Friday, February 8, 2008

More Uptown Zoning Shenanigans

A city sign was posted today in front of Uptown BBQ, near Wilson and Kenmore, stating that a zoning change application (File A-7284) was filed 10/31/2007 to change that area from a B3-3 commercial district to a RT-4 Multi-residential district.

What could be the motivation for this? We do know that the RT-4 is the lowest zoning that fits SRO’s, etc. Is this to permit the Uptown Baptist Church shelter to remain? Maybe Hugh can shed some light on these developments.

Update: Apparently this zoning change has to do with the upcoming Graeme Stewart Park. Zoning change signs should have been posted in this spot from 11/7 till 12/13/07. We don't recall seeing any. Does anyone near this spot recall seeing zoning signs? The zoning sign seen today appeared to be new and unrained upon. Curious. Could the zoning change only pertain to the park?


  1. Well, group homes are allowed under both B3-3 and RT-4 designations except that for some types of group homes a special use approvel is required under B3-3. Given that usually a special use is much easier to get than a zoning map amendment (which would be what it would take to go from B3-3 to RT-4) it doesn't make a ton of sense for them to go this route for just a group home.

    What I think is worse is that they are trying to put a residential use (of whatever variety) on a clearly commercial sector of this street. B3-3 allows for residential above the ground floor with commercial on the 1st already.

  2. Well folks you saw the signs didn't you? Of course you did. They were supposedly there for over a month. Think of them like the famous invisible ink used to mark 49th Ward ballots - only there in someone's imagination.

    According to a quick call to the Zoning Department the zoning change notification sign was posted on 11/7/2007 and stayed posted, as required, until 3 days after the public hearing on 12/13/2007. They can even prove it because they take pictures when they put the signs up.

    Funny, we remember taking pictures of Graeme Stewart area and posting them on Uptown Update at that same time but we saw no signs. But, we, being community members, are always at fault.

    Oh, by the way. The city council already passed this alderman initiated zoning change this week.

    Funny that this new notification sign was just posted today. Those of us who pig out on Uptown BBQ ribs on a regular basis notice these things at their front door.

    The zoning change relates to the 4513 N Kenmore parcel, which matches the parking lot on the south end of Graeme Stewart Public Elementary School.

    One guess is that this relates to the new park installation. B3-3 does not support open space. RT-4 does. Particularly if the new park is being incorporated into the school, it would be necessary for it to become a contiguous property of the school for the school to do anything with it.

    But, it you look at the city zoning map online (as of 12/12/2007 City Council changes) it says the school parking lot is already zoned RT-4. So what gives?

    The next guess relates to the fact that property is owned to the middle of the road. The school park is closing and taking over the road. The other side of the road (the parking lot for the bank) is zoned B3-3. So, they probably had to rezone that half of the street to RT-4 to make it contiguous to the school and allow the park. Whew!

    Any other guesses?

  3. I did see a zoning change sign outside Uptown Pizza the last part of November. I didn't read it too carefully because I thought it referred to the zoning of the parking lot at the NE corner of Kenmore and Wilson. And it was 2 a.m. and really cold! So something was there, but I can't tell you whether it was about the Stewart School or not.

  4. Thanks Helen. The rest of us didn't see it for the month it was supposed to be there.

  5. It's sad that we have to run around second guessing what is going on. If this was filed in October 2007 as an alderman's initiative, that is when the community should be told by the alderman.

    We should not have to rely upon signs on lampposts to know what's going on regarding zoning in our own community. Shiller knows who the block clubs are. She could let us know what is happening before it is a done deal, no matter how big or small the project.

  6. I forgot to mention that there also were supposed to be other signs from the Department of Transportation notifying the community that there was a proposal to permanently close the 4300N block of Kenmore to build this park. There was supposed to be a period for public comment on that also.

    Does anyone remember seeing those signs posted in the community? I don't.

  7. Thanks Helen. The rest of us didn't see it for the month it was supposed to be there.

    "Helen"? Oh, please. If you've read anything I've posted here or on the BPN board over the past four or five years, you'd realize I'm not a big supporter of many of the alderman's policies.

    But the fact remains, one night in November, I had to park on Wilson, outside Uptown Pizza, and I saw a zoning change sign. I didn't give it much attention and I can't be sure if it was about the parking lot or the Stewart School rezoning. But something was posted on that corner, even if just for one night.

  8. in B3-3 group home is a special use

    in RT4 group home is permitted by rights

    " ... a special use is much easier to get than a zoning map amendment ... "

    not sure i agree w that

    procedurally, maybe: a map change is an ordinance, a change to the laws of the City of Chicago, which has to go before the Zoning Committee of the City Council & the full City Council, while a special use permit requires merely a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals, and yeah, a map change is much more powerful in what it can do

    but politically, 'aldermanic prerogative" or "aldermanic privilege" or whatever you want to call it means a map change is in many ways easier, you just have to convince 1 person with very shaky morals, it's 1 stop shopping

    you pay off the zoning board of appeals members, you're a felon; you pay off the alderman, it's customary & proper

  9. " ... they are trying to put a residential use (of whatever variety) on a clearly commercial sector of this street."

    well, yeah, but...

    B ain't what it use to B

    B use to REQUIRE retail at the street level

    since the zoning re-write of a few years back, the retail is OPTIONAL in B

    if you feel strongly you want retail here, you need B, but B is no guarantee these days

    we have no zoning to express a requirement for retail, they took it away

  10. "They can even prove it because they take pictures when they put the signs up."

    they told u that? and u believed em?

    if you want to have some fun try FOIA-ing those pictures

  11. "One guess is that this relates to the new park installation. B3-3 does not support open space. RT-4 does. ... they probably had to rezone that half of the street to RT-4 to make it contiguous to the school and allow the park."

    RT-4 allows for future development, as residential or school

    if you care about this park AS A PARK and you want to protect it you need to insist on a POS zoning

    POS, Parks and Open Space District

    this is a new zoning in the zoning re-write specifically for protecting parks from development

    His whole career Stone has been trying to build in Warren Park. Just last year we forced him to zone it POS.

    the city is doing more & more of this: "fake" parks - they look like parks & act like parks but they're not parks, they're not zoned as parks, they're not Park District property, it's land banking

  12. This is another reason to come to the Feb 15th zoning hearing in Room 200 of the City Council Chamber, 121 N. LaSalle St. at 9:00 am. There will be reporters there who will be covering the Labor Ready story, but it would help to have knowledgeable members of the community who can speak to problems with the zoning process in general (and give specific examples.) If you think you can come & are able to speak on zoning issues broadly, please email us so we will know who to tell the reporters to go talk to.

  13. Hugh, that "best guess" was not my own best guess. It was the best guess of a Zoning Dept. staffer, whom I called for a quick, late Friday afternoon rundown on "What the *X#$ is going on?"

    That doesn't mean he wasn't mistaken or I wasn't unintentionally or intentionally mislead.

    Wouldn't it be nice to get information the right waY, i.e. in a timely and complete manner from our Alderbeast?

  14. Hugh, re: FOIAing the photo, we think alike.

    For all those who like to have fun, the Dept of Zoning FOIA officer is Keerthi Razoori, 121 N. LaSalle St Room 905, Chicago, IL 60602. He can be contacted for a copy of the photo of the posted zoning change sign.

    The Dept of Transportation FOIA officer should be contacted for the photo of the permanent street closing notification sign. Address correspondence to the FOIA Officer at

    Of course, if someone were unethical, they could photograph after-the-fact. And, nothing prevents the sign from being posted, photographed, and torn down 2 minutes later. There is no check to assure that the sign remains posted.

    Query why in this computerized age, the city still relies on paper signs for community notice? You say the like it that way?

  15. Apologies to Truman Square Neighbor for the accusations of being Helen. That truly was a low blow. Mea Culpa.

    I recognized your blog name but nothing prevents another from identity theft in using your name.

  16. This is no guarantee that this property will remain a school. The CPS system has announces that it intends to close schools in neighborhoods where the schools are underutilized. I believe a Trib article several weeks ago flagged Uptown as having schools under 30% capacity, thus prime for closure. This school was recently rennovated inside, but that doesn't mean a thing.

  17. It's great that you guys called & asked questions

    a tip for calling the zoning dept

    when you call with a general question you may be forwarded to a community relations spokesperson person, who whole job is to not know anything specific about any specific projects

    when you have specific questions on a specific project, try asking to speak the zoning administrator who wrote the report on the zoning change

    we taxpayers pay for a zoning staff person to write a review the application, review the zoning laws, and report & make a recommendation on every zoning change

    then the developer pays the alderman to overturn it

    also, consider FOIA-ing the app & the zoning dept report

    if you want to make a point about notice, go ahead & FOIA the photos, but if you are interested in a new park, FOIA the app & the report

    you might find in writing the zoning dept rational for R vs. POS, or you might find the zoning dept recommended POS but the planning dept wants R!

    does the application for a zoning change even mention a park? because if it does, i don't see how the zoning dept could NOT recommend POS, unless the appl specified that the plan is to preserve future development options

    if the app does not mention the park, you might conclude the park is just press