For­mer Coun­cil watch­dog shines new light on Moreno’s Dou­ble Door deal­ings

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS EXTRA - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN City Hall Re­porter Email: fspiel­man@ sun­times. com Twit­ter: @ fspiel­man

For­mer Leg­isla­tive In­spec­tor Gen­eral Faisal Khan is once again stir­ring up trou­ble for a City Coun­cil that tied his hands and forced him out — this time by shin­ing more light on new zon­ing rules im­posed on the owner of a build­ing that once housed the now­shut­tered Dou­ble Door mu­sic venue in Wicker Park.

The City Coun­cil voted Wed­nes­day to down- zone the prop­erty at 1572 N. Mil­wau­kee — in a way not nearly as dras­tic as an ear­lier pro­posal — at the be­hest of lo­cal Ald. Proco Joe Moreno ( 1st).

Moreno flexed the iron- fisted con­trol al­der­men have over zon­ing in their wards de­spite the stren­u­ous ob­jec­tions of prop­erty owner Brian Strauss, who has ac­cused Moreno of us­ing threats and intimidation to ben­e­fit “his friends” at Dou­ble Door.

Now, Khan is out with a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion that goes beyond al­le­ga­tions made in Strauss’ pend­ing law­suit against Moreno and the city.

It de­tails four sep­a­rate of­fers to pur­chase Strauss’ build­ing at prices start­ing at $ 10 mil­lion in Jan­uary 2016 and fell to $ 6.5 mil­lion by Au­gust of this year — of­fers that all fell through be­cause of Moreno’s pro­pos­als to down- zone the prop­erty.

Ac­cord­ing to Khan, that means Strauss has al­ready lost $ 3.5 mil­lion and “hun­dreds of thou­sands” of dol­lars more in ren­tal in­come.

“Al­der­man Moreno has abused his power and ti­tle. … Al­der­men do not get to bully and in­tim­i­date con­stituents, and they cer­tainly have no author­ity to dic­tate who a busi­ness owner rents to, or how he op­er­ates his busi­ness,” Khan was quoted as say­ing in a press re­lease.

De­tails of Khan’s find­ings are post- ed on the web­site of Project Six, the non- profit watch­dog he now runs.

“Al­der­man Moreno has called this con­duct, ‘ fight­ing for his con­stituents.’ It is not. It is giv­ing power to busi­ness ten­ants who were law­fully evicted by a court for fail­ing to pay rent but have do­nated thou­sands to Al­der­man Moreno. The al­der­man’s con­duct has cost Strauss and his fam­ily mil­lions of dol­lars. But most ap­pallingly, it will cost tax­pay­ers even more in law­suit costs and pay­outs against the city.”

Moreno did not re­turn re­peated phone calls. In a text mes­sage to the Chicago Sun- Times, he wrote, “I’m do­ing se­nior vis­its. What’s up?”

When he was told it was about Khan’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the al­der­man did not re­spond.

Strauss’ at­tor­ney Jim McKay said Khan’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­cludes new de­tails not in­cluded in his law­suit. They in­clude a meet­ing Strauss had with Moreno in 2012.

“Moreno told him in front of wit­nesses that Dou­ble Door was gonna be the only ten­ant that would ever be al­lowed in that build­ing,” McKay said.

Also noted in the new re­port, McKay said, is “the tim­ing of the down- zon­ing pro­pos­als. There’s three dif­fer­ent down- zon­ing moves. … There’s no ben­e­fit to the com­mu­nity. … Ev­ery build­ing in that im­me­di­ate area is zoned at B3- 2 or higher. … This is a large build­ing. It’s been B3- 2 for over 40 years. Why is this hap­pen­ing?”

McKay called the City Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to mod­ify the down- zon­ing to a less re­stric­tive B2- 2 an “ad­mis­sion of guilt” — but “too lit­tle, too late.”


“There is no le­git­i­mate leg­isla­tive rea­son for sin­gling out Brian and his fam­ily and this build­ing,” McKay said. “This al­der­man is hurt­ing them for the sim­ple rea­son of re­venge and get­ting even be­cause this land owner wouldn’t al­low his friends from Dou­ble Door back in.”

Moreno has ac­knowl­edged get­ting into a Feb. 25 ar­gu­ment with Strauss that was video­taped. But the al­der­man has cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied us­ing threats and intimidation to keep “his friends” at the now- shut­tered Dou­ble Door mu­sic venue in Strauss’ build­ing.

Khan’s re­port al­leges no wrong­do­ing by the Dou­ble Door’s own­ers, but does in­clude an email in­di­cat­ing one of the own­ers, Sean Mul­roney, met with Moreno and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Jan­uary.

Nathaniel Hamilton, a spokesman for Project Six, said that email was in­cluded to show the mayor’s of­fice was at least aware of and may have helped to ar­range a Fe­bru­ary meet­ing at which Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sioner David Reif­man tried to bro­ker the sale of the build­ing to the Dou­ble Door own­ers at be­low mar­ket value.

When Project Six asked what was dis­cussed at the Jan­uary meet­ing, the mayor’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment, cit­ing Strauss’ pend­ing law­suit.

Moreno has said his only mo­ti­va­tion is to make cer­tain that res­i­dents of the trendy neigh­bor­hood and their lo­cal al­der­man have con­trol over what goes into the build­ing that housed the club where the Rolling Stones once played.


Ald. Proco Joe Moreno The for­mer Dou­ble Door mu­sic club

Brian Strauss

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