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Thread: Chicago--What's happening in this city is worth a lot of attention

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    Chicago--What's happening in this city is worth a lot of attention

    For those of you who don't visit the skyscraper forums, I am a regular there but I have quite an interest in urban planning issues as well. I would like to discuss one of my favorite cities--Chicago.

    I know that a lot of cities are undergoing a rebirth, but I have to admit that what is going on in Chicago is quite extraordinary. Cities on the coasts tend to get a lot of attention, but right now Chicago is going nuts--believe you me. Not only is the north side beginning to saturate and become a completely built-out urban environment, but whole parts of town that have been forgotten for decades are seeing a massive amount of new development, either in the form of renovation, infill, or just new neighborhoods built from scratch.

    Honestly, I can't think of another older, rustbelt city that is coming alive so much as Chicago is.

    I also think Chicago deserves some attention because it is being innovative. Some rightfully criticize what Chicago is doing with public housing, but I think it is a great idea to tear down those isolated towers and replace them with mixed-income pedestrian-oriented communities that reestablish the kind of streetgrids and neighborhoods that define what Chicago is.

    If you go to newcommunities.org (sorry, can't post the URL yet ) you will see that there are a good 10-12 "poor" communities with which, after a lot of time, effort, and community meetings, the city has created individual neighborhood redevelopment plans that emphasize affordability, job creation, walkability, transit-oriented development, parking, etc etc. Chicago also recently rewrote its 53 year old zoning ordinance to make newer developments "fit in" more with their surroundings and to promote mixed-use development.

    Finally, a lot of Chicago's new infill is well-planned and addresses the streetwall quite well. And we all know about Mayor Daley's acclaimed green initiative.

    Where is Chicago screwing up? It is still accommodating the car too much, if you ask me. Although with its newer zoning and strip center ordinance Chicago mostly places parking behind, below, above, or to the side of buildings, it still has off-street parking requirements. Also, it still doesn't do enough to place higher densities near rail stations. Plus, I think the city could do a HELL of a lot more to create affordable housing. And finally, the city is still not taking a strong enough stance in preserving older structures, and despite some success in this area, structures that contribute to character are still being demolished.

    That being said, I really would like to discuss Chicago because I think it is quite fascinating what sweeping changes are transforming this city. Chicago is creating whole new neighborhoods out of scratch and so far I am impressed with what I'm seeing, although there is always room for improvement.

    What do you guys think?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    A few months ago, I posted some thoughts and observations that I had after driving around in the Kenwood area (located between Hyde Park and about I-55 east of the Dan Ryan/I-90/94). What was a total and complete urban wasteland as recently as 2000 is now absolutely *BOOMING* with new construction. It's like an entire new city is being built there.

    IMHO, the catalyist for it all was the removal of the CHA high-rises that surrounded that area.

    I agree. Aside from the ongoing (mis)adventures inside the bowels of City Hall, Chicago is an astonishing place.

    And it is the focal point of tall-building construction in North America today, too (two in the 80-95 floor range and many more in the 40-60 floor range are under construction or soon to start).

    Mike

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Oh yeah...not only is the North Side basically a really huge extension of the Loop, but the west side near the United Center and UIC, the NW side, the South side near U of C, and the Midway area. Not to mention many of the older rail-line suburbs becoming lively walkable areas with big condos and ground level stores.

    However, Chicago needs to improve its transportation system significantly. We need better conncections among rail lines (i.e. Metra's STAR line and CTA's circle line which need to be built in their entirty now!!) to connect existing lines. We could also use some light rail or something for the malls, office parks, etc.

    I think we need a change in leadership though, statewide and in the city. *runs and hides* I don't see anyone being helped or having their situation improved who desperately need it. The south side and west side are still largely segregated and impoverished.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Here: check out some of my threads regarding Chicago:

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=19557

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=17918

    I have done others, but the photos aren't correctly linked anymore, so check out all my Chicago photos in the Cyburbia Gallery.

    Welcome!!
    Last edited by mendelman; 06 Oct 2005 at 10:55 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  5. #5
    Cirrus's avatar
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    I'm not sure Chicago can claim supremacy over New York as "the focal-point of tall building construction in America today”, though the two are clearly a tier above everyone else.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Here: check out some of my threads regarding Chicago:
    Welcome!!
    ^Yeah, I love both of those threads. Regarding the area around Midway Airport, it's about to get MORE urban-style development.

    For anyone who's interested, go to the Dept of Planning and Development's website and click under the link "south Cicero corridor plan". It lays out plans for several streets in the district, recommending newer development to fit in with the context with the rest of the neighborhood, and for newer commercial development to address the street better, with rear parking, etc. It also calls for newer hotels, convential centers, etc also with pedestrian-friendly elements, etc.

    This is a great time to be an urban enthusiast! I'm so glad I wasn't into this stuff 20 years ago--how frustrating a time that must have been

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    New York's NIMBY problems are really limiting what can get built there.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    This thread is of particular interest to me, as I have considered moving to Chicago -- it would likely happen next spring/summer depending on a couple of factors. For those familar with development currently going on.. I am looking for suggestions.

    I'm a 29-year-old, single male who is looking to live in a condo or townhouse -- my goal would be to stay in the $300,000 range (I know in SoCal, this would be impossible, but I'm hoping Chicago is still a little more affordable), but there's some flexibility there. I'd like to find a neighborhood that is safe of course, and preferably somewhere with some current development, as I have a strong preference for new housing (for allergies, it's just a lot easier). As a result, many of these redeveloped neighborhoods are of interest to me, but being from outside the area, I just don't know which ones are safer/more desirable, etc. A walkable, urban neighborhood is nice, not necessary, but the main thing is to be in a safe neighborhood where I might find other people of my age in the area.

    Any suggestions?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    This thread is of particular interest to me, as I have considered moving to Chicago -- it would likely happen next spring/summer depending on a couple of factors. For those familar with development currently going on.. I am looking for suggestions.

    I'm a 29-year-old, single male who is looking to live in a condo or townhouse -- my goal would be to stay in the $300,000 range (I know in SoCal, this would be impossible, but I'm hoping Chicago is still a little more affordable), but there's some flexibility there. I'd like to find a neighborhood that is safe of course, and preferably somewhere with some current development, as I have a strong preference for new housing (for allergies, it's just a lot easier). As a result, many of these redeveloped neighborhoods are of interest to me, but being from outside the area, I just don't know which ones are safer/more desirable, etc. A walkable, urban neighborhood is nice, not necessary, but the main thing is to be in a safe neighborhood where I might find other people of my age in the area.

    Any suggestions?
    You should be able to find something decent in or near the downtown area for $300K. I would check a Sunday issue of the Chicago Tribune http://www.chicagotribune.com for their real estate ads to make sure. Last I heard, too, rents for a 'studio' apartment on the downtown fringe and the north side are in the $800-1K range and $900-1.2K for a 1 BR.

    Mike

  10. #10
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    ...live in a condo or townhouse -- my goal would be to stay in the $300,000 range...Any suggestions?
    At that price you can pretty much have your pick of the just formerly frontier neighborhoods and get at least a 2bd, 2ba condo. If you're willing to look a little further, you could get something real nice in a first ring suburb (Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie, etc).

    Actually, I have friends that are thinking of selling their 2bd, 2ba flat (with 2 parking spaces). It's a recently condo converted 6 flat building. It's in Oak Park (a very nice urban streetcar suburb) that is 1-1/2 blocks from the Austin Green Line EL stop and walking distance to alot of nice services in Oak Park. Although, Oak Park does have lots of families, there are many singles (20s+) and you are no more than a 20 minute EL ride to the Loop (Chicago's Downtown). They might be looking to sell within your time frame at about $289,000.

    If you want more details, private message me.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

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    Quote Originally posted by The Urban Politician
    For those of you who don't visit the skyscraper forums, I am a regular there but I have quite an interest in urban planning issues as well. I would like to discuss one of my favorite cities--Chicago.
    Timely topic for me; thanks for bringing it up, U.P. I'm doing some research on the city -- I lived there for a year and a half before heading back to school. Having been away and back again for visits, I don't think I quite appreciated what the city had to offer until I left. It's amazing to see the progress each time I get a chance to visit, particularly on the West and South sides.

    Anyway, what do people here know about the strength, legitimacy, or effectiveness of the regional planning work that is going on? I know that there was a state law signed recently establishing a Regional Planning Board -- does anyone have any insight as to how effective this body might be in terms of counteracting some of the regional problems facing Chicago?

    Chicago Metropolis 2020 for example -- I've been reading a lot about the work they've been doing, but how much clout do they actually have, and how do you much do you think the city's political machine takes them seriously?

    If anyone has any links to any articles or what have you, feel free to pass them along, as well as providing your own perspective.

    Cheers,
    R.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally posted by rn0521
    Anyway, what do people here know about the strength, legitimacy, or effectiveness of the regional planning work that is going on? I know that there was a state law signed recently establishing a Regional Planning Board -- does anyone have any insight as to how effective this body might be in terms of counteracting some of the regional problems facing Chicago?

    Chicago Metropolis 2020 for example -- I've been reading a lot about the work they've been doing, but how much clout do they actually have, and how do you much do you think the city's political machine takes them seriously?

    If anyone has any links to any articles or what have you, feel free to pass them along, as well as providing your own perspective.
    I think regional planning is growing in legitimacy in Chicago and will be put to the test very soon. The Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission just completed its 2040 Framework Plan for the 6-county Chicago region, and the newly established Regional Planning Board (a merger of NIPC and the Chicago Area Transportation Study) may help in implementing its proposals.

    As for Chicago Metropolis 2020, it has been influential already. The organization was created by the Commercial Club of Chicago, the big business group that put together the 1909 Burnham Plan. More recently, they supported the Regional Planning Board idea. And lastly, Mayor Daley's daughter is on the Chicago Metropolis staff.

  13. #13

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    I think that Chicago may have the best and most varied public spaces of any city in the country (I guess, possibly excepting NYC), with Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Milennium Park, Navy Pier, etc...Maybe Milennium Park has achieved its success despite Frank Gehry And, I know, Navy Pier is kind of cheesy, but amazingly it is now fulfilling the same function for which it was originally intended...as a retreat for all Chicagoans during the heat of summer. When I was in town this summer and temps were in the 90s every day, it was comfortable on Navy Pier.

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    Actually, a relatively timely topic for me as well. I was just there on business about a month ago and loved it (first time in a while). I'm in NYC now and don't really like it here but, eh. I would definitely consider moving to Chicago. One thing I have some question about however, is the public transportation system. Are there plans to improve it to meet new needs or only maintain what they've got? I've read some other topic/forums about that (I think there are a few Chicago professionals here) and it sounds like no one really takes expansion seriously. More loops would seem to be ideal.

    What's happening in terms of walkable communities/smaller urban-style areas in the suburbs and outlying towns that are connected to the city by commuter rail (in Chicago)?

    Oh, and lastly, I would project that there is more development going on in Manhattan than in Chicago. There's always new constuction everywhere, and I've watched more 30+-story buildings go up from my office window in the last five years than I ever could've imagined possible.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WhelanBeer
    What's happening in terms of walkable communities/smaller urban-style areas in the suburbs and outlying towns that are connected to the city by commuter rail (in Chicago)?
    Well, here's a list of communities I know of that are experiencing major downtown urban revival that are along railroads:

    North suburbs:
    Glenview
    Evanston
    Skokie
    Highland Park

    NW suburbs:
    Park Ridge
    Des Plaines
    Mount Prospect
    Arlington Heights
    Palatine

    West suburbs:
    Elgin
    Elmhurst
    Wheaton
    Naperville
    Aurora

    All of these communities are located along Metra lines and are experiencing a tremendous amount of condominium development (primarily upscale), row houses, and ground-level retail (including chains), and refurbishing of or adding of public plazas, parks, and monuments. Some are big, like Elgin and Aurora, and some are smaller. Elmhurst, Wheaton, Evanston, and Naperville have quaint college communities as well, which are all very attractive.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by WhelanBeer
    Actually, a relatively timely topic for me as well. I was just there on business about a month ago and loved it (first time in a while). I'm in NYC now and don't really like it here but, eh. I would definitely consider moving to Chicago. One thing I have some question about however, is the public transportation system. Are there plans to improve it to meet new needs or only maintain what they've got? I've read some other topic/forums about that (I think there are a few Chicago professionals here) and it sounds like no one really takes expansion seriously. More loops would seem to be ideal.

    What's happening in terms of walkable communities/smaller urban-style areas in the suburbs and outlying towns that are connected to the city by commuter rail (in Chicago)?

    Oh, and lastly, I would project that there is more development going on in Manhattan than in Chicago. There's always new constuction everywhere, and I've watched more 30+-story buildings go up from my office window in the last five years than I ever could've imagined possible.
    ^Yes, there is a LOT of discussion to improve transit in Chicago. Metra is creating new stations all the time, esp in the suburbs, and is growing in ridership. As Illinois Planner mentioned, there is a good amount (although not enough for me) transit-oriented development going on in suburbs ( I would also add Oak Park to that last, btw).

    Also, there are a lot of plans to create new rail lines. There are plans to create more stops on the Green Line, as well as more transit-oriented development around existing Green and Blue Line stops in the south and west sides. There is a project under construction now called the Circle Line which, depending on future funding, will function as a "super loop" that runs a few miles outside of the central core and links together all of the CTA rail and Metra rail lines. Plans are also under way to extend the red line further south beyond 98th street, and to extend the Orange Line past Midway Airport to a shopping mall.

    What else? Plans are under way to create some super stations downtown--incuding a West Loop Transportation Center to connect Union and Ogilvie Stations and act as a hub for Metra lines and east-west busways towards the east loop/Navy pier; this will also be the hub for the future Midwest High Speed Rail network (if it ever happens in our lifetimes).

    Ahh, but there's more. Plans also exist for the Metra Star Line, an intersuburban north-south running commuter rail system. Finally, the city is also working on plans for a mid-city transit line, whether it be an actual rail line or bus rapid-transit, and it will run near Western Avenue, if I'm correct.

    I think that's most of it. Other forumers should feel free to add to that or correct any of my mistakes. The problem, Whelan Beer, is not planning. Chicago has a lot of ambitious plans to upgrade and extend transit. The problem is a relatively anti-transit Federal Government who currently has a complete buffoon at the helm--not only to they give very little money out for transit dollars, but they're actually trying to dismantle the nation's Amtrak system!!!

    Either way, I hope this answers some of your questions about new transit projects in Chicago

  17. #17
    Cyburbian time+space's avatar
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    [QUOTE=WhelanBeer]What's happening in terms of walkable communities/smaller urban-style areas in the suburbs and outlying towns that are connected to the city by commuter rail (in Chicago)?QUOTE]

    Riverside, IL is in the midst of a TOD Study being done by URS. The Olmsted-designed community is a National Historic Landmark District that is only about a 20minute Metra ride to and from downtown Chicago.This should be interesting to follow--trying to redevelop a downtown while preserving the Olmsted ideal.
    The Village recently held a planning session with residents and planners. If you are interested, the concept plans and powerpoint presentation from URS can be found on the Village's website, riverside.il.us (sorry, can't do urls yet either).

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    At that price you can pretty much have your pick of the just formerly frontier neighborhoods and get at least a 2bd, 2ba condo. If you're willing to look a little further, you could get something real nice in a first ring suburb (Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie, etc).

    Actually, I have friends that are thinking of selling their 2bd, 2ba flat (with 2 parking spaces). It's a recently condo converted 6 flat building. It's in Oak Park (a very nice urban streetcar suburb) that is 1-1/2 blocks from the Austin Green Line EL stop and walking distance to alot of nice services in Oak Park. Although, Oak Park does have lots of families, there are many singles (20s+) and you are no more than a 20 minute EL ride to the Loop (Chicago's Downtown). They might be looking to sell within your time frame at about $289,000.

    If you want more details, private message me.
    Thanks for the information... I probably will be looking to stay within the city limits of Chicago however... that, and the move generally, depends on Chicago passing the smoking ban, as I am very allergic to cigarette smoke, and a lot of what I like about Chicago would be inaccessible to me if the ban does not pass!

    As far as some of the newly redeveloped areas -- how safe are they? I'm not as concerned about crime as some people, but I would like to be in a neighborhood where I can feel safe wandering around -- I tend to be a night person, so safety is somewhat of an issue.

    Thanks again!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Worst excuse ever..........

    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    Thanks for the information... I probably will be looking to stay within the city limits of Chicago however... that, and the move generally, depends on Chicago passing the smoking ban, as I am very allergic to cigarette smoke, and a lot of what I like about Chicago would be inaccessible to me if the ban does not pass!
    So that is going to stop you from moving? Give me a break. I can see your issue on some venues, but when it comes to drinking establishments, a bar is bar, expect smoke. If you don't like it go somewhere else where smoking is not a relative issue. Government should step aside and let business owners decide. The market will dictate it. You want smoking go ahead, no smoking go ahead. All a ban does is create prohibitional standards.

    F*ck the bans.............Let the owners decide.........
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator
    So that is going to stop you from moving? Give me a break. I can see your issue on some venues, but when it comes to drinking establishments, a bar is bar, expect smoke. If you don't like it go somewhere else where smoking is not a relative issue. Government should step aside and let business owners decide. The market will dictate it. You want smoking go ahead, no smoking go ahead. All a ban does is create prohibitional standards.

    F*ck the bans.............Let the owners decide.........
    Rumpy, I take serious and great offense to your post. Yes, of course it would stop me from moving -- as a late 20s single male, going to restaurants and bars is normally part of your life, and in places where they are smoky, I can't go there -- it's not a choice, it's something I was born with. Do you know what it is like to not be able to go to a restaurant or bar -- that's what I'm saying -- I simply can't go. No choice, unless I want to be sick for weeks, or even in a hospital in severe cases, as I've suffered irregular heartbeats from exposure to cigarette smoke. I have to avoid it at all costs.

    I moved to California several years ago purely because of the smoking bans. My life has changed for the positive in more ways than I could have imagined as a result of actually being able to have a social life for the first time. I'm interested in Chicago, but only if it's non-smoking. If they don't pass the ban, I will choose to live elsewhere. Why should that bother you? It's none of your business why I live in a city, or what makes me happy.

    Sorry, but I am completely intolerant of people who criticize me, or the decisions I am forced to make, because of my allergies. I find your post to be offensive beyond belief -- you are entitled to your opinion, but you have no right whatsoever to crticize me for doing what my medical situation requires.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I heard a few days ago that they had enough votes in the council, but then they decided to pospone the vote for more negotiating, so who knows? Maybe they're going to bury it or maybe it's going to be watered down. Anyhow, there are a few places where you can go where there's banned smoking, but not many.

    The resturants are idiots for opposing it. It hasn't hurt in Boston or California, and honestly it's not hard for a smoker to step outside to get a puff, so I seriously doubt they'll get turned off or do all of their bar-hopping in Hoffman Estates or something. But I've been in many situations where people didn't go out because they didn't want to deal with the smoke.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    I heard a few days ago that they had enough votes in the council, but then they decided to pospone the vote for more negotiating, so who knows? Maybe they're going to bury it or maybe it's going to be watered down. Anyhow, there are a few places where you can go where there's banned smoking, but not many.
    My understanding is the vote in the health committee will now be on Oct. 26, then it will likely go to a council vote the next day.

    I don't really want to turn this into a smoking ban thread as those always turn ugly (I seem to always get told what an evil person I am because I was born with allergies that obviously lead me to live in smoke-free places), but I hope people can at least understand why someone in my situation -- single, late 20s, unable to be around smoke at all -- would not be interested in moving to a city where they can not go to restaurants, bars, blues clubs, or even a hockey/basketball game (United Center is the only facility in the NHL that is not smoke-free) -- those are basically the core of my social life, and I would hope most people, regardless of their feelings on the ban, can at least understand I would not be happy in a city where my medical situation would preclude me from doing the things I most enjoy. I am not asking anyone to be in favor of smoking bans, but I am asking not to be harassed or told it is stupid that I am choosing a home based on a place where I can go anywhere, instead of having my social life severely limited at best.

    I am sorry I said anything in the first place -- I simply thought it was relevant to the previous post, as the lack of a smoking ban in Oak Park is the sole reason I likely would not be interested in the previous condo.

    Sorry for any trouble, and I hope people can at least understand why I have to make the choices I do for medical reasons.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Do you actually have allergies to the nicotine itself or are you just sensitive to bad air in general? Because ours can get pretty nasty. (Not nearly as bad as LA though).

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Don't take offense and no offense taken.....

    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    Rumpy, I take serious and great offense to your post. Yes, of course it would stop me from moving -- as a late 20s single male, going to restaurants and bars is normally part of your life, and in places where they are smoky, I can't go there -- it's not a choice, it's something I was born with. Do you know what it is like to not be able to go to a restaurant or bar -- that's what I'm saying -- I simply can't go. No choice, unless I want to be sick for weeks, or even in a hospital in severe cases, as I've suffered irregular heartbeats from exposure to cigarette smoke. I have to avoid it at all costs.
    Wow, "as a late 20's single male, going to restaurants and bars is a normal part of life." Good for you. And you don't have to avoid the smog of CA? If a place is smokey, don't go. Go somewhere else that suits your standards.

    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    I moved to California several years ago purely because of the smoking bans. My life has changed for the positive in more ways than I could have imagined as a result of actually being able to have a social life for the first time. I'm interested in Chicago, but only if it's non-smoking. If they don't pass the ban, I will choose to live elsewhere. Why should that bother you? It's none of your business why I live in a city, or what makes me happy..
    It doesn't bother me where you you choose to live. It bothers me when you try to impose your standards on someone else's business or establishment. If you you don't like a bar that allows smoking, go somewhere else that doesn't have any or has limited smoking.

    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    Sorry, but I am completely intolerant of people who criticize me, or the decisions I am forced to make, because of my allergies. I find your post to be offensive beyond belief -- you are entitled to your opinion, but you have no right whatsoever to crticize me for doing what my medical situation requires.
    I only criticized your origional post I quoted. The business should be able to decide whether or not they want to allow smoking or not. My post wasn't offensive. All I did was state the facts that there is a choice. If you don't like a businesses's policy go somewhere else that supports your own.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  25. #25
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Blue and Rumpy: Now let's hug and make-up.


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