Hello Ward 2! Thanks for tuning in for this big end-of-summer update. The summer months are a bit slower here just due to the legislative recess, so this is going to have some light recap and more forward-looking info… but we’ll be back at City Hall 4 nights a week starting about a week from now, on Aug 22.
The end of the legislative recess is just the second-most-exciting thing happening soon, though – my second child is due literally any day now, and I’m excited to meet the newest resident of Ward 2! Since I don’t have any baby pictures to share yet, let’s get right into it…
- Condo Conversion Ordinance In Effect
- Tenant ROFR Coming Up Next
- 5G “Small Cell” Deployment Update
- Office Hours Every Friday
- Wage Theft Ordinance Update
- Voting Rights HRP Updates
- Tree Removal Ordinance In Effect
- Washington Street Design Meetings: Aug 17, 24, 31
- Sacramento Street Underpass Repair Underway, Beacon St Star Market targeted for redevelopment
- Sewer Backups, Flooding
- Development Updates
Condo Conversion Ordinance In Effect
As of now, Somerville’s new Condo Conversion Ordinance is in effect! It provides significant new protections that will prevent tenant displacement and help people who are displaced find new housing. It also provides a powerful mechanism to turn tenants into homeowners and create permanently affordable housing instead of leaving the floodgates open for more “luxury condos”.
It’s already under attack by a group of real estate types here in Somerville, but I’m not planning to back down – and I know you’re standing with me.
These rights only work if you know about them and can demand that the law be followed, so please help me get out the word by educating yourself and telling all of your friends and neighbors about this incredible new set of anti-displacement measures. The web site to learn more is at https://www.somervillema.gov/condo-conversion along with a FAQ of the details at https://www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/condo-conversion-ordinance-faq.pdf – check it out!
The fight won’t stop here. We still need a robust Tenant Right of First Refusaland more of the measures put forward by State Rep Mike Connolly (see https://www.repmikeconnolly.org/connolly_introduces_housing_for_all_agenda), and I’ll be working with him and our community of activists to make more strides forward! Communities all over the country are instituting emergency “rent freezes” (capping rent increases to 3%) to help slow displacement, and I think it’s time that Somerville takes a close look at that as well.
5G “Small Cell” Deployment Update
5G is getting some discussion now, especially with FCC rules in effect basically mandating its deployment across the country. According to an FCC ruling, city councils like ours are not allowed to consider potential health impacts when approving grants-of-location for small-cell 5G radio towers. In effect, approval is mandatory. The City Council was first informed of applications for 5G installations at our last meeting, on July 11, when we were told that approval was required or that we would be subject to lawsuits from the applicants. (This late date is concerning to me, given that the Mayor apparently executed a Public Right of Way License Agreement with the applicant all the way back on 27 September 2018.)
This means that as a Council we can only require aesthetic restrictions when granting approvals for these installations, and only if we have published these in advance. Other municipalities in the country have responded more aggressively to this issue. While the FCC ruling is being challenged in court, it remains in effect until those cases are concluded. This means that unless the Somerville City Council passes an ordinance immediately to spell out a process for reviewing applications and instituting design standards for installations, all manner of new attachments will be sprouting from our utility poles soon – or even new dedicated poles being added to our sidewalks.
I’m disappointed that the administration was not more proactive at getting the City Council involved in this process. My goal now is to have an ordinance in place promptly to avoid many of the problems that these installations have had in other places – like noisy backup generators and cooling fans – as well as placement and aesthetic guidelines that preserve our sidewalks.
Ward 2 Resident Matt Glaser is concerned about the rollout of 5G in Somerville, and is hosting his own neighborhood meeting about it at 7pm on Wednesday Aug 21 at the Police station in Union Square at 7pm. I plan to be there to answer technical questions about the situation and hear what people think about 5G deployment in Somerville.
Office Hours Every Friday
The front door to my house at 269 Washington Street is open every Friday Morning from 8-10am to y’all, and it’s usually a lively time! First come, first served – and with a lot of people and a variety of concerns getting discussed, the conversation is always interesting and it’s a great way to hear what else folks in the Ward are concerned about.
In 2018 I hosted 46 of these Office Hours days, and so far in 2019 my door has been open literally every Friday morning. (Full disclosure: if my partner is in labor delivering a baby, I’m going to just have a sign on the door and will catch you next week.) Whether it’s getting caught up on a meeting you missed, talking about pending legislation, strategizing for future traffic calming projects, planning for upcoming streetscape designs, or any other thing that’s on your mind… come on down, have a seat, and let’s talk about what’s on your mind.
Wage Theft Ordinance Update
Thanks to the hard work of a team of local activists, an updated Wage Theft Ordinance has been proposed and is getting discussed in the License and Permit Committee. Councilor Rossetti and I intend to move quickly on this item, though there’s a lot of legal legwork still to come to get it implemented. We plan to take it up in our next committee meeting on September 11 at City Hall.
Voting Rights HRP Updates
As we see nationally, even when there is serious malfeasance happening in elected office the legal system and separation of powers is not enough to check abuse. The ultimate “check and balance” is at the ballot box, and that’s why it’s essential that we get more people voting!
Here in Somerville we’ve put forward two Home Rule Petitions expanding the right to vote in municipal elections to residents 16 years of age and older, and are still considering expanding the right to vote in municipal elections to residents who are not citizens of the US.
We’re still waiting to get state approval on that, but if you’re a citizen 18+ in Somerville it’s essential that you get registered… and that you get out to vote! I don’t have an opponent on the ballot this year, but the Mayor and the At-Large City Council seats are contested in ward 2. High turnout means everyone’s voice is getting heard, and that’s vital. Please, make sure you are registered to vote by Weds Aug 21 and get your neighbors registered as well! Then, please go to the polls in our upcoming September primary and November general elections!
You can find out more dates and details in this article (https://somerville.wickedlocal.com/news/20190813/somerville—are-you-registered-to-vote-in-municipal-elections) or at the city’s election department website here ( www.somervillema.gov/elections ).
Tree Removal Ordinance In Effect
The Tree Removal Ordinance that will prevent mass tree-removal by developers – while still allowing resident homeowners to maintain their properties – is now in effect. The city staff responsible for administering the process are still hammering out final implementation details, but if you see a developer clear-cutting a lot, please call me immediately. I can go down there immediately and have Inspectional Services issue a stop work order until they are educated about the ordinance and comply with it.
Washington Street Design Meetings: Aug 17, 24, 31
Right now the water main is being repaired all down the length of Washington Street from Union Square to the Cambridge line. This has pushed back the repaving of Washington Street until 2021, but it is giving us a good opportunity to re-imagine what Washington Street can look like in the future.
I’m real tired of the city’s top-down approach to planning our streets, like we saw on Powder House and on Beacon Street. It’s a recipe for needless conflict and I don’t think it produces great outcomes. No one knows how Washington Street works better than the people who live on and near it.
So to help get ahead of this particular project, I’m hosting a series of three neighborhood meetings to talk about how Washington Street works now, and how we can imagine it being better in the future. Every Saturday for the next three weeks (Aug 17, 24, 31) I’m hosting neighbors at CrossFit Somerville, 35 Prospect Street, from 2-3:30pm to discuss traffic patterns, intersections, bus stops, and parking on Washington Street.
We’re flyering in sections – first from Union to Perry, then Perry to Dane, then Dane to Line, just to try to get some good conversations going among people who live near each other… but if you miss one of the meetings, feel free to come to any of the other ones! (Special thanks to Alex Frieden, a ward 2 neighbor who is helping to put together these meetings!)
Just this morning I pulled three more dead rats out of my yard. That’s the good news. The bad news is at night, sitting on my porch, I can watch them running around and fighting. The burrows are everywhere, and based on the amount of calls and emails I get I know this is a problem all over the ward.
Fortunately, dead rats means the city’s baiting program is working… but it only works if we spend the money and spread the bait! For the last two years there have been tens of thousands of unspent dollars left over in the city’s rat abatement budget lines, and I’m not having it this year. If you have rats in your yard, please call Chris Roche at 617-625-6600, extension 4328. He will come out to your house, look for signs of rat activity, and place poison bait boxes to help cut down on the population. If you don’t get an answer right away, feel free to give me a call too.
In addition, some streets are just under siege. The city’s newly hired rat specialist, Georgianna Silviera, has been active in going to meet neighbors and walk their streets with them to identify patterns and work with folks about how they can get large infestation areas under control. She’s spent a fair amount of time in Ward 2, but if you’d like to arrange a block meeting with her please reach out to us both – me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Ms Silviera at email@example.com – and we’ll be happy to schedule a time to get folks together.
Sacramento Street Underpass Repair Underway, Beacon St Star Market targeted for redevelopment
It’s exciting to see the work happening, and I look forward to a refreshed, cleaner, and safer underpass soon! At the same time, the owner of the Beacon Street Star Market site has begun to look at what they want to do with it in the future.
If you live near there and have strong opinions about what does – and doesn’t – work about that Star Market on Beacon Street, please reach out in email or come on down to my office hours to chat about it. Nothing’s going to happen there without a LOT of neighborhood input – that’s how I roll – and getting into the conversation early is the best way to shape the process.
Sewer Backups, Flooding
It’s true that there’s a lot of sewer work going on in Union Square to increase capacity and reduce flooding going forward, but there’s also sewer collapse and repair work happening all over the ward. Just in the past month I’ve been working on reports from Park Place, Lake Street, Washington Street, Kingman Road, Adrian Street, and Beacon Street.
If you see flooding on your street or have sewer backups in your house, please call the sewer department to report it at 617-625-6600 extension 5800 – and call 311 – and call me for that matter. I want to make sure we’ve got all eyes on the sewer problems down here in ward 2.
Summer was a busy time to get caught up on neighborhood meetings on new development projects, and there’s more on the way. These are the best way to shape what happens in your neighborhood, so please come when you see a flyer from me!
You’ll get a flyer on your door if you live anywhere near a proposed site for development that requires a special permit (which is almost everything at this point). If you’d like to know more, swing by office hours or shoot me an email and I’ll gladly get you the details on what’s being proposed. At the moment, I’m looking at hosting meetings in the next few weeks about:
- 2 Adrian St (8/20)
- 14 Carlton St (8/26)
- J.J.Sullivan Plumbing (TBD)
I hope to see you soon!