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After Heated Debate, Zoning Committee OKs Jefferson Park Housing Plan

CHICAGO (CBS) -- At a sometimes raucous hearing, the City Council Zoning Committee advanced controversial plans for a mixed-income apartment building in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.

The 7-story building at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. would include federally-subsidized housing for low-income individuals or families, and some of those at the hearing subtly – and sometimes not-so-subtly – suggested opponents had racial motives.

Opponents of the planned 100-unit residential building said they object to its 7-story height, and to increasing the density of the area. They also complained about the approval process during the hours of testimony.

However, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said he thought that language masked racial motives, and he said so bluntly.

"You have subverted your own process, your own arguments, because of your own racist tendencies," he said. "Easily, I can say it, because as someone who represents African Americans and Latinos, when you start talking about people as though they are less than human, I can very easily say that."

Lopez's comments drew cheers from some in the audience, and jeers from others, and set off more testimony, and an admonition from Zoning Committee Chair Daniel Solis (25th) that calling people racist was not helpful during the hearing.

Farnsworth Elementary School student Declan Parker, with some obvious help from his parents, confronted the argument about racial motives, and the crowd was enthralled enough with his testimony to counter Solis' efforts to end it.

"My parents instruct me to treat everyone equally. I try to treat everyone equally, because I do not know who will be the next Steve Jobs," Declan said.

When Solis interrupted Declan to tell him to "wrap it up" because he had run out of time, the crowd in the City Council chamber booed, prompting the alderman to say "keep going, keep going."

According to DNAInfo, at earlier hearings on the project, opponents criticized the affordable units' potential to bring violent crime to the neighborhood.

The plan now goes to the full City Council.

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