CITY HALL — Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted a proposal to freeze construction near the 606 Bloomingdale Trail as a misguided effort that is likely illegal, even as aldermen scheduled a vote on the effort to blunt rapid gentrification along the popular trail.
“We need to use a surgical knife, not a club,” Lightfoot told reporters Friday. “Stopping all demolitions, I don’t even know how we do that as a practical matter.”
Housing and Real Estate Committee Chair Ald. Harry Osterman (48) scheduled a hearing on the proposal for 1 p.m. Tuesday. The authors of the ordinance, Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and Roberto Maldonado (26), told The Daily Line Wednesday they were working on a series of “tweaks” that would narrow the scope of the ordinance (O2019-9439).
As currently written, the measure would ban building permits, demolition permits and zoning changes near the popular elevated trail for 14 months. However, affordable housing developments and minor construction work would be exempt from an amended version of the temporary ban the aldermen plan to introduce next week, they said.
The ordinance would apply inside the boundaries of Hirsch Street, Western Avenue, Palmer Street and Western Avenue between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2021. It makes an exception for “emergency conditions,” as defined by the city’s buildings and health departments.
The length of the proposed freeze was “inordinately long,” not practical and included too much land, Lightfoot said, adding that she thought the measure, if approved, would expose the city to lawsuits from property owners who suffered a drop in value because of the city’s action.
The ordinance represents the aldermen’s second attempt at using the city code to slow displacement around the trail, which has juiced surrounding property values since it opened in 2015. In 2017, Maldonado and Ramirez-Rosa partnered with former Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (1) to introduce a measure that would charge fees on property owners seeking demolition permits near the trail. The proposal was never considered by a City Council committee.
Lightfoot said her administration was working to address concerns about the displacement of long-term residents in rapidly gentrifying areas.
“That’s a real thing, and I think the city hasn’t done a good enough job historically of making sure we get ahead of that as development proceeds,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
The measure would be ineffective and could “invite unnecessary litigation,” Lightfoot said.