If Chicago developers can’t be trusted to protect residents from sweltering temperatures, the city should relax its mandatory heating requirements to give building owners the freedom to turn on the air conditioning.
That appears to be the motivation behind an order presented at Monday’s city council meeting, aimed at preventing a repeat of what happened at Rogers Park earlier this month, where three residents of a residence for the elderly have died.
The ordinance was introduced by Ald Town Centre. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who is pondering a run against beleaguered Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
It specifies: “Buildings with a heating installation used in common are exempted from the obligation to provide heat between May 1 and June 1 and September 15 and October 31 if the average outdoor temperature of the following five days is 75°C. [degrees Fahrenheit] or more or the heat index for one or more days within the next five days will reach or exceed 75 degrees.
“No one is going to freeze to death in Chicago in May. It’s not going to happen no matter how crazy the weather gets. But as we just saw, you can get abnormally hot temperatures in May. And with the sun that beats through a window, making a unit even hotter when the pipes are still on for heat because the city requires it, that can add five degrees,” Hopkins said.
“This is just one more example of a mandate that assumes one size fits all when it really isn’t. Individual buildings need the flexibility to make their own judgment on when to switch from heating to cold in the spring and from cold to warm in the fall.
Rogers Ald Park. Maria Hadden (49th) could not be reached for comment. She introduced her own resolution on Monday, demanding city council hearings into the heat-related deaths at the James Sneider Apartments, 7450 N. Rogers Ave.
Hadden told the Sun-Times that a building manager cited the city’s heat ordinance when responding to complaints about the heat and questions about why the air conditioning hadn’t been turned on before the death of three residents: Janice Reed, 68; Gwendolyn Osborne, 72, and Delores McNeely, 76.
“The facility manager ended up telling me that the city says they have to provide heat until June 1 [and] they don’t want to be cited for not providing heating,” the alderman said.
“They anticipated colder weather soon, so they were handing out fans, but they also told me they still had the heating on.”
Before Reed was found dead in her apartment on May 14, she spent days complaining to family and friends about the heat inside the building only to be told their hands were tied, according to her son, Valdarin Jackson Sr.
“She had even come downstairs to talk to [the staff] about lighting the air,” her son told the Sun-Times last week.
“They told him no, you know the policy, we have to wait until June 1,” Jackson said, noting that his mother’s room “felt like an oven” shortly after her body was found. The thermostat read 102 degrees, he said.
In a statement last week, the Buildings Department clarified that the ordinance does not prevent resorts like James Sneider from turning on the air conditioning, but acknowledged that switching from heating to cooling “can take hours or days. “.
Built with the help of nearly $6 million in city loans, the James Sneider Apartments are operated by the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, a major developer of affordable housing projects and manager of city-owned retirement homes .
The Sun-Times reported last week that the developer of this building in Rogers Park has repeatedly violated the city’s heat ordinance.
None of the violations were found at the James Sneider Apartments, but eight relate to a city ordinance requiring rental properties to be at least 66 degrees overnight and 68 degrees during the day from September 15 to June 1. Owners risk fines of up to $1,000 per day for non-compliance.
Paul Roldan, president and CEO of the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, said “all heat citations were dismissed by the court with no fines imposed or paid.”
Hopkins is uncertain whether his order would have prevented the three deaths, although “obviously it would have made building management feel that they at least had the ability to turn off the heating system during the abnormally hot temperatures,” he said.
“They said they wanted to, but they couldn’t because of the order that you have to provide heating until June 1. So they felt like they lacked the ability to use their best judgment and turn off the boiler. »