Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Cambridge on “Tenant Protection,” Part V of an historical series.

Cambridge on “Tenant Protection,”   Part V of an historical series.

1. Introduction.

2. Very Early General History of Condo Conversion / Tenant Protections.

A. My record.

B. Cambridge moves away from the Radicals of the 60's.

3. Evolvement of Tenant Rights, the first Condo Conversion protections.

4. Zoning, tenant issues and reality in Cambridge.  .

5. The internal destruction of Rent Control.

6. The statewide vote.

7. Subsequent activities.

8. City Council UNPASSED Condo Conversion initiative.

9. Prior reports in this series.

1. Introduction.

The final regular meeting of the Cambridge City Council in 2021 had an action on Condo Conversion that I simply did not understand because I do not fully understand the finer aspects of their rules.  It gets worse because the proposal in question is so horribly complicated that I really do not have the time at this moment to analyze it.  Looking at the agenda for the first substantive meeting of the new City Council, it looks like the concept was simply killed with a complicated report put into the record.

It could be of value to go over past actions and to place the current situation in context.

Of major importance in trying to understand the Cambridge City Council, as repeatedly presented in these pages is the flat out fraud which is the reality behind the nonstop loud proclamations of environmental sainthood.

My factsheet on the City Council’s ongoing fight for massive destruction on the Charles River says all that really needs to be said on that ongoing lie:

2. Very Early General History of Condo Conversion / Tenant Protections.

A. My record.

In the 60's, the City of Cambridge enacted Rent Control.  Also during that decade, the City Council fired James Leo Sullivan as City Manager.  Related to that Robert Healy was removed as assistant city manager.  In retrospect, both actions would appear to have major connection to actions of “radicals” in the City of Cambridge.

As I have reported earlier, during the 60's I attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, graduating in 1968.  During the 1967 - 1968 school year, I was a member of the Student Senate working on rules changes.  

It would be reasonable to say I kept the campus from exploding during the first semester because I went around to dorm leaders highly unhappy with the Administration’s handling of rules changes cowritten by me.  I persuaded those leaders that I thought the administration was acting in good faith and proposed a technique by which we would could achieve activist goals without personal endangerment by anybody.

Between semesters, action was taken which demonstrated bad faith.  In the first spring semester meeting of the student senate a senator proposed a highly activist motion in response to the rather clear bad faith.  The proposal would have put the student senate in favor of the sort of action I had promised in the first semester.  I wound up the embodiment in the Student Senate of that proposal.  In contrast to what I had been working for in the first semester.  That made me the public embodiment of the issue and put me highly endangered, exactly the opposite of my goal of nobody endangered.  

“Radicals” tried to take over that issue.  They, in a matter of minutes went from fighting the Vietnam War to fighting for the rules changes we wanted.  The radicals obtained an extremely large open campus meeting with the Dean of Students fighting for our proposal.  In that meeting, they displayed extreme lack of knowledge of key matters on campus.  They were griping about things for which I had no doubt I and my fellow Student Senators could get people fired, and they were totally oblivious.  They were clearly incompetent.  We were embarrassed.

Nevertheless, the Student Senate President quietly negotiated with the Dead of Students with very active assistance of female senators who were newly strengthened by earlier changes in rules.  Those quiet negotiations achieved MORE from the Dean of Students than our proposal had asked for.

When I returned for Homecoming, in a coffee gathering, the Dean of Students was kind enough to call me “the most dangerous student on campus.”

B. Cambridge moves away from the Radicals of the 60's.

In 1974, the City Council rehired James Leo Sullivan.  James Leo Sullivan rather clearly was unhappy with his prior firing.  He proposed the creation of “Neighborhood Associations.”  A lot of the “Neighborhood Associations” he created had the stench of company unions, exactly the opposite of the radical related groups which apparently got him fired.

For the next more than 40 years, Cambridge was managed by James Leo Sullivan and hand picked successors, Healy and Rossi.  I have gone over outrages associated with the James Leo Sullivan dynasty against which I fought.  

There were clear successes by opponents of the Sullivan dynasty.  Many successes were based on non Cambridge governmental entities.  Matters solely within Cambridge saw “activists” who, on scratching the surface looked dominated by the Cambridge Development Department as agent for the James Leo Sullivan city manager machine.   Actions solely in Cambridge were frequently highly irresponsible.

Blatant lies on many development issues backfired because of sanity in the non Cambridge entities because they were responsible entities.  In Cambridge, I was an active but not personally visible opposition on solely internal development matters.  I assisted local groups which had responsible goals, with a majority of my activities successful.  

The friends of the City Manager were a tiny number but they were very loud.  They also were personally driven on development issues and very happy to spend their lives on them.  People who want responsible development are oriented on specific issues and the last thing they want is to spend their lives fighting against the City Manager’s clique.  I definitely agreed with the latter.  I just kept seeing yet another situation which bothered me.

There were two very real political parties in Cambridge.  The “liberals” were pro rent control and sounded great on the right kind of issues while being too environmentally destructive in reality.  The “conservatives” opposed rent control and were more flexible on development issues.  The “liberals” had the Cambridge Civic Association as their party.  The “conservatives” were not as organized in substance, but nevertheless agreed on a lot.  They, in contrast to the CCA, were called the “independents.”  

It was not particularly surprising to see that getting “independent” votes on development issues could be key.  “Independent” votes forced the CCA to behave as the liberals they claimed to be.

Please see my reports as stated in the final section for greater detail, with more coming.

3. Evolvement of Tenant Rights, the first Condo Conversion protections.

In the 70's, David Sullivan created an organization which called him the embodiment of tenant rights.  It is my understanding that he had no involvement in the creation of Rent Control in the 60's.  The Radicals who were in the middle of Rent Control’s creation had their own organizations, PLURAL.  

David Sullivan was elected to the City Council with plans to provide greater protection for tenants by closing the loophole of Condo Conversion which allowed tenant eviction by purchasers of Condominiums units which were created by condo conversion of rent controlled housing.  Individuals bought rent controlled housing to move into individual apartments as their residences by evicting the tenants.

In a subsequent election, William Walsh ran.  He was a lawyer who had been extremely active in condo conversions.  David Sullivan and Walsh had a public election related debate in which neither candidate “drew blood.”  I, as an audience member, was the only person in the room who “drew blood.”  

I raised a key question which neither of the candidates cared to discuss which “drew blood.”  This exchange put me in the cross-hairs of Walsh’s people, BUT Walsh, in spite of our differences on Rent Control, was a highly responsible person on other issues.

David Sullivan and his compatriots closed the condo conversion loophole.  I was one of the last victims of condo conversion of rent controlled housing.

4. Zoning, tenant issues and reality in Cambridge.  .

I, as an activist, remained involved in tenant issues, but there were a lot of folks involved in tenant issues.  I realized that there was next to nobody meaningfully working on environmentalism.  While continuing in tenant issues, I concentrated on using the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance as an environmental tool.  Zoning votes can BE FORCED on the City Council by filing properly written zoning petitions.  I worked with neighborhood groups as a corporate memory and as draftsman of many such successful petitions.

Cambridge was and continues to be (I guess) one of the most densely developed communities in the United States.  But the zoning laws emphasized jobs instead of balance.  There was no real concern for the fact that massive job generation WITHOUT CORRESPONDING HOUSING had the built in result of more and more cars on the streets with their exhaust.

My goals, and I have achieved a lot, were and continue to be housing and open space.  Housing close to jobs means less pollution because workers have a shorter distance to commute.

In the meantime, William Walsh was key in my most spectacular victory, the changing of zoning in the eastern part of Harvard Square so that the zoning recognized and respected the importance of the area to the adjacent neighborhoods while still allowing reasonably large construction.

This zoning was destroyed in early 2020 by the last Cambridge City Council as part of a massive upzoning of Harvard Square targeted at creating “politically correct” destruction of historical buildings, housing and open space.  This upzoning rewards Harvard University to move parts of its Harvard Square campus to a coming campus in the Allston neighborhood of Boston which now contains an I90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) exit / entrance to Cambridge, Brookline and two neighborhoods of Boston.  I have had major victories in that planning process.

5. The internal destruction of Rent Control.

The Radicals evolved while keeping the semblance of different groups.

A couple of radical groups joined into a larger group which paired with David Sullivan’s front organization as the two primary tenant groups.

Three men turned out to be key in the evolution of tenant activism.  I will call them Alpha, Beta, and Charley.  Alpha and Beta were dominant in the radicals tenant organization.  Charley was involved in the 60's creation and resumed activism during the landlords’ fight to kill Rent Control in the 90's.  I worked with Charley on a zoning change in the Riverside neighborhood which he led and kept from going anywhere using a unique skill of his.  He was brilliant at preventing action by talking and talking and talking.  I finally, with regret, withdrew from that well written initiative because, in my opinion, he had stalled the organization beyond the point where the City Council was likely to achieve their goals.

Another part of my activities was to assist the other major remnant of the 60's radicals.  They called themselves the Simplex Steering Committee.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned a massive area between Central Square and the MIT campus into a many acre wasteland by purchasing properties and, as businesses departed for their own reasons, NOT REPLACING THE DEPARTING BUSINESSES.  MIT created a wasteland where there had been thriving industry.

I did the legal drafting for the Simplex Steering Committee in its first three attempts to get Cambridge zoning direction on the future of the Simplex wasteland created by MIT.

The James Leo Sullivan city manager machine created power by skillful appointments which both achieved valuable benefits to the city and which made the appointees indebted to the James Leo Sullivan city manager machine.  The city manager machine gave power to the Simplex Steering Committee by giving it the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee.  By giving the Simplex people this goody, the city manager machine created a situation where it had the power to punish unacceptable behavior.  The City Manager machine opposed Rent Control.

The separate tenant organizing groups combined into one.  The remnants of the David Sullivan group accurately decided that Alpha and Beta were destructive to the tenant cause by destructive activities which kept the tenant movement from aggressive behavior to expand tenant protections.  In hindsight, I think Alpha and Beta were protecting the Simplex people’s golden egg, CEOC.

The David Sullivan group tried to expel Alpha and Beta from the tenant group.  The key vote saw a whole bunch of people brought in by the radicals.  They knew nothing except that Alpha and Beta were the “good guys.”  In the final vote, Alpha and Beta were not expelled, by one vote.  I stupidly thought I could work with them and voted against expulsion.

In 1983, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts voted in a statewide Condo Conversion statute which protected tenants from eviction for condo conversion.  The statute exempted Cambridge and Brookline from the statute to avoid the complexities of integrating the new statute into the existing Condo Conversion protections in those communities.

Rent control in Cambridge exempted new construction as of the effective date, approximately 1968.  The impact of exempting new construction from Cambridge rent control and condo protections made residents of housing built in 1968 to 1983 have the least condo eviction protections in Massachusetts.

I pushed in tenant circles to get city council candidates to support condo eviction protections for those tenants.  Alpha and Beta aggressively fought to prevent that expansion of protections.  In the second election in which I sought such commitments, I got a vote of the organization to get such a commitment from candidates.  Alpha and Beta simply ignored the vote they had lost.  They managed the election fight scaring tenant activists against and all increases in tenant protections.

Alpha and Beta turned the tenant movement into a Company Union against expansion of protections, and in the process protected the Simplex people’s CEOC bennies.

They made Cambridge tenant activists switch from the high minded activism of the 60's to look like a self-serving situation.  The stench assisted in the loss of a very close election.

6. The statewide vote.

Cambridge Landlords organized a statewide referendum to kill Rent Control.

There was a statewide pro Rent Control organization created representing people in various communities.  Alpha and Beta were members, as was Charley.

I, because of fear of the destructive record of Alpha and Beta, instead became a director of the Massachusetts Tenant Organization and worked for the cause from that perspective.

I tried to rid the pro Rent Control group of Alpha and Beta because of their destructive record and from a very great fear that, as part of that record, they would be harmful.

The report I got from a participant in the statewide Rent Control group was that the group had been kept from actions in its meeting by disputes among the Cambridge participants.  For years, I blamed Alpha and Beta.

Long after the fight, I put together a bunch of threads, ALONG WITH THE VERY CLEAR ADMISSION OF Charley, and decided that Charley very clearly prevented action of the statewide Rent Control organization exactly as he prevented that zoning petition from happening years earlier by talking and talking and talking.

One of the Company Union games played by the entities controlled by the Cambridge City Manager machine was to “keep people out of trouble” by chasing their tails on fights which could not achieve their purported objectives.

Charley fought for such a goal in the statewide Rent Control organization.  Alpha and Beta realized the danger of his demand and bitterly fought against the destruction of the cause.  Charley demanded that the organization fight for Rent Control AS A SUBSIDY FOR TENANTS AT THE EXPENSE OF LANDLORDS.

Alpha and Beta were well aware that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision legalizing Rent Control in 1976 explicitly legalized Rent Control as a consumer protection.  The decision clearly stated that THE MINUTE Rent Control became a tax on landlords, Rent Control was illegal as a taking of property.

Charley would not allow the statewide organization to meaningful work.  He used his highly skillful preventing of action by talking and talking and talking in attempt to force approval of his suicidal language.  Alpha and Beta knew what his demands would do and fought him.

My source was of the very strong opinion that, because of the vast amounts of time wasted by Charley, the statewide group was kept from meaningfully organizing and IT WAS A CLOSE VOTE.  Charley almost certainly destroyed rent control single-handedly.

I was one of the first tenants to lose my home.  I had lived there for 14 years.

7. Subsequent activities.

After the death of Rent Control, the radicals IMMEDIATELY noticed the 1968-83 tenants they had been fighting against, and fought for their protection.

There were two subsequent referenda in Cambridge on the reestablishment of Rent Control, both Radical proposals.

Charley demanded and achieved his language in both referenda, turning both referenda into Company Union initiatives.  Spend years achieving “rent control” which would be certain to be thrown out by the courts.

8. City Council UNPASSED Condo Conversion initiative.

As I said, I simply did not waste my time on the horribly complicated initiative which prominently did not pass in 2021.  It looks like it simply failed of achievement but was loudly broadcast in the last Cambridge City Council meeting of 2021.

My fear was Charley’s language or the equivalent.

There may be further action.  The unpassed proposal certainly is available to serve as a model.

Myself, I did not waste my time on it last year, and I will not worry about it until I have to.

9. Prior reports in this series.

A. Cambridge City Council considers rewriting the functioning of the City of Cambridge.   I.  A personal prequil, https://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2021/05/, Blog, 5/31/21

B. Cambridge City Council considers rewriting the functioning of the City of Cambridge.   2.  Very early history. PARTIAL transportation analysis, https://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2021/06/cambridge-city-council-considers.html, Blog, 6/6/21.

C. Cambridge City Council considers rewriting the functioning of the City of Cambridge.   III.  Major  transportation "planning" problems, https://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2021/06/,  Blog, 6/16/21

D. Cambridge, MA, USA, City Council considers rewriting the functioning of the City of Cambridge.   IV.  A nightmare begins, https://charlesriverwhitegeeseblog.blogspot.com/2021/08/cambridge-ma-usa-city-council-considers.html, Blog, 8/21/21.