Happy Spring! We are gearing up for re-election here at campaign headquarters. There is already one new challenger running for At-Large City Councilor, and I will need all of your support to have another successful election this November. There is so much important work left to accomplish on equity and affordability! If you are interested in volunteering for the campaign, please email Mike Bowler at email@example.com. If you would like to donate to the campaign, you can do so by clicking here. Thanks for your support!
1)Condo Conversion Ordinance Passes!
The City Council passed an overhauled condominium conversion ordinance on Thursday, March 28th by a vote of 10-1. I was proud to join many of my colleagues to vote in favor of this bill. The vote was the culmination of months of work by affordable housing and tenants rights advocates and city staff as well as months of public hearings and deliberations by the City Council. The new ordinance ensures that tenants, especially the most vulnerable, are treated fairly and with dignity when their landlord decides to convert their unit to a condominium. The law does this by first increasing the amount of time that disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants have to find new housing options from two years to five years. It also increases the amount of money that owners are required to provide tenants for relocation to $10,000 for disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants and up to $6000 for all other tenants. Landlords are now also be required to assist disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants with finding new apartments in Somerville. The ordinance also includes a requirement that tenants be given the right of first refusal to purchase their unit and gives tenants 120 days (or 180 days for disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants) to find financing and exercise their right to purchase. Additionally, the law gives non-profit affordable housing developers or the City the right to purchase converted units if the tenant does not wish to purchase. The existing Condominium Review Board will continue to be the body that enforces the ordinance.
The previous condominium conversion ordinance, enacted in 1985, was intended to protect tenants, but was out of date and ineffective at serving its intended purpose. Conversion of rental housing to condominiums over the last several decades has reduced the amount of more affordable rental housing in the city. And since 1985, Somerville has changed significantly with huge increases in rents and housing prices. Unfortunately, the old condominium conversion law did not keep up with the times. For example, the old ordnance references $300 as the amount necessary to pay for tenants to find a new place to live. Over the past few months, with input from community members and policy experts, the city redrafted the condominium conversion ordinance and now has passed a law that provides much stronger protection for tenants.
More information on the ordinance and the overhaul process as well as other condominium conversion laws in the area can be found at the cities condominium conversion amendment webpage.
2) Plastic Straw Ordinance
Since November, the Open Space, Environment and Energy Committee has been working on a plastic straw and plastic stirrers ban to address the significant amount of plastic waste generated which has an impact on our planet and oceans. Approximately 500 million straws are used yearly by Americans, and are one of the top ten items found on beach cleanups. Plastics emit toxins when decomposing and also pose a physical hazard to animals. The aim of the ordinance is to reduce use of plastic straws by having them being given out only on request, as well as to have compostable or reusable straws available as an alternative.
It is important for the ordinance to acknowledge that plastic straws are an important accessibility device for people with disabilities. Therefore, I am working with the committee to make sure that the ordinance allows anyone with difficulty using alternative straws to be able to request a plastic straw without questions. I invited Colin Killick, Deputy Director of the Disability Policy Consortium, to discuss his advice at the last meeting, and he has drafted an addition to the ordinance and will be working with the City Solicitor to present this at the next meeting. The ordinance is also exempting medical facilities, local emergencies, as well as a one year exemption for schools.
I believe it is important to address the large amount of single use plastic waste which is affecting our environment. I am planning on making sure the ordinance will help reduce plastic use, encourage use of compostable or reusable straws, as well as still allow plastic straw access to those who need it.
3) Support Workers
It was great to join in the rally to support Stop and Shop workers at the local Somerville branch. I draw so much inspiration from the many workers’ movements around the country. It is awesome seeing workers coming together to demand better treatment and better pay! We need to capture this spirit and use it in bringing about change in our community.
4) Wicked Local Article on Representation in Somerville City Government
You can check out some quotes from me about the need for more representation in our city government. I am only one voice in a diverse city like Somerville. We can and we should do better! Happy Reading!
5) Construction, Construction and Detours!!
As always, to stay up to date on all of the busy traffic and detours in Somerville during this period of major construction related to the GLX and Union Square Redevelopment HERE.
6) Upcoming Meetings at City Hall:
- Rodent Special Issues Committee, Monday, 4/8, 5:30PM, City Hall
- Youth Services Committee Meeting, Monday, 4/8, 6PM, City Hall
- Meeting to Discuss Central Hill Parking, Monday, 4/8, 6PM, Somerville High School Cafeteria
- Community Meeting for JJ Sullivan Lot on Somerville Ave, Tuesday, 4/16, 7PM. Public Safety Bldg in Union Square.
- Public Hearing on FY 2020 Water and Sewer Rates, Monday, 4/22, 6PM, Somerville High School Cafeteria
- Community Meeting on Safe Streets (Vision Zero), Wednesday, 4/24, 6PM, East Somerville Community School
7) Expect Updates on Somervision 2040 in our next newsletter
For now, you can follow the updates here.
Your Public Servant,
Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 508-718-8126.