A Lot of Contention: Residents Rebel Against the Masada Car Park

20121127-184507

The Masada storefront. Photo: Rachel Leb

Masada is an ancient fort located on a rock plateau near the border of Jordan and Israel where, according to legend, Roman troops laid siege to Jewish rebels who committed mass suicide rather than give themselves up to their enemies. A battle is also brewing over the fort’s namesake Middle Eastern eatery, slated to open soon in Logan Square. The owner plans to build a 17,000-square foot parking lot for the restaurant a mere spear’s throw from the O’Hare Line’s California stop.

Shadi Ramli, who also owns Wicker Park beloved Sultan’s Market, says the long-awaited Masada restaurant will finally open this spring, according to a recent story in DNAinfo. After he bought the building at 2206 North California, he was told that the city’s zoning code would require him to provide several off-street parking spaces, so he also purchased vacant land across the street, at the southeast corner of California and Stave, for a parking lot.

Nearby residents told DNA they object to open land being used to warehouse cars so close to an ‘L’ station, on a strip where there are a number of thriving restaurants and bars with zero offstreet parking. “Why does a restaurant directly across the street from a popular L station need a parking lot?” asked Jacob Marshall. “You can literally see the place from the platform! Such a waste.” Ramli said he has received dozens of emails to that effect, but the city’s zoning code gives him no choice.


View Larger Map

The lot at California and Stave.

However, as Steven Vance reported previously on Streetsblog, nearby establishments Revolution Brewing and the Radler beer hall were able to get out of their parking requirements by requesting a zoning change and getting a zoning waiver, respectively. Furthermore the transit oriented development ordinance passed last year allows Masada a 50 percent reduction in the amount of required parking because it’s within 600 feet of a transit station, 100 percent with an administrative adjustment.

1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, who has an otherwise strong track record on transportation issues, said he’s gotten plenty of negative feedback about the Masada lot from constituents, but he’s powerless to stop it because Ramli owns the land. Actually, it’s possible that’s not true. Ramli may still need to obtain curb cut permits from the Chicago Department of Transportation for the lot, and if the alderman asked CDOT not to issue the permits, the department probably would honor his request.

Instead, Moreno suggested Ramli add trees, landscaping and benches to the perimeter of the parking lot, and the space may become available for public uses like a farmers market. Whether you see that as making lemonade out of a lemon or putting lipstick on a pig is a matter of perspective, but one thing is clear. There’s absolutely no reason a restaurant located across the street from a Blue Line station needs offstreet parking, and Moreno should block the lot if possible. That would force Ramli to put the land to a more productive use or sell it to someone who would.