Sunday, June 16, 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 July 8 protest in Cambridge’s Harvard Square included demands for the name of a police officer in a Jan. 4 shooting. (Photo: Adri Pray)

Massachusetts Avenue changes

Massachusetts Avenue Partial Construction Working Group, 5 to 7 Monday. City staff and this group of advisers plans the second of two site walks to see travel behavior before proposing design changes in a $50 million project. This walk goes from Porter Square to Rice Street, just before Frank’s Steak House in North Cambridge, setting off from the red windmill sculpture at Porter Station, 1899 Massachusetts Ave.

Special summer meeting

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. This sole council meeting of the summer looks typically big, with 27 agenda items from the City Manager’s Office and 21 from councillors that include three items put off from their last regular meeting in June. There are also 27 resolutions and a handful of reports that could get discussion – but it’s unpredictable, even when it comes to the Police Executive Research Forum weighing in on whether the Cambridge Police Department should have made public the name of the officer who shot Arif Sayed Faisal in Cambridgeport on Jan. 4, as called for by “justice for Faisal” protesters. Yes, the consultants say, “CPD could have – legally and ethically – released the officer’s name during the weeks after the shooting.” But the point is moot in this instance, as the possibility ended when a judge said “no information could be shared publicly until the inquest is complete.” The report says that “going forward, CPD should begin with the presumption that it will release the officer’s name within a specific period of time, and then thoughtfully consider whether reasons exist that would legitimately and in good faith justify withholding it from the public.” (Meanwhile, there’s a policy order from councillor Quinton Zondervan asking to know all outstanding and recent lawsuits around police officers on which the city is spending taxpayer money.)

There’s a legal opinion on whether the council can ask that speakers during public comment give their name, address and phone number, and the Law Department says the practice “would likely withstand public scrutiny if challenged.”

The city looks ready to act on buying a chunk of the National Guard Armory of Cambridge, which is next to the under-renovation Tobin and Vassal Lane school campuses. The National Guard doesn’t want to sell all of its land, but this 30,752 square feet appraised at $5.4 million could expand the sports fields, create learning areas and increase open space and walking paths; the city manager is asking for a closed-door session to talk about real estate. In other property issues, there is a report about Danehy Park in Neighborhood 9, where irrigation failed last year, killing trees. “There is a need for a fresh look at Danehy as a facility, as the original construction – including the irrigation system – is 30 years old,” the manager said. The city has a contract to develop a park plan for the next 10 to 20 years. There’s a look at all city property in the Central Square area too, focusing on how to use what’s underused.

It’s Affordable Housing Overlay annual report time, and the Community Development Department shows 16 sites being reviewed under the zoning and six AHO developments underway with a total of 616 units. Two (Jefferson Park Federal and at 52 New St.) are to start construction “in the coming months” and another (at 49 Sixth St.) in early 2024, the report says. The pressure on city Neighborhood Conservation Districts, historical commissions and a landmarks law that some are applying to encourage more development gets a look in two memos, with Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, saying in one that proposed changes are objectionable because they undo a “fundamental” ability. Meanwhile, developments rejected by the districts and commissions are minimal – mostly under 1 percent.

Community Development is also ready with changes to cannabis laws, offering language that gets rid of special permit requirement and the need for favored “social equity” applicants to be Cambridge residents – none have been. 

Councillors want staff to assess how the Alewife area would fare if zoning suggested by a working group is adopted; and for MIT to plant more trees to make up for what’s been lost as it develops the Volpe site in Kendall Square. Urban agriculture law changes return from 2017, when  the council “ordained the beekeeping zoning amendment, but did not legalize the keeping of chickens” – a case that itself went back to 2010.

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

Fixing math education policies

School Committee, 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday. A roundtable about teaching math is asked by three members after months of controversy over the district backing away from an eighth-grade algebra standard. Another motion calls for the superintendent to offer a program that “supports all students to prepare to enter Algebra I in eighth grade and expands and enriches learning for those who are already performing above grade level in math.” The meeting is planned for the Dr. Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 459 Broadway, Mid-Cambridge. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Affordable Housing Overlay

Planning Board, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The board gets proposed changes to the Affordable Housing Overlay – to allow 100-percent-affordable buildings to rise to 12 stories along the city’s main corridors and to 15 stories in the squares, which is taller than current zoning allows but shorter than the 13-story and 25-story buildings originally proposed as a change. The changes were before the City Council’s Ordinance Committee last week; the full council will vote next, taking both bodies’ recommendations into account. There’s also an extension request for a plan to demolish an 11-unit building in Central Square and put up one with 22 at 48-50 Bishop Allen Drive. When the project was first heard in June, vice chair Catherine Preston Connolly noted: “We have a design that hasn’t apparently changed in three years despite feedback from CDD, from DPW, from the neighbors, and yet it’s clear that changes are required.” Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

This post was updated Aug. 8, 2023, to reflect the actual time of the start of a School Committee meeting.