Affordability for renters and equity for contract hiring were two issues discussed Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Chicago City Council. The three-hour meeting was also the one-year anniversary in office for Mayor Lori Lightfoot who credited the 12 freshman aldermen she shared the milestone with. Over the past year their collective efforts made the city “more fair and more transparent” since the time they took office, she said.

Near the top of the meeting, Lightfoot introduced a new ordinance (O2020-2862) that she said enshrines tenant stability by extending the notice period for eviction or lease non-renewals from 30 to 90 days. The so-called Fair Notice ordinance also guarantees renters $2,500 from their landlord if they are forced to leave because their building will be either demolished or redeveloped. The payment is based on federal standards developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The moment Lightfoot introduced the ordinance, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25) and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) it back to the council’s Committee on Committees and Rules. In talking with reporters afterward, Lightfoot said she didn’t think the action “derails or delays” the proposal “one bit.”

“My expectation is it will be passed in June because people need relief,” she said. “I can’t imagine what possible objection from the aldermen may be. I look forward to its passage.”

Covid-19 security for workforce, employers

Two ordinances passed Wednesday protect worker rights in light of covid-19. The first, an extension (O2020-2343) of the city’s Paid Sick Leave ordinance, protects employees from termination or demotion if they reveal they are following the government’s covid-19 protection order, are forced to stay at home because they are exposed to a spouse or partner with covid-19, or they reveal symptoms of the virus itself.

The second is the passage of an amendment (O2019-3928) to the Chicago Fair Workweek ordinance (O2019-3928), which goes into effect July 1. The ordinance gives hourly employers the right to decline unscheduled hours and forces large employers to give at least a 10-day notice when setting a work schedule, among other restrictions.

The amendment prohibits the same employees to sue for unfair scheduling until Jan. 1, because covid-19 is putting many of them in a position where they cannot “predict scheduling,” said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), chair of the city’s Workforce Development Committee.

The ordinance applies just to workers in the building services, healthcare, hotels, manufacturing, restaurant, retail, and warehouse services industries.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44) said he would vote no on the amendment because he felt the overall ordinance, like this summer’s scheduled minimum wage increase to $14 an hour, would hurt the city’s business climate. “Fifty percent of businesses in Chicago are literally not open. To introduce these regulations and wage increases at this time is the wrong time,” he said.

Tribune East approved

Also on Wednesday, what will soon be the second-tallest building in Chicago was approved unanimously despite concerns about minority contracting. Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) said the two-year project went through a thorough public vetting process starting in 2018, resulting to a commitment by the developers to subcontract at least 26 percent to minority-owned firms and another 6 percent to firms owned by women.

However, he could not confirm that Chicago workers would fill the $700 million project’s estimated 5,500 construction and 400 permanent jobs. That drew several rebukes from aldermen  like Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), who called it “a missed opportunity for a community that needs resources, jobs, and contracts.”

Ald. James Cappleman (46) said he agreed with the criticisms but suggested the city create a separate ordinance to increase the percentage caps of minority- and women-operated contractors for large-scale construction projects instead of having a piecemeal debate. “We should not create rules as we go along,” he said.

Among other measures the city council approved Wednesday:

  • The city was given the go-ahead to purchase a vacant site in Pilsen to build a new facility for the Department of Streets and Sanitation. The half-acre land at 1635 S. Canal St will replace the nearby complex at 18th and Clark St.
  • The $41 million affordable housing rental building proposed in Logan Square is now a reality. Emmett Street Apartments will go up at 2602-38 N. Emmett St. It’s a seven-story, 100-unit building, some of which will be rented to Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) residents. The other half are intended for renters who are being priced out by the quickly gentrifying neighborhood. The city will issue a $22.5 million bond to assist financing during the construction phase, $10 million in tax increment financing (TIF), a $1.7 million loan, $10 million in low income housing tax credits, and the $1 sale of the city-owned property, according to the measure (O2020-2364) approved Tuesday. The property is appraised at $4 million.
  • A $13 million mixed-use development will receive $3.3 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) and a class 7(b) property tax incentive (O2020-2371) valued at $3.2 million. The project, planned at the corner of Central Avenue and Waveland Avenue in Portage Park, will stand on the site of a former Dominick’s, which closed in 2004.
  • Also approved is $3.3 million in settlement money related to three separate cases. Two were approved unanimously but 16 aldermen voted against approving the third. That case involves Pierre Green, who will receive $300,000 after spending four years in prison on charges that were dismissed in 2013.

A concessions relief program (O2020-2365) for Chicago’s two airports was passed. Vendors at both O’Hare and Midway International Airports will be eligible for financial help from the Chicago Department of Aviation in the form of rent reductions, rent deferral, reduced security deposit or letter of credit requirements, a relaxation of mandatory minimum or maximum operating space requirements, and more.