By AARON GETTINGER
Alds. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) said they would introduce a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) ordinance regarding the establishment of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park in City Council next month.
At a CBA Coalition summit held on June 6 at Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., Hairston and Taylor said they would meet on June 10 to work out the details of an all-community stakeholders meeting where they plan to draft the CBA ordinance.
Around 150 people attended the summit. “We are here today because we want to make sure that students like myself can stay in the community and benefit from the changes that are coming,” said Shaniya Doyle, a Hyde Park Academy junior. “Let’s make something clear: We are 100% for the Obama Center in Jackson Park.”
As now proposed by the Coalition, the CBA would cover the area within a two-mile radius of the planned OPC site: all of Woodlawn and Hyde Park and most of South Shore and southern Kenwood. All new housing built on currently vacant land would have a 30% set-aside for affordable housing. Parrish Brown with the Black Youth Project 100 and the Kenwood–Oakwood Community Organization said that the rule would apply to developments of three or four units that are not in owner-occupied buildings, expansions or rehabilitations of buildings with six or more units and two- and three-bedroom units in larger developments.
All city-owned residential land in the area would be set aside for affordable housing. A right-of-first offer would exist for housing sales to current tenants. A community-controlled trust funded by development costs from the OPC, the U. of C. construction projects south of the Midway Plaisance, municipal infrastructural projects and “revenue generated from downstream enterprises” would be set up for home repairs, rental and property taxes assistance for long-term residents; community land trusts, co-ops and affordable housing developments; and job training and workforce development efforts.
Brown said the CBA would create a task force with Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office to conduct a report on displacement that “would give us a tool to put pressure on developers to make sure they aren’t pushing people out.” Last month, Hairston told the Herald that she would meet with Kaegi to discuss this issue.
Hairston has said before that she wants the South Shore and Hyde Park chambers of commerce and the South Shore Works organization at the table when drafting the CBA. In an interview last month, Taylor said that, in addition to the CBA Coalition, the Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago, whose construction south of the Midway Plaisance has furthered displacement fears in Woodlawn, she would invite 1Woodlawn, the Washington Park Chambers of Commerce, South Shore Works, Englewood’s Kennedy–King College and the press.
At the summit, Hairston said she supported most of the draft CBA’s principles, needing “better understanding on one of them.” She did not specify which one.
“This is what we need to be doing and we’ve come a long way from where we were,” Hairston said. “What they presented is really good.” Her position on the issue has evolved over time. In May 2018, she said that “some people” did not “know when they’ve got a win” after they protested ahead of a City Planning Commission vote for the OPC, but she announced her support for the CBA in March during the final days of her runoff reelection campaign. Four 5th and 20th ward precincts voted overwhelmingly for a CBA in a non-binding referendum in the February elections. Mayor Lori Lightfoot supported the CBA during her campaign as well.
“I want to thank you all for pushing,” Hairston said. Taylor concurred: “You all do the hard work. Y’all wrote the ordinance; all I’ve got to do is call it.” She called upon 5th and 20th ward residents to reach out to them both to express their views.
Taylor, who moved to Woodlawn after getting priced out of Bronzeville, asked former President Obama about a CBA in a face-to-face meeting in September 2017; he told her he would not commit to one for fear of negotiating with certain community groups over others.
“He said that it wasn’t inclusive enough,” said Devondrick Jeffers with Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP). “We said, ‘you’re right. You’re absolutely right.’”
“Y’all took responsibility off President Obama, and you all turned to the city. Y’all didn’t stop. Y’all said, ‘We need something all-inclusive. How about a community benefit agreement ordinance that includes everybody?’” he said. “You proved that this ain’t just a little group of angry people; this ain’t just one little organization.”
Ald. Sophia King (4th) supports a CBA, as does Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), who attended the summit. “I’m in solidarity with the South Side. We have a very similar situation of displacement where I am in Albany Park, and I think this is something that’s affecting the whole city. “
Rodriguez-Sanchez said aldermen are working to make sure it has majority-support on City Council: “I think there’s a lot of people who are new who are very progressive and are very likely to be supporting it. I personally know several of my colleagues who are supporting it. I think it’s going to be about pushing the people who call themselves progressive and see how progressive they get on this issue.”
Jermal Butler, a 10-year-old student at Carnegie Elementary School, 1414 E. 61st Pl., lamented his and other children’s inability to go outside and play. “The only time that we really get out is during recess, during school. It’s tough for kids who need to exert themselves like me,” he said. “I’m not out there doing bad things. I love Carnegie. The school gives me things that I need to succeed in life.”
“From a kid’s point of view, the families that belong in the areas of the Obama Center should not have to relocate. The people need jobs in our areas. Hire the people within those areas. Give them a sense of pride, knowing that they helped put together the Obama Center. This could bring crime down,” said Butler. “Because we live in affordable housing, you feel we must go. That’s not fair.”
Reached for comment, the Obama Foundation released a statement: “We share a deep belief in the strength of the South Side and the need to bring opportunity to a community that has been overlooked and underinvested. The Obama Foundation looks forward to working with Mayor Lightfoot and other elected officials, on efforts related to housing, education, and other issues we agree are vital to the revitalization of this community. We also look forward to working with the many community organizations and indigenous groups that have long been doing this work across Chicago.”
In the Obama Foundation’s May 2018 Community Commitments pledge, it recognized “both the need for economic investment in South Side neighborhoods and the need to make housing affordable for current residents,” promising “to support neighborhood stabilization efforts,” “create a strategy around vacant land and responsible affordable housing” and “support policies that ensure residents who wish to stay in the area will be given the tools that allow them to do so.”