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North Siders protest SRO closings

Lakeview residents will protest the loss of over 700 SRO units over the past year — and demand that elected officials join their efforts to convince a new landlord to discuss ways of preserving affordable housing — in a march and rally Sunday, February 10, starting at 1:20 p.m. at Wellington United Church, 615 W. Wellington.

Current and former SRO residents will join supporters from the Lakeview Action Coalition seeking a meeting with Jamie Purcell of BJB Properties, and calling on Aldermen James Cappelman (46th Ward), Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) to step up on behalf of residents in their wards.

BJB has acquired five SROs in Lakeview over the past year, several of which have been emptied, rehabbed, and re-rented at double their previous rents, said Mary Tarullo of LAC.  At some properties, BJB gave 13-hour eviction notices to tenants, she said.

Most recently, on January 31 residents at the Chateau, 3838 N. Broadway, were given 30-day lease termination notices.  Five days later their hot water was turned off, and remained off for five days.  Residents say they were given no explanation for the loss of hot water.

Cappelman suggested residents contact the city for information on getting into homeless shelters, residents say.  “We think that’s an egregious misuse of city resources — to be assisting a landlord in displacing tenants from his buildings,” Tarullo commented.

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Lakeview protest targets record bank bonuses

Lakeview residents plan to move $170,000 out of big banks Thursday as a protest against astronomical – and growing – executive compensation at big banks.

They’re targeting branches of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America in an action planned for Thursday, December 15, 5 p.m.,  at Clark and Belden.

Lakeview Action Council members are among thousands of community activists across the country who have signed a letter to the CEOs of Chase, BofA, and Wells Fargo, calling on them to forgo bonuses and use the money to keep families in their homes, provide credit for businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes.

While media reports have suggested bank executives will face a pay cut this year, the New Bottom Line campaign analyzed compensation pools for the first three quarters of the year and projects that compensation will be up by 3.7 percent.

At BofA, despite heavy losses and plummeting stock prices this year, compensation setasides have increased by 7 percent, according to the group.

Last year JPM Chase CEO Jamie Dimon earned $10,400 an hour, according to NBL.

“These bonuses [represent] families facing foreclosure that can’t stay in their homes, taxes not paid, student loans not made.,” said Liz Ryan Murray of National People’s Action, which is part of NBL.   “These execs are rewarding themselves for damaging our communities and economy.”

Changes in executive compensation are credited with driving the high-risk investment strategies that crashed the economy three years ago.  With longterm unemployment and foreclosures still climbing, recovery is still a long way off.

But with the help of federal bailouts, big banks have recovered nicely; they currently sit on $2 trillion in cash reserves.  Rather than using the money to create jobs, they have spent lavishly on mergers and acquisitions, stock buy-backs, dividend payments, and executive bonuses, Murray said.

Development 101: Giordanos, Oreos — and Wal-Mart

People used to get confused when Jim Capraro would deny that a new supermarket in a blighted community — which he’d worked years to open — was a win for economic development. Read the rest of this entry »

Updates

The Chicago Tribune has an in-depth look at chickens in Chicago (Newstips 11-7-08).

Chitown Daily News updates the story of a Lakeview SRO where fire inspectors were barred last month (Newstips 11-11-08).

Lakeview SRO Bars Inspectors

[UPDATE – LAC reports that fire inspectors accompanied by police were admitted to the Diplomat without incident and were conducting an inspection Wednesday morning.]

A Lakeview SRO could be vacated if the landlord continues to bar fire inspectors, according to Lakeview Action Coalition.

LAC members, including local clergy and social service providers, will gather tomorrow morning outside the Diplomat Hotel, 3208 N. Sheffield, when fire inspectors will attempt to conduct an inspection, said Jennifer Gonzalez. A media briefing is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. (Wednesday, November 12).

Building management barred inspectors who sought access on November 5, she said. Landlord Jack Gore was found in civil contempt and ordered to allow weekly fire inspections at housing court hearing on October 28.

LAC is calling on Gore to give inspectors access, and members will be on hand to assist tenants in the event that inspectors are again barred and order the building vacated.

In housing court, inspectors testified that the building’s alarm system shorts out when it rains, leading building management to turn it off, Gonzalez said.

“As much as vacating the building would be a disaster, a fire would be worse,” she said.

The Diplomat was recently on the market and attracted several bids, including offers that would preserve it as an affordable SRO, she said, adding that it’s not clear whether the building is still for sale.

Gore “has been on and off trying to sell the building for an exorbitant amount of money for 15 years,” she said.

LAC won support from Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward) — who would have to approve zoning changes for any redevelopment — for maintaining the building as an affordable SRO, and the city has said it favors affordable preservation of the building. Hawthorne Neighbors, the local residents organization, also backs preservation, Gonzalez said.

Gore “needs to let the inspectors in and keep the building open, and in the long term he needs to fix the building or sell it to someone who will save it,” she said. She said the preservation purchase offer is still available — “the other offers have probably dried up in this market.”

In housing court, Gore has been cited for several code violations, and a limited receiver has been appointed to further investigate the extent of violations, according to LAC.

Communities Address Zoning Remap

The City Council recently moved the start date of the new zoning code back from November 1 to August 1, and aldermen are faced with remapping their wards to include new classifications and districts. In some cases community groups are helping in the process.

The Metropolitan Planning Council has provided training and hand-held computers to groups in Lawndale and other communities to “identify zoning assets and challenges” — places where new designations might help foster community-oriented development, said Pete Skosey. Working with MPC, the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago has identified a section of Grand Avenue which could serve as a commercial buffer between residential sections to the north and a planned manufacturing district to the south.

Aside from MPC’s efforts, the Pilsen Alliance recently won overwhelming support for a referendum in the 25th ward calling for wider notification and open community meetings on any zoning variances. The group is now ramping up a Pilsen Community Zoning Board.

Having supported a similar referendum in the 35th ward, new Alderman Rey Colon is now holding precinct meetings — and the 35th Ward Community Action Council is conducting a door-to-door canvas — to forge a community process for mapping out development goals.

Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward) has 20 community groups in his Community Development Council working on a zoning remap; one member is Nate Hutchinson from Lakeview Action Coalition’s affordable housing committee. Hutchinson is also active with groups promoting less auto-centered development. Higher density facilitates affordability as well as pedestrian activity and public transit, he argues, but public education on the issue is needed.

Developers who get zoning variances receive a significant public benefit, and it would be reasonable to expect some return — like affordable housing set-asides, says John McDermott of Logan Square Neighborhood Association.



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