PSNA November 2020

November 19, 2020 minutes

Meeting agenda:

  • Update on 2072 Mass Ave project
  • Update on Davenport St traffic proposal
  • Annual election of officers

Update on 2072 Mass Ave

Jason Korb, Jennifer Tamarkin, and Sean Hope from Capstone Communities reported back on changes to this project made after meeting with abutters and neighbors who the project affects. These are the changes:

  • Lower the section at the back along Walden to 6 stories, from 8. Raise the section facing Mass Ave from 8 stories to 9.
  • Added a landscaped terrace on the sixth-floor roof.
  • Tapered the wall at the entrance to the parking area on Walden to give drivers exiting the area a better view of the traffic turning onto Walden from Mass Ave.
  • Moved the residential street entrance from Walden to Mass Ave.
  • Widened the sidewalk considerably along Walden.

The wider sidewalk is part of an arrangement that gives the City a strip of the lot that allows the city to widen the three lanes of traffic at the intersection from 8’ 4” to 10’. This additional space will make it easier for cars to pass through. Some of the space lost on the first floor will be regained by cantilevering the building over the wider sidewalk from the second floor up. (This is best understood by viewing the drawing submitted to the Planning Board (page 134 of the PDF file).

A second public community meeting is scheduled for November 24; the Planning Board meeting is December 1; the BZA hearing is December 10. Materials submitted the meetings with the City are available from the links below.

BZA

www.cambridgema.gov/CityCalendar/view.aspx?guid=78d164c85b2b46b9827b08ff5ac6f3ac

Planning Board

www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/zoninganddevelopment/planningboard/planningboardmeetings

The Q&A that followed the meeting is captured below.

Margaret Reuter, who represents the Russell House residents, listed the concerns she has and has heard. She expressed a desire to not be negative, noting that she wanted to be constructive.

Most of her concerns pertained the current safety issues around entering and exiting the Russell House garage. She feels that the marking of the entry to the garage is not good; that, paired with the speed along Mass Ave and the behavior of drivers is, in her words “a fatality waiting to happen.” Although the garage at 2072 Mass Ave will be very small, the cars forecast to be parking in the neighborhood and likely circling the block, won’t help.

The concerns she shares with the other folks at Russell House are noise, loss of privacy, and the increased number of residents (52 at Russell House vs. 196 at 2072).

A long conversation between Reeder and the Capstone Communities folks covered specifics that had been addressed and a process for gathering input and working things out.

Lisa Drier (sp?), of North Walden Neighbors, raised three questions.

Q: What is the projected impact on traffic on Walden St with respect to the entry and exit from the garage?

A: The projected traffic increase is 96 trips over a 24-hour period, consisting of 8 dropoffs/pickups per hour. There will be 25 cars associated with the building that parking on surrounding streets.

Q. What drove the decision to build at the current scale (9 stories rather than 4 or 5)?

A. There are 6- and 8-story buildings nearby along Mass Ave and Walden Street. Also, the demand for affordable housing is intense. The application process for the 40 apartments Frost Terrace development has begun, and daily requests for applications range from 100 to 150.

Q. Is there any plan for tenants to move from renting units to ownership?

A. The low-income housing tax credits that subsidizes the construction of these projects requires that the developer own the building for 15 years after construction and that the building remains as rental housing. It’s possible that a change in federal policy might change this incentive at some point.

These are the questions from others:

Q. Have any shadow studies been done to measure the impact on surrounding properties that have already or might consider installing solar panels?

A. The shadows fall on Mass Ave mostly. Surrounding properties are shadowed somewhat around the summer and winter solstices.

Q. Given that the building is intended to house families, has any thought been given to accommodating school busses and MBTA busses in front of the building?

A. We’ll look into it.

Q. How long will construction last?

A. If all goes according to plan, 16 to 18 months.

Q. When would construction begin?

A. Earliest would be spring of 2022. Next possible window would be spring 2023. This reflects the processes involved in securing financing.

Q. If the landscaped roof on the sixth floor will be used by kids, who might not be supervised for some or all of the time they use it, what consideration has been given to fencing this roof to protect them?

A. Quite a bit. We’re still working on it.

Update on Davenport St

Joe Barr, Director of Cambridge Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, and Patrick Barrett. discussed the proposal to change Davenport St to run one-way from Saginaw to Mass Ave, and exiting on Mass Ave. The section between Saginaw and Elm would remain two-way, which would allow trucks in the Star Market loading dock to pull out and head toward Elm after they have completed their deliveries.  This proposal was discussed in a public meeting in February in response to complaints from Davenport St residents who park on the street about damage to their cars (often side swipes) by trucks and cars jockeying for position on this narrow, two-way street.

Barr noted the problems with the current configuration:

  • The loading docks and truck traffic is unusual for such a narrow street.
  • Long stretches of the sidewalk behind the shopping center are curb cuts, which many trucks use to park on the sidewalk to position their vehicles as close as they can to the service doors for delivery.

The February meeting in which the information for the proposal was gathered, was apparently sparsely attended because many who live in the area between Beech and Davenport and the various side streets, were not notified of it. Those who did attend felt that the City had not looked at how traffic flows through the streets Beech and Davenport and thus, did not have a good understanding of the scope of the impact of the proposed change.

Those present at tonight’s meeting had been expecting responses to the issues raised in February since last spring, and were dismayed when the notice appeared about the plan to start work in making it one-way and more dismayed when they were not addressed at the meeting.

dismayed to find that these had not been addressed. They laid out their concerns and urged Barr or his representatives to provide a response before going ahead. Noting the lack of support from the community and the community claims that the problem was more complex, Barr observed that this was not the most significant problem that required attention in the city.

Annual election of officers

PSNA by-laws require that officers be elected annually by members who are eligible to vote. Eligibility is established as follows:

A member shall be eligible to vote if his or her dues have been paid on or before the date of the meeting on which a vote is taken and he or she has attended either (i) at least two of the previous six meetings or (ii) at least four of the previous twelve meetings, limited to the previous 24 months. Prior attendance shall be determined by a member’s signature or check-off on a meeting’s attendance sheet. The election of officers shall be conducted by secret ballot at the first regularly scheduled meeting held on or after November 1. All other matters shall be voted upon by voice or hand, except when a majority votes to require the use of a secret ballot. All votes require a quorum of six voting members.

How to hold the election this year, given that we haven’t been able to track attendance since meeting on Zoom, which also makes a secret ballot cumbersome, was discussed briefly. The issue was resolved by agreeing to extend the terms of the current officers, all of whom were elected as our by-laws require and agreed to serve another term, until May, by which time the officers will have reviewed the by-laws and propose a feasible method for holding the election under the then-current circumstances.

Post-meeting updates

Re: Davenport Street

The City decided to proceed with its intention to make the change to Davenport St. Those most affected have protested this decision, which increasingly appears to have been made before any public input was gathered.

Re: Procedures to accommodate meetings on Zoom

Discussion among the officers since the meeting produced a way to take attendance, which has been difficult given that the screen name in Zoom is not always the full name of the individual. All who attend will be asked to enter their names in the chat box, which the meeting moderator will prompt them to do between each item on the agenda.

Also, to ensure that all attendees are notified that we record the Zoom meetings for posting later, a notice to that effect will be included in the meeting announcement that includes the link.