It’s the Head of the Charles

Commissioner Elow speaking at the vigil for victims of domestic violence


It’s been a busy time for the city and state – as fall arrives. Stay warm this weekend and enjoy the brisk fall weather.  A major event in Cambridge is the Head of the Charles rowing race, this weekend.  another great way to enjoy our waterfront and celebrate international competition.

The annual vigil for victims of domestic violence in Massachusetts was this week – community leaders engaged in the work spoke movingly about our efforts to provide a safe place for those in abusive or dangerous situations so they can get support. Important moving reminder that we are not immune from abuse and domestic violence and we need to constantly stand up for and look out for those around us. More people than one might think have been in abusive relationships. For more information and resources, click the link below.

Domestic Violence Information & Resources – City of Cambridge, MA

One of the great things in Cambridge is our arts community – I saw a great rendition of Ada and the Engine this week at the Central Square Theater.  Go. Get a ticket- there are discounts if you need one. And it is super affordable for students.  The play is fun, entertaining, moving, wonderfully acted and staged AND educational.  Who knew that Ada Lovelace wrote the very first ever computer program – about a century BEFORE computers? Go!  This weekend is the last showing and I’d highly recommend going if you’re available.

Below are some comments on a few top line items including some comments on some items from the last City Council meeting and a few notes for this Monday’s meeting. As always, please take care of yourself and take time out to appreciate something, small or large, every day. As the weather begins to change, remember to take some time to take advantage of the beauty of Cambridge!

I plan to get out this weekend, and enjoy the spirit of the fall… and I urge everyone to mask up when you’re in close proximity to others and make sure you sign up to get your boosters and your flu shot!


Local Events/Notes

Ada and the Engine
As mentioned earlier, the Central Square Theater is putting on the play Ada and the Engine, and this weekend is their last showing. I very much enjoyed the play and would recommend it to anyone. More information on the story and tickets are in the link below.

Ada and the Engine – Central Square Theater

Head of the Charles
The annual Head of the Charles is this weekend, from Friday, October 21 to Sunday, October 23. It’s always a fun weekend and the weather looks promising. The event always brings in hundreds of thousands of spectators and I’ve had a great time in previous years cheering on the rowers. You should expect traffic delays near Harvard Square, MIT, and the Charles River though, so plan your weekend accordingly. The section of Memorial Drive near the regatta will be closed to vehicles from Saturday at 8 a.m. to Sunday at 7 p.m. according to DCR’s usual Riverbend Park schedule.

Head of the Charles

Cambridge School Volunteers
The fabulous effective Cambridge School Volunteers is looking for two new members of the board. They are looking for Cambridge residents with background and expertise in the areas of human resources and/or legal.  I served on their board many years ago and found it to be a rewarding experience. They are looking for people who have had some experience with Cambridge Public Schools either themselves or as parents of CPS students. Ideal candidates will have a personal interest in public education. If you or someone you know is interested, candidates are invited to attend one of their board meetings to learn more about CSV. Find more information about the group at the link below.

Cambridge School Volunteers

Changes to Garden Street
A section of Garden Street between Huron Avenue and Concord Avenue will become a one-way for people driving as part of the Garden Street Safety Improvement Project. The City expects the road to switch to one-way operation the evening of Monday, October 24, if weather allows workers to make changes to major road markings. The switch to one-way vehicle traffic heading eastbound (toward Cambridge Common and Harvard Square) accompanies other changes, including new separated bike lanes traveling in both directions, crosswalk improvements, and changes to parking and loading. More info below.

Changes Coming to Garden Street: Separated Bike Lanes and Partial One-way

Sennott Park
The City has announced that Phase 1 of the long-awaited renovations to Sennott Park, located at 305 Broadway, have been completed. The basketball courts, tot lot, fitness center, and a portion of the landscaped loop path are now open for all to enjoy. The water play area has also been completed, but the water is turned off for the season. Phase 2 of the project, which includes remaining field work, has begun and will continue, weather permitting, throughout the winter season. More info below.

Sennott Park Phase 1 Renovations Completed

City Council Updates

First I wanted to touch base on a few items from the last City Council Meeting on October 17 before hitting on a few notes for the next meeting this Monday, October 24.

Rules of the Road
The substitute order related to updating our rules of the road passed this week on a unanimous vote after some thoughtful discussion by my fellow Councillors. I fully support reviewing our rules of the road, and exploring how to get more compliance and education around them. As regular bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters increase, it is critical that we ensure drivers are following the rules and doing all they can to avoid crashes. Cyclists and pedestrians need to understand their rights and responsibilities. I view this order as a reasonable way for us to go on record for urgent and thoughtful discussion and I’m glad the Council was able to come to a consensus.

Linkage Fees
I know the vote on increasing linkage fees was very important to a lot of people. I have been thinking critically about linkage fees for the past few months and talking in depth about it with many community members and experts. I wanted to provide you all with some context for my vote, so please see some of my thoughts below.

The question of updating the linkage fee – a fee that developers pay per square foot of new commercial developments to offset the impact on affordable housing – has been under discussion for a while. The history is interesting – a decade ago the council realized (due to work by Councillor Dennis Carlone and his then aide, now state rep. Mike Connolly) that updates to the linkage fee had not been made. One of my first votes on council was to propose an increase in linkage fees by $1 to $20.10 based on a study of appropriate levels. The latest study, called a nexus study, showed that a fee of up to $33.34 per square foot was warranted. And that is the proposal we voted on this year – with the final vote this past Monday to raise the fee by 60% to $33.34/sq.ft. The council also voted to exempt the first 30,000sq.ft of a project, up to 60,000sq.ft. That proposal was to recognize that medium size buildings deserved support and might not get built without the exemption.

Another challenging discussion was to decide whether to exempt those buildings already in existence – a 100,000sq.ft building that would be renovated would not pay a fee, but that same building, if torn down, would pay a fee. There was a proposal to treat renovations and tear downs the same from the point of view of square footage subject to linkage. For me, it was a question of consistency and fairness. On the one hand, we need more affordable housing, so why not have all construction possible subject to linkage fees? Linkage fees are based on impact on the city of additional new employees. What I don’t understand is why the current linkage fee did not exempt existing buildings. Currently a building of 100,000sq.ft that does renovation would not require a linkage fee. A building that was empty for 20 years [think Polaroid] if it is not torn down and is rebuilt and brings in new employees – no new linkage fee, even if 1000 new employees end up in that building. It seems linkage should be based on actual employees – however, in that case we would be incentivizing large empty spaces….or robots… and I recognize that there is a long history of cities basing linkage on square footage.

As I reflected on what was fair and the best way to approach the policy, I decided that we should exempt existing square footage. We were already expecting to raise millions more dollars for affordable housing by increasing linkage to $33/sq.ft. The policy problem for me of charging for existing buildings in square footage is that an existing building that keeps the walls is treated fundamentally differently from the same size building that is torn down and rebuilt. I did also wonder if we wouldn’t inadvertently incentivize tear-downs from an embodied energy and emissions accounting. And yet, rebuilding a building can and should involve a net zero approach in a way that is more difficult with retrofits, which is why in the end I voted to keep in the exemption for existing building square footage and voted to increase the fee overall.

If you’d like to learn more, I’m always happy to speak to folks and I’d also point you to a few articles that I found informative, as well as a press release from the City on the recent vote.

City Council Meeting – Monday, October 24

Parking Minimums
We will be moving forward this week on removing parking minimum requirements for buildings. A lot of work was done by the City and the Council to get us to a place where we can really reform the City’s parking minimum policy. The reality is that we need to stop assuming cars and car use in our public places. Most of our streets used to be pedestrian lanes, and many likely for horses and carriage, then streetcar lanes and now mostly single vehicle use. Hopefully in the future it will be SAFE and multi-modal. We can make a choice to make it easier for people to not need or use cars – more public transit, more ways to traverse the city. And we can make a choice to not incentivize car ownership by not requiring parking spots.

Fur Sales Ban
Below, please see my brief statement on the fur sales ban, which will move to a final reading this Monday. At that point, it will be in place in our city – an excellent step forward.

We have appreciated the outpouring of public support of the policy order banning fur sales. Protecting the environment means protecting all living things. We live in a world that has become increasingly threatened by the effects of deforestation, animal cruelty, and business practices that do irreparable harm to our environment. As we saw during our hearings on this issue, over 100 million animals are killed annually for their fur. These animals are bred, confined, and forced to live in horrible conditions where animal cruelty runs rampant. As there are no federal laws or animal welfare standards to protect animals on fur farms, it is up to local jurisdictions like Cambridge to lead the fight. The fur trade poses serious risks to public health and the environment. On fur farms, waste runoff from animals pollutes the soil and waterways and the tanning and dying process uses toxic and carcinogenic chemicals like chromium and formaldehyde to prevent the skin from decaying. Banning fur sales eliminates the demand for cruel products and ensures that humane minded consumers can shop with confidence. I’m grateful for the passion we have seen in the community over this issue. Although Cambridge does not have any stores that sell this kind of product, the passing of this ordinance means that we will be able to ensure that it stays that way. I am proud that Cambridge has decided to follow several other Massachusetts communities in passing this ordinance and working to prevent this cruel industry from operating within our City.

Proper Leaf Disposal
This week I submitted a policy order on proper lawn care and disposal of leaves. With fall coming on and leaves falling, I think it’s important that the City does all it can to help its residents take care of their property in a way that is environmentally beneficial. Improving the effectiveness of the City’s communications is something I’m very focused on currently and this is a good example of something the City should already be doing proactively. Below are a few good bits of information about leaf disposal. Bottom line? Consider using your leaves as mulch for your plant beds in the winter or just running them over with your lawnmower to reinforce the nutrients in your lawn! A thin layer of leaves can be good for the soil, helping to retain moisture and nutrients.

COVID Boosters
The CDC recommends use of updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster shots for better protection against COVID-19 Omicron variants. The updated Moderna booster is authorized for people ages 6 years and older. The updated Pfizer booster is authorized for people ages 5 years and older. Children in this age group are eligible for the bivalent boosters if it has been at least two months since the completion of their primary series or booster vaccination. Please see the links below to learn more about getting the booster and find out where you can get yours.

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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