Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Slummification of West Rogers Park

Thanks to Craig Gernhart over at The Broken Heart for bringing up this important issue on his blog a couple of weeks back. Say what you will about Gernhart, but he tends to be the first blogger to showcase important issues and alert the rest of us to the destructive and otherwise pernicious actions of our AlderBeast and other city pols, that we otherwise might have remained unaware of.

As we now all know, Moore has decided to zone the 7400 N block of Western Ave. as C1- commercial, one of the most permissive zoning categories, which allows "tattoo parlors, carwashes, auto garages, taverns, liquor stores, and the storage of construction materials."

In the pictures above, are some of the things at stake. West Rogers Park is one of the city's most beautiful neighborhoods, and is a treasure-trove of wonderful domestic architecture, as pictured above. This area is stuffed with single-family homes and multifamily buildings of absolutely incredible quality, mostly built in the 1920s, and absolutely irreplaceable. In the photos here, you can see a small sampling of what we stand to lose by the destruction of this fine neighborhood, which still has extremely low crime and a high degree of neighborhood cohesion, but which has suffered in recent years as the blight of east Rogers Park has pushed westward. As it is, crime has crept upwards, and a number of fine old buildings have become blighted and dangerous, thanks in no small part to our AlderCreature's permissive attitude toward slumlords who happen to be his contributors.

I've never been one for conspiracy theories, but I can't help but sense that the entire north end of the city has been targeted as a dumping ground for the city's most intractable denizens, so that the inner-city areas can be redeveloped as upper-bracket enclaves.An old friend of mine long ago told me many times that this is exactly the case. Once again, pay-to-play politics are allowed to trump market forces as Da Mare and his servile, lay-down aldercreatures hatch plans that will inexorably push the most troublesome elements of the population onto the moderate-income neighborhoods of the far north side, the better to sanitize the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods.


Boxing Tomboy said...

I always suspected the idea was to push poor and working class people out to the suburbs in an effort to "take back" the city for those who have money. But the idea of putting so-called malcontents (and politicans and developers seem to think that everyone who has a regular job or is low-income must be one) into the neighborhoods on the edge of town makes a lot of sense. But if that is the tactic, it'll just further fuel the conflicts between the classes that gentrification contributes towards.

The North Coast said...

I think there are several ideas in play here.

One is, like you say, to turn the "untrendy" north end of town into a dumping ground for people and uses our leaders want to eradicate from the trendy inner neighborhoods.

Another is to give the rich owners of unsavory businesses and blighted buildings a place in the city where they can operate undisturbed.

It shouldn't be here, or West Rogers Park, or Edgewater, or anywhere else where non-criminal people in any income bracket live.

We have areas of the city that are post-industrial "brown lots" and virtually uninhabited by anyone, to place these types of uses, and for "problem" people, by which I do NOT mean low-income people, but people who have proven they are unfit to live with by their actions- criminals and the people who harbor them.

This is what comes of giving government too much power. Our local leaders have almost unlimited power to "pick winners" by their power to allocate vast sums of public money to some businesses while taxing others out of existance; by imposing zoning and uses on a neighborhood in complete opposition to the desires of its residents, and by allocating massive funding to public works that may be totally inimical to the welfare of the city or a neighborhood.

We need to work to limit the power of our leaders to make decisions that change the character of the area complete without imput from voting constituents, i.e., local residents.

billyjoe said...

You show three apartment/condo buildings and use them as examples of "what's at stake?" in West Rogers Park?

None of the buildings pictured are on Western Avenue. So what's your point?

WRP was getting bad when I moved out (to southeast Evanston) a decade ago. It has actually improved somewhat, with some new condos built in and around Western and Pratt and other side streets. Go west of Western Avenue and it gets even nicer, and will stay that way, regardless of what businesses come in on the 7400 block.

The North Coast said...

I beg to differ with you on your last statement.

Certain types of businesses and uses degrade the area steeply. Package liquor stores almost always endanger the neighborhood unless they are extremely well run, because of the type of customers they tend to attract.

The area around Indian Boundary Park is absolutely great, and so is the area just east of Western. I could stuff my space here with photos of beautiful homes and builings.

However, I know that in the past five years, the area around Ridge has developed problems with blighted buildings and gang activity, that it didn't have in 2001, and many people attribute this to one building that was managed very badly, along with a couple of very bad businesses up on Howard St, that permitted gang members to loiter on and in front of their businesses.

I will stick to my main point, that the type of zoning Moore wants to impose on this area will do nothing but harm.

The Woodlawn Wonder said...

Funny, I thought the south side was the dumping ground of the city.

The North Coast said...

Not really, Woodie. Glad to see you here, by the way.

We're getting the absolute dregs dumped on us here, and it has been that way for some time, like 25 years. People with long rap sheets, people with 18 kids by the time they're 30 years old.

We could handle SOME problems, but do we have to get everything?

Neither your area nor this one can handle so many really acute social problems, so since we can't ship these problem people to the moon or someplace, I'll settle for some distant suburb, or any place but the city.

Anonymous said...

We (my dh and I) are quite concerned about the changes which have been occuring in W.R.P. We are seeing and hearing of many more incidents - it seems weekly. What can be done to prevent this downward fall?

Jay said...

Hmm. You can totally see into my living room in that last picture.

The North Coast said...

Hi Jay!

Could I really? I have a hard time discerning anything behind the windows of any of these places.

I take it you live at the Park Castle. That is a great place.

There are so many beautiful places in West Ridge, I could devote an entire blog to them.