Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 13, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 431-432: November 12, 2019

Episode 431 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 12, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 12, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Municipal election results; effectiveness of slates; role of major issues (if any); what’s next. Hosts: Robert Winters, Patrick Barrett [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 432 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 12, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 12, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Election last details; Harvard Square Zoning Petition; where do we go from here. Hosts: Robert Winters, Patrick Barrett [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 1, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 421-422: Oct 1, 2019

Episode 421 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 1, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 1, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Candidate slates; political action committees; DigBoston Dirty Politics; ABC, CResA, ORC, CCC; reemergence of single-issue politics; independent candidates; future Council – Practical Solutions or Pointless Revolution. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 422 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 1, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 1, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: School Committee election; Candidate Forums; slate politics; SNL; pending zoning matters – Karp, Article 19, Northwest Alewife Quadrangle, and Barrett Times Three. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 17, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 417-418: Sept 17, 2019

Episode 417 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 17, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 17, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Sept 16 Council meeting (Part 1) – Cannabis, First Street Garage, Lobbying via Direct Mail, zoning history, changing nature of the city, New Street zoning failure. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 418 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 17, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 17, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Sept 16 Council meeting (Part 2) – UpperWest pandering and Charter ignorance, evolution of License Commission practices, Municipal Broadband feasibility and shelf life, candidate forums and endorsements, CDD policy failures. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 10, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 415-416: Sept 10, 2019

Episode 415 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 10, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 10, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Sept 9 Council meeting (Part 1) – First Street Garage, Affordable Housing Overlay, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 416 – Cambridge InsideOut: Sept 10, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Sept 10, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Sept 9 Council meeting (Part 2) – First Street Garage, Affordable Housing Overlay, and more. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

September 8, 2019

Politics, Posturing, Preaching, or Practical Solutions? – Sept 9, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 8:04 pm

Politics, Posturing, Preaching, or Practical Solutions? – Sept 9, 2019 Cambridge City Council meeting

The City Council returns from vacation this week with a loaded agenda and more than a few hidden agendas. Perhaps the biggest deal is the hearing and presumably the vote on disposition of a portion of the parking spaces in the First Street Garage to support the proposed rehabilitation and reuse of the Courthouse Building on Thorndike Street. This has recently become politically superheated by State Misrepresentative Connolly and his Revolutionary Guard who, in Bernie-esque fashion, have promised the moon with no means to fulfill those promises. On the other hand, perhaps the necessary six votes may materialize to begin the asbestos remediation and reactivation of this building as well as revitalization of the First Street Garage and its retail corridor. Hope springs eternal.

MachiavelliThe other big items are the reports from the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board on the "Affordable Housing Overlay" proposal, a.k.a. the "Abominable Hubris Overlay", to replace privately-owned residential property with higher density public housing, i.e. housing accessible only to people who apply through the City for this benefit. Any notion that this would be a temporary "emergency" policy was put to rest when proposals for a "sunset clause" were eliminated in the Ordinance Committee. So this would effectively become a policy to permanently prioritize higher density government-regulated housing over ordinary residential development at prevailing heights and densities.

Mayor Machiavelli has done all that he can to ram this through while attempting to seal off any means via which residents of the city can challenge plans by unelected bodies to inflict whatever they wish whenever and wherever they wish. There are already apparently three NO votes on this matter so it may all come down to whether one other councillor can be purchased by The Prince. The action item for this meeting would be to pass the matter to a 2nd Reading and put it in the queue for possible ordination on Sept 23, and there appears to be 5 votes to do that. Ordination will require 6 votes. One other possibility, should it be unclear whether the necessary two-thirds majority exists, is to allow the matter to expire and be re-filed so that it can be voted after the municipal election when there are fewer political asses on the line. A more appropriate course of action would be to take a huge step back and reconsider housing policy regionally and rationally, but I seriously doubt if this group of nine is up to that task. Regardless of the ultimate outcome it’s fair to say that this one issue has served to realign civic and political lines in a way that will continue for years to come.

UPDATE: The vote was to table the Overlay so that it could expire without a negative vote. This will allow it to be "re-filed so that it can be voted after the municipal election when there are fewer political asses on the line."

They also punted on the the vote on disposition of a portion of the parking spaces in the First Street Garage. That discussion (and presumably the vote) will reconvene on Sept 18 at 3:00pm, but since the hearing was recessed there will be presumably no additional public comment. Hasn’t it all been said by now anyway?

So here’s the usual selection of featured items of interest:

Manager’s Agenda #1-3. Appointments to the Foundry Advisory Committee (2), Pedestrian Committee (22), and Bicycle Committee (21).

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board report with no positive or negative recommendations on the Alexandria Grand Junction Overlay District Zoning Petition.


Manager’s Agenda #7. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt the Affordable Housing Overlay Zoning Petition.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 1 of the 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 Aug 1, 2019 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 2 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Aug 8, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Committee Report #7. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 3 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Aug 13, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

Committee Report #8. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting Part 4 of the report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a reconvened public hearing held on Sept 3, 2019 to continue discussions on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create an Affordable Housing Overlay District.

These are the items associated with the Abominable Overlay.


Manager’s Agenda #8. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a recommendation from the Planning Board to approve the disposition of a leasehold interest in 420 parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail in the First Street Garage.

Manager’s Agenda #9. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed disposition of a leasehold interest in the First Street Garage.

These are the items associated with the 6:30pm hearing: The City Council will hold a public hearing on the disposition of a leasehold interest in 420 parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail (together the “Leasehold Interest”) in the First Street Garage, located at 55 First Street and owned by the City of Cambridge, to the developer Leggat McCall Properties, which was conditionally awarded the bid pursuant to G.L. Chapter 30B subject to the review and approval of the disposition of the Leasehold Interest by the City Council pursuant to the City’s Municipal Disposition Ordinance, Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code (the “disposition Ordinance”). This hearing will be held pursuant to the Disposition Ordinance As part of the legal requirements for disposing of the Leasehold Interest.


Charter Right #1. 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.

As I said when this was introduced, "There is apparently no accounting for taste. If the City Council supports this Order, they belong in an asylum."

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to obtain a legal opinion from the City Solicitor regarding the License Commission’s authority with regard to the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of liquor licenses in the City of Cambridge.

The City Solicitor has answered this on multiple occasions. Pay attention, kids.

Applications & Petitions #1. A Zoning Petition has been received from Ben LoVemere regarding that the City Council ordain the Zoning language set forth relative the Alewife Quadrangle Northwest Overlay District.

Communications #1-193. That’s a whole lotta letters – dominated by First Street Garage and the Abominable Overlay.

Order #5. That the City Manager, without delay to the current First Street Garage lease process, is requested to confer with all relevant City departments and public health officials to conduct City directed environmental testing on the Sullivan Courthouse building and water in basement, to determine the risk posed to the public, and provide a timeline of completion.   Councillor Toomey, Councillor Mallon

Synopsis: County/State abandons building; long time passes; state offers site up for sale; Leggat McCall wins bid; long times passes while lawsuits play out; building decays; citizen takes it upon himself to gather and test a sample of loose asbestos; state misrepresentative tries to put himself center-stage as the mover and shaker that he so clearly is not; political supporters circle the wagons; nobody wins.

Order #10. That the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations Committee is requested to hold a public hearing to review the Envision Cambridge plan and recommendations.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

Envision Cambridge….. yeah, I remember hearing about that once upon a time. Then the Community Development abandoned its purpose and rebranded itself as the AHO Sales Force.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City staff on the feasibility of allowing taxicabs to use dedicated bus lanes throughout the City while executing service for fare-paying passengers.   Councillor Kelley, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Simmons

Wow, a practical suggestion. Will wonders never cease?


Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Anthony I. Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on June 24, 2019 to discuss the future electricity needs of the Kendall Square area and progress toward identifying an alternate, viable location for a new substation other than the proposed site on Fulkerson Street.

Committee Report #9. A communication was received from Anthony Wilson, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Chair of the Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 21, 2019 to discuss the future electricity needs of the Kendall Square area and progress toward identifying an alternate, viable location for a new substation other than the proposed site on Fulkerson Street.

I really hope some good resolution comes of this soon because it’s becoming very boring and we are not about to turn off all the power just yet. – Robert Winters

August 13, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 413-414: Aug 13, 2019

Episode 413 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 13, 2019 (Part 1) – w/Patrick Barrett

This episode was broadcast on Aug 13, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Central Square (of course); Overlay continued; Courthouse politics; zoning for a purpose. Hosts: Robert Winters, Patrick Barrett [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 414 – Cambridge InsideOut: Aug 13, 2019 (Part 2) – w/Patrick Barrett

This episode was broadcast on Aug 13, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: Creative zoning for Squares and mixed use districts; thoughts on this year’s municipal elections and lack of civic infrastructure. Hosts: Robert Winters, Patrick Barrett [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

July 17, 2019

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 409-410: July 16, 2019

Episode 409 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 16, 2019 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on July 16, 2019 at 5:30pm. Topics: Candidate updates; emerging civic/political organizations; some history of downzoning, upzoning, and Concord-Alewife; road to a bridge at Alewife. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 410 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 16, 2019 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on July 16, 2019 at 6:00pm. Topics: East Cambridge Courthouse saga, political red herrings, and intellectual dishonesty; the need for a better plan for the greater Lechmere area; the joys of homeownership – drains and trees and broken things (and Eversource). Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

May 6, 2019

More Monday Madness – May 6, 2019 Cambridge City Council Curiosities

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:29 am

More Monday Madness – May 6, 2019 Cambridge City Council Curiosities

The Nine will again convene to recite their ABCs. Here are a few things I thought looked marginally interesting:City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-143, regarding requiring a Business Entity’s Beneficial Ownership and Residential Real Estate Beneficial Ownership Transactions be Disclosed in all Cambridge Real Estate Transactions.

I would certainly like to know who is gobbling up Cambridge real estate and apparently there may be a way to get some of this information. I am a bit curious about the questions posed by our esteemed City Solicitor, specifically: "would it apply to both for-profit and non-profit organizations; would it apply to trusts, or only to corporations; and if the corporation’s beneficial owner is another corporation, would the disclosure of the name of that other corporation be sufficient?" My cynicism leads me to believe that no matter what disclosure requirement might be established there will always be a way to obscure things. That said, I am steadily becoming more distrustful of the City’s possible intent in getting hold of this information. It is becoming clear that our ever-controlling City Council has preferences regarding which entities should own property in Cambridge.

Applications & Petitions #5. A petition was received from residents at Thomas Graves Landing opposing PUD-8 by New England Development requesting Special Permit to exceed the 85′ height limit at CambridgeSide.

I honestly don’t know how to feel about all this. The Cambridgeside Galeria could use a little re-envisioning (though perhaps a less loaded term would be preferable). First Street is a failure by any standard, and shopping centers all over are being reinvented as mixed-use developments. The Galeria owners apparently are seeking heights up to 185 feet. Is that necessary or desirable in order to reinvent the complex? Is anyone in the City administration looking at the Bigger Picture (and I don’t mean height) that includes the Galeria complex, the not-too-distant Sullivan Courthouse development (assuming that doesn’t become a Million Dollar Per Unit Affordable Housing Contradiction), the future redevelopment of the Lechmere site after the Green Line Extension relocates the station, and what is sure to be a very different-looking McGrath/O’Brien Highway? [By the way, did anyone ever talk about any of this during the "Envision" process?]

Applications & Petitions #6. A Zoning Petition has been received from the Self Storage Group, regarding a revised Zoning Petition seeking to create the New Street Overlay District. Based on the feedback received concerning their earlier petition.

This is the 2nd pass at this.

Order #1. City Council support of bills opposing Weymouth Compressor Station/Fracked Gas.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Carlone

I do have an opinion about this, but I’m afraid to say it publicly lest I have Mothers Out Front of my house holding signs.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Cambridge Police Department and other relevant City staff on how media collected by hand-held photo/video recording devices is used, stored, and shared.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui

Perhaps we can reinvent the Fusion Center as a suburban mall for people who don’t trust the government.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department and the License Commission to establish a "play streets" permit.   Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Siddiqui

I actually like ideas like this. An easier solution would be to just post Do Not Enter signs at both ends of the street.

Order #8. Welcoming Community Ordinance.   Councillor Carlone, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Mallon, Vice Mayor Devereux

As near as I can tell, this is mainly a rebranding of "Sanctuary City" as "Welcoming City" just to confuse the President.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula M. Crane, Deputy 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 Apr 25, 2019 at 6:00pm in the Sullivan Chamber to continue discussion on the Affordable Housing Overlay District and other related matters.

This travesty is apparently not yet filed as a zoning petition. The proposed Order contained in the committee report says: "ORDERED: That the Housing Committee requests that the Chairs of the Ordinance Committee schedule hearings to further review and discuss the attached draft of the proposed citywide Affordable Housing Overlay District as prepared by the Community Development Department." It will be rammed through soon enough as a zoning petition and the clock will then start ticking.

Will there actually be any substantive discussions or just continuous streams of virtue signaling and innuendo directed toward anyone who questions the "wisdom" of this proposal to have different zoning codes for different players? Will there be a sunset provision or will this stand as a permanent policy to transform private property to "social ownership" in the Peoples Republik of Cambridge? Will this relieve our neighboring cities and towns from the burden of zoning modifications to permit multifamily housing? Inquiring minds want to know. The jury is still out regarding the minds of our elected councillors. – Robert Winters

UPDATE: Councillor Simmons amended the Order contained in the Housing Committee report to formally send the Subsidized Housing Overlay to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board as a zoning petition. Nobody objected. The clock is now ticking. The juggernaut continues.

The City Council also ordained the Accessory Dwelling Unit Zoning as amended on an 8-0-1 vote (McGovern ABSENT).

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