I had to offer in 2009, when I enrolled in the School of Public Service, PhD degree program at Capella University, MN to major in Human Service/ with a Specialization in Management of Nonprofit Agencies.

I’m also the holder of a Paralegal Certificate and Diploma for studies undertaken at Bristol County Community College, MA and Northeastern University, MA. I have served in internships, been employed, and the holder of numerous volunteered position, relating directly and indirectly, to the occupation of civil rights /human service worker. I produce and host, two TV programs, entitled “Human Service News and Information,” and “The History Community Life and Diversities of Muslim Americans in New England.” I also hold the position of board member, in two community entities. The first of these is “Cambridge Community TV (CCTV)” of Cambridge, MA, a public access station, and the “Alliance of Cambridge Tenants (ACT),” a citywide low income tenant advocacy organization. I have also received graduate instructions in Museum Studies at the Harvard Extension School.

As a professional and volunteered TV broadcast journalist, human service professional and worker, and low income tenant/civil rights advocate, I have also work to prevent and eliminate, discrimination against individuals in the delivery of programs and services administered, and to make all programs and activities, accessible to people with disabilities. I’m engaged with diverse populations, who need accommodations, or who have questions or complaints related to discrimination, or the delivery of human services. With my education and training, in paralegal studies, I’m also able to help out in supporting the basic legal rights of our district’s human service consumers. My two TV programs serves as a supportive community voices, for the diverse segments of the population, that represent my weekly base of community television viewers. As a TV announcer of a human service news and information program, at CCTV Cambridge, MA, I broadcast important news and information weekly, from and about the human service sector and industry, as it exist, here in Eastern Massachusetts, New England, and beyond, to a diverse public of human service consumers. Both non-paid volunteered positions, involve service to a diverse population of citizens, and immigrant residents. The desired impact has been helping human service organizations, agencies, and government entities to render better services, towards helping individuals and families, in becoming better human beings.

I worship as a practicing Muslim American with a quasi-mixtures of devotees from every corner of the earth here in Cambridge, MA. The idea of giving back to the community is foremost in my mind, and at the roots of my community commitments, as an American convert to the Islamic faith, and as Human Service professional Scholar-Practitioner, TV broadcaster, host, and producer of weekly TV Program, entitled “Human Service News and Information,” and board member, of a “Non-Commercial/ Nonprofit Community Public Access TV Station, and board member of a “city wide, low Income housing tenant advocacy organization,” in the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

All write-ins votes on my behalf should include my correct name and address as mentioned above. Courts have ruled that a vote should be counted whenever the intent of the voter can reasonably be determined, even if a voter omits the candidate’s address or makes a mistake in the name or address. In O’Brien v. Board of Election Commissioners, 257 Mass. 332, 338-339, 153 N.E. 553, 556 (1926) the court said “that if the intent of the voter can be determined with reasonable certainty from an inspection of the ballot, in the light of the generally known conditions attendant upon the election, effect must be given to that intent… The omission of the residence … on some ballots on which the name had been written by the voters rightly was found not to invalidate such votes.” Maiewski v. Board of Registrars of Voters, 347 Mass. 681, 199 N.E. 2d 680 (1964). This includes where a voter fails to complete the vote indicator next to the write-in space – the write-in or sticker vote will still be counted.

My sole intent in this communiqué is to inform you the public at large, residents and citizens of the 25th Middlesex of Cambridge, MA, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that I enter as a Write-In Candidate for public office being abandon by Rep. Alice Wolf. I thank you all in advance for your Write Ins.

Yours In Peace,
Mr. Hasson J. Rashid

Note: This House district is currently represented by Rep. Alice Wolf who is not seeking reelection this year.

https://votersact.com/candidates/hasson-j-rashid#.T-MX45om-k4.gmailI

June 19, 2012

Mike “No Money” Connolly Announces Candidacy for 26th Middlesex House District

Filed under: 2012 election — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 7:12 pm

Press Release – June 19, 2012
Campaign Announcement – Mike "No Money" Connolly
26th Middlesex State House District

It’s 7:23am on a Tuesday.

Like most weekdays at this time, I am getting ready to walk down to Lechmere to catch the Green Line into work. My fiancée Kacy is feeding our two cats, and in just a few minutes, she’ll hop on her bike and pedal over to her office in Porter Square.

It’s another perfectly average day for us, with one exception…

This morning, I am announcing my clean, “No Money” campaign to serve the people of Cambridge and Somerville as Representative in General Court for the 26th Middlesex State House District.

I am not a politician, but I am running to be your new State Representative because I understand that the people of Cambridge and Somerville are working harder than ever – just to make ends meet – and yet, when we look to our state legislature, we see a system that is clearly broken.

Beacon Hill is a place where corporate lobbyists and party leaders team up to put the interests of the rich and powerful ahead of our common needs. Meanwhile, rank-and-file legislators are granted a few favors in exchange for quietly going along with the status quo. In the end, the progressive issues that really matter to us—such as public transportation, single-payer healthcare, clean elections, and global warming—are neglected, rejected, nullified, and ignored.

Of course, talking about change is easy — politicians do that all the time. To transcend the status quo, we have to actually be the change we wish to see…

A few months ago, I started knocking on doors and meeting with local progressives. I told everyone the same thing: I want to be your new State Representative, but I do not want to raise any money to run for this public office. Instead, I want you to donate your attention, your energy, your knowledge, your ideas, and your artwork — and together, we will set a powerful, new example for our democracy.

Together, we quickly organized a successful signature drive to earn an independent spot on the November ballot, and then we were featured in the Huffington Post, on the Occupy Boston website, and in local blogs.

Meanwhile, over 40 volunteers have signed up to get involved, and we’re now assembling a structured operation, complete with a campaign manager, an issues committee, and a homemade-sign-making team. In addition, we’ve also received more than 200 individual contributions, each in the amount of $0.00.

In the coming weeks and months, we intend to ask some tough questions: Why did our legislature shackle the MBTA with billions of dollars of debt from the Big Dig?  When will the legislature finally settle on a plan to pay for the Green Line Extension? Why can’t the state help us turn the McGrath Highway into a liveable city street? And is there a conflict of interest when one individual holds two public offices at the same time?

I hope you will join us as we work to answer these questions, but right now, I need to get going, or else I will be late for work! But don’t worry — come this weekend, I will be going door-to-door, working as hard as I possibly can to earn your support as the “Progressive Independent” candidate in the November election. I hope to see you around soon!

Sincerely yours,
Mike Connolly

Note: This House district is currently represented by Rep. Timothy J. Toomey.

June 18, 2012

Ready for Summer Break – June 18 City Council Agenda Highlights

Ready for Summer Break – June 18 City Council Agenda Highlights

Tonight’s meeting is the last regular meeting before the City Council takes its summer vacation. There will be a Roundtable meeting next week (June 25) with the School Committee and the Superintendent of Schools on how the City’s Five Year Financial Plan will impact the School District’s building renovation plan. The next voting meetings will be the Midsummer Meeting on July 30 and the Regular Meeting on Sept 10. There are also two potentially consequential committee meetings coming up – (1) Government Operations & Rules this Friday, June 22 at 10:00am "to have an initial discussion with the City Manager to develop a comprehensive short and long term succession plan." (Ackermann Room); and (2) Ordinance Committee on Wed, June 27 at 4:00pm "to continue discussion on the petition of Forest City/MIT…" (Sullivan Chamber). [There’s also a Tues, June 19, 8:00pm Planning Board hearing on the Forest City/MIT petition.]

The Gov’t Operations Committee meeting will be the initial meeting on how things may proceed as we look ahead to Bob Healy’s retirement a year from now. There have been no public indications to date about the process or of the inclinations of any individual councillors (though it’s likely that some are already plotting to call the shots).

The Ordinance Committee meeting could bring some excitement as activists respond to real and perceived threats to the "livability" of the greater Central Square area. At least one new ad hoc organization (Cambridge Residents Alliance) has already sprouted in response to the proposed 165 ft. residential tower that had been proposed adjacent to the Central Square fire house. There is a somewhat delicious irony to housing activists being agreeable to the commercial construction and opposed to the housing construction, but I suppose the devil is in the details. The provisions in the proposed zoning amendment that would have permitted the residential tower were taken out at last week’s meeting, but the general alarm has already been rung and the reaction will continue. Perhaps the most significant aspect to the public reaction is the perception that the Forest City/MIT proposal is just the first of a wave of "upzoning" proposals that will steamroll their way from Kendall Square up Main Street and through all of Central Square. The activists are saying that nothing should be approved until the ongoing Goody/Clancy study is completed, but most indications are that the central recommendations from that study will be for density, density, and more density. The activists are also calling for a one-year moratorium on all upzoning petions. Perhaps the activism would be better spent on formulating alternative proposals instead of simply saying NO in every imaginable form.

We learned at last week’s meeting that our Budget Director, David Kale, will be leaving to become Town Manager of Belmont. Not only will Belmont be gaining a great fiscal manager, they’ll also be gaining a great baseball man – one of many on the City Manager’s team. Perhaps Belmont should be required to send us a "player to be named later" to complete the deal.

Another big news item in Central Square was the announcement that the Korean grocery chain H Mart will be opening an 18,000 sq. ft. grocery market in Central Square in the space previously occupied by The Harvest (14,500 sq. ft.) plus an additional 3,500 sq. ft. next door. I’ve been advocating for a Super 88 store for this location, so this is a very good move, in my opinion. It is probable that this will be a relatively affordable grocery store in contrast to the Whole Foods trend of overpriced food which has sent many a Cantabrigian over the Somerville line to Market Basket. The property owner (Morris Naggar and 3MJ Realty) may have earned some serious good will with this lease. The new grocery store is expected to open early next year after extensive renovations.

For tonight’s City Council meeting, here are a few items of interest:

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the City Council Petition to Modify Zoning Requirements for Municipal K-8 School Sites (Proposed Section 5.54).

This zoning change will facilitate the renovation/reconstruction of the proposed middle schools (grades 6-8) that are at the center of the "Innovation Agenda". The Planning Board recommends the zoning change with the caveat that language be inserted to ensure the retention of publicly enjoyable open space. The zoning petition will presumably be moved to a 2nd Reading and be eligible for Ordination at the July 30 Midsummer meeting (when several zoning petitions may come to a vote).

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the CJUF III Northpoint LLC Zoning Petition to Amend Section 13.700.

The Planning Board recommends adoption as proposed, saying "the proposed changes have been carefully crafted and developed in close consultation with neighbors and City officials, and the Board believes that these changes will only further improve the final development from what was previously proposed." The North Point development may actually start to take shape in the next few years.

Lincoln watershed landCharter Right #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the purchase of 53.6 acres of watershed land in Lincoln, MA, for $1,152,247 from Community Preservation Act Open Space Reserve Fund, for the purposes of drinking water supply protection and land conservation.

The land in question is a combination of wetland and buildable land along Route 2 in proximity with the Hobbs Brook – a principal water source for Cambridge. The brook flows into the Hobbs Brook Reservoir (near the intersection of Route 2 and Route 128) which then joins the Stony Brook before flowing into the Stony Brook Basin not far from Brandeis University. The water supply then travels via aqueduct to Fresh Pond. The argument is made annualy that Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds should only be used for open space acquisition within Cambridge city limits, but if watershed protection is not part of the preservation of community then I don’t know what is. The money can come either from CPA funds or from the water ratepayers, but these are just two different pockets. Nothing prevents the City from acquiring other open space as part of the regular budget process.

Charter Right #2. That a Task Force be formed to review Cambridge’s current program to creatively encourage and maximize participation in PILOT agreements with the City, and to evaluate the possibilities of implementing SILOT (Services In Lieu of Payment) and/or GILOT (Grants In Lieu of Payment) programs.

This matter was discussed briefly last week. There are certainly some possibilities here, but efforts to compel tax-exempt property owners to contribute additional money and/or services to the City opens a rather large can of worms. Should churches be compelled to contribute the "the state"? The intended target may be hospitals and other technically nonprofit institutions such as Mount Auburn Hospital, but ultimately this is something that might best be accomplished via good will rather than ordinance.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an explanation of what processes and procedures have been instituted to help ensure that discrimination and wrongful termination complaints do not arise in the future.   Councillor Kelley

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 11, 2012 to discuss an appropriation of $11,917,462 from Free Cash to the General Fund Law Department Travel and Training (Judgment and Damages) account which appeared as Agenda Item Number Fifteen of Apr 23, 2012.

This is an example of the worst kind of "faux righteousness." For better or worse, the Monteiro case and other claims have been settled and the litigants have received their ransoms – significantly more than their continued employment would have generated. The City administration has repeatedly made clear that policies are now in place to prevent the kinds of problems alleged in those lawsuits. Councillor Kelley wishes that the City Council and the City administration should now profusely apologize for infractions real or imagined in addition to the settlements – even though most settlements like these include provisions that both parties do not acknowledge wrongdoing. It’s difficult to understand what exactly Kelley is trying to accomplish. The matter has been settled and little is to be gained from continuing to stir the pot.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff, to include the City Clerk’s Office, to determine how best to put direct communications to the City Council on the City Council’s website to make the information contained in them readily available to the public even though it does not become part of a particular City Council agenda.   Councillor Kelley

This specifically refers to communications from the City administration in response to City Council requests for information. Other than simple informal requests, one might have been led to believe that this information is always part of the City Manager’s Agenda, but apparently this is not the case. It seems that any request for information passed by majority vote at a public meeting should have a response that is also included in the proceedings of a public meeting of the same body, or at least be available for public inspection at the City Clerk’s Office. There are many communications that don’t properly belong in the public arena, but this should not include a response to a request voted at a public meeting as long as it is practicable to do so.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to refer the matter of a ban on soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants to the Cambridge Public Health Department for a recommendation.   Mayor Davis

Nanny government at its very worst. Note that our good Mayor is proposing a BAN, not just a limitation. Does the Mayor know that chocolate cake also contains sugar? Shall we ban chocolate cake? Will Mayor Davis lead a march on Toscannini’s to demand that ice cream be driven out of Cambridge with the same zeal that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland?

Note: This Order was amended at the meeting to better reflect Mayor Davis’ intention:
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to refer the matter of a ban on to limit the size of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants to the Cambridge Public Health Department for a recommendation.   Mayor Davis
Amended; Referred to Community Health Committee – Decker

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Assistant City Manager for Community Development to have a 3-D model created of all potential development projects resulting from zoning petitions.   Councillor Decker

Isn’t this the same as Councillor Decker’s Feb 13 Order #12 that received this very reasonable response last week? Pay attention, kids.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee, for a public hearing held on June 5, 2012 to review the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s (CRA) relationship with the city, how the CRA was set up and who is the CRA’s governing body.

This was an informative meeting with plenty of history and perspective. The newly reconstituted CRA Board is a great group with a skilled executive director and legal counsel. It will be interesting to see what role the CRA plays in future plans in and around Kendall Square. Still unknown is whether the CRA will settle solely into a maintenance role and eventually phase itself out, or possibly find a new role to play either in the Kendall Square area or elsewhere in the city. – Robert Winters

June 14, 2012

Comments on current Forest City zoning petition – by Bob Simha

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,planning — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 11:48 pm

Comments on current Forest City zoning petition

written by Bob Simha, June 11, 2012

The Cambridge Planning Board
City Hall Annex
344 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139

Dear Members of the Planning Board,

I would like to submit objections to the rezoning proposal submitted by Forest City Enterprises et al for a portion of the block between Landsdowne Street, Green Street, Massachusetts Avenue and Blanche Street. I would also like to add an objection to the elimination of and use of the existing green space adjacent to the Fire House as a site for a 14 story apartment house.

The objections I share with you are based on my long association with the University Park project including a central role the in the development of the original design guidelines for the University Park project prior to Forest City’s selection, a continuing role its development after their selection and a continuing interest in ensuring that the project will in all its elements – physical, social and economic – enhance the quality of life in Cambridge and in particular the vital connection between the neighborhoods that make up Central Square, University Park and the MIT community.

From the outset, the design guidelines that MIT published for the University Park project and that were subsequently enshrined in the special district zoning were clear about holding an 80 to 85 foot height limit along Massachusetts Avenue. The current proposals violate this very important principal proposing a building almost twice that height. The impact of such a building would undermine not only the relationship with adjacent buildings but will certainly have a negative effect on the more respectful scale of the new Novartis Buildings across the street. The Planning Board should not permit this principal to be compromised.

From the outset, all of the planning for University Park anticipated a generous and green opening from Massachusetts Ave into the center of the University Park project welcoming the public as well as tenant populations into the interior of the project. The original plan called for a market building just beyond this entry portal which would have helped to anchor and revive retail offerings in Central Square. One has to wonder how much more congenial the area would have been if Forest City had pressed forward to develop the market building instead of filling the space with a visually unsettling apartment house that offers little in the way of the ground floor space for new retail activity.

To now exacerbate that mistake by filling in this portal area next to the Fire house with a 14 story tower apartment house made up of very small market rate rental units is to add insult to injury. The elimination of one of the painfully few usable open spaces in University Park should not be tolerated. The shadow studies produced by Forest City’s architects only demonstrates how during much of the year the plaza-apron area between the proposed tower and Mass. Ave. would be in shadow for most of the year.

And, more seriously, it would negatively impact the major investment in one of the few new parks in this part of the city. Casting its shadow over Jill Brown-Rhone Park it would be a constant reminder of the callous response Forest City has presented to the objections of its first proposal, namely to consider adding to the housing resources of the area. To both take away an existing dedicated open space and to diminish another would bring new meaning to corporate hubris.

As MIT’s Director of Planning during the period of the evolution of the planning and through much of the development period for University Park we had always planned that the block between Landsdowne and Blanche Street would ultimately be developed as a useful and attractive adjunct to the University Park. As one of the major land owners in this block we knew that it would be in MIT, Forest City and the abutting Cambridge neighborhoods’ interests to develop this part of Mass Ave. with activities that would add new retail services, additional housing and activities that would animate the area and make more safe this dead zone between MIT and Central Square. The expectation was that, notwithstanding the impediments of multiple ownerships it would be possible to come to terms with other owners, and redevelop the entire block as a multipurpose building. The argument that was put forward, at one of the recent presentations made by Forest City that it had not been able to accomplish this goal, only suggests that they did not work hard enough. MIT has planned for many years to relocate the Random House dormitory that occupies a major part of the block in question. The other 4 owners should, with sufficient creativity, be accommodated elsewhere. When the University Park project hung in the balance because MIT needed to resolve the traffic plan the City required, but was held up by the California Paint Company, creative efforts were made to relocate California Paint so that the overall project could go forward. One can only assume that what was done before, can be done again. The advantage to the city of a single redevelopment instead of two or three must be apparent. A more unified multipurpose development that responds to both economic and social goals would be possible. In addition, the increase in value that the current proposal would create would only tend to exacerbate the expectations of current landowners for even a greater return and, thereby, make the next developer ask for even more density and more height.

The development of this site for residential and retail purposes would be a major benefit to the community and based on the success of Forest City’s market rate housing it would generate a reliable and steady revenue stream for both the developer and the City. A quick look at the 203 units Forest City built at 100 Landsdowne Street demonstrates this point vividly. It carries an assessed value of $53,800,000 and is taxed at commercial rates. A comparable development on Mass. Ave. for 300 units plus retail services could add $75 million in value. Something to think about. Finally, this proposal appears to have ignored both the Red Commission’s recommendations for Central Square and appears to ignore the forthcoming results of the Central Square study. For these reasons, as well as those mentioned above, I would respectfully submit that the Planning Board reject this zoning petition.

O. R. Simha
Six Blanchard Road
Cambridge, MA 02138

Note: The zoning petition was amended by the City Council at its June 11 meeting to exclude all parts relating to the residential tower that had been proposed to be built adjacent to the firehouse. The petition, as amended, will be before the Planning Board on June 19.

See also:
Some observations for consideration regarding the Forest City proposal (May 14, 2012)

June 11, 2012

On the Agenda – Highlights of the June 11, 2012 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council,planning — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:45 am

On the Agenda – Highlights of the June 11, 2012 Cambridge City Council meeting

There are several substantial items on the agenda this week. Among them:

City Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-33, regarding a report on a plan for implementing separate trash or recycling curbside pickup for small businesses along existing curbside pickup routes. ["Please be advised that I am not recommending the implementation of such a program given the cost impacts to the City."]

This responds to an Order that grew, at least in part, out of East Cambridge traffic congestion problems caused by multiple collection vehicles. Needless to say, the suggestion that the City should take over all collection did not resonate with these multiple waste haulers. The real deal-breaker is the very substantial additional cost.

City Manager’s Agenda #28. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the purchase of 53.6 acres of watershed land in Lincoln, MA, for $1,152,247 from Community Preservation Act Open Space Reserve Fund, for the purposes of drinking water supply protection and land conservation.

This watershed land is located on the north side of Route 2 in Lincoln just east of Bedford Road. The City has in recent years acquired numerous parcels through which the Hobbs Brook flows en route to the Cambridge Reservoir (Hobbs Basin) in the vicinity of Route 2 and Route 128. Some may argue that Community Preservation Act open space funds should be spent exclusively within the city limits, but watershed protection is generally a very good investment.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Police Commissioner, the Superintendent of Schools, and other appropriate personnel to organize a youth-focused community forum to discuss issues related to the shooting at Willow Street on June 3, 2012, to allow our young people a chance to openly communicate their concerns, grievances, and ideas directly with City officials and administrators.   Vice Mayor Simmons

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Police Commissioner and to urge him to reach out to the various stake holders in the community, including building managers, property owners, and local business owners, in an attempt to proactively address the summer violence before it has a chance to begin.   Vice Mayor Simmons

Though the law enforcement aspects of the shooting near Donnelly Field are appropriately in the hands of the Cambridge Police and the District Attorney, it is appropriate that Vice Mayor Denise Simmons should take a leadership role in the many other necessary responses to this incident that hit uncomfortably close to home. The greatest opportunity for leadership lies among the young people who know the victims and who may be able to help in the resolution of the case and in the prevention of future violence.

Order #4. That a Task Force be formed to review Cambridge’s current program to creatively encourage and maximize participation in PILOT agreements with the City, and to evaluate the possibilities of implementing SILOT (Services In Lieu of Payment) and/or GILOT (Grants In Lieu of Payment) programs.   Councillor vanBeuzekom and Councillor Cheung

The motivation of this Order appears to be a comparable program by the City of Boston that has achieved some success in generating addition revenue from tax-exempt institutions. Though the prospects are not great for additional payments in lieu of taxes, there is clearly plenty of opportunity for non-profit and educational institutions to offer services in lieu of taxes. The major colleges already provide many such services and could probably do more with some facilitation.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City and Harvard staff to determine who is doing what on the Cambridge Street Overpass, how through passage is being safely managed, how signage has been displayed, what the overall plans for this project are and the timing of the work and its expected completion date.   Councillor Kelley

There was a very comprehensive presentation about this made at a recent meeting of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association. Though substantial work is planned, the disruption both to the tunnel and the plaza above should be acceptable. The redesigned plaza will no longer have its familar grassy areas, but it will have the potential to become an important new public space for both Harvard and the City. [Details on the project (DPW) – Check out all the tabs.] I just hope the Harvard planners have an alternative for driving stakes into the ground when they want to install a tent. It’s not so easy to drive stakes into concreate pavers.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an explanation of how the City plans to maintain grade separated bikeways and keep them as free from sand, branches and other debris as the adjacent streets.   Councillor Kelley

The larger issue is the grade-separated facilties themselves. While City officials and the public continually frown upon bicycling on sidewalks, they are simultaneously designing it into the Western Avenue project commencing later this year. To those of us who choose to ride in the street with all other vehicles, the City proposal will be less safe for us and slower for the cyclists who use the sidewalk track. It is very unlikely that the sidewalk track will be kept free of snow and ice in the winter. [“Cycle track”: a sidewalk by another name]

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an explanation of how the locations for the three bike corrals currently in place in Cambridge were determined.   Councillor Kelley

Good question. One of these corrals appeared recently in front of the Broadway Bicycle School. It’s empty basically all the time. [Correction: On Monday there were 8 bikes locked up there, probably related to the City Hall Annex.] Cyclists coming to the Broadway Bicycle School generally bring their bikes inside to work on them. Meanwhile in places all over Cambridge there are derelict bikes chained up for months at a time taking up many of the available locations for locking up a bike.

Order #14. That the City Manager confer with the appropriate departments to discuss the potential of installing security cameras in the Donnelly Field area and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

The recent shooting at Donnelly Field does not in and of itself justify the installation of such cameras, but their presence could very well have resolved this case in short order. Though the government conspiracy theorists may feel otherwise, their arguments against these cameras remain weak. Public spaces are public and cameras strategically located along roads and on public buildings can and do help in solving crimes.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 15, 2012 to discuss the petition of Forest City/MIT to amend the Zoning Ordinances by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street and further to provide for the potential development of a residential building on Sidney Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Green Street.

A few thoughts on this (more to follow in the coming weeks as the various advisory committees complete their efforts):

Though the proposal for the All-Asia block is similar to what MIT/Forest City proposed last year, the proposal for a 165-foot residential tower next to the Lafayette Square fire house apparently came out of the Community Development Department. Forest City was receptive to the idea, but it wasn’t their idea. A more human-scale residential building next to the firehouse might be more acceptable as long as an equivalent amount of open space is relocated to a site people would actually use. MIT/Forest City’s primary motivation is the development of the All-Asia block – something they would have done 20 years ago if they had sufficient control of the property. Significant height (about 140 ft.) and density is also proposed there. Of great concern to some MIT faculty is the current trend of MIT sacrificing properties close to the core campus to private development (e.g., Pfizer, Novartis) that might otherwise have supported the academic mission of the Institute.

I would caution people against taking an either-or view of this or any of the other proposals that will soon appear for future development in the greater Central Square area. Some will be opposed to any additional height or density and others will be receptive to any and all additional height or density. I find both of these points of view to be lacking. Surely there is room for people to express their own "vision" for what they want the future of Central Square to be – as opposed to simply reacting to the proposals of others. It’s ironic that the City Council has a Neighborhood & Long-term Planning Committee, yet two things the committee apparently doesn’t do are neighborhood and long-term planning.

I would much rather see the emphasis be on increasing density within the envelope currently prescribed by the zoning code with some strategic modification to induce good uses. The zoning is actually pretty generous already and there are many underbuilt sites in the area – including the All-Asia block. My "vision" for Central Square primarily consists of replacing the one-story and two-story "taxpayer" buildings with buildings that rise 3 to 5 stories at Mass. Ave. and possibly step back an additional story or two. I feel that a good-looking ten-story building like the Central Square Building at Mass. Ave. and Western Ave. should be the (anomalous) upper limit for height. I might be convinced that one other such building should be built, but this should not be the norm. Central Square is not Kendall Square, and it should not be redeveloped in the manner of Kendall Square. The Central Square neighborhood is already somewhat dense and can afford to be more dense if the gaps along Mass. Ave. are better developed and if some of the back lots see new construction. If housing in new buildings close to work is what is needed, I would suggest that the best place for new housing would be in Kendall Square, in the area between Main Street and Mass. Ave. replacing some of the old industrial properties, and on some (not all) of the parking lots.

Regarding the issue of shadows cast by taller buildings, I’ve always felt this to be primarily a naysayer strategy transparently intended to block a given proposal. In Jill Brown-Rhone Park (Lafayette Square), the City has installed umbrellas in that area because of the excess sunniness. I would prefer to see a shorter building than the 165 foot tower currently proposed, but I don’t really care about the shadows. I simply prefer a more human scale in an area that is primarily oriented toward neighborhood people rather than trans-national industries. We have Kendall Square and downtown Boston for that sort of thing.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on May 23, 2012 to discuss a petition to amend the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge by adding to Section 5.50 entitled "Special Dimensional Regulations" a section 5.54 entitled "Special Regulations for Municipal Elementary and Middle (K-8) Schools.

This is largely a formality despite some of the scary and dishonest e-mail alerts distributed by some activists with nothing better to do than spread false rumors about unlimited heights, unlimited parking, exemption from all zoning, and the consolidation of all middle school programs into a single "supersized" building. False, false, false, and false. – Robert Winters

June 4, 2012

Of Lesser Importance – June 4, 2012 City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 1:38 pm

Of Lesser Importance – June 4, 2012 City Council Agenda Highlights

Tonight’s meeting is not the main thing on the minds of most Cantabrigians today. Last night’s shooting on Willow Street in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood that left one girl (Charlene Holmes, age 16) dead and another (Thania-Lee Cotto, age 17) in critical condition is on the minds of everyone today. According to reports, the two girls were best friends and neither of them was the intended target. A candlelight vigil is planned for 7:00pm.

Of lesser importance are the following agenda items:

Communications #1. A communication was received from Forest City transmitting expanded shadow studies for the proposed Forest City Project on Massachusetts Avenue.

Attention is being misdirected toward whether or not the proposed 165 foot residential tower next to the Lafayette Square fire station would cast shadows on the park across the street. The more significant issue is whether this is an appropriate height for Central Square and whether it would set a precedent for future development proposals. What’s appropriate for Kendall Square is not necessarily appropriate for Central Square. Most of the public reaction to the proposed tower has been decidedly negative, but it has served to distract attention from the core proposal to redevelop the nearby 300 block of Mass. Ave. to a very significant height (145 feet) and density.

Resolution #22. Resolution on the death of Robert I. Winters.   Councillor Maher, Mayor Davis

This is the father of Planning Board member (and friend) Pam Winters. He died last week at the age of 90. Because of our shared name, several people who saw the obituary came up to me with comments like, "You look well." As sad as this is, it’s good to have friends who can make the best of things.

Resolution #25. Congratulations to City Councillor Leland Cheung on the occasion of his graduations from Harvard University and MIT.   Councillor Reeves, Councillor Toomey, Mayor Davis, Councillor Decker, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Maher, Vice Mayor Simmons and Councillor vanBeuzekom

Yes indeed, congratulations to Leland. I guess this means he’s now going to have to look for a job….

Resolution #38. Welcome Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Melvin E. Wilson to the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Reeves

I don’t know about the latter, but I’ll pass on the former.

Order #1. That the City Manager confer with the Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation with a view in mind of changing the "Traffic Regulations in Appendix D, City of Cambridge – Traffic Department Parking Ticket Violations – Schedule 13 by striking out the penalty fee of $30.00 and inserting in place thereof the fee of $5.00 as it relates to Section 16.7 entitled" Street Cleaning.   Councillor Cheung

I don’t know about the need for the fee reduction, but maybe there should be a cap put on the capture and storage fees charged by the towing companies as a precondition for their getting a contract with the City. Those are the fees that really hammer you – not what the City gets.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Police Commissioner and discuss increasing patrols aimed at preventing graffiti in the Wellington Harrington and East Cambridge area.   Councillor Toomey

It’s often the case that tagging is associated with other illegal activity. Removing the graffiti will not abolish gangs any more than removing Central Square benches will cure alcoholism, but tolerance of tagging and negligence in removing it is inexcusable. It should be noted that this is the area of last night’s murder.

Order #8. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with the appropriate departments on the cost, user price, and payback period if Cambridge were to build its own broadband network and report back to the Cambridge City Council.   Councillor Cheung

An old idea comes round again. There were plans to do this some time ago and I even volunteered my roof as a site for a wireless router for the network. This would, of course, directly challenge Comcast, a.k.a. The Evil Empire. I’ve always suspected that it was the objection of Comcast that put an end to the previous initiative.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to ascertain how the potential increase in student loan rates might impact Cambridge students and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Cheung

This is an example of a Democratic Party Talking Points memo being repurposed in the form of a City Council Order. The answer is clear enough – it would negatively impact students just as any increase in costs would. The text of the Order makes clear that this is really criticism of a recent vote in the U.S. Senate. For what it’s worth, I agree with the sentiment that these loan rates should remain comparable with other (currently low) interest rates. What offends me is that forgiveness of (significant) student loan debt is being used as a tool to rally votes in the upcoming presidential election. Some of us "old school" types still believe in the principle that, whether or not the rates are negotiable, you should still repay your debts.

Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to look into the feasibility of providing a map of long term parking spots for rental on the city website and report back to the Cambridge City Council.   Councillor Cheung

Though this Order refers to "long term parking spots for non-residents looking to visit family members for extended periods of time", it should be quite obvious that such a map will inevitably be used by other non-residents. A better resolution would be for the Department of Traffic, Parking, & Transportation to issue temporary permits for family members on a case-by-case basis. They most likely already do so. – Robert Winters

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