LOGAN SQUARE — Development activity along The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail could soon come to a screeching halt for more than a year if new legislation passes.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) is looking to impose a 14-month freeze, or moratorium, on building and demolition permits, as well as zoning changes, along the popular jogging and biking path. Maldonado introduced the ordinance Dec. 18.
The ordinance aims to pump the brakes on the booming real estate market along the trail that is fueling gentrification and displacing longtime residents, many of them Latino.
“The opening of the Bloomingdale Trail in 2015 has led to housing instability for [hundreds/thousands] of residents within one-half mile of the trail, as rental prices have risen and buildings have been demolished to build more expensive buildings, raising the taxes on long-term residents so that they cannot afford to stay in their homes. … The city needs to study methods of how to help preserve the community,” the ordinance reads.
Maldonado, who has personally profited off of the gentrification along the trail, didn’t return a message seeking comment. Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who co-sponsored the ordinance, said the ordinance is an extension of another piece of long-discussed legislation that calls for imposing steep fees on developers building along the trail.
So far that ordinance, Ramirez-Rosa said, hasn’t passed legal muster so it’s languishing in committee.
“There is ongoing litigation in our country that looks at whether or not it is lawful for a city to institute a demolition fee. We want to make sure that the policy we’re crafting for Chicago is the right one,” the 35th Ward alderman said.
If passed, the moratorium ordinance would apply to the area surrounding the trail from Western Avenue to Kostner Avenue, a few blocks from the western trailhead, and from Palmer Street to the north and Hirsch Street to the south.
The moratorium would take effect soon — on Feb. 1 — and last through March 31, 2021.
Under the ordinance, the city would be prohibited from issuing building and demolition permits to property owners and real estate investors in the area except in emergency situations in which residents and their visitors are endangered.
The moratorium would also allow community groups like Logan Square Neighborhood Association and LUCHA to focus on studying displacement along the trail and coming up with policy solutions. The groups would be expected to share their findings with city officials early next year.
That component was attractive to Ramirez-Rosa.
“For me it’s about jump-starting the conversation,” the alderman said.
“Instead of introducing a demolition fee, let’s do a moratorium and use that year to collect data and see if the ongoing litigation is settled and then craft what could potentially be citywide policy.”
Since construction started on the elevated trail, home prices along the western portion — in Logan Square and Humboldt Park — have skyrocketed, according to a study conducted by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University.
Displacement is happening across the city, though, and Ramirez-Rosa said they’re in talks with other aldermen and city officials about extending the moratorium to include other neighborhoods like Pilsen.
The ordinance is a long way off from approval.
Ramirez-Rosa said he doesn’t expect it to be sent to committee for another several weeks as negotiations continue. After committee, the ordinance would still need approval from the full City Council.
Ald. Daniel La Spata, whose 1st Ward includes a large portion of the area surrounding the trail, did not sponsor the ordinance.
La Spata said that’s because he needs more time to review the legislation and discuss it with community partners.
La Spata told Block Club in September that he was planning to make changes to the 2017 ordinance and reintroduce it. That ordinance was reintroduced in City Council, but with Maldonado as the lead sponsor and with no changes.
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Read the ordinance below: