LOGAN SQUARE — Some residents say Logan Square and Humboldt Park aldermen should’ve consulted the community before signing off on a six-month ban on demolitions along The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail.
“It’s not a bike lane we’re talking about. It’s something that impacting thousands of residents, thousands of residents that have not been heard,” resident Max Collopy said at a community meeting held Thursday evening at Ald. Daniel La Spata’s 1st Ward office at 1958 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Collopy was among about a dozen residents who aired grievances at the community meeting, the first in a series of three open house-style meetings La Spata is hosting on efforts to curb gentrification and preserve affordability along the popular jogging and biking path.
Thursday’s meeting centered on the six-month demolition ban. The legislation, which went into effect Feb. 1, is drawing mixed reactions from residents, with some saying it’s a much-needed step toward reversing the impact of gentrification-fueled displacement along the trail and others saying it will hurt the area’s economic growth and unfairly strip residents of their property rights.
Collopy and other residents at Thursday night’s meeting fall into the latter category. They questioned why La Spata was holding community meetings after the legislation passed — and not before.
“My biggest issue is this meeting should’ve happened two months ago,” Collopy said. “I don’t care if it’s a luxury transit-oriented development or Pennycuff lofts, there need to be more community input.”
Said Chris N., a resident and real estate professional who declined to provide his last name: “It wasn’t a thoughtful process. I felt like it was rushed and it felt very political.”
The residents also raised concerns about the data fueling the legislation.
Bevin Brennan, who has lived about two blocks off the trail for five years, said she’s analyzed the study done by La Spata’s policy director Nicholas Zettel, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and city officials, as well as a study done by DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies. Both are flawed, Brennan argued.
“You admitted to me the numbers on pages three and four about the property values and property sales needed to be redone because there’s no way those averages were right,” Brennan said, addressing Zettel.
In their study, Zettel and his co-authors concluded, using U.S. Census Bureau data, that 900 people in the impact area have been displaced between 2006 and 2017. The impact area is bounded by North, California, Armitage and Kostner avenues, and Hirsch and Kedzie streets.
Brennan said that data analysis is flat-out incorrect.
“To the extent that you can rely on that, it’s very hard to because the margin of error is so great, but even if you accept those values as true, whatever the drop-off the population of this subjectively defined area was, it occurred between 2010 and 2011,” she said. The trail debuted in 2015.
DePaul’s study, Brennan said, is also flawed because it misuses median values. In its study, DePaul found that median sale prices along the western portion of the trail — primarily in Logan Square and Humboldt Park — jumped from $97,000 in 2012, an economic downturn, to $340,000 in 2016 and $462,000 in 2018.
“The numbers just don’t support carving out and penalizing those of us who are in this [area],” she said.
But Geoff Smith, executive director for the Institute for Housing Studies, said median sales price is a “standard metric” to use when measuring sales prices and that his research team showed the percent of sales that were less than $300,000, between $300,000-$499,000 and more than $500,000.
In response to concerns revolving around the data, Zettel said, “We have to use the best data sources that we have available to use,” acknowledging that Census Bureau data are estimates.
Also at Thursday night’s meeting, La Spata said that while he does support the six-month demolition ban, he is not responsible for how quickly it came together.
“We did not set the timeline on this ordinance. If this was an ordinance we were writing, we would’ve taken the time beforehand to do meetings like this, which is what we’re trying to do now,” La Spata said.
The ordinance was instead pushed through by Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Roberto Maldonado (26th).
La Spata said he did not support the original ordinance, which called for a 14-month development freeze along the trail, a ban on demolition permits, building permits and zoning changes. That version, which was blasted by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, would’ve prevented residents from fixing up their homes through the city’s roof and porch program, he said.
But La Spata said he does support the approved ordinance because the data supports it.
But residents at the meeting weren’t buying it.
“You don’t make a short-term decision if you don’t know how to respond to something. And say, forget it, we’re just going to stop the thing, we don’t know how to respond to this so we’ll figure it out six months from now. And we’ll let you know if we figure it out then. No, this is a free market. Things need to continue on,” one resident said.
Proponents of the measure say the legislation is more than just the ban itself and that it will allow local leaders to develop a permanent solution before the ban expires on Aug. 1.
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