Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 12, 2016

The Return – Notable agenda items for the Sept 12, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:03 am

The Return – Notable agenda items for the Sept 12, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting

Peoples Republic of CambridgeThis is the "Back from Summer Vacation" meeting of the Cambridge City Council. Here are a few items that are at least somewhat interesting (with minimal comments):

Appointments to Boards & Commissions:

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointments of the following persons as a members of the Commission on Immigrant Rights & Citizenship, effective Sept 1, 2016: Leslie DiTrani, Sana Ghafoor, Alejandro Heredia-Santoyo, Karin Lin, Marcio Macedo, Roxana Maldonado-Garcia, Swati Sawant, Jennifer Sparks, Merline Sylvain-Williams, Melanie Torres, and Yarlennys Villaman

Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointments of the following persons as a members of the Cambridge Public Art Commission for a term of three years: Judy Ann Goldman and Cecily Miller

Manager’s Agenda #16. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following person as a full member of the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals for a term of 5 years, effective Aug 29, 2016: Andrea Hickey

Manager’s Agenda #17. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as members of the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities for a term of three years, effective Sept 12, 2016: Katie Ashwill Allen, Stelios Gragoudas, Mike Langlois, Luis Loya and Julie Miller


Appointments by the City Council:

Order #11. Reappointment of James Monagle as City Auditor.   Mayor Simmons

Order #12. Reappointment of Donna P. Lopez as City Clerk.   Mayor Simmons

Two of my favorite people in City government. The City Council gets to appoint the City Manager, the City Auditor, and the City Clerk (and by recent tradition, the Deputy City Clerk). The Really Big Question is whether the City Council will meet its proposed date of Sept 26 to appoint the next City Manager. That’s just two weeks from now. In the meantime, congratulations to Jim and Donna (assuming their unanimous reappointment).


Buildings, architecture, and historic preservation:

Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the final Landmark Designation Report for the Ivory Sands House at 145 Elm Street and the Cambridge Historical Commission’s recommendation.

Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Historical Commission to produce a new status report that reviews the Harvard Square Conservation District’s effectiveness since 2005, and that considers whether new zoning regulations may be necessary to fulfill the community’s goals.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

My guess is that this is motivated by a combination of Curious George, the Kiosk, and, of course, some really problematic property owners who don’t understand the value of keeping good long-term commercial tenants.


Marijuana-related:

Unfinished Business #10. A proposed amendment to the Ordinance entitled "Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge" as amended by the Planning Board recommendation to expand the requirements of the North Massachusetts Avenue Sub-district (Section 20.110) applicable generally within the portions of the Massachusetts Avenue Overlay District (MAOD) zoned Business A-2 (BA-2). The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Aug 15, 2016. Planning Board hearing was held June 21, 2016. Petition expires Sept 20, 2016.

Order #19. Zoning Changes for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Cheung, Councillor Carlone

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 31, 2016 on a zoning petition by Healthy Pharms, Inc., to amend Section 20.700 Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts by creating an additional Medical Marijuana Overlay District (MMD-4). The new MMD-4 District would be coterminous with the Business B and Office 3 Districts that are within the Harvard Square Overlay District. The petition would also establish as criteria specific to the MMD-4 District that permissible dispensaries must be retail only (with no cultivation), must be set back from the sidewalk by a minimum of 15 feet and be appropriately shielded from public view, must be less than 10,000 square feet in size, are preferably located in areas with access to pedestrian and public transportation, and may be 250 feet, instead of the standard 500 feet, distant from a school, daycare center, preschool or afterschool facility or any facility in which children commonly congregate, or closer only if it is determined by the Planning Board to be sufficiently buffered such that users will not be adversely impacted by the operation of the dispensary.

Let’s hope that the City Council finally figures out that you can’t address the siting of marijuana dispensaries by a series of one-off zoning petitions.


Bicycle facilities, speed limits, and punishing drivers for the unpardonable sin of owning a motor vehicle:

Order #20. That the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee be and hereby is requested to hold a hearing to discuss how City staff review use of bike infrastructure to determine what works, what does not work and what could be improved and to specifically discuss the possibility of making the Western Avenue cycle track a two-direction bike facility.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Maher

The path along Concord Ave. abutting Fresh Pond would also function better as a two-way path.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to deem all residential zones as “Safety Zones” and lower speed limits to 20 MPH and to lower the speed limit in all office and business zones to 25 MPH.   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Toomey

This is incredibly short-sighted. Many residential streets should appropriately have 25mph speed limits, especially streets where there’s barely enough room for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to safely pass each other, but 20mph is more appropriate for an intensely pedestrian area such as Harvard Square or Central Square. There are many streets where the current 30mph speed limit is completely appropriate.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor and other relevant City departments and report back to the City Council concrete next steps on how to go about lowering our speed limits as well as the timeline for these actions.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Devereux, Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Mazen

As stated above, this should be done in a more granular way rather than as a single citywide speed limit set so low that few people will respect it.

Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Traffic and Parking Department and all other appropriate City Departments to report back to the City Council on recommendations to gradually increase the parking permit fee and consider other improvements to the program to help fund the city’s budget towards reducing vehicle miles traveled and promoting alternative forms of transportation.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Mazen

My guess is that Councillors Devereux and Mazen would like only bicycles and driverless vehicles to soon be allowed to operate in Cambridge. This is just a step toward that future. It’s interesting that ZipCar founder Robin Chase is simultaneously tweeting comparisons between restaurant costs, housing costs, and the cost of a parking permit. I guess she believes that all three should be exorbitantly expensive.


Winner of the "Most Obnoxious Committee Meeting of 2016":

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public hearing held on July 27, 2016 to hear from public safety officials on training equipment, response and communication policies pertaining to demonstrations, protests, memorials and similar actions involving large numbers of people in public space, ranging from CRLS student walkouts to Black Lives Matter memorials to the “let out” time of bars to Pokémon Go chasing and similar internet-driven meetups.


Everything Else:

Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the notification of approval of the Kendall Square Foundry Development Partners as the development entity for the Foundry.

Manager’s Agenda #18. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to early voting sites.

Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-67, regarding a report on the Classification of Commercial Land Use and Recommendations study.

Charter Right #2. An application was received from Pill Hardware, requesting permission for a display of merchandise in front of the premises numbered 743 Massachusetts Avenue. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Devereux on Aug 1, 2016.]

Order #1. That the City Council go on record calling on the Massachusetts State Legislature to pass an Act affirming a terminally ill patient’s right to compassionate aid in dying.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Cheung, Councillor Carlone

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of creating a temporary jobs program geared toward Cambridge’s homeless population and/or determine the feasibility of awarding homeless with priority in the City’s 9-week temporary jobs program.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Cheung, Councillor Mazen

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Aug 15, 2016 to continue the public discussion regarding the recently completed Inclusionary Housing Study and the Affordable Housing Trusts’ recommendations to the City Council.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a copy of a letter from Hanne Rush, Assistant Attorney General, Division of Open Government, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Attorney General, One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA, regarding the resolution of an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by John Hawkinson on May 4, 2016.

You could define "frivilous" by some of these complaints. – Robert Winters

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