Council Updates, Porchfest, Multifamily Housing, And More

My family celebrating a landmark civil rights moment at City Hall, midnight May 17, 2004


Sorry to be a bit late in sending this update…. the last few days ended up being full of events and didn’t get a chance to finish.  Tonight’s meeting has several items of interest – please send your thoughts.

We finished reviewing department budgets for the FY25 Budget cycle last week and have sent the individual budgets back to the full City Council with favorable recommendations. These budget hearings are an important check point where we get to dig into programming details with individual department heads – something that we often don’t have time to do during regular council meetings. I appreciated the City Manager and department heads coming to the table prepared to speak on current initiatives, goals, and address questions of accountability within the budget. I spent time during the hearings digging into stated goals and pushing for more SMART goals throughout the administration. I would encourage anyone who is interested in city government to take some time to dig through the FY25 Budget Book and individual department budgets, and take a look at the goals embedded within the departments.

All the departments were voted by a majority of the Finance Committee back to the full City Council with a favorable recommendation, but that does not mean that all the councillors voted to approve each department budget. One such budget this year was the Peace Commission budget, for which I, along with Councillor Wilson voted present. After seeing so much strife in the community in the last year, notably, with the complicated protests around the war in Gaza, and the protests following the shooting of Arif Sayed Faisal last year, it seems a good time to review how the Commission can help citywide efforts matching our goals of working through tragedy as a community.  I voted present on the Peace Commission budget to note my hope that we take on this challenge of understanding the role of the Commission.

I have been working with the Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department and neighbors impacted by recent street changes near Brattle Street and Appleton Street to put together a community meeting to review traffic data and address safety and traffic concerns. TPT will be holding that meeting on Thursday, May 23, from 6:00-7:30pm at History Cambridge, 159 Brattle Street.

This year the City of Cambridge is increasing grants for block parties to $300. After the success of last year’s efforts, I appreciate the increased efforts towards community building and facilitating connections among neighbors. I would encourage anyone who is interested to learn how to host a block party and get involved.

And Satiurday May 17 was the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Educaiton AND the 20th anniversary of the first ever legal gay marriage license in the USA, here in Cambridge.   Mayor Simmons and the City administration put on some important events commemorating the 20th anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts.

This week also was the always wonderful celebration of city employees who received awards – nominated by other city staff.  A reminder of the great work staff are doing every day.

Below are some comments on a few top line items and a few quick notes for Monday’s meeting. 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.


Congratulations to Dr. Lisa Dobberteen and Charles Sullivan on receiving the 2023 and 2024 Brian Murphy Awards

City Council Meeting - Monday, May 20, 2024

Exclusionary Zoning and Multifamily Housing
Following a Housing Committee meeting on exclusionary zoning and multifamily housing efforts, many of you in the community have reached out to let me know how you feel about the issue. It’s a complicated and nuanced issue, and 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. And the city council can take that step by passing as soon as possible the currently pending citizen zoning petition – the Ronayne Petition. The petition would allow multi-family homes everywhere and end exclusionary zoning, and the zoning language is written. That petition will be heard by the Planning Board on May 21. That petition takes a similar approach to CDD: making multifamily housing legal across the city by primarily “legalizing” existing housing and allowing homeowners additional flexibility with ADUs. And it also doesn’t risk undermining affordability which other approaches might. I hope you’ll consider supporting it. You can write into the Planning Board by emailing: The City Council will be discussing the petition on May 28.

In addition to ending exclusionary zoning, there are other complicated and often conflicting ideas discussed in the Housing Committee meeting last week – the headline, of course, was the idea, presented by one councillor, to allow six-stories, by right, anywhere in the city. 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 lof 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. I completely support ending exclusionary zoning, and fully support the Ronayne petition as a bold, significant step towards addressing housing affordability through our zoning code. Once that petition is in place, we can then tackle the other issues.

Resident Parking Permit Fee
Following a policy order that I sponsored, several discussions with Transportation staff and the Law Department, the City Manager has come forward with a recommendation to increase the cost of the resident parking permit sticker from $25 per year to $75 per year. There will also be a low income-eligible option, which will remain at $25 per year. I held a committee meeting in December of last year to discuss options for amending parking fees and regulations throughout the City in order to further support the City’s goals of low carbon travel and since then, I have been working with the Law Department to understand the landscape of state law as it relates to implementing different fees. One important change will be to raise parking permitting fees to accurately reflect the real costs associated with the permitting system within the city. After further study, TPT has determined that the permit program costs at least $75 per vehicle to administer. But also, as was indicated by the Council, we also want to make sure we continue to support the needs of low-income residents, so I am glad to see the City Manager indicate they will implement the income-eligible option. By developing a low-income threshold, we could better reflect the needs of residents of all ages. At this point, the City Manager does not recommend raising the parking permit fees for larger vehicles that take up more space on the public right of way, which I had pushed for. We will discuss further on Monday, but I expect these recommendations to be implemented for next year’s parking permit program.

I, like so many others, had a blast enjoying Porchfest Somerville last weekend. I ran into several Cambridge folks who asked why Cambridge didn’t have Porchfest. I want the City of Cambridge to consider launching our own porchfest event in the future. It’s a wonderful way to connect with community and the arts. This week, I sponsored a policy order that asks the City Manager to look into organizing our own event. There are a lot of different models to work with – Boston’s events are more targeted to individual neighborhoods, Somerville spans the entire city but staggers the performances west-east every two hours, and Watertown has tried to organize a bike route for their event. There are lots of interesting ideas Cambridge could consider. I like the idea that every city uses a different model that works for their geography and logistical needs.

I had a great time celebrating porchfest in Somerville. Time to try it in Cambridge!

This weekend is Memorial Day, and the city has many opportunities for gathering, remembering, and celebrating.  See CambridgeDay and the City of Cambridge website for some of the events. 

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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