Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Council OKs Tougher Rules For Vacant Buildings, Shiller Opposes

By Fran Spielman, City Hall Reporter, Tribune

Mayor Daley's plan to require Chicago building owners to secure, maintain and light up their vacant buildings was advanced by a City Council committee today amid concern it would saddle building owners with expenses they cannot afford and trigger an avalanche of demolitions.

“To deal with the worst set of circumstances, we’re requiring that everyone spend the money to do it in every circumstance, even though it’s not necessary in every circumstance. I’m fearful this will lead to more demolitions, rather than more opportunities to use the properties,” said Ald. Helen Shiller (46th).
Ald. Ed Smith (28th) said a “whole lot of buildings” in his impoverished West Side ward are owned by senior citizens on fixed-incomes.

“What happens if they can’t afford an alarm system? Does the building get torn down? It may be a perfectly good building,” Smith said.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) added, “If a person is struggling, we’re setting these folks up to fail. And we’re setting ourselves up for coming into possession of a lot more buildings.”

Buildings Committee Chairman Bernard Stone (50th) said safety standards are needed to convince lenders City Hall “means business” about the need to maintain vacant buildings. Chicago already has 10,000 vacant buildings. The inventory is growing fast because of the foreclosure epidemic.

“There are buildings all over the city just sitting there wide open. Most of these lenders aren’t doing a damned thing. … If you go after the buildings, lenders have to fix ‘em up. Otherwise, they have no investment,” Stone said.

As for fears that Ma and Pa owners would be saddled with added costs, Stone said, “I’m not going after the two-flats and three-flats. I’m going after big buildings. You can be selective as to what you go after.”

The use of plywood to cover doors and windows would be strictly prohibited on buildings vacant for at least six months, under the ordinance, advanced by the Buildings Committee after a four-hour hearing.

A six-month vacancy would also trigger a requirement that buildings either be secured with steel panels or have all windows and doors installed, a functioning security system and an “active account” with a private security company. Dusk-to-dawn lighting would be required at all exits.


  1. When is the last time Shiller has done anything inconsistent with the worst stereotypes people have of her?

  2. I don't know how Helen Shiller can stand cozying up to a Mayor who she is never able to get to listen to her on the issues she cares most about. Here is some unsolicited advice: Sister, he's playing you. And you should be ashamed of yourself for taking it just so that you can play all of us. When it is all said and done will the ends have justified the means? Or, could you have possibly broadened your coalition and achieved more positive goals if you hadn't sold out? No one will ever know but many of us have our suspicions.

  3. Wow, how many vacant buildings are there in Uptown? It would be awful if the slumlords are forced to clean up and light their long vacant buildings. What a tragedy. NOT!

  4. I can't understand a damned thing that woman says. It makes no sense.

  5. Wait. Is Helen putting the interests of property owners ahead of the interest in public safety?

    No, wait - is she stating that it's important to make sure that good pieces of property are utilized instead of standing idle?

    No, hold on ..., is she saying that this plan will unfairly treat everyone just so we can take care of a few "bad apples"?

    Wow. The duplicity she vomits forth is simply mind-boggling in its complexity and contradiction.

    Has she been in her ward, recently?

    The plan Stone is suggesting (and I'm no fan of that bug-eyed crook, whatsoever) actually doesn't sound too bad, at first blush (makes one wonder how much money Stone stands to make if this passes).

    I'm surprised that 1) someone actually got Helen to respond to a question, and 2) that she's obviously more concerned with the status of vacant buildings moreso than she is interested in the welfare of occupied buildings and their inhabitants.

    Ok, I lied. I'm not surprised at #2.

  6. Our City Council's Building Committee is busy co-ordinating our home town's response to the foreclosure crisis: banning the use of unsightly plywood in board-ups.

    Meanwhile, our Village Elders on the Building committee turn a blind eye as an army of unregulated and unqualified "expediters" swarm City Hall dropping off envelops.

    Personally, I think I am in a lot more danger from a pay-to-play permit than from a plywood sheet on a window in an abandoned building.

  7. You are right JKW in that Shiller is usually incomprehensible even if you are really trying. Saying she is a poor public speaker is an understatement. Since I have my English-to-Shiller dictionary handy, I'll try to translate.

    Basically, she is saying that the City's broadbrush move opens up the opportunity to dispose of unused buildings faster and with more force than is currently an option. On one hand she is probably thinking about how low-budget affordable housing groups could get in a mess of trouble with the city (i.e., remember the pres. of ONE's comments about why the City's porch ordinance was against them) and on the other hand she is probably thinking about opportunities the City may be poised to take with certain properties that are in areas crucial to the Olympics. She probably fears that this will push along displacement in mostly poor areas at the expense of wealthy interests. Remember, that is her longstanding issue. The mortgage crisis thing is a ruse. Think about it: the initiative is NOT coming from the poorest neighborhoods...the ones hardest hid by foreclosures and abandoned properties. Ask yourself why.

    I would venture a guess that she is not really thinking of Uptown so much when she is making these comments but the larger City. And she doesn't give two cents how this plays back in her ward because she can always spin things the way she wants to "her" constituents. The rest of us who think boarded up buildings create a bad commercial environment and don't promote public safety can essentially go to hell. Those are not "her" issues.

  8. Can we say "getting ready for the Olympics".

    We don't want boarded up buildings for all the world to see.

    And all the shitty ones will be torn down.

    It's a good thing for Chicago and Uptown.

  9. Let's start with Weiss Plaza then and the empty storefront that Labor Ready is supposed to occupy.

  10. I wonder if this can be construed to apply to three floors of a low income, tenant-owned, Section 8 coop? There are stiil three floors of boarded-up missing windows at the 810 West Grace highrise remaining at the fire that occurred there in December of 2007.

    Nothing is being done to fix the burnout. That can't be safe or healthy or up to code!

  11. I hope this applies to CTA owned properties. The boarded up shops under the Wilson El are a mess.

  12. So a vacant building is a good thing?

  13. So people on a fixed-income are owning buildings, yet can't install a freakin' light so you can walk down the street?

    Here's a solution: if you can't afford to maintain the building, sell the thing to someone who can! What, I gotta risk my life becaue you can't f*cking balance a budget and take care of your property? What a stupid argument by Smith and Shiller. No wonder improvements move so slowly in both of their areas.

  14. she's upset b/c that money for repairs is coming straight from her kickbacks

  15. This is another jobs ordinance. The nifty "if your property is vacant for 6 months you ARE REQUIRED to maintain an account with a security firm" is quite clear about it.

  16. This is another ,unresonable,expensive, example of overegulation. President Reagan vetted Federal regulations for cost efectiveness, Mayor Daley should do the same.