Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

July 30, 2019

Midsummer Madness – Featured Items on the July 30, 2019 City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:53 pm

Midsummer Madness – Featured Items on the Tues, July 30, 2019 City Council Agenda

Here’s my first pass at the more interesting stuff.City Hall

On Electric Vehicles and Electric Infrastructure

Manager’s Agenda #22. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Numbers 19-13, 19-71 and 19-78, regarding Eversource substation expansion, energy projections and overall update on process.

Manager’s Agenda #23. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-59, regarding exploring a pilot for Level 1 (110V) EV and micromobility charging stations on street light poles throughout the city.

Manager’s Agenda #24. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 19-07, regarding a report on Boston’s electric vehicle charging station home rule petition and proposed similar language for City Council consideration. [Solicitor opinion] [Home Rule Petition] [Proposed Order]

Manager’s Agenda #25. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-141, regarding a report on safe way to bring power to the curb and across sidewalks to power electric vehicles.

I find these developments interesting in the sense that we’re seeing the future incrementally unfold. It is, however, worth noting that any decrease in the use of fossil fuels for vehicles or in buildings inevitably will lead to greater demand for electricity – at least in the near term, hence the relevance of the expansion of substations, etc. The likelihood that solar panels and rooftop wind turbines will take up the slack is more fantasy than reality.


On Picking Winners in the Cannabis Sweepstakes

Unfinished Business #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance. [Draft Ordinance] [Advertised Draft Ordinance] [Zondervan memo] [Kelley Memo]

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 27, 2019 was to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code to add a new Chapter 5.50 entitled “Cannabis Business Permitting Ordinance.”

The Council will pass something very soon, but I continue to marvel at the degree to which some councillors are trying to pick the winners. Affirmative action is great, but there comes a point where this becomes simple political patronage.


On Preferential Treatment for Certain Developers in Perpetuity

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on June 4, 2019 to discuss the proposed 100% Affordable Housing Overlay as it relates to the tree canopy, open space, green space and stormwater management.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on July 2, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a city-wide Affordable Housing Overlay District (AHOD).

Communications & Reports #2. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Carlone, regarding the general public my comments and questions, and zoning recommendations for the proposed Affordable Housing Overlay submitted on Apr 25, 2019.

Communications & Reports #3. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Mallon and Mayor McGovern regarding Amendments to the Affordable Housing Overlay.

Regardless how one feels about this Overlay business, it is very clear that this proposal should properly be viewed as an emergency measure and that there should be a sunset clause after which it goes away unless it is freshly reauthorized at some point – perhaps 3-5 years from now. That said, each iteration of this dreadful proposal moves further toward making it permanent, i.e. a permanent mechanism for converting privately-owned residential property into public or quasi-publicly owned residential property. Sunset is being replaced with "review" which means precisely nothing. Apparently, the current group of nine councillors seems hell-bent on literally turning Cambridge into the Peoples Republic of Cambridge where the notion of private property is met with nothing but disdain. Zoning should be about predictability and consistency so that when properties change hands there can be reasonable expectations. This proposal replaces consistency with chaos.

This proposal should not pass, but if it does I hope that nobody ranks any of its supporters anywhere on their City Council ballot. This includes some people who I have considered friends, but they will not even get an honorable mention on my ballot if they vote in favor of this travesty. There may be other proposals that are worthy of support, but they are not currently before this City Council. Zoning regulations should not be authored by the beneficiaries of preferential zoning.


Everything Else

Manager’s Agenda #32. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-60, regarding small business parking pilot.

The City Solicitor’s opinion regarding how such a program could jeopardize Resident Parking is quite interesting.

Applications & Petitions #10. A revised Petition has been received from Stephen R. Karp, Trustee of Cambridge Side Galeria Associates trust to amend the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance by adding a new Section 13.100 to Article 13.00 of the Zoning Ordinance and to amend the Zoning Map to add a new PUD-8 District overlay that certain area (which includes parcels and portions of ways and streets) labeled as "PUD-8 district".

The proposal could help to make this area much more vital and inviting than it is today. This re-filed version reduces some of the heights of the prior proposal with added community benefits. It will be interesting to see how this fares and if the City administration is capable of weaving this together with other developments in the area into a unified whole.

Order #6. City Council opposition to any proposal that would increase allowable semi-truck weight or trailer length without the ability to regulate such at the municipal level.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

As a resident of one of the "corridors" that some councillors seem to use so frequently as political fodder, I am very interested in lessening the impact of the larger tractor-trailers that inevitably seem to find their way onto streets like mine. Whatever happened to the notion that local delivery vehicles should be used for local deliveries?

Order #7. That the Government Operations/Rules and Claims Committee be and hereby is requested to coordinate with relevant representatives from the Attorney General’s office and the City Manager’s office to hold a meeting, to include City staff, to review Open Meeting Law requirements for elected and appointed City officials.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Zondervan

Pardon my iconoclasm, but as long as there is plenty of disclosure and sufficient notice and a very public discussion for at least a week or two prior to an important vote, I have no issue with elected officials hashing out some details out of public view.

Order #11. That the Government Operations/Rules and Claims Committee is requested to coordinate with relevant staff to hold a meeting to discuss the feasibility of adding a private attorney budget item to the City Council budget.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux

This request has been made and rejected countless times, and it should be rejected again. What would be better (and simpler) is to establish a protocol where the City Council can request that the Law Department work directly with the City Council or its committees on specific matters where it may be warranted. The last thing we need is to have a City Council attorney and the Law Department doing battle. Bear in mind that even though the City Manager has a contract, he still serves "at the pleasure of the City Council."

Order #16. That the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee is requested to hold a hearing to review City policy on sidewalk surface treatments, with the goal of clearly establishing that where sidewalks are or traditionally were made of brick, the sidewalks should remain or become brick, when feasible after sidewalk work.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

This has long been the established policy of the City when it comes to sidewalk replacement. Has this changed?

Order #17. That the proposed zoning amendments to Articles 2.00 and 4.32 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance to permit Shared Mobility be referred to the Ordinance Committee for further review.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Mallon

Oh boy, another zoning petition.

Order #21. That the Amendment to Chapter 2.128 Surveillance Ordinance Technology be forwarded to the Public Safety Committee for a hearing.   Mayor McGovern, Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui

It’s one thing to oppose the use of facial recognition software for combing through images solely for the purpose of (correctly or incorrectly) identifying "bad guys" in the absence of a specific crime, but there are some very good reasons for using it after a crime has been committed in helping to identify a potential culprit. I would make the same comment regarding the use of surveillance cameras.

Order #25. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the License Commission and City Solicitor’s office to drop all charges against UpperWest and its owners, to reconsider UpperWest’s package store application, and to issue a public apology to UpperWest and its owners.   Councillor Zondervan

There is apparently no accounting for taste. If the City Council supports this Order, they belong in an asylum.

Committee Report #9. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Co-Chair and Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui Co-Chair, of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on June 25, 2019 to discuss the Affordable Housing Trust’s recommendations for the City’s Inclusionary Housing Program’s preferences on selecting residents for available units.

I am all for preferential treatment for long-time Cambridge residents and those for whom relocation isn’t a reasonable option, e.g. seniors or parents with young children. That said, we seem to be moving steadily toward an environment where the government is becoming the primary landlord and where benefits are more likely to go to those who are connected.

Communications & Reports #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a memorandum from Councillor Mallon, transmitting the final report of the Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

Most of the report is a reprinting of meeting minutes, but the introductory part does emphasize some guiding principles and some action items. The study of arts in Cambridge has continued as long as the study of Central Square. It is never clear where either will ultimately lead but it is still worth raising the questions. – Robert Winters

2 Comments »

  1. I would like to clarify that there is nothing “inevitable” about increasing our electricity consumption as we eliminate fossil fuels. First of all we can and must significantly reduce consumption through improved energy efficiency. The good news is that our buildings are horribly inefficient so we can gain a lot there. Second, our current electricity supply is 86% fossil fuel derived, so getting that to 0% fossil fuels doesn’t require any additional infrastructure for transmission and distribution in Cambridge. Last but not least, we have deployed less than 2% of our estimated solar rooftop capacity in Cambridge, so we have at least 98% to go before we can say that solar can’t pick up the slack. At my house I have cut fossil fuel consumption in half, without increasing grid electricity consumption, by maximizing my solar capacity. My heating and cooling as well as my car are all running primarily on electricity now, and yet I have not increased grid electricity consumption, in fact I have reduced it. Whether or not we can achieve the same as a city remains to be seen, but it is not inevitable that we can’t. Eversource’s efforts at reducing consumption in Cambridge have been anemic and new buildings are still not net zero despite our zoning petition 6 years ago! We can do a lot better.

    Comment by Quinton Zondervan — July 30, 2019 @ 2:03 pm

  2. As I watch this City Council “debate” how to handle cannabis business regulation, the more I am convinced that few, if any, of these councillors understand, let along support, anything remotely like free markets. This also underlies their continuing “debate” on the so-called “Affordable Housing Overlay” proposal (which really should be re-titled the “Preferential Zoning” proposal). Their inclination in all cases is to control who benefits and who doesn’t benefit rather than allow any kind of market economics to sort things out.

    Comment by Robert Winters — July 30, 2019 @ 9:18 pm

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