Council updates – climate crisis, zoning, LEED Platinum

All:

An odd week. News from much of the country, especially Texas confirms once again that the climate crisis will continue to cause chaos and pain. Wind turbines and solar panels are the parts of the grid in Texas outperforming expectations – while gas and oil are disproportionately out of commission…. Do we need more reminders that we must urgently move to change our patterns of energy use? Here in Cambridge we also have to move more urgently towards renewable energy and mitigation of climate effects. Yesterday I attended the Climate Resiliency Task Force meeting where recommendations were discussed. They are on point, logical and necessary. AND not bold enough, not strong enough and not impactful enough. Climate change is already upon us and hurting the most marginalized. I hope the task force pushes us to do all we can to mitigate the effects of the present day crisis. 

An especially odd week for me since I’m WFA – Working From Away. I drove down to Richmond VA for a week with my husband to accompany our son and save him from driving the entire way alone. The pictures above are from Monument Avenue in Richmond. My own appreciation of history was enhanced by witnessing the scale of the monuments to Confederate Leaders – far grander than the statues on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Five of the six statues have been removed – only the pedestals remain. The final, Robert E. Lee remains since it is on land owned by Virginia, not the city of Richmond. They were taken down only in the last year, after the George Floyd protests. Only in 2020 did the city remove monuments to leaders of a sedition; leaders who lost a war; leaders who fought a war to keep African Americans enslaved. And others remain across the country. Stunning – imagine being Jewish, or LGBTQ, or Roma and walking along a magnificent street in your city with large statues praising Hitler and Mengele and Eichmann. History matters. Monuments matter. What you honor matters.  

I also learned/was reminded this week that the Revolutionary War was only won since the colonists were righteous in their cause and scrappy. And the Boston area was not the only place the Revolutionary spirit prevailed. Here in Yorktown, VA, where I write this note, the final naval battle of the war was fought. Cornwallis was trapped, the battle lost and the USA effectively won its war…. And almost certainly the fledgling democratic republic would not have prevailed without major help from France. In case you’re wondering, turns out winter is still winter even this far south…. And upon return we’ll follow state guidelines – and quarantine until cleared by negative test results. 

There are still ongoing drives and efforts to help folks suffering from the pandemic. Don’t forget to check city and state information hubs – on covid vaccines (more below), on testing, on what’s open, on safety protocols. Encourage masking, hope and/or pray that our numbers as a city continue to show progress.  

There are many incredible offerings online- from webinars to music to panel discussions. One of great interest to me are Harvard’s offerings – I recently attended one on political reform. And the Boston Foundation has one coming up on March 11 Mobilizing for Opportunity – on a critically important question – recent research of the labor market experience of recent college graduates from the Boston Public Schools. I encourage you to snoop around the internet, ask friends, scour the paper and participate in one. Cambridge is hosting a number of events as well – including an event at the library with authors Danielle Evans and Kimberly McLarin, celebrating Black History Month.  

Stay safe, 

Patty

Council Agenda

Below are a few items of interest from next Monday’s agenda, and a recap of a hearing I chaired this week:

CMA #7 – 605 Concord Ave – The City Manager responded to my question of how an extension was granted  multiple times to the project at 605 Concord Avenue.  I am sorry that the reply seems to indicate that we cannot make sure the project follows current zoning. It was granted several years ago, and ordinarily should have expired.  But the project was granted three separate extensions by the Planning board. I don’t believe it is good policy to allow more than one extension – since if zoning changes, we should ensure it applies to any project not yet started. In this case, it would have meant 7 additional affordable housing units. While there may be no other option in this case, I plan to pursue a policy that would ensure this does not happen again.

CMA #6 – Cadet program or the fire department – a good idea which should enable us to have a more diverse force.  The program is modeled on one in the police department. I support the idea, however, we are waiting for a  report on Civil Service – since if we did not have to operate under Civil Service rules, we could do a cadet program without having to do the home rule petition.

PO #1 – unhoused population programs – this is a timely policy order, which asks the manager for a report on the efforts the city has taken to help the chronically unhoused residents of Cambridge. In 2015, a number of city officials and community organization members met to draft a document on the solutions to homelessness in the city. You can find that document here. The initiatives discussed, including pathways to bridge and permanent housing, making services more accessible, coordinating resources, have not all been implemented (though some have). It is time to see a report that lays out what has been done and what is left to do. 

Neighborhood and Long Term Planning + Housing Committee Joint Hearing:

On Wednesday, I chaired a joint hearing (video here) to discuss the future of single and two-family only zoning in Cambridge. The policy order I sponsored in December (which called for this meeting to be held) stated that single and two-family only zoning is “…an unnecessary artifact of historically exclusionary housing practices.” The hearing was a helpful and productive first step in what I hope is a robust and collaborative push to change zoning in Cambridge. The conversation remained more general in terms of the many paths the council could take, but I expect we will soon begin flushing out the necessary specifics. One specific petition that is before us already is the Missing Middle petition, which will be discussed in future council meetings (and in the Ordinance committee). While it includes pieces that I am supportive of, such as the primary goal of allowing more multi-family housing across the city, I am not convinced that the petition as written will yield any additional affordable housing, which has been the highest priority of the council and the city for more than a decade. And central to my deliberations on any zoning changes will be affordable housing and climate resiliency. These are specifics that I look forward to discussing in committee. Please let me know if you have questions about or input into this process. 

Vaccine updates:

As of yesterday, the following group of individuals are all eligible to receive the vaccine:

  • Everyone in Phase 1

  • Individuals 75 years of age and older

  • Individuals 65 years of age and older

  • Individuals (16 years of age and older) with 2+ medical conditions

A list of eligible medical conditions can be found here. If you’re not sure when you will be eligible for the COVID vaccine, fill out this eligibility questionnaire to find out.

  • CVS at Fresh Pond (215 Alewife Brook Pkwy, Cambridge, MA 02138): Make an appointment online at this Cambridge location. New appointment slots get released daily.

  • Fenway Park: Book an appointment online at this mass vaccination site (eligible populations statewide).

  • Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA): If you receive care at CHA, and are eligible for the vaccine, you will be contacted to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. Patients can schedule their appointment themselves on CHA’s MyCHArt online portal. You can call the CHA vaccine hotline at 617-665-1995 to make your first vaccine appointment.

  • Reggie Lewis Center (Roxbury Community College): This site is available to eligible priority groups per the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ vaccine distribution timeline that live or work in the City of Boston.

  • South Boston Community Health Center: Book an appointment online at this general vaccination site (eligible populations statewide).

Go Shop at the Daily Table!

Daily Table is an amazing nonprofit community grocer that recently opened in Central Square (they also have stores in Dorchester and Roxbury). They are “dedicated to providing fresh, tasty, convenient and nutritious food to communities most in need at prices everyone can afford.” Read the full mission here

The best part is that their mission goes hand in hand with their funding model: “Our goal is to generate funding through the delivery of our mission, not simply for the delivery of our mission, allowing us to focus all of our attention on our mission instead of fundraising.”

“As we grow, we become more financially sustainable and less dependent upon philanthropy. Literally every shopper is a funder!”

Exciting news: I am thrilled that the KO/CSUS won a fantastic award for sustainability. One of the central parts of my work on School Committee was to push the district towards sustainability and addressing the need for us to do all we could – building, curriculum, operations – to be a role model in environmental responsibility.
 
About the award: “The King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex is Cambridge’s first municipal building to attain LEED v4 Platinum Certification, and the second school in the country to achieve this recognition. The $159 million facility is also the only school currently in Massachusetts to have attained both Net Zero Emissions and LEED v4 Schools Platinum Certification.”

And finally, question of the day ($15 gift card on the line):

How many blocks/streets in Cambridge do not have resident permit required parking, without meters?

First to email with the correct answer wins!