Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Boston City Council Looks At Cannabis, Pedestrian Safety, TNCs & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Here are some highlights from the November 20, 2019 meeting:

Equity in Cannabis Licensing: The Council voted 12-1 (Councilor Garrison opposing) to pass Councilor Janey’s amended ordinance. The goal of the ordinance is to promote and encourage equity in the newly created marijuana industry with full participation of residents from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities. The language creates a new category of municipal equity applicants, which would include companies with 51% or more ownership stake from three or more of the following criteria: 1) a person who has resided in an area of disproportionate impact for at least 7 of the past 10 years; 2) a Boston resident who has a past arrest or conviction for possession, sale, manufacturing or cultivation of marijuana between 1971-2016 who has been a resident of Boston for the past 5 years; 3) someone who has resided in Boston for at least the past 5 years; 4) someone who is of Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, or Asian descent; 5) someone whose annual household income is at or below 100% of the area median income; or 6) someone who is certified by the Cannabis Control Commission as an Economic Empowerment Applicant. The City of Boston would require a 1:1 ratio of equity firms as defined by the above criteria compared to other businesses. The inclusion of an independent municipal cannabis commission was removed from the ordinance through an agreement with the Mayor that there will be a separate Executive Order creating that commission soon. Councilor Garrison stated that she believed a separate city commission would create corruption.

Residential Property Tax Exemption: The Council voted to approve the annual certification that Boston will take the maximum residential exemption of 35% of the average assessed value for Fiscal Year 2020.


Independent Commission on Equal Opportunity: Councilors Edwards, Campbell & Zakim reported back on their recent hearings on the proposed ordinance to create an Independent Commission on Equal Opportunity and the Elimination of Systemic Bias in the Workplace. They updated the Council that because the Administration recently reconstituted the Human Rights Commission for the City, this ordinance would be placed on file so that resources could focus on strengthening the new commission and its efforts.
Pedestrian Safety: Councilors Flynn & I reported back on the recent hearing to discuss pedestrian crossing signals, traffic calming, and Vision Zero (the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities). City representatives reported back on the recent increase in resources for safe streets from increasing parking fines and increasing parking meter charges, which have gone to expanding staff focused on transit, engineering, and design. Councilors pushed for a faster and wider implementation of street infrastructure improvements, whether through the Neighborhood Slow Streets program or other mechanisms. Read more about this hearing in the Boston Herald here

Transportation Network Companies: Councilors Flynn, O’Malley & I reported back on yesterday’s hearing to discuss transportation network companies (TNCs). Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft average over 115,000 trips originating in Boston per day, contributing to traffic significantly. Administration representatives stated at the hearing that they hoped to see passage of state legislation that would increase the fees assessed on ride-share rides and direct more resources to Boston, and that the City was focused on curb-side management to reduce double parking and blocking traffic from ride-hailing rides stopping to pick up or drop off riders. The Council will explore the possibility of a home-rule petition and reaching out to other municipalities in the metro region affected by ride-hailing companies to push even beyond assessments.

Zoning for Civil Rights & Fair Housing: Councilor Edwards & I reported back on yesterday’s hearing on her petition to amend the Boston Zoning Code in order to establish fair housing regulations and procedures to secure integrated communities. Her proposed language would require amendments to agreements for major projects, including through cooperation agreements (or through separate agreements with the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Office of Fair Housing and Equity to include the prevention of exclusionary displacement and strategies for promoting racially, ethnically and economically integrated communities. At the hearing, we heard from legal experts, BPDA representatives, and the Fair Housing Commission that there was a shared desire to codify affirmatively furthering fair housing into the zoning code, but the BPDA hoped to delay the formal inclusion of language until they could have more process on how to implement it. Councilors hope to codify the language immediately and allow for a delayed effective date to sort out the specific process. 

UPCOMING HEARINGS (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted. Watch online.)
  • Our next Council Meeting will be on Wednesday, December 4th 
For complete notes of Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically. 

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