Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 12, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 361-362: Dec 11, 2018

Episode 361 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 11, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 11, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: New Central Square Police Substation; Central Square BID update; Surveillance Ordinance; Revised Street Performer Ordinance; 1899 Ordinances. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 362 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 11, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 11, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: City Hall landscaping; Late Order on “Act to Promote Housing Choices”, oddity of asymmetric rules for passing zoning ordinances, political consequences; Airplane Noise. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

December 5, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 359-360: Dec 4, 2018

Episode 359 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 4, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 4, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Publicly funded municipal election campaigns and PR elections; refranchising of Cable TV and the future. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 360 – Cambridge InsideOut: Dec 4, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Dec 4, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Early days of Cable TV, Grand Junction updates, Davis Sq. changes, flat roof zoning, accessory dwelling unit zoning, City housing policy = social ownership. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

November 18, 2018

Hold that Turkey! There’s a Nov 19, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 9:14 pm

Hold that Turkey! There’s a Nov 19, 2018 Cambridge City Council meeting

Here’s what I find interesting and snarkworthy:City Hall

Manager’s Agenda #6. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-102, regarding the potential for utilizing an Icelandic crosswalk design in East Cambridge.

floating crosswalkFor those who don’t recall, there was an Order asking the City to look into a design that pretty clearly would cause some drivers to jam their brakes or swerve to avoid an imagined collision. The response states: "In one formal study, between 10-14% of drivers swerved upon seeing the markings, perhaps believing them to be real raised objects in the roadway. Swerving would not be a safe maneuver for either the driver or other users on the road." Yup.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 18-85, regarding a report on the feasibility of appointing an advisory committee to work through resilience elements raised during the Envision process and through the Brown Petition.

The Manager appointed a task force of 25 people including 4 city councillors, 4 residents, 5 institutional/non-profit representatives, 4 business representatives, 4 subject matter experts, and 3 City staff. One of the four resident appointees who was one of the original petitioners has already expressed his objections to the appointments and has stated that he’s not sure if he wants to be affiliated with this. Rocky start.

Manager’s Agenda #11. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to proposed revisions to the draft Surveillance Ordinance.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the proposed amended Street Performers Ordinance.

I have no point of view on either of these. I’m simply noting that the City Council now has language to adopt or amend. Both proposed ordinances are currently waiting for action on Unfinished Business.

Charter Right #1. Further Study Needed on First Street Garage (Order #3 of Nov 5, 2018).

At this point the notion that some analysis of traffic and parking supply and demand is warranted seems hardly controversial, and most of the data to support that analysis is readily available. What happens after updated information is presented is when the serious controversy will arise.

Applications & Petitions #2. A Zoning Petition was received from Anthony F. Gargano on behalf of his Client Hercules Kalogeropoulos, Cambridge Mobile Sound and Security, seeking to amend the zoning map in the area of 234 Monsignor O’Brien Highway, from the existing ‘C-1’ to Business ‘A’.

More marijuana. I hope people are beginning to understand that this is just as much about getting in on the ground floor of a potentially lucrative market as it is about making marijuana available for medical or recreational use.

Resolution #8. Recognizing the work and legacy of Dr. Joseph J. Harrington.   Mayor McGovern

I’m glad to see this. Dr. Harrington was one of the many unsung heroes who generously volunteered his time to serve of an important City Board – in his case, the Water Board.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Director of the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department to consult with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State Delegation representing Route 28, State Representative Mike Connolly and State Senator Sal DiDomenico, for an update on the bike lane installation, and measures and actions such as increased police enforcement of speed limits, to improve safety of Museum Way immediately with particular emphasis on the intersection of Museum Way and Route 28.   Councillor Toomey

This is one stretch a road where some separation of cyclists from motor vehicle traffic is warranted and long overdue. That said, the primary danger on this and other roads is intersections. The recent cyclist fatality at this location occurred when the cyclist was stopped alongside a truck and both vehicles simultaneously made a right turn. Side guards on trucks would greatly lessen the likelihood of a fatality, but cyclists should never situate themselves to the right of a potentially right-turning large vehicle.

Order #7. That the Economic Development & University Relations Committee is requested to hold a public hearing to discuss the formation of a city commission dedicated to providing a forum for exploring and addressing the concerns of undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate and other post-high school students in Cambridge.   Councillor Kelley, Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Toomey, Vice Mayor Devereux

I told my MIT students about this and some of them are interested in possibly serving on such a board. I am curious what issues would rise to the top of the priority list of such a group.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to work with CCTV to ensure funding for our municipal media services, and that the City Council go on record opposing a new FCC rule that would severely decrease funding for CCTV and 22CityView by allowing telecommunications companies to deduct in-kind services fees.   Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Devereux, Mayor McGovern

Though much has changed since Cable TV was first licensed in Cambridge – primarily the shift from television to Internet, the support of community access from the licensees has only diminished over time. Continental Cablevision used to maintain a studio for community programming but that requirement went away with a previous federal change. Now the FCC wants to further choke the financial support required of a licensee (and there’s only Comcast in Cambridge).

Order #11. That the Housing Committee Co-Chairs, in collaboration with the City Manager’s Office and the Office of the Mayor, be and hereby are requested to reach out to their counterparts in Boston and Somerville to convene a region-wide discussion about the affordable housing crisis.   Councillor Simmons

I recommended such a regional conversation 2½ years ago as a member of the Envision Cambridge Advisory Committee. It never happened. – Robert Winters

November 6, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 351-352: Nov 6, 2018 w/Patrick Barrett

Episode 351 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 6, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 6, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Central Square, Business Improvement District (BID), Formula Business Ordinance and the Central Square Restoration Petition, Envision Cambridge. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 352 – Cambridge InsideOut: Nov 6, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Nov 6, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Nov 5 City Council meeting highlights, Envision Cambridge, First Street Garage & Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment. Hosts: Patrick Barrett, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 31, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 349-350: Oct 30, 2018

Episode 349 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 30, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 30, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: World Champion Red Sox, Oct 29 City Council highlights, trees!, proposal for early voting for municipal elections. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 350 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 30, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 30, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Growth Policy Document, Envision Cambridge Housing Working Group, middle-income housing, property assessments and FY19 tax bills, parking $ in Cambridge property, vacancy rates. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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

October 24, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 347-348: Oct 23, 2018

Episode 347 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 23, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 23, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Baseball, Envision Cambridge, some history (Cambridge ECO, CCLN, Parking Freeze, Growth Policy Document, Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance, housing policy changes, Concord-Alewife Plan, Master Plan), Chapter 40B, Subsidized Housing Overlay proposal. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 348 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 23, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 23, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Envision Cambridge, middle-income housing, Central Square murals, formula business regulation. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

October 17, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 345-346: Oct 16, 2018

Episode 345 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 16, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 16, 2018 at 5:30pm. Topics: Baseball, Oct 15 Council meeting, Inman Square, Subsidized Housing Overlay controversy, Envision Cambridge. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]


Episode 346 – Cambridge InsideOut: Oct 16, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Oct 16, 2018 at 6:00pm. Topics: Zero Waste Report, urban design & retail (creating active storefronts), Central Square, upcoming events. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube] [audio]

[Materials used in these episodes]

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: