My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

GO AWAY! (Demolition of the Week)

This weeks victim was 2020 W Rice, an ordinary cottage which was a part of a row of ordinary cottages in Chicago's Ukranian Village neighborhood. Now that it's gone there is a missing tooth on the block:

This one makes the cut not because of the specific buiding, which I don't even remember, but because I thought this kind of think wasn't going on yet west of Damen, and apparently it is now. UV looks like it is going to go the way of the East Village and be obliterated by developers. The posted building permit says it is going to be replaced by a 3 story condo unit like the ones already built on the other side of the street:

Now I have been to an open house for one of these condo buildings, and they are very nice homes, with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with jacuzzis, and top of the line kitchens. They also cost half a million dollars a unit in my neighorhood, probably 400,000 in the Village. This is not a crumbling ghetto neighborhood desperate for development, this was a healthy neighborhood that people took pride in and kept up.

Nostalgic photoshopped view of two-flats along West Iowa

It has a proud history and interesting ethnic people from Puerto Rico, Poland, and the former Soviet Union. There are a couple fantastic Orthodox churches, one of which kept famous Russian Icons for safekeeping during the Soviet years.

St. Nicolas

This is a fantastic neighborhood, but it is disappearing because rich people are moving in and the houses aren't big enough for them so developers buy the land for the location and and put in bigger stuff which has room for all their possessions and parking for two SUVs. They say there's no market for these houses as they are but that's not true, there are thousands of homes of similar size in poor neighborhoods that people are living in. In addition, I would like one of these homes and so would many people that I know. In fact, here is a picture of my dream house, a good decent Polish people kind of house:

A nice house on West Rice

But the way the market works is that if I want something and a rich person wants it too, even if they're just going to destroy it, they get it because they can pay more. Libertarians like to say that the market is more "efficient" than government in allocating resources, and that's why they annoy me more than plain old conservatives. With democracy, we each get one vote. With the market, rich people get to vote a lot of times, and I only get to vote a couple times. Some people don't get to vote at all.

Chicago needs some kind of law in historic neighborhoods that says you are not allowed to tear down an old house unless there is something terribly unsafe about it. Then only people who actually like the neighborhood will move there. In the mean time, I have this message to people of means who want to move to my part of Chicago:

Go away. Please just go away. If the houses and apartments are too small, if you don't trust the local diner or coffee shop and would feel "safer" with Starbuck's and McDonalds, if you don't like having to park your Lexus SUV on the street, if the noisy neighbors bug you, if you are so scared of the people who live here that you need to build a security fence around your property and buzz people in and you're afraid to walk the two blocks to the store and want one with a bigger parking lot so you can drive there - than please don't move here. As much as I want to see the city recover in terms of its population and economy, the fact is that you people won't move anywhere that needs you, instead you want to come in and take over neighborhoods that other people worked hard to make nice. The people who are moving out don't even want to leave - they can't afford the property taxes because their property is appraised according to what someone is willing to pay for it to tear it down and build condos. Suddenly working people are being taxed for the houses they paid $150,000 for as if they were worth hald a million or more.

I realize this is not your fault, this is part of a screwed up system of government in which local authorities are responsible for services which should be funded at the state or national level, and must fund then through unfair property taxes rather than progressive income taxes. Income taxes are based on your ability to pay, property taxes are based on what someone else would pay for your house. In addition Americans generally rely on home equity to fund their retirement rather than saving and investing like normal people, so property prices must always go up or they are sunk. But until we can change that system, the only way somebody like me can afford a home is if you leave us alone. Not only is the "market" not building anything I like, it is systematically destroying the existing neighborhoods I like to meet your demands.

So go away. People who want to move here, cool, but if it's not good enough the way that it is than go somewhere else. If the houses on the Near West Side are too small for you, and you won't look further West or South because you are afraid of black and brown people, then please (and I can't believe I'm saying this) just go to the suburbs or something. They build really big places there and the land's a lot cheaper. I hate the burbs myself and don't thing anyone should live there at all, but that seems like a better solution than tearing down a 120 year old house so you can have a room just for your exercycle when there's a perfectly good street outside to ride on. Otherwise, the whole city will end up looking like this:

And that sucks.


Trope said...

I know I've said it in person, but the photos are great. I hope we can have a house in this neighborhood someday (our neighborhood, not UV). I also think we should condense this and post it on street corners.

Bob said...

Yeah, the pictures are great, and I'll tell you, I could read you writing about this all day. I don't live in a city, and I don't even really live in the center of Arlington, but I'm close. I feel a connection to the neighborhoods and the city that is right down the street.

Tomorrow I'm gonna go out and get some pictures of my building, the construction next door (starting in the $600ks), the neighborhood across the street and closer to our metro station, with its highrises and new construction.

I agree with Trope, you should get more of your people to read this.