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February 2012 PSNA Minutes

Agenda

  • Sign variance at Porter Square Galleria
  • Live Better Porter Square project
  • "Shop and Eat on Mass Ave" map
  • MBTA Funding

Sign variance at Porter Square Galleria

District Manager Damian Smith and attorney Katie Thomason told us about Walgreens moving into the Porter Square Galleria, in the space currently occupied by Blockbuster and Pier One. Apparently Pier One has been on a month-by-month lease and their future plans are unknown. Walgreens has applied for a zoning variance to allow an internally illuminated sign above the second story, specifically their standard "script" sign, which is 40 inches high and almost 15 feet long. This exceeds zoning limits in both height and size.

After a short discussion the members present agreed that PSNA as a group should neither support nor oppose this variance application. We see no harm to abutters in it, but no particular benefit either.

Live Better Porter Square project

Meghan Shaw, who is Community Outreach Director for the Cambridge Energy Alliance, spoke about CEA's new 3-4 month pilot project. "Live Better Porter Square" is intended to bring together faith groups, schools, community gardeners, business leaders, students and more, to encourage thinking and acting locally about energy efficiency. They have chosen to start in Porter Square because of the existence of active neighborhood groups and involved merchants. Last year 550 Tags Hardware customers took advantage of CEA's $125 voucher offer to swap old air conditioners for new ones.

The core of the program is free energy audits for homeowners. Tags and other stores will give you a $10 coupon for signing up for an audit. Or, you can sign up local schools which then get the $10. You have a choice of auditing companies. After assessment you may be eligible to receive free CFL's, free targeted air sealing, discounted insulation, and rebates on high efficiency equipment.

CEA is looking for volunteer "Neighborhood Captains" to promote the program through advocacy, word of mouth, arranging tours, and similar activities. There will be an information meeting for potential volunteers at 6:30PM on Wednesday, February 22, at the City Hall Annex.

CEA also has a solar hot water grant program to help residents and businesses to install solar hot water heating. Even here in New England a solar heater can provide 50 to 75 percent of hot water needs.

References:

- http://cambridgeenergyalliance.org/resources/calendar
- http://cambridgeenergyalliance.org/resources/additional-resources/solar-...
- http://nextsteplivinginc.com/

"Shop and Eat on Mass Ave" map

We are reviving the popular 2007 map and adding an online version. Our goal is to have an updated printed map by August, in time for next year's arriving students. There is an experimental online version of the map, which you can review and comment on at /ExperimentalMap .

MBTA Funding

Jeff Rosenblum from the Community Development Department gave a short summary of the Cambridge City Manager's memo to the City Council on MBTA fare increase and service cut plan, and took questions. Among interesting facts, we learned that:

- 73% of the population of Massachusetts is currently covered by the MBTA
- 250 thousand people per day ride the Red Line (about as many as I93)
- Of the ten busiest bus routes, four (1, 77, 66, 70) run through Cambridge
- 85 thousand people per day ride the MBTA busses that run through Cambridge

Alice Wolf gave us an update on the "T Caucus", which is working to put together a state-wide coalition of legislators and find a long-term solution. Although there is a long way to go, Alice is guardedly optimistic that something can be worked out.

References (just a few of many):

- http://www2.cambridgema.gov/CityOfCambridge_Content/documents/MBTAfarein...
- http://www.box.com/s/q5hbxb60x8iac34yto18
- http://articles.boston.com/2012-02-05/metro/31025121_1_transit-systems-s...
- http://mapc.org/sites/default/files/MAPC_Transportation_Finance_Recommen...

We are drafting a letter to Massachusetts executive and legislative leaders supporting a long-term solution. If you are interested in helping with this draft please contact info@portersquare.net.