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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Pilsen’s Alderman Files Complaint Against Lightfoot Over St. Adalbert Church Rezoning

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez accused the mayor of interfering in the church's rezoning. He tried to downzone the church, but Lightfoot's allies blocked a vote on the issue.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (left); Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez (right)
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago; Provided
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PILSEN — Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) filed a complaint with the Inspector General’s office against Mayor Lori Lightfoot, accusing the mayor of interfering in the rezoning of St. Adalbert’s Church to favor the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Sigcho-Lopez moved to downzone the church site at 1628-1650 W. 17th St. in an effort to force any developer to engage with Pilsen neighbors and St. Adalbert’s former parishioners about future plans for the property.

The alderperson’s ordinance passed the zoning committee last week, despite a representative from the archdiocese saying it would likely sue the city if it passed and city attorneys warning the city could potentially lose a lawsuit. It was set to go before City Council Wednesday, but allies of the mayor blocked the vote.

During the heated City Council meeting, Sigcho-Lopez accused the mayor of following the direction of the archdiocese and Cardinal Blase Cupich to intervene in his ward’s affairs.

Sigcho-Lopez blasted Lightfoot for usurping aldermanic prerogative, or the custom of deferring to alderpeople on major developments in their wards. The mayor repeatedly told the alderman he was “out of order.”

“In the 25th Ward, we have a serious issue of displacement, … the issue of corruption and developers taking over our community is a very real issue,” Sigcho-Lopez said on the council floor Wednesday. “It’s a shame what we continue to see from this administration … the lack of due process in many decision that we make everyday.

“Your political agenda tried to take aldermanic prerogative, look at what mayoral prerogative has done for our city. It’s chaos. Are you an incompetent mayor?” Sigcho-Lopez yelled.

“What you’ve said are blatant lies that will be addressed in due course,” Lightfoot said in response.

The mayor’s office and the inspector general’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sigcho-Lopez said Tuesday he hopes an investigation by the inspector general’s office will shed some light on the mayor’s decision to get involved in the St. Adalbert zoning process and correct any breach of separation of powers.

“This is an opportunity for us to bring our community together for a positive outcome, but the maneuvering and the behind scenes deals that are happening are only hurting and displacing more residents,” he said. “The outcomes when we don’t listen to our residents have big consequences.”

Lightfoot’s administration did not immediately answer questions.

RELATED: Pilsen Alderman, Neighbors Sue City And Former Alderman Over Giant Penny Whistle Liquor License Debacle

A previous effort to impact development through downzoning in the 25th Ward ended up costing the city millions in litigation.

In 2016, now disgraced former Ald. Danny Solis (25th) downzoned Pilsen’s largest vacant site at 16th and Peoria streets from residential to an industrial use, effectively blocking development there. Developer Property Markets Group proposed building 500 apartments and a park, but residents and activists, including Sigcho-Lopez, wanted more affordable housing.

After Solis downzoned the property, Property Markets Group sued the city in 2018. Earlier this year, the city bought the site for $12 million to settle the lawsuit.

St. Adalbert was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants. The church building was built in 1912. In 2016, the archdiocese announced it would consolidate six Pilsen churches into three, closing St. Adalbert as part of that merger. They cited changing demographics, low Mass attendance and a decline in the number of priests as reasons for the reconfiguration.

The Archdiocese also said more than $3 million was needed to repair the church’s 185-foot towers, which have been surrounded by scaffolding for years.

Polish and Mexican parishioners fought for years to save it. The church hosted its final mass in 2019.

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