May 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 7:00pm

What's happening with the post office?

Peter Gessell, who represents us customers on the Post Office's customer advisory board, gave a brief history of how that board came about and the various pressures and changes that the PO is confronting. He is the person I've been sending your reports to, and he told us that the information was very helpful. The dates and times helped to distinguish chronic patterns from problems that could be attributed to specific events. The somewhat chronic problem of the long lines is due to the small size of a pool of workers who fill in when others are sick, on vacation, or otherwise unable to be where they normally are. The new postmaster has taken action to expand that pool, and the new folks will be in place on June 9. Thus, if the problems we've been complaining about continue after that date, please send a report to the list.

Cap Policy

Frank Connolly from the Cambridge Prevention Coalition gave an overview of what his group does. This coalition is a grant-funded operation in the city of Cambridge that works with holders of liquor licenses to train personnel to enforce the liquor laws, for example, recognizing fake IDs, learning the signs that someone has had too much to drink (some people don't reach for a lampshade), and cutting off drinks to them. As you might suspect, the coalition works closely with the license commission. Frank provided some information about studies that have been done about various actions that keep booze away from minors (and some other stuff that I can't seem to find at the moment). One practice that seems to be pretty effective is to have fewer outlets (bars and package stores); thus, the pressure to revise the CAP policy and make it easier to get a liquor license has other side effects. We were unable to get into this issue as much as I'd hoped, in part because I wanted to keep the meeting on schedule. I've invited Jinny Nathans, who can speak about the source of the pressure, to do so at our July 19 meeting.

Farmers Market

Si Shapiro reported on his efforts to start this market for at least part of this season, ideally from mid-August until sometime in October. The MBTA plaza is still the only available location in the area. He's looking for a market manager to run it, and some farmers to sell us stuff for the manager to boss around. This is not a done deal yet, so keep your fingers crossed.

PSNA Website

DC Denison, John Howard, and I are putting together a new Web site for PSNA at a new location. The success of this list makes our dusty presence in cyberspace even more embarrassing, and we expect to have a fairly basic site available by the end of July. One of things I'd like to be able to do is to post documents that I cannot send to this list. Another possibility is to post recommendations (or warnings) about various services available in the neighborhood. The recent flurry of activity about plumbers and car repair suggest at least some demand and interest. I'd be very interested in your thoughts about the kind of information or features that you would find useful.

Hotel Kaya

We reviewed the early drawings for building. The discussion that followed is difficult to capture, particularly two weeks afterward, but here are some details about the plans so far: - They are seeking a variance for a FAR of 2.0 for the entire lot, which allows them to build a structure of 30,000 sq ft. This is roughly twice the size of the building still known as Long's Funeral Home. The building would be built on the front part of the lot, basically where the restaurant is now, but with a different footprint.

  • Some of the sq. ft will be underground; the structure above ground will be four floors.
  • The (underground) parking will accommodate 24 spaces for self-parking and 14 for valet parking. This accommodates all the spaces that the zoning would require, but they will need a variance to put garage under the back part of the lot.
  • A restaurant that opens out to the street will be on the ground floor.
  • Traffic will be routed through the site from the current driveway around the building onto Porter Road back to Mass. Ave.
  • Light will enter the building through windows on all sides and a large skylight in the roof.

One point we spent some time on was setting back the top floors. Although the drawings were presented as preliminary, the flat, boxy look of Long's and the glass building across the street from it was hard to miss. The architect brought some finished drawings from the housing that the firm (Kyu Sung Woo) is building for Harvard to show what a finished building might look like. To my mind, at least, it looked like a box but with bricks and bigger windows than Long's. Elaine Severino, who served on the commission that wrote the far more straightforward zoning ordinance that Somerville has (and actually enforces), suggested the setback. Somerville required the builders of what is now the Citizens Bank in Davis Square (across the street from the Rosebud) to do that. The building is quite large, but doesn't look as big as it is. Note that the Masonic Temple next to Kaya does the same thing and also does not look so big. I encourage those of you who were paying attention to other parts of the discussion to chime in.