City Council Reaffirms Condo Law

Resisting intense pressure, the Cambridge City Council last night reaffirmed its support for restrictions on condominium conversion in the city and even took steps to strengthen the two-year-old ordinance limiting condos.

About 500 spectators, evenly divided between pro-and anti-condominium forces, cheered and booed for almost five hours until the council passed a heavily amended version of a motion that in its original form would have halted prosecution of those who had bought condominiums in violation of a city ordinance requiring a permit before an apartment is removed from the rental market.

If passed, Councilor Leonard Russell's motion would have made the restrictions on condominium conversion all but unenforceable, several councilors said.

By a 5-4 margin the councilors then rejected a series of amendments offered by councilor Kevin Crane '72 aimed at watering down the condo law, before voting to move several amendments offered by David Sullivan closer to passage. Sullivan's amendments would allow prosecution even before a condo buyer had moved into his unit.

Before the votes, the councilors listened to dozens of tenants--the majority of whom opposed the motion to halt prosecutions--and almost as many condo owners, who without exception favored the order.


One condominium owner currently being prosecuted told the board she "felt harassed and victimized, not able to eat or sleep." The owner, Carolyn Clinton, added "an awful lot of condo owners are single women in my situation."

But representatives of city tenant groups called the anti-condo law essential to retaining a diverse city. "Will the council be bullied by those, who can only be described as rich squatters?" Christine Baker, a spokesman for the Rent Control Task Force, asked. "Without a guarantee of decent, affordable housing." Cambridge would lose its "uniqueness," Baker said, adding "in the upcoming election we will be at the polls and voting."

Russell said his motion was an "effort to help people." Other councilors, however, described Russell's motion as "much too broad."

"You are in a hardship position." Councilor David Wylie told one of the six tenants currently being prosecuted. "The resolution which has been suggested, though, is tar too broad to help individual hardship cases," he added.

Instead, he suggested an order--which the council passed--instructing soliciter Russ Higley to figure out a way to avoid prosecuting certain individual cases where condo owners had bought their units in good faith.

Wylie also admonished the condo owners--several of whom testified in shaky voices before the council--against "lending your cases to a political movement." Opponents of rent controls and condominium restrictions have grown more in recent weeks, focusing their attacks on Sullivan and gearing for the November city election.

The outcome of the vote was evident early in the session, when councilor Alfred E. Vellucci--usually the swing vote on the issue--declared "I'mnot going to vote for any amendment to David Sullivan's ordinance, though my heart goes out to these six tenants.