Last Saturday, New Year’s Eve, in an event organized by Somos Logan Square and Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU), a crowd of nearly 40 gathered with the intention of signing and delivering a letter to the landlord of an apartment building on California Avenue, requesting he renegotiate a proposed Jan. 15 eviction date.
For nearly a decade, Francisco Macias, owner of the two-story apartment building located at 2328 N. California Ave., has been charging tenants of his building rates of approximately $500-$600 per month. According to Macias, with Logan Square’s rising property taxes, he cannot continue to pay nearly $25,000 in taxes it costs to keep the building running, so he decided to sell the property to Savoy developer, Enrico Plati, for an undisclosed amount of money.
In June 2016, Plati’s proposal for a 138-unit luxury development was approved by the Chicago City Council. Plans include amenities such as a BBQ pit, a sun deck, fitness centers and other resources. The development calls for the apartment building currently standing on the lot to be bulldozed in order to created room for the luxury structure. The apartment building originally housed six apartments; three renters have already moved out, three families remain.
On Dec. 8, a judge ordered the remaining families to leave the apartment building by Jan. 15, an agreement Macias said both parties originally agreed to.
Now, with an eviction date less than two weeks away, the remaining three families at the complex are requesting for Macias, their landlord, to consider a relocation agreement that was negotiated between the tenants and Enrico Plati, which they deem as “fair.”
The proposed agreement would allow the tenants to stay in their homes until the end of February, provide them with $2,500 toward moving fees and expenses and forgive their back rent, explained Lilly Lerner, an organizer of ATU. However, Macias asserts that he’s provided the tenants with more than enough time to find new housing.
“They’ve been there for six months — tell me that in six months, they couldn’t have saved enough money for their apartment,” he said. “And now, two weeks before the date they agreed to leave, they’re starting this chaos up again?’” Yet, according to Lerner, the tenants have been actively searching for affordable housing, but their plight has been difficult.
“Finding affordable housing in Logan Square is next to impossible,” she said. Lerner stated that looking in other neighborhoods wasn’t a realistic option because of the progress the families have already established for themselves in the decade they have lived in the community.
“When you’ve been in the apartment for over 10 years – for 11 years for one of the families, nine years for another family — when you’ve made this your home, you know your community members, you know your neighbors. It’s not a comfortable decision to make to willingly move out of the neighborhood and out of the community that you’ve worked to build for the past 10 years,” she said.
At the gathering on Saturday, Dec. 31, the letter written on a poster board was addressed to Macias, hoping he would negotiate a new agreement with the tenants of the apartment building. “If not,” it read, “we, the undersigned, are prepared to stand with them in an Eviction Blockade when the sheriff arrives, preventing an eviction [from taking] place.” The poster board was signed by nearly 40 individuals, including supporters and members of Somos Logan Square and ATU.
“It’s not definitely going to happen,” Lerner explained of the probable blockade. “It’s dependent upon Francisco Macias’ willingness to sign the agreement or to allow the tenants to stay there until the end of February, and the tenants’ willingness in pursuing that option.”
But Macias isn’t frightened by the potential threat of a blockade. “All I’m going to do is call the police ‘cause they’re on my property,” he said. “I’m going to let the police do whatever they have to do.”
Macias doesn’t have plans to make any negotiations, as he was advised by his attorney that if he overrides the current Jan. 15 eviction date, “for whatever reason they choose not to leave, I have to start this whole process over.”
“My thought is that because they already promised to leave two or three times, they’re gonna do this again in March, and I’m not willing to do that again – I’ve already lost thousands of dollars,” he said.