Injunction Denied in Condo Case

A federal judge this week denied the request of local developers to prevent enforcement of new sections of the city's controversial ordinance limiting conversion of rental apartments to condominiums.

Tenant advocates yesterday called Judge Walter Skinner's denial of a request for an injunction a major victory, and attorneys for local landowners said no decision has been reached yet on an appeal of the denial.

The new amendments--which make it illegal to sell a condominium as well as to occupy one without city permission--went into effect Saturday. Skinner handed down his decision Tuesday, five days after he heard arguments in the case.

The denial means the developers will probably have to go to a full trial in their fight to overturn the ordinance. Observers said the trial could take a year or more, during which time the ordinance would stay in effect.

"We are trying to figure out what our options are," Steve Rosenfeld, attorney for the plaintiffs, said yesterday. "There is a question of whether we can break down the case into component parts" and perhaps seek pretrial relief from some provisions, he added.


In his ruling, Skinner said he did not think the 'requirement for permits represented a' "taking" of private property. He did say that provisions of the law allowing long-term tenants to purchase their apartments without a permit might violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

Skinner said, however, that tenants would he able to buy their apartments if the law was eventually overturned, and hence would not suffer "irreparable harm" if an injunction was not denied. Rosenfeld had argued that property owners would suffer economic harm if the law was in effect even a short period of time.


The injunction request was the latest in a long series of legal challenges to the ordinance, passed in 1979 in an effort to stem the tide of condo conversions in the city. "It hasn't lost yet," city councilor David Sullivan, who drafted the ordinance, said yesterday.

"A lot of money has been spent attempting to challenge the law in the courts, but judges have consistently refused to upset what has been decided by the democratic political process," Sullivan said.

Before the case goes to trial, "there will likely be a lot of discovery" of evidence, centering on the issue of whether rent control provides landlords with a fair profit, Sullivan said.

"A full-dress trial will take a long time, which is fine with me since tenants will be protected," Sullivan said