News from a very big week

photo-30.JPGIt has been a momentous week of civic activity in the City of Cambridge. Thank you to everyone who participated in meetings that were held on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and thanks as well to everyone who has followed along online and via email.

On Monday, the council met for six-and-a-half hours for our annual "midsummer meeting." I brought forward an ambitious policy order to help fund the preservation of the Silver Maple Forest, but unfortunately, some of my colleagues were not quite as willing to act on the issue. In the end, we passed a compromise order that asks the City Manager to work with Belmont, Arlington, and the Commonwealth to explore potential sources of funding to save the forest, and we also passed a second order that asks DCR to hold off on one of the final-remaining approvals for the project. 

There's been tremendous coverage of the Silver Maple Forest issue all week - on WGBH's Greater Boston television program, in Cambridge Day, in the Cambridge Chronicle, and also on my blog.
Other big events happened on Monday as well - the council voted to create an advisory committee to improve the process at the Planning Board, we voted to jumpstart the effort to preserve the Whittemore Ave. Community Garden, and we received the first update on the Citywide Master Plan process. On top of all that, we also adopted a Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance, an early product of the Net Zero Task Force.

On Tuesday, the Planning Board met to review the proposal to convert the Sullivan Courthouse to a 20-story office tower. As a result of my earlier policy order, this meeting was held at the Kennedy-Longfellow School in East Cambridge; it drew what was perhaps the largest crowd ever seen at the Planning Board, with about 200 people showing up to testify. In the end, it was impossible for the Board to deliberate the case. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for September 30. This is a victory for East Cambridge residents who are asking for a more meaningful role in the planning process.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, I introduced the petition for City Council Project Review to the Ordinance Committee. It was an excellent meeting, with overwhelming testimony in support of the proposal to have the council provide oversight on large development projects for the duration of the Citywide Master Plan process. In case you missed the meeting, here is how I opened the presentation to my fellow councillors:

In addition to evaluating meaningful criteria, the Planning Board has the legal authority to exercise greater discretion, but clearly, they are not accustomed to applying it. As of this week, there are now plans to form an advisory committee to look at ways to improve the Planning Board process. However, we also owe it to residents to assume our share of the responsibility during this period of change. After all, we are now witnessing unprecedented opposition to projects that will literally redefine their respective neighborhoods -- the Sullivan Courthouse in East Cambridge, and the Alewife Brook floodplain area. Smart, talented, committed residents are telling us something.

You may also watch a video of the meeting here on the city's website. Please note, the tape didn't start rolling until a few minutes after I started my presentation. In the end, my fellow committee-members decided to schedule a follow up session to continue with our discussion of the proposal - that meeting is now scheduled for Wednesday, August 27, at 5:30 pm.

One more thing: the Planning Board hearing for the Carlone, et al. petition is scheduled for this Tuesday, at 7 pm, at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. I hope you join us for this unique and important opportunity to talk about the the future of our city.

Have a nice weekend, and thanks again!

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