Jackson Park Watch Update – May 28, 2020

Greetings, all!

Last week saw two more important events in the on-going OPC saga:

·         the oral arguments on the Protect Our Parks lawsuit, and

·         the second consulting parties’ webinar as the FHWA rushes the Section 106 process to a seemingly preordained conclusion.

The Protect Our Parks lawsuit

Since the Protect Our Parks lawsuit was filed two years ago, JPW has continued to point to the significance of the public trust issue that is key to the lawsuit, along with the tightly related issues of fiduciary responsibility and responsible public stewardship.  POP appealed the initial dismissal of its case to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals last July, and oral arguments on the case were heard by a three-judge panel on Thursday, May 21.

A good (albeit somewhat lengthy) summary of the argument presented by Richard Epstein, the lead POP attorney in the appeal, can be found in Epstein’s own recounting of the issues in the suit and also in the related federal regulatory reviews now underway. Courthouse News Service also provided general coverage of the hearing.

Interestingly, the members of the appellate panel repeatedly returned to the question of jurisdiction, that is, why this case is in federal court.  Both POP and the City argued that the case is properly in federal court, something the City had never challenged. After the oral argument had adjourned, the panel asked both sides to submit additional briefs addressing the question of jurisdiction within two weeks.

FHWA steamroller advances

In the meantime, the FHWA’s rush to a judgement that seems destined to approve the OPC and related road changes with only token mitigation efforts continued with the second consulting parties’ webinar on Wednesday, May 20.  The webinar presented what were described as the results of the on-line “Mitigation Survey” that the City conducted over 5 days following the first webinar on May 6.  However, as JPW anticipated, significant portions of the survey results were simply suppressed.  Only those results deemed acceptable by the FHWA and City were presented for discussion on May 20; all others were dismissed, without any information whatsoever being provided about the total number of responses submitted or the full scope and details of the suggestions made. JPW sent a follow-up letter to FHWA decrying this suppression of public information (see attachment below, at end of Update) and demanding that there be full disclosure of all comments and suggestions for resolving the adverse effects on Jackson Park for the third and final webinar meeting on June 17.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation offered another review of the May 20 webinar and of the overall situation.

Where things stand: While the conduct of the Section 106 review remains troublesome to say the least and while there are disturbing signals about other federal reviews to come (see below), Jackson Park is still untouched and there are many steps still to be taken.  No construction can begin until all of the federal reviews are completed, and failure to conduct those reviews properly could result in further legal challenges.  The POP lawsuit continues, with the real prospect of further appeal. Meanwhile, the context in which the current OPC plan was developed has changed drastically.  Most immediately, there are uncertainties at every level about the impact of the pandemic on public and private finances alike; at the same time there are regular reminders that the effects of climate change, such as rising lake levels, cannot be ignored when it comes to lakefront development.   JPW will continue to track developments, make salient comments, and invite interested others to join in also. 

On other fronts

What is the “baseline”?  While most attention is on the Section 106 review, the FHWA steamroller is also moving forward on another front.  As Richard Epstein notes in his commentary linked above, the FHWA plans to circumvent what should be another key element of the federal review process, a required  4(f) review of  the impact of the proposed road changes on Jackson Park. It justifies this by making the absurd argument that the proper “baseline” for the review is the configuration of the Park AFTER the OPC is in place and all of the road changes have occurred, not the configuration of the Park today. For more information on the 4(f) requirement, see “What is a ‘4(f)’ review?” on the JPW website

What is a “legacy” park?    The Chicago Tribune has recently focused attention on the issue of public access to parks and open spaces during the pandemic. On its May 23 editorial page, it featured an op-ed by Ron Henderson, director of the Landscape Architecture and Urbanism Program at IIT.  Professor Henderson distinguished between the city’s legacy parks and the newer parks built in the 21st century, noting their differing values in an era of social distancing. 

 “The legacy parks were designed as places of healthy respite and for personal encounters with trees and water and birds. The new parks were built for other purposes: spectacles of art, social density, crowds and active recreation. These new parks are also about commerce and capitalism — parks that, especially under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, were expected to be profit centers leveraged by concessions and tourism.”

JPW submitted a follow-up letter to the Tribune, so far unpublished, so we quote it here:

 “Jackson Park is one of Chicago’s foremost legacy parks, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th century to make spacious fields, tree-covered paths, local wildlife, and vistas of the lake available to all residents of the booming city.  It is ironic then that Jackson Park’s legacy status is today under threat by the proposal to build the Obama Presidential Center on 20 acres at its center.   When President Obama unveiled the plan for the OPC in May 2017, he said his aim was to create a Millennium Park-like experience on the South Side.  The current proposal for the OPC will indeed transform Jackson Park, ending the quietude and spaciousness that have long been treasured, just as those characteristics are proving their civic importance and value.   Such a loss is not necessary as the OPC could be reconfigured to have a less adverse effect on Jackson Park or could be constructed elsewhere on the South Side, with equal prominence and an equally positive impact on the surrounding communities.  We urge the City and the Obama Foundation to reconsider their plan.”

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

·         You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 

·         You can contribute via PayPal here.

·         You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Attachment:  2020-05-25 JPW to FHWA

 (If you cannot open this document, contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will send it to you directly.)

Jackson Park Watch Update – May 19, 2020

Greetings, all!

Jackson Park as a Public Trust

As previously announced, the appeal by Protect Our Parks of its suit against the City is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, May 21, at 9:30 am.   Due to the pandemic, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will not hold in-person argument, but instead is conducting the argument via Zoom.   You can listen to a live audio stream of the hearing.

It is notable that the Chicago Tribune affirmed the special status and role of lakefront parks such as Jackson Park in its May 19 editorial that addressed Mayor Lightfoot’s restrictions on access to the lakefront during the pandemic.

The lakefront. It’s unique not only because it is one of the world’s great waterfront expanses curled alongside one of the world’s great cities. What also sets apart that expanse is that, because it is protected by what is legally known as the public trust doctrine, it belongs to the people, specifically the citizens of Illinois. It is everyone’s open space, backyard and front porch.

Letting the trees talk

A new spotlight is shining on the trees of the Jackson Park, some 800 of which are threatened by the plans for the Obama Presidential Center and its related road changes.  Meet the Trees  has launched an informational website about major species in the park and has begun featuring selected species in ads on bus-stop benches.  You can now meet the Silver Maple on the bench on 55th Street just west of University Avenue.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – May 14, 2020

Greetings, all!

City poll woefully inadequate

As noted in last week’s Update,  the FHWA/City announced that an on-line “poll” would be sent to Section 106 consulting parties to get feedback on the suggestions for resolving the adverse effects (whether labeled ‘mitigation’ or not) made before and during the May 6 webinar and to allow for the submission of new suggestions.   That announcement included the following:

Please share the poll with colleagues in your organization and any outside groups that have an interest in contributing to this process, including youth groups and others that are familiar with Jackson ParkWe encourage each consulting party to submit at least one mitigation suggestion and these will be compiled and noted at the 2nd consulting parties meeting. 

On May 13, the City sent a subsequent message with additional (and confusingly incomplete) instructions and the link to the Survey/Poll. The full message is provided below.

Prior to sending this out as suggested by the City, we of course checked out the survey.  Sadly, but not surprising at this point, it is limited, restrictive, does not repeat those “resolve adverse effects” suggestions that have been presented to date (such as the one JPW presented before and during the May 6 webinar), and does not facilitate the presentation of new and creative ideas.  Rather, it focuses on suggestions that are the equivalent of moving the deck chairs on the Titanic, all of which utterly fail to resolve the severe adverse effects of the OPC and related road changes on historic Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance.

Nonetheless, we encourage everyone to respond to the poll for the record.  However, we suggest that before starting the survey you have two or three phrases ready for the chance to volunteer your own thinking.  The survey starts by asking for zip code and then consulting party (there is a drop-down menu, you have to choose one).  Then there are four highly restrictive and limited choices for comment, but each one does also allow you to make an independent entry.  Note that the submission deadline is Monday, May 18, by noon.

Feel free to identify JPW as your consulting party, if you wish.  If you do so identify, please send a record of your suggestion to jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com.  We continue to have grave concerns about the Section 106 process, but we think public participation remains important.

_____________________________

City’s Message to Consulting Parties:

From: Todd Wyatt <todd.wyatt@cityofchicago.org>
Date: Wed, May 13, 2020 at 12:43 PM
Subject: Survey and Reference Materials for Jackson Park Sec 106 Consultation
To: Todd Wyatt <todd.wyatt@cityofchicago.org>
Cc: DPD <dpd@cityofchicago.org>

Good morning Consulting Parties,

As a follow-up to our meeting on May 6, 2020, the project team invites you to participate in a SURVEY (ctrl+click) designed to collect feedback on mitigation examples, and to receive your new mitigation ideas. Please complete the survey by noon on Monday, May 18th. Your input will be analyzed and incorporate into the next meeting on May 20, 2020 (9:30am – 11:30am). 

Please reference the meeting materials from our May 6th meeting which provide useful educational information on mitigation. These materials can be found on the project’s web page (ctrl+click).

Additionally, the project team has prepared a response (attached) to the relevant questions and comments received from the chat box during the May 6th meeting.

Thank you for your continued participation in this project, and we look forward to reviewing your input at our next meeting on May 20th. Please register if you haven’t do so already. Please contact me with any questions.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – May 9, 2020

JACKSON PARK WATCH UPDATE – May 9, 2020

Greetings, all!

In our last Update (April 19), we pointed out that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been in high gear, issuing bureaucratic, misleading, confusing, and arcane documents, and scheduling a blizzard of Section 106 meetings, all in a seeming effort to move toward approvals of the proposed Obama Presidential Center and its related road changes as soon as possible. This FHWA drive continues.  In this Update we present some key points.

Accelerating the Section 106 review

In January the FHWA presented the “final” Assessment of Effects (AOE), which documented yet again that the planned construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) along with the related road changes would have severe adverse effects on Jackson Park and the Midway as well as on the Chicago Park Boulevard System. Consulting parties were given until mid-March to submit comments, and many including JPW did so, raising a large number of questions and objections.

In April, having dismissed all but one of these questions and objections without explanation, FHWA made one small alteration, pronounced the AOE final and announced plans to move on to the next stage, resolution of adverse effects, with a series of rapid-fire webinar meetings focused on “mitigation.”

JPW and others questioned the focus on “mitigation,” which by regulation should be considered only after avoidance and minimization measures. We also protested the use of the webinar format, which is unsuitable for actual consultation and legitimate discussion. An additional concern is that the use of an online format limits participation to those with internet access and technical skills, thus shutting out a part of the relevant community.  As has become typical, FHWA responded with a confusing explanation of its definition of mitigation, stating that avoidance and minimization can also be included under that label.  It also insisted that the webinar format is well suited for its purposes. 

The first of these webinar events took place on Wednesday, May 6, and the presentation and initial raw transcript are on the City’s website.  Note the continued use of the single term “mitigation” throughout by FHWA and other staff, despite occasional indications that all of the proposals to resolve the adverse effects, regardless of category, would be considered. 

With agreement by Matt Fuller prior to the webinar, JPW submitted a multi-part proposal for resolving the adverse effects to Jackson Park and the Midway.  We were able to outline the proposal briefly during the webinar itself. Our proposal is provided as an attachment to this Update.

In a new and important development, considerable attention was paid during the webinar to whether FHWA is obliged to approve the use of federal highway funds for implementing the City/Obama Foundation proposal to close Cornell Drive and make the myriad additional related road changes.  By extension, the same question was raised as to whether the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the National Park Service are required to agree to the requests concerning changes to the GLFER project and the City’s location of replacement parkland on the east end of the Midway Plaisance park.  This issue of the scope of federal authority moves the discussion beyond the FHWA assertion that it cannot evaluate “City Action” and will continue to be pursued.

Next steps?  The City is preparing an on-line “poll” to be sent to consulting parties to get feedback on the suggestions for resolving the adverse effects (whether labeled ‘mitigation’ or not) made before and during the webinar and to allow for the submission of new suggestions.  Consulting parties are encouraged to circulate the link widely so that anyone who has an interest in contributing to this process can do so.  JPW will send out information about the link to the poll as soon as it is available.

We encourage everyone to respond to the poll and submit one or more suggestions for resolving the adverse effects.  Think big and broadly.  Do not worry about whether to label your suggestion “mitigation” or not – you may want to label it a “resolve adverse effects” proposal. Suggestions for resolving adverse effects that you might want to consider making include: withdraw the attempt take the east end of the Midway Plaisance for “replacement parkland”; keep Cornell Drive open between 59th and 63rd streets albeit with traffic calming measures and improved pedestrian and bicyclist access; find legitimate replacement parkland equaling 19.3 acres in Woodlawn and/or South Shore; keep the Midway Plaisance roadway open between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive; save the existing Women’s Garden and improve access via replacement of steps with ramps; move the OPC tower and building complex out of Jackson Park; site the OPC in Jackson Park but redesign the OPC tower to be more harmonious with the Olmsted design of the park and to eliminate visual competition with the Museum of Science and Industry.

USACE GLFER request comment deadline extended

In the April 19 Update, we reported on the “stealth” public notice from USACE asking for comments on a request that it agree to changes in the just completed GLFER project in order to accommodate the construction of the OPC. As noted, we had objected to the lack of legitimate public notice and the short comment period. To its credit, USACE quickly agreed to reissue the public notice and to extend the deadline for public comment until May 15.

As a result, there is still time to submit comments if you are interested.  We encourage you to do so; instructions for submissions are in the notice. The comment that JPW submitted is attached below.   We note that the USACE is not automatically required to agree to the request from the City and Park District.

And yet another federal review – 4(f) evaluation rushed forward

Two full years ago, FHWA submitted the highly controversial first draft of its “4(f)” review of proposed roadway changes to Jackson Park.  It asserted that a proper review of alternatives to the closure of Cornell Drive did not need to take place because the proper ‘baseline” for the review is the post-construction condition of the area – after Cornell has been removed – not the current condition.

Now the FHWA has posted, without announcement, another version of its 4(f) report with a deadline of June 8 for review and comments.

We will comment on this complex issue at length in a subsequent Update, but do want you to know the full extent of the high-pressure campaign the FHWA is now mounting.

Protect Our Parks appeal to be heard May 21

On another front, the Appeals Court hearing for the POP lawsuit contesting the City’s transfer of land in Jackson Park for the OPC is set for May 21, as was previously announced.  However, the format of the hearing has been changed to a Zoom meeting. Reportedly, the session will be live-streamed or recorded for general viewing on YouTube, and we will share details as they are available.  

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  With this recent FHWA speed up, we will require additional financial support for the outside expert resources we need to continue our work.   We will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

(To be removed from this e-mailing list, simply respond with “please remove my name.”)

Attachments: 

JPW proposal for resolving Section 106 adverse effects

JPW comments on USACE Public Notice 19-17 Jackson Park

(If you cannot open one or both of these attached documents, contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will send them to you directly.)

Jackson Park Watch Update – April 19, 2020

Greetings, all!

  • FHWA continues push to move OPC/road changes forward
  • USACE “public” notice yields new opportunity for public comment

FHWA, USACE push ahead

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has now been joined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in issuing bureaucratic, misleading, confusing, and arcane documents, all in a seeming effort to move toward approvals of the proposed Obama Presidential Center and its related road changes as soon as possible.

FHWA illegally attempts to skip to mitigation

On April 14 the FHWA informed consulting parties for the Section 106 review that the Assessment of Effects (AOE) report issued in January was now considered final, and that the next step in the process would be “to resolve the identified adverse effect to historic properties.”  However, its announcement pointed only to upcoming “mitigation” discussions, attempting to entirely skip the first and second legally prescribed options for consideration – avoidance and minimization.  JPW is writing to protest this FHWA maneuver.

The FHWA also announced plans to hold three consulting party meetings, beginning in early May.  FHWA proposes to hold the meetings in a webinar format, similar to the January meeting that proved so awkward and unsatisfactory.  Those who participated in that session will recall that it was a lecture-style presentation with little opportunity for questions and no opportunity for actual discussion and dialogue.  JPW is writing also to object to the proposed meeting format, highlighting the unsuitability of the webinar format for genuine consultation, and has proposed alternatives.   

USACE “public” notice

While some predicted that the USACE would have to be involved in approving the OPC given its jurisdiction over federally involved waterways and in particular its leading role in the just completed GLFER environmental restoration project in Jackson Park, it was only in the January AOE report that its role was formally acknowledged.   Now the requirement that it grant key permits to allow the OPC to proceed has come suddenly to the forefront.

On April 1 USACE issued “Public Notice/Application 19-17 Jackson Park” stating that the Chicago Park District has requested permits to destroy and “replace” elements of the recently completed GLFER project and asking for public comment by April 29.  The catch: it is only because a friend of a friend who monitors USACE on Facebook that we and other consulting parties became aware of this notice/request for comments.  It was not sent to us or any other consulting party that we know of; it is not on the prominent Public Notice section of the USACE website; it is not on the City’s website devoted to the federal reviews of the OPC; it is not on the Chicago Park District website – a stealth “public” notice indeed. It can only be found buried deeply on the “Civil Works Projects” list of the USACE website.

Consulting parties to weigh in

We and other consulting parties have taken a thorough look at the USACE notice and have found it wanting in several key ways.  For one, the analysis which is offers is extremely limited and partial.  It proceeds as if the carefully planned GLFER plantings of grasses, shrubs, trees, and other vegetation is a cookie-cutter assemblage that can be picked up and dropped somewhere else without regard to environmental context.  While acknowledging the major changes that the OPC/road changes would make in the immediate area of the GLFER project – on and around Wooded Island, along Lake Shore Drive between 59th and 62rd streets, on Hayes Drive especially in the vicinity of the Hayes Drive bridge – the USACE notice fails to give any consideration whatsoever to potential adverse impacts of these major changes on the completed GLFER areas.  It does not acknowledge rising lake levels that have occurred since the GLFER plans were drawn up.  It does not address Obama Foundation plans to direct storm water gathered on the OPC site into the west lagoon.  It does not acknowledge the destruction of the carefully planned berms along the west side of South Lake Shore Drive.

You can weigh in too – April 29 deadline

The USACE notice solicits public comments on the proposed modification of the GLFER project to accommodate the OPC and road changes.  We urge you to read the notice, think about the 5-year, $6.9 million GLFER project, and submit your comments on the proposed alterations by April 29.  Addresses — for both regular mail and electronic mail — are provided in the notice.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have recently offered financial support.  As always, we welcome your contributions.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – April 10, 2020

Greetings, all!

We hope you are all safe and well in this unsettling time.  

While the personal and public threat and demands of the coronavirus pandemic are rightly everyone’s primary focus now, there are ongoing actions relating to the OPC proposals for Jackson Park that should not be ignored.  We provide here updates on some recent developments.

First, it is worth mulling over the impact of the pandemic, immediately and for the future, on the proposals for the Park.  A recent article in Crain’s entitled “Can big development plans survive the virus?” addressed the impact of the virus on commercial development plans, such as the 78 and Lincoln Yards.  While the real estate developers remain predictably optimistic at the moment, economic and business analysts conclude that the duration of the downturn is not yet known and the trajectory for overall economic recovery cannot yet be predicted.  In this era of uncertainty and competing demands for resources, projects that are dependent on private donations — such the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) or the golf course merger — are particularly vulnerable.  Likewise, both projects require commitments of public funds that may now have to reevaluated.

Against that backdrop, here is what’s happened in the past month.

Hearing Scheduled for POP Lawsuit

On March 19 the legal team for Protect Our Parks filed its final brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, arguing that the City and Park District violated their fiduciary duties as public trustees by approving the construction of the OPC in Jackson Park as they did.  They argued additionally that the District Court was mistaken in its refusal to take into consideration the determination of the OPC’s adverse effect on the Park that was first documented in the July 2019 Assessment of Effects (AOE) report as part of the federal Section 106 review of the project. 

The Appeals Court granted POP’s request for an oral argument, as reported in the Hyde Park Herald.   The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on May 21 at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.  Each side will have 20 minutes to present its case.   At present, it is expected that the hearing will be a regular, in-person, open presentation before a panel of three judges (who will not be known in advance).  It remains to be seen whether public health concerns will cause delay or require a shift to remote, video presentations.

A Side Step in the Section 106 Review

As noted in our last Update, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a “final” AOE in mid-January, giving consulting parties until mid-February to submit further comments.  In those further comments, JPW and numerous other consulting parties raised significant concerns about omissions and inconsistencies in the report’s findings, including those relating to other historic properties in the area.  They also raised strong objections to the report’s continued insistence that the proposal for the OPC itself was beyond the FHWA’s review authority. 

On March 17, as had been requested, the FHWA submitted a detailed report to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) on the FHWA’s responses to the objection letters it had received.  The FHWA report sent to the ACHP first responds in detail to the specific concerns raised by the ACHP.  It then includes the more than 30 statements by consulting parties and individuals and a table of the FHWA’s response to each objection.  Basically, the FHWA issued a uniform refusal to consider the many issues raised, summarily dismissing them all.

The FHWA requested an advisory ruling by the ACHP on one particular question, raised by The Cultural Landscape Foundation, as to whether the Jackson Park Terrace Historic District (the residential complex that lies directly across Stony Island Avenue from the proposed OPC site) would be adversely affected by the OPC.  JPW and other groups submitted statements to ACHP in support of the TCLF challenge.  At the same time, importantly, one consulting party asked for the regulatory basis for the FHWA’s refusal to respond to the voluminous and thoughtful additional comments and questions.

On April 1, the ACHP responded to the FHWA and agreed with its finding of “no adverse effect” by the OPC on the Jackson Park Terrace Historic District.  However, the ACHP also stated that it would be appropriate for the FHWA to acknowledge and facilitate further consultation on the many other questions raised about other historic properties and to clarify whether those concerns may be addressed during the upcoming resolution process of the Section 106 review or better addressed during the NEPA review.  This ACHP response has not yet been posted on the City’s website as of today. 

The next step in the Section 106 review will be for the FHWA to set a schedule and outline a process to consult “with consulting parties to develop and evaluate alternatives or modifications to the undertaking that could avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects on the historic properties.”   When and how that will or can be done in the midst of the pandemic restrictions is unknown.  Whether the FHWA will show any willingness to engage in substantive dialogue and creative dispute resolution is also unknown.

JPW Evolves

As the federal review process has evolved, so has JPW.  This month, Margaret, co-founder and co-president of JPW, has relocated to Ann Arbor MI to be closer to her family, a long-anticipated move.  Given the nature of the foreseeable work and ready access via the internet and phone, she will continue to participate fully in the Section 106 review and the other federal reviews to follow.  To accommodate the new geographic reality, Margaret will assume the position of PW vice-president.  Brenda will continue as JPW’s president and on-the-ground presence, focusing not only on the federal reviews of the OPC and associated road changes, but also on closely related issues such as the proposed expansion and merger of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses and the battle to save the Nature Sanctuary at the South Shore Cultural Center.  It goes without saying (but we will) that JPW will continue to be an active participant in the debate on the future of Jackson Park.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who offer financial support.  As always, we welcome your contributions.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – February 23, 2020

Greetings, all!

“Final” AOE attracts even more criticism

JPW Update readers are well aware that the Assessment of Effects (AOE) report is a key part of the federal Section 106 review of the impact that the plans for the Obama Presidential Center along with its required road changes would have on historic Jackson Park. 

The initial draft AOE released July 29 seemed a bit schizophrenic: in places it documented significant adverse effects on Jackson Park while also arguing in other portions of the report that the impacts were negligible.  The second version of the AOE (labeled “Final”), released January 16, was even more inconsistent and more jarring, coupling clear documentation of adverse effects with a forceful assertion of a flawed analytical framework that would render not only the Section 106 process but also the required NEPA and 4(f) reviews virtually meaningless. 

  • Specifically, the “final” AOE asserts that any impacts of closing Cornell Drive between 59th and 63rd Streets and of removing the segment of the Midway Plaisance between Stony Island and Cornell Drive as well as any impacts of the construction of the OPC are exempt from the requirement to consider ways to avoid or minimize those impacts.
  • Further, it asserts that the proper baseline for the limited review it does propose is the post-construction condition of the park and neighborhoods, not the condition today.

Once again, JPW and other consulting parties have responded with careful, thoughtful commentary and critiques, posted on the JPW website.    Themes running throughout the critiques include:

  • Analyses showing that the AOE analytical framework is contrary to the National Historic Preservation Act, flies in the fact of the inextricable ties between so-called “City” actions and “Federal” actions, and, akin to efforts of the current administration to gravely weaken environmental protections, would set a threatening precedent for further historical protection efforts;
  • Consistent questioning and criticisms of the City’s assertions that UPARR replacement parkland should be located on the east end of the Midway Plaisance, already itself parkland listed on the National Register of Historic Places;
  • Criticisms of the plan to destroy the Women’s Garden, use the area as a construction staging ground, and then build a scaled down altered green space without the perennial border and trees;
  • Pointed questions as to why the proposal to merge and expand the existing golf course is not included in the present Section 106 review when the proposals to close Marquette Drive and construct several underpasses, infrastructure work directly related to the golf project, are themselves included.

What comes next?

The National Historic Preservation Act requires that the lead Federal agency, the FHWA, “consults with consulting parties to develop and evaluate alternatives or modifications to the undertaking that could avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects on the historic properties” (36 CFR § 800.6 (a)).

In that regard, we note that on February 21 the City sent the following statement to the consulting parties: “FHWA is reviewing the comments received, which included objections to findings of effect contained in the AOE, and evaluating those objections to determine how to proceed. As described in 36 CFR 800.5(c)(2), FHWA may either consult with the objecting party to resolve the disagreement or request the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to review the finding and provide its written opinion to FHWA. FHWA will ensure documentation is prepared to address comments received and the documentation will include copies of all comments received on the final AOE.” We will see what happens.

In the meantime, construction of the OPC and work on the road changes remain on hold. As always, we will keep you posted.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have recently offered financial support.  We welcome your contributions.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

Once again, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch UPdate – February 6, 2020

Greetings, all!

In this Update:

  • A look at that AOE webinar: the bad and the good
  • Time to suggest alternatives
  • The CBA, displacement, and affordable housing; Lake levels

What the AOE webinar told us

The January 23 consulting parties’ webinar – held to discuss the “final” AOE report – was a mixed bag, with a frustrating format but also some useful clarifications. Here are some takeaways:

·         Does a webinar replace a public meeting? – While a teleconference can be useful, it does not lend itself to productive discussion among a large number of participants (some 50 on Jan. 23).   There were communication problems throughout – imperfect audio reception, confusion about who was speaking, speakers talking over one another, an auto-transcription feature that provided a garbled version of what was being said during the session. We were told that a clean, corrected transcript of the session would be prepared by the FHWA, but that has not yet been made available. 

·         Who’s actually in charge of the Section 106 review? – An official of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation interjected at several points during the webinar to clarify issues of continuing confusion.  (To refresh your memory of the role of the ACHP, see JPW Update for September 20, 2019.) In response to questions about the City’s conflicting roles as both proponent and reviewer of the plans under assessment, she stressed the need for the responsible lead federal agency, the FHWA, to play its rightful role as manager of the overall review.  She emphasized the need for the FHWA to manage the process of resolving the adverse effects that have now been identified. 

·         What’s the proper scope of the Section 106 review? – The ACHP representative also emphasized that the “undertaking” for which adverse effects have been determined and now need to be resolved encompasses all of the proposed changes for Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, including the City’s actions regarding the OPC and the related road closures. 

·         What is the process for resolving adverse effects? – The ACHP official noted that the standard process to resolve the adverse effects would require multiple meetings and significant interaction with consulting parties to consider options for avoidance, minimization and mitigation.

As context and background for all of this, we recommend a recent piece by The Cultural Landscape Foundation  that points to the policy issues and implications underlying the text of the “final AOE.”  We and others will be addressing a variety of outstanding issues in the next round of consulting party comments due February 18.

Time to suggest alternatives to OPC, road designs

The Section 106 process continues.  Construction of the OPC is not about to begin.  It is time to begin dialogue about alternatives to address the adverse effects that all – including the FHWA and the City – have agreed the current plans would cause.

Following the webinar, a  Sun-Times editorial heralded the need to consider alternatives to the current OPC and road designs:  “Anything less could lead to a design that spoils this jewel of a park rather than enhances it.”  JPW responded with a letter  identifying three major changes that are broadly supported in the community and would smooth the way for construction of the OPC to actually begin: “right-sizing” the museum tower, improving but not closing Cornell Drive; and locating generous parkland replacements in portions of Woodlawn, badly in need of park space. 

Some days later Mayor Lightfoot herself seemed to open the door to consideration of alternatives to the current designs in a Sun-Times interview.  

Your turn:  In light of this, JPW asks community members who support having the OPC on Chicago’s South Side – and, with appropriate major modifications, in Jackson Park – to communicate their thoughts about what changes are needed for that to happen to Mayor Lightfoot and her chief lieutenants on this project, Maurice Cox, head of the Department of Planning & Development, and Gia Biagi, head of CDOT. 

Possible talking points:

  1. As a community member, you may want to express your views on whether community input on the OPC site plans and road changes was appropriately considered under the prior administration.
  2. Express support for the OPC in South Chicago but also identify whatever key changes you think would be needed for it to be appropriate in Jackson Park.  (If you think it should be out of Jackson Park, say that also, but it would be very helpful to offer opinions about changes that could be make it more acceptable on the Jackson Park site.)
  3. Thank Mayor Lightfoot for her emphasis on the importance of community input and transparency and ask her to take the lead in ensuring that there is real community input and dialogue going forward on how to resolve the adverse effects of the OPC and road changes as currently planned on Jackson Park.

Please send your comments to the Mayor at lori.lightfoot@cityofchicago.org and letterforthemayor@cityofchicago.org ;  to  Maurice Cox at Maurice.Cox@cityofchicago.org ; and to Gia Biagi at Gia.Biagi@cityofchicago.org

The CBA, affordable housing, and avoiding displacement

While the controversy over the OPC and road plans continue, the controversy over the Community Benefits Ordinance and displacements of long-time Woodlawn residents continues as well and if anything has intensified.  To the disappointment of many, Mayor Lightfoot has not supported the basic CBA ordinance presented by Aldermen Jeanette Taylor and Leslie Hairston.  Instead, the City Department of Planning and Development has come up with an alternative plan that was outlined in a report released just hours before its presentation at a January 30 Open House.  The plan is getting mixed reviews and faces direct opposition by Alderman Taylor.

JPW continues to believe that the basic CBA principles have a great deal of merit and hopes for a positive ultimate resolution.

Lake levels

In the meantime, lake levels continue to rise with expanding damage to lakefront facilities and properties.  Some are questioning whether, all other considerations aside, it makes sense to close Cornell between 59th and 63rd Streets if South Lake Shore Drive may on occasion be closed due to flooded conditions.  We will continue to track this and will keep you posted.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks as always to all who have recently contributed to JPW.  As always, we welcome your support.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

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Jackson Park Watch Update – January 26, 2020

Greetings, all!

Reviewing the new AOE

This Update focuses on the content of the recently released revised Assessment of Effects report.  A subsequent Update will cover the Consulting Parties webinar that took place on January 23.

Overall, this new “Final” AOE report is defensive in tone and inconsistent in argument.  It accurately documents extensive adverse effects to the historic properties of Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance.  Yet, signaling Mayor Lightfoot’s apparent embrace of the Emanuel administration’s cavalier approach to these historic parks, it repeatedly asserts that nothing will or should be done to avoid or minimize any of those adverse effects.  However, numerous comments calling for more review and public process that were expressed in Thursday’s webinar make it clear that this saga is far from complete.

See below (# 6) for a guide to the AOE text and auxiliary documents.

1.  What does the new AOE have to say about adverse effects?  

As noted above, the new AOE further documents the extensive adverse effects that the plans for the OPC buildings and site and the related road changes would have on Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance. The expanded text and additional detail were provided in direct response to concerns expressed by the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.   In this regard, see in particular Section 3.5, pp. 39-54.   A new section has been added (pp. 55-57, Section 3.6) documenting the adverse effects on Chicago Park Boulevard System, which includes Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

2. What does this “final” AOE continue to overlook?

The AOE is dismissive of numerous comments calling for better data. For example, on traffic issues, the AOE continues to assert that there will be no adverse effects on other historic properties or historic districts in the area (see pp. 58-67, Section 3.7). It asserts that impacts of increased traffic flow on auxiliary streets will be minimal, that fully satisfactory plans for parking are in place, and that the increases in traffic noise will be barely perceptible.  It ignores potential traffic impacts to roadways such as Jeffrey and South Shore Drive, vital to area traffic flow, let alone impacts to essential neighborhood streets such as Dorchester, Blackstone, and Harper. It also asserts that the visual impact of the OPC Tower on “other historic properties” will likewise be minimal.

3. What does the new AOE say about resolving these adverse impacts with avoidance, minimization, or, failing that, mitigation, as required by the NHPA?

The new AOE stakes out the position (p. 3) that “The City’s approval of the Foundation’s proposal to locate the OPC in Jackson Park is a local land use decision and is not subject to the Federal approval process, including mitigation.  The same is true of the roadway closures and the relocation of the track and field.”  

It also raises two new claims: First, that in working with the Obama Foundation on the OPC design and developing the road closures and other changes though the municipal review process (Plan Commission, City Council, South Lakefront Framework Plan), the City has already built in all needed avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures.  Second, the design of the OPC is “Olmstedian” despite all expert findings the contrary (pp 77-78).

As many JPW Update readers know, the OPC design was unveiled in May 2017 and CDOT’s road plans supporting that design were presented in June 2017, just as the Park District launched the South Lakefront Framework Plan process. In all the often-touted public meetings to follow, the plans for the OPC and roadwork were presented as final, and substantive comments on them were not solicited or collected.  There was absolutely no consideration of alternative designs. Instead, the public was asked to comment on plans for new walkways, bicycle paths, potential water features, and other amenities – all of interest, but none germane to OPC or OPC-related road changes.

The City’s position – a direct challenge to established National Historic Preservation Act protections and procedures – is repeated in more starkly in the concluding section:  “The actions of the City described in this report (authorizing construction of the OPC, closing roads, and relocating an existing track and field in Jackson Park) do not require Federal funding or approval and, therefore, are not subject to the NHPA’s requirement to consider avoidance, minimization, and mitigation of adverse effects to historic properties” (p. 75, emphasis added). 

In other words, the Lightfoot administration has fully embraced the Rahm Emanuel approach and gone beyond.  Emanuel advocated for the destructive transformation of the historic OPC site before the significant adverse effects were well documented and broadly known.  For the Lightfoot administration to continue to advocate for the 23-story tower and destruction of the Olmsted roadway design now that these adverse effects are fully documented can only be seen as a doubling-down.

4. What does the new AOE say about dialogue and discussion of alternative ways of addressing these adverse impacts?

Nothing. To the contrary, the whole Section 106 process has been abbreviated.  The City had previously announced in the fall that it would hold a webinar discussion with Consulting Parties to review the comments that had been submitted in August on the draft AOE, and that it would then prepare a Final AOE, which would be presented for further review and comments.  That webinar session was twice scheduled and twice cancelled. In January, without explanation, the City skipped directly to releasing a “Final AOE.”   Consulting Parties thus will have had one less opportunity to clarify details and to comment on the report as they prepare their final statements for submission by February 18.  Rather than encouraging and facilitating discussion and dialogue to reach a best option, the City and FHWA have gone in the opposite direction.

5. What about the Consulting Parties webinar on January 23?       

While the webinar presentation itself largely rehashed the content of the AOE, there were opportunities for questions and at times for substantive answers as well.  The City committed to posting a transcript of the Q & A section of the webinar on line, and that will allow us and others to evaluate just what was said.  Once that transcript is available, we will send out an “Assessing the New AOE: Part 2” and will also include suggestions for actions interested individuals and consulting parties may wish to take.

6.  Digging into the AOE?

As noted above, the Final AOE is posted on the JPW website.

That same document and also the appendices that are referenced in its text are available on the City’s Federal Review website (scroll down to the box for January 16, 2020 under Key Federal Review Milestones).   

Because it can be difficult to navigate the multiple auxiliary documents, which are a mix of new and previously issued materials, here is a brief guide to various appendices that may be of particular interest.  Note: this guide uses the document names that appear on the City’s website and the numbering of the pages that appears on your computer:

·         AOE Appendices (a bundling of parts of Appendices A-G):

o   Appendix B, (pp 30-31) — Figures 2 and 4 showing the City’s design proposal for using the eastern tip of the Midway for UPAAR replacement land and indicating the 7 other sites that were considered. 

o   Appendix D (pp. 47-134) — Visual Impact Assessment

o   Appendix F (pp. 197-98) – Consulting Parties list

o   Appendix F (pp. 211-215) – Summary of Public Comments Submitted in August 2019

o   Appendix F (pp. 217-362) – Full Texts of Comments submitted by Consulting Parties, August 2019

·         Comment Disposition – Appendix F: Comments and Responses

o   This purports to be a point-by-point response by the official agencies to the comments on the draft AOE submitted by the Consulting Parties in August 2019.  However, not all queries or concerns were addressed and many of the responses are repetitive formulaic statements rather than substantive responses.  Note that some responses that would redirect the issue from the Section 106 process to the NEPA review are based on an overly narrow reading of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

o   Note that this table incorrectly includes a statement attributed to the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council, which should be removed and  recategorized as a statement by individuals. 

ALSO OF NOTE:  Further brief filed in Protect Our Parks lawsuit

The original Protect Our Parks lawsuit was filed in May 2018.  JPW has believed from the beginning that the suit raised some very important questions about the proper stewardship of a public good such as Jackson Park and about the hidden processes by which decisions about the Park were made.

The original lawsuit was dismissed in June 2019.  However, POP filed an appeal emphasizing the core issue of appropriate stewardship by the City of invaluable public trust land. 

In August, 2019, the Protect Our Parks legal team, arguing that the information in the newly released AOE has a material impact on the POP lawsuit, asked Federal Judge John R. Blakey to re-open the case so that the information in the AOE could be considered.  Judge Blakey ultimately denied the POP motion to reopen the case. POP has now filed a second brief challenging that denial.  A hearing on these arguments has not yet been scheduled.  As always, we will keep you informed.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have recently offered financial support.  As always, we welcome your contributions.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

Once again, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch – January 11, 2020

Greetings, all!

In this Update:

  • The Section 106 review process is resuming: what comes next?
  • Underscoring the importance of the Nature Sanctuary

What’s next in the Section 106 review

In mid-December, we noted that the Section 106 review seemed to have stalled.  The Tribune’s article headed “Timetable for Obama Center still uncertain”  made the same point, and that perspective was shared in other media outlets as well.

Perhaps prompted by the questions from reporters, the City recently notified Section 106 consulting parties that the review process would soon resume, and just yesterday, on January 10,  the City announced that the revised draft Assessment of Effects (AOE) report would be released to consulting parties and also posted on the City’s web site on Thursday, January 16.  It also announced that the previously postponed webinar for consulting parties (see below) would take place on Thursday, January 23.

As the Section 106 review resumes, what should happen?

The Section 106 review process is intended to be a dynamic process in which opinions are exchanged and alternatives explored, rather than a bureaucratic exercise.  Veterans of the Section 106 process in other settings report that what should happen next is agreement on the extent and nature of the adverse impacts.  After that should come actual discussion between, on the one hand, the City (the sponsor of the proposed changes, albeit on behalf of the Obama Foundation) and the Federal Highway Administration (the lead federal agency on the Section 106 review), and, on the other hand, the various consulting parties, as to how to “resolve” the adverse impacts via avoidance, minimization, or, failing those, mitigation. 

Participants in the Section 106 review to date know that, as was typical for the City under recent mayors, “public input” has thus far been hampered by a format of large meetings with staged presentations and limited public Q & A.  While interested parties could and did submit written comments, there have been few if any responses to any of them.   As with many of the City’s past meetings on other large-scale projects, the Section 106 sessions for the OPC have appeared designed to enable the City to check off the “public participation” box rather than to actually solicit, consider, and respond to community questions and concerns.  There has been no actual discussion between the City and FHWA, on the one hand, and JPW or any of the consulting parties we work with, on the other.  There has been no exploration of alternate ways to move the project ahead.  

In order for the Section 106 review of the OPC to proceed on to a fruitful conclusion that will allow construction of the OPC to proceed, however modified, actual dialogue must begin.  We are hopeful that, with the new mayoral administration and a newly revised draft AOE, this will now be the case. 

The number and severity of adverse impacts that the current design of the OPC and related road changes would have on Jackson Park make it unlikely that the project could proceed without significant changes.  We note that additional adverse impacts beyond those noted in the initial draft Assessment of Effects (AOE) report are likely to have been identified after the information requested by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in late August is provided and the comments submitted by the consulting parties have been taken into account. The intent of the Section 106 review is to come to agreement through discussion as to how a proposal that would have adverse impacts on a protected property (Jackson Park in this instance) can best be modified to allow the proposed project (the OPC and the road changes in this instance) to proceed.  Alternatives should be explored.  Compromise is anticipated. 

 Some details

To recap, the initial draft Assessment of Effects report, a key step in the Section 106 review, was released July 29.  A public meeting and a consulting parties meeting were held August 5 (for more details see JPW Updates for July 29 and themonth of August, 2019).  Subsequently, two meetings with consulting parties were scheduled and then postponed. 

Now that the Section 106 review is resuming, we anticipate that the process will follow this previously announced sequence of steps:

Discussion of the revised draft AOE report  
*Indeed, the January 23 webinar meeting for consulting parties, led by the City and the FHWA, will discuss a revised draft AOE report.  We and others will look to see whether the revised draft is responsive to the comments previously submitted by consulting parties and to the information provided pursuant to the ACHP request in August.  

Agreement on the identified adverse impacts:  
* Following the webinar meeting, the City and FHWA will prepare a final AOE report and make it available to consulting parties for an additional 30-day review period.  
* Consulting parties’ concerns and disagreements with the proposed final report will then be resolved via discussions with the FHWA, or,
* If those discussions are unsuccessful, the differences will be resolved via review by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). 

“Resolving” the adverse effects.
* Once all disagreements about the text of the AOE report are settled, the review process will then move on to discussions of how to resolve the adverse effects. 
* Attempts to resolve the adverse effects must first address how to “avoid” any adverse effects, next how to “minimize” them, and finally how to “mitigate” them.  

Final MOA
* The final outcome of the process will be a Memorandum of Agreement outlining how the OPC will move forward, including any agreed-upon modifications to the design of the site regarding road layout, acreage, and building design.  It will be signed, in this instance, by the City, the FHWA, the National Park Service, and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Officer (this office has been involved each step of the way).
* If those discussions were to be unsuccessful, something that would be quite rare, the ACHP would be required to provide formal advisory comments to the lead agency, FHWA, for its consideration.

Underscoring the importance of the Nature Sanctuary

One issue related to the OPC project is the proposal to merge and expand the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses to create a new, pro-level course.  This proposal, also stalled, would entail destruction of the much-loved Nature Sanctuary immediately south and east of the South Shore Cultural Center. A recent piece in the Hyde Park Herald featured a biologist’s appraisal of the significance of the Nature Sanctuary to local wildlife.  A follow-up letter underscored the importance of the Nature Sanctuary to natural world and humans alike.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have recently offered financial support.  As always, we welcome your contributions.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
co-presidents
Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com