Lathrop Homes Meeting Tries To Keep It Together, But Opposition Emerges

By Mike Fourcher | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kerry Dickson (left), from developer Related Midwest, leads last night's Lathrop Homes Q & A session with Ald. Joe Moreno (1st). Credit: Mike Fourcher

A palpable tension laced last night’s meeting at New Life Community Church, 2928 N. Damen Ave., to discuss a planning for redevelopment of Lathrop Homes public housing. Despite a couple of raucous interruptions and opponents with black t-shirts reading, “Save Lathrop Homes,” the meeting of about three hundred people was run smoothly by an array of distinguished Chicago architects and developers, the local alderman and the Chicago Housing Authority’s new CEO, Charles Woodyard, who all came to deliver one message: Lathrop Homes is going to be redeveloped and if you want to be a part of it, get involved now.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who represents part of Lathrop Homes along the Chicago River at Clybourn and Diversey Avenues, was much more direct, at one point telling the audience that they should get on board with the planning process now, or risk being left out.

“Nobody is going to tell our Lathrop residents who our neighbors [are going to be]. You’re going to tell us that,” said Moreno. “This is the first time CHA has had this process. You’re going to come in and say I like this, I like that.”

The meeting, briskly conducted by a phalanx of developer staff attending to the audience’s every need, including a fully-stocked sandwich table, had few answers for Lathrop Home residents and neighbors trying to determine the ultimate future of the site. The key unaddressed and unresolved question was, how much of the project will become market-rate homes and how many units will remain subsidized public housing?

“We have no plan,” Kerry Dickson from project developer Related Midwest repeatedly said during the course of the meeting. “This is just the start of the planning process.”

Indeed, last night’s ninety minute meeting was dedicated to first introducing the dozens of consultants, architects, planners and contractors devoted to the project, and then to sketching out the many months-long planning process for the Lathrop Homes redevelopment project. Unlike previous CHA Plan For Transformation projects which developed complete plans behind closed doors and then invited community comment, the Lathrop Homes project will include residents and neighbors from the beginning of the planning process.

But the tightly managed meeting, which even included a slick, five minute video introducing the lead development team members, did not seem to assuage all Lathrop residents’ concerns.

“I’m looking at it as information. It’s too early to tell,” said Lathrop resident Titus Kerby following the meeting. “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.”

“They’re not ever coming back. They’re going to tear it down, revamp it and do what they’ve done with all the other public housing,” said one Lathrop Homes resident identifying herself as Mrs. Gibson.

Some neighbors at the meeting were indifferent to the Lathrop residents’ concerns.

“These people have been here thirty years. What can I say?” said Clybourn Ave. business owner Norb Francis. “I work, I get paid. I don’t work, I don’t get paid. It makes them lazy. Reminds me of Sweden or something.”

Community organizer John McDermott speaks to the Save Lathop Homes meeting. Credit: Mike Fourcher

Immediately after the larger meeting, a second, unsanctioned meeting for “Save Lathrop Homes” was convened in a side room of the church by Logan Square Neighborhood Association organizer John McDermott. The opposition meeting attracted a mix of about fifty residents, neighbors and professional community organizers. A flyer calling for the opposition meeting charged the CHA with purposely shutting down large portions of Lathrop Homes so it could be prepped for ultimate demolition, not for the welfare of current public housing residents.

“That meeting was just to pacify us,” shouted an audience member to numerous amens.

But occupied with long speeches calling for fighting and opposing the new development process, the opposition meeting seemed to produce few clear ideas on how or actions to halt the Lathop Homes redevelopment.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I646N2IYVHCJCFI4L2VTFNSMJA Michael

    I am a voting and taxpaying citizen
    in the 32nd Ward voiced my concerns
    with the amount of daily custodial work being done at the near-vacant Lathrop
    Homes (Public Housing Development).According
    to the CHA Freedom of Information Act: In 2008 &
    2009, Lathrop Public Housing Development received $1.7 million (each
    year) in taxpayer money for maintenance & salaries. In 2010 that
    figure spiked to $3.2million, with a projected $1.8million in 2011.
    Lathrop Homes is only 18% occupied and yet there are custodians (several
    at times) sweeping the curb side, watering the lawn, planting flowers,
    and painting rocks.Why?I was told that “The CHA
    is committed to making sure
    that the property manager maintains Lathrop in a manner such that it
    isn’t perceived as a detriment to the surrounding residential and retail
    development”.This begs the question, “Who is watching the 
    With staggering figures of $2 and $3million a year for maintenance
    and salaries that support a property that houses 166 out of 925 units,
    is this simply a “concern”? I feel
    this concern warrants more action because I don’t know any home owner or
    condo association paying tens of thousands per year – per household for
    maintenance to improve their property value.
    How can the Mayor or the City Council pat themselves on the back
    with yesterday’s budget approval, touting “we made tough choices”, when
    this egregious spending on the CHA Lathrop Homes project is being approved?I’m
    writing this as a working man who passes this project housing every day
    on his commute. I just scratched the surface through simple observation
    and discovered government spending gone amuck. It makes me and those
    I’ve shared this information with wonder, “If this is obvious to us,
    then what spending aren’t we noticing?”Several
    private owned – large acre – business and housing developers expressed
    sticker shock at the amount of fat on the spreadsheet. I also shared the
    spreadsheet with a CPA who handles a Catholic Charity housing property,
    and he blanched at the dollars being spent.Aside from the millions in spending over the past four
    years, the CHA is now planning renovations?!? At what expense to the
    taxpayer and Chicago?According to the CHA, “The changes will
    help integrate residents into the surrounding community and make the
    buildings more environmentally sustainable.” In my opinion this is
    political speak for taxpayer green jobs stimulus money allocation,
    higher local tax burdens, and more government redistribution of wealth
    that will most likely be cloaked under the rhetorical slogan “It’s for
    the children”. (I’ve already seen the Lathrop write up in Urbanophile that opens with a big
    picture titled “Children of Lathrop Homes”.)The CHA budget needs to be cut from funding the Lathrop Homes landscaping, maintenance and salaries. $2million a year, and now they are asking for MORE funding? I cannot believe this topic is even up for discussion. The answer should be NO!

    • Anonymous

      I wonder if this is the same Alderman that tried to protect one of the lathrop residents that was under investigation for welfare fraud and involvement in criminal enterprises? No matter. The investigation concluded despite the Aldermans interference and she was evicted and convicted. 
        Face it,its time for change. despite how tightly the residents cling to this run down unsafe and unhealthy property, it is GOING TO fall the way of the wrecking ball,and I for one say its about time.
       In EVERY OTHER CHA program residents were relocated (on the taxpayers dime) and adapted just fine. 
      Lathrop is NO different and should NOT get special attention,special funding or any special considerations. The ploy of land mark status is a falsehood. Formerly DOD property,(US NAVY) this was DECOMMISSIONED many years ago and with it went hope of Land Mark Status so THAT argument is out. 
       In ANY OTHER CHA PROPERTY IN CHICAGO,the buildings (most far younger than Lathrop) were deemed unsafe and destroyed. Residents were relocated to other communities and thrived there. Lathrop is and should be NO DIFFERENT.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_36L5Y4RVGEGW5I4SLBJVS56TGM Guayacol

        do you even care where these people end up  hopefully get vouchers and move in next door to your moms house lol

    • Anonymous

      Lets go one further. Look at all the vacant units that are heated with steam 24/7/365 while VACANT. This of course is done on the taxpayer dime as is medical,dental,optical,food and any other benefit HANDED to the residents of Lathrop. It is NOT cost effective to renovate a dilapidated old unsafe dangerous building or group of buildings at the whim and whine of those that are afraid of change. Lathrop homes needs to be torn down to the ground. It is an eyesore,dangerous, a haven for criminals and drugs and one of the MAIN REASONS for crimes and violence in this area. CHA can send out vouchers(yet ANOTHER freebee on the taxpayer dime) and relocate the people all over the area with better schools,less crime and an overall better environment. I agree with Michael. NO MORE MONEY FOR LATHROP. Or barring that, Raise the rent. Watch how fast these people suddenly find other places to live. 
        You may also want to watch the private management firm associates with Lathrop. Shady dealings going on there from management developing a “hit list” of people they want gone(which is illegal and I refused to participate in) To a sexual predator as head of their security force…(.RD   HR-387672)
        There have been THREE Federal Drug Agency raids at Lathrop as well as numerous CPD search warrants for drugs(that had positive results) So no,teary eyed pleas to save lathrop dont impress or motivate me to want to spend any more of my money to save an obviously  dead horse. This project is rife with loiterers,trespassers,homeless,addicted, and those that defraud the system. Sure its a cozy nest of inequity for them which is why there is such an uproar. When you destroy a hornets nest what happens? The hornets leave.   Time for Lathrop to come down.

  • michael marianek

    To Michael = quote from the article:
    “Unlike previous CHA Plan For Transformation projects which developed complete plans behind closed doors and then invited community comment, the Lathrop Homes project will include residents and neighbors from the beginning of the planning process.”
    Your insight to the spending issues begs for you to attend these meetings and be involved in the planning process. Actually legislation goes hand in hand with design and bringing issues like these to the table can only empower the attempted solutions.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I646N2IYVHCJCFI4L2VTFNSMJA Michael

      Hi Michael:

      If I was aware of the meeting I would have definitely sat in. Where do I get on the notification (mailing) list? It took me several weeks just to get the Freedom of Information Report from the CHA.

      I can only attend so many meetings, and get involved in so many community groups. Therefore I need to comment, blog, and write editorials so more people can
      get involved and hopefully take up the baton when I’ve exhausted my ability to be present.

      However, the burden of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the elected officials who are sworn in to protect its legal, voting, taxpaying constituents. It pains me to see civil servants pandering to a welfare state, promising Utopia and handing out public aid in exchange for votes.

      I’m still curious to know why $2 to $3million dollars has been spent annually on a property that is 18% occupied. I would hope that our city council and the CHA would practice fiscal responsibility (dare I say fiscal conservatism) and make the “hard choices” by cutting this fat. But they didn’t. I wonder how “transparent” the spending will be on the renovation project?

      With the Mayor’s progressive mixed-income initiative, I foresee a mixed bag of redistribution, living wage subsidies, entitlements, and my favorite “shared sacrifice”.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a website with information on future meetings.  http://www.lathropcommunity.org/index.html

    It will be good for Michael to come to the meetings and have an opportunity to tell the Lathrop residents face to face that their desire for decent housing is a utopian vision.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I646N2IYVHCJCFI4L2VTFNSMJA Michael

      Thank you for the link srTesta.

      I will be happy to attend, and have no problem debating the statist view of a Utopian mixed-income housing because:

      #1) I am a taxpaying citizen who believes in fiscal conservatism
      #2) I’m not running for political office

      According to the Chicago Weekly,  I’m not the only one who believes this concept is Utopian ideology filled with promises that cannot handle the tax burden:

      Public Housing

      When confronted with the issue of public housing, most mayoral
      candidates respond ambiguously—if they choose to respond at all. In
      2000, the Chicago Housing Authority began a transition from public
      housing—where money is allotted by the U.S. Department of Housing and
      Urban Development for low-income only families—to mixed-income housing,
      which can be sponsored by public or private organizations and
      theoretically includes a mix of homeowners and renters of varying
      incomes. A Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) video, complete with
      computer-generated diagrams of idyllic mixed-income housing
      communities, boasts: “residents of public housing are getting new
      homes…and a new lease on life as well.”

      Promotional slogans aside, the effectiveness of mixed-income housing
      initiatives—the main component of the CHA’s “Plan for Transformation” —
      continues to be debated amongst academics and politicians. But because
      the city has already gotten the ball rolling, candidates have thus far
      avoided taking particularly strong positions against it—they have also
      refrained from appearing completely behind it, as well, given the mixed
      results the plan has already seen.

      On January 11th, an open forum for the mayoral candidates took place
      at the future home of the National Public Housing Museum, with only
      three out of six candidates in attendance. The missing
      candidates—Moseley Braun, Chico, and Emanuel—don’t address the issue on
      their websites, either. Meanwhile, the “Plan for Transformation”, the
      Chicago Housing Authority’s ongoing attempt to replace all the public
      housing high rises with mixed-income housing, continues to change lives
      and uproot families. When the Chicago Tribune questioned Emanuel, who
      tends to omit his status as former member of the Chicago Housing
      Authority Board from his bios, he, too, gave vague answers, referring to
      it as a “bold plan” with aims of achieving “economic self-sufficiency
      for residents” that could be achieved with “private sector investment”.
      Although he acknowledged the plan’s challenges, he didn’t present any
      concrete solutions—or explain how the city would pay for the rest of it.
      The candidates who were present at the forum were not much more
      explicit. Walls criticized the Plan for Transformation and described his
      desire to build a city so prosperous that it has no need for public
      housing. Del Valle responded that “there will always be a need for
      public housing” and that he still believes in the potential of
      mixed-income communities. Pelt-Watkins spoke about her childhood in
      Cabrini Green, and emphasized that there should be “one-one-one housing
      replacement” and “housing assistance programs” for the displaced.

      The last residents of the infamous Cabrini Green high rises moved out
      at the beginning of December in preparation for the buildings’
      demolition. Some residents were able to move into the brand new housing
      nearby, but not all of the moves have been success stories. Ronit
      Bezalel, who has made one film about Cabrini Green and is in the process
      of completing another, describes the difficulties some residents have
      in finding new homes among the new options available to them: “there is
      quite a high bar for public housing residents to return to the
      mixed-income housing developments” with requirements such as “drug
      testing and a criminal background check.” She describes one example of a
      “former Cabrini resident whose daughter had a misdemeanor for fighting
      at school. As a consequence, her daughter wasn’t allowed to live with
      her mother in the new mixed-income community.” Problems such as this are
      not being acknowledged by candidates, perhaps for fear of upsetting
      potential voters—so it seems we’ll have to wait until the mayor is
      elected to find out his or her plan. (Rachel Lazar)

      • Anonymous

        Why was it so difficult for them to find other housing? Criminal history? gang affiliations? Stubborn ?  While this is an ISOLATED event,this should not deter CHA from relocating the remaining residents of Lathrop Homes to NEW,CLEAN,and SAFE housing. Sure it will take a while to transfer over the SSI,SSDI,LINK,EBT,MEDICAL and other benefits that are sent to Lathrop but in the end its better for all involved. 

      • Anonymous

        I hope you will be there. Your viewpoint has been missing from the discussion.

    • Anonymous

      What this is is the residents of lathrop wanting to cling to a dead horse. I mean why move out of an area where you have a modicum of control and a vested interest in a calculated criminal enterprise and have to start anew elsewhere? Face it despite the protests and the LAC’s “argument”,the bottom line here is that Lathrop is too far gone to save. Add Lathrop to the list…..Stateway,Dearborns,Henry horner,IDA B Wells,Cabrini,Altgeld,Robert Taylor.  These residents clamored to save those dead horses too. And the end result there will be the same end result at Lathrop. I say raise the rent. I also say investigate all those remaining at Lathrop and audit the TAX SUPPORTED BENEFITS they are getting. Not to sound harsh, but I pay YOUR rent. As such I have a say in what happens to that dead horse and I say add it to the list of “historic” CHA buildings that are now empty open fields. LATHROPS TIME IS UP.

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  • Molly Metzger

    First, regarding the “unsanctioned” meeting following the CHA-sponsored meeting on Wednesday night: The Lathrop Leadership Team was sanctioned by our first ammendment right to assembly. No organization—not the Lathrop Leadership Team, not the Hamlin Park Neighbors—needs the CHA’s permission to run a meeting. Thank you to the New Life Church, though, for generously arranging for the Lathrop Leadership Team to use their space that evening.

    Second, if the meeting that followed the “official” CHA meeting seemed a bit messy, perhaps it was because the brave and thoughtful folks running that second meeting did not handpick the questions that were asked during the Q & A session, as was done in the CHA meeting. For instance, I had submitted the following question at that Kickoff meeting:

    “I am glad to here that this planning process will be made transparent. Toward that end, will the minutes
    from Lathrop Working Group meetings be made publically available?”

    Alderman Moreno, who was moderating the Q & A, ignored that question completely. He also ignored other questions that may have made for a less smooth and less choreographed meeting.

    At the end of the day, the CHA wants this planning process to be as smooth as possible. There is no doubt that these planning meetings will be very well “managed.” But I urge you to not let the CHA “manage” your thinking on the historic question of Lathrop Homes. Most of Chicago’s public
    housing was built to reinforce Chicago’s racial and socioeconomic divisions, providing a place for poor and working class African Americans to live when black neighborhoods were strangled by redlining and attempts to relocate to other neighborhoods were met by violence. As a racially-integrated, low-rise  development on the north side, Lathrop Homes diverges from that history. That is why I am wholly against the idea of market-rate development at Lathrop Homes.

    • Anonymous

      yawn…………the race card. Do you have any other defense? The current population (legally living there of course) is about 50/50.(black and hispanic) I love how you try to sugar coat Lathrop Homes as a “racially integrated diverse” environment. I FULLY SUPPORT market rate development at this location. Perhaps populating Lathrop with people that work and can pay their rent without assistance will lower the DOCUMENTED INCIDENTS OF CRIME there. After all when one actually pays for something out of THEIR OWN POCKET they have a sense of responsibility for it. As for Alderman Moreno,if you place any faith in a Chicago Politician or believe he cares about your interests over his own you are in for a rude awakening. 
      Note also,thru FOI you can obtain the minutes of that Taxpayer supported meeting, They are not “hiding” anything from you as your post eludes to. Can we get minutes from YOUR meeting? It is TOO EASY to slip in a few people to gather Intel on what you are plotting. I see no where that YOUR meeting minutes are posted for all to see. That in and of itself makes it suspect. While protected under 1st Amendment,since it deals with PUBLICLY FUNDED HOUSING,it is subject to public scrutiny. 
        You know its comical that now,as Lathrop approaches the wrecking ball,the residents are in a clamor at the behest of Davidson. Personally, Id rather have someone literate and sober as my representative. I dont recall this type of clamor when Lathrop was infested with gang bangers nor do I recall ANY reaction to the violence these “fine upstanding people” brought to this “diverse” community. I DO recall active resistance to Law Enforcement Efforts to purge Lathrop of these problems. Thats funny. You want to keep Lathrop because of its “diversity”. Most to everyone else that can actually decide Lathrops fate sees this as yet another ploy to continue a well organized criminal enterprise.  I mean why leave someplace where you can exist and get away with things and have to set up in a different community where you have no backing,the police WILL deal with you, and you would have to live like normal contributing members of society? THAT would be too much like right. I as do most other TAXPAYING CITIZENS want to CLOSELY scrutinize what part of MY money goes to fix YOUR issue and pay YOUR rent. I say make it mixed income. In order to keep your hallowed Lathrop Homes you may have to do something you arent accustomed to. Roll out of bed and go to work.  

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