Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NIMBY's Corner #6: Jack & Jill Sign a Crazy Petition

NIMBY-ism, let us recall, is defined by individuals taking the arbitrary measure of their immediate surroundings as the norm and rule for the rest of us. They usually then sign a petition about it.

What makes NIMBY-watching interesting, aside from it's year-round nature, are the ways in which its advocates present their arguments as common-sensical, when they are usually without much empirical justification.

A case in point is the petition printed in this week's Herald (September 19, 2007), truly a classic of its genre, and intending to convince Alderman Toni Preckwinkle that four strictures should be obeyed in the development of the McMobil site on 53rd Street. The petition is brought to us by a returning guest, Ms. Jill White, who formerly appeared in "Keeping Vacant Lots Vacant," and is now backed up by roaming NIMBY-at-large, Jack Spicer.

In this case, the petitioners are intent to 1) increase congestion by allowing more cars on the block rather than fewer; 2) make the development of new housing less affordable; and 3) bring in fewer new homeowners to pay property taxes to support local schools and shop at local businesses.

Two of the suggested strictures, surprisingly, are reasonable. The remaining two, unfortunately, are ridiculous. Let's take a look at them.

Stricture #1:
The 50 foot maximum height allowance under current law will prevent the excessive blocking of sunlight from nearby homes, keep the increase in population density to a manageable level, and will allow the project to blend well with the existing buildings on either side of the lot. It will also help to keep traffic light, particularly at the risky crosswalk at Kenwood Avenue, and in the alley that connects Kenwood and Kimbark (already frequently blocked by delivery vehicles).
Editorial Comment: All of the stated reasons why the proposed building should be kept to 4 stories/50 feet are arbitrary. The "manageable level" of population density referred to is not specified. Presumably it means not so many as to bug the neighbors who live there now. We've laid out a lot of reasons on this blog why Hyde Park can and should support more household density. This petition makes no reasoned case to the contrary and should not be taken seriously unless it does.

As for the idea of "blending well with the...buildings on either side of the lot," this is laudable in general, but is here being advocated in a partisan sense. Hyde Park is full of 8, 10, 12 story buildings beside 4 stories buildings. Something similar at this site would therefore be quite in keeping with architectural precedents in the neighborhood. Here's a home-made map of where these taller buildings are located in relation to the McMobil site:

Location of Buildings 5 Stories or Higher
in Relation to McMobil Site ("X")

Unless one does some arbitrary height-based jerrymandering, any definition of the "character of the neighborhood" based on a 50 ft. height limit does not unambiguously apply to the McMobil site. It is not justified by the current pattern of land-use in the area.

Stricture #2:

Insisting on at least 1.5 parking spots per residential unit. This will ensure that available street parking -- already strained to the maximum -- will not be further taxed, and that automobile traffic will not increase to a point that it puts the safety of school children crossing the street into Nichols Park at risk.

Editorial Comment: It's rather curious the way school children always pop up in these petitions, threatened by lack of sunlight, cruel and oppressive walls, racing cars, or any number of other NIMBY demons. We would point out, purely as an aside, that congestion tends to slow things down, most likely making it safer for children, and that cars drive faster in lower density areas. But that is beside the point. The insanity here is the idea that parking ratios should be increased to 1.5 spots per unit from the current requirement of 1:1.

In the Code rewrite of 2004, every progressive urban planning organization in the Chicago region pressed very hard to keep this ratio at a maximum of 1 to 1, based on extensive research showing that lower ratios reduce congestion and discourage auto use. Lots of progressive urban planners would have liked to have seen an even lower ratio than that. In fact, the City average is already less than 1:1, as we pointed out in a previous post. So what makes the petitioners think it should be different here, in a dense urban neighborhood served by transit where lots of folks don't even own cars? What NIMBYs don't realize is that these higher ratios guarantee more cars, not less.

The crowning irony of these strictures is that they are very likely to discourage anything from getting built at this site. This shouldn't be surprising, as obstructionism by now is a time-honored local specialty of Hyde Park NIMBYs.

By upping the parking, and downscaling the building, the petitioners have simultaneously increased the developer's costs, and lowered the developer's revenues. Not only this, these strictures discourage what little prospect there already is for moderately affordable new housing, because whatever gets built will be more expensive than it would were the building taller. The developer thus has every reason to build on as much of the lot as is allowed, leaving less room for a back-yard and green space.

So there you have it. As stated above, our petitioners ask us to demand a development that would 1) increase congestion by allowing more cars on the block; 2) drive up the unit selling prices; and 3) bring fewer new shoppers into our neighborhood to support local business and fewer homeowners to pay property taxes to support local schools.

Way to go, Jack and Jill.


Famac said...

Why would anyone even bother with business in Hyde Park?

chicago pop said...

We just had some technical difficulties that wiped out the first comments on NIMBY's Corner #6. Sorry about this!

So I'm going to repost them. They will all come up under my handle, but I'll indicate the handle of the original posters.

chicago pop said...

SR wrote:
Can you give any source references about the 1:1.1 parking ratio preference among urban planners, and the map of the area showing the height of the buildings nearby? It's very likely that this will come up at my townhouse association meeting this month, I'd like to have some ammo if we're going to be asked to do something as a body to support this petition. (It has already been circulated once on my block, I'm sure I'll be seeing it again even if it doesn't come up at the meeting).

chicago pop said...

Sure. Let me get back to you with some links that I will post.

As for the map, I made it myself and I'm not sure how presentable it would be for what you need, but I can give you the addresses of buildings 5 stories +, if you'd like. And I can try to make a slicker map, though not sure I'll be able to do it soon enough, given the time available.

Stay tuned!

chicago pop said...

SR wrote:
I think a list of the buildings and their heights to go along with the map you've already done would be plenty good enough for the purpose. Thanks!

chicago pop said...

Elizabeth Fama wrote:
Aw, I sort of like the folksy quality of that map.

But it gives away your humanities background, C-Pop...

Oof. I've said too much.

curtsy said...

Although I am generally supportive of the proposed 8 story "highrise" at McMobil's X-Mas Tree Crossing, the streetscape of 51st Street (where 6 of the 8 blue highlighted buildings stand) would seem to be a separate matter. However, the presence of the 8-story Versailles, a short block east of the proposed development, IS a compelling counter to the 4 story limit.

chicago pop said...

There are ways a developer could put a building with less than a 1:1 p-ratio at the site in question. Place a car-sharing vehicle behind; sell units w/out spots at reduced rate; unbundle spots and sell separately; work with UofC and CTA to provide discounted transit passes to buyers who opt for no parking.


*Chicago City Code. 1:1 parking ratio for housing other than detached single family homes.

*Some background on local progressive thinking on parking/transit related zoning reform in Chicago:

*Study demonstrating that higher res. parking requirements drive up housing costs:

*EPA study on tools that can be used to incent lower parking ratios in a development -- car sharing (I-Go); unit price reduction for buyers without cars; selling spaces separately at market rate (unbundling); dropping p-ratio near transit.

*Study demonstrating that each time density doubles, ownership falls (John Holtzclaw et al, 2002, "Location Efficiency," Transportation Planning & Tech)

chicago pop said...

On demand-reduction strategies related to parking, see Chicago-based CNT's paper on Transit Oriented Development, p. 7-8, "Parking Reductions"

chicago pop said...

Addresses of buildings 5 stories or higher within the quadrant formed by 53rd, Dorchester, 51st, and Woodlawn.

1) 5254 S. Dorchester (The Versailles), 8 stories

2) 5118 S. Dorchester, 6 stories

3) 1369 Hyde Park Blvd (The Fairfax), 10 stories

4) 1380 Hyde Park Blvd (Mad. Park Apts.), 8 stories

5)5220 S. Kenwood (The Grosvenor), 6 stories

6)5135 S. Kenwood (HP Manor Condo) 6 stories

7)5110 S. Kenwood (Shelbyrne), 10 stories

8)1215 Hyde Park Boulevard (Max Mason House), 5 stories

SR said...

Chicago pop,

Wow, thanks :-).

chicago pop said...

You can call me c-pop!


Famac said...


I wouldn't sign that petition if I were you.

53rd Street is lucky to have anyone even interested in building something there.

Chase them away and maybe you'll be stuck with another McDonalds, KFC or perhaps a dollar store.

And they should make two spots per unit. Whatever it takes to get people to come support something new and move into the area.

Just pushing things to the limit - what if it was 100 stories tall. Can you imagine how vibrant 53rd Street would be? Businesses would flurish.

These people that protest everything want their house to be the last thing standing -- back to the beach house/cottage days.

53rd Street isn't in a position to negotiate!!

chicago pop said...

famac: you're right about the precariousness of any deal on 53rd St., but if you suggest 2 spots/unit you're playing right into the hands of the Establishment opposition in scaring developers away, for the same reasons you give above. Costs too damn much, aside from being reactionary in just about every sense. If you try to out-NIMBY the NIMBY folks on issues like parking, you'll never win. That trade off is not worth it.

Famac said...

As a person who lives in a gigantic high rise, I have comments for you C-Pop.

People moving into a high rise are often doing so for security. That includes their cars, and getting two and from them.

I can guarantee you that a very small percentage of potential residents will be driving to work - they are more likely to take the Metra.

A friend of mine moved into the South Loop, and almost every building was able to offer two spots to anyone willing to pay for them -- it's a selling point.

Looking specifically at the McDonalds site, an expansive parking structure seems mandatory because its a metered street, and all of those side streets are jammed, and creepy as hell.

A development will not be viable that doesn't offer abundant parking to buyers.

Would you want to stagger around 53rd Street at night to visit a friend in such a building?

chicago pop said...

For the record, I've lived in a gigantic high rise, too, and in Lincoln Park surrounded by narrow side streets in an awesome location. We had one spot and paid for it.

Focusing on this petition, I think we agree that the combo of a low number of units and a high number of parking spots does not make sense, for either the developer or the buyer, and is a great way to kill this development.

Any parking ratio over 1:1 is a nice luxury but by no means something required, affordable, or even desired by everyone and suitable for every location in a city of 2-3 million people. The South Loop is not Hyde Park, and I have a strong sense that the market for each location would recognize the difference between the two types of building we're talking about. One practice that usually makes people less eager to have as many parking spaces is if they are unbundled from the cost of the unit. Put a bunch of them for sale in the deck, and let people see how much it costs on a monthly basis to own one. Then the rate will drop below 1:2 or 1:1 and you have less incentive to drive.

Your friend staggering on 53rd could easily park in a number of shared spots, either something worked out with Kimbark Plaza, I-Go, visitor spots on the site itself, or, hopefully for the rest of us sober drivers, they could take a cab.

James said...

"A friend of mine moved into the South Loop, and almost every building was able to offer two spots to anyone willing to pay for them -- it's a selling point."

Famac, you and C-Pop are both right. As C-Pop says, the parking spaces should be undbundled so that residents understand that there's no such thing as free parking. It may be in the public interest to insist on that as a municipal regulation.

Besides that, let the market decide. The developer is in the best position to figure out what the market will bear. S/he is more motivated than anyone to get that right. If 2 spots per residence pays for itself, great. If no parking delivers the best cost/benefit ration, great. But get the government out of this decision.

If the neighbors gripe about their gov't-subsidized street parking getting worse, offer to raise the price of street parking until they can find a space again. Let the market influence parking choices.

chicago pop said...

James: I like your position here. With reference to the petition, it would seem that you would call for both height *and* parking strictures to be removed and the developer freed up. At that location, given the likely market, I don't believe the parking would be higher than 1:1.

On the other hand, I do think that market actors and the public need a lot of cajoling on this issue. Markets tend to be conservative regarding consumer preferences, and unlike pork bellies, it's very hard to clear a market of a surplus of parking spaces once they're built. It's very likely that there's a glut in the South Loop, and this is a waste - of land, of space, and of money, plain and simple. What happens is more parking incents more driving, and the inverse. This is a reasonable basis for policy action.

I'm not at all saying there need to be absolute caps on this kind of thing, but that the City could be doing a lot, lot more in terms of incentives, bonuses, and infrastructure development to make it *easier* for a developer to take the risk of selling to suburbanites who think it's natural to have 2, 3 cars always at one's disposal.

curtsy said...

"...and all of those side streets are jammed, and creepy as hell (!).

Would you want to stagger around 53rd Street at night to visit a friend in such a building?"

Ah, the gritty, urban conundrum.

C-Pop, you must realize that when you evoke Lincoln Park that Lincoln Park is exactly what many Hyde Parkers DO NOT want. You may think that attitude is unreasonable, irrational, or plain "silly" but it is an honest difference in what people want in their neighborhood community.

I am not interested in arguing the merits of the LP lifestyle. I recognize that LP has long been held out by many as the undesireable end result of gentrification, to be avoided at all costs! This has even become a Chicago cliche` (as repeatedly expressed in anti-gentrification attitudes in Wicker Park, Lincoln Square, Pilsen, and Uptown.) However, I think that Hyde Parkers are sincere in their desire to retain a distinctive neighborhood character and quality of life that does not simply repeat the examples (and sometimes mistakes) of other revitalized neighborhoods. I doubt that Hyde Parkers are likely to just give the keys to the neighborhood over to developers and trust that they, in their freaky understanding of the wisdom of what the market will bear, will make the ultimately wise choice for the neighborhood.

I have also long felt the reflexive knee-jerk response to ANY proposed development or ch-ch-ch-change in HP to be ironically anti-progressive in a community that so prides itself in its "progressive" politics. Yes, even old Liberals seemingly calcify with age.

Famac said...

I guess its just me, but I wouldn't walk around that area at night. Until there is a signifigant improvement in the neighborhood, any development that doesn't offer abundant and clearly visible safe passage will be doomed to failure.

On a more happy note, I drove by 53rd and Cornell today to see the start of demolition of Cedars and all of those other shuttered businesses!

Progress at last!!

James said...

C-Pop, I don't want to come off as laissez faire, here. If it's a large project, I think the community should be allowed quite a bit of say. I just don't think the impact on street parking should be a consideration. And I'm pro-density. But I'm very willing to oppose the Doctor's Hospital project just on an aesthetic basis. (Although to be completely honest, the labor angle is my bigger concern.)

Take Harper Court as an example. The current retail space is abysmal; it might be worthwhile to save one building just as a living example of bad retail space. But otherwise I think a large-scale retail project is doable as long as it doesn't cast shadows that are too long.

Thing is, it's actually the city parking lot that's a more interesting site to build on. The sky is basically the limit as far as height. Several stories of parking for cars that would feed onto Lake Park is ok-- and much better than cars feeding onto 53rd St from the current Harper Court). A tall building there would only cast shadows on the present Harper Court area in the morning and then on the McDonald's the rest of the day-- and who really cares about the McDonald's?

If the project is on the north side of the street and it interacts well with the sidewalk, I'm willing to let it go pretty large. I think J-Spice (who I really enjoy drinking a beer with) is a little inflexible on the number of stories for these projects. I don't think there's anything magic about the number "four", but there's a good deal of urban planning literature that calls for that height as a way to make people feel comfortable with density.

For me the key-- and something I feel the urban planners still are overlooking this-- is how the project interacts with the sidewalk. The driveway should be about one car-width wide so cars slowly cross the sidewalk. What does the project look like at eye level? I've seen 18-story buildings with no driveways that blend in better than single family homes.

Oh, and the other reason to get away from municipal regulations on parking spaces is that they harm affordable housing. The typical cost of a space in a parking garage is $20K.

chicago pop said...

A lot of thoughtful comments over the past few days. A few responses:

*Lincoln Park: curtsy is right about the cliche, but I have to insist that nowhere has this blog advocated that HP become like LP, or WP, or any other 'happenen' neighborhood. LP provides one illustration of the relation of density and transportation which is useful. HP will not become LP anytime soon, however, even if all the current projects on line go through. That HP needs to change, though, is one thing we won't stop hammering on. The folks that think everything is fine, we have nothing to say to.

famac, thanks for the intelligence on the demolition over on 53rd and Cornell. Hallelujah!!! A lot of folks have been waiting for that!

James has us guessing: is he a 5th column in the Establishment, or a mole at HPP? Either way, he's got good stuff to say, especially on what to do with Harper Court, esp. the parking lot. Glad to see you're willing to wipe the slate clean. A tall building there is an interesting idea -- thanks for putting that on the table.

James, I should make it clear that I am on the same page w/you re: market rate for street parking. So is the University, in fact. The highest volume parking structure in HP is the Midway. If that were turned into a transportation enhancement zone, a la 53rd, it would have a huge impact on local congestion, and throw up loads of money for neighborhood projects.

The impact of high parking requirements on affordability is something I highlighted in my critique of Jack and Jill's NIMBY petition, and one reason I think anyone who is *truly* progressive (obviously not the folks who signed that petition) should reject it.

On Drs Hospital, what's proposed will look better than what it will be next to (the Vista Homes), and the new structure will adhere to pedestrian-friendly and sidewalk fronting design far more than the Georgian hulk that sits there now.

James said...

"James has us guessing: is he a 5th column in the Establishment, or a mole at HPP?"

I'm not much of a mole. There's only one person named James who's on both the Co-op and HPKCC boards.

I know you're mostly kidding with that description, but it does go along with what I see as the biggest problem on this blog: the attitude that there's an establishment in HP that stands against progress as you would prefer it to happen.

Irene Sherr is as establishment as anyone in HP and she's trying to push thru market-based street pricing for the retail blocks along 53rd St. She's very big on your blog, outspoken about how much she likes it. Why don't y'all show up at some of the TIF meetings and help her push that piece of her agenda?

The HPKCC Reporter devoted almost an entire page in their latest newsletter to my article about the current retail strategy for HP-- which is akin to that 70s-era economic strategy for nations called "import subsitution". The "estblishment" in this neighborhood is very open to new ideas.

I think the University realizes that they'd be better off if the city charged for parking along the Midway. However, since their own employees would bear that burden, they're hesitant to push for it. Also, they're worried that charging for street parking on campus would tend to push their employees to parking on neighborhood blocks, thus exacerbating tensions. I'd go ahead and ask for metered parking on Univ area streets if I were they, but I can understand their reluctance.

Re: Curtsy's problem with folks saying they don't want HP to become like Lakeview. I usually say back to them: "well, I don't want it to become exactly like Lakeview either, but what if HP become just a little more like Lakeview by adopting just some of their attitudes?"

HPers have an arrogant notion that this neighborhood is unique-- which there's plenty of evidence to support, I guess-- but it's ridiculous to think we can't learn from other neighborhoods. ( Delmar Loop near Washington University in St. Louis has an interesting mix of retail, for instance.)

Famac said...

James said... "the biggest problem on this blog: the attitude that there's an establishment in HP that stands against progress as you would prefer it to happen."

I wouldn't call it an "establishment," more a very vocal minority using an uninformed public to intimidate our Alderman.

And the blog isn't "against progress as [we] would prefer it to happen," but against protest aimied at stopping progess altogether.

The real goal of the vocal minority is to drive all development from Hyde Park.

When the City compromised on the Point, the demands were altered to void it. Look what we have to show for it -- no progress, dilapidation.

To me, its obvious that most of the motivation behind protest in Hyde Park is self-serving -- these people just want some press -- its the last hurrah for the tie-die t-shirt seniors -- whatever happens to the neighborhood is really of no importance.

If Doctor's Hospital was changed to meet every demand of the protestors, there would simply be a new list of demands; mark my words.

They are negotiate in bad faith.

chicago pop said...

I'd be OK with replacing every usage of "Establishment" with famac's "very vocal minority using an uninformed public to intimidate our Alderman".


James said...

"very vocal minority using an uninformed public to intimidate our Alderman"

The public in Hyde Park is uninformed? What neighborhood can you point to-- anywhere-- that's more involved than HP? That's as ludicrous an accusation as I've ever heard any educated person make.

And which of our aldermen is easily intimidated? Preckwinkle? You gotta be kidding. Hairston is exactly what you want an alderman to be-- responsive. And she hires great people, too. But is she easy to intimidate? Hell, no.

I'd be interested in hearing your story of how the City "compromised" on the Point and then someone-- you're not naming names here-- went back on a promise.

And it sounds like you're treating disparate groups as one on development. There are many vocal minorities, not just one. For instance, J-Spice AFAIK hasn't complained about the proposed development at 56th & Cornell at all. It's a different group of neighbors who are complaining and they're mostly taking issue with a few of the specifics, not the idea of a condo project there. (And btw Eli Unger, representing the developer, does a great job of talking to the neighborhood.)

On the 53rd & Kenwood project, I disagree with J-Spice on the 4-story limit. But he's not anti-density. In fact, I've heard him make the case for density many times. And he's also very pro-transit. You guys agree with him far more than you know.

"To me, its obvious that most of the motivation behind protest in Hyde Park is self-serving -- these people just want some press -- its the last hurrah for the tie-die t-shirt seniors -- whatever happens to the neighborhood is really of no importance."

Well, since we're engaging in ad hominems, I might as well go ahead and say I think you guys are basically poseurs. Usually, I prefer to keep my suspicions to myself until I get to know people a little better, but when in Rome...

The idea that these folks don't care what happens to the neighborhood is ridiculous. I may disagree with the arch-preservationists, but attacking their motivations in such a blanket manner is bad faith argumentation. Accusations about other peoples' motivations should be Godwin's Law #2 IMO.

"They are negotiate in bad faith."

Well, all your base are belong to us. Gimme specifics, please. Prove that it's somebody else who's uninformed.

Elizabeth Fama said...


I'm not great at the development issues in Hyde Park, but I like to keep myself informed about Promontory Point. Famac gives a very digested but fair assessment of the history of that whole fiasco. I'm hoping to cap off the HPP Promontory Point series with a timeline about the events (if I can find two minutes to rub together). But the short answer is that an original task force which included Peter Rossi, Lauren Moltz, Gerald Marsh, and Jack Spicer worked with the City, the Park District, and the Army Corps of Engineers to hammer out an excellent design for the Point called "The Nine-Point Compromise Plan." The building materials would be concrete and steel, but 9 other extremely important changes --major design and structural changes -- were included. Also, sanctioned, deep-water swimming access was written in to the plan.

At the last community meeting, when the City officials thought they were merely presenting the results of all this hard work to the community, Jack and a stacked audience staged a protest, demanding an all-limestone design. It was an unexpected move -- and therefore unfair to the other task force members. Rossi, Moltz, and Marsh resigned, essentially in protest.

The City, Park District, and Army Corps of Engineers worked further with Jack's new task force, and the end result was a second plan, "The Compromise Plan," which made the further concession of having the top two steps of the revetment made out of limestone blocks.

The "task force" rejected it.

Regarding famac's comment that the neighbors are uninformed, I have found this to be absolutely true regarding Point politics. I've spent a lot of time trying to teach my friends and neighbors WHAT the compromise plan is. No one has seen it. The slogan SAVE THE POINT has them brainwashed: they DO NOT understand the details, they HAVE NOT seen any plans or drawings. They DON'T know the City's position on the matter. For instance, the average person probably thinks that "Saving the Point" involves rebuilding it in limestone. The federal funding will not, under any circumustance, cover that. The Army Corps of Engineers will not, under any circumstances build that. Another example: The SAVE THE POINT alternate architectural plan includes concrete, and it dismantles and rebuilds the entire north side. It LEAVES the concrete coffin section at the tip of the point. These are facts that the average person with a bumper sticker DOES NOT KNOW.

If you're interested in what has been covered so far in HPP, click on the "Save the Point" label in any of my Point posts, and read the whole series. Other than the timeline, it has a lot of useful information in it, including images of The Compromise Plan.


Elizabeth Fama said...

I'm sorry, I forgot to include the late, great Tom Knight on the list of original task force committee members.

Peter Rossi said...

The most amazing thing about this letter is that is an out and out threat -- if you do not play ball with us and allow us to be gatekeepers we will oppose you.

This is all about grasping for power not about "responsible development." What these folks want is to control development. Who are they to decide what is an appropriate business for this property? What do they mean by appropriate or "responsible." They can't define it. Basically, we will know it when we see it.

Don't the consumers of Hyde Park have the right to choose which stores they patronize? Do we need a self-appointed group to decide what meets the needs of Hyde Parkers?

Alderman Preckwinkle -- don't go near those people with a ten foot stick. They will never be satisfied because they can't tell you the criteria by which they decide what development to support and what to oppose.

They are "excited" by the prospect of development. They are excited by the prospect of assuming control.

Fortunately, a handful of malcontents don't represent much of a threat.

James said...

Elizabeth, the "Save the Point" category on the blog is only bringing up one article, I think.

You and Peter may very well have a better set of ideas concerning the Point and development. I'm not going to debate ideas about the Point, especially, because I haven't studied the issue as much as you have. I'll just comment on the politics of these situations.

Peter: "Don't the consumers of Hyde Park have the right to choose which stores they patronize? Do we need a self-appointed group to decide what meets the needs of Hyde Parkers?"

Hyde Parkers have a right to choose which stores they patronize. They also have a right to circulate petitions and otherwise try to persuade their neighbors to not patronize certain stores. They certainly have the right to try to influence public officials who have some power over development issues.

And Hyde Parkers absolutely have the right to form a "self-appointed" group to weigh in on these issues. Who do you think should "appoint" a group to look after the Point or development? The Alderman? The Mayor? The developers? The Chamber of Commerce? Why would a group appointed by those special interests be have special rights or authority?

Elizabeth: "Regarding famac's comment that the neighbors are uninformed, I have found this to be absolutely true regarding Point politics."

No, Elizabeth, your neighbors are very well-informed about the Point-- from the Task Force's POV.

I assume the meeting you're talking about was the one at the South Shore Cultural Center, which is the only meeting I've attended on this. If so, you leave out some pretty important details. First, the meeting was put on by the city at a location outside our neighborhood. The city also controlled the meeting (until they lost control and Ald. Hairston took over.)

Despite those institutional advantages, the Task Force won in a rout. Why? Because they organized their people to show up-- which you quaintly call "stacking". And then the city put on one of the worst presentations I've ever at any public gathering. I went in skeptical of the city but open to their side about the issue and I came out fully supportive of the Task Force.

Reading what y'all are writing on this subject now, it seems like the city made a huge mistake in not letting Hyde Parkers with your POV make their presentation. Then it would have been a battle between two sets of Hyde Parkers and you guys couldn't have done any worse than the city with the presentation.

The complaints about "self-appointed" groups and "stacking" meetings are just another way of pointing out that their side was smarter about the politics of the situation. Every tactic they employed was available to you and the city and are always available to developers, too.

You guys need to stop whining about how much more politically savvy your opponents are and adopt some of their strategies. Form your own self-appointed task force that will tend to be pro-density. I'll even help.

The only truly unfair thing you've even accused the Task Force of doing was surprising a part of the Task Force with a new plan at the city meeting. I don't remember that being particularly important at the South Shore meeting; in fact, I don't even remember their proposal. Frankly, the city's presentation was so awful that the crowd was mostly responding to that IIRC.

So, there are four options here, I think, for explaining why the J-Spicer-type groups are getting the better of you.

1) They have better ideas.
2) They're much better at selling their ideas and applying the levers of power.
3) Their ideas are easier to sell.
4) The tie-dyed t-shirts in their closets give them magical powers.

You can do something about #2, you know.

Elizabeth Fama said...


For some reason, the Save the Point link on the right column of the main page of the blog only turns up one article. But if you click on it to get into that article, there will be a Save the Point label at the bottom of that article (near my by-line) that will pop up the whole series in a row. Try that.

I really will have to write up that timeline, because you're mistaking the last meeting at the Cultural Center (2003, I think, and I was there too) with the 2001 meeting that I was referring to, in which there was a sort of coup of the original Task Force by what would eventually become the Save the Point group.

If I'm limited to the options that you list, I'd choose #2, they're better at selling their ideas. But I think they do it essentially through omission -- by not explaining the truly complicated nature of the problem. I believe they do it deliberately, knowing how deeply people feel attached to the Point, and that they will in good faith support a cause to save it.

So maybe option #5 is most accurate: they are great at marketing.

I guarantee you that my neighbors are uninformed, unless you're speaking specifically of Rossi, who lives across the street from me. I'd be willing to bet a great deal of money that the average Hyde Parker (who did NOT go to the last meeting at the Cultural Center) could not describe the Compromise Plan.

Ask anyone you know other than Jack and the current task force members about the Compromise Plan and they'll probably say it's a concrete mess, totally inappropriate to the aesthetics and history of the place. A few of them will say the Point should just be left as it is. I'll bet the average person sporting a blue bumper sticker thinks he's supporting a limestone plan. Go ahead and ask them, "What does saving the Point mean?"

Yesterday you called us poseurs, but I would argue for myself that I'm just trying to use this blog as a marketing device, to counteract Jack's admittedly superb marketing, with what I consider to be important information people should truly understand in order to participate in the process.


chicago pop said...

This is C-Pop, Chief Poseur, signing in to say I'm glad that James is back in Posers Corner after a few body checks in the comment box yesterday. I'm not sure what I'm posing as, other than a blogger who gets pissed when he reads the Herald, like dozens of other folks who don't make a hobby of figuring out how to stage coups and routs at community meetings, and tend to think such things are ridiculous. You're absolutely right, James, that the folks who silently read this blog and go "right on!" are not well organized. The NIMBY contingent, on the contrary, is. HPP is one way, as Elizabeth states, to at least let people know that the Herald -- which DOES give the impression of speaking for an Establishment -- is not the only game in town. This did not exist a few months ago.

But James, you do make an offer that's too good not to seriously consider. I think it calls for a little market research in some upcoming posts, perhaps asking readers, as one of them ("SR") suggested a while back, why they read this? Would they be willing to sign a petition? Go yell down some NIMBYs at a neighborhood meeting? I don't know. Most of the folks I know who read this work 9-5 in the Loop, have small children, and can't spare lots of time for sans-culottishness. But you never know. The middle classes, when roused, may well go to the mat for better shopping.

Perhaps we should wrap this particular thread up -- as it's getting long -- and continue it either off-line amongst ourselves, or in relation to a future post on tactics and strategy.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Oh, I see in my Sept. 23, 9:20 PM comment that I called the meeting in which the 9-Point Compromise Plan was rejected "the last community meeting." That was a poor choice of words, and I see how James got confused. It was SUPPOSED to be the last meeting with the City, the original Task Force, and the community -- sort of a formality, to sign off on the 9-Point Compromise Plan. But then it was shouted down.

The TRULY last community meeting that James is referring to was at the Cultural Center, to present the Compromise Plan (the final concession being two steps of limestone blocks). It was also shouted down, although James may remember that I did take a turn at the microphone to lend a supportive voice to the Plan, risking life and limb (or at least booing by people I know).

James will object to this comment on several levels, but I've decided to say it: a lot of people don't like the rancor of the picketers at those meetings, and stay home because of it. My mother-in-law announced that she'd never go to another Point meeting after the Cultural Center. It was too unpleasant and embarrassing for her.

I suppose you could call that a kind of skill at "applying the levers of power" (scaring calm, thoughtful people away from public discussion) but to me it felt like bullying at that meeting.

Which is why I participate in this blog using my real name: I'm trying to be clear and reasoned about my opinions on the Point, and to open a discussion in a different way -- a way that may feel safer to some people than public meetings.

chicago pop said...

OK folks, I'm closing this one down, because we're moving off the petition topic and into the issue of organizing, influence, marketing, etc.

I'm going to put up a new post that will let us continue this discussion for now -- nothing special, just a few sentences. Please post further thoughts there. We'll have a more substantial post on the problems of rancorous community meetings and Hyde Parkers who have opinions but don't like to get screamed at in the near future.