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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Eversource is building a power substation at the Blue Garage in Kendall Square. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Electrifying the city, its fleet

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. A recent recommendation to move some electrification goals forward by 15 years highlighted the impossibility of achieving them on Cambridge’s available power, but a policy order this week looks to face that head-on by spurring infrastructure planning. Councillors believe getting to 100 percent green energy demands four more substations and 16 more transformers throughout the city, and “including site identification, community process, permitting and construction, each substation can take between eight and 12 years to build.” Part of that pressure comes from ongoing environmental initiatives, and this week sees not just a report on turning municipal vehicles into a “clean fleet” but drivable steps toward the goals: entering into a five-year leasing contract for electrical vehicles with Enterprise Fleet Management; and buying an all-electric rubbish packer with $400,000 in city money and a $305,625 state grant. Electrification even plays a role in a proposed $1.8 million remake of Dorothy Dottie Doyle Way, the alley behind City Hall, into a shared-street design that includes better access for people with disabilities, covered bike parking and three EV charging stations that the public can use in off-hours.

This meeting also sees a request for a progress report on a municipal broadband feasibility study at a March 13 roundtable and takes steps on a few issues of zoning and development: The council gets an amended policy order that could limit where labs can open back from committee (with a related citizen version to be handled too); there’s a vote pending but no committee recommendation on a petition to limit how much banks can dominate the streetscape in Harvard Square; and a legal opinion arrives on issues around a proposed two-block upzoning in North Cambridge out of what’s called the Barrett petition. The opinion will come in handy, considering the Ordinance Committee plans to talk about the petition the next day.

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


North Cambridge two-block zoning

Ordinance Committee, 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan picks up the “Barrett petition,” named after developer Patrick Barrett, that could affect two blocks in a triangle formed by Massachusetts Avenue, Cedar Street and Alberta Terrace in North Cambridge, allowing mixed-use development, including housing, of up to 80 feet rather than the current 35. When last before the committee Jan. 3, councillors liked it more than the Planning Board did, but wanted to explore how to guarantee good outcomes for the surrounding neighborhood such as via a memorandum of understanding or a letter of commitment. There were also questions of whether this was “spot zoning” – and there was some embrace of the possibilities of negotiating with developers for benefits, with some residents saying outright that a parcel-by-parcel approach had advantages over comprehensive zoning for an entire area.

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

Cookies from the Crumbl shop in Saugus. (Photo: Alyssa P. via Yelp)

Crumbl cookie shop for Central

Planning Board, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Crumbl cookie chain, which started in Logan, Utah, in 2017 and now has more than 600 bakeries in 47 states (including nine in Massachusetts, the closest being in Medford) wants permission to operate its “formula” bakery model at 425 Massachusetts Ave., at the Lafayette Square end of Central Square in the Market Central complex. The area’s a dessert-lover’s paradise, with Crumbl likely to join the Praliné French patisserie and Toscanini’s ice cream parlor and New City Microcreamery. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.


Tree canopy update

Health & Environment Committee, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillor Patty Nolan gets an update on the Urban Forest Master Plan and discusses how to improve tree health and the city’s tree canopy. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing. (Update on Feb. 28, 2023: This meeting has been canceled.)

City-line voter challenge

Election Commission, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Commissioners return to the Feb. 15 case of whether Sam Seidel, who lives on Harris Street in a home on the city line, should be considered a resident of Cambridge or Somerville – a case that could affect people in similar situations. The commission meets at 51 Inman St., Mid-Cambridge.

Teen health survey results

School Committee School Climate Subcommittee, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. This hearing discusses the most recent Teen and Middle Grades Health Survey and related school climate surveys. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.


Section 8 voucher changes

Human Rights Commission, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Members look at Section 8 voucher program changes and talk about housing discrimination and an attorney-investigator overview of vouchers and payment of rents that go over voucher amounts. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

More plans in Porter Square

Historical Commission, 6 p.m. Thursday. The clock may be ticking on Mind’s Eye Yarns at 22 White St., Porter Square, where an 1872 home may be demolished to make way for a four-story and four-home condominium building – just part of a comprehensive remaking of White Street bordering the Porter Square Shopping Center and crossing into Somerville: Over the city line a developer wants to change the zoning of 14 White Street Place to raze three “dilapidated structures” for a transit-oriented project “consistent with the neighborhood character”; and plans for a four-story lab and office building proposal at 32-44 White St. go on too. Back in East Cambridge, there’s a plan to take down the little offices at 231 Third St. (built in 1916) and single-family home at 235 Third St. (built in 1886) to put up a five-story building of 19 homes.