The Jefferson Park Free Press

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March 6, 2006

Volume III            News and Commentary               Issue III

by Robert Bank


Say Good-by to Jefferson Park Before It Says Good-by to You?

The 5500 W. Edmunds block is being transformed from a quiet residential neighborhood made up of an entire block of single-family ranch homes, to a canyon of condominiums with nary a blade of grass between them. This, not even two years after a severe flood destroyed two brand new condos around the corner on Higgins Avenue.

Anyone that watches public television knows that lawns, yards and open land help soak up excess rainwater and that communities across the country are realizing this now and are forcing builders to set aside green space not just for aesthetics but for alleviating flooding.

Not so in Chicago and in the 45th ward in particular. 45th Ward Alderman Pat Levar is letting an entire block of sturdy ranch homes along with their yards and front lawns dis-appear from the landscape. The Alderman finally held a meeting, inviting some of the homeowners but it was already after one condo was being built and another had received its permit to be built. Ald. Levar claimed he was thinking of downzoning the block so that only single-family homes could be built there. This is akin to closing the door after the horse has left the barn, actually not even that, it’s more like “thinking” about closing the door after the horse has left the barn.

Developers started snapping up the homes on W. Edmunds because of their high-density zoning (R4). Every one of the homes on the block except two, is either being developed into condos or has recently been bought by a developer. One poor ranch home owner now has a giant 4-unit condominium running nearly the entire length of the west side of his property, and soon will have another one running almost the entire length of the east side of his property. He can say good-by to the sun and his vegetable garden, maybe he can grow mushrooms instead. Gone too are the young children riding up and down the sidewalk with their parents and neighbors chatting on the stoop. “Some people leave their neighborhood but in this case the neighborhood left us,” said one resident. Another resident, while loading the moving truck, after finally giving in to a developers large cash offer, said, “don’t get me wrong, we received a fair price for our property, but we remodeled this house from top to bottom, we intended to stay here, but many of our neighbors are gone and our son has only one playmate left near here now, we really feel like we were forced to move.”

And so another nice family leaves Jefferson Park.


What will it take to get 45th Ward Alderman Levar to stand up for 45th Ward residents?

38th Ward Alderman Tom Allen and 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter and several other aldermen have down-zoned several residential neighborhoods in their wards to RS2. Downzoning to RS2 would prevent developers from splitting lots and squeezing in two buildings on a lot that used to hold just one home.

Large-scale downzoning to RS2 will ensure that the character of our neighborhoods will remain.



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The Cheat Sheet


It’s All About The Dash (-)                                   (edited from our February’05 issue)

As the number following the dash goes up so does the density. For example a “- 1” requires a minimum of 2,500 square ft. of lot area for every unit, a “-1.5” allows 1,350 square feet of lot area per unit,  “- 2” allows only 1000 sq. ft. of lot area per unit and a  “-3” allows for even greater density requiring only 400 square feet per unit. So for example if you had 29,800 sq. ft. of land and you were zoned B2-3 you could build 74 condos! If the property was zoned B2-2 you would be allowed 29 condos, B2-1.5 would allow for 22 condos and if zoned B2-1, you could only build 11 condos.

That number after the dash makes a big difference. Now imagine that you bought a property zoned B3-1 but you were able to get it rezoned to B2-3, that “dash three” could make your property worth a lot, lot more. Why should the Alderman and the City give away that zoning? What is the community getting in return for this extreme density? What about the impact on the schools, traffic congestion, flooding and quality of life in general? Why would Alderman Levar want to diminish the quality of life just to increase a developer’s profits? If a developer bought the property as zoned let him build as zoned. Once the zoning change is allowed, a precedent will have been set and the City will have a very difficult time refusing, if it can refuse at all, future requests for up-zoning on the remaining parcels of that block.


Example:         Zoning classification for B2-__                          Example: 29,800 sq. ft lot


Dash  1     :    2,500 sq. ft. minimum lot area   per unit               allows approx. 11 condos

Dash  1.5  :    1,350 sq. ft. minimum lot area   per unit               allows approx. 22 condos

Dash  2     :    1,000 sq. ft. minimum lot area   per unit               allows approx. 29 condos

Dash  3     :       400 sq. ft. minimum lot area   per unit               allows approx. 74 condos 




The same applies for residential zoning. The density issue especially comes into play with older homes on double lots (50 x 125), which have 6,250 square feet or more. This type property has become attractive to developers because they can be torn down and replaced with two homes. The increased density affects not just the character of the neighborhood but also parking, school overcrowding and flooding (as green space that acted as a watershed is reduced).

Leaving a home on a double lot under R3 zoning or greater is like leaving a freshly baked pie on the window sill with the aroma wafting under the noses of developers. Down-zoning to “current use” such as R2 would stop the destruction of homes existing on double-lots. Note the chart below.


RS 1     :         6,250 sq. ft. minimum lot area required per unit      allows  1   unit  on a double lot

RS 2     :         5,000 sq. ft. minimum lot area required per unit      allows  1   unit  on a double lot

RS 3     :         2,500 sq. ft. minimum lot area required per unit    *allows 2.5 units on a double lot

RT 3.5  :         1,250 sq. ft. minimum lot area required per unit    *allows  5   units on a double lot

RT 4     :         1,000 sq. ft. minimum lot area required per unit    *allows  6   units on a double lot

           * a variance, or a slightly larger lot may allow for an extra unit.