Last Chateau tenant challenges order to vacate

June 26, 2013

(WBEZ/Robin Amer)
The 138-unit Chateau Hotel has one remaining tenant. He says a judge’s order to vacate the building was wrong.

Despite a judge’s order last week that all remaining tenants vacate a single-room occupancy hotel on Chicago’s North Side, one holdout remains. Pedro Donaldson is still living in the crumbling SRO, and has filed an appeal to challenge the order.

But today, building court judge William Pileggi said he believed his original order will withstand the challenge, and ordered the sheriff to remove Donaldson immediately from the Chateau Hotel. Donaldson was not present at the hearing.

Donaldson, who has been filming some of the changes at the Chateau since it came under new ownership early this year, filed his notice of appeal on June 20, the day before the deadline to vacate. In it, he alleges that Pileggi improperly imposed terms of a settlement with the building’s owner.

“This judge essentially made rulings on his own, based on no testimony, without any due process, without any notice or an opportunity to be heard,” explained Alan Mills, an attorney with the Uptown People’s Law Center. “As a result, Mr. Donaldson is now at risk of being thrown out on the street any day.” Mills is not Donaldson’s lawyer, but he did represent other Chateau tenants who tried to fight their evictions, many of whom ultimately accepted “cash-for-keys” deals with BJB Properties. Mills believes Pileggi’s order, as it applied to Donaldson, was unconstitutional.

Donaldson could not be contacted for comment, but his appeal claims that he should have been allowed to be present in court to argue and agree on terms to vacate the building. Judge Pileggi’s order stipulated that BJB Properties pay Donaldson $3,000 if he vacated the Chateau Hotel by midnight on June 21.

The argument has brought to light the financial deals that BJB Properties extended to the remaining tenants of the Chateau Hotel, which otherwise would have remained confidential. The company paid $3,000 to tenant Robert Rohdenburg, and $1,500 to James Harris for leaving the building by midnight on June 21. Harris was able to find a room at another North Side SRO. Rohdenburg is staying with a friend until he locates an apartment.

Odette Yousef is WBEZ’s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her @oyousef and @WBEZoutloud.