Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ben Joravsky: What's Wrong with Chicago's Zoning Procedures?

Ben Joravsky at the Reader is one of the few journalists in this city consistently reporting on what's happening with architecture and planning outside the loop.

His article (pdf) this week is full of insights on what's wrong with the way the city re-zones. Frankly, he is a huge help to me in figuring this stuff out. It really is a mystery, and Joravsky cuts through it with an accurate fork and objective knife.

One quote that I found particularly enlightening was this:

"Anyone who knows anything about zoning in Chicago rolls his eyes at the mention of notification (for a zoning change). City law requires only that such letters include the applicant's name, the date, the name of his lawyer, and a brief 'description of the nature, scope, and purpose of the application.' Residents don't have to be notified of pending hearings on the proposed change, or precisely what the applicant wants to build or demolish."

8 comments:

Kuz said...

That makes it what, 4 weeks in a row where I've learned something topical to my program in the Reader. Sweet.

Jennifer said...

Yeah, they really are coming on strong on covering these issues. I suspect Joravsky's pushing that and the absence of the coverage elsewhere, too. Glad to see it. Particularly, as I admit, I go to the Reader less and less for listings now that TimeOutChicago is delivered to my doorstep. (But, their restaurant ratings are still supreme in my book). Happy studying!

payton said...

there's just no coverage in the other citywide papers -- partially because Joravsky has a lock on these "stickin' it to Da Man" stories, but also because the Reader's focus is (for better or worse) a bit more localized to the yuppified north side than the big dailies'. you'll find ample coverage of these in the community weeklies, and we've got a great new Chicago Journal in Bucktown -- but who has time to go and collect those from all over town each week? (I grab copies of Inside, the Hyde Park Herald, and the other Chicago Journal when I see them, but it's not frequently enough.)

anyways, Joravsky glossed over how Matlak is also in trouble for suddenly and inexplicably giving the cold shoulder to several longstanding community groups in his ward, like Roscoe Village Neighbors and the Bucktown Community Organization, to which he once used to defer zoning decisions like these.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for these insights, Payton. Did Chicago Journal expand to Bucktown? I thought they were primarily South Loop (and I agree they are excellent).

Interesting on Matlak. The shocking thing about his lack of leadership on this issue is that he has lived in the ward ALL his life. His parents live there, too. You'd think the demolition and change would awaken his backbone. . .

Michael Allen said...

The Reader has been great in its coverage of preservation issues. In 2004 it ran an article excoriating the preservationists in Chicago to stop making compromises or staying quiet when it came to challenging the Democratic machine. The piece was a bit grandstanding -- after all, journalists don't have to go out and engage in the sort of careful public advocacy we preservationists do -- but the general points were good and needed to be made. The Chicago preservation movement needs to get energized again. It seems that there are many good people fighting for places, but many of them are not connected with the more established groups or are working almost alone to agitate.

Jennifer said...

Yes, I read that article questioning how effective preservationists in Chicago have been. (It was also written by Joravsky, btw.)

My question after reading this current article was: Wouldn't it be a heckuva more valuable use of the preservationists' time to fight for a change to the notification ordinance?

That way they'd give citizens a major tool they need to get involved in preservation. You know, the teach a (wo)man to fish philosophy. That seems to me like a strategy with a lot more chance for sweeping success than a building- by-building approach.

A quick look at Preservation Chicago's website suggests they are working on something like that, which I'm glad to hear. Hopefully, Joravsky's article will help them kick it up a notch.

Thanks for stopping by, Michael. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

Steven Vance said...

Come to this presentation on sprawl at Chicago Architecture Foundation: http://lynnbecker.com/repeat/calendar/current/current.htm#15

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the tip. I'm planning on being there. Best, jr