Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the owner of the home where the event was held.
LOGAN SQUARE — A talk on gentrification with Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) drew about two dozen protesters Wednesday who argued the $50 ticket price excluded the very residents being displaced.
The event, which doubled as a farm-to-table dinner, was held at a private residence on Stave Street near the California Blue Line station.
It was organized by Paul Sippil, who runs an event series called Community Dining, which aims to bring together people in the neighborhood for conversation over a chef-designed meal using locally-sourced ingredients.
Moreno said he was merely a guest at the event and did not set the price. He added he has worked hard to protect working-class residents in the area, touting his role in bringing affordable housing units — above the city's required percentage — to various new luxury developments in the ward, including the controversial Twin Towers on Milwaukee Avenue.
As guests arrived at the private residence, they were greeted with protestors from the Somos Logan Square neighborhood group chanting "$50 a plate means my rent is late" and "Hey hey, ho ho, Joe Moreno has got to go."
Protestors gave out fliers outlining what the group described as a lack of affordable housing in the 1st Ward. Most of the dinner guests took the fliers and quickly headed inside, but a few of them stuck around for a conversation.
Two police cars showed up, but the officers never got out of their squad cars to intervene.
Many of the protestors complained of lower income residents being displaced because of the rise of luxury developments.
Paul Donnelly, a 33-year-old who said he was forced out of his home when a luxury developer bought the building he was living in a couple of years ago, held a sign that read, "Families not luxury."
"It matters to me and to all of us because we need to preserve our community," he said.
An event organizer eventually invited one of the protesters, Bianca Mounce, inside the event. The organizer said she had to act as a spokeswoman for the group.
Inside, Moreno fielded questions from guests and a few local reporters.
When asked to explain the $50 ticket price, Moreno said he had nothing to do with the planning of the event.
"I didn't put that price down. This isn't a fundraiser for me. I was asked to come here with many other residents," he told the crowd.
Moreno called the protesters "uninformed," adding that it's "easy to stand outside and hold a sign" but it's harder to join the Latin United Community Housing Association and Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, neighborhood organizations he credited with taking great strides to fight gentrification.
"As Community Dining grows, I will have more flexibility with pricing, yet I don’t want to lower the price if it results in a sacrifice of the quality and authenticity of the experiences," Sippil wrote.