LAKEVIEW — Pedro Donaldson, a resident at Hotel Chateau, slipped into packed Daley Center courtroom No. 1107 expecting to hear that he'd have to find a new place to live.
The 53-year-old unemployed man lives with his wife at the hotel for $575 a month. They get by on a Social Security check and food stamps.
"It's kinda hard to find a place to live," he said outside the courtroom, referring to a lack of affordable housing in Chicago.
The hearing Donaldson attended earlier this month was the first step in legal action that will determine the fate of the building at 3820-3838 N. Broadway St.
The city has filed a lawsuit against Hotel Chateau's owner, Jack Gore, seeking to force him to fix a series of alleged code violations at the building. The city's complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, says inspectors in August found broken doors, broken toilets, burned-out lights, a buckling wall and a lack of exit signs and working smoke detectors throughout the six-story building.
The complaint seeks fines of up to $16,000 a day until the building is brought up to code. If it isn't, the hotel could eventually be shut down.
At the hearing, nearby business owners complained of panhandlers scaring away customers, while others complained of homeless people sleeping in the park and playground that surrounds the building.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said dealing with Hotel Chateau is his No. 1 priority.
"We're going to keep at this," the alderman said after Judge William G. Pileggi ordered a continuance of the case until Dec. 4 because Gore wasn't served the proper court summons.
"It's going to be a slow process, but that's the way the system works," Cappleman said.
Cappleman said he doesn't necessarily want the hotel shut down, but he does want responsible management and for the building to be brought up to code.
Gore was not at the hearing, but his lawyer, Victor Ciardelli, stated in a Nov. 2 letter to Cappleman that the hotel "has been under the same ownership for the past 37 years and has served a vital and humanitarian need in maintaining a single room occupancy hotel that is badly needed on the north side of the City of Chicago."
In the letter, the lawyer accused Cappleman of harassing and intimidating Gore.
Cappleman testified at the hearing that residents have complained about the hotel at every community meeting he's held since taking office in May 2011.
But advocates for tenants including Donaldson and his wife said that a lack of affordable housing is only made worse if places such as the Hotel Chateau continue to shutter their doors.
Three single-room housing buildings "got shut down in the past year in Lakeview," said Bharathi Gunasekaran, an organizer with Lakeview Action Coalition, who attended the hearing to advocate for tenants' rights. "People have been displaced."