City council comments, December 21, 2015

Policy Order #7, regarding unwanted graffiti in Central Square. This is a very significant and growing problem in Central Square, and it affects greater Central Square broadly. I might suggest a program for those who would volunteer to actively clean up/paint over graffiti around the square. Private property owners who agree to have volunteers/the city remove graffiti from private buildings could be put on a registry——there are many who seem to paint over graffiti on a regular basis but can’t keep up with how quickly it reappears. There is sound theory that constant (almost desperate) action to remove graffiti and other physical detriments is the best way to prevent them from becoming more widespread or leading to worse problems. Of course, the links between certain types of tagging and violence/intimidation are well documented, and something we should combat at every level in Cambridge.

City Manager’s Agenda Item #5, for funding part-time archives assistants at the Historical Commission. This is a modest sum very well spent.

City Manager’s Agenda Item #11, on constantly-flashing pedestrian crossing signs. The data aligns with the general gist of Joseph Barr’s letter, that too many visual inputs eventually cease to be effective for road safety. On the other hand, we should be moving away from push-button crossings in general wherever possible, instead opting for regular crossings on a cycle, and/or utilizing raised intersections, so as to better normalize and prioritize walking around the city.

City Manager’s Agenda Item #12, on Hubway funding. This is another area of money well spent. The continued expansion of Hubway along with protected/separated bicycle infrastructure will continue yielding rewards for our local economy and equity of transportation access. It’s hard to say whether Hubway will ever be financially self-sufficient, but we have plain evidence that continued expansion, good infrastructure, and proactive operations/maintenance leads to continued growth and user satisfaction. The rewards compound across the community and local economy.

City Manager’s Agenda Items #13 and #14, on the Alewife Bridge/Platform project. This is a long overdue project, which should have been done in tandem with, or before, much of the development of this area. Projects permitted in the “quadrangle” are fully outfitted with parking, with little to no good walking options or bicycle infrastructure. This is an ongoing failure of coordination, considering the large amount of development that has taken place in this area in recent years, and the large amount of built parking. If parking could have been constructed (and required) on the large scale it was in the new developments, then a common sense, desperately needed walk/bike crossing of the railroad tracks could have been done, too, and done first.

City Manager’s Agenda Item #16, on the public open space along Galileo Way between Binney and Broadway. This promises to be one of the hallmark public spaces in greater Kendall Square, and will carry one of the next sections of the Grand Junction Path as part of its design. This is a big step for both our transportation and open space networks.

City Manager’s Agenda Item #21, regarding building potential along Cambridge & Gore between 2nd & 3rd. The structure at 225 Cambridge Street has obvious historical merit, and one might suspect other buildings in the affected parcels do as well. There is of course a “highest and best use” question, particularly as concerns the sprawling parking lot, and the location relative to Lechmere Station. There’s a case to be made for significant upzoning of the parcels as a group (with incentives for reduced parking, residential and mixed-use development, and appropriate protections and integration of the historical structures).

City Manager’s Agenda Item #23, regarding a redesign for Carl Barron Plaza. I look forward to the River Street/Carl Barron Plaza design process. These are areas that need design attention in a very significant way. Good design has the potential to significantly uplift the lives of those who experience River Street and Central Square regularly. These should be hallmark public places in Cambridge; currently they both fall quite short.

City council comments, December 21, 2015