Condo Association Sues to Have “Hideous” Divvy Station Removed

Divvy at Addison/Pine Grove by Shaun Jacobsen
This Divvy station has begrimed a block of Addison Streets, according to the condo association suing to remove it. Photo: ##http://transitized.com##Shaun Jacobsen##

Update Friday, 15:09: Judge Kathleen Kennedy denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order because they didn’t state a clearly ascertainable, protectable right and cannot sustain the merits of their complaint (if it went to trial, as they requested). The protectable rights they tried to ascertain and state were that the Divvy station would have a negative impact on the building’s property value, and the residents’ safety and privacy would be at risk.

Chicago’s Second City nickname comes from the old accusation that we’re constantly aping the Big Apple. Regardless, we’re definitely following in New York’s footsteps when it comes to bike-share NIMBYism. After NYC installed 300 Citi Bike stations within a few weeks this spring, a number of condo associations hired lawyers and threatened to sue the city after stations were placed in front of their buildings. At least one association actually filed a lawsuit, which was almost immediately thrown out. Opposition died down after 65,000 members pedaled over two million miles within two and a half months. Many other bike-share cities have seen resistance to the docking station from homeowners, but stations have worked out just fine in historic residential streets in London, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

So let’s chalk it up as a rite of passage that Chicago is now seeing its first anti-bike-share lawsuit. On Wednesday, a Lakeview condo association filed suit against the Chicago Department of Transportation and 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman in an effort to get a Divvy docking station removed from the front of a three-unit building at 3565 North Pine Grove, on the southeast corner of Pine Grove and Addison Street. Workers installed the station yesterday afternoon, it went online at 3:13 p.m. and saw its first use at 4:19 p.m. However, before the installation was complete, association members and married couple David Kolin and Jeannine Cordero, both lawyers, had already filed the lawsuit.

Why? Kolin told the Sun-Times the condo owners object because the station is five steps from the front door, and they think it will attract strangers to the block who will might follow residents’ children into the building. In the Tribune, Cordero called the station “hideous,” calling to mind Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz’s famous rant against Citi Bike stations “begriming” the streets of New York. Kolin and Cordero are kidding, right? The 50 people who had used the Pine Grove station by 9:30 this morning would probably argue that it’s in a handy location.

The condo association’s lawsuit [PDF] says building residents found out about the station on Tuesday when they spoke to a Divvy staffer setting up traffic cones. The lawsuit states that the station will “[destroy] thousands of dollars of improvements made by the residents,” arguing that the parkway upgrades they paid for would be destroyed by rampaging bike-share customers. It’s silly to predict that the local residents who’ll be using using this station to commute, run errands, or go for lakefront cruises will be stomping on the parkway plantings or dropping Big Gulp containers in the bushes.

Divvy Station at Pine Grove/Addison
Does this look "hideous" to you? Photo: ##http://transitized.com##Shaun Jacobsen##

The condo owners give the city amusing directions about where Divvy stations should be placed, arguing that they “should be installed in a higher trafficked area, near public transportation lines and not on a quiet, residential street seeking to retain some calm in an already busy area.” The residents must be unaware that they live on bustling Addison Street, which sees 10,000 cars and 150 buses each day and sits four blocks east of the Red Line’s Addison stop, not to mention Wrigley Field. Then there’s the fact that the whole point of bike-share is to connect residents to jobs, shopping, and other destinations. If you don’t put bike-share where people live, the system doesn’t work.

“This residential street location was determined to be the safest for customers near the busy intersection of Addison and Lake Shore Drive,” CDOT Spokesman Pete Scales told the Trib. “It is located in the public way, close to the curb on the street, and not on any private property.”

The lawsuit also claims that “already scarce parking” has been further diminished, but the station replaced only two parking spaces. That public space has become ultimately more productive, since it will enable dozens of people to use the bikes each day instead of simply warehousing a couple of cars.

The plaintiff’s request for redress is absurd. They ask for the removal of the station, allowing the condo association to dictate the new location, plus compensatory damages and reimbursement for legal fees. Oh, and they also demand a trial by jury. We may see more of this kind of Divvy NIMBYism in the near future, but once more people wrap their heads around how useful the system is, they’ll be begging to have docking stations installed in front of their homes. As a matter of fact, dozens of Craigslist apartment listings have already advertised proximity to Divvy as an asset.

  • No kidding. The feedback I’ve received suggests that those built-in bungees are really uncomfortable.

  • Divvy staff visit every station about once a day and dispose of any garbage they find. That’s a much better cleaning schedule than most street furniture, so litter is not a valid argument against installation.

  • Anonymous

    I agree entirely – litter is *not* a valid argument against installation, let alone litigation.

    Despite Divvy management efforts, I still believe that all Divvy users should support litter control.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know there is a litter problem, incidentally. I’m simply stating that where litter exists folks should pitch-in to control it.

  • Of course – don’t be a Divvybug.

  • Anonymous

    Lazy = litterbug.

    Note: “You” in the following is not you, Adam, but the more general reference to a lazy litterbug.

    If it’s your trash, it’s your responsibility – not someone else’s to come behind you because you were too lazy and irresponsible to handle it yourself.

    There is no excuse for littering and folks doing it should get hammered; I have ZERO tolerance for lazy, self-absorbed, irresponsible, and indifferent litterbugs. I’m not sure, though, that I’ve made my position on the topic clear. :)

    We need an updated cycling version of this classic, which some of us are old enough to have watched when it came out:

  • Adam Herstein

    Right, but my point is that most people are not maliciously littering because they get off on throwing garbage everywhere. It’s because they are too lazy to find a nearby trash receptacle. Place a garbage can at the station and this solves the laziness problem.

  • Adam Herstein

    Are they also fair-trade?

  • Anonymous

    …and speaking of classics with linkage to topics of interest to Streetsblog, we need an updated version of this one to address benefits of Divvy and Ashland BRT:

    the analogy being lemmings = auto-centric commuters. Don’t be a lemming (thank you, XRT!):

  • Anonymous

    Littering is, by definition, malicious . . .

    I agree that placing receptacles nearby helps reduce littering, but their absence is not an excuse for it either.

    I’ll step off my soapbox.

  • Anonymous

    I hear ya. My comment is largely playing the devils advocate.

    But one point that concerns me: here, on the chainlink, and elsewhere, the consensus seems to be that it needs to be thrown out just because they are a bunch of rich entitled white people. Instead we should let the process play out, and if Divvy needs to adjust their site determination process as an outcome of this case, so be it.

  • Anonymous

    I was not consulted when AT&T put a huge uverse box in the alley next to my building. It’s part of AT&T’s utility easement, they’re allowed to do it. Just like the city is allowed to put a Divvy station on the street that it owns.

  • Without speculating on the ethnicities of the plaintiffs, they’re definitely rich. Take a look at the look at the building in the first image and divide it into three units. Those are ginormous condos, located on prime real estate near Addison and Lake Shore Drive. Regardless, I agree that we should let the process play out. The end result of the process will almost certainly be the case being thrown out. Gentleman’s bet?

  • Anonymous

    Sure. We may even know the outcome this afternoon. Or at least get an inkling of where this is going.

    “Chicago Daily Law Bulletin picked this up yesterday. There is a hearing scheduled today at 2:00 p.m. on the petition for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. Anyone with time on their hands could go to courtroom 2502, Daley Center, Judge Kathleen Kennedy presiding, to see what happens.”

    Hat tip goes to Lisa C.

  • Here’s the Solomonic response from Tim Samuelson, the city of Chicago’s official cultural historian, whom I view as the authority on these matters:

    “Hi John – This gets kinda complicated – and the subjective nuances of the story will keep people arguing for years to come. There are oblique post-fire references to a “second city” arising from the ruins of
    the 1871 fire, but the term didn’t gain familiarity as a descriptive
    name for the city. But with the annexations of 1889, Chicago actually
    became the second largest city in the United States, a fact confirmed by the census of 1890. After that time, it wasn’t unusual to see Chicago referred to as the “second city” in the local and national press. But “second city” was commonly used in many other comparative city references of the time – not just for Chicago. I’d say the establishment of “second city” as widely-recognized nickname specific to Chicago came with the attention and notoriety given to the A.J. Liebling “Second City” stories published serially in The New Yorker in early 1952, and compiled as a book in the same year. Since the stories generated a lot of talk and controversy, “second city” graduated from being a description of population into a self-standing nickname of wide recognition. But I don’t want to make any “absolute” pronouncements on this – it’s a no win situation for anyone who tries to do so.”

  • Jim Mitchell

    I certainly am old enough to have watched that when it was new, but did you know the star, Iron Eyes Cody, was not Native American at all, but just an “Indian Impersonator?” Hopefully you will engage actual cyclists for your updated version!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Eyes_Cody

  • Jim Angrabright

    I’ll tell you want brings down property values: having a condo association filing frivolous lawsuits. I mean really, who would want to live in a building with a bunch of bellyachers?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, knew that.

  • Jim Mitchell

    I only learned that recently. It shattered my innocence!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve known for a real long time and have had time to get over it. :)

  • I guess it now “comes” from the changed, and constantly perpetuated, perception.

  • While “trash” is something they charged in their news interviews, it’s not something they brought up in today’s court hearing.

    I don’t think it’s a protectable right, either.

  • Anonymous

    Nope, it isn’t – it’s a much cheaper complaint call.

  • Well, after the bad press and humiliation of having their lawsuit immediately thrown out of court, I wouldn’t be surprised if they go on the “lam,” as the Dutch say. I believe I won our gentleman’s bet.

  • jen b

    Yup. People have pockets, bags, HANDS. Go to the alley and throw it in someone’s bin (which I realize is technically illegal but for f*ck’s sake, sometimes citizens have to take a stand).

  • john

    I did manage to transport one kid on a divvy but larger / more racks would be helpful since I have 3 kids.

  • Anonymous

    per DNA, their request for an emergency restraining order was denied. ie, the judge is like “WTF? Get outta here”

  • The judge was very polite and explained that they could not meet the merits of their claims. I wrote it all down but I’m still trying to get a handle on the legalese.

    A status conference has been scheduled for September 24.

    The precessional opinions I’ve obtained on the matter say that the resident acting as the representative for the Plaintiff, her own condo association,

  • Scott

    To Dave and Jeannine – regarding your concerns about increased crime – whenever I want to engage in illegal thuggish behavior and attack someone, I always make certain that I’ve approached them on a powder blue bicycle with white and red strobe lights flashing. Then I make a point of assaulting my victim adjacent to a location containing a device that records my name, credit card number, home address, phone number and exact time I was at that spot. I do this because, unlike you, I am civic/community minded and want to make it as easy as possible for the police to capture me after I’ve committed my attack. — Additionally, when I want to kidnap one of the minors whose safety you are so concerned about in your building, that the Divvy bikes don’t have a child seat attached to them. I know the Divvy bikes are slow but the little tykes still have difficulty running alongside them! By-the-way, kinda ironic that your large flower planters are plopped down on the public sidewalk and thus impede individuals in wheelchairs from easily navigating along the side of your condo. I’m a thinkin’ that a lawsuit might be filed to get you to remove those “hideous” monstrosities.

  • Anonymous

    looks like you got cut off…

    Sounds like the judge was trying to tell them to drop it. If they don’t, he can go the other way and dismiss it with prejudice later (ie they’d have to pay legal fees for the city)

  • (Fixed my reply.)

  • Anonymous

    Comment of the week.

  • Anonymous

    There, you do it again. You jump to conclusions prematurely.
    The lawsuit did not get thrown out. All that happened was that the TRO got denied. The case itself can proceed.
    I disagree that you have won the gentleman’s bet. Yet.;)

  • OK, I suppose I can’t call this a decisive victory yet.

  • Anonymous

    I’m guessing you have never lived in a condo. All I heard in my condo was a list of complaints.

  • FG

    I suspect they were also dissatisfied with the response from their Alderman. When Cappleman ran the first time he was asked by a member of the press what he planned for this part of the ward or how he would service their needs and his response was deer in headlights. The property owners (probably not rich, as some have claimed, since their unit is on Addison) should have at least been informed. I was informed that water mains on my street would be replaced before it would happen, I would think that Divvy would rank the same amount of advance warning, if not more, as it is a permanent fixture.

  • Anonymous

    I think there are plenty of good places to have the DIVY stations — including the one outside my office window. But what’s wrong with asking residential neighbors before putting this in?

  • Anonymous

    Hard to argue with Tim Samuelson.

  • Anonymous

    This also applies to the Chicagoans complaining about the new runway fight patterns over their house with airplanes every 45 seconds betwen 6:00 am and 10:00 pm. “I do not own the sky over my property.”

    Or do I…?

  • Anonymous

    By this standard, no one should complain about the new runway configurations with planes flying over houses every minute or two. Or should they? What do you think? How does it differ?

  • O’Hare was already enormous when 90% of those people moved there, they have no right to complain about it. And I say this as someone who lives in the specific noise area — it’s not actually all that noisy unless you sleep on a roof deck and have amazingly sensitive hearing. Close a window, turn over, or put on a quiet white-noise generator and the problem is solved.

    I grew up with my childhood bedroom window less than 40′ from the Brown Line tracks, and even with them in height — yes, it was noisy enough that if we were on the phone when a train went by we paused our conversation until it passed, but it wasn’t too loud to sleep through by any means.

    I think a lot of the Sauganashites who are complaining really wish they lived deep in Kane County in a subdivision surrounded by farmland; most of their complaints that I’ve heard about local issues come down to “I hate this thing that is intrinsic to city living and makes other people’s lives easier.”

  • tamanduabeijo

    Learn to read. I SPECIFICALLY referred to UTILITIES IN A PUBLIC WAY. Is an airport in any way like a mailbox, bike rack or Divvy station? No…no it is not. Anyway, one can certainly make a case that people who don’t want noise should not move into close proximity to any airport.

  • shemtheo

    As an urban planner myself, the issue of getting public input on projects/policies is always tricky. There are no projects that satisfy the needs and desires of everyone and so reaching consensus on anything is impossible. Best practices for these kinds of issues is to have community meetings and get input from the community on where to place stations, then factor that input into the decision making process along with the other factors (expected ridership, topography, physical space reqs, etc). Once station placement is decided, municipalities should then notify the public and the neighbors about where the stations will be located. Invariably, some people will complain; but like I said, there’s literally no way to satisfy everyone.