Council Updates, Heat Wave, AHO 2.0, And More


It’s a hot summer. I beat the heat last weekend by going to the movie theater. I went on opening night to see Oppenheimer. I highly recommend taking the time to see this movie, which includes a lot of history and some unsettled and unsettling moral questions. I haven’t seen Barbie yet, but I definitely will. I must admit that I didn’t have much interest in the movie until I read and heard reviews that it includes subversive critiques of consumerism and the patriarchy. I’m excited to check it out. And don’t forget all the great summer things happening, now that the rain has ended, including visiting Popportunity in Central Square at Starlight. When you go, patronize some of the small businesses there and say hi to my neighbors, the Daleys, who run Toon Buds (see picture below).

I hope you all are doing your best to stay cool during this incredible heatwave. The City has prepared a guide with tips on staying safe during this kind of extreme weather. I have consistently asked the city to do all it can to communicate the urgency of addressing energy use. The heat is another stark reminder of the inescapable effects of the climate crisis. It’s this reality that informs so much of my work on the city council. It is why I fought so hard for so long to finish BEUDO amendments, it’s why I have put constant pressure on the city to continue to take steps towards decarbonization like the specialized stretch code and fossil fuel free pilot program (more on that below), it’s why I pushed for climate resiliency zoning changes, and it’s why I have been on the front lines at city hall pushing to improve upon our urban forest in any way possible. It’s these kinds of actions that will not only help us protect ourselves from the effects of the climate crisis, but also will put us on the track to solving it – through our own decarbonization efforts and through the action that we can spur on regionally.

And PLEASE sign up for alerts to shave the peak. That means when the electrical grid is close to capacity, turn off or turn down all electricity for non-essential items. If enough of us take this step – and the city is doing what it can – demand can be lowered enough that dirty sources of energy and electricity will not be needed. I have spent time the last few months pushing the City to adjust our municipal use on days of peak demand.

Another effort I am thrilled to see launched is Electrify Cambridge. I have always said that if we are going to push folks to decarbonize their buildings and homes (and we need to), that we need to pair it with technical assistance and financial incentives. The first part of that equation is now here. This week, the city launched Electrify Cambridge, which is a program to support residents with clean electric energy upgrades. The program will provide educational resources and no-cost, specialized consultations to help make your home or building greener and more efficient. I am hopeful that this program is just the beginning to helping residents electrify their homes. And the next step is to ensure we allocate funds to help residents, businesses, and organizations.

One more note on electrification: I have long been pushing the City to speed up their Clean Fleet goals and stop purchasing gas-powered vehicles immediately, wherever possible. That’s why I was happy to hear that last week the Fire Department purchased three new electric vehicles: two fully electric Ford F150 Lightnings and a plug-in hybrid Ford Escape. The City was able to utilize state grants to fund the purchases. I have held numerous committee meetings and filed several policy orders pushing for this kind of action, so it’s great to see some of the effort paying off.

The next regular meeting of the full council will be on Monday, August 7, and it will likely be a meeting with LOTS to discuss and vote on. Before then, there are several important committee meetings coming up in the next week and some headline items below. As always, please feel free to contact me about any city item at any time.


Check out Toon Buds at Popportunity in Starlight Square!
Spending some time with the cows of Harvard Square

Amendments to the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO 2.0)
Next week, the Ordinance Committee will be meeting twice to discuss the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO). The first meeting will be on Monday, July 31 at 6:00pm. This meeting will likely go long due to public comment, so a second meeting is already scheduled for Thursday, August 3 at 3:00pm. There is no doubt that the recent amendments to the AHO are on many residents’ minds. It’s been on my mind throughout much of the last year. I have written about the AHO here before at length, but given that we will be discussing the amendments in detail next week, I wanted to let you know my thoughts on the proposal. Broadly, I think the process for the revision of the AHO is flawed and potentially damaging to the community. The original AHO had a five-year review process built in which would require the city to study the effects of the existing policy and come up with recommendations for amending the ordinance if necessary (that five-year review would likely have begun next year to hopefully be completed in 2025 based on the original AHO which passed in 2020). I believe that these amendments are premature and that we have not had adequate time to assess the effects that the AHO has had on affordable housing production. And that the AHO is not the only manner in which we can address affordable housing production. As people who follow city politics know, the original AHO was highly contentious and created many divisions in the community, and this process seems to ignore that. Even so, at least that process that led to the AHO was comprehensive, with a lot of work with city staff, affordable housing stakeholders, and was a city run, community driven process. And it promised a timeline for review so the city could analyze the impacts of the AHO over time and if necessary, consider changes publicly. Practically, I don’t agree with the methodology being used to address density either. The corridors assumed in the AHO amendments are not reflective of the commonly understood transportation corridors in the city and are not the same corridors listed in the Envision Cambridge plan. In addition, the proposed changes to open space are problematic. I will continue to advocate for zoning changes and building practices that favor affordable housing for low and middle income while also striving to create community and cohesion within our city – how it is now and how it can be in the future. This happens through central planning and careful consideration of individual areas, like we are doing in Alewife, so that we can match housing with other community needs and neighborhood uses and really transform our city for the better and house more people. In my opinion, this proposal is a one-size-fits-all approach to zoning that doesn’t purport to take on the structural issues and sees height as a silver bullet for a regional housing issue and so I cannot support the amendments.

Fossil Fuel Free Demonstration Project
On Tuesday, August 1 at 12:00pm the Ordinance Committee will be meeting to discuss and develop language that would allow us to participate in the state’s 10 city pilot program to limit the use of fossil fuels in new construction or substantial renovations. If we are able to pass this we will be able to mandate that new construction and substantial renovations within the city cannot use equipment or appliances for heating, cooking, drying, or lighting that utilize fossil fuels. This proposal has the opportunity to be transformational throughout the state if the program is expanded. The catch for me is that there will be some exceptions proposed, which will be discussed on Tuesday. The first exception, which is state mandated, is for labs and medical buildings. This exemption is disappointing, of course, as labs can be some of the highest energy users in Cambridge, and are the most commonly built new buildings; however, thanks to BEUDO, we have a plan that is not as robust, but should be impactful in dealing with lab emissions. Other potential exceptions have been mentioned as well, most notably an exemption for restaurants. This idea is counter to our goals and not necessary so I will be pushing against it for a number of reasons. My preference is to remove the exemption completely, and create a waiver process available to be requested in limited circumstances. Or perhaps a 2027 termination of the exemption – in line with the timeline for the state recommended multifamily water heating exemption. After discussing this with builders, restaurateurs, and experts in the field, I feel that the technology in existence and cooking practices make transitioning to electric equipment possible now especially for new restaurants. Any new fossil fuel lines we put in today make it that much harder to meet our required emission reductions. Cambridge can help spur other local and state action to transition away from gas cooking, which we know is bad for the environment and a dire health risk for restaurant workers.

Memorial Drive
Some of you may have seen a recent publication of documents regarding the state’s decision not to open up Riverbend Park to residents on Saturdays this summer, which the Council and the community have repeatedly petitioned for. I was disappointed to see the state dismiss the decision making authority of the Council and mischaracterize the votes we have taken to that effect. It was also disappointing to see the will of residents be misunderstood and discounted. I will be following up with the state and through our state delegation to continue to press for access to Riverbend Park, so be on the lookout for more action this week. Environmental justice demands that we ensure our city’s parks and green spaces are accessible to everyone.

Local Events/Notes

Cambridge Jazz Festival
On July 29 and 30 at Danehy Park, the Cambridge Jazz Foundation will be holding the 8th annual free Jazz Festival. It’s a great event featuring over 8 acts over two days. Check out the website to learn more!

Danehy Park Summer Concert Series
Cambridge Recreation in partnership with Club Passim, brings live, family-friendly folk and jazz music from a variety of local singers and songwriters to Danehy Park, 99 Sherman St. Every Tuesday evening through August 15, musicians take the stage near Danehy Park’s Sherman St. entrance and perform free concerts from 6-8pm. On July 18, enjoy family-friendly music from musician Kim Moberg. Learn more.

Screen on the Green Family Movie Night
Wednesday, August 2, 7:15 p.m. Raymond Park. Enjoy family-friendly entertainment and the movie Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Rain site: Russell Youth Center. View the Screen on the Green flier

Charter Review Committee
The Charter Review Committee has been continuing their work reviewing our city charter and to prepare their report for the city council. The CRC currently meets every other Tuesday from 5:30pm – 7:30pm and are actively seeking input from all members of the community. Their next regular meeting will be Tuesday, August 1, 2023 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. In the coming weeks and months, they will be planning more public outreach events. They have also been working to attend community group meetings to spread the word about their important work and get input from the community. If you are part of a community group and would like to invite a CRC member to your meeting to talk about the work and get involved, please reach out to them via email! I invite you to attend their meetings and events, engage with members of the committee, and discuss your vision for our City charter. All the information as well as recordings of previous meetings can be found on their website. Further, you can submit written comments at any time to be considered by the CRC by emailing

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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