Summer’s End – Select items from the Sept 21, 2015 Cambridge City Council agenda
The City Council returns this week from their summer vacation. Here’s a sampler of potentially interesting items on the meeting agenda.
Reconsideration #1-3 relating to the regulation of taxi services and ride-sharing companies.
It’s anyone’s guess why these items are being reconsidered. All three of these orders were relatively benign actions about which there was little disagreement.
Reconsideration #4. Councillor Cheung has notified the City Clerk of his intention to file reconsideration on Policy Order #25 of Aug 10, 2015 adopted by the City Council to petition the Massachusetts General Court to enact the attached Home Rule Petition entitled "AN ACT TO ENABLE CERTAIN NON-CITIZEN RESIDENTS OF CAMBRIDGE TO VOTE IN SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS".
Frankly, I was surprised that this order passed without any discussion. Though I seriously doubt that the proposed Home Rule petition has any chance of passage at the State House (and it shouldn’t), this is a matter that should at least have been debated.
Manager’s Agenda #21. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to recommendations from the Community Preservation Act Committee Chair that the City Council formally appropriate/allocate the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.
This is the annual vote on appropriation of CPA funds and there’s no doubt whatsoever that it will be for an 80-10-10% split with affordable housing getting 80% of the funds and the minimum 10% each for open space acquisition and historic preservation.
Manager’s Agenda #22. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Iram Farooq as Assistant City Manager for Community Development.
Iram Farooq is a great choice to head CDD, especially as we head into a multi-year evaluation of long-term citywide planning.
Manager’s Agenda #28. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a request from Normandy Real Estate Partners and Twining Properties ("Normandy/Twining") to make available for disposition approximately 1,042 square feet of City owned land known as Coolidge Place, which is an eight (8) foot wide public way that connects Massachusetts Avenue to the City-owned Municipal Parking Lot Number 6 on Bishop Allen Drive.
This is just a formality, but opponents might try to monkey-wrench the proposed development any way they can.
Applications & Petitions #1. A zoning petition has been received from Patrick W. Barrett III, et al. to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by amending Article 2.000 ("Definitions") and Article 4.000, Section 4.22 ("Accessory Apartments").
This is a very interesting zoning petition for many reasons – not the least of which is the fact that those who signed the petition span the whole spectrum civic/political activists. If ordained, this petition could create a significant amount of housing opportunities across the city.
Order #4. That the City Council go on record committing Cambridge to produce locally what it needs to consume by 2054. Councillor Mazen
I seriously doubt that we’ll be seeing cows grazing on the Cambridge Common or at Danehy Park to satisfy the culinary choices of those of us who enjoy a cheeseburger now and then. Perhaps they can just print them on a 3D-printer. Then again, this is a City Council that REALLY likes to enact bans, so I suppose they could just ban anything that can’t be produced locally.
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to confer with appropriate City departments regarding the possibility of a satellite police station in Central Square, data for incidents in Central Square for the last six months, increase of the City’s drug treatment capacity and beds, additional trash barrels and updates for sidewalk and street improvements. Vice Mayor Benzan
Though Central Square is getting better every day in many ways, and will continue to improve when more housing is created, there are some things that continue to plague the area, including vandalism, drug problems and incidents of violent crime.
Order #7. That the City Council meetings scheduled for Nov 30, 2015 and Dec 28, 2015 be and hereby are cancelled. Councillor Toomey
Order #14. That the following regular City Council meetings be scheduled as Roundtable/Working meetings: Oct 5, 2015 – Roundtable to discuss Opioid Abuse; Oct 26, 2015 – Roundtable to discuss City-Wide Planning; Nov 16, 2015 – Roundtable between the School Committee and the City Council; Dec 14, 2015 – Roundtable to discuss Transportation Issues. Mayor Maher
I read somewhere that cancelling a couple of meetings and scheduling several Roundtable meetings is somehow dereliction of duty on the part of the City Council. In fact, meetings around Thanksgiving and the December holidays are cancelled almost every year and this has been the case for decades. Council rules call for 6-8 Roundtable meetings per year and this will make 9 if they all happen. There were 6 last year, so this seems about right for this two-year City Council term. Besides, are there really any dire issues now that require an intense meeting schedule? I don’t think so. Besides, all of the proposed Roundtable meetings are on very essential matters.
Order #20. That the City Council go on record formally urging MIT to reconsider the decision to not renew the lease for Metropolitan Moving & Storage, and to determine whether any other viable alternatives to this plan exist. Councillor Simmons
Considering the fact that this building is in a location close to the heart of the MIT campus, it sure seems like it could enjoy a better use than just a warehouse. In any case, it’s hard to imagine how this building can be re-purposed as housing while maintaining its fortress-like exterior. Then again, a lot of MIT people prefer to travel in tunnels, so maybe this will be ideal for them.
Order #21. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation to create an electronic list containing the number of parking stickers issued to each development in the past ten (10) years should be made publicly available, to include, if possible, any demographic information that would help inform car ownership discussions such as age of the car owners. Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Mazen and Councillor McGovern
While it’s certainly true that a lot more Cambridge people are now choosing not to own a motor vehicle, it would be helpful to quantify this better. I’m especially interested in knowing how the excessive cost of on-premises parking translates into residents who do own cars choosing to instead park on the street for the cost of a resident sticker.
Order #26. That the amendment to the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to amend the provisions of the PUD-KS District set forth in Section 13.10 of the Zoning Ordinances and which includes a majority of the Volpe Transportation Systems Center site, be refiled as of Sept 28, 2015. Vice Mayor Benzan
It has been expected for some time that this zoning petition would be refiled to allow for at least a bit more analysis and discussion.
Order #27. That the City Manager confer with the CRA and report back with clarification regarding the past and future relationship between the CRA and Boston Properties and if Boston Properties will be the party to develop and lease any new square footage as a result of the zoning petitions passage and if the City Council can require a process for new developers to bid on CRA projects. Councillor Toomey
It’s an interesting question whether the fact that Boston Properties was selected decades ago as the primary developer for Kendall Square means that this must always be the case.
Order #31. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority with the view in mind of purchasing the property on Vail Court in order to convert to affordable housing. Councillor McGovern and Councillor Simmons
Whether it’s redeveloped as "affordable housing" or in some other way, it’s just ridiculous that this property so near the heart of Central Square has been derelict for decades. Perhaps the threat of eminent domain and redevelopment by the CRA may finally force some action. Then again, this is an issue that’s been debated at the City Council repeatedly and all that’s happened is that the parked vehicles have disappeared and big red X’s now festoon the exterior of the building.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 11, 2015 to discuss how to assist tenants in danger of losing their homes due to the recent sale of their buildings on Harding Street.
The committee report gives all indication that the new owners of the Harding Street properties have absolutely no clue how to manage rental properties. I really have to wonder who is financing their real estate acquisitions.
Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan and Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 6, 2015 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code by adding a new Chapter 8.70 entitled "Prohibition on the Use of Polystyrene Based Disposable Food Containers."
The motto for this City Council might well be "When in doubt, ban it." Why bother trying to convince people to do the right thing when you can just make it impossible for them to do otherwise. – Robert Winters