Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 5, 2012

Parks, Petitions, and Pickups – March 5, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,Kendall Square — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:18 am

Parks, Petitions, and Pickups – Mar 5, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

The proposal introduced last week by Boston Properties (to reduce the rooftop garden on the Kendall Square garage in exchange for greatly extending the agreement to maintain the garden and landscaping additional open space in the Kendall Square MXD District) elicited a great deal of public comment (almost all opposed to reducing the size of the garden) and a renewed interest by city councillors in the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority that guides the development of the MXD District and much of the Kendall Square area. It was agreed that the matter should be tabled until March 19 so that some public process and additional conversations might take place. The relevant agenda item is this:

On The Table #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a request from Boston Properties Limited Partnership ("Boston Properties") for the modification of two existing open space restriction covenants on buildings located at Four and Five Cambridge Center in connection with the creation of a new 47,000 square foot urban park and new open space restriction covenant for a net gain 28,853 square feet of public open space. [Placed on Table on motion of Councillor Toomey on Feb 27, 2011.]

One response is the following Order from Councillor Toomey that questions what constitutes open space in that area and whether the area to be landscaped as a "Dog and People Park" has not already been designated for other use.

Order #2. That the City Manager is request to report back to the City Council on what is designated open space within the MXD District in Kendall Square.   Councillor Toomey

Some of the discussion by councillors at last week’s meeting focused on the membership of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA). Though this Board is supposed to have an executive director and five members (four appointed by the City Manager subject to approval by the City Council, and one appointed by the governor), most of the seats have remained essentially or actually vacant for some time. The City Manager last week let it be known that he is now interviewing possible new appointees for this Board. It is not unreasonable to speculate that a renewed CRA could play a role in projects not only in the Kendall Square area but also elsewhere in Cambridge (as it has in the long past).

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department to look into the feasibility of hiring an ombudsman to serve as a liaison and internal advocate for community members. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Decker on Order Number One of Feb 27, 2012.]

This was Councillors Cheung and vanBeuzekom’s Order last week – a good sentiment but perhaps not the best response to perceptions by some that the Community Development Department (CDD) is not working in the best interest of the residents of the city. As mentioned here last week, everyone at CDD should be and for the most part is already "a liason and internal advocate for community members".

Unfinished Business #3. A communication was received from D. Margaret Drury, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Seidel, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a hearing held on December 28, 2011 to consider an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance on the petition filed by Julia Bishop, et al. and re-filed by the City Council to amend Section 17.20 of the Zoning Ordinance – Regulations for Special District 2 located in North Cambridge along Linear Park.

It is expected that this Petition which was amended last week and which has been the focus of so much public testimony and organizing since last summer will be voted this week. The Law Department is expected to address issues of possible spot zoning prior to the Council vote on ordination.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Commissioner of Public Works with the intention of devising a plan for implementing curbside pick up for small businesses along existing curbside pick up routes and to report back to the City Council.   Councillor Toomey

There was a day not so long ago when the City picked up rubbish from many or most Cambridge businesses, but the policy has for some time been to shift this responsibility from the City to private vendors hired by the businesses or commercial building owners. This same policy has carried over to recycling services. Councillor Toomey’s well-intentioned Order should be understood in the larger context of all solid waste disposal by businesses. For example, if recycling services are provided at low or no cost to small businesses, then this would create a financial incentive for businesses to recycle as much as possible. [This has been the experience in cities and towns with "pay as you throw" systems in which residents can recycle at no cost but must pay by the bag or barrel for rubbish disposal.] This could substantially increase costs for the City. There certainly would be greater efficiency in using the same vehicles for both residential and commercial recycling, but contracts would have to be rewritten and volumes and costs estimated before considering a shift back toward the City providing these services.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to provide to the City Council the response to the Massachusetts Food Association’s letter as it relates to City Council Policy Order Number 10 regarding banning of plastic bag usage by Cambridge retailers.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

It will be interesting to see both the Massachusetts Food Association’s letter opposing such a ban as well as the City Manager’s response. Consumers should be routinely providing their own bags without government intervention, but whether they do or don’t it would still make more sense to have a common policy at all stores and not different policies in different cities and towns.

Finally, it must be noted that this will be the first City Council meeting since the retirement of City Clerk D. Margaret Drury. Interim City Clerk Donna Lopez was sworn in at last week’s meeting. The complete list of Cambridge Town Clerks and City Clerks going back to 1632 is posted at http://rwinters.com/clerks-managers.htm. – Robert Winters

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