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The Cambridge City Council last night unanimously approved the weakest of six legislative petitions to stem the increase in tenant evictions caused by condominium conversions.
The council will ask the state legislature to grant an immediate stay of eviction for six months to all persons 62 years or older whose landlord has initiated eviction proceedings in order to convert their apartment into a condominium.
The issue has generated a long standing controversy between Cambridge tenants, landlords and developers.
The most significant step toward the council's move came in the three-hour rent control subcommittee hearing immediately before the council meeting. The subcommittee, which includes all nine city councilors as voting members, was unable to reach a consensus on the first five stronger motions, as it split four-to-four, with one councilor absent.
The petitions that failed to leave the sub-committee level would have required condominium owners to pay evicted tenants relocation benefits equal to 3 per cent of the condominium's value; to pay such benefits to tenants 62 years or older; to prohibit evictions that would facilitate the conversion of apartments into condominiums; to prohibit such evictions of tenants 62 years or older; or to grant four month immediate stays to all tenants being evicted for conversions.
The audience of approximately 150 people overflowed from the council chamber and its balcony into the hallways. There were a few landlords present, but most of the crowd's members were elderly tenants.
City Councilors David E. Clem, Daniel J. Clinton, Thomas W. Danehy and Walter J. Sullivan opposed releasing the petitions, while Barbara Ackermann, Francis H. Duehay '55, Saundra Graham and Mavor Alfred E. Vellucci voted to release. City Councilor Leonard J. Russel, who has consistently voted against the con- dominium curbs and rent control, left the meeting before the roll-call.
John H. Henn '64, special counsel to the subcommittee, said last night even if the petition is approved by the state legislature, it will have a minimal effect, as judges usually grant such stays if the tenant seeks legal action.
However, Ackerman who is chairman of the subcommittee, said last night the measure will at least give a "feeling of security to the elderly tenants" by granting them a stay without legal action.
During the extensive debate. Clem said activists had exaggerated the issue, and that landlords only evicted four tenants this year. Louis P. Solano '27, a city council candidate and retired Harvard professor, said last night developers and landlords have harassed many more tenants into vacating their apartments.
The councilors agreed the issue was really an off-shoot of the more basic rent control controversy. Graham said last night. "Condominium conversion is just a means of avoiding rent control."
During the subcommittee meeting. Grahamrecalled a motion to prohibit more than two unmarried people from living in the same housing unit. She said she was opposed to the bill, but originally submitted it for a constituent.
During the regular meeting, the council debated the selection procedure for a proposed Cambridge commission on the status of women. A group of residents wanted the commission to have most of the authority to appoint its own members, but the council decided the city charter limits that power to the city manager.
The discussion with the audience over the selection procedure became heated, as council candidate Byrle Breny accused the council of "playing with these women in an election year."
Danchy told Breny he couldn't think "of anything better to play with.
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