I have for many years been waiting for Chicago to make public their data on the complaints received by the 311 department about unshoveled sidewalks. They have finally granted my wish. Unfortunately the data has become available at a time when Google is shutting down their Fusion Tables service, so I had to learn how to use a new service to create the necessary map. Because of course there was going to be a map.
In this article I take a look at the data that has accrued since the start of this past October, meaning we have only two really big snowstorms worth of data to consider. Those two snowstorms yielded about 1200 complaints to 311. I think that is more than enough for now. Continue reading Mapping Chicago’s Snow Removal Complaints
The other night as I was driving in 32°F drizzle and leaving several car lengths of space between myself and the car ahead in case of black ice, I wondered for how many of the drivers around me it was the first time on wintry roads. It is a known tradition for Chicago drivers to leave approximately two inches of space between them and the car in front of them, but given the temperature and the condition of the unsalted roads it was surprising how many other drivers were cutting in front of me. In situations like this I often remember that I was taught by my parents in a different area of the country instead of by a traditional local driving school. I learned early on to never assume the other drivers around you know anything about how to drive. This is called defensive driving.
Of course, this led me to think a bit about defensive renting and the assumptions renters make about their landlords. Landlords are often just as faceless and unknown as the people in cars beside us on the road. All we can assume about them is that they exist because they’re trying to get from point A to point B using a particular vehicle or, in the case of the landlord, a particular building. And just like with drivers, incorrect assumptions can lead to very uncomfortable situations further down the road. Today we’re going to go over 10 common and potentially harmful assumptions that renters make about their landlords that may not be true. Continue reading 10 Assumptions You Should Never Make About Your Landlord
If you’ve rented in Chicago for very long you’ve probably lived in a courtyard apartment building. If not, you’ve probably at least visited someone who lives in one. There’s thousands of them all throughout the city, with the exception of the downtown areas which are dominated by skyscrapers. A standard “U”-shaped courtyard building is a three story tall walkup building with five entrances surrounding a central green space. Each entrance usually has six apartments, sometimes seven or eight if there’s finished basement apartments.
In addition to the standard U shape, there’s also half courtyards (shaped like an “L”), 1.5 courtyards (shaped like an “S” and usually on block corners) and double courtyards (shaped like a “W”), but they’re all basically similar. These buildings are unique to the Chicago area and almost invariably about 100 years old.
Today we’re going to explore the reason why we’ve got so many of them, and also why we don’t see many new ones popping up in the 21st century landscape. Continue reading The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s Courtyard Apartment Buildings
During the ongoing Chicago teachers’ strike much has been made of the over 16,000 homeless students in the Chicago Public School system. That large number is one of the linchpins in the union’s demands for additional support staff and a written commitment from the city government to follow their plan for increasing affordable housing stock within the city.
When your average consumer of news media thinks of “homeless children” they may picture a family or group of runaway children living in a shelter, or perhaps sleeping in a car or a motel. They might even picture that stereotypical family sleeping on benches or in cardboard boxes in the street. Some of you may think back to the stories from last winter of Candice Payne, the real estate agent turned non-profit director who rented hundreds of hotel rooms for homeless people sleeping rough during our run of terribly cold weather.
But this is not the case. The majority of Chicago’s homeless schoolchildren (about 88% of them) are living in a situation referred to by the federal government as “doubled up“. Yes, that’s an officially accepted term. It means that they’re crashing with friends or family, sometimes for months, sometimes for years. Continue reading Doubled Up: The Homeless Kids Next Door
This article will go live on October 18, 2019. Chances are that Chicago teachers will still be on strike and public non-charter schools will still be closed. This means that a lot of Chicago residents will be allowing babysitters into their homes. Those babysitters will be given keys to the property which may or may not be returned when the work is finished.
According to the FBI’s annual report on crimes across the nation during 2018, about 38.5% of burglaries in major metropolitan counties like Chicago had no sign of forced entry. It is very tough for the police to take action on these kinds of crimes. So today I want to start a new annual special day, to occur each year on the Friday after Columbus Day, called “Lock and Key Day”.
If you’ve never changed your apartment locks since you moved into your apartment, I want you to take some time today to get permission from your landlord and get it done.
If you’ve already changed your locks, give some thought to who might have copies of your keys and get them back if you think they shouldn’t still have access to your home.
If you’re reading this article for the first time on some day other than Lock and Key Day, put it in your calendar or just get it out of the way now while you’re thinking about it. Read on to find out why. Continue reading Do You Know Who Has Keys to Your Apartment? (Lock and Key Day)