Slowing Displacement Starts in Old Town

Dear Ald. Smith,

Please do not stop the project at 1810 N Wells St. as outlined by Block Club https://blockclubchicago.org/2020/12/02/after-city-strips-landmark-status-for-old-town-stable-alderman-tries-new-tactic-to-block-condos/ and Crain’s https://www.chicagobusiness.com/commercial-real-estate/old-town-apartment-project-faces-new-obstacle. The first reason to allow this project to move forward is that it would be a valuable addition to the neighborhood. The second reason is to help Old Town do its’ part to slow displacement in less well off neighborhoods around the city. I’ll go on to discuss the foolish and damaging opposition to the project. You should not let a small, often malicious, group of homeowners prevent progress in your ward. 

This project would turn a parking garage into housing while preserving the facade. Housing is a much better use of space in dense walkable neighborhoods like Old Town than parking. The new residents will patron the local shops and restaurants. In a post pandemic world our local spots are going to need all the support they can get.

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The case for increasing property taxes… on vacant land

I would love for this to start a conversation about vacant land. Any and all criticism is welcome.

By simply tweaking the ‘assessment level’ on vacant land, we can: 

  1. Reduce investor speculation.
  2. Build middle class housing.
  3. Encourage property development.
  4. Increase the land controlled by the city.
  5. Preserve old buildings.

So, what is ‘assessment level’ and how can the city adjust it in order to produce these outcomes? 

First, let’s review how property taxes are calculated. This is from the Cook County assessor’s website:

This is the formula determining property tax bills. There are a lot of steps, but let’s focus on line 2: Assessment Level. 

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Dear Alderman La Spata, Build Homes Now!

Alderman La Spata,

Please reconsider your move to downzone the 1628 W Division Street development. I ask that you let this project move forward and do not obstruct the construction of any affordable housing in the 1st Ward.

In the past you have supported the construction of affordable housing; an example of this would be the Emmett Street development in Logan Square. That is a great project that will add 100 affordable units to Logan Square.  I find it odd that you would support that project, but oppose adding 20+ affordable units to Wicker Park. This is an equally valid project that will only add to an already vibrant Wicker Park.

I fear that you have placed too much weight on the opinions of a homeowner community group that opposes new construction and affordable housing. You have taken them at their word that they are arguing in good faith, but they are not speaking for the entire community. Community groups of this kind were used since the 1910s as a way to segregate cities all across the United States. Although their language has been toned down, their goals are the same. Consider this recent podcast, Segregation Then and Now, or the book The Color of Law by Rothstein. 

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The Cost of Sprawl / The Efficiency of Density

I love this tweet that shares the work by Eric Kronberg (https://www.kronbergua.com/). I had to save it here so I can find it and reference it in the future.

It does a great job of visually capturing the cost of sprawl, or the efficiency of density. The whole presentation can be downloaded HERE. It’s a must read.