Preservation Update: Edgewater Triangle Neighbors Get R-3 Rezoning

Vol. XV No. 1 - SUMMER 2004

By: LeRoy Blommaert

It was an 18-month effort, but that effort culminated in success this July 14 when the Chicago City Council Committee on Zoning approved the request of the Edgewater Triangle Neighbors Association (ETNA) for a rezoning from R-4 to R-3 covering most of its residential area (ETNA’s area is the triangle bounded by Bryn Mawr, Ridge and Clark).

The story began in January 2003 when Alderman Mary Ann Smith suggested at an ETNA general meeting that the Association seek to downzone to R-3. The Association’s Board studied the issue and then moved to action when several small frame homes were torn down and replaced by brick multi-unit condos. Much of the initial credit goes to a team composed of Susan Darnall, a real estate agent and refuge from Lake View, who showed graphically through photos what happened in her former neighborhood and what could happen in the ETNA area if action were not taken, Mark and Dana Ross, Joan Monroe (also a Lake View refugee) and to Joseph Teller (president) and Michael Lauzon (vice-president). Meetings were held, outreach was made and the Association made an official request to the Alderman for rezoning. Alderman’s Smith’s Zoning and Planning Committee overwhelmingly approved the request last summer, and the rezoning request was officially made to the City.

At last the required formal City Council Committee hearing was scheduled and the formal notice to residents mailed advising them of the hearing. However, ETNA’s leadership got a scare when an unsigned, inflammatory flyer appeared in mailboxes and taped to doors less than two weeks before the hearing. It alleged dire adverse consequences if the area were down-zoned (huge reduction in property values and slum landlords coming into the neighborhood) and urged residents to mail a ballot to Alderman Smith opposing the downzoning. That effort failed. Alderman Smith kept her word and supported the downzoning.

The movement for R-3 was not based on preservation of houses because of their historic or architectural value. Rather it was based on a desire to preserve the fabric and streetscape of the neighborhood, and more importantly to prevent the replacement construction of tall multi-unit buildings that would dwarf their neighbors - primarily single family homes and 2-flats now primarily zoned R-3, only three neighborhood association areas west of Broadway remain unprotected by R-3 zoning. They are East Andersonville, and the BARGE and EPIC areas. Each is zoned R-4.

It should be emphasized that the R-3 zoning does not prohibit tear downs; what it does do is ensure that if a single family home or two flat is torn down, it will be replaced by a building of similar type, though definitely larger, and not by a multi-unit condo building.