I've put in my share of orders in my first 3.5 months on the City Council, and a lot of them have concerned safe streets. I've been advised by a lot of folks to focus on two or three key policy areas as a Councilor-At-Large. Making our city a less dangerous place to walk, bike, and drive is one of mine.
I'm on the Traffic and Parking Committee, and a number of those safe streets orders I put in are on the agenda for Monday's committee meeting. The arrival of spring means a lot of the work that was difficult to do over the winter -- like putting in new sign posts, paint markings, and traffic-calming infrastructure -- now is possible. I'm looking forward to those discussions with city staff on Monday night to get updates on what to expect over the next seven or eight months.
One of the most important initiatives is making all our neighborhood residential streets 20 MPH zones. Municipalities now are allowed to do this, but we can't set our unposted speed limit any lower than 25 MPH. This means all our neighborhood residential streets need to have 20 MPH speed limit signage posted, and that's no small task.
Lowering the speed limit throughout our city is vital because it makes our streets safer. The data is clear that 20 MPH is a significantly safer speed than even 25 MPH. In a crowded city with narrow streets and a hefty number of cars parked on those streets, that's going to matter even more. You've probably seen or heard "Twenty is plenty" and I strongly agree with that sentiment. I've found that since embracing slower city driving, I'm less stressed behind the wheel and I generally enjoy the experience much more. I urge everyone to try it.
A 20-MPH speed limit also will reduce cut-through traffic on these streets, easing rush hour traffic congestion and sparing our city street surfaces all that extra wear and tear -- and sparing our budget all those additional expenses! An estimated 70 to 80 percent of cars on our streets during rush hour are commuters cutting through Somerville. When speed limits are lowered, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps are less likely to route drivers onto streets, calculating that it's faster to stick to highways.
There are other important safe streets initiatives that we'll be discussing in Traffic and Parking on Monday night, including enforcing "daylighting" parking regulations that prohibit parking within 20 feet (about one full-size car length) of an intersection. This makes it easier for drivers to see cross traffic -- both vehicles and bikes -- and pedestrians crossing. It also reduces the phenomenon of drivers rolling through crosswalks to get a better view of cross traffic.
I'm also eager to see the city expand on last year's encouraging growth of speed humps on key cut-through streets. There are orders in for speed humps on Somerville Avenue Extension, Sycamore Street, and Jaques Street -- the street I call home. Speed humps alone won't solve speeding on our streets, but in conjunction with lower speed limits and other traffic calming measures, they can help reduce cut-through traffic tearing down side streets.
Here are some other things I'd like to highlight right now:
Eviction moratorium extension & sunsetting
The Somerville Board of Health voted on Thursday night to extend the eviction moratorium one final time to June 30. Housing advocates were strongly supportive of this move to give tenants and landlords an additional two months to work with new programs and resources aimed at avoiding evictions.
If you need assistance, please contact the Office of Housing Stability at 617-625-6600 x2581 or at somervillema.gov/ohs. The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) also can help at 617-623-7370 or caasomerville.org/need-help, as well as The Somerville Homeless Coalition 617-623-6111, [email protected], or somervillehomelesscoalition.org/programs.
Accessory Dwelling Units
I'm submitting my first zoning amendment for next week's City Council meeting. It's a fairly straightforward amendment that removes the Site Plan Approval requirement for backyard cottages, a type of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). If you're not familiar with ADUs, they're gaining popularity nationwide and here locally as part of the solution to our housing supply crisis. I'm looking forward to closely following this proposed amendment as it goes through the approval process.
Schools Budgeting 101
The process of determining the Somerville Public Schools budget is an important early step of our budget process every year. Ward 2 rep and School Committee Vice-Chair Ilana Krepchin has put together a handy primer on how that process plays out and the decisions involved. I encourage you to read that so you know what to expect on that front in the next month.
PorchFest returns this spring!
Following last year's special fall version of PorchFest, this favorite local event returns to its customary spring slot this year. The event will take place across the city from noon to 6 PM on Saturday, May 14, with a rain date of Sunday, May 15. Registration currently is open for both hosts and bands, and you can do that here.
SPS virtual recruitment fair
Somerville Public Schools is holding a virtual recruitment fair on Wednesday, April 27, from 10 AM to noon. Attendees will have the opportunity to speak to SPS administrators to learn more about a particular school or department.
We continue to look to hire the best and brightest for our city. Both the City of Somerville and Somerville Public Schools have numerous job openings posted.
Somerville Community Fridge
Thanks to the work of volunteers, Somerville Community Fridge has two locations: 35 Prospect St in Union Square and 36 Sewall Street in Winter Hill. These mutual aid fridges are a vital resource in the battle against hunger in our city. Learn more about Somerville Community Fridge through their Facebook Group or their Linktree.
Did You Know....
The City of Somerville offers reminder texts and emails for garbage and recycling collection and street sweeping. These are particularly help when a holiday impacts curbside collection, like this week. These alerts even include information on whether yard waste is being collected that particular week!
Board & Commission Applicants Wanted
Serving on a board or commission is great way to be involved in your city. Here's the latest list of vacancies the Administration is looking to fill:
- Somerville Historic Preservation Commission
- Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals
- Somerville Wage Theft Advisory Committee
We Want Your Input
These are the City of Somerville surveys actively seeking responses:
Group office hours are back on Sunday at a slightly earlier time of 9 to 11 AM.
If that time doesn't work for you or you'd prefer to meet individually, I'm continuing to offer on-demand office hours. You can book a time on my calendar via my Calendly to meet in person or virtually.
The Week Ahead
Here are the meetings I'll be at this week:
Monday, April 25 (6:00 PM) - Traffic and Parking Committee meeting
Tuesday, April 26 (6:30 PM) - Finance Committee meeting
Wednesday, April 27 (6:00 PM) - Licensing Commission meeting
Thursday, April 28 (7:00 PM) - City Council meeting
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