Tenants Protest Deferred Maintenance, Evictions at Building Near the Brown Line

Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez speaks at the rally. Tenant Eva Jaramillo is to her left. Photo: Lynda Lopez
Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez speaks at the rally. Tenant Eva Jaramillo is to her left. Photo: Lynda Lopez

Over the last few years, there has been an increasing backlash against upscale transit-oriented development in gentrifying neighborhoods like Logan Square, including protests and civil disobediences. The link between fair and adequate affordable housing and transportation access is clear.

But beyond considering how to make TOD more equitable, we need to continue to think about all the factors that are making it increasingly difficult for working-class Chicagoans and immigrants to live near transit. In addition to new high-end construction, substandard existing housing and evictions are part of the story that determines who gets to live within convenient walking distance of good public transportation.

On Monday, members of the Sunnyside Kedzie Tenants Union gathered outside their building, located two blocks south of the Kedzie Brown Line station at 3200 West Sunnyside, to speak out against alleged negligence by the building management, assaults on residents, and evictions. The Autonomous Tenants Union and local alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez joined the tenants at the rally to show their support.

According to the protesters, landlord George Triff has failed to make necessary repairs to maintain dignified living conditions and keep the units secure, which has resulted in break-ins, thefts, and an attempted rape. They say that after tenants asked Triff for maintenance and security upgrades, the landlord either ignored them or retaliated by evicting them.

Two tenants who have been part of organizing efforts were served with eviction notices and a third was verbally told they were being evicted, although all of them had been paying rent on time. Tenants are demanding that Triff negotiate with the residents, address their concerns, and stop the retaliatory eviction processes against tenants.

Eva Jaramillo, one of the residents served with an eviction notice in early May, talked the substandard conditions and dangers she has faced in the building, including lack of heat during the winter, and robberies and assaults. “There are daughters, families, women, and kids in this building and they are all under the stress of these conditions,” said Jaramillo during her testimony in Spanish.

“We know that since 2013, we have lost more than 5,000 Latinos in Albany Park and Latino families, and right now we need to respond to that,” Rodriguez Sanchez told the crowd. [Note: the statistic she was referring to is actually for the 33rd Ward, which includes parts of Albany Park and other nearby neighborhoods — see more info in the update below.] “We are talking about families, about children who are living in these conditions in these buildings. These are people that work every day and pay their rent on time and deserve to have a roof over their heads that is dignified,” she said.

On June 12 Rosanna Sanchez’s office sent a letter to Triff’s office asking for him to negotiate with tenants.

In the background of this story of deferred maintenance and evictions is the fact that transit-friendly locations are becoming increasingly attractive to residents who want a convenient commute to work. There has been a pattern of lower-income and working class people being evicted from buildings near the Brown Line in Albany Park to make way for more affluent tenants who can pay higher rents. While we don’t know the Sunnyside Kedzie building management’s longterm strategy, one possibility is that the deferred management is due to plans to sell the property, or get rid of the existing tenants so that the units can be rehabbed for wealthier newcomers.

Update 7/3/19 12:20 PM: Former Rodriguez Sanchez campaign volunteer Jake Marshall provided the following clarification about the alderwoman’s statement that Albany Park has lost 5,000 Latino residents since 2013: “The ‘5K fewer Latinx residents in Albany Park’ stat comes from some research that the Rossana campaign did using census track data… So I guess one issue is that the stat is really about the 33rd Ward… not Albany Park itself — sorry for any confusion.”

Marshall added that the 33rd Ward data is approximate and passed along the following quote from a campaign researcher who asked not to be named. “One note about the data… Census tract boundaries do not directly align with the ward boundary. We selected the Census tracts that are completely inside the ward or mostly inside the ward.  As such, some small slivers of the ward may be left out while data from other wards are included in the total. Therefore these numbers do not precisely capture the ward (I don’t think anyone can do that based on how Census tracts work), but they do capture what is happening in the census tracts that mostly constitute the ward. “

  • planetshwoop

    “We know that since 2013, we have lost more than 5,000 Latinos in Albany Park and Latino families, and right now we need to respond to that,” Rodriguez Sanchez told the crowd.

    This is demonstrably false. There are 50k of people in the Albany Park community area, so a loss this large would be felt across businesses and schools. As a percentage of the population, Latinos might have declined slightly, but that likely represents larger demographic trends such as declining immigration.

    Having dignified living conditions is important and holding landlords to account is a good thing. But I am not sure there is a broad “trend” of displacement yet in AP. This is often cited but I haven’t seen it in any data. A few buildings are seeing investments – that is normal. Ensuring working families have a place to live doesn’t have to be at odds with investing in the community, though the ATU would lead one to believe otherwise.

    A better goal would be to change the code to allow property owners to modify houses to allow for 2-3 flats or garage conversions, like what recently happened in Minneapolis. This would do a lot more to create livable spaces in place in Albany Park for working families than stigmatizing property owners for following the law and investing in their buildings.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    We’re double checking the stat…

  • Kelly Pierce

    The article fails to mention the property owner’s rights. If
    the tenants have no written lease, they are on a month-to-month lease. The
    property owner has the right to evict tenants on a month-to-month lease for any
    reason or no reason at all, even if they are paying rent on time. It is his property. If tenants believe the landlord was negligent
    in providing adequate security of their property or person, they can sue the landlord
    in civil court to recover the value of the stolen property or for the emotional
    distress of the crime victimization. Small
    claims court cases can be as high as $10,000.
    The alderman from what I can tell has not filed legislation that would legalize
    garden apartments or coach houses. That could expand the number of housing
    units. Instead, she expects a property owner to “negotiate” his rights and
    income stream away.

  • Getup

    The Alderman here is blaming the landlord for problems created by crime in the area. People in wealthier neighborhoods have break-ins and assaults, even with security cameras.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    I think people are getting priced out of Lincoln Square and places closer in so they move a neighborhood farther out since its a bit cheaper which creates a market for better quality housing in Albany Park.

  • planetshwoop

    thank you for the follow-up. My comment stands that her statement is grossly inaccurate.

  • Daniel Joseph

    If these tenants’ landlord is really a slumlord with code violations, why has he not been cited and sent to appear in housing court? How is it possible for a landlord to evict tenants that have leases and are current on rent payments? Also, why is STREETBLOG CHICAGO devoting its column to a subject that has noting to do with transportation in Chicago. STREETBLOG CHICAGO should be writing about the lack of realistic public transit from the Hispanic communities in the northwest side and the Hispanic communities in the southwest side. Bus routes on both Pulaski and Cicero and not through routed with artificial termination points in the that have existed since the streetcars ran these routes 100 years ago.

  • david vartanoff

    If you think landlord malfeasance has nothing to do with streets, transit, urban planning, perhaps you should think again. All over the economically rising parts of the US we are having the same struggles. Lack of affordable housing for what were once workers in decent jobs is causing major social issues. It was only in 1974 that a judge in Kansas (IIRC) ruled that offering an apartment for rent constituted a warrant of habitability, yet we continue to experience unspeakable lack of maintenance both by private and public (housing authority and NGO) landlords.; A friend in a senior housing unit run by one of the latter gets told the elevator will be OOS for 4-6 months–she uses a walker or a chair. so they move her to a different building on 72 hours notice.
    As to the owner’s “rights” housing is a public necessity. No one is forced to become a landlord; If one doesn’t want to behave in a civil manner, sell out.

  • rohmen

    ….and in turn, the latinix family that was living in Albany Park gets priced out to a neighborhood even further out from the City core, or to a collar suburb, meaning they’re even further from rapid transportation options like the brown line.

  • rohmen

    No functioning heat in units is due to crime?

  • rohmen

    First, you have to give 30 days notice in Chicago to terminate a month-to-month lease, so even assuming that’s the case here, it’s hard to say whether the landlord was complying with that requirement. Second, it sounds like this landlord was renting units that didn’t have functioning heat, which is a clear violation of the Chicago RLTO. The RLTO also prevents retaliation when a tenant has complained of a violation of the RLTO, which is EXACTLY what the tenants are accusing the landlord of doing here.

    So…. you’re wrong that a landlord gets to simply due whatever they want. They don’t. They cannot retaliate against a tenant. Retaliation is clearly illegal, and the landlord can face statutory damages if they do it.

  • Jacob Marshall

    The landlord has a ton of code violations and being sued by the city on numerous lawsuits. Go to the Chicago’s Department of Building’s website and search 3200 W. Sunnyside in the violations search and you’ll see all the code violations on this building alone – he has many properties with other violations too. And if you go the Cook County Court Docket and search under Civil court for “Triff” as the defendant you’ll see the housing court cases the city has brought against him, including one that was entered just a month ago.

    Landlords break the rules all the time. It’s very easy to file for an FED (eviction) in court without sufficient notice – the onus is usually on the tenant to prove otherwise after the filing has already happened. But in this case, the tenants are month-to-month so Triff is filing the FED based on a no-cause 30-day notice, which is illegal in many places (not Chicago unfortunately). Although retaliation must be proven in court, I think it’s suspicious that the two tenants under eviction received their 30 day notices soon after reporting conditions issues & getting city inspector to issue citations.

    As for your overly narrow view of transit-oriented journalism, David’s response below is pretty good – I’ll just add that one reason Latinx people end up in areas with bad transit is that abusive landlords push them to those areas once white & affluent people set their sites on the well-served areas. You can both increase transit in areas where it’s bad, and also keep low-income/people of color in areas where it’s already good – not mutually exclusive projects.

  • planetshwoop

    I live in Albany Park, and have seen plenty of Latinx families move into my block. So I think it’s more complex than portrayed.

    I think it’s important to untangle affordable housing from issues of housing for Latino families. There are poor people who want to live in Albany Park who are not Latino, and there are Latinos who move in who are not poor. (There is a large and growing community of Arabs in the area, esp. from Yemen, and my particular pocket has a large number of Gujaratis.)

    One of the bigger issues, missing from the discussion here, was that SO many apartment buildings were converted to condos during the housing boom. That probably did more to impact affordability and wealth creation than the current pockets of a few buildings changing hands.

    It may seem like nit-picking (sorry), but the ATU is really good at generating headlines and marching, not so good at working to improve conditions before evictions. Unless there is evidence I’m missing…

  • planetshwoop

    I agree with @rohmen:disqus . Many of these landlords provide sub-standard buildings and surely have violations. George Triff owns A LOT of properties, so I’m quite sure he both knows the law and when he pushes it and knows that he can bully people because they are unlikely to fight back.

  • Gary Chicago

    It is easy to use one bad landlord as an example to imply Landlord= Bad . Just like it is easy to point to one bad tenant as all tenants are moochers . Makes for good bait clicks

    Why is there never any articles on the biggest killer of affordable housing . State and local governments, who pretend to help the “people” and beat up on the biggest owners of affordable housing , the small property owner class !!
    1) They raise real estate taxes to pay for their financial mismanagement taking money away from
    smaller owners ( usally live in Chicago) to manage their property
    2) The govt giving tax breaks / zoning breaks / that no small owners will ever get and now compete on a tilted field towards there “developers” who have no vested interest in Chicago

  • Gary Chicago

    Jacob , clearly you have issues and hate for white people, and would it be any affluent people ?
    How about you expounding your views of Asians esp rich Asians

  • Getup

    Only one word about heat in the article – most of the allegations here are that landlord is somehow responsible for crime.

    If heat was really an issue last winter, tenants could have called the 311 and the city would have jumped on the landlord with both feet:

    https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/bldgs/provdrs/inspect/news/2019/january/city-reminds-landlords-and-tenants-about-requirements-of-chicago.html

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