Council Updates, City Dance Party, And More

The 24th Annual Cambridge Citywide Dance Party, tonight (6/28)


For the second time in two weeks, a cyclist was killed in Cambridge in a crash with a truck, this time at the intersection of Hampshire Street and Portland Street. On Monday there was a vigil at City Hall to remember the victims. Everyone in the community has been reeling and devastated by the two deaths. As a cyclist, who regularly uses our bike lanes, I know how challenging it is to stay safe. Both crashes are under investigation, and it will be important to know what happened to inform our response. Both cyclists were hit by a truck in an intersection, on streets with a separated bike lane leading up to the intersection. This shows us the limits of our infrastructure installations and tells us these lanes alone were not sufficient to prevent those crashes, and deaths. I want to note that this does not mean the lanes are the problem. It does mean that we need to pay attention to intersection design in addition to installing protected bike lanes. I am glad the city is doing a lot to increase road safety and install protected bike lanes – and we should be proud. We are still ahead of nearby cities in installing separated bike lanes, and I hope we continue and others do more. Somerville is following our lead and I hope other cities and towns do as well. We should do all we can in working towards Vision Zero and we need to consider additional ways to improve street safety in addition to bike lanes – and we are moving to do just that. I have more information about some recent policy orders, below, which seek to address those issues.

On Monday night, in addition to our regular Council meeting, I had worked with City staff to schedule a community meeting for neighbors with questions around construction at the Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper Schools. City and project staff were able to meet for some time with dozens of residents about construction details, traffic and safety issues, building timelines, and more. Thank you to the City staff who took time to meet with this large group in the neighborhood.

I got to attend some great events this week. On Tuesday I volunteered at the Taste of Cambridge event. It was a great event with participation from many great restaurants benefitting wonderful non-profits. I highly encourage everyone to attend next year. I was also happy to attend the Green Cambridge 20th Anniversary celebration last night. For two decades this dedicated group has worked to forward our climate goals in a major way. I was involved in the early days, when it was Green Decade Cambridge, following the lead of Green Decade Newton. As founders Alison Field-Juma, Michele Sprengnether, and Sue Butler pointed out, at the time we knew the first decade of the century would be critical for climate progress.  We missed the mark, but did make gains. I’m thrilled that Green Cambridge has thrived and developed and is part of our city’s non profit landscape.

I hope to see you at the City Dance Party tonight! I will be there – we need joyful events to keep on going! More info below.

The next City Council meeting will not be until Monday, August 5, but throughout the summer there will be committee meetings and a lot of work to follow. You can see all the scheduled Council meetings here. Below are some comments on a few top line items from the last week. If you have questions or comments on these or anything else I’ve been working on, please feel free to reach out at any time.

I will be sending occasional newsletters, although not as regularly during the summer. I am hoping to catch up on a number of projects I have been working on over the past year – so stay tuned for reports.

AND Happy Fourth of JULY! (a bit early)


I had a great time volunteering at the Taste of Cambridge event this week.
Founders Alison Field-Juma, Michele Sprengnether, and Sue Butler start off the festivities for the Green Cambridge 20th Anniversary celebration.

Council Updates

Road Safety
As we grapple with the recent cyclist deaths, and as we continue to work towards street safety improvements in pursuit of Vision Zero, below are a few recent actions by the City Council seeking to address dangerous road conditions.

The first was a policy order I filed two weeks ago which asked the City Manager to come up with an engagement plan and put together community events to discuss the Cambridge Rules of the Road, which were recently updated in 2023. There have been a lot of changes to how we get around the city in recent years with the addition of protected bike lanes and with the introduction of more micro mobility devices like e-bikes and e-scooters, so it’s more important now than ever that we make an effort to reach residents of all walks of life to educate them about road safety. There are also important changes at the state level in the last year that are important to understand to maintain road safety like appropriate passing distance for bikes (did you know: drivers must have at least 4-feet in order to pass a bike; did you know: your bike must have front and back lights to ride at night). These are important (and new) rules that will need to be more widely promulgated. This kind of community outreach is important all the time and we should do everything we can to inform residents about changing travelways, but it’s even more essential now, given the recent death of a cyclist.

The second policy order from two weeks ago asks for crash analysis data to be included in Vision Zero planning. The goal is to develop a system of auditing and analyzing infrastructure safety following crashes. I agree with maintaining a methodological approach to improving dangerous intersections. I have brought up this question in the past when discussing safety upgrades at certain intersections – we need to be systematic with our approach to improving street infrastructure, and crash data can help us understand where improvements are most drastically needed.

The third policy order follows up on ongoing work and responds to the latest crash by requesting 1) that the City Manager work with our state and federal delegation to continue to work on sideguard and safety requirements for trucks traveling through Cambridge, and 2) that the City Manager work to identify and make safety improvements to the five most dangerous intersections within the city. The City Council has looked into sideguard and truck safety features previously: we require these safety measures on all City vehicles and all vehicles contracting with the City, but we will need more state and federal action to require them across the board. On the intersection safety improvements, this is also a follow up on ongoing work. I had asked for a similar process of prioritizing intersection safety improvements over a year ago when we were adding a stop sign to an intersection. I asked what intersections were the most dangerous, and asked that a strategic improvement plan be put in place (similar to the 5-year Sidewalk Improvement Plan). Although this work is ongoing, it is important to continue to follow up with these kinds of policy orders to ensure follow through. As I mentioned above, it is clear that bike lanes alone are not sufficient to protect road users and we need to continue to incorporate other strategic safety improvements alongside the bike lanes to better protect vulnerable users.

PFAS Monitoring
Following a policy order I filed last month, the City Manager has submitted a report that provides a good overview of the current thinking around PFAS addressing the local, state, and federal landscape. This report outlines a number of different perspectives to analyze PFAS. Discussions around PFAS contamination in public water supply have been happening and many of you will remember recent investments within the Cambridge Water system with the installation of new carbon filters. It is good to see within the report that our PFAS levels for all 6 analytes within Cambridge drinking water are either undetectable or trace amounts below a quantified level. But drinking water is only one area in which we see PFAS within our ecosystem. I was glad to see the section on Turf athletic fields. We have had this conversation before and I have consistently brought up concerns around artificial turf installation within the city. It is good to see this concern is being taken into account in procuring the new turf at Danehy Park and that independent testing will be completed on turf materials. We have also talked about fire fighting products previously, so I’m glad that information is included here as well. Waste streams are a complicated issue when it comes to PFAS mitigation as the waste outputs there comprise inputs from PFAS infiltration throughout society. Waste stream analysis may be able to better identify the full extent of PFAS contamination within our city’s ecosystems, but removal will still need to be focused on reduction in initial exposure across society. More work will need to be done to understand PFAS in waste products and biosolids, and as the report suggests, the EPA and MassDEP are currently studying this – due to be completed by the end of this year. I hope we continue to monitor and when might we get next regular reports on this important public health issue.

Transportation Demand Management
On Monday, the Council reviewed the 2023 Transportation Demand Management Program report. This program allows the City to work with large properties to help monitor transportation patterns from employer data within the city and helps us consider ways to address our transportation goals. Based on the report, it seems that we should be doing more to incentivize the TDM Program properties to steer away from single-occupancy vehicle use (SOV). These are the properties that we already are meeting with in terms of planning board and CDD review. Hopefully we will be able to influence properties and employees in order to steer them away from car travel. Currently TDM property employees commute 32% by SOV (38% of Cambridge workers overall travel by SOV). I would hope that gap could be larger, given the work we do with TDM properties. Of course we should be working to lower that overall number, but for the TDM properties, we have a more accessible measure of influence. It was also interesting to look at remote work trends and how that relates to travel modes. The data show that when you correct for remote work, SOV travel has gone up, counter to our goals. And, as the report shows, the largest barrier to reducing SOV travel (by a significant margin) is reliable, frequent, and expanded public transportation. And we don’t have direct control over that, so we need to continually be working with the MBTA to improve service at every chance we get – which includes their track improvements this summer, but also includes using our city influence to expand ridership. The report is interesting, and I look forward to continuing conversations around transportation planning.

Zoning Conversations
There have been a number of ongoing zoning conversations within the City and I want to provide a bit of context on how they all fit together. Over the last several years, the Council and City staff have been considering ways to end exclusionary zoning districts within Cambridge and to allow multifamily housing units to be built citywide. It’s no doubt a complicated and nuanced issue, but I am glad we are continuing the discussion on ending exclusionary housing and eliminating single and two-family only zones – I sponsored a policy order with Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Marc McGovern, and Denise Simmons in 2020, which was the first formal request for the city to eliminate exclusionary zoning. It is a bold, actionable step that we can take in short order – to allow multifamily housing across the city. That conversation has taken place in many different venues: I held two committee meetings on the topic back in 2021 and there have been a number of citizen-led petitions, most recently the Ronayne Petition. There are differing opinions on how to achieve that, and the Housing Committee has been considering different approaches. The risk in these discussions is in undermining ongoing work in addressing affordability. As I have said in the past, I prefer the approach suggested by both CDD as well as in the Ronayne petition: making multifamily housing legal across the city by primarily “legalizing” existing housing and allowing homeowners additional flexibility with ADUs; then addressing affordability concerns in tandem with the zoning changes by considering municipal vouchers and workforce housing solutions. I believe that this approach doesn’t risk undermining affordability which other, more wholesale or citywide approaches might. One of those wholesale approaches suggested was the idea of zoning the entire city to six-stories to allow for more housing development citywide. There are a lot of conflicting issues to work out, but I have concerns with this specific proposal from a number of perspectives, including on the affordability side. Making that kind of large, wholesale change can impact a lot of existing zoning in complicated ways. CDD’s presentation suggested it would take some additional thought to tackle the more complex and challenging issues of how to incentivize more affordable housing and to complement 100% affordable housing development with structures like social housing and mixed income models. Zoning changes don’t exist in a vacuum – making too many wholesale changes to citywide zoning without consideration may impact affordable housing production and affordability. It’s a nuanced issue, and I would encourage as much dialogue and community process as possible as we consider these options.

In addition to the multifamily zoning conversation, the Council has also been considering zoning changes to Central Square. This conversation is also running parallel to the Central Square Lots Study, which seeks to find best uses for a variety of City-owned parcels in and around Central Square. For decades the City and the community have been considering ways to enliven Central Square and a large part of that is rezoning. It is disappointing that after so many reports and so many discussions that we have not been able to put in place zoning. I hope that this Council can work to prioritize the work in Central Square. There are also a number of other zoning-related priorities including updates to the shared parking rules, Cambridge Street rezoning, Mass Ave Planning Study, and the additional areas of Alewife that were not included in the Alewife Zoning Working Group. CDD attempted to prioritize some of the work in a memo this week. More work will need to be done to consider priorities as we work through a number of complicated issues. If you have any questions on any of these items, please, as always, feel free to reach out.

Thank you to City staff for taking time this week to meet with neighbors to answer questions related to the Tobin/Vassal Lane construction
The sidewalk is ready for the Citywide Dance Party tonight!

Local Events/Notes

24th Annual Dance Party
Tonight, Friday, June 28th, join the festivities at City Hall (795 Mass Ave) from 6:00pm-10:00pm at the Annual Dance Party. The Dance Party has become a highlight of the City’s social calendar. The festivities will feature three local DJs (DJ Baby Indiglo, DJ Nomadik, and DJ ReaL P) and an evening filled with upbeat music, beats, and dancing. As the sun sets, enjoy the colorful light show and entertainment for partygoers of all ages. In addition to music and the light show, the event will consist of engaging pop-up performances throughout the night. Attendees are invited to stop at the Temple Street block for Play Street activities as well as other exciting and illuminating interactive activities. The event is free and open to the public. Cambridge City Hall is easily accessible via the MBTA Red Line (note: The Kendall/MIT Outbound – Boston to Cambridge – Station will be closed on June 28 after 8:45pm.

Screen on the Green Family Movie Nights and Danehy Park Summer Concert Series
The Department of Human Service Programs’ Recreation Division offers family friendly evening programming every week at local parks during July and August:
Danehy Park Summer Concert Series every Tuesday evening at Danehy Park, local musicians perform live music.
Screen on the Green Family Movie Nights every Wednesday at a rotating park location (check out the DHSP site for details. Family friendly entertainment starts at 7:15pm. Movies are shown outside on a theater-sized screen. Free snacks are provided through the Cambridge Summer Food Program. The event moves indoors during inclement weather.

FOUND Block Party
FOUND in Central Square will be hosting a weekly block party, every Saturday this summer on Columbia Street between Bishop Allen Drive and Main Street from 12:00pm-5:00pm. The first Block Party is Saturday, June 29. Enjoy food and beverages from local establishments with live music giving you a summer worthy soundtrack. Plus you can shop vintage at our stores and other unique items from local vendors such as knick knacks, home goods, plants, jewelry + more. While FOUND markets in the past have only been open to vintage and upcycled clothing, this is a NEW block party series open to ALL vendor applicants for a special summer celebration.

Celebrate Starlight’s “Best Last Day” on Sunday!
The current scope of programming around Starlight Square will be coming to an end this weekend, with the celebration of the “Best Last Day” on Sunday, June 30, from 2:00pm-5:00pm. While this is the end of the current iteration of Starlight, which was a temporary solution to the pandemic, the City will continue to be working with the Central Square BID towards community programming and finding more permanent civic and community space within the Square. Starlight Square was an innovative, community-based solution to the pandemic and over five seasons it evolved into an important and beloved civic space. Join the Central Square BID’s celebration of “Starlight’s Best Last Day” this Sunday!

Red Line Closure
As I’ve mentioned previously, the Red Line will be closed in Cambridge twice in the next two months, this weekend and the second two weeks of July. Please check out the City’s website for more details on the closures and how to get around. The MBTA’s Track Improvement Program aims to eliminate all speed restrictions on the Red Line and to bring the tracks to a state of good repair by the end of 2024. Expect delays while driving and taking public transit during this time. Free shuttle buses will replace regular Red Line trains and the MBTA 77 Bus Route will be free. The first closure begins today, Friday, June 28 after 8:45 pm to Sunday, June 30 (all day) the Kendall/MIT Outbound (Boston to Cambridge) Station will be closed. June 29 and June 30 all day, Alewife to Harvard Square will be closed. The second closure will be Saturday, July 13, to Sunday, July 28, and Alewife to Kendall/MIT will be closed. The City will also be offering assistance by adding temporary bus stops, dedicated bus shuttle lanes, temporary sidewalk improvements, and free Bluebike trips. The July closures will be a massive undertaking and will take the whole of the city to help mitigate. I would encourage everyone in the city to utilize public transportation and non-car travel as much as possible to help alleviate the extensive traffic impact.

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for reading. If there are any topics you want me to cover in future newsletters, I’m always happy for the input! As always, please feel free to reach out to my aide, Patrick (, or me for any of your City Council needs.

You can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested:

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