CITY HALL — Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) vowed Wednesday to block a proposal crafted by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to prevent longtime residents from being pushed out of gentrifying parts of Woodlawn near the planned Obama Presidential Center that she said was totally inadequate.
In a fiery news conference at City Hall, Taylor said the mayor’s proposal would not protect Woodlawn residents from being pushed out of the area around the Obama Presidential Center, set to be built in Jackson Park. In addition, the freshman alderman accused Lightfoot and housing officials of disrespecting the largely Black and low-income community by crafting their own proposal, rather than endorsing the plan backed by a coalition of community groups.
“I was never told they were going to write their own ordinance,” Taylor said. “We are very smart, competent folks. We can come up with our own plan for our own community.”
A measure introduced by the mayor but opposed by the alderman whose ward it affects would be unlikely to pass, as aldermen would follow the unwritten but deeply entrenched practice of aldermanic prerogative.
Don Terry, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Housing, said the Lightfoot administration was committed to “an inclusive approach to creating well-rounded legislation that will preserve access to housing for low- and middle-income residents in the area and ensure equitable, inclusive growth.”
The mayor’s proposal would apply only to census tracts within three-fifths of a mile of the Obama Presidential Center. The proposed community benefits agreement backed by Taylor and the Obama CBA Coalition, which comprises seven groups, wants protections to apply to all properties within a two-mile radius of the center. While Woodlawn would be included in the mayor’s plan, most of South Shore and Washington Park would not.
The coalition’s proposal is designed to ensure that housing built on land now owned by the city is affordable to families earning $40,000 a year or less.
In addition, any new housing developments should be required to set aside 30 percent of their units for low- and moderate-income residents, according to the coalition’s proposal.
The coalition also demanded that the current proposal be expanded to include not only Woodlawn but also South Shore, Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Washington Park and Kenwood.
“This is not what the community asked for, and they’ve said it over and over and over and over and over again,” Taylor said. “This doesn’t protect anybody.”
A majority of aldermen have endorsed the coalition’s proposal for a community benefits agreement.
The Obama Foundation and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel rebuffed the coalition’s demand for a community benefits agreement, but Lightfoot promised during the 2019 mayoral campaign to back legal protections for residents near the Obama Center.
Taylor said city officials had failed to take the demands of Woodlawn residents seriously because they are Black and low-income.
“If this was anywhere else there would not be a conversation,” Taylor said.
Taylor called the Lightfoot’s administration’s draft report outlining guidelines for development in Woodlawn near the planned Obama Center released Jan. 30 at a community meeting “a sham.”
“I don’t feel like this process has been fair,” Taylor said. “I’ve been told one thing, and another has been happening.”
The city must act immediately to stop gentrification and displacement, Taylor said, adding that she would “meet in the middle” to reach an agreement with the mayor.
Taylor said Lightfoot had given commissioners too much power as she works to end aldermanic prerogative.
“She thinks she does not have to listen to me and she does not have to work with me,” Taylor said. “So I’m going to fight her and everybody else on making sure that this doesn’t pass. It is either get right, or get right out of office.”