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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Bold Anti-Gentrification Plan Is Making A Comeback: 606 Developers Should Pay Their Fair Share, Ald. Says

Ald. Daniel La Spata plans to introduce a new version of a 2017 ordinance that would make developers pay more to demolish buildings along the Bloomingdale Trail.

A new development next to The Bloomingdale Trail.
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LOGAN SQUARE — Saying displacement along The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail is still a major problem, new Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) plans to resurrect a controversial ordinance that aims to curb gentrification by making developers pay steep fees to build in the area.

The original ordinance was drawn up in 2017 by La Spata’s predecessor Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

That ordinance imposed demolition fees — anywhere from $300,000 to $650,000 — and “deconversion” fees on developers building new projects along the western portion of the trail.

The only way developers could avoid those fees would be to make half of their residential units affordable, or below market rate.

Despite support from community groups, the ordinance never advanced. Critics said the fees were too high and the law would hurt property values. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said he didn’t think the ordinance “would pass legal muster.”

Now La Spata is throwing new energy behind the ordinance and drafting a version he hopes will address previous concerns.

The alderman wouldn’t go into specifics, saying the details are still being worked out, but said to expect “substantially” lower fees imposed on developers in the new ordinance.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same sticker shock that people had when they were looking at that first ordinance,” La Spata said.

La Spata is also looking to streamline the affordable housing fund component.

The original ordinance called for depositing the fee into an affordable housing trust managed by a board of trustees made up of local aldermen, leaders from local groups like Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) and commissioners of the city’s Departments of Buildings and Planning and Development 

The alderman said that process needs to be more clearly laid out.

“Nobody wants to think their alderman is creating another slush fund in the neighborhood, so [I’m] making sure we’re clear what the purpose of the fund is and how it’s going to directly benefit [residents],” he said.

The heart of the ordinance, though, will remain the same.

“I really believe in the core of this ordinance,” La Spata said. “I believe there are changes that we can make that will help it function better and make it be more widely accepted in the community.”

Credit: Paul Biasco/DNAinfo
Protesters walk along The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail in 2016, calling for a development slowdown.

652 demolitions since 2011

La Spata is aiming to introduce the new ordinance at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting. He said other aldermen in the area have expressed support for a new and improved ordinance that pumps the brakes on the booming real estate market along the trail that is fueling gentrification and displacing residents, many of them Latino.

La Spata said he met with Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week and shared the demolition data compiled by his office that is driving the new ordinance.

The 1st Ward has seen 652 demolitions since 2011, his office found. Only the 32nd Ward (955) and the 47th Ward (696) have seen more demolitions in that period.

The 1st Ward also ranks in the top five for wards that saw the most demolitions each year from 2013 through 2019.

La Spata said Lightfoot, who herself lives in Logan Square, though not along the trail, was “really struck” by the data.

“She was really impacted by it because it’s not what you expect to see,” La Spata said.

A spokesman for Lightfoot didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

La Spata said he’s planning to do community outreach in the weeks leading up to the City Council meeting.

The alderman said the overall goal is to “guide development, rather than grind it to a halt.”

“We want to make sure that development is meeting the needs of longtime and new residents in our community,” he said.

“There’s always been a cost relating to demolitions — a dollar cost, an environmental cost. Right now, all of that cost is being felt by our community and, I think it’s fair, if developers choose to develop, they share that cost.”

Currently, demolition permits in Chicago cost $200 on average, but there are typically additional fees.

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