LOGAN SQUARE — Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) is no longer threatening to block the luxury development near the California Blue Line after a new agreement was reached this week between the site's landlord and the tenants who are being evicted.
The agreement, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, pushed the move-out date back from Jan. 15 to Jan. 31 to give the families more time to find affordable homes. It also provides the tenants with relocation assistance and reimburses the landlord, Francisco Macias, for lost rent.
In a prepared statement, Moreno said Macias, who he previously called a "bad community partner" for his unwillingness to negotiate, ended up doing "the right thing."
"I am pleased and thankful that Mr. Francisco Macias saw fit to work with me, the property developer, Mr. Enrico Plati, and local community advocates to accept a fair compromise settlement that allows the remaining tenants an additional two weeks to vacate the premises," Moreno wrote.
The statement went on, saying, "After this process is completed, I look forward to the approved, mixed-use redevelopment project moving forward and to construction beginning later this year."
Lily Lerner, a tenant organizer with the Albany Park-based Autonomous Tenants Union, said while the tenants are "satisfied" with the new agreement, they are also frustrated with how the negotiation took place. Lerner said they didn't get word that Macias was willing to negotiate until Jan. 11, just a few days before the disputed move-out date.
"It was a really stressful week for us and for the tenants, being in a place of complete dependency and powerlessness waiting for this negotiation to take place or not," Lerner said.
Macias expressed relief over the agreement, but added, "It should've never gotten to this point."
"Even if I was willing to lose this project to prove my point, I still get the short end of the stick. If I didn't agree with it, the alderman's office wouldn't have been happy," he said.
The development proposal, which calls for 138 "micro-apartments," has been in the works for a couple of years, but has gotten bigger over time. Savoy Development, the developer behind the project, has received all the necessary approval from the city to build the development, but has yet to buy the site at 2342-48 N. California Ave., which includes six apartments and a car wash.
The eviction battle started in September when the remaining three families vowed to fight the project, arguing that it's impossible to find replacement affordable housing in the neighborhood.
In December, the evictions seemed inevitable when a judge ordered that the tenants move out by Jan. 15. But tenant organizers were unhappy with the terms so they drafted a new relocation plan, which included pushing back the move-out date to roughly March 1 to give the tenants more time to find affordable homes.
"I feel upset because my kids are little. We are going to be without anything," tenant Glenda Ortiz said at a recent news conference. "I want more time because of the weather and it's not easy right now to find a house with a low price."
Both the developer and the alderman agreed to a March 1 move-out date, but Macias, the one handling the eviction, wouldn't comply. He said he had lost thousands of dollars throughout the eviction process and simply couldn't afford to wait any longer for the tenants to move out.
At that point, Moreno stepped in and threatened to block the project if Macias did not renegotiate with the tenants.
Lerner said Moreno's threat helped force a negotiation, which didn't seem like it was going to happen until the last minute.
"I think the alderman would have followed through with this threat had Macias not come to the negotiating table, which is tremendous," Lerner said. "However, I don't think the alderman thought it was in his best interest to down-zone the property ever. I don't think he wanted to do that."
Plati didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.