Re the Heartland Café Site Redevelopment

The redevelopment of the Heartland Café site is a singular opportunity to get community benefits and community-centered development right. The current proposal by the developer, AGE LLC (AGE) falls short by a wide margin.

The purpose of zoning laws is to regulate land uses to ensure those uses serve and protect the public interest. When a change in zoning is contemplated, the first question should be: what is the compelling public interest to change the zoning?

AGE LLC proposes to build a predominantly high-market rate apartment building on the former site of the iconic Heartland Café at 7000 N Glenwood.

Over 125 residents attended a June 5 meeting to hear from AGE about their plans to build a 60-unit apartment building on the former Heartland Café site, for which they need zoning relief. The zoning relief requested by AGE represents a significant benefit to their project, with far less community benefit in return. In fact, the “benefits” identified are largely what is required by law if the zoning relief they request is granted. The triggering event for their request is not a compelling public interest, but AGE’s private interest in maximizing the site’s profitability.

Alderwoman Maria Hadden introduces AGE LLC development, led by Sam Goldman (second from left)
Alderwoman Maria Hadden introduces AGE LLC development, led by Sam Goldman (second from left) at a June 5 meeting attended by over 125 people.

Alderwoman Hadden was elected on the premise that she would put community benefits at the center when making a decision on these sorts of projects. We believe she is 100% justified to decline to support – if not oppose outright – the zoning relief requested. That is what we encourage her to do. Whatever commitments her predecessor might have made to AGE or whatever calculated risk AGE made when purchasing the property and demolishing the Heartland – those are not her commitments or her calculated risks. It’s a new day.

Alderwoman Hadden should continue to solicit community feedback as to what would be the highest and best use for the property and invite AGE to come to the table with an open mind and a willingness to pursue the necessary community support and subsidy to execute a plan that the community can be proud of for years to come.

We understand that AGE could decline and pursue a strictly by-right development plan.So be it.

We do not expect Alderwoman Hadden to set a precedent for her aldermanic administration that replicates the same minimal commitment to community benefit that we experienced under her predecessor, nor do we want any future developer to come to the community seeking similar zoning relief in exchange for simply doing what is required by law.

Our analysis and general recommendations can be found here.  

What to do when the landlord comes for your intelligence.

Snidely Whiplash
Snidely Whiplash, a cartoon villain archetype. Landlords aren’t villains, though they seem intent on making you think they are with their dumb advocacy against Lift the Ban.

A warning about rent control

To hear landlords describe Lift the Ban, you would think that tenants are planning to steal their livelihoods and force them into the poor house using rent control.

They point to stale, outdated and downright questionable “research.” They ask you to put your faith in “natural market forces” or stand with them in defense of tax revenues, which will surely disappear when rent control is adopted.

The biggest laugher: they want you to help fight government regulation and say the solution is more government subsidy.

 Lift the Ban Rent Control

Lift the Ban lets local governments decide about rental regulation policies. It’s not rent control. It’s local control.

Don’t let the landlords make you dumber. Support Lift the Ban.

Snidely Whiplash courtesy J.J. at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Network 49 Stands with Seniors at Levy House

Levy House offers 56 affordable 1-bedroom apartments at 1221 W Sherwin.

Network 49 learned that 1221 W Sherwin, a 56-unit senior housing property known as Levy House and owned by non-profit Council for Jewish Elderly, may be in final negotiations to be sold to a for-profit developer. The sale would put the homes of low-income seniors and persons with disabilities at grave risk. While we continue to seek more information about the sale, sent the following to Mr. Dan Fagin, CEO of Council for Jewish Elderly, and Mr. Kal Wenig, Council for Jewish Elderly Board Chair. We are seeking a commitment from CJE to sell the property to responsible developer/operator of affordable housing.


Dear Mr. Fagin and Mr. Wenig:

We write on behalf of Network 49, a membership based resident-led organization in Rogers Park that is concerned about balanced development, community safety, and quality schools. We were recently made aware of the possible sale of Levy House (1221 W Sherwin) to BJR Properties. We wanted to let you know that:

  • Network 49 and its 100+ members, plus network of 800+ allies, wants to support yours and others’ efforts to maintain affordable housing in Rogers Park for seniors of low incomes.
  • We see the potential loss of 56 units of affordable housing at Levy House (1221 W Sherwin) as a major loss in our community.
  • We feel strongly that the seniors need to be heard and protected.
  • We understand that CJE wants to receive proper compensation for its property.

We ask CJE to suspend negotiations of the sale to BJB or any other buyer who is not fully committed to preserving the affordability of the units for the seniors.

We further ask CJE to allow interested parties reasonable time to organize the appropriate resources, including capital, to execute a sale that all can live happily with, including most importantly, the seniors.


Katy Hogan and Michael Harrington, Co-Chairs, Network 49

Thom Clark, Chair, Housing and Community Development Committee

(773) 828-9539

Community Benefits Hard to See in 1531 W Estes Proposal

Network 49 members joined ~80 of their neighbors at a community meeting to learn more about a proposed development at 1531 W Estes. The developer wants to tear down a 2-story brick building and build 5 town homes, which will sell for ~$450,000 each. The developer needs significant relief from current zoning regulations on density and property set-backs. He also needs to cut into the curb to add a driveway for onsite parking. Such relief is a private benefit granted at public expense; if not for the relief, the project does not happen.

1531 W Estes Mtg
Residents, mostly opposed to a proposed project for 1531 W Estes, crowded a meeting on February 28 (photo credit: Gabe Gonzalez).

Residents had 6 days’ notice of the meeting. Approximately 50 residents turned out. The meeting lasted at least 3 hours and residents left with as many questions as when the meeting started. And while no vote of residents was taken, residents’ questions suggest the development team was the only one really in favor of the project.

During the meeting, the property owner said a fire made the property uninhabitable. Because of a health issue in his family, the owner failed to file a fire damage claim and stated he now is unable to cover the cost of rehabbing the property. Instead, he wants to tear it down and build the townhomes, including one that he will live in himself. There are 2 brick 2-flats on the market for $565-575,000. The first question is can the owner restore the property and sell it as a 2-flat? We think the answer is yes.

Be that as it may be, 5 townhomes sold in Rogers Park with prices of $200-255,000 in the last 3 months. The developer would not share what he estimates it will cost to build, nor the size of his development fee or profit he stands to make. We also do not know if the property owner will pay for the townhome he intends to live in or is he getting that new unit in consideration for contributing his property to the project.

The project sets a clear precedent for future teardowns. To wit, if the owner of 1531 is able to tear down his home and built 5 expensive new ones, what prevents a future request from another owner who is not happy with the profit he might get from selling his single-family home? Network 49 co-chair Katy Hogan spoke to the real risk that we open the floodgates to more teardowns, spot zoning decisions and gentrification, something residents have fought against for years. “It’s not just this project we are concerned about; it’s the ones that will surely come after it, if this gets approved.”

Network 49 shared its Community Benefits Scorecard. Briefly: no affordable housing, no accessible housing, no commitment to green design, no commitment to local hiring or M/WBE participation. To summarize, the developer wants permission to build an oversized new development that will bring him significant new income and offers nothing to the community in return. The developer also made clear; he’s not doing any community benefits agreements.

Sounds like an easy one to turn down.

Network 49 Asks – Where’s the Community Benefit on 1531 W Estes Proposal?

February 27, 2018


Alderman Joe Moore

49th Ward Aldermanic Service Office

7356 North Greenview Avenue

Chicago IL 60626


Dear Alderman Moore:

We write on behalf of the members of Network 49 as co-chairs of its Housing & Community Development Committee. We received notice concerning the proposed redevelopment of 1531 W Estes on Thursday, February 22 via email. We could not find record of this having been presented to the 49th Ward Land Use Advisory Committee, since the committee’s schedules and agendas are not published. We note that the co-developer Rich Aronson continues to serve on that committee and we ask whether he recused himself from any deliberations the committee may have held.

Network 49 favors a balanced development approach and encourages that any granting of private benefit to a developer demonstrate community benefit offsets. Examples might include a commitment to affordable or accessible housing, expansion of green space, or commitments to W/MBE contracting and employment.

In the case of 1531 W Estes, the various zoning variances requested represent a public benefit of considerable value. If not but for the variances, the development could not be built. We believe a clear community benefit should be provided by the developer, before you approve granting requested variances/relief/etc. In the materials you have shared, we see no evidence that the developer is providing a benefit to the community. The community is being asked to accept a major zoning change to accommodate a private owner’s personal business decision. This is a bad precedent, especially given the size of the project. Additional concerns:

Continue reading “Network 49 Asks – Where’s the Community Benefit on 1531 W Estes Proposal?”

Network 49 Shares By-laws and Endorsement Process for 2018

At its November 15 General Membership Meeting, Network 49 shared its inaugural bylaws and membership structure, and proposed candidate endorsement process. These materials have been developed by resident leaders on the Steering Committee and working committees. 25 residents joined at the November meeting and paid their $30 annual dues. A membership form for those who could not attend the meeting is available here.

Kathleen Dillon presents the Network 49 bylaws at the November 15 meeting.



At its January 2018 meeting, Network 49 will welcome nominations to and then elect members to serve on a new Steering Committee AND make endorsements for the March 2018 Illinois Gubernatorial Primary, as well as other races that will be decided in March.

All of these activities are part of our work to create an independent, progressive, and resident-led organization for promoting progressive policies and elected leadership.

Residents Questions Benefits of 2 TOD Projects; Network 49 Secures Commitment from Developer to Negotiate Community Benefits Agreement

At a well-attended community meeting called to consider two large transit-oriented developments, 175 people, including a large contingent from ISKCON Krishna temple located next to 1710 W Lunt, raised numerous questions about how much benefit the community stands to get. The proposed developments require a substantial zoning change and relief from the city’s current parking requirements. After residents voiced numerous concerns and asked developer David Gasman to commit to specific changes, Network 49’s Brian White asked:

“Will you commit to sitting down with the community to negotiate a written and binding community benefits agreement?”

Gasman’s response: “yes.”

~175 residents came to hear about 2 newly proposed transit oriented developments at a meeting June 14 at the Ethiopian Community Association. Developer David Gasman (in shorts) speaks to Alderman Joe Moore prior to the meeting, as attendees read Network 49 materials.




An unscientific scan of the audience suggests the community is not at all ready to say “go”, for a number of reasons, so negotiating specific benefits is likely to help win support.

The main opposition expressed is over the lack of parking and the anticipated negative impact on the temple. Other strong objections were raised about the lack of affordable housing units, the size and number of units, and the likely precedent that the developments might set for transit-oriented development in the community. Many also asked why such dense TOD projects were being proposed now, while Clark Street was in the middle of a planning process.

Network 49 passed out informational handouts and Community Benefits Scorecards to help residents evaluate the projects. From the scorecards we collected, people are supportive of the projects as presented.

Residents study Network 49 handouts as they prepare to evaluate 2 proposed projects

  • “Parking not provided is a big issue, when people visit those units or businesses in the area.”
  • “David didn’t present convincing arguments with any of the questions/concerns raised. Looks like he has no solid plans.”
  • “At this point none of the vital points for the community are considered.”
  • “I am against this project.”

Some of things residents asked for in their comments:

  • Set aside more than the minimum number of units (10%) as affordable units
  • Preserve the historic character and key elements of the buildings, including the facades
  • Add more units that can accommodate families
  • Add or secure more off-street parking for building residents and guests
  • Commit to contract with women and minority owned businesses
  • Commitment to add green/open space and green elements, like a green roof or solar panels
  • Commit to give back to the community
  • Commit not to demolish either building, even if the proposals do not get approved
  • Commit to work with members of the Krishna temple to adjust the 1710 W Lunt development proposal to reduce the potential for conflict between the temple and residents likely to live at 1710

Nachi Lolla, President of ISKCON Chicago temple, addresses the concerns of his community to Alderman Moore and developer David Gasman.

Given the numerous concerns raised and questions presented, for which firm answers and commitments have NOT been made, Network 49 asked Alderman Joe Moore, who holds the ultimate decision:

  1. “Would he convene an additional community meeting for residents to hear about Gasman’s modifications to the developments before any decision was made?”
  2. “Would be allow residents to attend/observe any follow-up meeting of the 49th Ward Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC), where the revised proposals might be considered?”

Despite his oft-touted commitment to participatory decision-making, Alderman Moore emphatically REFUSED TO ALLOW THE PUBLIC TO ATTEND OR WITNESS THE LUAC MEETINGS. He demurred on a second community meeting as well, which many residents interpreted as a sign that he has already made up his mind. That remains to be seen.

Network 49 will convene a meeting of interested groups, including Preservation Chicago and ISKCON, to draft a Community Benefits Agreement to present to David Gasman.

We will also ask Alderman Moore to hold off on any decision until the community and Gasman have had time to develop the agreement.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can view the development proposals on Alderman Moore’s website and click these links to see Network 49’s information handout and community benefits scorecard.


Network 49 Questions Re 1710 W Lunt and 1730 W Greenleaf

Email sent to Alderman Joe Moore June 13, 2017:

Dear Alderman Moore:

We are writing on behalf of the Housing and Community Development Committee of Network 49. Our committee is comprised of residents of the 49th ward who are interested in promoting balanced development and improving and expanding the process for resident participation in zoning and land use decisions. We are part of the larger Network 49 membership organization, with which I believe you are familiar. (

Our committee met Saturday June 10 to review the announced redevelopment of 1710 W Lunt and 1730 W Greenleaf. We learned of these developments on June 8 through an email announcement from your office. We drafted a set of questions, which we will bring to the community meeting on Wednesday June 14 to share (See “Re 1710 and 1730.docx”) N49 Questions re 1710 W Lunt and 1730 W Greenleaf - 6-13-17 (193 downloads) . We thought it would be constructive to share questions about the projects to have share with David Gasman ahead of time. Would you please pass along these questions to Dave? We do not have his contact information, but would be happy to connect to Dave directly or to meet with him and your staff to discuss our questions at a future date.

We also had questions for you about the process of these community review meetings, which our members though it would be constructive to address to you separately. These are also attached (See “Re 1710 and 1730 – Qs for Alderman.docx”) (included in the previous download).

In sharing these questions to you and Dave Gasman, we acknowledge that the information we have access to may not be the complete picture. Our views of the project may evolve or new questions may arise, once we have a chance to hear the complete presentation. Given the short notice of the June 14 meeting, it was the best we could do. We hope this is a process of dialogue and discussion, not a one-shot opportunity to weigh in.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact myself or Thom Clark, co-Chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee. We look forward to the meeting tomorrow and to learning about these projects.



Brian White and Thom Clark

Co-Chairs, Housing and Community Development Committee of Network 49

N49 Says Put Community Benefits First When New Development is Proposed

Residents comprising Network 49’s Housing & Community Development want balanced development in our community. By balanced development, we mean that in general, development should balance benefits received by the community with private benefits for the developer. It is an effort to create win-wins.


An example is when a developer builds a development to provide affordable housing (community benefit) and gets a developer fee or future rents (private benefit) in exchange. It might also be where a private business comes into the community and agrees to hire local residents as part of its store roll-out plan. The store may not need to make such a commitment, but in doing so it gets a private benefit (new employees), but also creates a community benefit by hiring local employees. That’s a win-win

We also think it is appropriate to consider:

  • how a development project integrates into the community
  • whether it is consistent with community plans
  • how it impacts traffic and congestion
  • whether it enhances or undermines the local business climate, and
  • overall – does it improve quality of life in our community.

We are not at all anti-development. We simply believe that development should be a rising tide that lifts all boats. We also recognize the importance of preserving the racial and economic diversity of our community through housing and community development. This was something more than 85% of our members ranked as important or very important in our recent community survey.

N49 developed a scorecard to assist residents evaluate developments in terms of the exchange of public and private benefits. We intend this to be used concerning development projects where a public benefit is being requested.

A public benefit requested by the developer might be a zoning change, financial subsidy, street closing or alteration, or other benefit that the developer would not otherwise receive. A public benefit requested by the community might be a commitment to hire locally, pay living wages, set aside space in the development for community uses or a similar benefit demanded by the community through an open and deliberative process.

We will be evaluating this tool and our overall progress in the weeks and months ahead. We hope that it will help educate ourselves about what kinds of things we can ask for when developers want to build in our community.

Please let us know what you think!

N49 Survey Says: Political Mobilization is Needed

At our May general membership meeting, we were pleased to share the results of our recent member survey. By way of background, we sent an 8-question survey to our members and asked them to evaluate some of our recent priorities and share ideas for what is concerning them right now. We also asked for their feedback on whether our organization should start collecting dues and if so, what amount.

We found that our members affirmed in large part what we are currently focused on:

  • “Maintaining Rogers Park’s economic and racial diversity in housing and community development” came in first, with a weighted average of 4.56/5.0;
  • “Helping progressive candidates win elections” was next, at 4.52/5.0;
  • “Making Rogers Park a safe and just community for all” was a close third at 4.50/5.0;
  • “Protecting our Public, Neighborhood Schools” was right next, at 4.46/5.0.

So where do we take up these concerns?

  • Housing & Community Development is tackling the first one.
  • Safe Community Task Force is working on the third, along with our partners at Protect RP.
  • The Education Committee has been tackling the fourth and is an issue with which Network 49 is strongly identified, thanks to the success of the Charter Freeze referendum on Nov. 9, 2017. Their ongoing leadership at work in Sanctuary schools, the fight for elected school board and more provide a model to the rest of our committee work.
  • The Politics Committee takes on the largest issue of members’ discontent: voter dissatisfaction with current politicians, from the Ward to the National level.

Frankly, our respondents are irate about a whole host of issues that involve political change. Network 49 will be engaging in voter education through a planned Community Canvass, beginning in June (look for details on Network 49 facebook and Web pages), ongoing Forums addressing the key issues, Voter Registration, and continued organizing with our neighbors.

Some respondents want Network 49 to field candidates, but our focus is on organizing our members to resist, expose and fight hypocrisy, lack of transparency, and elected officials simply not doing their jobs for the people wherever and whenever we can. But we are not just about resisting. We are working to affirm our values and help our members engage constructively in pushing for what we want, not just what we oppose.

We welcome people interested in running for elected office to share their interests to us and to speak before our members. If the survey is any indication, they will be well-received!