Sunday, April 21, 2024

Summer Shack fried clams. The Cambridge sea food seller is asking to take over a Harvard Square patio once used by Legal Sea Foods. (Photo: Summer Shack via Yelp)

Condo conversion, closing Central, charter rights 

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. Councillors have called for a tougher condominium conversion law since at least 2015 without action from city staff, but maybe this latest effort led by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui will get more traction in helping people transition from or hang onto their rented homes. Councillors are also trying to resolve another condominium-related problem: What to do when structural or other safety violations require repairs or construction but a majority in the condo association won’t approve the work.

  • Transportation: While city staff may have been slow to act on council orders around condos, there’s been a pretty fast answer on one about closing Massachusetts Avenue to car traffic in Central Square on weekend nights. That answer is “no,” based on input from the MBTA, police and fire officials, but City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said he was talking with leaders in the square about “additional opportunities for side street closures.” In regard to bus use in Central, there’s concern that a city redesign of its Carl Barron Plaza will move the No. 47 stop to a problematic location, and a counterproposal; and a call to support trying fare-free buses as proposed in bills by state Rep. Christine Barber and state Sen. Pat Jehlen.
  • Drugs: A two-year head start for recreational pot shops owned by “economic empowerment” applicants expires Sept. 23 with not a single business able to open and take advantage of a field free of corporate competition – some will recall that a pandemic burned away plenty of the period – and councillors propose an extension, starting with a hearing on the proposal no later than Aug. 15. At this point, the nearest adult-use cannabis is in Watertown or across the river in Boston or Brookline. There’s also a staff recommendation on a cannabis delivery zoning petition (for delivery-only weed businesses) for councillors to mull.
  • Governing: City Hall workers could benefit from remote work policies in a suggestion by vice mayor Alanna Mallon and others, though maybe the city should first prove it’s mastered call-forwarding technology, not just its skill in collecting voice mail; and councillors want to explore paying stipends to members of boards and commissions to encourage more diversity in decision-making roles.
  • Also: The time has come for an official vote on endorsing changing the Agassiz neighborhood’s name, almost certainly to honor the history-making educator Maria Baldwin; a process begun in January 2020 has found that to be the idea with the most support. Presumably there’s nothing standing in the way of swiftly wiping away the Agassiz name, which is associated with racism, considering that a process moving in this direction won unanimous council approval in February 2020. The last such change was in 2015, when Area IV became known again as The Port.
  • Charter rights: If there weren’t enough going on at this last meeting before regular sessions stop for July and August, there are four items introduced last week (and delayed by councillors using their “charter right”) to grapple with. They include a $65 million appropriation of coronavirus recovery funds from the federal government, an exploration of paying reparations to black-owned local businesses with money from cannabis sales, support for finding ways to save trees at the Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper School construction site, and three small reforms of the city charter: council approval of more appointments by the city manager; annual reviews of the city manager; and reviews of the city charter every 10 years, starting next year.

Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing. The council meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

Hiring the next city manager

Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday. This committee run by city councillor E. Denise Simmons will discuss hiring the next city manager – a makeup for the canceled June 15 meeting that was meant to get this process started.

Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

After-school programming for the fall

Human Services & Veterans Committee, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillor Marc McGovern will talk about after-school programming for the fall, a topic of panic among some parents that broke into the public eye when it was learned this month that the Cambridgeport After School Program would close – leaving 50 families scrambling for spots at community schools and youth centers. But the problems are bigger than just one program and include a turf war between the city’s Department of Human Service Programs and its school district.

Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

Summer Shack and Bar Enza in Harvard Square

License Commission, 1 p.m. Wednesday. Cantabrigians might miss the Harvard Square Legal Sea Foods less if Summer Shack takes over the 130-occupancy patio at 20 University Road that Legal left behind June 2020. (While the coronavirus accelerated the chain’s departure a bit, Legal was years past the terms of a 15-year lease and had long been interested in a “more prominent” location elsewhere in the square, according to The Harvard Crimson and Boston Restaurant Talk.) While Legal was leaving, the Alewife-based Summer Shack was running an open-air pop-up steps away, off Bennett Street; now it can take over the larger courtyard space until 11 p.m. weekly – and who knows, maybe it’ll just move into Legal’s old indoor space as well. Nearby, in the Charles Hotel space that until April hosted Benedetto (and Rialto for 22 years until June 2016), Bar Enza plans to begin serving the Italian brasserie food of Mark Ladner, back in Harvard Square after years in New York. The 280-occupancy inside-outside operation expects to be open to 1 a.m. weekly. Si Cara plans to open at 425 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, in a Market Central space that holds 130 people inside and out through 2 a.m. weekly; and the commission will hear a plan to place a 14-seat Kismet Coffee inside the new Formaggio at 358 Huron Ave., in West Cambridge’s Huron Village. Kismet is asking for a beer and wine license for its coffee counter.

Watchable by Zoom video conferencing. The commission meets in the basement of the Michael J. Lombardi Building, 831 Massachusetts Ave., Mid-Cambridge near Central Square.