CITY HALL — Aldermen are set to vote Wednesday on a scaled-back measure to ban demolitions near the 606 Bloomingdale Trail as a way to blunt rapid gentrification along the popular trail.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday afternoon said she supported the revised measure, even though she blasted the original proposal as misguided and likely illegal.
The original ordinance (O2019-9439), authored by Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and Roberto Maldonado (26), would have banned building permits, demolition permits and zoning changes near the popular elevated trail for 14 months. However, a revised proposal would ban only demolition permits along the trail for six months.
Lightfoot said in a statement that she supported the revised measure after consulting with aldermen.
“Importantly, this latest version includes a shorter timeframe for a moratorium on demolitions only and narrower geography, while preventing a unilateral ban on zoning approvals in order to preserve the rights of existing property owners in the area,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said she expected the Department of Housing’s newly formed Inclusionary Housing Task Force to “develop lasting citywide strategies for addressing an affordable housing shortage in our city, starting first with prioritizing the preservation of existing housing stock for low- and middle-income families across the city.”
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The City Council’s Housing and Real Estate Committee is set to vote at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the revised measure, which supporters tout as a compromise that would give the city much-need breathing room to address the gentrification pressures flowing from the 606 trail.
If the committee endorses the proposal, it would head to the full City Council for a final vote at its meeting set to start at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
If approved, the measure would block demolition permits from being issued in a smaller area than originally proposed near the trail. The updated area is bounded by North, California, Armitage, and Kostner avenues, and Hirsch and Kedzie streets.
Ramirez-Rosa likened the progress of negotiating the revised proposal to a “Mexican family making Tamales at Christmas” and “efficiently and effectively” reaching a compromise that will stop affordable multifamily homes from being demolished and replaced with “luxury” single-family homes.
Maldonado said the measure was designed to protect the Black and Latino families who are “being displaced every month because they can not afford to live in the neighborhood where they were raised” while city officials develop a “long term, comprehensive” solution to the affordable housing crisis plaguing Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Wicker Park.
The revised measure would allow buildings to be demolished to make way for affordable housing and for structures that pose a threat to the public’s health to be torn down.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) said the measure was an “urgent but short-term step” and promised to work every day during the moratorium on demolition permits to develop a permanent solution before the ban expires on Aug. 1.
The measure would include parts of the 1st, 26th, 36th and 35th wards. Originally, the ban included portions of the 32nd Ward. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) told The Daily Line Jan. 7 that he did not think the measure was legal.
City attorney Rey Phillips Santos said he was “quite secure” in his analysis that the measure would pass legal muster.
The measure was embraced by several aldermen at a hearing on the proposal Tuesday afternoon who are also coping with gentrifying neighborhoods.
Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22) applauded Maldonado and Ramirez-Rosa for “taking a big swing” and making a “bold proposal” to fight gentrification before compromising.
Rodriguez said he would be watching the impact of the measure if it becomes law, since parts of his ward in Little Village are also facing gentrification.
“This is designed to keep working people in Chicago,” Rodriguez said. “It is a good first step.”
Lightfoot on Friday said the push was a misguided effort that is likely illegal, telling reporters that city officials should “use a surgical knife, not a club” to find solutions to the city’s affordable housing crisis.
Maldonado said he disagreed with the mayor.
“We do need a club to stop gentrification,” Maldonado said, adding that the scaled-back measure was an “imperfect solution.”
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.
Should the plan move forward, locals are hoping to get more involved. Some have said they’d like to attend a public meeting on the subject.
“It’s obviously something that a lot of people are talking about and people have strong opinions on. More than anything else, people have questions about it,” Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail president Benjamin Helphand said.
Helphand added: “It would be a very well-attended public meeting.”
More broadly, Helphand said he supports a moratorium as a way to combat the “profoundly destabilizing” displacement happening along the trail.
“If a pause in development around the Bloomingdale Trail results in new tools or newly sharpened tools to protect the wellbeing of stable neighborhoods then it’s one more gift the Bloomingdale Trail is opening up for Chicago, aside from it just being a great park and trail,” he said.