Smokey Blaze Closes Popular Shangri-la Restaurant On Belmont Street

Photo: The closed restaurant Shangri-la on Belmont Street 

A favorite Taiwanese restaurant on the Belmont/Watertown/Cambridge lines is closed after a smokey fire emanating from the kitchen brought the entire Belmont Fire Department to the scene on Saturday afternoon, July 21.

Heavy, black smoke billowed from the front and back doors of Shangri-la at 149 Belmont St. as passersby called in the fire to Belmont dispatch “at 3;34 p.m.,” and then confirmed by an off-duty police officer, according to Belmont Fire Chief David L. Frizzell who was at the scene. The blaze reached the level of a “working fire.” 

The fire, located in the cook line, started when an employee was using a wok with oil. Belmont Street inbound toward Cushing Square was closed as apparatus from Belmont and Watertown arrived with Belmont and Watertown police. Mutual aid came from Cambridge and Arlington which manned Belmont’s stations.

After a few minutes, “the fire was contained to the [kitchen] and no [firefighter] was injured,” said Frizzell.

The blaze appeared to remain in the kitchen and did not jump to the walls or the building’s superstructure, said Frizzell. The fire remains under investigation and investigators could later request that “things be pulled apart” to search for hot spots. 

“But they have a lot of cleaning up to do,” said the chief. 

Back Again: State Finds West Nile Virus In Belmont

Photo: There are effective ways to prevent the West Nile virus from infecting you and your family.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced in a press release Thursday, July 19 that West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes collected from Belmont. Accordingly, MDPH has raised the risk of WNV infection from “low” to “moderate” in Belmont and surrounding communities in the Greater Boston Area.

This marks the fourth summer in the past five years that the virus has been found in mosquitoes from Belmont. 

WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes that carry this virus are common throughout the Bay State and are found in urban as well as more rural areas. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe infection.

By taking a few, basic precautions, people can help to protect themselves and their loved ones:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning. If you are outdoors at any time and notice mosquitoes around you, take steps to avoid being bitten by moving indoors, covering up and/or wearing repellant.
  • Clothing Can Help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Apply Insect Repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m- toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8- diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. 

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water: Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens: Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Information about WNV and reports of current and historical WNV virus activity in Massachusetts can be found on the MDPH website.

Christmas Cappuccinos? Starbucks Looking At Late November Opening at Bradford

Photo: Design for the new Starbucks in the Bradford development. 

Belmont will soon have a third Starbucks Cafe in the Town of Homes as the Zoning Board of Appeals approved unanimously a special permit allowing the Seattle-based coffee mega-chain to run a “fast food” restaurant at The Bradford, the retail/housing/parking development under construction in the heart of Cushing Square.

Plans submitted to the town shows a narrow 2,500 square foot cafe/store located on the left side of the two-story Winslow Building which is being built approximately on the site of the former Starbucks’ location on Trapelo Road. The store will have two entrances, in the front and rear, with 42 interior and 12 seasonal outdoor seats located in the back. The cafe will seek to operate most days from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., employing four to six workers per shift. There will be 22 parking spaces – including two handicap spaces – dedicated to the store located between the Winslow and the main Pomona buildings.

The cafe is the first business to commit to The Bradford – previously known as Cushing Village – which has close to 38,000 square feet dedicated to retail. The project, which includes underground parking and 112 apartments, is being developed by Toll Brothers Apartment Living, which rescued the proposal after the original developer, Smith Legacy Partners, failed in its efforts to secure the necessary funding.

Danial Brennan, a consultant, assisting Starbucks in securing municipal permits in New England, said the current schedule is for construction of the cafe to begin Sept. 15 with an anticipated completion date “hopefully at the end of November.” 

“But [the dates] are always estimates,” said Brennan.

Unlike other fast-casual restaurants and quick stop retail operations that came before the Zoning Board of Appeals – a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on Pleasant Street comes to mind – there was no resident opposition or comment concerning Starbucks, which operates approximately 28,000 stores around the globe.

Zoning Chair Nicholas Iannuzzi noted the last well-known “fast food” restaurant to come before the board, for a Subway franchise in Belmont Center, required four meetings before it received a “special” to operate.

“God bless America. God bless Starbucks,” he said.

Tree Branch Cause Of Large Blackout Monday Night

Photo: Lights and air conditioning went out Monday at 8:15 p.m.

At approximately 8:15 p.m. on Monday, July 9, a fallen tree branch struck Belmont Light electrical wires, resulting in a large power outage affecting customers in the eastern section of town, adjacent with Cambridge.

Approximately 2,000 customers were initially without power in the area east of Common Street. The Belmont Light Operations Team worked quickly to assess the damage and determine a course of action. By 9:10 p.m., power was restored to approximately 1,500 customers, with 500 customers in the Winn Brook area awaiting restoration as Belmont Light made necessary repairs to its system. By 10 p.m. repairs were completed and power was fully restored to all customers.

Belmont Light credits a customer on Lodge Road for spotting the fallen tree branch, which caused a series of events to occur, ultimately shutting down four feeder cables. The customer posted their observation on Belmont Light’s Facebook page, allowing the Operations Team to pinpoint the problem in an efficient manner. 

“We encourage all of our customers to contact us when they see a problem like a fallen tree,” said Chris Roy, Belmont Light General Manager. “Whether it’s a phone call, a social media post, or some other method, the communication allows us to get power restored quicker so that we can better serve all of our customers.”

“Belmont Light thanks customers for their patience during the repair work. At this time, Belmont Light does not foresee any additional issues to arise.”

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the date of the disruption was noted as Monday, June 9. The correct date was Monday, July 9.

Opinion: Rules Of A Safer Road For Vehicles And Cyclists

Photo: Sharing the road safely.

When I cycled across the country in 2011, I saw a lot of roadkill. I was constantly aware that all it would take was one mistake by me or by one of those caffeinated guys in big rigs and I’d look about the same.

On the open road, I developed a profound gratitude towards the tens of thousands of drivers who did not hit me.

The Senate just approved a safety package that would require a clearance of at least three feet for vehicles passing vulnerable road users like highway workers, cyclistand pedestrians. It would add an additional foot of required clearance for every ten miles per hour of speed.

The package also would mandate side guards on big trucks used by or for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We cannot regulate trucks in interstate commerce, but the measure is a start towards reducing the gruesome slide-under accidents that are all too common on urban roads.

The bill includes several other modest measures: better reporting on accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, lower speed limits on state roads in thickly settled areas (governed by local choice) and a requirement that cyclists have rear red lights (in addition to the already-required white front light and rear red reflector).

The package should help reduce road injuries and I’m hopeful it will also pass the House.

The most important thing we could do to improve safety for everyone is to reduce distracted driving. I’ve now voted twice now to ban hand-held cell phone use by drivers, but so far that legislation has not made it to the Governor’s desk.

An idea we should keep studying is automated enforcement — red light and speed cameras. Cameras raise privacy concerns. In other states, municipalities have abused cameras to generate revenue. Automated enforcement hasn’t gained traction in Massachusetts, but I’m hopeful that, perhaps in the next session, we can develop an approach that works.

I often hear from annoyed drivers and frightened pedestrians calling for licensing of cyclists and registration of bikes. Their complaints are legitimate: Cyclists tend to continue or swerve when they should simply stop. Starting on a bike can be hard work for tired legs. Because stopping means starting, subconsciously cyclists hate to stop.

Still, I’m opposed to cyclist licensing. It wouldn’t be cost-effective. We license drivers and register motor vehicles because of the enormous damage they can do — motor vehicles are vastly heavier and faster than bicycles. Cyclists often annoy drivers. They often frighten pedestrians. They very occasionally harm pedestrians, but they do a minuscule fraction of the annual damage that motor vehicles do.

There is a conversation that we need to keep having with and among cyclists about road behavior. In 2008, I helped pass legislation to make it easier to ticket cyclists. Unfortunately, the truth is that urban police rarely have the time to ticket motorists, much less cyclists.  So, it’s more about education.

Cycling and walking are healthy, exhilarating and good for the environment. I will continue to work to protect cyclists and pedestrians, but also to encourage cyclists to ride responsibly.

Belmont Holding Training Sessions On High School Ballot Question, Open Meeting Update

Photo: Questions on the ballot this November.

It will be the largest “ask” of voters in Belmont’s history when a debt exclusion question authorizing approximately $220 million to build a new Belmont High and Upper Middle schools will likely be presented on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Because of its historic nature of the question, between now and November, members of Belmont’s boards, committees, and commissions will likely be questions on basic information, data, opinions, and “fact sheets” related to the project from voters, ballot campaign question committees, the media, or just interested residents.

According to Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, answers related to the ballot question are governed by several Massachusetts General Laws.

To aid volunteers and employees in making choices related to this ballot question, Cushman has arranged a pair of training sessions by the State Office of Campaign & Political Finance (OCPF) personnel on Tuesday, July 17 at Chenery Middle School auditorium.

The session for boards, committees and commissions members will be held at 7 p.m. in the early evening, while town employees will attend a session at 3 p.m.

At the same training session, Belmont Town Counsel George Hall of the firm Anderson & Kreiger, will hold a question and answer session on his recent advisory to Belmont on the Open Meeting Law determination and Supreme Judicial Court decision. 

“It’s about getting everyone on the same page of the law,” said Cushman. 

Cushman anticipates the OCPF training to last approximately one hour, the Open Meeting Law portion to last about 45 minutes.

“Even if you don’t believe that you will be asked to comment or provide any information on this ballot question, I ask you to consider attending this scheduled one-hour training, for your knowledge and protection. You need to know the laws that apply to you as a member of our boards, committees, and commissions,” said Cushman

Between now and the training session, you may want to take a quick view of some brief educational videos provided by OCPF, each one about five minutes, to get you started thinking about the topic:

  • Click here for the ballot question committee tutorial.
  • Click here for the tutorial on equal access.
  • Click here for the tutorial on the use of public resources for political purposes.

If you have a specific question or clarification related to his advisory opinion, please email it to me in by Friday, July 12.  

“I’ll gather all of the submissions ahead of the session and forward them to George to help focus the presentation. Of course, questions from the floor will be welcomed as well,” said Cushman. 

‘Frankenstein’ Selected This Year’s One Book One Belmont Read

Photo: Frankenstein (detail, Bernie Wrightson, “Frankenstein”)

Is it the first great science fiction tale, or an allegory of the horror of maternity?

This October, you can decide as the Belmont Public Library presents Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as the featured title for One Book One Belmont 2018, the library’s seventh community reading program.

The library and 13 community organizations invite town residents to read the book and participate in book discussions and other exciting activities. Charlotte Gordon, author of the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley,” will cap the month-long celebration on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 1 (the day after Halloween) at the Beech Street Center with a talk focused on the life of Shelley, her mother, the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (who died giving birth to Shelley), and the lasting impact of her novel.

The selection of Frankenstein is particularly timely: as the library commemorates its 150th anniversary, communities around the world are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Frankenstein,” first released in 1818 by the 19-year-old Shelley. The groundbreaking novel gave birth to two literary genres, science fiction, and horror. Over the course of the 75 years that followed it would inspire such classic works in the horror realm as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and Bram Stokers “Dracula,” and in science fiction, Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine.”

Jill Lepore of the New Yorker writes “Frankenstein, the story of a creature who has no name, has for two hundred years been made to mean just about anything … It’s four stories in one: an allegory, a fable, an epistolary novel, and an autobiography, a chaos of literary fertility.”

Belmont Library Director Peter Struzziero is especially excited for this year’s selection and suggests that, while a different direction from past programs, it’s one that can be a really special effort in 2018.

“Frankenstein is a book being celebrated all over the world this year, and in truth, it’s my favorite book, one that I’ve connected with deeply all of my life,” he says. “While I’m sure Mary Shelley would like to join us, she’s been ‘unable’ since 1851, so in her stead, we are so thrilled to have Charlotte Gordon coming to join us in celebration of Frankenstein, and Mary Shelley specifically.”

An associate professor of English at Endicott College, Gordon has written the first dual biography of Mary Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, a leading advocate of equal rights for women known also for her unconventional lifestyle. Moira Macdonald, art critic for the Seattle Times, wrote, “’Romantic Outlaws’ tells the tale of the two remarkable Mary’s whose lives only overlapped by 10 days. Gordon chooses to let their stories unfold not chronologically, but side by side in alternating chapters; an audacious choice that lets us see how the daughter’s life mirrored that of her unconventional mother.”

New York Times writer Cristina Nehring explains that Gordon’s goal in this biography, her third work of history, is to tack back and forth between the literary love lives of both women in order to show that Mary Shelley was “steeped . . . in her mother’s ideas” and that the two were temperamental twins, even if their existences hardly overlapped.

One Book One Belmont 2018 is supported by the Friends of the Belmont Public Library and the following co-sponsors: Belmont Against Racism, Belmont Books, The Belmont Chinese American Association, The Belmont Citizen-Herald, Belmont Gallery of Art, The Belmont Garden Club, The Belmont Historical Society, The Belmont Library Foundation, Belmont Media Center, The Council on Aging, The Department of Public Works, and The Human Rights Commission. Residents may borrow Frankenstein from the library in many different formats: hardcover, paperback, large print, books on CD, ebook or audiobook from the Overdrive catalog and on some of the library’s circulating Kindles.

To place a request, visit the library website at or call the reference desk, 617-993-2870.

Trash/Recycling Update: Carts Are (Still) Coming; A Day For The Old Barrels: Sept 29

Photo: Carts and barrels are on the way.

It was anticipated Belmont’s new automated trash and recycling collection program would be up and running by the first week in July. That was the plan developed by the town over half-a-year of preparation; it turns out the weather had other plans.

According to a Friday, July 6 press release from the Belmont Department of Public Works, the intense temperatures generated by the week-long heat wave slowed the carts distribution to a crawl.

The new deadline for all of Belmont to receive trash and recycling carts is Thursday, July 13.

“Please be patient and we appreciate your cooperation,” asked the DPW news release.

The DPW has also set the day for residents to drop off their old trash barrels: Saturday, Sept. 29, 9 a.m. to noon at the Town Yard, 37 C St.

The DPW is telling the public not to place old trash barrels or recycling bins on the curbside to be picked up. In fact, they are advising residents to use barrels that are 32-gallon or smaller as Yard Waste receptacles. The blue and green recycling bins can be used as storage or a way to bring your recycling from your house to the cart. 

The town will also be accepting cardboard on Sept. 29; it will need to be cut and folded to be accepted.