The aldermen of Logan Square entered 2020 after about seven months with a more-progressive city council. We wanted to check in with the three aldermen serving the majority of the neighborhood and get an update on what they accomplished in 2019 and what they hope to get done this year and beyond.
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, of the 35th Ward, wants to move Chicago to a place of greater economic and social justice in 2020, creating a police-accountability group and lifting the ban on rent control, among many other proposals. Rosa also looks forward to increasing access to affordable housing and moving ahead with the Grace Hotel (2618 N. Milwaukee Ave.) construction. He looks back on a list of 2019 accomplishments, including hosting a “People’s Inauguration” and welcoming community input on the use of $1 million for infrastructure improvements.
Jessica Vásquez, chief of staff for Rosa, relayed the alderman’s accomplishments from 2019 and goals for 2020 and beyond. Read ahead for those responses, with minor edits by the editorial team for readability.
Top legislative goals
Over the next four years, I am committed to pushing forward progressive legislation that focuses on social and economic justice, public safety, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, housing justice, good government, and participatory democracy.
- Social justice. I will continue to propose legislation that protects all Chicagoans, including undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, women and people of color. This includes removing the carveouts from Chicago’s sanctuary city policy, known as the Welcoming City Ordinance.
- Economic justice. I believe our city’s economy should work for working families, not just a rich and powerful few. The City of Chicago should implement policies that protect the rights of workers and promotes fair compensation. The city should also ensure that our budget is balanced, not on the backs of working families, but by asking the rich and big corporations to pay their fair share. To this end, I will work to pass the following ordinances: One Fair Wage ($15 minimum wage with tips on top for all workers) by 2021, One Fair Wage, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reform, including TIF abolition, corporate head tax, and a downtown commercial lease tax.
- Public safety and criminal justice reform. Police misconduct settlements have cost Chicagoans over $600 million over the past 10 years. I believe we must bring about true police accountability and oversight through the creation of an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). I will also work to improve policing and public safety in Chicago by fighting to reinvest public safety dollars in initiatives that are proven to reduce crime. This includes reopening our shuttered mental health clinics and investing in education, youth programs and jobs programs.
- Environmental justice. I support the Water-for-All ordinance, legislation that would prevent the privatization of our city’s water and make it more affordable for families at risk of water shutoffs. Similarly, I will work to ensure the City of Chicago is aggressively transitioning to green energy, which can be accomplished through municipal ownership of our city’s electric utility. ComEd’s franchise agreement with the City of Chicago is set to expire and I will fight to democratize ComEd via public ownership. Additionally, I will fight to address other environmental issues like environmental racism and pollinator decline.
- Housing justice. I believe that housing is a human right. To this end, I support lifting the Illinois ban on rent control, policies that preserve naturally occurring affordable housing, like a ban on deconversions or a demolition fee along the 606, a real-estate transfer tax for properties valued at over a million dollars to fund homeless services, housing, and prevention, as well as just cause for evictions to mitigate mass and wrongful evictions. I will also work to ensure that the city is aggressively funding and building new affordable housing units, and will support the Homes for All and Development for All ordinance.
- Good government and participatory democracy. I will promote policies that ensure popular participation in city governance and participatory self-governance from the bottom up. This will include legislation to expand and codify community-driven zoning and development, and participatory budgeting. I will also support campaign finance reform via the Fair Elections ordinance and will support efforts to ensure ward remapping results in contiguous wards with neighborhood integrity.
Notable recent activities
Our office has had a number of notable recent activities impacting Logan Square, since the start of my second term in mid-May, these include:
Numerous public safety events with the 14th District police.
- “People’s Inauguration” event to discuss a citywide progressive agenda alongside newly elected progressive aldermen and community organizations.
- Hosted and organized meeting between 33rd Ward, 35th Ward Community Defense Committee, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, community stakeholders, and residents of the Belmont-Kedzie homeless encampment to discuss the encampment and a “rapid response plan” to protect the encampment from “homeless sweeps” and displacement.
- Organized a participatory visioning and planning process to formulate our second-term ward plan; this included four neighborhood assemblies, in Logan Square, Hermosa, Irving Park and Albany Park.
- Met with Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi to discuss solutions to rising property taxes.
- Organized and hosted two property tax appeal workshops, in Logan Square and Irving Park, to assist overburdened working-class homeowners with their property tax bills.
- Inaugurated and opened our new and permanent ward office, at 2934 N. Milwaukee Ave., that includes space for community events and community meetings.
- Met with trade union representatives to discuss concerns about unsafe and nonunion work occurring at former Pierre’s Bakery site.
- A report issued by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law recognized our 35th Ward community-driven zoning and development process as one that “respects and fosters diversity across all demographics” and is a model to ensure community input and to address segregation and the issues of aldermanic prerogative in zoning matters.
- Celebrated the opening of the “Bounce House,” a small business incubator that opened at 3633 W. Fullerton.
- Galvanized community support for the all-affordable Emmett Street development for the Chicago Plan Commission meeting. The Emmett development passed the Chicago Plan Commission.
- Organized and supported City of Chicago’s “Homeless Encampment Initiative” at Belmont-Kedzie underpass, which included two weeks of intensive outreach and support services at the encampment and resulted in four residents of the encampment finding permanent housing.
- Organized support activities for the CTU and SEIU strike at our Chicago Public Schools; this included turning the 35th Ward Office into a “Bread for Ed” location where CPS students and striking staff could receive free lunch.
- Hosted Hermosa Halloween event at Mozart Park, where we provided families with free activities and distributed dozens of free flu shots with the help of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
- Hosted and organized voting for our 2020 cycle of participatory budgeting, to determine how $1 million would be allocated for ward infrastructure improvements.
- Hosted and organized a series of budget town halls to discuss the mayor’s proposed 2020 budget; this included a town hall with 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata at Avondale-Logandale Elementary School.
- Galvanized community support for the all-affordable Emmett Street development for the Chicago Development Commission meeting. The Emmett development passed the Chicago Development Commission.
Personal updates from the alderman
This summer, along with my partner Bryan, I adopted a 1-year-old bully mix from Chicago Animal Care and Control. Originally named Midnight at the pound, we changed his name to Itztli, which means obsidian in Nahuatl, the Aztec language.
Top policy and other goals for 2020
This summer, as mentioned above, my office hosted and organized a participatory planning and visioning process; this included a neighborhood assembly in Logan Square in the month of July. Based upon the feedback received at that assembly, in addition to feedback provided at the doors, online, and in one-on-one conversations, we identified the following goals for Logan Square (taken directly from our Four Year Plan found at www.aldermancarlosrosa.org/plan).
- Bicentennial Improvements Project. In August of 2017, CDOT publicly launched a planning study to identify traffic and safety improvements for Milwaukee Avenue from West Logan Boulevard to Belmont Avenue. Part of the citywide Vision Zero program, the planning study, more commonly referred to as the Bicentennial Improvements Project, seeks to increase public space, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety by harmonizing the various modes of public transit in the area, and make updates to Logan Square in a way that maintains its historic integrity and meets the needs of the area’s diverse residents, businesses and commuters. There have been three public meetings for the Bicentennial Improvements Project to date with roughly 150 residents submitting public comment for improvements at each public meeting. Currently in the selection phase, the most significant change that the Bicentennial Improvements Project proposes is a reroute of Kedzie Avenue to create a larger consolidated space surrounding the Illinois Centennial Memorial Column. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa has been working closely with stakeholders such as the Active Transportation Alliance, LSNA and Logan Square Preservation to uplift community concerns and improvements to our portion of the redesign within the 35th Ward. Improvements suggested for the redesign within the 35th Ward boundaries include more accessible and improved access to the Kedzie Blue Line entrance and safer pedestrian crossings at Kimball, Milwaukee, and Diversey, as well as marked and raised bike lanes to better protect the nearly 1,000 residents that bike on Milwaukee Avenue on a daily basis.
- Affordable housing. Through our 35th Ward CDZD process, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, worked with Alderman Ramirez-Rosa, Logan Square community groups, city agencies and other stakeholders to develop a proposal for a 100-unit, 100% affordable housing development with ground floor retail. Details on the proposal were announced on April 3, 2019; a CDZD public hearing was held on April 24, 2019. The project received overwhelming community support at the hearing and during the two-week comment period. In total, the 35th Ward Office received input from nearly 1,500 people, of which 1,248 provided home addresses (the vast majority of individuals within the 35th Ward and in Logan Square). Based upon the overwhelming community support for this development, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa will file a letter of support with the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and work to ensure the zoning change, land transfer and TIF funding necessary to make this development possible pass the Chicago City Council.
- Grace Hotel. 2618 N. Milwaukee Ave., commonly known as Grace’s Furniture building, is a prominent structure overlooking Logan Square’s Illinois Centennial Monument. Initially built as a storage facility, it housed Grace’s Furniture until the business closed in 2006; the building has since been vacant for the past 12 years. In 2015, shortly after taking office, Alderman Ramirez-Rosa met with LG Development, Marc Realty, Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, LSNA and LSP to discuss a development proposal for a boutique hotel. That proposal was presented to the community at-large at a public input meeting held on June 6, 2018 under Alderman Ramirez-Rosa’s 35th Ward CDZD process. Over 200 community residents attended the public input meeting, 105 supported the proposal. The 35th Ward Office accepted public comment for a two-week period following the meeting, and all additional input received was in support of the proposal. LG has since been replaced by Blue Star Properties as the site developer and has agreed to a Community Benefits Agreement. The development team will submit a zoning map amendment with the support of Alderman Ramirez-Rosa. In addition to a zoning change, the Chicago Department of Transportation must grant an alley vacation to allow for a minor rear addition to the building. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.
- Development of Milwaukee Avenue Commercial Corridor & A Logan Square Special Service Area (SSA). During Alderman Ramirez-Rosa’s first term, Milwaukee Avenue welcomed new businesses such as The Dill Pickle Food Co-op (2746 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Good Beauty, El Dorado (2777 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and Buzz Coffee (2779 N. Milwaukee Ave.). This second term, Alderman Ramirez-Rosa will work with Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, Milwaukee Avenue Alliance and various other stakeholders to help attract development to our portion of Milwaukee in Logan Square and Avondale (Kimball to Central Park). In addition to attracting new business, establishing an SSA for the 35th Ward’s portion of Logan Square will help to curb litter at high-trafficked areas, support snow removal and help to beautify Milwaukee. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa will work with the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, Milwaukee Avenue Alliance and other key stakeholders to bring an SSA to Milwaukee Ave.
- Preservation. Historic preservation is key to maintaining neighborhood character. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa is working with LSP, LSNA and Unity Park to repurpose Grace Church as a collective working space for displaced churches to host services, community organizations to utilize as a meeting space and — with some renovations to the gym — a field house for Unity Park. More information on the updates and preservation of Grace’s Church will be released as this project continues.
Other issues affecting Logan Square and plans to address them
It is critically important that we have a complete count for the 2020 census. This count will impact many things, including the upcoming ward remap. I believe that the remap should lead to more contiguous and compact wards. Logan Square is currently split between six wards, and I believe we should see work toward a map that reduces this number.
You can contact Alderman Rosa’s ward office (2934 N. Milwaukee Ave., Unit C) at 773-887-3772.
Look for our profile next week of Alderman Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward. See our post last week on Alderman Daniel La Spata of the 1st Ward.
Featured photo: Tom Vlodek