Council Updates: Fall Fun & Plea for Better Planning

Danehy Park Family Fun Day

Happy Glorious Fall!  Yesterday I went to the Port infrastructure event and was energized by the work the city is doing.  An area of real success is the stormwater mitigation effort.  Despite record rains, in general we’ve had less flooding than usual – and the massive public works undertaken (and causing headaches across many parts of the city) are worth it when we don’t have the usual flooding.  Sadly, it is made more urgent by the climate crisis which will continue to lead to more rain events and greater need for our stormwater system.  A positive note is that the city is laying conduit in the streets that are dug up to a deep level (not surface). That will make it easier to have municipal broadband, if we decide to follow that path – which I fervently hope happens soon!  

Last weekend I was at the Danehy Park Family fun day…I attended many years with my kids…(who are now college graduates).  I  LOVED seeing the Miyawaki Forest, the joy of kite flying, and the wonder of open space in our city!  And marveling once again at how a dump became a jewel of a park!  My only complaint about the day – so much plastic waste!  Next time, I am hoping we can get kites that don’t contribute to plastic waste. (Side note: The giveaway at the Port event was a sustainable bottle of bubbles made in the USA…. So I think we can improve our giveaways and still give kids fun…)

The major issue around much of Cambridge is how we can do a better job of installing bike lanes while paying attention to small businesses and residents who drive. I have spent a lot of time on this issue recently. I am glad there is a newly scheduled community meeting for next Thursday on the upper Mass. Ave plan. I have been assured that the city IS considering how to implement the plan with less disruption in the neighborhood. I have been clear that the meeting should not be window-dressing. It has to be a true meeting for input, which means changes should and will be contemplated and explored – not brushed off.

I also remain committed to pushing for a more comprehensive approach to planning and development – there are proposals for buildings in pretty much every area of the city – and we still have not reviewed them as a whole, as part of a plan building on the many reports laying out paths to thoughtful planning. Whether it is connectivity in Alewife, further development at the Volpe site near MIT, or the ways Central Square is changing with many buildings changing hands, Cambridge needs to be looking at the city as a whole. If we are bringing in more jobs without housing for the employees, the pressure on housing will only get worse. It seems to me that a key question in our development efforts is how we can tie new jobs to requiring new housing – something we are starting to explore. Just as we worked with MIT to provide more graduate student housing as they expanded, we need to have more housing for the new jobs being created.

Hope you take advantage of the city’s open spaces.. and beyond. And COVID is still with us – stay safe, make sure those you know are vaccinated, and let’s do what we can to end the mask mandate – which Watertown just did since the metrics warranted it.


Last Week’s Update:

COM 2021 #537  – Save Mass Ave Petition: Over the past few weeks, many residents have reached out to the City Council regarding the plan for quick build protected bike lanes along Mass. Ave. People are concerned about the potential disruption to small businesses, traffic, and parking. Due to this advocacy, the request from people concerned about these changes has been heard, and another community meeting will happen next Thursday, October 28th. That was a major request from the neighborhood, and the City Manager announced at the City Council that he agreed.

Policy Orders and Resolutions: 
POR 2021 #224 – Geothermal Microdistrict Pilot Program: Geothermal systems have the potential to replace delivered fuels and natural gas services, which can reduce an average residence’s carbon emissions by 60 percent. Cambridge has been a leader in setting aggressive climate goals, specifically in reducing emissions, but has had trouble meeting those goals. The City Council voted unanimously to reach out to Eversource, advocating that Cambridge be a pilot site for a geothermal program.

POR 2021 #225 – Support Uplift the Solar Energy Industry in Massachusetts Coalition: Uplift the Solar Energy Industry in Massachusetts Coalition is an organization committed to addressing the climate crisis while advancing economic development goals. The Coalition is raising public awareness regarding the urgency of the climate crisis and wide-ranging economic benefits of solar to individuals. The policy order I introduced, for the City to work to support the Coalition, was adopted by the Council unanimously. And the Coalition is hopeful our support will help get the grant to do their work.

Policy Orders and Resolutions: 
POR 2021 #231 – Service Station Ordinance Amendment: On June 13, 2016, the City Council passed a policy order requesting that warning labels be placed on gas pumps, alerting users to the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels. The municipal code pertaining to gas service stations was then amended with the approval of the City Solicitor. Unfortunately, when the ordinance was amended, only the section pertaining to self-service stations was changed, excluding full-service stations. I entered a policy order to rectify this oversight, amending the ordinance to include full-service stations as well. Cambridge has been a leader in climate progress, and the passage of this policy order will be a further step in our plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

POR 2021 #233 – Public Charging for Electric Vehicles: Cambridge has been trying to promote the use of electric vehicles (EV) as a way to meet the City’s aggressive emission reduction goals. Cambridge owns a total of 14 publicly available EV charging stations in parking lots, though several of these stations have limited access in terms of the amount of time they are available. Currently, when a customer uses these stations, they are charged both to park in the spot and for the electricity used while charging their vehicle. I introduced a policy order urging the City Manager to consider the implementation of a plan which charges EV customers for electricity and not parking at municipal EV charging stations, increasing accessibility and equity for EV users. 

POR 2021 #229 – Pedestrian and Cyclist Accidents: A Policy order by Vice Mayor Mallon and Councillor Sobrinho-Wheeler asks for real time information about accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists. As the order notes, when there is a serious accident, the City Council is informed, but the public finds it difficult to be informed. This order would give residents better, more timely information on such incidents, which is important. I support this order and am glad that the city is recording such information. 

POR 2021 #230 – Parking Strategy on Mass Ave: A policy order by Councillor Simmons asks for attention to an area affected by the recent bike lane addition – on Mass. Ave and Banks Street, since some residents are finding it challenging to access home health aide services due to the removal of parking metered spots. I will support this order, and note that more outreach and understanding of the consequences should have been studied prior to completing the bike lane build out. As we have seen in other bike lane additions, our outreach and planning are often lacking in effectiveness and inclusion.    

Other City News:

Early voting starts tomorrow! And mail-in voting is happening. Vote by Nov. 2!

Glacken Field Opening: The Glacken Field and Playground will officially open on Saturday, October 23rd at 11 AM. The field has undergone renovation to include two new little league fields and a tot lot area. The entire park has also been surrounded by a pathway with new play features and landscaping. You can attend the opening at 661 Huron Ave.

Volpe Event: The 5th Annual Volpe Block Party will take place on October 23rd from 11 AM to 3 PM. This all-age block party at Donnelly field will include live music, a basketball tournament, lawn games, and catering from local restaurants. Everything will be free, so be sure to stop by! The rain date is October 24th. 

History Cambridge Saturday Oct. 23 at 2 pm: Guided Tour of Food and Mending in Central Square!  During the twentieth century, food played an important role as a means by which Cambridge visitors and residents could learn about and connect with their neighbors across racial, ethnic and class lines. Graduate students from the Boston University Gastronomy Program will lead a tour of Central Square, highlighting locations and moments in Cambridge history in which the sharing of a diverse array of ethnic cuisines helped to raise awareness and understanding of the area’s rich cultural mosaic.

Second Community Meeting – Mass Ave, from Dudley St. to Alewife Brook Parkway: Thursday, October 28, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department will host a second community meeting to share revised plans for separated bike lanes and transit improvements on Mass Ave from Dudley St to Alewife Brook Parkway and answer questions from the community. On the day of the webinar, the public can join by clicking this link or by entering the Meeting ID 857 4619 0372 directly into Zoom. To listen by phone, call 929-436-2866 and enter Meeting ID 857 4619 0372. 

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

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