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November 19, 2017


Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2017
Community forum entry by: Clare Kelly

On Monday evening as Evanston City Council voted to approve the 15 story, 273 unit mega luxury Albion development, they showed that they have zero interest in stemming the tide of the rapid gentrification of Evanston. They made a mockery of the cause of affordable housing, of the Evanston Inclusionary Ordinance and of our zoning laws. Pro Albion aldermen duplicitously masked their support of the mega luxury rental development behind the words of affordable housing.

Albion is the 8th luxury rental apartment building approved since 2013, which have added 1,354 expensive units, with 318 more expensive units in the near-term pipeline.

Albion’s mostly micro-studio unit development targets young people with no children, probably at the behest of the University. These are very expensive units in a community with an increasingly large affordable housing shortage. Even those that are provided at less-than market rents under the affordable housing ordinance are going to be more than most people that need affordable housing can afford. There are also strong indications that the market for expensive rental units is a bubble about to burst, leaving vacant expensive units in a building that needn't have been built. The need in Evanston is for affordable units for families with children, not expensive units for rich millennials with no commitment to the community other than the inflated rents they will be paying.

So why is City Council allowing Texas based Sammons Enterprises, one of the largest private companies in the U.S. to skirt Evanston’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO)? According to their own website,”With assets approaching $85 billion, Sammons Enterprises ranks among the largest privately held companies in the world.”

Evanston’s IHO requires that: “10% of the total number of dwelling units be affordable dwelling units.” And within a transit oriented development (TOD) “50% of these units must be leased to households earning up to 60% AMI (Average Median Income) and 50% of the units leased to households at 50% AMI..” A developer applicant may choose to pay a “fee in lieu” of affordable units not provided of $100,000 per unit to the city.

The Albion meets none of these requirements (which are there to protect and serve our low income Evanston residents). Of the Albion’s 273 units, instead of 27 affordable units at 50%-60% AMI, Albion will provide a paltry three units at 50% AMI and six units at 60% AMI and is not even paying the “fee in lieu” on the remaining units. The other six units at 80% AMI do not meet our IHO requirements. So Evanston is getting nine units instead of twenty-seven units of affordable housing at 50%-60% AMI. Why?

Because City Council decided to gave Albion a big break on our IHO in order to allow Sammons to pay itself a 17% return, when half of that would be satisfactory to most developers, while at the same time allowing them to bypass zoning requirements that would make the building palatable to the community.. Shame on you, City Council.

Developers with more creative, community-oriented schemes which provide more affordable housing in human-scale buildings, not ghastly copies of anonymous office parks which will leave streets in the downtown area deserted after 5pm, are not attracted to Evanston because they perceive buildings like Albion to be all the City Council wants.

It would be easy to amend the inclusionary housing ordinance to prescribe rental rates that are at various levels of AMI, both slightly above and below, to limit the damage to the housing market, and maintain affordability all over Evanston. Plenty of developers would come forward if the City Council made this an obvious, stated goal. Instead, it's just like the Wild West.

Everyone says they love a diverse community, but the City Council is backing itself into a corner, providing blind acceptance to a super-profitable proposal, trusting that because a developer is successful at making a profit, they know best when it comes to development that is best for the community. But they are not listening to the evidence that higher property values that come about all over Evanston as a result of building expensive rentals lead to higher property taxes, and higher rental rates. We've shown that rents in Evanston are going up much faster than incomes, and buildings like Albion are why. Over the last 10 years rents in Evanston have increased 30% while the average income has only increased by 7.3%. This is exactly how gentrification occurs all over the country. Everyone likes the idea of higher property values, but can everyone afford to pay higher property taxes and higher rents that come along with them? No, of course they can't. This means, inevitably, that low-income residents living in the community, at least for now, many of which are minority, will leave, and have left.

Middle and low income Evanston residents lost Monday night as did all Evanstonians who care about our community to a multinational Texas based conglomerate. So much for inclusivity and respect for Evanston’s zoning and ordinances.

Another “done deal” in Evanton.

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Community forum entry by: Vanessa Alvarado and Mark Rochon

Save Bessie Rhodes. District 65 is in danger of losing an underappreciated and underutilized school curriculum that could aid its push for greater diversity and equality. For those unfamiliar with the situation, the District’s School Board is currently considering a proposal to turn the Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School for Global Studies into a Two-Way Immersion School (TWI).
On the surface, this proposal may seem reasonable given the district’s increasing need for Spanish-language services.
However, by phasing out the global studies program, the District will be jeopardizing a unique, learning community that could be described as the “United Nations of Evanston” based upon the ethnic and cultural diversity of the students and their families.
My husband and I have two children attending Bessie Rhodes, one in first grade and one in second. For the last three school years, we have tried to play an active role in the school’s community.
We have been room parents, PTA members, Green Team members, and volunteers for numerous school events. Throughout all those experiences, the one thing that’s continually amazed us is the cultural and ethnic diversity of the school’s students and families.
We’re excited and proud of the fact that our children are learning side-by-side with fellow students whose families come from all corners of the world. They have friends and classmates with families from places like Ethiopia, Chili, India, France, El Salvador, China, Russia, just to name a few.
At Bessie Rhodes, the variety of family experiences gives the school an incredible foundation for learning, which is nurtured and reinforced by the school’s global studies curriculum.
From each grade level adopting a country to study to the school’s annual international night to students receiving language instruction in Mandarin (starting in second grade) and Spanish (starting in middle school), Bessie Rhodes and its global studies curriculum is a model to be supported not shut down. Given the country’s current climate of racial and religious intolerance, we need learning environments like the one at Bessie Rhodes more than ever.
As the District 65 School Board prepares to vote on December 4th, we ask them to seriously consider possibilities beyond the District’s current proposal.
The beauty of the Bessie Rhodes global studies program is that it can be shaped to fit the needs of our Evanston community, while maintaining its inclusive and forward-thinking worldview.
Help the parents of Bessie Rhodes build an even stronger global studies curriculum.
Working together we can address the growing needs of our native Spanish-speaking students, while keeping Mandarin language instruction, and even incorporating the district’s African-Centered Curriculum.
The Bessie Rhodes global studies program is not only worth saving, it should be a model for advancing diversity and equity at other schools in the district.
We live in a global world and our students deserve a global learning experience.

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Community forum entry by: Dillard Rives

Conversations Wanted. CCIS English Conversation Partners program is offering a unique opportunity for volunteers to regularly meet and talk with Northwestern foreign students from all over the world.
Work informally with a graduate student, Ph.D. student, or post-doctoral fellow, helping to refine English language conversation and skills.
Students come to Northwestern with interesting backgrounds and educational talents that make conversations both enjoyable and rewarding.
Don’t miss this opportunity to participate. Contact Doris Liberman 847-676- 2932,

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Community forum entry by: Ayla Pizzo

Robbery at Ayla's. My Dear Community: Today, our lovely little bead store was robbed. Yes, be aghast be appropriately aghast. Why someone (a young, tall male) would feel a need to terrorize (because that is the feeling I’m left with) a store full of unsuspecting, caring, bead-loving ladies, I’ll never understand, no matter what the excuse may be.
Two of us were working, and we were both helping customers toward the back of the store. This man was looking at the items in the front, and all of a sudden we heard the register ding.
When I looked up, I saw him knock over baskets of beads as he ran out the door. My brave employee took off after him (don’t mess with a woman scorned) while I called 911.
She ran after him and called out “We’ve been robbed.” Every woman on the block, not only aided her by video-ing this guy on their cell phones, but many also joined in the pursuit.
They chased him down the block, around the corner, and tracked him to a coffee shop, where several of them kept him there until the police came and arrested him.
Ladies, I don’t want to use your names and put you at risk, but you know who you are. This was followed by every woman in our little community coming into the store all day to dispense hugs and freely give support.
What amazing beings I share my life with: strong and caring quite the combination.
Now I wish to give a big thank you to the Evanston Police Department. They caught and jailed this criminal and did their best to calm our frayed nerves. From the bottom of my heart, thank you officers for all that you do every day.
I have had a store for 21 years and thank God that this was only the second time it has happened.
I’m beyond grateful that no one was hurt. The feelings of violation and vulnerability never get any easier, but the support multiplies.

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Community forum entry by: Jason K Kull

Fears About Presidential War-Mongering. I’m deeply worried by President Trump’s continual escalation of tensions with North Korea, a cycle that seems like it could easily devolve into nuclear war.
It feels like we’re just one tweet away from a conflict that could turn nuclear, which would put millions of lives at risk. That’s why I’m calling on my members of Congress to support the Lieu-Markey bill.
This bill would introduce much-needed checks and balances on the president’s absolute power over the U.S. nuclear arsenal by requiring congressional authorization of any nuclear first strike ordered by the president.

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