Community input an illusion

Journey to the Underworld

Part two of an interesting Chicago Tribune series. Construction über Alles! Not mentioned in this quasi-morality play is our former Alderman, Burt Natarus, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a key player in the Aldermanic Charade.

ALDERMEN They decide who can build what. Money, not planning, often drives the process. Second in an occasional series.

Chicago aldermen wield near-absolute power over development in their wards, but most insist they get neighborhood input from community groups or handpicked advisory panels before approving or rejecting projects.

What they don't say is that those groups often are stacked with real estate agents, developers and campaign donors with vested interests in the zoning decisions made by the aldermen.

One alderman backed zoning changes that let a developer tear down several modest homes on the Near West Side and replace them with three-story condos, projects that were OKd by a community group.

The group was familiar with the developer -- he's a longtime leader of the organization.

Another alderman got the backing of his own advisory panel before he approved the zoning change for a redevelopment project in Logan Square, a neighborhood in the midst of the city's gentrification wave. The owner of the land happened to sit on the panel. He sold the property, with its valuable zoning change, for nearly $1 million more than he had paid less than two years earlier.

An unprecedented Tribune investigation, including an analysis of 5,700 zoning changes over the last 10 years, found city neighborhoods being remade by a development boom greased by millions of dollars in political donations to aldermen.

As neighborhoods are transformed, advisory groups frequently offer no more than the illusion of community input. But the political cover they provide for aldermen is very real.

[Click to read more of Community input an illusion]

Yellow Truck

Also not mentioned is our current Alderman, Brendan Reilly. He hasn't been in office long enough for me to judge whether or not he plans on caving in to developers against community wishes, but it certainly looks promising*. We'll soon see. There have been promises made to us regarding some green spaces, and other considerations. Talk is available at the dime store, as the cliché goes, only tangible action counts in the long run.

RD659 Destruction

*Update: As Yellow Dog Democrat argues, Reilly has done the right thing so far in several instances. Thousands of times better than Burt Natarus, that's for sure.


update: comments closed due to spam-rats. Email your comment, and I'll publish it (swanksalot @ gmail dot com)


Seth -

True, Reilly is less than a year into his term, but I don't think you can say the jury is out.

Reilly opposed plans by powerful developers to demolish the landmark Lake Shore Athletic Club, and forced a compromise that saved the historic building.

Reilly is opposing plans by the powerful Pritzker family and Mayor Daley to develop on Grant Park in violation of four Supreme Court decisions and 171 years of special protections that prohibit building on the park or turning the land over to private control.

Reilly's stood up to developers who want to build the new hospital in Streeterville, forcing unprecedented concessions that will molify the hospital's impact on the neighborhood.

And, perhaps most importantly as it relates to this Tribune story, Reilly has stood by his pledge to refuse campaign contributions from developers.

That's a pretty strong record for the so-called "rookie".

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 28, 2008 12:43 PM.

Chicago neighborhoods and Aldermanic Clout was the previous entry in this blog.

Mayors on the frontline is the next entry in this blog.

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