I got to spend four hours at the City Council yesterday. What fun. If I had to go into politics I would blow my brains out first.
But I digress….
Why was I at the city council, I imagine you wondering. (Okay, I am delusional, but we all knew that already.)
Well, because my residentially-zoned neighborhood has been infiltrated by developers who buy houses and turn them into mini-dorms. Well, actually, mostly turns them in mini-Greek system party houses. Cos, you see, frats and sororities have more members than they can fit into those fancy houses up on Greek row. And the parties they give up on Greek row are monitored by UC, so they can get in trouble over drunken brawls and rapes and underaged drinking and the like. But in off-campus houses….
So, for example, around the corner from me is a former four bedroom single-family house. At some point in 50s it was two flats, but for the past fifty-odd years it was just one family in there. The local Slimelord bought it and put in NINETEEN bedrooms in three flats, telling the planning office it could still be rented to a single household. And the planning office – about which more – said they couldn’t argue with that. Why would he lie?
They did make him take out yet two other bedrooms, because he had done additional unpermitted work to put them in while he was in the middle of the planning process. He did, though, still manage to add an illegal fourth floor by calling it a mezzanine. Oh lolz.
He already has a half a dozen of these things scattered around Southside. So the local neighborhood knew what they were facing as soon as he bought the place. He started off working on the house without any permits; he ignores stop work orders; etc., etc.
The neighborhood has fought him every inch of the way, and both the Planning Office and Zoning people have kicked it up to the City Council, who have now delayed it yet another month while they natter on about whether or not the frat rats who moved in in August are a single household or not….
The tenants came by to testify, all very scripted, about how they are all fourteen (plus another four or five, I was getting confused by this point) of the bestest friends ever and they all went out apartment hunting together…. Which got kind of tangled up since it ends up six of the fourteen signed the lease before setting up the Facebook page for the rental which (evidently) which recruited the other eight who signed more than a month later.
And they sweetly explained how there have only been three parties on record that have brought out the police. (In part because the police don’t come.) The ones they turned up for were like at 2am with literally A HUNDRED kids out on the street drinking and shouting. Because it is min-frat row over there.
So squeeky clean whiney little business students explained that they have dodgeball teams and do a Good Work every month and are all fourteen of them the bestest friends ever and they are a household and not a group living situation and so no one ought to mind. (The other four, five? are separate bestest friends, in a household downstairs.)
So why does this bother me? I mean, except for the fact that I can hear their parties from a block away? Well, for one thing the house next door is being fitted up for resale by another developer. The neighborhood go on top of him, and luckily the thing is landmarked so he is more restricted than by zoning alone. But he was all set to rent it to multitudes of students (who had their frat sign stored in the house in July) before we all zapped the city on him. (“He’d been going to get around to permits, he just wanted to get started first….”)
The motivation for all this skullduggery? Well, these little brats are paying through the nose for all this. Slimelord is pulling in over $15,000/month (!) in rent from that house. For that amount they could easily rent two or three houses, but people tend to care about houses. Slimlord gets his deposits and doesn’t care at all. So what they are getting is a total lack of any accountability. They are up a Greek system party house in the middle of an R-4 zoned block.
So, basically they had the whole neighborhood aroused mob – lacking only pitchforks and torches – testifying. (Including me!) i pointed out that while the current lot of students may indeed by lovely people (NOT) and the best of friends, that doesn’t mean five years from now those nineteen bedrooms will be any kind of single household. Having a nineteen bedroom house on Parker Street is a travesty, no matter whether everyone eats dinner together or not. Oh and they’d said they told all the neighbors beforehand about the parties. So I said I’d been asked by their neighbor (who had already spoken and so could’t again) to tell the council no one had told her anything. And I added that telling the neighbors you will have a party doesn’t mean you are allowed to break the laws concerning noise and drinking. No get out of jail free card there. Ah well.
So now it’s up the the City Council, who are at least elected, as opposed to the Planning office who are hired minions of a sort. Ah yes, the Planning Office. Some brilliant plan back in the 80s set up the Planning Office to be funded by fees. So it is completely Developer Heaven over there. They have never met a plan the didn’t like.
Including the agenda item before ours. It’s a big project to do all sorts of mixed use commercial/residental nearby on Shattuck Avenue. It’s going to be all very green and have affordable housing. Affordable, btw, means charging more than I do for my rentals. And, did you know that developer-ese for “green” means you put it on the bus line and then not plan for any parking? Srsly.
But it will have to be pretty darn green to overcome the fact that it is located on top of an un-remediated TOXIC SITE. A fact the developers appear to have left out of their information packet, and that the planning office somehow failed to notice. Even though it is on a state list of such sites. And there is, legally, supposed to be a checklist in the information the packet including the question: is this site on the toxic list, yes or no. And the checklist wasn’t there. Which the planning office somehow missed.
Nor, apparently, was such a checklist contained in the information on an already completed housing project up at Telegraph and Ashby. (As pointed out by our local Housing Saint person, who spends her time attempting to keep the city honest. Hopeless as that might be.) Somehow the Planning Office people didn’t notice that information was missing either. And there are kids living on top of it now. Oh well.