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Cubs score after the fact in bid for remote parking

The Cubs on Friday got after-the-fact approval to provide free remote parking and shuttle busing for fans in 1,000 vehicles attending concerts, night, weekend and holiday games at Wrigley Field — even after area residents cried foul.

The remote parking lot at 3900 N. Rockwell St., authorized by the Zoning Board of Appeals, was a pivotal part of the agreement that paved the way for more night games at Wrigley.

It was approved only after the Zoning Board of Appeals tacked on nine conditions, including: trees and shrubbery to buffer the parking lot; a ban on idling buses; and barricades on Western Avenue to prevent fans from driving down residential streets.

The lot has been operating without a permit since opening day, serving about 300 vehicles game, with a high of 538 vehicles for a May 18 game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

That blindsided and infuriated local Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and his North Center constituents.

They showed up in force at Friday’s meeting to say they don’t want 1,000 extra cars driven by potentially inebriated and tailgating fans descending on their community — especially not right next door to a Revere Park filled with kids.

They complained about honking horns, blaring car alarms and about vehicles still parked in the lot at 11 a.m. on the day after Cubs games.

“This area is kid-haven…It’s a dangerous combination to have a group that doesn’t want to operate in good, professional way surrounded by places where there’s kids,” said area resident Paul Rosenfeld.

Area resident Liz Uligian said she and her husband “overpaid for a Chicago bungalow” in the 2400-block of West Byron to be near Bell school and Revere Park, where their 9- and 11-year-old sons play baseball and go to camp.

Thanks to the Cubs, she’s been verbally assaulted by fans lining up to board shuttle buses.

“As I’m walking by, I’m hearing the patrons drop their F-bombs, say inappropriate language, cat-call me as I’m walking by. That’s not something that the Cubs can control. That impacts my park, my comfort, my son,” Uligian said.

Pawar said the process that has allowed the Cubs to operate the remote lot before seeking a permit is “fundamentally-flawed” and downright “disgusting.” He argued that the Cubs came to the community with no plan to ameliorate the impact on area residents and imposed safeguards only after residents demanded them.

“When we think about an additional 1,000 cars or 300 cars or 450, depending on the event, that is an incredible impact…It’ll have a deleterious impact on property values. It’ll have an impact on safety,” Pawar said.

“We’re not trying to be crazy. We’re not NIMBY’s. We understand we live in the city of Chicago. But we didn’t move into a neighborhood thinking there’s gonna be a remote parking lot for, not only [65] Cubs games, but that includes concerts.”

After hearing the testimony, Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Jonathan Swain appeared to side with area residents, setting the stage for the conditions.

He asked the Cubs to: tow cars that go unclaimed; install a “buffer” of trees around the parking lot to “isolate” Revere Park; impose a no-idling rule on shuttle buses; install barricades to prevent fans from parking on or driving through residential streets and move parked cars to the westernmost portion of the lot farthest away from the park and the neighborhood.

“Parents have every right to protect their kids….There’s got to be some balance here,” Swain said.

“The premise this board has to operate under is that there are 1,000 cars there every day because that’s what’s allowed. God smile on all of us and the Cubs go on a 62-game winning streak and make the playoffs and everyone wants to come. Those are things that are within the realm of possibility.”

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the team would consider adding Swain’s suggestions to the security, lighting, sanitation and traffic-control measures it has already taken to appease area residents.

But moving parked cars to the western-most portion of the lot would require Basic Cable & Wire, which owns the lot, to relocate its trucks.

Green rejected the idea of dividing the 1,000 car-capacity among several lots to disperse the impact.

“You would run the risk of fans going to one lot, find that being full, then trying to go to another lot and find that being full, then going to a third lot, which creates confusion and creates congestion, all of which we’re trying to alleviate,” Green said.

Green also took issue with the claim that the lot used 65 times-a-year is overrun by tailgating, inebriated fans.

“This is not just a bunch of drunk college kids trying to hang out in a parking lot,” he said.

“Are there obnoxious and knucklehead people in the world? Absolutely. But we’re taking the necessary precautions to make sure fans are getting to and from this ballpark safely and that people around this [lot] can enjoy their community safely.”

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley, had urged the team to double capacity of a little-used lot at DeVry University and waive a $6 shuttle bus fee to encourage more use and ease a traffic bottleneck closer to the ballpark.

Tunney has done battle with the Cubs, most recently over the team’s revised request for seven outfield signs, including two video scoreboards, after months of nowhere negotiations with rooftop club owners.

But he sided with the Cubs on the new remote lot.

Noting that the Cubs safely operate both surface and deck parking in his ward, Tunney said, “There’s no tailating, no shenanigans and they’ve been it for 30 years. The Cubs have been an excellent neighbor. I wish they’d manage their team a little more successfully. [But], the Cubs have been the best steward. I have other issues with the Cubs. This is not one of them.”