• Erin Hegarty
    JUL 10, 2023

    Council committees to urge state lawmakers to OK hybrid meetings, consider proposed city purchase of former Diplomat Hotel for housing stabilization program

    Two City Council committees will meet at City Hall Monday. [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line] 

    Chicago alderpersons are asking state lawmakers to consider expanding opportunities for members of the City Council to attend meetings virtually, harkening back to what was allowed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The City Council Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development during its 10 a.m. meeting Monday will consider a resolution (R2023-0001085) proposed by Ald. Andre Vasquez (40) and co-sponsored by more than 30 of his colleagues asking the Illinois General Assembly to allow for hybrid meetings. Separately at 1 p.m. Monday, the Committee on Housing and Real Estate will consider a proposal for the city to buy the former Diplomat Motel in Lincoln Square where city officials plan to launch a Stabilization Housing Pilot Program. 

    Economic, Capital and Technology Development committee 

    Public bodies, including the City Council, during the pandemic were allowed to hold virtual meetings without coming under violation of the Open Meetings Act, with the head of the committee meeting having discretion over whether meeting in-person was prudent. 

    “Remote participation has not hindered the City Council's ability to conduct business or to provide a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate and engage the public body; on the contrary, remote participation and hybrid meetings allowed the City Council to conduct the people's business openly, efficiently, and transparently,” Vasquez wrote in his proposal. 

    Remote meeting attendance is currently only allowed if a quorum of members is present in-person and the person attending remotely is tending to a personal illness, disability, family emergency, or for business of the public body. 

    “The City Council wishes to express its desire that the Illinois General Assembly provide expanded opportunities for remote participation and hybrid meetings for its committees so that the City Council can continue to conduct the people's business in an open, efficient, and transparent manner,” Vasquez’s proposal says. 

    If approved by the City Council, copies of the resolution would be sent to House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Chicago), Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Gov. JB Pritzker. 

    The Illinois Municipal League also lobbied this year for lawmakers to consider a bill allowing more remote meeting options, but it was not considered.  

    The economic development committee will also consider two proposals for Class 6(b) tax incentives. The first proposal (O2023-0001378) is for KCS Icebox Venture for the property at 3815 S. Ashland Ave. in the 11th Ward. The developer plans to build a 99,000-square-foot cold storage industrial facility on the property. 

    The second Class 6(b) tax incentive proposal (O2023-0001383) is for Affinius Capital for the property at 4510 W. Ann Lurie Place in the 14th Ward. Affinius plans to buy the property and build a 147,500-square-foot industrial facility, according to the proposal. Affinius plans to lease the property for use as an industrial warehouse. 

    Members of the economic development committee will also consider the appointments of 23 people to various Special Service Area commissions across the city. 

    Committee on Housing and Real Estate 

    The city’s proposal (O2023-0001490) to buy the former Diplomat Motel and launch a Stabilization Housing Pilot Program was introduced by the city’s public health and housing departments in June. 

    Related: Proposed legislation would ban idling vehicles, change IG appointment process, extend TIF for Congress Theater rehab work 

    The program would offer housing and behavioral health support for Chicagoans who are homeless, helping the city take a “significant step forward” in providing support for “our unhoused neighbors and to address our city’s housing crisis,” Johnson said in a June news release.  

    “I know personally how important it is for families to have this type of support for friends and loved ones,” Johnson said. “By creating the city’s first Stabilization Housing Pilot Program and housing center, we can deliver critical supports and stability to our neighbors in need and deliver on the promise for all residents of our city to have safe, stable housing.”     

    The pilot program would work to serve the needs of people who experience chronic homelessness and “complex behavioral health conditions,” according to the news release. Program participants would be those who regularly cycle through jail, emergency departments and homelessness services with unmet needs caused by mental health and substances use disorders.  

    The program will be the first long-term program of its kind in Chicago.  

    “It’s about breaking the cycle of homelessness by first providing transitional housing while focusing on addressing these acute health needs, with a longer-term goal of eventually moving individuals into both permanent housing and ongoing health care,” Chicago Department of Public Health Comm. Allison Arwady said in the news release.  

    The Diplomat Motel was chosen due to its ability to meet program needs, offer an accessible location and because of support from Ald. Andre Vasquez (40), the local alderperson.  

    “This Stabilization Housing Pilot, the first of its kind, when successful, will transform the way our city addresses the challenge of homelessness,” Vasquez said in the news release. “It centers those experiencing it and lets them know that we are on the journey with them, providing the support and dignity that they deserve, while building community and safety for all, together.”  

    Members of the housing committee will also consider the following proposals: 

    • O2023-0001455 — An ordinance that would allow the city to acquire parcels for a roadway project along South Burley Avenue from East 122nd Street to East 126th Place; South Carondolet Avenue from East 122nd Street to East 126th Place; and East 122nd Street from South Avenue O to South Carondolet Avenue in the 10th Ward. 
    • O2023-0001268 — The proposed sale of city-owned property at 5324 W. Ferdinand St. in the 37th Ward to Edward Whitaker Jr. and Chanell Whitaker for $18,000. 
    • O2023-0001283 — The proposed “as-is" sale of vacant city property at 5339-5345 S. State St. in the 3rd Ward to Deeply Rooted Productions, Inc. for $2. Deeply Rooted plans to build a two-story dance studio that will include production facilities, according to the ordinance. 
    • O2023-0001279 — The proposed sale of vacant city property at 7408 S. Phillips Ave. in the 7th Ward to Marshana Marie Cooley for $1,000 under the Adjacent Neighbors Land Acquisition Program (ANLAP). The property is valued at $5,000. 
    • O2023-0001259 — The proposed sale of vacant city property at 8201 S. Houston Ave. in the 7th Ward to Silvia Melgoza for $1,000 under the ANLAP. The property is valued at $3,750. 

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