A little over 20 years ago, we moved away from an area near the university. The area had become mostly a student ghetto, but the students were far less of a problem than the snotty local homeowners up the street who were doing all they could to fight the transition of the homes from single-family residences to student housing. Here is an editorial I wrote then.
I live near the university, practically surrounded by students. Every year there are some annoying minor incidents — one or two loud parties and illegally parked cars.
While these incidents are a bother, they are nothing compared with the aggravation caused by the neo-nazis of the local community association. These folks, in their panic to rid the neighbourhood of students, use tactics much more harmful than a few loud parties and illegally parked cars.
Not long ago, members of this group held a neighbourhood walk-through with the local alderperson. They indicated all the houses they thought had been converted illegally into student housing and decried the cars parked in front of some of the houses.
Because we had recently done some remodelling, and because we park in front of our house, these concerned citizens fingered our residence as one which likely had been carved into student housing. But did these neighbourly folks ask us directly about what was happening? Nope.
Instead, two different persons visited us to talk about their organization and its activities. The second was a pushy man who barged into our foyer, trying to look around our house. It seems this group keeps tabs on neighbourhood housing by soliciting for charitable organizations and petition signatures.
A few days later we received two letters from city hall. The first told of an anonymous complaint that we had illegally added an apartment to our home and asked to arrange for an inspection. We replied that we would be happy to speak with the complainant(s), that indeed we would like to meet with them, but that an official inspection was out of the question. The administrator was quite apologetic, indicating that she could not reveal the name(s) of the complainant(s) but that she thought they were over-zealous. To date our enlarged bedroom has not been inspected.
The second letter alleged that we were parking illegally in front of our house. At considerable inconvenience however, I convinced city hall that I was parking legally.
Throughout these events, none of the crypto-fascists confronted us directly with their concern about our home. Instead, they hid anonymously behind city statutes to harass us.
To these so-called neighbours in this so-called community, I ask, "Where were you when neighbours were ill? Where was the spirit of concern then?"
To them I say, "If this is your idea of community, I prefer students as neighbours."
In fact, at one point I called the president of the neighbourhood association and suggested that if they didn't leave us alone, we would move, and the next buyer would likely fill in the pool, put parking in the backyard, and cut up the open-concept home into 9 or 10 bedrooms. Her response, "Oh, we've heard empty threats like that before." To which I said, "That's not a threat; it's a prediction."
This is roughly what the neighbourhood looked like back then. Our house was the bungalow on the right of the four houses, and there was/is a pretty ugly apartment building for students to the right of it.
Sure as shootin' we put our house on the market. The buyer was a student whose family came in, filled in the pool, put parking in the backyard, and cut up the house into 9 bedrooms to be rented to other students.
I think we moved at the right time. A few years later, a developer bought the other three bungalow properties next to our house. He tried to put what looked to be better-than-reasonable-quality student housing on the lots. The homeowners association fought him tooth and nail, and the city ended up putting zillions of restrictions on what he could and could not do.
He ended up building what have come to be known as "The Towers of Spite". He calls them "The Towers of Frustration". They are brightly coloured tall, narrow structures with very few windows (no windows on at least two sides of the buildings). They are, well, "interesting" to say the least.
You can see them in this news story about them that was aired on local television a few nights ago (if that link doesn't work, try this one). Look for the old yellow brick house in the background to the right of the towers. That was our house. We loved it, but I can assure you we'd have been pretty upset having those tall structures next door (there had been single-floor bungalows on those lots when we were there). And we would NOT have been nearly so upset had some of the developer's original plans been allowed to go through.
Now the developer is running for mayor. He has put huge signs (perfectly legal since they are election signs) down the full three stories of the towers showing what could have been there if the loving neighbourhood association and city hall hadn't tried to thwart his actions.
Photo from The London Free Press below doesn't show the house that was ours.
I still have such bad memories about the homeowners' association that I'm tempted to support this guy's run for mayor.
There's more here (with this photo):
Addendum: From the earlier Free Press story,
He [Kaplansky] said he stands by his offer that if the city were to approve his plan for duplexes and triples as shown as recently as 2005, he would donate the material from the towers to Habitat for Humanity if they would clear the site and let him try again.
Update: There is a very nice piece about Arnon Kaplansky by Mary Lou Ambrogio in The London Yodeler.