This past week was a particularly rough one for public transit here. Between Wednesday's announcement of the closure of the Orange Line for 30 days and Friday's announcement of the re-closure of the Union Square spur of the GLX and the delayed opening of the rest of the GLX, it made you long for the days when the most pressing problems we faced were fires on the T.
I'll spare you another rant about our ridiculous, chronic neglect of one of the most important resources in our region: the MBTA. These closures are going to be extremely painful for riders of these lines -- and terrible for traffic and our environment -- but we don't have any choice in the matter. Even as the Green Line (eventually) arrives in Somerville, these are tough times for public transit in the area.
T riders will take it on the chin yet again in the latest embarrassing setback for for the beleaguered agency. More and more people who previously relied on public transit will lose patience and/or faith and opt for expensive private vehicles or unsustainable ridesharing companies. Traffic and parking will worsen. Our climate and air quality will suffer.
One of the most frustrating things about all of this is that it feels like we're doing our part here in Somerville, only to suffer this fate due to bad actors elsewhere. We've designed dedicated bus infrastructure and bus priority signaling here, only to see painful cuts to favorite bus lines as part of the mixed bag that is the proposed Bus Network Redesign. We're putting traffic calming measures in place in our city, only for these setbacks to create additional traffic that will divert more cut-through commuters through Somerville.
It's not all depressing at the state level: We did get some good news last week when the inane plan to waste a state budget surplus of $3.6 billion on $250 rebate checks fortuitously hit a roadblock. We can only hope sanity eventually prevails on Beacon Hill and they figure out a way to invest these funds wisely by repairing our crumbling infrastructure.
But let's talk more about mobility locally...
Parking & Curb Use Recommendations
I'm hearing a lot from constituents about the findings and recommendations of the Citywide Parking & Curb Use Study. I agree with the study consultants' recommendations for reforming the fee structure of residential parking permits, as long as low-income households are sheltered from this. Permits for second and third parking permits for a household should cost more. And those of us with off-street parking should pay more for parking permits we use for convenience.
Rather than moving to purely zoned permits, I'd instead propose a hybrid system of base-level zoned residential parking permit and a premium-priced all-zones permit. Perhaps something along the lines of:
You can weigh in on these recommendations by completing this survey.
Traffic-Calming Infrastructure Improvements
We're seeing new quick-build daylighting, raised crosswalks, and speed humps popping up all over the city. Whether you've been clamoring for these things on your own street or all over the city (or both, in my case), these are wonderful sights as we make our city safer for everyone.
I know there are a lot of questions about which streets are prioritized for safety infrastructure and the engineering decisions behind the different speed humps. Rest assured that City staff are working on documentation that should address these questions.
Despite the recent Somerville Times article with an extremely pessimistic headline, the proposed development at 299 Broadway still is very much a possibility. This is good news for affordable housing advocates, as the project includes an eye-popping 141 new affordable housing units at a variety of income levels and with a decent number of three-bedroom units. There's a lot about this proposal that has my Winter Hill neighbors and me excited.
The biggest stumbling block concerns parking. The developer, Mark Development, is seeing a waiver of the parking regulations that would make residents of market rate units at 299 Broadway ineligible for resident parking permits and visitor passes, by virtue of this development sitting within 0.5 miles of the new Gilman Square T station. The discovery of asbestos buried at the site prompted the developer to switch to a zero-parking project, but the financiers are nervous about this. I've spoken to the development team about looking into nearby private off-street parking availability and I'd strongly prefer to avoid waiving the parking permit restrictions here.
Assembly Square Redevelopment
It hasn't been getting much recent attention in the public eye, but the plan to redevelop a significant portion of the Assembly Square neighborhood still is in the works. It feels like only a few years ago that the old Assembly Square Mall was reborn as Assembly Marketplace. Now that area is earmarked for redevelopment to bring it more in line with modern urban planning.
This is good. A large surface parking lot and one-story "medium box" retailers are very much out of step with how we want to use our land in Somerville. However, some community groups have sounded the alarm at how their input was (or was not) incorporated into the draft neighborhood plan after it seemed like a consensus had been reached back in October 2020. While I support the repurposing of this land, I want to make sure community voices are heard and included in this process.
Bicycle Network Plan Draft Feedback
The City released a draft of the Bicycle Network Plan in early June, then spent much of last month meeting with the public to gather feedback. If you haven't yet shared your thoughts, email your comments to [email protected] or add them to the project's Public Input Map.
It went into overtime, but Beacon Hill finally moved to regulate (most) e-bikes at the state level. Now that we have this framework, we can move to do our part to regulate e-bikes at the local level.
From my conversations with constituents, I've heard the most support for a simple regulation of speed limits on bikeways, rather than focusing on different classes of e-bikes. So this past week I met with our Legislative and Policy Analyst to begin the work of crafting a local ordinance regulating e-bikes in this way. We have a draft of this regulatory ordinance that we're circulating, so please let me know if you'd like to preview the text of that draft.
Free COVID Tests
With school not in session for the summer, Somerville families looking for rapid COVID antigen test kits can get those from the City in the following locations during their regular opening hours:
- City Hall (93 Highland Ave)
- City Hall Annex (50 Evergreen Ave)
- Central Library (79 Highland Ave)
- East Branch Library (115 Broadway)
- West Branch Library (40 College Ave)
Note: Limit one test kit per household member; while supplies last
Early Voting for Primary
In-person early voting for this year's primary elections begins Saturday, August 27 in the City Council Chambers at City Hall (93 Highland Ave). Click here for full details and make your plan to vote!
My endorsements in the contested Democratic primary races are:
- Eric Lesser for Lieutenant Governor
- Shannon Liss-Riordan for Attorney General
- Tanisha Sullivan for Secretary of the Commonwealth
- Chris Dempsey for Auditor
Join the Appointments Advisory Committee!
The Mayor's Appointments Advisory Committee (AAC) is an important body that advises the Administration on recommendations for appointments to the city's many boards and commissions. The City currently is seeking five new members for the body.
Applications are due Friday, September 2. To apply, please send a statement of interest to Hannah Carrillo at [email protected] or by mail at: Somerville City Hall, 93 Highland Ave., Somerville MA 02143. Please email Hannah or call 617-625-6600 ext. 2100 with any questions.
Wanted: Crossing Guards
Looking for part-time work outdoors, helping keep our young community members safe? Somerville needs crossing guards ahead of the start of the 2022/23 school year. Click here for details and to apply.
Crossing guard openings are just some of the 46 City of Somerville positions and 174 Somerville Public Schools openings currently posted. Please spread the word and encourage your friends and relatives to apply for these positions!
Did You Know...
The folks on the City's Inclusionary Housing team host weekly virtual office hours. You can learn about how the Inclusionary Housing program works and what's involved in getting on the list for drawings for new affordable housing units.
The Somerville City Council currently is enjoying a six-week summer recess, with the customary cancellation of the second July and first August regular meetings and no committee meetings scheduled during this period. This is a time to recharge our batteries after a draining Budget Season and come back refreshed for the fall.
I've continued to work during the first three weeks of recess, but as of today I'm stepping away from my City Council work -- including my email and social media -- for two full weeks to spend time with my family. I apologize for any inconvenience if you're looking to connect with me during this time, but I've vowed to my family to be better about my work-life balance and this seems like a great way to start. I'll respond to emails, social media, texts, and calls when I'm back at it on Monday, August 22 -- and these email newsletters will return the following weekend.
I'm taking time off from both group and on-demand office hours while I'm relaxing with my family these next two weeks. Group office hours will return on Sunday, August 28. Meanwhile you always can book time with me via my Calendly to meet in person or virtually for appointments after August 22.
A Fundraising Plea
These newsletters are part of my work to improve engagement and communication with the public. The tools I'm using to do this -- NationBuilder, Google Workspace, Linktree, Calendly, and Zoom -- all come with subscription costs. With the 2023 campaign looming in the spring, I'm looking to go into next year in decent shape financially. Anything you're able to contribute is much appreciated!
Click here to donate -- and thank you for your support!
The Weeks Ahead
Even during Vacation Season there's still work happening in the city. Here are some things taking place in the coming weeks:
- Tuesday, August 9 (6:30 PM) - Commission for Persons with Disabilities meeting
- Thursday, August 11 (6:30 PM) - Human Rights Commission meeting
- Tuesday, August 16 (6 PM) - Commission for Women meeting
- Thursday, August 18 (6 PM) - Racial and Social Justice forum
- Thursday, August 25 (7 PM) - City Council regular meeting
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