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Uptown Chicago Commission Press Release

Uptown Chicago Commission, area block groups oppose zoning variance for area homeless shelter

Contact: David Rowe, Uptown Chicago Commission, 773-338-7141 (o) or James Cappelman, Uptown Chicago Commission, 773-845-1787 (pager)

July 16, 2003 The Uptown Chicago Commission and members of several area block clubs will protest a request by an operator of a transitional residence for homeless families to become a permanent facility at a July 18 hearing before the City of Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals. The UCC and block groups have sent more than 450 signed petitions to the board protesting the request.

The hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 18 at 2 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, 121 N. LaSalle St., Room 200.

The request, by Cornerstone Community Outreach, seeks to obtain a "special use" zoning variance for its Sylvia Center, located at 4615 N. Clifton Ave. The variance would allow the transitional residence and community center for homeless families to operate permanently in what is currently zoned as restricted commercial, or C1-4, district.

But the Sylvia Center currently has 36 building code violations dating back to August 2002, including exposed electrical wires, inadequate smoke and fire alarms, and the lack of fire escapes. Many violations have been unresolved despite the three extensions granted by the City to the center's owners, Jesus People/USA.

In addition to the building code violations that jeopardize the safety of shelter residents, the UCC and area residents oppose the zoning variation because of the poor management of the shelter and refusal by operators to address criminal activity, such as public drinking and drug-dealing, that takes place in front of both the Cornerstone and Sylvia shelters.

Finally, the level of criminal activity occurring in the police beat (2311) where the shelters are located is three times higher than the level in surrounding beats, according to statistics from the Chicago Police Department. The majority of these crimes are committed on the block where these shelters are located, including a recent gang-related murder that occurred within 200 feet of the Sylvia Center.

The Uptown Chicago Commission is a nonprofit, community-based organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all residents living in Uptown. Block clubs protesting the zoning variance represent more than 1,000 area residents.

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