Wednesday, May 22, 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.


Changes for police; Kendall park

A City Council policy order asks to explore switching Cambridge to a regional system and away from maintaining its own water department and supply. (Photo: Marc Levy)

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. Potentially dramatic changes to Cambridge arrive as policy orders from councillor Quinton Zondervan on long-standing fixations: water (asking for a legal opinion on whether Cambridge can permanently join the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and stop running a Water Department with its own supply); and police (seeking state permission to elect members of the Police Review and Advisory Board, the city’s broken civilian police oversight board, instead of having the city manager appoint them). It’ll be a big night for policing, as a Zondervan order calling for officer names to be released in all use-of-force incidents is back for debate, likely with a substitute order from other councillors’ that last week he considered a “whitewashing.”

The third annual Cycling Safety Ordinance progress report is out, showing that between May 1, 2022, and April 30 the city completed or started construction on 3.6 miles of separated bike lanes and has the busiest year yet planned: 4.7 miles. About 25 miles of lanes are supposed to be added through 2027 toward the goal of safer roads. (Less controversially, Cambridge is getting a $230,070 grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for Bluebikes rental equipment and a $100,000 grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to pay for two 19-dock Bluebikes stations and bicycles at the Kennedy-Longfellow School and Twin City Plaza.)

It was less than a year ago that the council froze lab and office development around the Alewife area to try to put in place rules that will result in a livable, walkable neighborhood. The work of an Alewife Zoning Working Group, which met nine times starting in June, has resulted in a package of proposed zoning and design guidelines. A failure of planning in Kendall Square, where a 7.5-acre central park had long been promised on the 14-acre Volpe site but turned into a scattered 3.5 acres of open space, may have a correction of sorts: Developer MIT, which has committed to providing a nearby 8,000-square-foot parcel for open space, could also buy a neighboring 6,000-square-foot lot to combine with it, making for another park at Third and Binney streets that could take some of the 131 trees needing to be removed at Volpe. An order asks city staff to help make it happen.

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

Student behavior and discipline

School Committee School Climate Subcommittee, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday. This hearing chaired by Caroline Hunter eyes school climate as it relates to student behavior and discipline and related district policies and procedures, including around restorative justice. The committee meets in the Dr. Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 459 Broadway, Mid-Cambridge. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Surveillance oversight in 2022

Public Safety Committee, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. This committee run by city councillor Quinton Zondervan takes up the surveillance technology oversight report for 2022. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

Flat Top Johnny’s returns

License Commission, 11 a.m. Tuesday. After announcing a return via tweet more than six months ago, the pool and pinball hall Flat Top Johnny’s is coming to the commission for food, alcohol and entertainment licensing for a 5,430-square-foot space in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology building at 238 Main St., Kendall Square – not far from where it closed Aug. 14, 2020, ending a 27-year run because of Covid pandemic restrictions. An attempt in 2021 to reopen in Allston withered from local opposition. The old Johnny’s had a dozen pool tables; the new one is down to 10 with 11 pinball machines, open to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, with seating for 160 inside and 40 patio seats on private property.

A restaurant called Mestizo seeks licensing for 165 Main St., Kendall Square, where it will have 4,217 square feet inside and outside at the base of the MIT-owned “One65 Main” luxury apartment building, an inside occupancy of 180 with another 70 patio seats, open to 1 a.m. all days. The meeting agenda also serves notice that Beat Brew Hall, 13 Brattle St., Harvard Square, has licensing that’s not in use and suggests commissioners will be skeptical if an attempt is made for a renewal in November – this 9,000-square-foot site has had a tortured history, going from Beat Hotel to Beat Brasserie to Beat Brew Hall, closed by the pandemic, reopened in May 2022 and shuttered again in November. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Bike lane advisers comment

Cycling Safety Ordinance Advisory Committee Meeting, 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday. These meetings hear feedback from members and comments from the public. The committee meets on the second floor of the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, Mid-Cambridge. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Extension for boutique hotel

Planning Board, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The board hears a request from Chevron Partners for a one-year extension – to July 27, 2024 – on boutique-hotel plans for the circa-1912 Cambridge Gas Light Co. Building at 727 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. A landmarking study set back the work, and the venture capital firm Inteahouse has been unable to relocate. There’s a design update from Green Soul, an adult-use cannabis seller expecting to open in 759 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, site of the Hair Collage salon. Green Soul has a whimsical, updated idea for the store to be sectioned off like an MBTA green line car, bodega-style market, pizza shop and laundromat and needs changes to entrances and exits and bicycle storage. Updates will also be heard on the Alewife Zoning Working Group, whose work arrives at the City Council on Monday, and the “Our Cambridge Street” guidelines (about the future of Cambridge Street). Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Bringing back triple-deckers

Ordinance Committee, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan look at the “Restore Cambridge Housing Zoning Petition” proposed by Charles Franklin and other citizens. It aims to encourage housing development citywide by allowing the development of residential building types and scales “similar to the prevailing patterns of existing development” – that is, in large part, like the triple-decker homes that are all over the city yet can’t be built under existing zoning. The Planning Board had the petition Tuesday and decided not to recommend it to the council, saying it had some good ideas but needs more study. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.