Cambridge InsideOut - December 20, 2016

Potential Topics:

Dec 19 City Council meeting

Dec 13 Economic Development and University Relations Committee meeting (Abbott Building, Harvard Square Cinema vacant, etc.)

Dec 12 City Council meeting

Central Square is a Grandma

Participatory Budgeting Winners

Zero Waste Plan

Central Square Restoration Petition - Planning Board (Nov 29) and Ordinance Committee (Dec 1) hearings

Little Free Libraries for Central Square?

Updates on the Berkshire Street fire

Emerging City Council candidates for 2017

Sam Gebru (announced, not yet registered with OCPF)

Quenton Zondervan (not yet announced, but registered with OCPF)

Ronald Benjamin (announced, registered with OCPF)

Dennis Benzan (speculated that he'll seek reelection, but may choose to remain in private sector)

Olivia D'Ambrosia (not yet announced, but registered with OCPF)

Aaron King (not announced, not registered, but a likely candidate who has been meeting with people about it)

Romaine Waite (not announced, but may try again)

Ilan Levy (ran in 2015, seem likely to be planning to do it again)

Gary Mello, James Williamson, Greg Moree, and other perennial candidates

Civic Calendar

Closing Down an Unusual Year - Dec 19, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda Notes

This will be the last City Council meeting of the year. Here are a few agenda items worthy of some comment:Darwin's sidewalk sign

On the Table #1 and #2. Sidewalk sandwich board applications (CareWell Urgent Care, Esmeralda) languishing On the Table since being tabled by Councillor Devereux on Apr 25, 2016.

Applications & Petitions #1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. Applications and reapplications for sidewalk sandwich boards for Esmeralda, Honeycomb Creamery, Darwin's Ltd., Marimekko, and Mundo/Lux.

Normally I wouldn't even bother noting such minor goings-on, but when did the lowly sidewalk sandwich board become such a big deal? This year has been the Year of the Mountainous Molehill with the Cambridge City Council focusing excessively on advertising and identification signs on buildings, and on darkening as many lights as possible. We'll soon be a city of totally anonymous buildings that will only be identifiable via iPhone apps. Apparently the only signage that's completely OK is graffiti.

Bunches of Communications supporting the building of 100% affordable housing on the City-owned parking lots on Bishop Allen Drive.

Needless to say, all housing is affordable to someone. So the real question is what mix of household incomes should be represented in any new housing that may be constructed on these sites? Is segregating people by income the best strategy in the long term? The beauty of Inclusionary Zoning is that it integrates people of different income levels within the same buildings. I hope that any housing that may be created on these parking lots at leasts tries to achieve some sort of economic integration. Most of the communications posted in the agenda make no reference to economic integration. In fact, they bear all the signs of an organized effort - nearly identical phrases transcribed in response to an appeal from a single source.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Police Department and other relevant city departments to allow Officer Peter Neal to purchase Rumba upon his retirement.   Councillor Cheung

This is a very nice gesture, but my understanding is that these police dogs (and I've met them all) were trained as bomb-sniffers at some expense and may not yet be eligible for retirement. If Rumba is nearing retirement age, I hope she gets a generous pension of dog bones and biscuits and gets to live happily ever after with Officer Neal.

Order #2. City Council support of asking the Cambridge Historical Commission to initiate a landmark designation study process on the Abbott Building in Harvard Square.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mazen, Vice Mayor McGovern

We all want to see the bones of Harvard Square kept somewhat intact even as new owners and new businesses replace others, and this building is certainly deserving of landmark status. That said, some alteration could still make for a better project. There is, however, something backwards about landmarking only after plans have been submitted. Wouldn't it make more sense to identify and landmark buildings (or entire areas) before they are purchased for redevelopment?

During a recent hearing on Harvard Square that was inspired by this development proposal, one public commenter offered an interesting proposal to create a mid-block alley through this property that would extend Palmer Street and serve as an interesting entryway to any businesses in this building. That would certainly disrupt the "historic facade" of the building, but it was an interesting idea that would be consistent with the many other alleyways and connections that are abundant in Harvard Square. Personally, I just hope that any displaced businesses can be accommodated somewhere in the greater Harvard Square area, though we would certainly welcome them in Central Square or another Cambridge location.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Dec 1, 2016 to discuss the zoning petition submitted by Nabil Sater, et al to amend the Zoning Ordinances in the Central Square Overlay District, Section 20.300.

This petition - the Central Square Restoration Petition - received unanimous approval by the Planning Board at its initial hearing. It usually takes at least two meetings, so that's at least one measure of the quality of this petition. Central Square, however, has always been a political football, so I expect that some councillors will try to modify the petition in some ways, hopefully positive ways, in order to get their fingerprints on the football. It's worth noting that the Planning Board characterized this petition as a good interim measure and made it quite clear that other changes to the zoning in Central Square might be forthcoming as the Envision Cambridge process navigates its way through the next couple of years.


Central Square is a Grandma
Snaggle-toothed and silent
Dozing by a drafty window
In a faded cotton dress.
Her stories need no telling
Even the blind can read her features
In the roughness of her knuckles
Or the rattle of her sigh.
She danced ballet and scrubbed the floor
Raised children and taught them in school
And was a Patroness of the Arts
With big green rhinestone earrings.
She's been in clubs and fights and station wagons
Behind a desk and in the hospital
And life keeps moving into her
Like it does with old people.
When there's Greek music playing
Her feet will stamp and shuffle
And she'll always ask for seconds
When the catfish is fried just right
She may mumble Haitian stories
Or hum a Vietnamese lullaby
While she rolls her endless tortillas
And sips papaya punch.
She's old, as old as we will be
And who wants to be old?
Only old people like old people
We can try to make her young
We can fix her hair up pretty
But the hairpins pinch and scratch her
We can buy her a chrome-plated wheelchair
And push her out of the way.
She'll sleep when she takes her medicine
And she weighs almost nothing
But now her heart must go
There's money to be made.

Hilda Marshall
April 1987

Central Square is a Grandma



Poem "Central Square is a Grandma"
written by Hilda Marshall in April 1987

contributed by Judy Nathans
from her archives

Participatory Budgeting Results Announced: December 14, 2016!

Participatory BudgetingPlease join us tonight from 6-7 p.m. in the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall when we announce this year’s winning Participatory Budgeting (PB) projects!

Over 4,700 residents voted last week in the City’s third PB process. Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It's residents making real decisions about real money. Find out how the $700,000 will be spent on projects to improve Cambridge!

Past winning PB projects include 100 new street trees, a public toilet in Central Square, water bottle fill stations, painted bike lanes, bilingual books for kids, bicycle repair stations, and many others. What projects will win this time? You decide!

For more information, please visit or contact Budget Office staff at or 617-349-4270. See you at the PB polls!

The Winners!

Solar Power Shines! ($260,000)

Safer Crosswalks for Busy Roads ($104,000)

Solar-Powered Real-Time Bus Tracker Displays ($150,000)

Kinetic Energy Tiles ($50,000)

Hydration Stations in Four Locations! ($37,000)

Upgrade the Moore Youth Center ($80,000)

Cambridge Street Art Trail ($25,000)

The total budget for these 7 winners is $706,000

PB Winners 2016

Participatory Budgeting

Over 60 volunteer Budget Delegates worked hard this fall researching 548 ideas submitted by community members and developed 20 final proposals for the ballot. Voters can choose up to 5 of the following 20 projects. You don't need to rank your choices or do any math.

  1. Participatory BudgetingUniversal Design: Playgrounds for Everyone! ($100,000)
  2. Danehy Park: Fitness, Signs, Dog Park Lights & Scoreboards ($140,000)
  3. Shade and Wet Weather Canopies for Playgrounds ($146,000)
  4. Learn about Nature in the Port ($10,000)
  5. Cambridge Street Art Trail ($25,000) - winner!
  6. All-In-One Mobile Performance Stage & Art Space ($98,000)
  7. Lighting Landmarks: CHLS Gate & Sumner Statue ($45,000)
  8. Little Free Libraries for Children ($37,000)
  9. Bicycle Desks for Cambridge Students ($113,000)
  10. Wireless Speakers for Youth Centers ($25,000)
  11. Upgrade the Moore Youth Center ($80,000) - winner!
  12. Free Public WiFi in Columbia Park ($32,000)
  13. Kinetic Energy Tiles ($50,000) - winner!
  14. Solar-Powered Real-Time Bus Tracker Displays ($150,000) - winner!
  15. Building a Strong and Safe Bike Community ($114,000)
  16. Safer Crosswalks for Busy Roads ($104,000) - winner!
  17. Solar Power Shines! ($260,000) - winner!
  18. Hydration Stations in Four Locations! ($37,000) - winner!
  19. Safe Naps for Cambridge Preschoolers! ($4,000)
  20. (2-3) Level 2 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations ($30,000)

To learn more about each project and about the PB voting process, please visit or contact us in the City's Budget Office.

Dec 13 Economic Development and University Relations Committee Meeting

Public hearing to discuss recent and anticipated development projects and commercial and institutional leasing in Harvard Square, and how such changes may affect the future of Harvard Square.

Update from City Staff
City Manager’s Office, Community Development Department, Cambridge Historical Commission

Update from Property Owners and Business Community
Equity One, Colliers International on behalf of Dow Stearns & Trust, Carpenter and Company, Inc., Harvard University, Harvard Square Business Association, Morningside Group

Public Comment, Discussion

Updates on the Berkshire Street Fire

14 Families Displaced by December 3, 2016 Fire Receive Keys to New Housing in Cambridge
City Disperses more than $184,000 in First Week Following the Fire

Berkshire St. fire, Dec 3, 2016Dec 9, 2016 - Today, 14 families displaced by the December 3, 2016 fire in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood of Cambridge can receive keys to their new permanent housing in Cambridge. The City Manager’s Office and the Mayor’s Office are working closely with a housing team comprised of City departments, the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Cambridge Housing Authority to assist displaced households in securing permanent housing. Five additional families will be able to move in to new units at the beginning of next week. The City has identified 37 households needing to find permanent housing.

“The entire citywide response to this fire has been incredible,” said Mayor E. Denise Simmons. “From the opening moments when the first fire fighters arrived on the scene, to the next 48 hours as money started flooding in to assist these victims, to this past week as City Hall was converted into a bustling hive of activity, with scores of victims getting connected with the services they need. This tragic event has shown the very best of Cambridge. The fact that so many of these families are now on the precipice of signing leases or getting the keys to their new homes speaks to the level of coordination and collaboration among the City staff and State agencies. It has truly been a fantastic effort on all fronts.”

Throughout the week, a Disaster Relief Resource Center has been operating at Cambridge City Hall. A collaborative inter-agency team has been able to verify and register 80 families impacted by the fire, representing 166 individuals. The resource center has taken a holistic approach to supporting the various needs of the fire victims, ranging from applying for new housing to providing immediate financial support from the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund. While the resource center at City Hall will close on Friday at 5pm, displaced victims can continue calling 617-349-9484 for assistance.

“Within 72 hours following the fire, the City dispersed more than $87,000 in direct support to the victims,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “Today, we are dispersing an additional $79,000 in bank cards to the 14 families getting keys to their new housing. In total, we have dispersed over $184,000 in donations from the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to distribute the donations that are coming in. All of the money being donated is going to the victims.”

More than $600,000 dollars have been contributed online to the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund. Online donations can be made at www.CambridgeMA.GOV/FireFund.

The Cambridge Fire Department confirmed earlier in the week that 18 properties were impacted by the fire, representing a total of 75 separate units. The fire is being jointly investigated by members of the Cambridge Fire Department, Cambridge Police Department, State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshall, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).






Notable Notes - Weddings, Births, and other announcements

Cambridge Human Services Commission Vacancy

City Manager Louis A. DePasquale is seeking Cambridge residents interested in volunteering to serve on the nine-member Human Services Commission. The Commission advises the City Manager and the Assistant City Manager for Human Services on human services policy issues, needs assessment, and funding allocations.

City SealWorking in collaboration with the Department of Human Service Programs, the Commission also promotes activities that enhance the quality of life for Cambridge residents. Over the years, the Commission has responded to local needs by recommending Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for a wide range of programs offered by the City of Cambridge and community agencies.

The Commission usually meets with the Assistant City Manager for Human Services on the second Thursday of each month, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.

For more information, contact Mike Payack at 617-349-6208 or Commission members serve without compensation. Residents who wish to apply, may send a letter of interest and résumé by January 11, 2017, to:
Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager
City of Cambridge
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

All Cambridge Boards & Commissions

Comments on meetings of the Planning Board (Nov 29) and Ordinance Committee (Dec 1) on the Central Square Restoration Zoning Petition.

Central Square Restoration Petition (or here)

CDD memo to Planning Board re: Central Square Restoration Petition (written Nov 22 for Nov 29 meeting)

Dec 1, 3:00pm Ordinance Committee meeting on Central Square Restoration Petition (committee report)

Response to the “Central Square Restoration” Zoning Petition from the Cambridge Residents Alliance

Inflammatory Flyer distributed in The Port containing false statements re: Central Square Restoration Petition

Zoning Petitions - Past and Present

After the Fire - the Dec 12, 2016 Cambridge City Council meeting (postponed from Dec 5)

Dec 3 fireLast week's meeting was postponed due to the relief efforts associated with the Berkshire Street fire. Any business then before the City Council paled in comparison to the devastation caused by the 10-alarm fire on Sat, Dec 3 in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood. In the midst of it all it was great to see Cantabrigians pulling together to help residents directly impacted by the conflagration. This is a neighborhood where people identify buildings by the names of the families who inhabit them - some for generations.

On the expanded meeting agenda for this week, here are some items of interest:

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with suggested changes to Cambridge’s policy regarding advertising revenue that could help support the continuation and expansion of Hubway in the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Toomey

The economic sustainability of Hubway may require additional advertising revenue or increased user fees (currently $20/month or $85/year). Or you could just buy a bike and a good lock.

Order #3. That the City Manager is requested to make the appropriate staff available to assist the Mayor’s Office in facilitating a community conversation about the roles and intersection of race, class, gender, and culture in Cambridge within the first quarter of 2017.   Mayor Simmons

Mayor Simmons has organized such events in the past and does a pretty good job at it.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council regarding the potential of building affordable housing on City-owned parking lots along Bishop Allen Drive.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Mayor Simmons

At some point, city councillors and City staff will have to start distinguishing between "building affordable housing" and "making housing affordable". As an interim measure, creating housing accessible to low and moderate income people who access it by applying to a government agency or quasi-governmental entity makes sense. However, this contributes to the division of housing into high-cost housing for the well-to-do and subsidized housing for the not-so-well-to-do. It doesn't do much for those who are simply looking for an affordable place to live and who are not inclined to seek government-owned or government-controlled housing. Affordable options for most people should be available without having to apply to a governmental agency.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Law Department with the intention of ensuring that zoning and building code restrictions will not prohibit the rebuilding of the damaged structures and to report back to the City Council with necessary language or steps needed to ensure a straightforward process for families and current property owners to rebuild.   Councillor Toomey

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Inspectional Services Department, the Community Development Department, the Legal Department and any other appropriate city departments to determine what measures can be taken to fast-track the rebuilding of homes impacted by the fire that may be non-conforming with the current zoning code and report back to the Council in a timely manner on what actions can be considered.   Councillor Devereux

These are both very timely, and if there's any need to insert an emergency amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to facilitate this, the City Council should fast-track it. Hopefully there's insurance money to cover most or all of the costs of rebuilding.

Order #6. That the City Manager is requested to ensure that all money raised during this campaign is distributed to the Wellington Harrington residents impacted by this incident and to report back to the City Council when all funds are distributed.   Councillor Toomey

So far it seems that City efforts and the efforts of the Mayor's Office have been well-coordinated with the Red Cross and other agencies. Cambridge should be very proud of all these efforts and those of individuals who have stepped forward to assist with money, materials, and housing.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Director of Communications, the Community Development Department, the Human Services Department, and Public Safety Departments to develop an outreach and communications plan for renters in Cambridge about the importance and availability of renters insurance and consult with these departments to assist low- and moderate-income tenants in acquiring affordable renters insurance policies, and to report back on both orders.   Councillor Devereux

Though clearly motivated by the Berkshire Street fire, the reality is that most Cambridge residents and certainly most residents in this affected neighborhood are renters. Buildings can be rebuilt, but the loss of personal property can be equally devastating. People often don't think about rental insurance, so this is, as they say, "a teachable moment".

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to confer with DCR to request that the speed limit be reduced to 25 mph on Fresh Pond Parkway from the BB&N Upper School campus to the Route 2/16 split west of the Alewife MBTA station.   Councillor Devereux, Councillor Carlone

Though it may not make sense to lower the speed limit to 25 mph on a limited-access highway or an arterial road with relatively few street crossings, Fresh Pond Parkway and Alewife Brook Parkway both have many intersections where vehicles and pedestrians and abundantly present. Since Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are all reducing the speed limit on City-owned streets, the DCR should do the same on all of their roads that operate like major city streets. Having uniform traffic standards regardless of ownership makes a lot of sense.

Order #12. That the City Council’s Government Operations Committee seek to identify a suitable site to honor Representative Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. for his long and distinguished commitment to the City of Cambridge.   Councillor Maher, Mayor Simmons, Councillor Cheung

This is a great idea. I certainly hope that City Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. will continue in his role on the City Council for years to come - maybe even as Mayor.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., Chair of the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 16, 2016 to discuss gradually increasing the parking permit fee and to consider other improvements to the program to help fund the City’s budget towards reducing vehicle miles traveled and to promote alternative forms of transportation.

This was the meeting where some city councillors (Mazen, Devereux) argued in favor of dramatic increases in the Resident Permit Parking fee. Basically, they would like to jack it up as high as they can politically get away with. Councillor Devereux wants to jack the fees up as a way of disincentivising automobile ownership - at least for those with lower incomes. She also noted that Uber does not have enough curb space to pull over and that this could be relieved by driving out resident parking from major streets. In a Twitter post recently she also expressed her desire to double Cambridge parking meter rates like Boston is planning to do in the Seaport District. Gee, thanks.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 27, 2016 to discuss a zoning petition by the City Council to amend four sections in Article 19.000 of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Oct 27, 2016 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Title 15 entitled “Buildings and Construction” by adding a new Chapter 15.22 entitled “Outdoor Lighting.”

Rather than get into the details of all this, I will simply note that it is so classically Cambridge that a proposal that was originally intended to limit light trespass into bedroom windows has now morphed into a showdown on the aesthetics of building signage and architectural lighting. It almost makes me yearn for the days of "spectacular lighting" such as the one adorning the Shell gas station on Memorial Drive or, even more spectacularly, the much-beloved Citgo sign overseeing the good fortunes of the Red Sox. - Robert Winters


8) Continuing Discussion of the Presidential Election Results, the Fallout.
What should we expect over next few years (federal government actions, political realignments, political movements)

Kevin Siers - Nov 22, 2016



A Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the National Municipal League at Chicago, April 28, 1904



[original PDF]


Mon, Dec 19

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Tues, Dec 20

6:00pm   School Committee meeting  (Attles Meeting Room, CRLS, 459 Broadway)

7:00pm   Planning Board meeting  (2nd Floor Meeting Room, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway)

General Business

1. Update from the Community Development Department

2. Adoption of Planning Board meeting transcripts

Public Hearings

7:00pm   City Council Zoning Petition to amend provisions of the Zoning Ordinance related to Inclusionary Zoning including the insertion of new definitions into Article 2.000 and the substitution of revised zoning text for the current text of Section 11.200 through 11.206.

8:00pm   PB#315, Kendall Center, at various street addresses including 145 Broadway, 250 Binney Street and 255 Main Street for which the applicant, Boston Properties Limited Partnership, is seeking special permits pursuant to Section 14.32.2, approval of Infill Development Concept Plan in the Mixed Use Development (MXD) District: Kendall Center for a proposal to increase the Aggregate Gross Floor Area (GFA) in the district from 3,330,000 squre feet to 4,273,000 square feet by constructing two new commercial buildings and two new residential buildings, demolishing two existing commercial buildings an converting the use of floor area in some existing buildings in a manner that affects whether or not is included in the calculation of GFA. Associated site and public space improvements are included in the plan. This will be a new public hearing.

Wed, Dec 21

3:00pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct an additional public hearing to amend the Zoning Ordinance on the petition of the City Council to delete the existing Section 20.700 – Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts; create a new Section 11.800 - Medical Marijuana; and list Registered Marijuana Dispensary within Section 4.35 of the Table of Use Regulations, allowed only by Planning Board Special Permit within Business A, B, B-1, B-2, C, Industry A-1, B-1 and B-2 districts. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

5:30pm   Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Board Meeting  (Police Station, 125 Sixth St., First Floor Community Room)

[Meeting Agenda and supporting materials]

Wed, Jan 4

3:00pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on a petition by the City Council to amend provisions of the Zoning Ordinance related to Inclusionary Housing, including the insertion of new definitions into Article 2.000 and the substitution of revised zoning text for the current text of Sections 11.200 through 11.206. This hearing to be televised.  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, Jan 9

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Wed, Jan 11

3:00pm   The City Council's Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing to discuss a proposed Municipal Code amendment to Chapter 2.125 to change the name to “Cambridge Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Plus Commission.” (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, Jan 23

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)

Mon, Jan 30

5:30pm   City Council meeting  (Sullivan Chamber)