Monday, May 27, 2024

A 38-story residential building proposed for Kendall Square will be examined Tuesday by the Planning Board and Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. (Image: Stantec)

Approval for the next bike lanes

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. A report on economic and business impacts from bike lane installations begins its consultant-hiring process for possible completion in the fall, but the issue likely to raise more debate and public comment is possible council approval of approaches and timelines for bike-lane installations for the so-called MassAve4. These four complicated stretches along Massachusetts Avenue promise to eliminate some parking, which alarms business owners and some drivers, though the proposal to do “partial builds” on a couple of segments instead of “quick builds” would keep up to half the parking the avenue has now. “There is not enough space to provide parking on both sides while maintaining two travel lanes in each direction,” city staff says, but “parking could change sides along the corridor where needed.” The exact location of parking, loading and outdoor dining would be set in later stages of design, as well as opportunities to add parking on side streets. The timeline for these two segments – which rely on removal of a concrete median and unused MBTA trolley wires overhead – extend to the end of 2026. The full construction of raised bike lanes around two bus stops by Harvard Yard (between Church and Garden streets and Plympton and Dunster streets) would be quicker, ending mid-2025. Staff will also offer annual updates on the MassAve4 starting next year, which councillors might find lacking given the controversies experienced already.

City staff expect to present a thumbs-up from the Planning Board for a pause on new labs and office space being added around the Alewife area – possibly a one-year break for ordination of Alewife District zoning based on plans done in the area but never fully adopted. There is a call for more information from the Law Department, though. There is also a presentation on state “MBTA Communities” zoning that requires a district allowing multifamily zoning with a half-mile of mass transit stations, recognizing that Cambridge surely falls into the category of communities that already comply. As to a council request to speed up the demolition and rebuilding permit process for buildings destroyed by disasters such as fire, city staff plan to add a flagging process and an Inspectional Services Department position that will include permit coordination duties and work with the relevant applicants.

Councillors, meanwhile, call for some of the city’s federal Covid aid of $65 million to a guaranteed income program for its poorest that will expand on a test begun last year called Cambridge RISE; support for a state-level bill called the Fair Share Amendment that adds a 4 percent tax on annual income above $1 million to go to “quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation”; and give all high school students free CharlieCards for bus and subway rides throughout the school year. Considering a recent, rare negative vote on a curb cut after a call to give up that power, councillors are asking for follow-through on a June order calling for a study of the city’s parking policies, including of “curb cut policies and their impact on encouraging car use and reducing green space.” And the mayor is calling for everyone to get a refresher on the rules under which elected officials run their meetings.

The council meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

Board appointment rules

Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday. This committee run by Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon will talk about guidelines for board and commission appointments – which are made by the city manager but got City Council veto oversight from a November ballot initiative. There are several appointments waiting since March 7. Other changes to the city charter backed by voters last year are scheduled for a Wednesday hearing by the Ordinance Committee. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Schools’ Covid management

School Committee Building & Grounds Subcommittee, 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. This hearing chaired by José Luis Rojas Villarreal will discuss the latest thinking around school district Covid management and updates to its health and safety protocols. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Summer and after-school programs

School Committee Special Education & Student Supports Subcommittee, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. This hearing chaired by Ayesha Wilson will discuss summer program opportunities within the school district and Department of Human Service Programs and review policies around after-school programs for students with disabilities. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Cambridge’s next tallest building

Planning Board and Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. A 38-story residential building proposed for 135 Broadway, Kendall Square, is the focus of this meeting. So far rendered as a bronze and glass tower gleaming in dawn or sunset light, the Boston Properties plan would add around 455 homes from studios to three-bedroom units, 91 of which would be kept affordable under the city’s inclusionary rule and 23 of which would be for middle-income earners – 20 percent and 5 percent, respectively. There will be 1,130 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 4,500 square feet of outdoor terrace for tenants, the developers say. This 420,000-square-foot building to be built at the southern end of what is now a (soon to be demolished) six-level parking garage is allowed by zoning to rise to 400 feet because the occupied floors above the 250-foot mark are only residential. It would become Cambridge’s tallest building, beating a 29-story, 315-foot, copper-hued MIT graduate dorm called Building 4 that went up in Kendall Square in 2019-2020, adding another 454 apartments to the area. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Charter changes to city law

Ordinance Committee, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan takes on how city law will have to change as a result of updates to the Cambridge charter approved by voters in November. (Those were: council approval of more appointments by the city manager, which was scheduled to get its own hearing Tuesday; annual reviews of the city manager; and reviews of the city charter itself every 10 years, starting this year.) The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Post-Covid college and business

Economic Development & University Relations Committee, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillor Paul Toner meets with the city’s universities and business associations to talk about reopening post-pandemic – are we there? – and how the city can support the organizations in doing it. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

City workforce diversity

Civic Unity Committee, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. This committee run by city councillor E. Denise Simmons plans to talk about the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report, an effort launched in January 2019 to look at making recruitment, hiring and promotion more equitable among city employees – at 3,564 people, the third-largest workforce in Cambridge. While the city is committed to the goals and principles of diversity, the report finds “potential to increase diversity” in its workforce, and for leadership among it. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.