Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 29, 2018

A First Look at the Oct 29, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

A First Look at the Oct 29, 2018 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere’s my first pass at the interesting stuff up for discussion at this week’s meeting:

Manager’s Agenda #10. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $67,179.02 from Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Public Works Department Extraordinary Expenditures Account to support additional tree plantings in the Gore Street Neighborhood.

What is notable is that the street tree that was lost has been appraised at $67,179.02. I’d love to learn more about how that figure was derived. Especially the two cents.

Charter Right #1. That the Chairs of the Ordinance Committee schedule a hearing on Tree Protections and the Chairs of the Health & Environment Committee schedule public hearings on Tree Protections and the preliminary results from the Ordinance Committee hearing.

There are good ways and bad ways to do this. As a side note, I heard that the tulip tree on Cambridge Street that was at the center of a controversy almost two decades ago (with at least one person chaining herself to the tree) was removed recently due to internal rot. Some have suggested that this may have been helped along, but in any case the tulip tree is no more.

Charter Right #2. The City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct the Community Development Department to provide a written timeline of what specific steps must take place in order to take a final vote on the Affordable Housing Overlay legislation.

Communications #6. Sundry communications received relating to opposition of City Envision proposal.

My sense is that very few people know much about the proposed Subsidized Housing Overlay proposal and its provisions to permit neighboring properties to be redeveloped as subsidized housing as of right a) at densities up to four times what is allowed under current zoning, b) with minimal setback requirements, c) and with no objections permitted. The proposal is a severe departure from the Growth Policy Document that has been successfully applied for nearly 25 years. The Overlay proposal was panned at the Planning Board for many reasons. It does nothing to address the housing affordability problem as most people understand it, i.e. the difficulty most people have in finding an affordable place to own or rent without being forced to apply to a government agency for housing.

Communications #3. A communication was received from Charles Hinds, President East Cambridge Planning Team, regarding the disposition process of the First St. Garage.

The First Street parking garage is there largely because it served the needs of the Courthouse. The primary reason it has been underutilized (hence the available surplus of parking) is because the Courthouse has been closed for some time. Sure, some things have changed in the interim and perhaps in an ideal world the Courthouse building would be scaled down more than is proposed, but courts have ruled that the re-purposing of the Courthouse building may proceed as planned.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on offering early voting in City Council and School Committee elections.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Siddiqui

As much as I want everyone to vote (I’m one of the only 116 Cambridge voters who has voted in every citywide Cambridge election since 1997), I really don’t see how the substantial increased cost of this proposal is justifiable. Unlike state and federal elections, the Commonwealth won’t be picking up the tab. It really is very simple to vote in municipal elections on Election Day and absentee voting could simply be expanded to achieve the same goal.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to provide an update on any current discussions or plans for extending the Alewife Greenway Bike Path from Alewife to Sherman Street.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

This is a great idea. In fact, if the path switched over to the north side of the tracks at Sherman Street, you could extend it all the way to Porter Square with the added treat that you could pass under Walden Street through the old cattle pass.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to confer with City staff and report back to the City Council on the status of the Cambridge Street Bicycle Safety Demonstration Project and on any efforts to assess how successful the project has been and what lessons the City may learn from the project that may help inform street allocation and design decisions elsewhere.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to confer with City staff and report back to the City Council on opportunities and plans to increase signage or other communication efforts to help ensure that all users of Brattle Street between Eliot and Mason Streets understand the cyclists may be using Brattle Street in the opposite direction of prevailing motor vehicle traffic.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

Order #19. That the City Manager is requested to include protected bicycle infrastructure along the entire length of River Street as part of the FY20 River Street Redesign project.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

All of these are covered under the City’s "Listen Zero" policy regarding bicycle accommodation. There were and still are better ways to re-envision traffic flow on Cambridge Street, and Brattle Street should have been made into a two-way "slow street" from Mason St. to Eliot St. connecting to Mt. Auburn St. As for River Street, there is no way on earth that safer bicycle accommodation won’t be a central part of the plan, and this is one location where traffic calming and some separation of cyclists from traffic (including drivers just off the Pike who have not yet mentally slowed down) is completely justified.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Jan Devereux, Chair and Councillor Quinton Y. Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 27, 2018 to discuss stormwater management best practices and get an update on how Cambridge will be impacted by the EPA’s new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, which took effect on July 1, 2018.

I’m highlighting this report simply because I think that every Cambridge citizen should learn more about the "hidden city" under their feet, i.e. the infrastructure that we depend on every day. We should have regular citizen seminars on this.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk transmitting a report from Councillor Jan Devereux, Chair and Councillor Quinton Y. Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on Oct 9, 2018 to was to receive an update on progress towards Zero Waste goals and to discuss successes and challenges of the citywide composting and recycling programs to date.

Two words – Recycle Right. If you want to ensure the economic viability of recycling you have to be mindful of the eventual end markets. Recycling is a lot more than throwing things into a blue (or green) container.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 2, 2018 to discuss a petition filed by the City Council to amend the zoning ordinances in Articles 2.000, 4.000, 6.000 and 11.000 and to establish provisions for Cannabis Uses.

I really hope the City Council reconsiders the proposal to allow pot shops to open as of right in all of the City’s BA-1 zones [base zoning map]. These include many of our small "mom ‘n pop" mixed residential/commercial zones. [Full disclosure – I live in a BA-1 zone, but I’m directly across the street from a school and have a day care and two Montessori schools as neighbors, so I’m within the buffer zone.] This is fundamentally different than allowing pot shops along a BA corridor like North Mass. Ave. [BA-2] or Cambridge Street east of Inman Square [BA], though I’ll leave it to residents along those corridors to chime in for themselves. The Western Ave. corridor is primarily BA-3. A proposed Order in this committee report calls for allowing adult use (recreational) pot shops as a use as of right in all BA-1, BA-2 and BA-3 districts. Another proposed Order would reduce the buffer zone around schools and other youth facilities from 500 ft. to 300 ft.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Councillor Mallon, transmitting notes for the first meeting of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

This meeting was mainly just introductions, but it’s worth keeping an eye on where this Task Force is headed. – Robert Winters

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