Monday, May 27, 2024

These are just some of the municipal meetings and civic events for the coming week. More are on the City Calendar and in the city’s Open Meetings Portal.


A felled tree between Fresh Pond and the Alewife Brook Parkway in the Cambridge Highlands. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Jerry’s Pond or bridge building

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. The city is moving $600,000 in federal funds toward Danehy Park and away from Jerry’s Pond, telling the council that the reclamation of the pond – which has been considered blighted and surrounded by a chain-link fence since 1961 – is in good hands with the owner of the land, the life-sciences real estate developer IQHQ. With the company’s existing commitments to improvements, “we plan to reallocate” dollars approved July 1 (under the previous city manager) for a feasibility study at the pond and put them instead into design of a bike and pedestrian bridge over the Fitchburg Commuter Line to connect Rindge Avenue and Danehy Park. This reallocation will make the city “competitive for federal funding opportunities” to finish the bridge when supplemented by city money, City Manager Yi-An Huang said. Bridges over these train tracks have been wanted for decades, but the need for one to the south, on other other side of Route 16, has been more prominent and discussed; meanwhile, the Friends of Jerry’s Pond group that works with IQHQ has complained that city documents seem proud of spending nothing at Jerry’s Pond. “We do not believe that Cambridge spending zero dollars on Jerry’s Pond along Rindge Avenue is a mark of pride,” it said in an April 16 newsletter.

In another open-space issue, city councillors propose a working group with members from “the entire Cambridge community” to look at how to best use Larch Road Field in West Cambridge near Fresh Pond after its upcoming use as a cricket field – which the policy order stresses is temporary while highlighting potential uses for city operations, affordable housing, a preschool “and other uses which would benefit the larger Cambridge community.” Open space is included, though, and the order has a co-sponsor in Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, the official who seems most excited about the 4-acre field’s use for cricket games starting in May. Tangentially related: Huang is asking the council to let him partner with the town of Arlington on a planning grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, putting up $250,000 to add to the $742,500 coming to Arlington for a 36-month study on countering increased coastal flooding from climate change. Dams are at risk of being overtopped by 2030 and failing by 2050.

The police response to a Feb. 6 council policy order is in, providing a look at what more could be done to give a nonlethal response with “the smallest risk of injury” when responding to an emergency – a direct response to a Cambridgeport man being shot dead by a police officer Jan. 4 after a nonlethal “sponge round” had no effect. Though Arif Sayed Faisal was carrying a large knife during a mental health crisis, many in the community feel he was a threat only to himself. The report by police commissioner Christine Elow talks about five items police already have and six it does not, with only two of them recommended: a taser with a range of 45 feet and a shoulder-fired “Less Lethal Launcher” that’s accurate from 160 feet, holds 15 rounds and fires with almost no recoil. Each have cons, and the taser could be an especially hard sell to the council considering its “recent high-profile deployments [elsewhere that] have resulted in death.” But it may not matter for months; Elow recommends waiting for a third-party look into Faisal’s death to be finished “before we consider pursuing or expanding” the arsenal.

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

Strategic tutoring conversation

School Committee Special Education & Student Supports Subcommittee, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday. This hearing chaired by Ayesha Wilson aims to start a community conversation about strategic tutoring. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Cava, Chico Taqueria and more

License Commission, 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Requests for warm-weather patio dining begin to arrive, and four restaurants seek licensing to open, starting with two in Harvard Square: Cava Mezze, which came before the Board of Zoning Appeal all the way back in August, finally looks ready to go at 22 Brattle St., serving Greek food from 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily with seating for nine; and Las Palmas, a Dominican restaurant in Harvard’s Smith Center coming to 83 Mount Auburn St., the former El Jefe’s Taqueria space. Also on the agenda: Chivo Taqueria (identified as Chico Taqueria for the commission’s April 4 meeting) is asking to open at 1728 Massachusetts Ave., Neighborhood 9 between Harvard and Porter squares, replacing Baraka Cafe and serving from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; and Oak Bistro, seeking to take over the alcohol license and home of Corazon De Frida at 1287 Cambridge St., Inman Square, would be open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily with inside occupancy of 95 complemented by 54 outside patio seats. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Tree canopy update

Health & Environment Committee, 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday. This committee run by city councillor Patty Nolan talks about an updated Urban Forest Master Plan and how to improve tree health and tree canopy across the city – a meeting first expected in February, shortly after the release of a report suggesting tree loss isn’t as bad as previously thought. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Big government changes possible

Charter Review Committee,5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The group continues exploring crucial questions about the balance of power between the mayor, city manager and city councillors. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Starlight Square zoning

Planning Board, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Proposed zoning that would keep the Starlight Square open-air event complex open in Central Square cruised through an April 13 hearing by a City Council committee, and now the Planning Board gets its chance to weigh in. Also: The developer Urban Spaces is back seeking to amend a 2010 large-project permit to put a six-story, 90-apartment addition at what is now one story with a post office and three retail spaces at 75 First St., East Cambridge. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

‘Buildings and landmarks’ law

Ordinance Committee, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan returns to a conversation from March 7 looking at changes to laws around historical buildings and landmarks. The proposal resulted from controversy over conservation districts, which can protect architecturally significant neighborhoods without being as restrictive as historical districts – though some residents felt the laws were a roadblock to developments that could provide more homes, and that district leaders didn’t represent the city’s diversity. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Building energy-use ordinance

Ordinance Committee, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan continues discussion on proposed amendments to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance – that business buildings would become net zero on greenhouse gas emissions as of 2035. There’s no public comment on these “Beudo” changes this time. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.

Spending for lower-income

Federal annual action plan public hearing, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. A second session seeks public comment on how to spend $3.5 million in federal money on affordable housing, economic development, public service and other community development needs. The programs must benefit low- and moderate-income residents of Cambridge and county residents with AIDS. It’s a lot of money to help direct, but draws little public attention. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Student behavior and discipline

School Committee School Climate Subcommittee, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. This hearing chaired by Caroline Hunter looks at student behavior and discipline as it relates to school district policies and procedures; and to review and discuss those policies and procedures and district restorative justice practices. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing. (Update on April 24. 2023: This meeting has been canceled.)