Thursday, January 25, 2007

Schedule of Aldermanic Debates and Forums

Aldermanic debates and forums will take place at the following locations and times:

Sunday, Jan 28th, 2:30-4:00 PM
Good News Community Church
7649 N. Paulina
Sponsored by Northside POWER
For more information, contact Daniel Romero, 773-262-2297

Thursday, Feb 1st, 7:00-8:30 PM
Loyola Park Fieldhouse
1230 W. Greenleaf Ave.
Sponsored by the Rogers Park Community Council, DevCorp North, Family Matters, & Howard Area Community Center
For more information, contact Mary Jane Haggarty 773-338-7722, ext. 26

Saturday, Feb 3rd, 10:00 AM
United Church of Rogers Park
1545 W. Morse Ave.
Sponsored by Rogers Park Community Action Network
For more information, contact Lisa Griffith at 773-973-7888

Wednesday, Feb 7th 7PM
United Church of Rogers Park
1545 W. Morse
Sponsored by the Organization of the Northeast/League of Women Voters
For more information, call Astrid Saurez at 773-769-3232

Wednesday, Feb 14th, 7:30 -9:00 AM
No Exit Cafe
6970 N. Glenwood Ave.
Sponsored by Rogers Park BizArts, DevCorp North, & www.rogerspark.com
For more information, call DevCorp North at 773-508-5885

Wednesday, Feb14, 10:00-11:30 AM
Good News Community Church
7649-51 N. Paulina
Sponsored by the Howard Area Alternative High School & Howard Area Seniors Club
For more information, call Sister Cecilia Fandel at 773-973-4812

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Congestion is Green: NYC as the Greenest City

For years past now, many Chicagoans have been bemoaning the increasing "Manhattanization" of Chicago, as more neighborhoods of single-family homes and two-family flats are rebuilt with large apartment buildings and condominium complexes containing 50 or more units.

However, increasing the city's density is the only way to reduce waste, create walkable neighborhoods, and provide support for quality retail and city services such as rapid transit. Most of all, the high density megacity is possibly the only way we can accomodate a swelling population in the coming era of permanent resource scarcity.

I recently found a great site, Walkable Cities, which reprinted an article by David Owen, that was originally published in The New Yorker, entitled "NYC is the Greenest City in America" (www.walkablestreets.com/manhattan.htm). Owen builds an elegant case for the high-density megacity as the only plausible solution to the energy squeeze and the massive destruction of farmland and natural habitats that have resulted from suburban sprawl.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Greening of Chicago: Hype vs. Reality

We are, I suppose, still a little heady from all the favorable national publicity our city has received recently, touting our fair town as one of the nation's "greenest" cities and heaping accolades (many deserved) upon Mayor Daley, citing the many civic improvements and major steps taken toward improving our parks, cleaning up the formerly toxic and fetid Chicago River, encouraging recycling and waste reduction, and developing the beautiful Millenium Park, a wonderful civic amenity of the type that people come to live here in order to enjoy. Additionally, he has led the city in taking baby steps toward sustainability, such as requiring all new public buildings to be Leeds-certified, and starting a recycling program of sorts.

However, I tend to be a little skeptical of anyone who has become the object of widespread and unquestioning adulation on the part of the media pundits. Mayor Daley is not only beloved of the greenies, but receives high ratings from suburban Republican power brokers, which is reason enough for skepticism.

I recently picked up a copy of Conscious Choice, a locally-published, free magazine dedicated to eco-consciousness, with which I'm sure the reader of this blog is familiar. What drew my attention to this particular issue was a cover blurb that said: Mayor Daley Talks Eco Consciousness. Inside the rag, I immediately found the article entitled "The Great Green Augustus- Conscious Choice talks eco-consciousness with our mayor".

The article that followed the attention-grabbing title was an interview that, giving the author every chance and making every allowance for naivete and good intentions his part, was an outrageously flattering and utterly uncritical "puff piece", that depicted Hizzoner as the Great Green Savior of Chicago, and depicts the city as it was previous to Daley's reign as "a rusty and decaying, soot-stained brick" , and our mayor as the "Great Green Augustus" who "found the city brick and left it marble", as was said of Roman Emperor Augustus Caeser, to whom Shaw compared Daley.

These days, "green" and "eco-consciousness" and "sustainability" are popular "buzz words" among politicians, who now strive to surround themselves with a 'green' aura in the same manner that some other pols evoke God and Country', and Daley has so thoroughly wrapped himself in the green mantle that national media is as uncritical as the local free papers in their plaudits to the mayor.

Yet just how "green" is Chicago, really? One site dedicated to urban affairs, City Mayors(http://www.citymayors.com/environment/us_greencities.html) has ranked Chicago number 10 among the 10 greenest cities in the country, noting the city's high water quality, number of green-certified large building projects, and citing the fact that a third of the population uses public transportation to get to work. Other surveys, however, manage to cite the city as one of the greenest while forbearing to mention public transportation, which is just possibly due to the fact that Daley is notoriously stingy with funding for the deteriorating agency: funding is frozen at the same level it was in the early 80s- a miserly $3 million per year.

I find that the people who rank these things tend to overemphasize appearance and green "window dressing" at the expense of initiatives that could make a real dent in the city's fuel consumption. Chicago's much-touted recycling program is, at this point, scarcely enforced and therefore meaningless. Conscious Choice, in "Riding the Zeitgeist: The Chicago Green Report Card 2007", did not even mention public transportation in the criteria used to rank the city, yet nothing could do more to reduce the city's dependence upon depleting fuel supplies and help Chicago retain its liveability and economic viability in the fuel-short times to come.

Most of all, the city's transit is not used by enough of the population enough of the time to make a serious difference in fuel consumption and automobile dependence, which are the two most serious environmental and economic issues confronting the country and the world at this moment and in the future. As previously noted, only one third of our population commutes by public transit, while 82% of New York City residents do, and public transit in general seems to be a low priority item among both our city leadership and our local environmentalists. Yet, given inexorable trends in world oil production, you would think this would be the most urgent issue on the mayor's agenda.

However, instead of committing to adequately funding the CTA and working with its management to ensure that it functions adequately day-to-day; and committing to expanding and improving the system so that it will meet the needs of all residents in the post-oil age that is nearly upon us, the mayor has starved the system of necessary city funding while committing obscenely excessive amounts of money to pharoanic 'vanity' projects that do little to enhance service, such as the ludicrous $213 million Block 37 superstation, to which the city is committing $42 million. However, the $3 million committed to operations has stayed level for nearly twenty five years and therefore has lost at least half its value due to inflation.

The need to repair and expand our decrepit and increasingly unreliable transit system was never more urgent. The United States currently imports over 75% of its oil, since our own production peaked in 1970 and has since fallen to 5 million barrels a day (and still dropping), while our daily use has increased to 22 million barrels per day, while the world's oil fields are now plateauing or declining in production. Many prominent oil analysts and geologists believe that we are now at or past peak, and are now on the way down the slope of depletion.

Chicago's economic vitality and perhaps its very viability as a civilized place to live and work is dependent upon these resources and the prudent management thereof. It is sobering to consider how a reduction in available oil of, say, 10% would affect this area in its current state of almost total dependence upon automobiles.

Unfortunately, our mayor seems to be less than obsessed about the possibility of the city being rendered partly immobile and far less liveable by increasingly expensive and unreliable fuel supplies, and more interested in "green" projects that win plaudits for beautification and amenity while neglecting the system that really is the lifeblood of the city. Meanwhile, widely-touted 'green' initiatives such as the city's current recycling program, are failing in their purpose through lack of interest in ongoing support and enforcement. Blogger Toni Duncan of 24/7 HowardWatchers has provided valuable information on Chicago's recyling program (http://www.howardwatchers.com).

Worse, under Daley's leadership, the city has diverted hundreds of millions of future tax dollars away from essential transit , schools, police and fire protection, emergency preparedness, and other essential services, and instead is pouring them into the pockets of politically connected developers and corporate entities via TIF districts, resulting in a steep net loss to the city of not only future tax revenues, but of small business and jobs essential to the finegrained urban interface. The fact that most TIF districts fail of their stated purpose doesn't seem to be a deterrent to either King Richard or his Club 50, whose sheeplike members can be relied upon to rubberstamp each TIF boondogle as fast as it is conceived.

What will we do when we really need the money? How will we cope when we badly need to expand the transit system drastically, find alternative energy sources for our dozens of massive skyscrapers, and most of all provide a minimal level of basic city services in a time when the economic base may be rapidly eroding due to a critical lack of essential resources?

There is really no way to adequately prepare for a time when we will have, at most, half the oil available to us we have now, and there's barely time even if we could- the suggested timeframe for preparation is 20 years, which we don't have. By the best estimates, world oil production will peak in year 2015 latest, and many oil analysts, most prominent among them Dr. Kenneth Deffeyes, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, feel that we are now past peak.

Chicago may have made the first halting, and largely symbolic, steps toward sustainability, but the city is at this point in time critically lacking in the systems and arrangements that will make life possible, let alone comfortable, in such a pass as Dr. Deffeyes, Dr. Colin Campbell, and other experts assure us will surely be the case in another ten to twenty years. The fact that we are in better case than most of the rest of the U. S. is nothing to boast about, since most locations in this country don't even possess a transit system of any kind, and yet other major cities, notably Phoenix , Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, are also confronting catostrophic shortages of water. It isn't impossible to imagine that, in an era where we no longer have the cheap fuel to build and maintain monster water diversion projects, that Chicago and other midwestern cities might find themselves overwhelmed with an influx of desperate refugees from cities that have become suddenly very hostile to human habitation , as well as floods of suburbanites fleeing suddenly non-negotiable suburbs and insupportable heat bills on 4,000 square foot houses.

Hizzoner might not have considered all this, because, remember, he has just discovered a "new word": global warming. Yep, really. Well, it's time to teach him and Club 50 a couple more new words, such as Peak Oil and Resource Depletion.

We like to think that somewhere in the vast labyrinth of our federal, state, and municipal governments, and the various agencies, there are brainy, dedicated, informed people of ability and resolve who are working quietly and relentlessly on the city's deficiencies, but we can't count on that. The destruction of New Orleans, and the ineptitude and total cluelessness of every single person upon whom a population depends upon for organization and guidance in the event of calamity, in the chaos and total breakdown of lifeline services in Katrina catastrophe, revealed a chain with not just one weak link but that was rusty and broken from one end to the next.

So, while there is time, we need to do the following:

Repair and vastly expand public transit. At this time, Chicago's doddering transit system is completely inadequate to serve the city and inner Cook County in its current form. The current radial train system, in which all lines run from downtown to points north , south, and west, with a loose network of buses that run infrequently and unreliably, is unusable by the majority of the population that dwells in the 'bugalow belts' of the northwest and southwest side neighborhoods, in that it leaves large gaps measuring many square miles almost completely unserved by reliable, fast transportation. In fact, many neighborhoods have no service at all after 8 PM, leaving their residents no alternative to automobile dependence. This happened because these neighborhoods were built to very low density not much different than that of the typical older, inner-ring suburb. A near term solution are both inner-circle and outer-circle trains that connect the existing north-south rail lines, which takes us to.....

Planning and rezoning for greater transit use and walkability. High population densities are necessary to support transit, especially heavy rail, and only downtown and on the north lakefront does Chicago possess the population density necessary to provide ridership in the numbers necessary to support rail. Worse, low-density neighborhoods of single-family homes lack the dense commercial and retail that make a neighborhood negotiable on foot. As most neighborhoods now are configured, you have to drive some distance, often out of the neighborhood, just to get a loaf of bread and a can of coffee; and most residents of the outer neighorhoods travel to the suburbs in search of good shopping and recreation, taking vitality and variety, as well as sales tax dollars, out there with them.

The best way to reverse the process by which the outer neighborhoods are drained of vitality and services, and then finally of residents, is to rezone all neighborhoods to foster high populations and a density of retail and services around the tranist nodes formed by rail transfer points. The suggested density is usually residential buildings with retail at grade level, and 4 or 5 stories of condominiums or rental housing above, with parking concealed in the building or behind it. Retail spaces should be small enough to be affordable by the types of businesses needed to fully service a densely populated neighborhood.

To accomplish this, and in conjunction with it, the improvement and expansion of our transit, we need first to overcome the local bias towards low-density neighborhoods and single-family housing, and it is for our elected and appointed leaders to display vision and leadership in this area. However, since they aren't, we will have to hound them to do it, which means that most of us will have to rethink the way we think about the city and the way we arrange our lives in it.

Refitting our utilities and communications networks. Daley has at taken some tiny steps in this area by demanding that 20% of all power purchased by the city be produced by renewable resources. Just how ComEd will do this is not exactly clear. While Chicago has been spared the widespread and prolonged outages experienced by other major cities in the past couple of years, there is no reason to have confidence in the ability of our local utilility do deliver power in the amounts needed , reliably and economically in the future. The national grid is at present extremely frayed, and the utilities have made no significant investment in maintaining and improving it for many years, even though it is now obvious that electricity will not only be our major source of motive power for our vehicles and most other activities, but possibly our only reliable source of power in a near future in which natural gas, currently depleting rapidly, is expensive and difficult to get. Yet we are still dependent upon natural gas for a substantial part of our power generation. Worse, nuclear has been taken off the table and no new nuclear plants have been built or planned since the 1970s. This means that as our aging nuclear fleet produces less power and is decommissioned, the lost capacity is replaced by coal, with ominous implications for our future air quality and health.

Real leadership in this area means reviving the nuclear building program, as renewables such as solar, wind, and biomass are in their infancy and could not, now or in the near future, provide more than 5% of our power. Some experts believe that renewables may never replace the fossil fuels in their ability to generate the amount of power needed for basic comfort and amenity of this country's swollen population. I believe that at some point, renewables will be sufficiently developed to provide for our energy needs, but we badly need nuclear in order to buy time. I know that many environmentalists are vehemently opposed to nuclear for reasons known to us all, notably because of the amounts of indestructible, highly toxic waste they generate. However, those who are concerned with the effects of possible radiation exposure on our health need to consider what the level of health among the general, non-rich population ( that's me and most likely you) will be in the absence of heat, food, potable water, basic hygiene and sanitation, and any form of motorized transportation. The only alternative to reliable and affordable electricity is a regression to a pre-technological life, and if you don't know what that would mean for most of us, start studying history.

Additionally, the city should aggressively encourage property owners to install alternative means of generating electricity , such as solar panels and generators, by means of generous tax incentives, and perhaps even by fostering the formation of neighborhood power co-operatives.

Related to this is the reliabilitly of our essential communications networks. These are not disposable, especially in a future era of chronic fuel shortages, and are completely critical to the operation of the economy and maintenance of civil order. The maintenance of our telecommunications and the internet are necessary for the continued functioning of the economy on any level, and the intelligent utilization of the internet can already greatly reduce our use of essential resources. A wireless network providing complete coverage to all neighborhoods and suburbs is absolutely essential in that wireless infrastructure can be built and maintained for a fraction of the energy and materials necessary for lines and cables. This technology has proved to be a boon for third world nations that totally lack the means for a massive build-out of cable and electrical lines. Yet, at this time, our local wireless service is far from seamless. I have discovered one wireless high-speed internet service that serves Chicago, and is independent of the cellular phone companies, but it does not yet provide coverage to all neighborhoods or to the suburbs. Most wireless internet is linked to cellular phone service, requires the user to be near a 'hot spot' that is usually located at a retail outlet such as Starbucks, and morever is frequently a dial-up. Yet, a seamless and powerful wireless network that would not only be reliable in the event of power outages, but could be made available cheaply to everyone in the city for the price of a cheap dial-up connection is possible. The obstacles are principally political, and it is necessary for our leaders to take the initiative in this area. Yet, after a brief flurry of excitement over the prospects of wireless internet, the issue was abrubtly shelved and there has been no discussion of it since.

These are the major items that need to be dealt with if Chicago is to have a future any of us would want to be a part of, or could even hope to survive. There are many other things we must do in order to be able to deal with future necessities, such as the need to relocalize manufacturing and food production , among other things. However, the above issues are the most urgent, and right now there is nothing in our mayor's utterances or actions that indicates that he is even aware that we might have problems in these areas, or that these are even problems at all.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Tyranny of the Community

Two recently proposed projects, a mixed-use condominium development on Howard St. to be build by developer Robert Coe, and a jazz club to be located at the old Cobbler's Mall building on Morse, have generated somewhat heated commentary in the local community, most notably on two of Rogers Park's most prominent blogs HowardWatchers (http://howardwatchers.blogsource.com/), and the Broken Heart of Rogers Park (http://morsehellhole.blogspot.com/); and dozens of other developments and businesses are being shown to the communities along the north lakefront , including a long-awaited mid rise condominium at Broadway and Grandville, in Edgewater, and numerous other large projects in Edgewater and Uptown.

Since many parts of the north lakefront are being rebuilt almost from the ground up, after reaching a state of blight and disuse that is the last stage before abandonment, we have a unique opportunity to actively participate in the design of our neighborhoods, and the various stakeholders- residents, businesses, property owners, renters- all have a right to a voice in the construction of their neighborhood's elements, including the density, the appearance, the uses of property, and the types of businesses that will be permitted to operate in the area.

There tends to be, however, one consideration that almost never enters into the debate, that of property rights- the right of a property or business owner to develop and/or operate a property or business within the laws and rules already established for the property, without undue obstruction and interference from the "community", and its various representatives.

I'm not here to defend the "right" of a property owners or business proprietors to make any use of their properties and businesses they may decide, without reference to the context in which they operate. Communities have not only the right, but the obligation to restrict or prohibit harmful uses and inappropriate densities and configurations, in order to prevent, say, a sewage reclamation plant, or a decrepitating and dangerous apartment building, from being built or operated in the vicinity. They also have the right to regulate lot lines, setbacks, separation of uses, and other requirements, and to otherwise use zoning and planning as tools to achieve what community consensus deems is the ideal mix of usages, even though these decisions are frequently disastrous and are the direct cause of the deterioration of an area.

However, when does legitimate community oversight and regulation that protects everyone's rights to the use and enjoyment of his own property, become despotic and violative of an owner's rights? Once a developer or business owner has delivered a plan to the community that meets every reasonable requirement under the law, is for an approved use, and has allowed members of the community who might be affected by the project to voice their reasonable objections, it would seem that the "community" and it's representatives, whether official or self-appointed, should step back and recognize that this is someone else's property, money, and future that is on the line and that our "rights" in the situation have been duly exercised, and should end at this point.

At this point, the local political leadership has the ability to gut a business owner's best-laid plans, even when the proprietor is local, reputable, and his business is in absolute conformity to local codes and regulations. As we have seen, failure to contribute to the local Ward King's war chest is a costly strategic goof on the part of the aspirant- the developers of Island Groove, both reputable, local men, never contributed to 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore's campaign fund and were denied their liquor license despite strong community support for their proposed jazz venue. It's hard to believe that the concurrence of these two circumstances is a coincidence. Some people have suggested that race was an issue, and it could have been, but my belief is that the power vested in our local aldermen has made doing business in the city a 'pay-to-play' proposition.

Citizens have responded to the despotism and corruption of their local leaders by attempting, usually without much success, to derail every project proposed by the detested politico's campaign contributors, without regard to the merits of the project or lack thereof. This is understandable, given individual citizen's powerless in the face of overwhelming corruption and lack of consideration for the welfare of the ward and its denizens by our current alderman.

We are helpless to combat our local alderman-overlord's slumlord contributors such as Jay Johnson and Bud Ogle, we are powerless to prevent even more destructive businesses from sprouting in known trouble spots such as scabby Clark St., and we are defenseless in the face of city -sponsored larceny resulting in the misdirection of hundreds of millions of dollars , that are redirected from our essential city services and civic amenities available to all, at great cost to taxpayers who will derive no benefit either financially or in kind, to private developers who are thereby shielded from entrepreneurial risk while being guaranteed windfall profits with no regard for the results. The results are not only that the blight is not cured, but blight on a mass scale has been introduced at great cost, in ugly, over- scaled development that we will be stuck with for another 30 years, from the aesthetic atrocity of the failed Gateway Center that was developed with funds from the Howard-Paulina TIF, or the renovation of buildings, through the Loyola TIF, belonging to Loyola University, which institution not only never has and never will pay a dime in property taxes, but is directly responsible for the blighted, underutilized properties that deface Sheridan Road between Albion and Granville.

So, we register our protest the only way we can, which is to do our best to obstruct attractive, constructive projects that will greatly enhance the quality of the neighborhood, merely because their sponsors have paid to play in our ward, and have contributed to the coffers of a leader we despise in order to do business. Our knee jerk response is understandable but it is not constructive.

A more constructive course would be to redesign the approval process to make zoning more a matter of land use appropriate for an urban neighborhood, and less a matter of politics and the push-pull between vocal citizens and aldermen with absolutist power over their wards. If a development or business meets all applicable codes, if the type of use is approved for the site, if the developer has the appropriate qualifications and licenses, and if his subcontractors also meet all applicable requirements, then the project should be approved whether the alderman, and the community, approves of it or not, since the community's will has already been written into the zoning and land use rules, unless a variance has been requested. If the project is one that would be a nuisance or inappropriate by the rules and codes, it should not be approved no matter how many bucks its sponsors have donated to the campaign coffers of the local politicians.

Rogers Park's Identity Crises

One local blogger, Craig Gernhardt, is pursuing the parking issue in his attack on the new jazz venue proposed for blighted Morse Ave, and in a post that appeared about a month back, he suggested that the notorious gang redoubt at 1340 W. Morse be demolished and replaced with a large parking structure. He stated that local businesses 'need parking to survive', and completely bypassed the ongoing and obvious problem of security and safety, which is the true deterrent to development of Morse Ave., and the rest of the area. Parking is not the problem on Morse, for there are tens of thousands of potential customers living within a few blocks of the area, and at this time most of their money is spent in other neighborhoods and towns. Meanwhile, businesses flee the area because of public safety issues.

If there is anything that Rogers Park and other lakefront neighborhoods distinctly do not need, it is more parking or any other furniture, for automobiles. In fact, it is mass car ownership that has caused our cities to become blighted and unsafe to begin with, and it is the massive misallocation of tax monies at the federal, state, and local level to the construction and maintenance of roads and highways and other appurtanances for the comfort of cars and drivers, that has drained hundreds of billions of dollars from our cities and the civic amenities that make life liveable for all of us. Instead, we have redirected these dollars to Suburban Sprawl development, which unfortunately has engulfed our cities and dominates the thinking of our planners and officials. In fact, most of us can't imagine any other way of doing things.
Get this: Automobiles destroy cities. It doesn't get any simpler than that.The more convenient and comfortable the streets are for automobiles and their drivers, the less convenient and liveable they are for pedestrians, and for city life in general. It is very disconcerting to the shopper on foot to have to negotiate not only fast-moving vehicular traffic, but the wilderness of parking lots, curb cuts, and small intersections created by a string of suburban-style strip malls. This type of development makes streets much easier to negotiate by car than on foot, and thus kills the legitimate 'street life' of a city, as the streets are emptied of pedestrians and the small businesses that they patronized, and become a wasteland populated by criminals and other undesirables.

Rogers Park is now at a crossroads. The revitalization of this great lakefront neighborhood is taking place at an important juncture in American history, which is the permanent depletion of the world's oil and other necessary resources, and the necessity of downsizing and rescaling our lives in order to be able to afford the necessities of life. If we also want to be able to afford the basic comforts of a technological society, such as reliable electricity and some form of motorized transportation, we will have to radically alter the way we live, and make very difficult choices.

In sum, we will have to choose between running our cars and turning on the lights. Or, running our cars and heating the house. Or, we may have to choose between owning a car and having a place to live, which is already the choice thrust upon denizens of the Chicago region who make less than $9 an hour. As the world's supplies of oil deplete further, and as the price of oil surges, many more people will have to give up more amenities to meet their basic needs.
We can preserve most modern amenities in the face of steeply declining fuel supplies, but only if we arrange things differently, and realize that a manner of life dependent upon making six automobile trips per day and commuting 40 miles each direction to work will not vibe with new realities.

Residents of Chicago, particularly those who reside on the dense north lakefront, are singularly fortunate in that they dwell in one of the handful of areas in the United States in which a person can live a comfortable life with easy access to goods, services, cultural amenities, workplaces, and all the other accoutrements of civilization , without ever driving a car. The area is almost designed for the type of life that most Americans will have to adopt in order to live with comfort and technological amenity in the post-oil era to come.
Unfortunately, Rogers Park has an identity crises of sorts, and can't decide whether it wants to be a truly urban area, or another suburb. Most of us have, unwittingly, adopted the suburban model as our idea of how a city should look and function, which means that automobiles and their needs take precedence over every other consideration, most of all for the qualities that make a city liveable and attractive to begin with. The result is an urban environment increasingly lacking in walkability, convenience to public transportation, and beauty.
Other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, are far ahead of Chicago in limiting horizontal growth, and most important, in rebuilding themselves as traditional cities in which the citizens can live, work, shop, and relax within the comfortable confines of a half-mile walk. Toward this goal, Portland has vastly expanded its public transit, and has revamped its zoning laws to require multi-use (residential and commercial) buildings that contribute to the civic life by their design, such as the requirement for windows and retail at grade level.

Even car-crazed Los Angeles is awakening to the fact that the car-centered lifestyle is becoming unaffordable, in addition to making Los Angeles almost unliveable. The city is now building additional train lines as quickly as the money can be allocated and land acquired, though not quite as quickly as they tore up their 2000 miles of street-car track 50 years ago.
Chicago has been praised as the nation's 'greenest' city merely by virtue of environmental 'window dressing' such as 'green' rooftops and new parks, which, while wonderful, don't go far towards reducing energy consumption or enabling the city to survive, let alone thrive, in the energy-short times ahead.

We here in Rogers Park, which is supposedly a liberal, progressive neighborhood of 'tree-huggers', do still worse than the city as a whole and the other lakefront neighborhoods. There is a strong current of resistance in this area to real urban life, that usually expresses itself in opposition to high-density residential development, and the persistant demand for more parking, in an area where almost everyone lives within 8 blocks of the Red Line, and in close proximity to all-night bus service to the city and nearby suburbs.

We could begin real progress in the revitalization of Rogers Park as an exciting, attractive, and safe urban neighborhood by first of all demanding changes in our building codes that will prevent any more strip malls such as Gateway Center, as well as the numerous grungy little strips along Clark and Morse, from being constructed.

We can then rescind the requirement to provide parking for newly - constructed condos and apartments that are within eight blocks of public transportation.

These are baby steps in the journey toward reconstructing our community as a place that is friendly, beautiful and safely walkable, but they would constitute a large improvement over the current tendacy to imitate the suburbs in types of building and in placing cars ahead of humans.

The North Coast Premier

This blog comes after two years of considering whether I wanted to divert time and energy from painting and other writing, to start yet another blog dedicated to the affairs and characters that make Chicago's lakefront neighborhoods, when there are already so many blogs already existing, dedicated to the various issues of Uptown, Lakeview, Edgewater, and most of all Rogers Park, where no fewer than a dozen blogs, ranging from incidental and boring, to major and extremely well-written, are maintained by local citizens who care passionately for their neighborhoods and this city.

This journal covers the issues and events, people and places, that I believe matter, in the all the neighborhoods of Chicago's North Coast that I have always loved, as best as I can keep up with them. I will be copying the few posts extant from my previous blog at http://thenorthcoast.blogsource.com , and will be closing that site shortly.

All articles on this site are of my own authorship unless otherwise indicated, and any photographs or other visual material that appears here is also mine, unless otherwise indicated. Any material created by someone else will be used only with the author's permission and will be properly attributed.

I welcome all comments, and you are not required to join the blogsite in order to post a comment, nor or you required to reveal your identity. However, posts that are, by my standards, extremely offensive or obscene, or posts that slander an individual or entity, will be removed. I reserve the right to block individuals, and in order to block trolls and spam, will use word verification.