Houston is famous for having a patchwork quilt of zoning regulations, and a subsequent crazy mess of an urban jungle. If Chicago Aldermen don’t watch out, we’ll end up in the same dire predicament: having a city without rhyme or reason, loved by nobody except developers, and their politician puppies.
In the ongoing “Neighborhoods for Sale” series, the Tribune has documented an insiders’ game in which aldermen rake in millions of dollars in campaign cash from developers, zoning lawyers and architects while often overriding the concerns of homeowners and city planners. Out-of-scale buildings leave existing homes in their shadows, the result of nearly 6,000 council-approved zoning changes in the last 10 years that have transformed neighborhoods.
The results of this patchwork approach to development have been jarring, with mini-mansions replacing modest bungalows and condo blocks rising over increasingly traffic-choked streets.
The Tribune has found that zoning rules have been ignored or changed to make it easier for developers and harder for residents to have a meaningful say in what gets built on their streets.
Developers commonly fail to put up signs required by law to notify neighbors of proposed zoning changes. Neighbors frequently don’t get letters notifying them of nearby projects.
And if they manage to learn of pending proposals and attend the City Hall hearings, they may find themselves prohibited from asking questions of developers and aldermen.
For a street-level view of how the code really works, look at the 50th Ward and the story of the proposed seven-story senior housing complex the City Council recently approved at the behest of Ald. Bernard Stone.
[A now-destroyed building, replaced by a 20 story residential building, still being constructed, called R+D 659]
There are rumors that a a large building1 is being planned on the NW corner of Jefferson and Randolph: large enough that the historic Crane’s Alley might be appropriated. Our Alderman, Brendan Reilly, claims to know nothing about it. We shall see.
- either a hotel, or a 40 story structure, I’ve heard both [↩]