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Dear Mayor Daley:

Let me begin my admitting I didn't vote for you this last election. Not that I voted against you either, it's just that I didn't think you had any competition and figured you'd win even without my vote. I should also inform you that aside from this one brief encounter when I was in High School you and I have never met. I guess I should also let you know that I come from humble origins so you wouldn't recognize my last name even if I spray-painted it on the Picasso in Daley Plaza. Even though you're Da Mayor and I'm just a blogger you and I have a couple of things in common.


One of those things is our appreciation for nature and urban beautification through planting of public areas. I love Millennium Park, even though it cost an arm and a leg, and think it's nothing short of ground breaking. I'm particularly fond of the plantings around the city but I'm not fond of the unequal distribution of these plantings. The City of Chicago's Latin motto is Urbs in Horto (City in a Garden) but to look at some areas of Chicago I have to wonder if they're considered to be part of Chicago. I wonder because there's little to no streetscaping in some areas of Chicago. The Loop looks great, as does most of the north side and some areas of the south side, in the spring and summer with all of the plants-but there are still a lot of areas that are pretty ugly.

The image above is a good example of what I mean. It's located on the southwest side and it's looked like that for years. It's not so bad in the winter when it's covered up with snow but now that the snow is melted the urban ugly is starting to show. What usually makes spots like this even worse is that they're located near or next door to (in this case) industrial businesses. The zoning laws in Chicago are pretty wacky, some even say they're racist. I don't understand how in some neighborhoods noise and air polluters like auto shops can co-exist with residential areas. I don't think I've ever seen a paint shop next to a house in Lakeview or a junk yard across the street from a town home in the Gold Coast.

But somehow these a very common sight in areas that are far way from The Loop and the eyes of tourists. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much areas like South Lawndale generate in sales tax for the city yet it's pretty much ignored when the streetscaping is done.

Maybe I should give you a little credit because someone did install a number of these planters down in South Lawndale last year or the year before last. These planters are a step in the right direction but this little planter doesn't make up for the two empty lots in the background. Do I even have to mention how ridiculous that tree looks planted there? I'm pretty sure it's just temporary and it was planted there for winter interest but some of them were planted so shallow that they started to pop out of these planters during the freeze & thaw cycles. In the spring and summer they were planted with a few ornamentals but these plantings were nothing compared to what Michigan Avenue got.

The planters on Michigan Avenue were lushly planted with Cannas, Elephant Ears and really amazing varieties of Coleus. I even noticed some planters on Michigan Avenue last year had Japanese Maples-which struck me as odd. Do you know how expensive Japanese Maples are? I do, their price is out of my gardening budget but I'd love to know who your source is because they must get them really cheap to be added to planters like common annuals.

If the disparity in plantings around the city is due to price or lack of plants I as a gardening resident of this great city would donate some of my surplus seeds to help beautify ALL of Chicago. I could even show you this really cool way to grow your own plants from seeds using empty soda bottles like I did *here* .

I've attempted to do it on my own but when the crews come around to mow down the weeds in the empty lots they can't tell the difference between the plants I planted and the weeds and so my plants get cut down too. I try not to let it bother me because it's not my land. But Mayor Daley you have the power and authority to make things happen and I hope that you would celebrate winning your sixth term by really making Chicago a City in a Garden. I promise to vote for you next time if you make an effort to make these empty lots into small gardens and renovate the dilapidated parks. I'm a fan Mayor Daley, a fan of the parks, the initiatives you've taken to make Chicago the Greenest City in America, your desire to host 2016 and just a fan of yours in general, lets keep it that way.



  1. Anonymous6:48 AM

    Maybe this is a good place to start a community garden?

  2. Anonymous6:49 AM

    If there's a community group in the area encourage them to notify the owner that it is the law that the property has to be fenced and maintained.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for the suggestions. If my memory serves me right a couple of years back someone tried to start a community garden there but the couple of plants and tree were moved by someone.

    A community garden would be a great idea but the property is bordered by a very busy road. To the right they just developed a mini strip mall and the white gravel you see if the "parking lot" for a business across street.

    I'm not sure if you can tell but there are tire tracks through the mud because somebody hit the gas instead of the breaks.

    Directly behind where I stood to take the picture is a bench that has been knocked over more than once by cars who jumped the curb.

    I think that in order to make a place that would be safe for people to use there needs to be a fence or concrete planters installed that could act as a barrier in the event that more accidents occur that the intersection. I don't think a small group would have the money and resources to pay for something like that.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  4. Wonderful letter... and you're so right about that tree. I couldn't tell if it was planted there or if someone stood their Christmas tree upright in a large trash container.

    How about some guerrilla gardening? A nice homemade "wildflower" mix?

  5. Hi blackswamp_girl,

    I've actually tried it in a couple of different lots that I've come across but they end up getting mowed down when the city comes to clean up about once a year. Aside from those trees in the planters they do an ok job with them they're not as nicely planted as other planters but it's something.

  6. Excellent post, your comments apply to any major metropolitan area in the US. Here in Miami we have the same problem, excellent parks around the tourist and high price areas and next to nothing in the working class neighborhoods

  7. That lot (25th and Pulaski) is owned by the city. Talk to the Alderman about setting up a community garden.

  8. Hey Rusty,

    Thanks for stopping by. I just saw the photo in your avatar and think that's a pretty wicked shot of a dragonfly. I'll have to stop by your blog and check it out some more.


    I have spoken to the Alderman from the area and he didn't seem to be too concerned and said that there was a group that was suppose to do something with the spot years ago.

    Since my blog has gotten some exposure with the mention in the Trib and a link from gapersblock I decided to take the initiative and appeal to the boss himself in the hopes that someone with some kind of connection would come across this blog and get the ball rolling.

  9. there's a group called NeighborSpace that helps start community gardens, not sure what the start up procedure is, good luck, hope that plot gets a chance to bloom, also your alderman may become more interested if presented with a petition from your neighbors as well



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