Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 28, 2013

Moving On – April 29, 2013 Cambridge City Council meeting agenda highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:10 pm

April 29, 2013 Cambridge City Council meeting agenda highlights

Here are the agenda items that seem interesting:

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Maher has notified the City Clerk of his intention to move reconsideration on the vote taken on Apr 22, 2013 to adopt an order for a curb cut at the premises numbered 16 Channing Street.

I hope there was no premature rejoicing by Channing Street neighbors when this was voted last week with two councillors absent. The matter passed on a 4-3-2 vote, so it never achieved a majority of the full City Council. Regardless of the merits of the petition, its disposition should not be determined by the fact that two councillors had to be on Beacon Hill to vote on the State Budget. This deserved a proper vote and Councillor Maher has appropriately filed for Reconsideration.

Last week also saw the introduction of the City’s FY2014 Budget, and the following week’s agenda usually contains a number of Capital Budget orders in order to set the table prior to the annual Budget Hearings (Apr 30 and May 9). Here are this year’s Capital Budget items:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $2,180,000 to provide funds to supplement other financing sources for improvements to the Cambridge Common.

Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $1,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of several streets and sidewalks.

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow $54,658,000 to provide funds for construction of sewer separation, stormwater management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Harvard Square, Agassiz, and Cherry Street/South Massachusetts Avenue areas as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow an additional $500,000 to provide funds for improvements to the Kendall Square area including Main Street between Broadway and Ames Street including the reconstruction of streets and sidewalks and the installation of new pedestrian-scale public lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures.

It’s interesting to view these orders over the years as a measure of the gradual rebuilding of City assets. For example, last year’s Capital Budget orders totaled $17,442,670 for such things as replacement of the roofs on City Hall, and the Ryan Garage and Simard Buildings at Public Works; Kendall Square reconstruction of streets and sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, trees, and other beautification measures; acquisition of a ladder truck and pumper; synthetic field surfaces on the soccer fields at Danehy Park; and a variety of sewer separation and stormwater projects within the City’s Alewife watershed. This year’s appropriations are much greater and are dominated by sewers – things upon which we all depend but will likely never see.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $40,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Public Works Other Ordinary Maintenance account appropriation will fund the feasibility study for the Foundry building. Additional, this request is in response to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-87 and 12-105 as well as several other Council Orders related to this matter.

The Foundry Building in East Cambridge came to the City as a result of the Alexandria zoning petition. I have been told that the building has been available for occupancy and sitting vacant as potential revenue is lost and potential occupants have been waiting. Perhaps this appropriation together with some cooperation among city councillors will finally get things moving.

Applications & Petitions #4. A zoning petition has been received from Jenny Popper-Keizer, et al., requesting the City Council amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map from SD-8A to Residence C-1 in the area bounded by Allston Street to the north, Putnam Avenue to the south, Sidney Street to the west and Waverly Street to the east.

This petition is clearly inspired by the proposed housing development at 240 Sidney Street, 40 Allston Street, and 618 Grove Avenue that has already had a public hearing before the Planning Board. There’s an online petition that preceded the zoning petition that reads as follows: "Fulmore Park is the cornerstone of a family neighborhood with about 45 homes surrounding it. Most of these are triple deckers with a couple of two family homes thrown in. The development at 240 Sidney Street aims to build 107 apartment buildings [they meant to say "apartments"] along the eastern edge of the park. The units are studio, one and two bedroom apartments all meant for rental not to create owner-occupied or family friendly homes. This will irreversibly change the character of the neighborhood. ….. Adding more traffic to this street is not in the interest of public safety and should be disallowed. ….. Parking in the on-site garage is rented separately from the apartments. This will create a glut of new residents who choose the much less expensive resident permit rather than renting a spot in the garage of their building. Parking is already congested in the area and will become impossible if this is allowed to pass. Finally the developer has made no attempt to contact abutters to solicit feedback about the project before submitting the plans for approval. We cannot let developers slide by without proper community outreach."

The petition focuses on loss of parking, increased traffic, the somewhat vague "change the character of the neighborhood", and lack of sufficient process. The parking issue is interesting primarily because the developers sought from the Planning Board a reduction in required parking. There has been a curious mixture of actual trends and wishful thinking of late when it comes to the matter of parking for new residential developments. While it’s true that more households are going without cars, it’s a valid concern that when parking is not included in new housing, at least some of the new residents will store their cars on the streets ($25/year permit fee) instead of paying exorbitant fees to park on premises. Honestly, that’s what I would do. The claims of burdensome increases in traffic seem ill-founded. Residential developments generally don’t have major impacts on traffic, especially if many of the residents exhibit similar behavior to other Cambridge residents in walking and biking to work.

The "change the character of the neighborhood" concern is the one I find most interesting. Neighborhoods are more about people than buildings, so it’s a little hard to figure what kind of change is the offense here. Perhaps it’s the potential influx of young professionals (they give me the willies, too), but it’s probably the case that most of the new residents would be much like the people who have been bidding up and buying homes throughout Cambridgeport and the rest of Cambridge for the last decade and more. If that’s the objection, then it’s fair to say that this is not an issue of zoning.

Resolution #6. Resolution on the death of Krystle M. Campbell.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #7. Resolution on the death of Martin Richard.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #8. Resolution on the death of Lu Lingzi.   Councillor Cheung

Resolution #11. Thanks to MIT and public safety officials who organized the memorial service for Officer Sean Collier and sympathy to MIT community in this time of loss.   Mayor Davis

The events of the last two weeks have hit most of us pretty close to home. In addition to the deaths of these four individuals, many have been maimed, including a number of Cambridge residents known to many of us. When the city was effectively shut down during the hunt for the surviving murderer, some people worried that we were in a "police state," but one friend of mine appropriately characterized it as "an act of mass cooperation with law enforcement." I think that captures it perfectly, and I hope that spirit of cooperation continues. This chapter began for me when, after an 8-mile hike with AMC Local Walks, I was under Copley Square when the bombs exploded. This past Saturday I led another AMC hike in the Middlesex Fells, and I’ve chosen to close this horrible chapter on that positive note. I hope we never have to go through anything like this again.

Order #1. That the City Council refer to the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board, for hearing and report, the proposed changes to the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance relating to rainwater separation in residential buildings.   Councillor Kelley

I’m pretty sure the genesis of this proposal was a request last year from one resident who wanted to replace his flat roof with a pitched roof. Overall, the proposed zoning change contains some interesting ideas and deserves consideration.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the City Solicitor to clarify the expiration date for zoning petitions filed in the City of Cambridge – either 90 days from the date of the first City Planning Board meeting or 90 days from the first City Council Ordinance Committee meeting.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Let’s just make this simple. There is no need for further clarification. Simply propose a minor zoning amendment to change Section 1.52 of the City’s zoning ordinance to replace "within ninety (90) days after the Planning Board’s hearing" to "within ninety (90) days after the initial Ordinance Committee hearing". That makes the state law and the city ordinance consistent – problem solved.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to direct the City Solicitor to clarify whether private driveways and apartment garages may be rented to car owners that are unrelated to the property and by what process can these spaces be legally rented.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

The simple answer is that they generally cannot be rented, but we all know people who do rent them out. It’s one thing to let a friend or neighbor park in your driveway, but it’s a whole ‘nuther matter when you’re essentially running a commercial enterprise by deriving income in this manner. It also violates the City’s Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to provide to the Cambridge City Council an explanation of how the City of Cambridge Police Department and the FBI work together to collect and share local intelligence information and respond to reports on individuals that are identified as potential terrorists.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

This should receive a fine response from Councillor Decker and the ACLU gang, but it’s a legitimate question and concern. – Robert Winters

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