Cambridge Repair Café a Success!
Cambridge Repair Café a Success!
The first Cambridge Repair Café held 9/27 was a great success! The Cambridge Community Center was an amazing host letting us take over the gym and spread out for repairs of electrical appliances, textiles, bicycles, furniture, toys, jewelry and more! 80+ people came to learn how things work and to how to fix broken items. About 70% of the items brought were repaired with help from our 20 knowledgeable fixit volunteers including toasters, fans, blenders, pants, shirts, reusable shopping bags, necklaces, TVs, sunglasses, ceramics, speakers, printers, radios, record players, leaf shredder, piano bench, irons, dehumidifier, lamps, cameras, coffee machines, air conditioners, knives, and shoes. Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page or the Cambridge Chronicle.
Somerville Tool Library & DIY Resources
Join the Somerville Tool Library, opening this fall! It will be housed in Parts and Crafts at 577 Somerville Ave. Membership is open to all area residents. Check their wishlist for tool donations they are seeking. Get a free one year memberships in exchange for a substantial donation. For a $50 yearly fee, members can borrow tools from the library for free according to our user agreement. For more info, email email@example.com or subscribe to the mailing list.
Did you know that the Cambridge Public Library has a huge Do-It-Yourself collection? From carpentry to plumbing and electrical to automotive, the CPL has the resources you need to make your next project a success. Our talented librarians can help you find the materials to achieve your home improvement goals and it’s 100% free. If we don’t have it in our collection, we can get it from one of the 43 cities in our network. So remember, visit the Library to get DIY information you need!
Pumpkins, Leaves & Free Compost Til 10/30
After Halloween, pumpkins are accepted with yard waste for curbside collection (remove candles). But, consider cooking your sugar pumpkins! Chop it and roast in the oven or steam/puree it to use in delicious roasted breads, soups, cookies, pies and more.
Save fall leaves to cover up or bury food scraps in your backyard compost bin, and remember to keep right ratio: 3 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens”. Remember that separate yard waste collection (leaves, grass and small twigs & branches), ends the week of Dec 8-13 and begins again April 1st. For yard waste stickers, order them online, call DPW, or stop by the office.
Cambridge residents can get free compost in small quantities at the Recycling Center during open hours: Tues/Thurs 4pm-7:30pm and Sat 9am–4pm. Bring your own containers and get some while it’s available this year, through October 30. Thanks to Rocky Hill Farm for giving back our food scraps as rich beautiful soil!
Opt Out of Phone Books
Yellowbook will be delivering their phone books to Cambridge residents in December. If you don't want one delivered to your house, visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com. You also can opt out of unwanted mail from retailers, credit card companies, or cable/phone companies from over 4000 companies with Catalog Choice and help reduce waste. For example, you can stop getting weekly circulars from Global Direct, they will honor opt-out requests, so add them to “your choices”. Just register for FREE at CatalogChoice.Org to create an account to start cleaning out your mailbox. Join thousands of Cambridge residents who have signed up and opted out of well over 25,000 different unwanted mailings!
Crazy for Compost: 37 Million Pounds Collected
Cambridge Recycling is proud to announce that over 37 million pounds of food scraps have been diverted from disposal and sent for composting. Together we’re making a big impact: a whopping 36,000,000 pounds from Cambridge businesses; 732,000 pounds at our four food scrap drop-off sites since 2008; 321,000 pounds at the Cambridge Public Schools since 2009; and 91,000 pounds in the curbside compost pilot program in North Cambridge since April 2014. To celebrate these achievements, two City staff Ms. Randi Mail and Meryl Brott both received a 2014 Food Heroes Honorable Mention from Mayor Maher. Visit the Cambridge Recycling table at the Food Heroes Awards Ceremony 10/23 from 5pm-7pm at City Hall, 795 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, where we’ll share tips to reduce food waste and eligible North Cambridge households can sign up to participate for the second half of the pilot. National Food Day, October 24th is a nationwide celebration of healthy, sustainably produced foods and a campaign for better food policies.
Take the 50% recycling pledge today at www.cambridgema.gov/recycle and get a free sticker!
Preview of the Oct 20, 2014 Cambridge City Council meeting
Here are a few items on this week's Agenda that seem interesting and worthy of comment.
Manager's Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 14-36, regarding a report on the feasibility of offering residents an online option to complete the City's annual census.
This is a welcome option that will hopefully streamline the census and save on postage. Ideally, the City could avoid mailing out the form to those residents who have already completed it online.
Applications & Petitions #3. A petition was received from Alvin Helfeld, et al., 417 Concord Avenue, requesting the Fern Street remodeling plan be reevaluated so that parking is allowed on the left side of the street.
Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to consult with City project and traffic planners to see if a compromise can be reached which will allow parking on one side of Fern Street while accomplishing City efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. Mayor Maher and Councillor McGovern
In addition to complaints about the loss of parking in the planned design for Fern St., City officials also plan to force bicycles off the street and onto the sidewalk. This is apparently a nondebatable issue. It's one thing to safely accommodate children by allowing sufficient space on sidewalks away from business zones, but narrowing road lanes to force other cyclists off the road is both wrong-headed and hostile. At least in this case there appears to be about 15 ft. of road width that might safely accommodate both a motor vehicle and a bicycle sharing the lane. Otherwise a cyclist has no choice but to be forced onto the sidewalk. We would all like to see an interesting and artistic plan for this street, but the current plan still needs work.
Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Finance to discuss the feasibility of introducing a Home Rule Petition requesting an increase to the residential exemption. Councillor Toomey
Somerville has already done this. The standard used to be that the City Council could exempt up to 20% of the assessed value of an owner-occupied home from the local property tax. In 2003 the state legislature amended this to permit up to a 30% exemption, and the City of Cambridge has chosen to do this since then. Since the tax levy is independent of this, the net effect (for owner-occupied homes) is to shift the tax burden onto higher-valued homes. In FY15, the break-even assessed value in Cambridge is approximately $1,282,800. Somerville's home rule petition was approved and increased the allowable exemption to 35%. It seems certain that a similar petition from Cambridge would also be approved if the City Council chose to pursue this option.
Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Assistant City Manager of Community Development and the City Solicitor with the intent of producing language for an affordable housing overlay district to be considered by the City Council. Councillor Toomey, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Cheung and Vice Mayor Benzan
Order #20. The City Manager is requested to determine the feasibility of collaborating with partners like the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA), and/or companies in the private and public sector to achieve the desired development objectives in a manner most cost-effective to the City and that ensures the City will retain a high degree of control over the ultimate outcome of the City-owned Lots 5 and 6. Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Carlone
Order #5 doesn't specify whether this "affordable housing overlay district" would be in one or more specific areas or if it would be city-wide (in which case it would be silly to call it an overlay district since it would a city-wide change to the Zoning Ordinance). Coupled with Order #20, one gets the impression that the intention here may be to simply designate some parts of the city as areas where only families whose combined income is below a certain threshold are welcome. This is the antithesis of the more thoughtful inclusionary zoning that creates an incentive for more economically integrated "affordable" housing units, especially in new higher density housing proximate to transit. The required percentage of inclusionary units can and should be debated and possibly increased, but inclusion beats the alternative of economic segregation. It should also be emphasized that Central Square and environs, in particular, should not be the sole location for such a proposed overlay district.
Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to report back on possible next steps to advance the creation of the Grand Junction Multi Use Path on City and CRA-controlled property identified as Phase 1 in the Grand Junction Feasibility Study. Councillor Toomey
The timing of this Order follows the recent release of MIT's study on its share of this corridor.
Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to take all steps to ensure that the owner of the property on the Belmont-owned portion of the Silver Maple Forest is informed of the opposition to the use of Cambridge land is used for this project. Councillor McGovern, Councillor Carlone and Councillor Mazen
Yeah, I'm sure the property owner is completely oblivious to the nearly decade-long series of challenges to the proposed project and the fact that building on the Cambridge portion of this parcel is unwelcome. Did the sponsors of this Order read the following statement from the City Manager in his report last month?: "The project is located within the Little River watershed, which is 8.16 square miles and the larger Mystic River watershed, which is 76 square miles. The project area represents approximately 0.3% of the total Little River watershed and 0.03% of the Mystic River watershed. The project will provide a conservation easement on a total of 7.95 acres, including all of the 2.6 acres in Cambridge."
Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Affordable Housing Trust to investigate the status of the Tokyo restaurant site on Fresh Pond Parkway and if available, consider acquiring this site and report back to the Council regarding findings. Councillor McGovern, Councillor Simmons, Vice Mayor Benzan and Mayor Maher
When I read Orders like this one, I am reminded of the efforts over 20 years ago by some city councillors to create a "Land Bank" consisting of every undeveloped City-owned parcel, no matter how small, that might possibly be available for "affordable housing" development. The plan was hatched with absolutely no regard to the sentiments of existing residents. In fact, included in that plan was the possibility of repurposing a building and part of the playground in Corporal Burns Park on Banks St. as affordable housing. Thankfully that plan went down in flames. Building new housing in the Greater Boston area, including "affordable housing," is essential, but we should also be wary of efforts to identify every single available parcel for this single purpose. Large housing developments are perfect for the including of affordable housing units and a good case can be made for increasing the required percentage of inclusionary housing units in those projects. The Tokyo restaurant site may or may not be a good site for the Affordable Housing Trust to acquire (though it's likely unavailable), but all such proposals have to be considered in the context of their surroundings. It would not be wise to create an atmosphere where residents see the City as an invasion force. In the long term that would likely be counterproductive.
Order #14. That the following amendment to the Zoning Ordinance be referred to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for hearing and report: That the areas bounded by Garden, Walden and Sherman Streets and the park currently zoned Business A be rezoned to Residence C-1 to be consistent with the surrounding area. Councillor Cheung
This is interesting in that the site where Masse's Hardware and its warehouse existed for many years remains zoned in recognition of its previous commercial use even though the abutting neighborhood, including the site of Paddy's Lunch across the street, is zoned as Residence C-1. This proposed amendment would uniformize the zoning. The result would be that fewer housing units could be built there by removing the anomalous zoning that now exists which allows for higher densities. This is not a site that's close to transit, so the case for "smart growth" and higher density housing really is not applicable here. That said, it's unfortunate that zoning proposals are so often reactive than proactive.
Order #16. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of hosting a Cambridge Challenge Competition for Transportation that offers a prize to the resident or group of residents that come up with the best viable solution to solve our greatest traffic issues. Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor Carlone, Councillor McGovern and Councillor Mazen
This could be an interesting exercise. I especially like seeing some of the "out of the box" thinking that can result from these kinds of exercises. Don't be too shocked if some of the proposals include monorails, personal flying machines, or quantum tunnelling. This is Cambridge, after all. Among the entries, I'm sure, will be some creative and viable concepts. Hopefully not all of them will be shot down by residents fearful of change. My own fear is that City insiders will use the exercise to justify forcing more cyclists off the roads and onto the sidewalks.
Order #17. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Community Development Department, the Arts Council, the Department of Public Works to determine the feasibility of creating an adult playground in Cambridge. Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone
I though Cambridge was an adult playground. (It is for me.)
Order #18. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Personnel Director and City Solicitor to determine if a point system similar to the system that awards preferences to Cambridge residents for Affordable Housing units can be used in the hiring process thereby providing a local preference for Cambridge residents when applying for positions within the City of Cambridge. Councillor Toomey
The potential flaw in proposals like this is that it presumes that anyone wishing to work for the City of Cambridge can afford to live in the City of Cambridge. Thankfully there's no residency requirement being proposed. We all would like to see more Cambridge residents getting Cambridge jobs, but if every city and town chose to make this too rigid a rule this would create more problems than solutions. A little incentive may good, but not too much.
Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Deputy City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor E. Denise Simmons, Chair of the Housing Committee for a public hearing held on Sept 30, 2014 with the Community Development Department to provide updates on inclusionary zoning, linkage, the Nexus Study, the three expiring use buildings (Briston Arms, the Close Building and Fresh Pond Apartments) that the City is working to preserve and preferences for affordable housing waitlists.
As many wise people have pointed out, it's far more cost effective to preserve existing affordable housing than it is to build new affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Trust and the Community Development Department have made the preservation of these expiring-use buildings a high priority. The Nexus Study and possible revisions to the linkage fees from new commercial development are long overdue. The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance may also need revision, but everyone needs to understand that requiring additional inclusionary units also likely means permitting additional density. That's most likely a good trade-off. One idea that I hope is explored is the idea of a stepped increase in the percentage of inclusionary units required for larger housing developments. - Robert Winters
The City of Cambridge is looking for new members for its Climate Protection Action Committee. Appointees will fill a limited number of vacancies on the committee. The committee, which consists of residents and representatives of the universities, the business community, and community organizations, advises the City on climate change mitigation and preparedness strategies and measures.
Cambridge has been working on climate change action since 1999. The City has an overall goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. A new set of climate protection goals and objectives was adopted by the City Council this year. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change will require concerted action by the entire community, and the committee is an important element of the effort to develop policies and programs to help residents, businesses, institutions, and organizations incorporate energy efficiency, renewable energy, resilience, and other measures into their homes and work places. For more information about climate protection in Cambridge, see http://www.cambridgema.gov/climate.
The committee generally meets on the second Thursday of the month, from 6-8 p.m., at the Cambridge City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. Any Cambridge resident or representative of a business, institution, or organization based in Cambridge who would like to work to address climate change is welcome to apply.
To apply, send a letter by Monday, Nov 10, 2014 describing your interest and your background to firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail to: John Bolduc, Community Development Department, 344 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139. A resume is also helpful.
After receiving 30 submissions, the City of Cambridge is pleased to announce that four finalists will be advancing to Stage III of Connect Kendall Square Open Space Planning and Design Competition to inspire new and innovative thinking with respect to the public realm.
The finalists include: Somerville based Richard Burck Associates, Cambridge and Brooklyn based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Seattle based Framework, and San Francisco based SITELAB. These teams will each create a framework open space plan for Kendall Square and Eastern Cambridge over the next several months. The public is invited to meet the teams Thursday, Oct 30, at 5:30pm, at Broad Institute auditorium, 415 Main St., Cambridge, hosted by the City of Cambridge and the Eastern Cambridge and Kendall Square Open Space (ECKOS) Study Committee. Attendees will hear from city representatives and the finalists will make short presentations, followed by an informal networking reception.
The competition, sponsored by the City’s Community Development Department, is a unique opportunity to plan a vision for the entire open space network in Kendall Square and eastern Cambridge and vicinity. The city is looking for unique approaches to open space planning and design. Learn more about the competition at www.ConnectKendallSquare.com.
Over the past several decades, Kendall Square has transformed from a former industrial area into a world-renowned center of biotech, high tech research, and innovation. Over the next few years, the City will create more than 5 acres of new and redesigned public open space throughout the area. The framework derived from this competition will help determine the character and role of the new public open spaces in the area (which will be designed as part of separate, subsequent processes), and guide private entities as to potential programming and design of both existing and future open space as part of private developments.
For more information, contact Taha Jennings, Assistant to the City Manager at 617-349-4302 or email@example.com.
City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking individuals to fill vacancies on the Cambridge GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) Commission. Prospective Commissioners must either reside or work in Cambridge.
The mission of the Commission is to advocate for a culture of respect and to monitor progress toward equality of all persons with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Commission also monitors policies and practices that have a positive effect on the health, welfare and safety of all persons who live, visit or work in the City of Cambridge with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. For more information about the Commission, visit www.cambridgema.gov/glbt or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/Cambridge.GLBT.Commission.
Although it is not a requirement for application, it is recommended that applicants attend a Commission meeting to see how it operates. The next two meetings are on October 23 and November 20. Agendas, minutes, and other information can be found on its webpage.
The Commission normally meets on the 4th Thursday of each month and Commissioners are expected to volunteer some time outside of meetings for various projects.
A letter of interest and brief resumé should be sent via e-mail, mail or fax by Monday, Nov 24, 2014 to:
Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
City Manager Richard C. Rossi is seeking persons interested in serving on the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) Advisory Board. Made up of 11 Members who serve three-year terms in a volunteer capacity, the CCPD Board meets on the second Thursday of every month at 5:30pm, at 51 Inman St., 2nd floor conference room, Cambridge.
CCPD seeks to build a Membership that reflects the cultural and racial diversity of the city, is cross-disability in nature and representative of the different geographical areas of the community. Members must be current residents of Cambridge.
CCPD works to maximize access to all aspects of Cambridge community life for individuals with disabilities, strives to raise awareness of disability matters, to eliminate discrimination, and to promote equal opportunity for people with all types of disabilities – physical, mental and sensory. CCPD Members are expected to work with other Members and CCPD staff to fulfill the goals and objectives of the CCPD Ordinance (Cambridge Municipal Code, Chapter 2.96). CCPD Members are expected to attend monthly meetings, participate in subcommittees and work on various short and/or long-term projects, as needed.
"It is really terrific to be part of the policy planning and decision-making chain, on behalf of people and families affected by disabilities,” said Bet MacArthur MSW LICSW, Member of the CCPD Board. “The Commission's energy and attention to disability issues extends our influence far beyond our City operations --- to state, regional, and even national levels -- it's fun to work so productively with a smart, positive group like the CCPD Board."
For more information, contact Kate Thurman, Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities at 617-349-4692 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested persons should submit a letter by Friday, Dec 5, 2014 describing their relevant experience and the kinds of disability-related issues or projects that interest them (along with a resume if possible) to:
Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Are you interested in transportation infrastructure, education, and safety? The City of Cambridge invites interested persons to apply to become members of the Bicycle or Pedestrian Committees.
This committee works to improve conditions for bicyclists in the City of Cambridge and to promote bicycling as a means of transportation. Activities include organizing and participating in public events, such as biannual community bike rides; reviewing plans for road construction; commenting on proposed development projects; creating promotional materials to encourage bicycling in the city; and working with City departments on network planning. This committee generally meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway.
This committee works to promote walking and to help create a more comfortable, safe, and pleasant environment for walking in Cambridge. It advises on the design of roadway projects and policies related to traffic calming, traffic signals, and sidewalk design. It also identifies intersections and other locations where it is difficult to walk, makes suggestions about proposed development projects as they affect people on foot, and undertakes other activities to promote walking. The committee creates and leads fun walking tours for the public. This committee generally meets on the fourth Thursday of each month from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. (November and December meetings are on the third Thursday.)
How to Apply
Applications are sought from dedicated individuals who live or work in Cambridge. Members are expected to attend monthly meetings as well as engage in projects outside of regular meetings. To apply, please prepare a cover letter indicating which committee you are interested in, a description of your interest in the topic, and any specific issues you would like to contribute time to working on. Please be sure to include your home mailing address, phone number, and email. Send your application to:
Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
c/o Diane Bongiorno
Community Development Department
344 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
Application Deadline - Friday, October 31, 2014
Appointments are made by the City Manager and are for two years of service. For more information, call 617/349-4600.
The State Election will be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. For Cambridge residents not already registered, the last day to register to vote is Wednesday, October 15, 2014 until 8:00pm. The polls will be open on Election Day from 7:00am until 8:00pm.
Absentee Ballots are now available at the Cambridge Election Commission office. Any voter who is unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to physical disability, religious belief, or absence from the City may request an Absentee Ballot from the Commission. The deadline to apply for an Absentee Ballot is Monday, November 3, 2014 at Noon. Absentee Ballots may be mailed to voters, or such voters may choose to vote at the Commission office during regular city office hours: Monday, 8:30am-8:00pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30am-5:00pm; Friday, 8:30am-Noon. The office will also be open for Absentee Voting on Friday, October 31st from 8:30am until 5:00pm and on Saturday, November 1st from 9:00am until 5:00pm.
For any additional information, please visit the Cambridge Election Commission office at 51 Inman Street, call (617-349-4361) or visit our website at www.cambridgema.gov/election.
Main Street Water Main Lining, Tues, Oct 14 through Thurs, Oct 16 - Night Work
On Tuesday, October 14, crews will begin the process of lining the water main on Main St. from Ames St. to Wadsworth St. The work is being performed at night due to the necessary water shutdowns associated with the lining operation. All impacted properties have been notified.
On Tuesday evening, crews will line the main from Ames St to the Kendall MBTA Station. Ames St. at Main St. will be closed on Tuesday starting at 8pm, and will reopen once crews clear intersection. On Wednesday evening, October 15, crews will line the main from the Kendall MBTA station to Wadsworth St. (Ames St. will be open during this phase). We expect the operation to take two nights to complete, however crews may be onsite Thursday evening if necessary. Work hours on Tuesday and Wednesday will be 6pm to 6am. We don’t anticipate the lining to be noise intensive, however there will be noise from the generators onsite and crews will need to utilize additional lighting.
Please contact us with any questions or concerns regarding this work.
Community Relations Manager, Cambridge Department of Public Works
147 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
T: 617-349-4870 F: 617-349-4814
Oct 13, 2014 - The Cambridge Community Center (CCC) has appointed Corinne Espinoza, a resident of Cambridge, Mass., as Interim Executive Director.
Espinoza is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the CWD Harvard Leadership Development Program, and brings with her two decades of professional and volunteer experience. Her professional competencies include accounting and finance, change management, process improvement, project management, administration, hiring, staff development, and building management and procurement.
She is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Prior to assuming her new position, Corinne served as a member of the Board of Directors at the Community Center, where she was also a member of the organization's Budget and Finance Committee.
"I care deeply for the Cambridge Community Center and I am thrilled to serve as Interim Executive Director," says Espinoza. "Thanks to years of involvement with the CCC, I know the importance of the resources it provides to this community. This is an opportunity to dedicate myself to work that engages my mind, heart and spirit," she says.
"As a member of our Board of Directors, Corinne has been a dedicated and passionate voice in support of the CCC for many years. She has proven to be a strong asset and I look forward to her continued contributions in her new leadership role," said Lindsey Thorne-Bingham, President, CCC Board of Directors.
Located in the Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge, between Central Square and Memorial Drive, the Cambridge Community Center has been serving the community for more than 85 years. Today its mission is to promote community cooperation and unity, and empower youth, individuals and families by offering social, cultural, educational, and recreational activities. Find out more at www.cambridgecc.org/.
Affordable Rental and Homeownership Programs Information Session - Monday, October 20
The City of Cambridge will be holding a series of free, Walk-In Informational Sessions on affordable rental and homeownership programs at different locations in the coming months. The next session will be held Monday, Oct 20, from 6-8pm, at the Putnam Gardens Community Room, 64 Magee St., Cambridge. Housing personnel from the Community Development Department will be available to discuss the city’s affordable rental and homeownership programs.
For more information, please contact us at 617-349-4622.
Alewife development gets the OK; Developer and city still at odds over parking
Oct 7 - The Cambridge Planning Board approved unanimously a series of special permits to convert the parking lot at 88 Cambridgepark Drive in North Cambridge into a large mixed-use complex. [Cambridge Chronicle story by Sara Feijo]
Sept 30 - The Cambridge Planning Board tonight voted unanimously to grant the Special Permits for the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment. [Cambridge Chronicle story by Sara Feijo]
A Taxing Situation - September 29, 2014 Cambridge City Council Notes
Short agenda this week. Quite likely the most discussed items will be the Orders from last week that were delayed via Charter Right. There's also the formality of tax classification that will be the subject of a 6:30pm hearing.
Manager's Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2015. [Manager's letter]
Charter Right #1. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Five of Sept 22, 2014.]
Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Six of Sept 22, 2014.]
Both of these Orders from last week are helpful. There's nothing especially complex about these proposals. As in the case of a current zoning petition that would make expiration dates for zoning petitions consistent with state law, the most useful proposals are usually pretty obvious and the only question is why it takes so long for city councillors to propose them. Much of this is just good housekeeping.
Charter Right #3. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor McGovern on Order Number Fourteen of Sept 22, 2014.]
Please see comments from last week. If there is one new ordinance I'd love to see in Cambridge, it would be an ordinance mandating the reduction of visual clutter from regulatory signs. You can barely walk twenty feet along many Cambridge streets without encountering another such sign. Enough! - Robert Winters
Interesting Items on the September 22, 2014 Cambridge City Council Agenda
Here's a sample of what's on this week's relatively brief agenda.
Order #3. That the Government Operations, Rules & Claims committee is requested to hold a meeting to discuss changing the terms used in Council "Orders" to more accurately reflect their message. Councillor Kelley
Perhaps Councillor Kelley is interpreting "Order" as might be expected as a former member of the United States Marine Corps. Perhaps the more appropriate interpretation is like when you order from a menu. If this were done verbally, the conversation might go something like this:
Councillor: Excuse me, sir, but may I have fries with that cheeseburger?
OR, as it often goes:
Councillor: What do you recommend?
Order #5. That as we undertake the Cambridge Conversations and the Master Planning Process, the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to study emerging business types in Cambridge and how they are affected by the use regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, and to recommend changes to the Zoning Ordinance that will help classify such businesses in a clear, rational way that supports the long-term interests of the community and instruct the Community Development Department to evaluate appropriate ways to facilitate home-based businesses above and beyond what is currently allowed. Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan
Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department and the Planning Board to begin testing strategies to enhance such engagement at the earliest opportunity by methods such as requiring developers to hold a public meeting in the neighborhood and provide a report along with the permit application describing public input and changes to the project as a result of such input and to suggest changes to the Planning Board rules, which could be adopted by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Ordinance, which could be enacted by the City Council to codify successful community engagement strategies. Councillor McGovern, Mayor Maher and Vice Mayor Benzan
Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate departments to determine the feasibility of conducting a series of walks through Alewife for the purpose of better knowing the area in preparation for the Dec 1, 2014 roundtable discussion about city-wide planning Vice Mayor Benzan, Councillor McGovern, Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone
These are the kinds of Orders many of us have been waiting to see now that time-wasting distractions like the Carlone Petition have been put to bed. Order #6, in particular, proposes a specific procedural change that could help prevent some of the misunderstandings that have been associated with various development proposals.
Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Finance Department to determine the possible structure, size, and plans for a discretionary budget. Councillor Mazen and Councillor Carlone
This smells like trouble. My prediction is that if such a "discretionary budget" is established with which city councillors can vote to fund projects outside of the usual budget process, there will be pressure to grow the budget steadily every year so that councillors can fund extracurricular projects outside of city management. I'm particularly intrigued by the squishiness of the Whereas statement that "With detailed criteria and procedures - and with an agreed upon culture that emphasizes city efficiency and emergent needs, and not personal projects - a Discretionary Budgeting process can make the city even more responsive and innovative." Does anyone seriously believe that such an agreed upon culture will rule the day and that personal projects would be de-emphasized? Anyone ever hear of The Foundry?
Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant state-level authorities regarding the potential for enhanced pedestrian safety measures along Memorial Drive in the vicinity of the MIT Sailing Pavilion. Councillor Carlone
This is a pretty good Order. If one were to make a list of roads and locations in Cambridge that are especially treacherous, that list should include quite a few places along Memorial Drive that are dangerous not only for pedestrians crossing the road but also for motor vehicle operators who park alongside vehicles moving at speeds well in excess of the posted speed limits. I would also put most of Fresh Pond Parkway and Alewife Brook Parkway on my list of dangerous roads for pedestrians.
Order #14. That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of installing "no smoking marijuana" signs in city playgrounds and that signs further provide that persons found to be doing so could be fined in accordance to Massachusetts General Laws: CHAPTER 94C, Section 32L. Vice Mayor Benzan
I believe this Order may need a few more clauses, such as:
Communications & Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting information on the Timothy R. Flaherty, et al. zoning petition recommending referring to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for further hearings and reports.
So like, hey man, how did we miss the expiration date for the zoning petition to expand the area where the medical marijuana dispensary can be built? Bummer, man! - Robert Winters
Postscript: On Applications & Petitions #1, an application from Starbucks requesting permission for three benches in front of 1662 Mass. Ave., Councillor Carlone objected to the placement of the benches directly in front of the premises due to it not being ADA compliant. Though he perhaps didn't explain his objection so clearly, his point was correct. The proposed placement of the benches abutting the building is right where a blind person would least expect them. Good call, councillor.
On Order #3, Councillor Kelley would like to change the term "Ordered" to "Requested" in the wording of City Council Orders. City Clerk Donna Lopez explained that the current wording is consistent with state law and City Council rules. Councillor Mazen opined that the word "Ordered" should be interpreted literally by the City Manager so that he would do exactly what the City Council dictated regardless of other considerations.
On Order #8, Councillor Mazen pushed the envelope even further in his argument for giving the City Council their own "discretionary budget" outside the management of the City administration. The central theme in his argument was that city councillors possess expertise in some areas beyond what City staff can comprehend. You have to love the hubris. This, by the way, is the same Councillor Mazen who several months ago stated, in response to issues raised about personal staff for councillors, that each city councillor should have "full staff". Apparently a single aide is not adequate to support the grand plans and brilliant vision of some individual councillors. Councillor Kelley was refreshing in noting that the proposed "discretionary budget" seemed more like a "City Council slush fund". The matter was referred to the Finance Committee for further discussion after most of the city councillors were dismissive of the proposal.
Wed, Oct 22
3:00pm The City Council's Transportation and Public Utilities Committee will conduct a public hearing to examine the potential for deploying truck side guards across all city-owned trucks as part of a proposed "Safe Truck" program for testing innovative tools that will enhance protections for cyclists and pedestrians. (831 Mass. Ave., Basement Conference Room)
Mon, Oct 27
5:30pm City Council meeting (Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway)
Tues, Oct 28
3:00pm The City Council's Health and Environment Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss the impact of the Silver Maple development on the flood plain. (831 Massachusetts Avenue, Basement Conference Room)
5:00pm The City Council's Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee and Economic Development and University Relations Committee will conduct a joint public hearing for the STEAM working group and its subcommittees to discuss how best to present their research to the greater Cambridge community and for working group members to collectively put forth sound recommendations around: STEAM workforce development and access for all to the innovation economy, and partnerships that will speed the journey. (Main Library, 449 Broadway, Community Room)
7:00pm Planning Board meeting (2nd floor meeting room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)
1. Update by Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.
2. Adoption of the Meeting Transcript(s)
3. Board of Zoning Appeal Cases
BZA 5038 – 2014 – 55 Cambridge Parkway, Sign variance for height, internal illumination and total area.
4. Planning Board procedures discussion and public comment
8:00pm PB#175, Major Amendment to PUD Special Permit and Project Review Special Permit, 1-5, 7-13 and 23 East Street to permit a reduction of the maximum height of the Special Permit’s second phase to 70 feet and a reduction of the maximum number of dwelling units at the Special Permit’s second phase to 300. The Major Amendment to PUD Special Permit and Project Review Special Permit (PB #175) is required pursuant to Section 12.37 and Section 19.25 of the Ordinance. The applicant is Archstone North Point II LLC. This will be the first of two public hearing required pursuant to Article 12.000 of the Ordinance.
8:30pm PB#293, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Project Review Special Permit for a new development within the existing campus of the Harvard Kennedy School. The construction will be approximately 77,000 square feet of new gross floor area. The proponent will also request Board of Zoning Appeal dimension variances for setback relief, height of the proposed loading bays and width of the proposed curb cut at Eliot Street. The applicant is the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Thurs, Oct 30
5:00pm The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 8.28 entitled "Restrictions on Youth Access and Sale of Tobacco Products and Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places." (Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway)
October-November Programs at Fresh Pond Reservation
These events are FREE and open to the public. Children are welcome in the company of an adult.
|A Remembrance of Chip Norton, Watershed Manager for the Cambridge Water Department:
Dates: Fridays from Sept 12 through Nov 21
Kids’ Walks run Fridays, 10-11:30am from September 12-November 21 for young kids and their parents/caretakers. Join CWD staff and volunteers for casual explorations and play in our urban wild! We meet at Maher Park (650 Concord Ave) through October 3. From Oct. 10-Nov. 21., we meet at the Ranger Station (far side of the Water Dept building, 250 Fresh Pond Pkwy). Heavy rain or thunder cancels. Contact: Kirsten at (617) 349-6489, email@example.com. PLEASE REGISTER.
Wake-Up and Weed!
|2nd Annual Cycle to the Source
Date: October 26 (rain-date Nov. 2)
Explore where your drinking water comes from – by bike! Tour Cambridge’s upper-watershed in Weston, Waltham, Lincoln and Lexington where water is collected into the two reservoirs that feed Fresh Pond. This is an athletic tour, entailing 33 miles of riding on a mix of urban and rural routes. The tour is FREE, but please bring your own bicycle, safety equipment and a lunch. REGISTRATION is REQUIRED; please contact Julie Coffey to sign-up, or for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 349-7712.
|Native Seed-Collecting and Saving - with Kate Stafford
Date: Oct 27
Place: Meet at Water Dept. front door
At this workshop, learn how to responsibly and effectively collect wild plant seeds and prepare them for sprouting! Creating a native seed bank is not only fun, it’s also a great way to promote healthy plant communities and improved habitat for wildlife in following seasons. No experience necessary! Space is limited - please REGISTER.
|Purple Loosestrife Fall Data Collection
Date: Nov 1
Place: Meet at Maher Park (650 Concord Ave)
Help Reservation staff monitor biologically-controlled invasive purple loosestrife at Little Fresh Pond! This is a day of science-in-action, so come prepared to collect data in the field. Pants, long sleeves and a water bottle are strongly recommended. No experience necessary! Open to ages 8 and up; children must be accompanied by an adult assistant. Please REGISTER so that equipment can be coordinated.
|Knowing Trees by their Buds
Date: Nov 2
Place: Maynard Ecology Center (Bsmt of Neville Place, 650 Concord Ave.)
Did you know that you can identify a tree in winter by looking at its buds? Careful examination will reveal that the buds of each species are unique. Ranger Jean Rogers will show you how and will lead this walk from the Maynard Ecology Center to the nearby Lusitania Wet Meadow. For more information contact Ranger Jean at email@example.com or call 508-562-7605. Please register for this program by Oct 26 so we can be sure to have enough materials available. Please park at the Tobin School, 197 Vassal Lane if you do not have a resident parking sticker.
|Tours of the Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Facility
Dates: Nov 3
Time: 6:00 to 7:30pm
Location: Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility 250 Fresh Pond Pkwy
The Cambridge Water Department is offering tours of the City's beautiful Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility. The program will include a virtual tour of the Cambridge water supply system, explaining the process by which water that falls as rain in the suburbs 10 miles west of Cambridge is transported to Fresh Pond and made into pure drinking water for our city. Come, and bring your questions. For more information and parking directions, contact Kirsten at (617) 349-6489 / firstname.lastname@example.org
|1st Annual Fresh Pond Great Gobble Give-Back
Date: Nov 22
Place: Meet at Ranger Station
Do you drink Cambridge tap? Do you run, walk, bike, yoga or play at Fresh Pond? Show thanks for the clean drinking water and beautiful recreational space Fresh Pond provides – lend a hand! Volunteer activities will include trail maintenance and invasive species removal to protect important habitat and prevent soil erosion. Sturdy, close-toed shoes required; long pants, long sleeves and a water bottle are recommended. All tools are provided, and no experience is necessary! Appropriate for ages 10 and up. IF you are volunteering as a group, please register with Kirsten at (617) 349-6489 / email@example.com, thank you.
Would you like to join Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation? Membership in Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation costs only $10 per year ($5 for seniors and students, $15 for families). To join, fill out a membership form available in the Ranger Station information racks, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 617-349-6489, or visit our website at www.friendsoffreshpond.org to download a form.
Keep up to date on events at the Pond. Visit the Friends group website at http://friendsoffreshpond.org to learn more about Friends group activities and the reservation and its inhabitants. Upcoming Programs
• The Fresh Pond Reservation Stewardship Program
• Grow Native Massachusetts is offering a series of free nature-related "Evenings with Experts" lectures at the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. Details are at www.grownativemass.org and grownativemass.org/programs/eveningswithexperts in particular. First Wednesdays of the Month, 7:00-8:30pm.
• Sign up for the City of Cambridge's informative "Recycling and Composting Newsletter" by e-mailing email@example.com.
|AMC Local Walks/Hikes - Come for a walk or hike with us.|
|Fri, Oct 24. Historic Streets of Boston. Leisurely 4-mi walk. Back Bay, South End, Beacon Hill. 6:45-9:00pm. Meet outside Park St. T-stop at wall/fence abutting Park St. Walk ends at Charles Station; early options to leave near Arlington, Park St. stations. Storm cancels. L Marc Hurwitz.||Sat, Oct 25. Lincoln/Weston Conservation Land. Fast-paced 7-mile hike to remote areas, including Ogilvie and Jericho woods, 9:30am-1:30pm. Bring lunch, water. Meet Lincoln RR Station. Rte.95/128 exit28, Trapelo Rd. W 2.5mi. to stop. L onto Lincoln Rd. 1.3mi. to Lincoln RR sta. pkg. on R before tracks. Rain cancels. L Marc Hurwitz.|
|Sun, Oct 26. Greenwood Park, Middlesex Fells, Stoneham. Easy 2 hr. walk in Middlesex Fells. Meet at 2pm at Greenwood Park (across from Stone Zoo). Take Rte. 93 to exit 34. Go N on Rte. 28 to South St., right to park. Bring sturdy shoes, water and snack. L Betsy Goeke.||Sun, Oct 26. Charles River, Cambridge/Boston. 5 mi. walk to Public Gardens, Boston Common, along river, crossing 3 bridges & end at Kenmore Sq., 10am-2pm. Optional lunch & social hr. after. Bring snack/water. Meet outside Kendall Sq. T sta., Cambridge. Storm cancels. L Sara Epstein.|
|Sun, Oct 26. Dogtown Commons, Gloucester. Halloween hike to see witches homes and moral admonitions carved on boulders. Slow-paced, 6- mi. rocky hike with some steep sections, 10am-4pm. Bring lunch/water/boots. Rte. 128N to exit 10, the 2nd rotary in Gloucester. Go right 3/4 way around rotary into Blackburn Industrial Park & park along road. L Jerry Yos.||Sun, Oct 26. Caryl Park, Dover. Fast-paced hike, 10am, 5mi. Rte.95/128 exit 19, Highland Ave. 1.8mi. to Needham Ctr., R onto Rte.135 1 block, L onto Chestnut St. S 1.5mi., bear R at fork onto Dedham St. 1.5mi. Pkg.lot on L (tennis courts) past Mill Farm. L Joyce Beatty.|
|Sun, Oct 26. Walking Tour of the Arnold Arboretum. [Flyer for event] Meet at 10am at the Arnold Arboretum for a walk sponsored by the National Park Service. “The Arnold Arboretum: Nature That Inspires” is a leisurely two-mile walk that will explore the roles that artists played in early conservation efforts. Participants will learn how the design of the Arboretum helped people connect to nature in a public park, just as early photographs and vivid writing enticed tourists to Yosemite. [Note: This is not an AMC event, but it should be great.]||Sat, Nov 1. Grassy Pond Conservation Land, Acton, MA. Slow-paced nature walk through woods and fields focusing on plant ID and fun natural history. 9:30am-12:30pm. Rte. 2 to Exit 42 (Rte. 27/Main St., Acton) Follow Rte. 27 north for about 1 mile through Acton Center and turn left on Nagog Hill Rd. Travel Nagog Hill Rd. for about 1.1 miles. Parking on left just past the small meadow. No registration. Parking limited, arrive early. Heavy rain cancels. Boot Boutwell is a freelance itinerant naturalist who teaches and leads nature walks for Mass Audubon, The New England Wild Flower Society, The Winchester Public Schools, and The Friends of the Middlesex Fells as well as the AMC. L Boot Boutwell.|
|Sat, Nov 1. Boston's Developing Waterfront. Moderately fast-paced walk. Explore Ft. Point Channel, Marine Industrial Park, Seaport District, Rowe's Wharf, Rose Kennedy Greenway. 10:00am-2:00pm. Meet at South Station (Red Line T) indoors at exit to Dewey Square. Bring lunch, water. Heavy rain cancels. New members welcome. L Sharon Marshall.||Sun, Nov 2. Blue Hills Hike, Milton. Hike 7 miles on a variety of trails in the Blue Hills Reservation, some steep, including the Skyline Trail with views, 10 am-3 pm. Meet at Houghton's Pond parking lot. From I-93/Route 128 Exit 3, go north to the stop sign at Hillside Street and turn right. Go 0.2 miles to the lot on the right. Joint with Friends of the Blue Hills. L Steve Olanoff.|
We're taking a few weeks off from Cambridge InsideOut. We're down a co-host and considering our options.
Recent Broadcasts of Cambridge InsideOut [complete list of shows]
June 10 - Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 63 and 64 with Glenn Koocher
We had a great time doing these shows with the man who invented the original Cambridge InsideOut - Glenn Koocher.
Watch Cambridge InsideOut on CCTV every Tuesday at 5:30pm and 6:00pm. The co-hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters.
Cambridge Selected to Compete for $5 Million Dollar Energy Efficiency Prize
Aug 12 - The City Cambridge was one of 52 communities across the country selected to advance to the quarterfinalist round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), a $5 million incentive competition to reduce America’s energy consumption.
Cambridge has assembled a municipal team, outlined a plan and secured signed commitments of collaboration from NSTAR, MIT and HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team).
“Getting to the Quarterfinals is just the beginning, now the Cambridge community needs to generate real energy savings by upping everyone’s commitment to energy efficiency and solar,” said City Manager Richard C. Rossi.
Cambridge is motivated to succeed because it currently pays some of the highest energy prices in the country, so the next challenge is to motivate renters, landlords and homeowners to tackle energy efficiency and solar installations. Significant energy efficiency strides are necessary for the Cambridge community to achieve net-zero for all energy use in buildings.
In total, over the two years of the GUEP competition, Cambridge and other participants have the potential to save more than $1 billion in total energy costs and cut millions of tons of CO2 emissions.
“The communities GUEP selected are leaders in energy efficiency who will develop innovative approaches that will inspire and enable others to follow in their footsteps,” said Dr. Francis Slakey, Founder and Executive Director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize.
“Over the next few months, we will fine tune our energy efficiency plans and look for input and participation from the community through our school children, educational institutions, landlords, tenants and homeowners,” said Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development. “We welcome hearing from individuals who want to volunteer their time and energy to making Cambridge the home of energy innovation.”
About Georgetown University Energy Prize
The Georgetown University Energy Prize aims to rethink America’s energy use by harnessing the ingenuity and community spirit of towns and cities all across America. Over the course of a two-year period, the Prize will challenge small- to medium-size towns, cities and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. To compete for the Prize, local governments, residents, utilities and others will need to work together to demonstrate success in sustainably reducing energy consumption. For more information, visit www.guep.org.
August 8 - I just returned from the wake for Walter J. Sullivan. Though the event is the death of a great man, this was a thoroughly joyful experience. So many people from all walks of life were there, including many people from political life past and present. It was like a walk down a half century and more of Cambridge history - and not the history of buildings and events. This is the history of the many long time families of Cambridge - and everybody knew Walter. - RW
July 30 - I attended a City Council Ordinance Committee today on the topic of the Carlone Petition that would transfer much of the Special Permit granting authority from the Planning Board to the City Council for the next several years. This is perhaps the second worse zoning petition I've seen introduced over the last three decades. Though I had not intended to speak at the meeting, after hearing all the rubbish that was said during public comment, I really had to chime in with a little perspective. It's unfortunate that Councillor Toomey couldn't make the meeting (it was a very busy day at the State House) because as a city councillor since 1990 he would have been able to provide the kind of institutional memory that some of the new kids on the block simply don't possess. It is at times like this that I really miss Councillor Reeves who could usually be counted on to set the record straight.
One thing that some councillors forget, never knew, or perhaps just want to avoid is the whole idea behind devices like Special Permits, Overlay Districts, and Planned Unit Developments. There was a time when zoning was a lot more cut and dried. Districts were designated as Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and perhaps another category or two. There were also some mixed districts such as neighborhood-scale mixed retail and residential. (I live in such a district.) There were also established limits on height and density and setbacks appropriate to some districts, though there were also zones with no such limits. The zoning determined what you could build "as of right," and you did not have to go to the Planning Board or the City Council just as long as your plans did not exceed the prescribed limits. On some occasions you might have to seek a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals if you needed a little relief. It was all pretty simple.
Over time, the allowed heights and densities have been increased when there was a desire to attract new construction or, in more recent times, to "downzone" to lower heights and densities in response to demands for "liveable neighborhoods." The last few decades also saw the introduction of Overlay Districts and Planned Unit Developments as devices that would allow the Planning Board to have a little more flexibility as a means of extracting desirable outcomes. One device that was used in conjunction with these districts and, more recently, in some other districts, was the Special Permit process.
The basic (and very good) idea of the Special Permit process is this: Cap what can be built as of right (by lowering heights and densities), but allow a property owner/developer some additional height or density in exchange for providing certain carefully specified benefits. These constitute the Special Permit Criteria. It's really a form of gentle extortion for the public good. Better building design, publicly accessible open space, additional housing are examples of Special Permit criteria, and it's the City Council who votes on what criteria are specified in the Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Board (in conjunction with City staff) is then charged with ensuring that the criteria are met, and the deal is pretty simple: Meet the criteria and you get the Special Permit.
It has to be emphasized that this is not a blank check. There are still limits on height and density for projects built under a Special Permit, and it's all laid out in the Zoning Code passed by the City Council. Fortunately, there's an expert Planning Board and City staff to sort out all the details. They don't have too much discretion to address "bigger issues" because that was never intended. The Planning Board are not the policy-makers. That task is left to the elected City Council and that's what they do when they amend the Zoning Ordinance. This includes modifying the Special Permit criteria depending on what incentives for the public good they decide might be extracted via the Special Permit process. Even in the disposition of proposed zoning amendments, whether those proposed by residents or by the Planning Board itself, the Board only makes recommendations to the City Council, and it's up to the City Council to adopt, amend, or reject the proposal.
Creating incentives for new housing via Special Permit in former industrial areas was an initiative of the City Council a little more than a decade ago. Not too much housing was produced at first, but in recent years the goal of new housing has been happening at a quicker pace. It's happening because the City Council wanted it to happen, and now newly-spawned groups such as the Cambridge Residents Alliance (CRA) and the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance (FPRA) are howling in protest. Instead of proposing modification of the Special Permit incentives, we instead get the Carlone Petition (which, by the way, was also signed by Councillor Mazen). It will be a shock if it gets more than those two votes, and it requires six votes out of nine to pass. The best course of action for the City Council would be to discuss it briefly at the next Ordinance Committee meeting and then forward it to the full City Council with a negative recommendation. Then they can process it into the dumpster in September.
The Carlone Petition survives now only as a political organizing tool for Carlone (and Mazen), Carlone's supporters, and his paid City Council aide Mike Connolly who is receiving a City paycheck for what is fundamentally outside political activity with the CRA. [This, of course, was inevitable when these Council aide positions were established. Virtually all of these aides played significant roles in the elections of the people for whom they now work, and it's hard to imagine firing any one of them without inviting retaliation from the associated councillor.] The City Council could and should be tackling more significant matters, including adjustments to the Special Permit criteria if they feel the need. There were a lot of good ideas generated during the K2C2 process that are languishing on the back burner while time and effort is wasted on Carlone's Folly. Now would be a good time for some leadership from the other seven city councillors. - Robert Winters
Magazine Beach Park is located on the Charles River at the foot of Magazine St., Cambridge, MA.
Plenty for all...this summer & fall
For news & event updates: www.magazinebeach.org -- In case of rain, check event updates on our website.
June 9 - This week Cambridge received the Congress of New Urbanism Charter Award, regarded as the preeminent global award for excellence in urban design.
|MBTA Role in Jump-starting Development of the Cambridge Center Project Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project, 1979-1989
By Thad Tercyak, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, Associate Director, 1968-1990
A new report is estimating that the greater Boston area will need another 435,000 new housing units by 2040 to lure new workers and accommodate an aging population. [Reports available here]
Note: When comparing the peak population of Cambridge back in the 1950s (over 120,000) to what it is today (perhaps 107,000) it's important to keep in mind that families were typically much larger then. It's also the case that what people find acceptable in terms of living space and amenities has changed dramatically over six decades. This translates into considerably more "units" of housing (and higher density) in Cambridge if the population should rise to levels close to what they were in days of yore.
K2C2 Final Reports Released
The final reports for Kendall Square and Central Square are now available for download. Zoning discussions based on the recommendations of the K2 and C2 Advisory Committees, which are encapsulated in these reports, will continue in 2014.
Central Square Final Report 2013 Part 1, December 2013
Central Square Final Report 2013 Part 2, December 2013
Kendall Square Final Report 2013 Part 1, December 2013
Kendall Square Final Report 2013 Part 2, December 2013
This comprehensive planning effort guided by stakeholder advisory committees, City staff, and a team of multidisciplinary consultants led by Goody Clancy, developed a vision and master plan for Central Square, Kendall Square, and the area South of Main Street (including the Osborn Triangle) connecting the two squares. Both final reports are divided into two parts; in each case you will need to review both parts to read the entire report.
The Advent of PR in Cambridge
originally published in the Cambridge Civic Journal on Feb 12, 1998
April 2, 2013 - Well, that was fun. Thanks to everyone for being such a sport on April Fool's Day.
Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 Recommendations (Nov 28, 2012)
The Neverending Study of Central Square
Aug 11, 2012 - While preparing to write a series of essays on Central Square, I put together the following list of Central Square studies culled from a variety of sources. I have originals for most of these. If you know of any others, please let me know. - Robert Winters
June 1980 - CDD booklet entitled "Facade Improvements" with focus on Central Square
Apr 1983 - "Central Square Report" produced by City Council's Central Square Subcommittee (study began in 1980 or 1981)
1987 - A report produced in 1987 about a Subcommittee that allegedly built on the 1983 report (may be same as Central Square Action Plan)
Nov 1987 - Central Square Action Plan
May 1993 - Results of the "Mayor's Forum on Central Square"
Oct 1993 - Report by the Committee to Promote and Enhance Central Square Now!
Aug 1994 - A Study of the Visual Images and Signage of Central Square (CDD)
May 1995 - An Urban Design Plan for Central Square (executive summary)
May 2001 - Summary Notes from "A Conversation about Central Square"
Feb 2000 - The Gibbs Report, Central Square Commercial Market Study
Oct 2004 - Central Square, Cambridge - Rising Fortunes at a Regional Crossroads (Rekha Murthy)
Dec 2004 - Reviving a Traditional City - Central Square, Cambridge, gets a facelift (Rekha Murthy)
June 2005 - Street Media: Ambient Messages in an Urban Space - a photographic analysis of Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Rekha Murthy)
2013 - K2C2 Final Reports
THE TASTY DINER of HARVARD SQUARE - A film by Federico Muchnik (33½ minutes)
FYI - Current Rules and Goals: Cambridge City Council & Cambridge School Committee
City Council Rules 2010-2011 (adopted January 4, 2010 and amended April 5, 2010)
City Council Goals - FY2010-2011 (approved February 2, 2009)
City Council Committees (for the 2010-2010 term)
School Committee Rules (adopted January 7, 2008)
School Committee Goals (adopted October 7, 2008)
June 7, 2009 - Once upon a time there was a civic organization in Cambridge known as the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA). It was formed in 1945 out of several organizations that had been existed through the 1930s and that had lobbied the state legislature to create the Plan E Charter option (1938) which featured a city manager form of government and proportional representation elections for city council and school committee. These reforms were central to model charter reform movements active in the United States from the early 1900s. The central theme of the CCA in its early days was "good government" in the sense of being anti-patronage and for professionally managed local government. This changed with the introduction of rent control at the end of the 1960s after which the CCA shifted leftward and became permanently lashed to the mast of the rent control vessel. Though the CCA still exists on paper (I believe), it rapidly declined after the statewide abolition of rent control (late 1994) and essentially disappeared a decade later (early 2005).
I bring up the ghost of the CCA today only to point out that when it was created it had some very admirable goals. Here's the original Mission Statement of the CCA:
Purposes: This association is formed for the following purposes:
- 1. To promote businesslike, honest, and efficient conduct of local government, open to public scrutiny.
- 2. To induce residents to take an active interest in the affairs of the City of Cambridge.
- 3. To encourage and support the candidacy of men and women seeking election to public office and to support intelligent, wholesome leadership in public affairs.
- 4. To assure that the best qualified persons are appointed to positions in the City government after consideration of all qualified candidates.
- 5. To promote among the citizens of Cambridge equitable distribution and benefit of public services and equal opportunity for economic security, education, and social advancement.
These are pretty good founding principles for a civic organization and I'm tempted to say that some should be incorporated into the recently adopted City Council's Goals for FY2010 (adopted Feb 2, 2009). In fact, of the 22 current goals, the only one that comes close is: "An increased level of recruitment and opportunities for membership on boards and commissions." The current Council goals emphasize things like "fostering community" via block parties and such, though one has to wonder if the City should be promoting these activities or just getting out of the way so that people can foster community on their own. The goals also seem to put some emphasis on developing "successful nightlife campaigns" while mentioning nothing about promoting ordinary "daytime" economic activity that supports the everyday needs of residents.
One founding principle of the CCA that fell into disuse over the years is listed above as #3: To encourage and support the candidacy of men and women seeking election to public office and to support intelligent, wholesome leadership in public affairs. Indeed, I can personally testify to the fact that in its dying years the only reason the CCA made endorsements at all was because the CCA-endorsed incumbents wanted the benefit of having an advertised CCA slate of candidates that would help secure their reelection. There was precious little effort to recruit new candidates or to support them. Today, the benefits of incumbency are greater than ever. The cost of political campaigns have become absurdly high and most of the incumbents now have (City paid) staff who are inevitably political appointees who directly or indirectly assist in the reelection efforts of their bosses. The deck is increasingly stacked against challengers. Furthermore, the salary and benefits for elected councillors are now so sweet that it is unlikely that any of them would ever want to move on to another job.
With this background in mind, I would like to encourage all Cambridge residents to help level the playing field by finding out about this year's challengers for seats on the Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge School Committee. This is not meant as a dig against any particular incumbent as much as an appeal to support the challengers in what is a difficult and laudable effort. Please see the Cambridge Candidate Pages for the current list of expected candidates. Then use your own judgment - don't expect me or anyone else to do it for you.
Speaking of this year's municipal election, there are some activists who are now expending great effort to attack the City Manager and most of the current City Council. That is not nor has it ever been the intention of the Cambridge Civic Journal or its editor. Candidates are now being seduced by financial promises from one angry fellow with a Brattle Street address and a basketful of grudges. Former CCA Executive Board members from its darkest and most manipulative days are oozing up from the civic swamp trying to at last make good on their failed campaigns of the early 1990s to oust city manager Bob Healy.
It's entertaining to watch people who have primarily earned disrespect in their civic efforts try to capitalize on the recent Monteiro jury decision as a means of realizing their decades-old vendettas. Conveniently forgotten in their recent letters to Cambridge's "oldest weekly newspaper" are the many achievements of City Manager Bob Healy, the strong financial position of the City, and the recent 8-1 vote of confidence bestowed upon Mr. Healy in granting him a three year contract extension. Also missing in this testimony is the fact that virtually all affirmative action in the hiring of employees and department heads has taken place on Mr. Healy's watch. These letters also fail to divulge how long these writers have been carrying their jealousy and anger toward Mr. Healy for actually orchestrating progress in Cambridge while the best they could ever do is snipe from the sidelines. - Robert Winters
This Old Land of Cambridge - The true story of the geological history of Cambridge - by George Ehrenfried
Sadly, George passed away (Jan 5, 2010) at the age of 96. He led many a geology-themed hike with the AMC Local Walks/Hikes.
Selected City of Cambridge References:
Mass. General Laws Chapter 54A (governing Cambridge's PR elections)
Pen Portraits of Prominent People - by Henry J. Mahoney Editor, Cambridge Sentinel - 1923
This book was published c. 1923 and features very witty one-page “pen portraits” (with photo) of prominent Cantabrigians of the day. I'll be adding names alphabetically as time permits. There are 182 portraits in the book.
It comes to mind that there may be some value in expanding these profiles to other prominent Cantabrigians who arrived on the scene after 1923, including prominent Cantabrigians of today. With this in mind, I extend the invitation to any and all who may wish to contribute their own “pen portraits” of Cambridge people. Contributions do not necessarily have to be in the style of Mr. Mahoney. Inclusion is, as always, subject to the erratic discretion of the editor.
Special thanks to Karen Welch for sending me the book. - RW
Political History of Cambridge in the 20th Century
Which People's Republic
Cambridge School Volunteers is looking for people who can give one to two hours per week to help students in the Cambridge Public Schools, grades K through 12. No experience necessary. Call 617-349-6794 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Oliver Wendell Holmes – Morning Exercises of December 28, 1880
As recorded in the book 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of Cambridge (1881)
Robert Winters, Editor
Cambridge Civic Journal
(about me - updated!!)
The Cambridge Civic Journal is an independent newsletter of civic affairs in the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is published as a public service by Central Square Publications. All items are written by Robert Winters unless otherwise noted. [Of course, I do sometimes forget.]
Thoughts for these times:
''This is our fucking city, and nobody is gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.'' -- David Ortiz
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“The Number One thing I would emphasize is that journalists and bloggers would do well to see themselves as partners in the provision of information and that each can benefit greatly from the other. I’ve never seen this as a competition. It is especially true these days that local papers and young journalists are not very well-versed in the communities they serve. Much of the institutional memory has either died out or been bought out.” -- Robert Winters, mathematician and creator of the Cambridge Civic Journal, an online publication about Cambridge, MA (rwinters.com)
Jorkin: “Come, come, Mr. Fezziwig, we’re good friends besides good men of business. We’re men of vision and progress. Why don’t you sell out while the going’s good? You’ll never get a better offer. It’s the age of the machine, and the factory, and the vested interests. We small traders are ancient history, Mr. Fezziwig.”
Fezziwig: “It’s not just for money alone that one spends a lifetime building up a business, Mr. Jorkin…. It’s to preserve a way of life that one knew and loved. No, I can’t see my way to selling out to the new vested interests, Mr. Jorkin. I’ll have to be loyal to the old ways and die out with them if needs must.”
Scrooge: “I think I know what Mr. Fezziwig means, sir.”
Jorkin: “Oh, you hate progress and money, too, do you?”
Scrooge: “I don't hate them, sir, but perhaps the machines aren’t such a good thing for mankind, after all.”
Memorable scene in "A Christmas Carol"