BAPA History: Planning for a Stronger Community

By Charles Shanabruch

In 1980, the Beverly Area Planning Association’s stated mission was to sustain the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood as a “quality, stable, integrated community.” Sociologists had projected that the area would follow the pattern of resegregation that had been characteristic of the South Side. The challenge to maintain integration was sensed by most of the community’s 40,000 residents.

Fortunately, Pat Stanton’s call to reinvigorate BAPA in 1971 had made a critical difference. Rather than the “a total lack of planning” that often occurs in communities where individual interests take precedent over the common interests, this community was engaged in “total planning” making sure every facet of life was attended to.

From 1980 to 1985, I was executive director of BAPA. It was a daunting assignment and has been the highlight of my professional career. Through the efforts of BAPA’s dedicated and creative board members and staff, committed elected officials, and more than a thousand generous volunteers, we made good on the promise of “total planning.”

At the time, the community’s greatest challenges came from the issues regarding schools, public safety, community building, and unfair housing practices. On each of these interconnected issues BAPA gathered the support of civic associations, churches and local businesses.

Education

The educational excellence of local schools was essential. However, this was threatened as many families with public school students left the community and those families who stayed feared that the Chicago Board of Education’s mandate to desegregate neighborhood schools would lead to busing and the closure of low enrollment schools.

BAPA met the challenge head on. An education committee composed of eight public school parents and led by Barb Vick (for whom the Vick School is named) sought to make each public elementary school attractive and unique so current parents would want to keep their kids enrolled and ne families would choose them.

Numerous meetings with Board of Ed officials, PTAs and parents led to plan proposing that Vanderpoel, Barnard, Clissold and Kellogg become magnet schools and special 7th and 8th grade programs be created at Morgan Park High School. BAPA convinced the Board of Ed that our community could be a city-wide model. With full community support the plan was adopted and the schools thrived.

Public Safety

In the 1980s, when the Chicago Police Department proposed closing several stations, including the 22nd District, BAPA led the fight to keep the station open. Using its civic association networks and block representatives, BAPA flooded the community with petitions. In only four days almost 18,000 signatures were gathered. BAPA delivered the petitions when it testified at a special committee hearing at City Hall. The testimony included BAPA’s promise of more community action. In fact, BAPA had purchased 12,000 yards of CPD-blue plastic ribbon to be tied on every light post in the community until our station was no longer hostage to the “efficiency” plan. Fortunately, the ribbons were never used. (I still have a 100 yard roll in my home office as a reminder of the community’s successful fight for the station.)

Communication

Communication is a critical element in mobilizing community action, but it was just as important in BAPA’s goal of building a sense of “a village in the city.” In Sept. 1980, BAPA replaced its quarterly newsletter with The Villager. Monthly 15,000 copies were distributed free to every residence and hundreds more were dropped at the train stations for commuters to read on their way to work. Its purpose was to keep the community informed, promote engagement, support local businesses and our schools and ensure that BAPA’s perspective was clearly portrayed on issues.

Another very important initiative was the Neighborhood Involvement Program. BAPA identified residents on nearly every block to “NIP” problems in the bud. They were the community’s eyes and ears who called BAPA identifying problems or opportunities to enhance community quality.

Housing

The biggest challenge facing Beverly/Morgan Park was unfair housing practices. Chicago’s history of racial discrimination and segregation threatened BAPA’s mission to sustain a stable integrated community. The real estate market did not provide free and open access to information. Realtors steered blacks to areas where blacks and whites lived and whites to areas that were predominantly white thus creating segregated communities.

BAPA addressed the dual housing market through education and litigation. Numerous block meetings were held to discuss issues of racial change directly and openly with whites and blacks together. BAPA also tried to persuade realtors to obey fair housing laws that had been put in place in the 1960s.

Realtors seeking to accelerate racial change used for sale signs and unsolicited calls to ask people to list their homes for sale as the tools of panic peddling. BAPA supported a ban on for sale signs and also secured signatures on anti-solicitation letters from home owners then served lists of the residents to dozens of real estate offices; when signers were solicited BAPA got the States Attorney to investigate cases and file lawsuits.

Despite these initiatives, racial steering persisted. BAPA realized that until all communities were open those that were integrated would be threatened by the injustice of steering. For this reason, BAPA partnered with the Leadership Council of Metropolitan Open Communities to “test” real estate offices. Matched couples of white and black were trained and then went to real estate offices to see whether each couple received the same real estate listings. When blacks were given only information about integrated neighborhoods and whites were given listings in nearly all white communities, the law was broken.

In Nov. 1983, BAPA filed four law suits in Federal court charging discriminatory real estate practices. BAPA lost the first case brought to trial but the other suits ended in settlements. Most importantly, BAPA’s initiative gave notice to all realtors that racial steering would not be tolerated.

BAPA’s President, Rich Andersen, constantly reminded staff, “Good things do not happen by chance.” Very intentionally, BAPA paid attention to details and the big picture so the community thrived.

BAPA History: ‘Beverly Now’ Leads to BAPA Reorganization

By L. Patrick “Pat” Stanton

The summer of 1971 marked the change of BAPA from a reactive to a proactive role in the Beverly/Morgan Park community. Because of my role in that change in the form of my plan called Beverly Now, I was asked to summarize the event the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Beverly Area Planning Association.

First, recognize the importance of two related events. The Chicago City Council had approved the removal of the historic ban in residential deeds which had prevented the sale of a home to African-Americans. As a result, much of the South Side had changed racially, always on a block-by block basis, in response to pressure from “blockbusting” real estate sales people. Real Estate Research Corporation, highly- respected in urban research, had already forecast complete racial change within five years in both North Beverly and South Morgan Park and the balance of the community in ten years. Nevertheless, there was no discussion in churches or local media about the likelihood of racial change in Beverly/Morgan Park.

The other significant change was in the Catholic Church, through the influence of

Pope John. Activism by laity and young clergy was permitted, and in some cases like Christ the King in North Beverly encouraged. Christ the King had young activist priests and a structure including a Parish Council and a variety of committees.

But where did Beverly Now fit in?

In my personal frustration with this “head in the sand” failure to address impending integration, I penned a ten-page letter to the officers of my North Beverly neighborhood association, Beverly Improvement Association (BIA). In the letter I suggested addressing the subject with a new umbrella organization headed by a professional director, a community-wide organization accepting the inevitability of integration but not re-segregation. Their response was polite, but my proposal they saw as way beyond the scope of the organization, nor did they suggest I take it further.

Remember my reference to activism at Christ the King parish. Its Community

Relations Committee, of which I was a member, had successfully conducted an

Anti-Real Estate Solicitation sign-up within the parish. Trudi Dressel, the Committee chair, lamented to me that to really make a difference we needed a plan aimed at the entire community. Because I had the outline of such a plan in my letter to BIA, I offered to prepare one.

The result: a 20-page magic marker flip chart proposal which I called Beverly Now to stress its urgency. The proposal recommended coordinated programs in four areas: public relations, area-wide education, control of real estate practices and planned business activity. Also, it specifically called for showing homes to black buyers throughout the community and not next to an already integrated block.

Coordinating the activities would be an umbrella organization with a suggested annual budget of $75.000, headed by an executive director with a background in public relations who could inspire and organize an “army of volunteers.”

Then came the clincher: I asked that not only that Christ the King parish endorse Beverly Now, but also pledge $15,000 of parish funds toward its initial setup. The Council gave its approval with the caveat that the entire parish be exposed to the plan first.

Therefore, on the weekend of July 11 and 12, 1971, instead of a pastoral homily, I delivered the Beverly Now proposal from the Christ the King Church’s marble pulpit (since removed.)

As I spoke, the pages from my presentation were flashed on a large screen on the altar prepared by Fr. Jim Quirk, a young assistant. Despite the format and the controversial subject matter, at each mass the congregation burst into applause, a rare response then. A few days later the Christ the King Council approved the pledge.

Over the next couple weeks I was invited to make the Beverly Now presentation to several civic, church and synagogue groups, always well-received with implied eventual financial support. Then about July 25, I received a call from Arthur Baer, asking for a meeting. Arthur was president of Beverly Bank, then an independent bank at 103rd and Vincennes, and the leading citizen of the community. Without him and his wife Alice, neither Beverly Arts Center nor Ridge Historical Society would likely exist.

At our meeting, Arthur immediately concurred with the need for a new umbrella organization focused on impending change and broader community matters. Could BAPA – then an organization that focused on issues such as zoning and beautification — provide that structure in a different format? We agreed that rebuilding an existing organization, particularly one already fairly representative, would be expeditious and have greater acceptability.

With Arthur Baer’s blessing, progress was startling.

On August 4, 1971 over 200 influential residents were invited to a meeting at the Beverly Art Center, where I was invited to give my last presentation of Beverly Now. Then Bob Seward, BAPA’s president, spoke announcing that BAPA would be re-structured to become a broad-based umbrella organization with much wider representation on its Board of Directors. A professional staff would be hired, and the organization would address the issues raised by Beverly Now.

Within a few weeks money was pledged by various institutions, mostly financial, to fund the new BAPA. Also, ten new more representative directors were elected including two women (a first), two clergymen– a minister and a priest — (both a first) and me.

Seventeen chairs were appointed of mostly new committees. As an example of community enthusiasm, the Public Relations Committee, of which I was chair, had 16 well-qualified members at its first meeting in December and it grew. Most important, by February after a nation-wide search G. Phillip Dolan was hard at work as BAPA Executive Director.

In retrospect, I say those three weeks in the summer of 1971 were truly a re-birth for BAPA. We are especially grateful for the five special people – Trudi Dressel, Fr. Ed Myers, Arthur Baer, Bob Seward and Phil Dolan. Each played a special role in our being able to celebrate BAPA’s 70 years.

Let us also celebrate their lives as we enjoy their legacy.