Chicago City Council members are sending another signal that they are fed up with the number of vacant -- and largely foreclosed -- properties that continue to pile up in their wards.
Aldermen Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward, and Deborah Graham, 29th Ward, introduced an ordinance this morning that would require property owners and managers to hire security guards to keep an eye on their land between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. -- if their property line falls within 1,000 yards of a school. Last year, 33rd Ward Ald. Dick Mell introduced a similar measure. While the full City Council never signed on, the issue didn't go away.
And the number of vacant properties that students are navigating around each day is staggering. The Chicago International Charter School's Basil campus led the pack with 515 vacant properties falling within 1,000 yards of the school, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of data obtained from the city's Buildings Department. Miles Davis Elementary came in second with 490 nearby vacant properties. And Bontemps Elementary School had 486. All three schools fall within the Englewood or West Englewood neighborhoods, which, combined, are home to 2,477 vacant properties. (Check out our full analysis here.)
Youth from most Chicago Public Schools know something about steering clear of boarded up buildings; nearly half of the city's schools are surrounded by at least 100 vacant homes. Roughly 10 percent, or 60, of the schools have 300 or more vacant properties within 1,000 yards.
Failing to bring on security detail could cost property owners up to $1,000 a day in fines. Fioretti hopes that the additional costs will make the property owners -- and particularly lenders and investors who are hanging onto large numbers of the vacant homes -- think harder about how to fill them with people or cut them loose so someone else can. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office has yet to support the measure.
The measure headed to committee. And within hours, Chicago's school kids will begin their walk home.
For more on the topic check out my conversation with Alison Cuddy on WBEZ's EightFortyEight this morning.
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