The New Tax on Businesses and Homeowners Makes Pilsen Less Affordable
Ald. Danny Solis’ attempt to impose a new tax on Pilsen through The Resurrection Project (TRP) started burning as soon as it hit the public Thursday, with a raucous mandated community meeting at which TRP organizers were shot down by boos from a
surprised and angry audience.
“The idea sounds good, but in the current economy we are just not able to pay any more in taxes,” said Arturo Cortes, owner of Pilsen Photo Studio. “The neighborhood is changing and we are struggling right now.”
The tax would come in the form of a Special Service Area (SSA), a geographic area paying an additional tax for additional services there. SSAs are most often used to boost a commercial strip’s attractiveness through improvements such as flower pots or better lightening. According to organizers, commercial properties would contribute 47 percent of the new funds, and residential properties 43 percent. The rate of the tax needs to be determined, but the final price tag for some properties could well exceed $1,000 a year.
“The community is hurting because living in Pilsen has become really expensive,” said Vicky Lugo, a Pilsen Alliance member. “Many businesses now can hardly stay open, a new tax would kill them; this proposal is coming 20 years too late.”
The meeting became heated as soon as public participation started. Most audience members expressed frustration at learning about the new tax months after its planning began, in the winter of 2012, and only three weeks before the application is submitted for rubber stamping June 14.
Tension escalated after an audience member noticed that the properties of one of Pilsen’s biggest landlords, John Podmajersky, had been cut out of the taxable area. Organizers explained that although the designation needs contiguous properties, Podmajersky had been given the chance to opt out.
“How did he know the map before the rest of us?” audience members shouted. “I want to be exempted too!”
Defeating this politically green lighted, Chicago-style SSA process would not be easy. Besides the short timeline, stopping the tax would require the signature of 51 percent of property owners, a virtually impossible threshold.
“I have been here for many years,” long time Pilsen resident and leader Lucy Gutierrez said, “and I don’t need any more taxes.”
If you want to get involved and help inform the community about this new effort to remove working families from Pilsen, call Pilsen Alliance: 312.243.0872