Inspections at Northside hotel are underway

Broken smoke detectors, faulty door latches and hollow-core front doors.

These are some of the violations fire officials have found since the ownership of the infamous Diplomat Hotel opened doors to inspection crews.

Inspectors also noted that rear hallways leading to the fire escape on at least two floors were converted into additional rooms blocking off the emergency exits.

The CFD has ordered the doors removed and the units reverted back to hallways, says department spokesman Larry Langford.

Although more issues have been discovered in recent weeks, Langford says that The Diplomat management "was not giving us a hard time."  

"They have been nothing but cooperative," he says.

In addition to regular inspections by the fire department, The Diplomat is likely to receive visits from other city inspectors, he says.

The Diplomat Hotel, a low-income, 93-unit dwelling at 3208 N. Sheffield, has been at the center of Chicago Housing Court battles between the city and its owner, Jack Gore.

An Oct. 28 court order required weekly inspections of the single-room occupancy building. But fire inspectors were denied access on Nov. 5. That prompted officials to consider shutting down the facility, forcing its occupants out.

To urge the owner to comply with inspections, members of the Lakeview Action Coalition protested outside the Diplomat.

Members say they wanted to make sure the building was safe for those using it.

Pastor Liala Beukema of Lakeview Lutheran, who stood with the coalition, says: "If you live in this neighborhood, you know that it is more and more difficult for people with limited incomes to find housing here on the North Side. The bottom line is that this building must remain affordable, but also it must be safe."

The fire inspectors were eventually allowed into the building earlier this month, but Langford says they were only able to enter 50 rooms because of problems with locks.

Langford says, "Cooperation appears to be much better now."

"It appears management gets the message that the city is serious and the courts are serious," he added.

Attempts to reach Gore, the owner, were unsuccessful today.

Elevator inspectors are expected to visit the Diplomat soon and fire inspectors expect to gain access to the remaining units, Langford says.

- Associate Editor David McClendon contributed to this report.

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