Monday, June 24, 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.

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A waste can sign on Carl Barron Plaza advertises the best of Cambridge’s Central Square on Nov. 9. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Tribute to Alice K. Wolf

A Tribute to Alice K. Wolf, 2 p.m. Saturday. Free. Wolf spent 40 years as a public servant locally and at the State House, working for progressive ideals, equity and fairness in government. (Before this tribute, check out an exhibit about her career in the library’s lobby and second floor.) The event is in the lecture hall of the Cambridge Main Library, 449 Broadway, Mid-Cambridge.


Safer Central, growing Alewife

City Council, 5:30 p.m. Monday. Forming a task force to improve the quality of life in Central Square is being asked of the city manager by councillor E. Denise Simmons, who wants monthly reports on short-term “low-hanging fruit” and longer-term solutions for problems afflicting the square, “once a bustling hub for commerce and community” but facing “a concerning increase in homelessness, drug use, public intoxication, violence and aggressive panhandling since the onset of the Covid pandemic.” Other returns to long-standing issues filed by councillors in this return to business after a summer break include rat infestations; a climate-change-focused law for roofs to get plants or solar arrays; and a check-in to see if laws around Airbnbs and other short-term rentals work as hoped.

Likely to get more discussion are proposed changes to an existing set of proposed changes in Affordable Housing Overlay zoning, questioning the approach that has recently gone through the Planning Board and council’s Ordinance Committee on height and open space formulas and seeking a “workforce housing” priority; and a possible reform of the city’s approach to lower-income homeownership to prioritize disenfranchised communities – Cambridge’s black and brown residents.

Three items return from the council’s sole summer meeting: A call to know what lawsuits the Cambridge Police Department or its officers have faced within the past five years; whether new outdoor dining areas and bike lanes are being installed because of the Cycling Safety Ordinance clash; and a call to expand free or low-cost transit for residents in need.

City staff have moved fast on legal language for backyard chickens, though that’s because much work was done as part of an Urban Agriculture Task Force in 2017, and on delivering buildout projections for the Alewife area based on proposed zoning: There could be up to 7.5 million square feet added by 2040, with as much as 3.7 million of it being residential; 2.7 million being commercial; and 1.1 million going to neighborhood uses. That’s 3,400 to 3,700 homes holding 6,800 to 7,400 residents, and between 16.7 and 17.3 acres of open space.

The city manager has an update on the 135 Fulkerson St. parcel in East Cambridge, which is expected to come to the city next year via the developer Alexandria Properties, part of an elaborate deal to keep the residential land from becoming an Eversource power substation. That substation is instead going underground in Kendall Square, where Boston Properties is hosting it in exchange for more square footage, while Alexandra agreed to buy the Fulkerson parcel for $13 million for the city as part of its zoning around the Grand Junction multi-use path, a 20-year plan to carve out a walking, running and bicycling corridor from the Boston University Bridge to Somerville. Between 2024 and 2030, Eversource expects to using the parcel to support construction, but it would then come to the city for public use as the Eversource station comes online in 2029. Community meetings will start as soon as this fall, though, about how to use the land.

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


Protecting all relationships

Ordinance Committee, noon Tuesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan discuss changes to city law around “Family Inclusion and Relationship Diversity” – that is, recognitions for single parents and relationships from throuples to poly groups and the asexual or aromantic and beyond. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Changes on Mount Auburn Street

Mount Auburn Street at Aberdeen Avenue intersection safety improvement project open house, 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Discuss plans for a project that will see lanes for cars heading toward Watertown and Belmont in West Cambridge go to one from two with improvements to Mount Auburn between Belmont and Brattle streets, including at two intersections within: at Aberdeen Avenue and Homer Avenue. A bus lane is being extended, bike lanes are being improved and turn lanes added. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Meaningful resident assemblies

Charter Review Committee, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. This group charged with suggesting updates to the city’s 80-year-old governing document turns to asking what is a resident assembly or a citizen panel and their purpose. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.

Volpe and Galeria development

Planning Board, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Small changes within existing plans are requested, including MIT’s real estate arm asking that it be able to adapt its innovation-space requirements (“based on characteristics … from approximately 10 to 12 years ago, when [it] was an emerging concept”) to reflect that there’s now lots of small space for tech entrepreneurs, and what’s needed is room for the companies to grow into. The square footage for innovation space would stay the same, but Mitimco wants “flexibility with respect to the size of their spaces, the length of their leases and the characteristics of their shared amenities.” Also, owners of the Crimson Galeria in Harvard Square have a concept for an entrance that would better serve pedestrians and its businesses – including an Achilito’s Taqueria expected soon, a reopening Bonchon Korean restaurant and potential new fitness center and café. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.


Gas-powered lawn equipment

Health & Environment Committee, 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillor Patty Nolan looks at policies and incentives that would lead to a ban on gas-powered lawn equipment for residents, businesses and city operations. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.


Harvard Square Dunkin’ Donuts

Board of Zoning Appeal, 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. Thursday. New owners of Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Harvard Square – at 61 Church St. and 65 JFK St. – look to renew the sites’ special permits. The square’s advisory committee discussed this Aug. 16 and approved of the renewals, though there was disappointment at the loss of late-night hours (where the JFK shop had closed at midnight, it’s now closing at 10 p.m. and was urged to try for 11 p.m.) and a reminder that a deal was cut in 1996 to have that be the “Eliot Street Café” instead of an outright Dunkin’ exactly to avoid the kind of ad-based signs that were now a constant storefront presence. Watchable by Zoom videoconferencing.