PSNA January 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 8:00pm to 9:00pm

Lesley University Hall (Amphitheatre 2nd Floor)
1815 Massachusetts Avenue

Minutes

Proposed Redesign of Porter Square Intersection

We met at 8 pm, following the city's presentation of it's redesign proposal for the Porter Square intersection which can be found at https://www.cambridgema.gov/traffic/News/2018/01/portersquarecommunityme...

We spent a little while commenting on what we had just heard.  Essentially the redesign closes the left turn out of the shopping center.  Traffic exiting to turn left on Mass Ave would have to go out, past CVS, to White St. and turn right onto Somerville Ave, then left onto Mass Ave.  That left turn is made possible by removing the island which currently provides shelter for those crossing from the shopping center plaza to the T stop.

There is much more to the redesign, but the main point is to simplify the light sequencing, from 5 to 3 cycles.

Obviously, White St. residents and businesses do not like the redesign, as they will bear the brunt of traffic backing up White St. which already has a lot of issues with trucks unloading, cars and bikes going the wrong way and too fast.

Many folks will lose patience with that exit and cause additional problems as they exit left onto Elm to turn left on Beech and left on Mass Ave.

Many of us pointed out the refuge the island offered and the shear mass of super highway intersection presented to a pedestrian (or biker) as Somerville Ave joins Mass Ave, with no break, no flowers, nothing to tame the intersection.

Some folks pointed that this project was going to happen and while we can and did give many suggestions, point out many design issues, we should not waste our time condemning it.

The city took the many excellent comments and suggestions under advisement and promised to return to us with a refined design.

It should be noted that none of the changes involve reconstruction of streets and curbs such they could not be undone if this does not work.  For example, the current exit will be blocked off with a planter like structure, which could be reopened if need be. 

If the redesign works, we should plan to work with the city and Gravestar to convert the current driveway and stone-faceted walls into a plaza enhancement, not just more bike parking. 

Stay tuned!

 

1791 Mass Ave

Next we reviewed the process I followed to draft a letter in support of the 1791 Mass Ave affordable housing project. Some felt I did not follow PSNA's usual process of circulating and getting concensus of the members for any stance we take.

I explained that I emailed all of the members (talked to most) and surveyed all of the listserve commentary in the months leading up to the BZA hearing.  I also attended almost all of the neighborhood meetings and various city presentations, paying careful attention to the comments made by the neighboring residents.  A draft was on the listserve and received a lot of commentary, including a lot of folks emailing me in favor of the letter, and some against.

The majority of our members and of our listserve friends, as well as those commenting at the meetings, were in favor of affordable housing in our neighborhood and on that site. 

I was careful to point out in the letter that many of those surveyed had one of two objections.  Some insisted their should be parking onsite (below ground) for at least 50% of the residents.  Others felt the project was too dense, the new building too tall. The latter were represented very effectively by the Newport Rd Condominium residents (abutters). They wrote numerous letters, gave testimony a number of times and hired an engineer to explain some of their issues.

Given my survey, I thought it important for PSNA to be on record in favor of affordable housing here in our neighborhood.  

We can and should have a process, but if it requires 100% agreement, we will never write a letter again, the group is too diverse.  That would be a shame. It would say that as a group we are only interested in debating, not in taking a stand for or against anything.

 

Membership

We collected dues and took in a number of new members.  I hope we will get a chance to introduce some of them at upcoming meetings. 

We did not have time to discuss what PSNA should do this year.

 

Ears to the Ground

We had very little time to talk about "Ears to the Ground" although someone bravely brought up the issue of truck noise on Davenport St./heard on Allen Street, which we will follow up on when we have more information.