Amendments Proposed to Condo Limits

Would Tighten Tenant Ownership Rule

The city council will begin consideration next week of an ordinance that could effectively negate a judge's decision that allows many city tenants to buy their own apartments as condominiums.

Most tenants affected by the judge's ruling--those who moved into their apartments after August 1979--have been unsuccessful in obtaining city council permission to purchase their homes as condominium conversions.

The judge in the case, Arthur Sherman, ruled several weeks ago that when the City Council passed its anti-condo conversion ordinance in August 1979, it did not intend to prevent tenants from purchasing their homes as condominiums.

The new proposal, filed with the council on Monday by councilor David Sullivan, would state explicitly that the council had not intended to allow the sale of the apartments except to residents who had lived there before the August 1979 legislation was passed.

"It will overrule Judge Sherman's position...It will keep as many as 1000 units on rent control and on the market," Sullivan said of his proposal.

Five votes are needed to pass the ordinance; the support of the four councilors belonging to the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) is assured. The only other councilor likely to vote for the measure is Independent Alfred E. Vellucci; some councilors speculated that the ordinance battle would be an important step in Vellucci's campaign to win the mayoralty (see separate story).

If the ordinance does not pass, Sullivan said it would likely serve as a signal that the council did intend to exempt tenants from the existing city code--a signal that might allow much more large-scale condominium conversion, affecting 1000 tenants or more.

"The stakes are high. If the ordinance loses, it won't look very good," Sullivan said.

"It would certainly have a damaging effect on the case," councilor Saundra Graham added.

Meanwhile, both Graham and Sullivan said City Manager Robert Healy had agreed to pay a lawyer to appeal Sherman's ruling on behalf of the Rent Control Board.

Funding to pay Stephen Deutsch--the attorney who has handled other challenges to the anti-condo ordinance--had been put in jeopardy by councilor Walter J. Sullivan, who filed a motion seeking to block that expenditure.

But Walter Sullivan Monday moved to table his own motion.