City council votes to remove ‘Brothel’ violations list online

Kimberly Railey

In reaction to landlord outrage and concerns about accuracy, members of the Planning and Development Committee voted Monday night to remove from the city website a list of properties under investigation by the City of Evanston.

The list, which includes 52 properties, should not be posted until the establishment of “a clear citywide policy” that explains its methodology, Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said.

“We shouldn’t be publishing something until we have some direction to the staff,” said Wilson, referring to the staff charged with compiling the list.

Assistant City Manager Martin Lyons said the list was generated from discussion at a University-city committee meeting after an increasing number of students wanted to know about properties with histories of noncompliance or safety issues.

Ultimately, the city provided a press release to the University upon request and includes a list of sites allegedly violating open building and/or overoccupancy codes.

“The city is the source of the list,” Lyons said. “It was just our desire to continue the process of the group of Northwestern representatives and city aldermen and staff to try to get a handle on the properties that have issues.”

In the wake of this decision, property manager and owner Nefrette Halim expressed discontent over the list’s content and its usefulness.

“This list is full of errors, and there was no notification it was put out,” Halim said. “There’s no reason for a list like that. The city is putting its fingers in stuff it doesn’t have to.”

Halim added city and landlords were both uninvolved in the process.

“I hope the city would make a vocal outreach to the landlords, ” she said. “The students are unaware of what’s going on. I get calls all of the time from tenants, and I’m tired of it.”

Some aldermen also said they wished they had been notified of the list’s release.

“All aldermen should be informed,” Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said. “It just keeps us in the dark.”

Rainey said the list isn’t necessary because the city’s landlord-tenant ordinance includes a mandate requiring an owner to reveal current code violations to renters.

If it is to be published, it should “be absolutely more inclusive,” Rainey said. In its current form, the list features addresses, owners or managers, and the number of units in the building.

“You could have the worst slum landlord next to somebody who has four people in a three-bedroom apartment, and they’re all being treated the same,” Rainey said.

Rebecca Mati of ANG Property Management said spotlighted properties may not accurately reflect their current statuses.

“People can call in complaints from 2009,” said Mati, referring to the fact that anyone can file a complaint with the city. “What merit does that have now?”

Aldermen agreed the situation would be revisited. That date was unclear.

[email protected]