I guess some people in the world call large freshwater lakes “sweet water seas”. that would include Lake Michigan, a great lake.
The mouth of Belmont Harbor is a great place to photograph large planes arriving from Europe and Anchorage, charter fishing boats leaving the harbor, and pre- and post-war apartment buildings that overlook Chicago’s precious source of drinking water and recreation.
All photos taken on iPhone 14 Pro. The 3x zoom lens is handy, but still not as good as a handheld camera with interchangeable zoom lens. I’ll bring that next time I’m going to be around Belmont Harbor at the time the jumbo jets arrive.
I woke up to have breakfast with my friends, who I was staying with. They were going to their offices in Amsterdam, but rather than travel with them I decided to get ready a bit slower and meet them in the evening for dinner.
I left their house at around 10 AM and started cycling, on the OV-fiets shared bicycle, owned by NS, the Dutch national railway company, that I picked up the day before. My destination was Rotterdam Centraal station so I could return the bike and hop on an Intercity Direct high-speed train to Amsterdam (the train runs high-speed between Rotterdam Centraal and Amsterdam Schiphol airport). But I was distracted by the planes landing at the Rotterdam-The Hague (RTM) airport, which is five minutes from my friends’ house.
At this point I realized I didn’t really need to be anywhere soon, so I kept cycling. My friend D. had already pointed out a place to spot trains on the “HSL” (high-speed line) so I headed there, which is about 10 minutes north of their house, in between Rotterdam and a suburb called Rodenrijs. Dutch land use is quite compact. The built-up area ends with a hard line and then there’s either agricultural land or nature preserves. The area between their neighborhood and this suburb had a bit of both. From this location I spotted Thalys, Eurostar, and NS’s Intercity Direct trains in both directions.
Having enough of this I cycled back to the house to recharge my phone (I had already used half of the battery recording so many photos and videos in two hours). Only then did I cycle 18 minutes to the station and board the next ICD train. ICDs depart every 15 minutes, so I didn’t bother to target a timed departure. I also like to get an “American cookie” at Kiosk, a $5 cold cuts sandwich, and drinkable yogurt.
At Schiphol airport station I changed trains to a Sprinter to Amsterdam Zuid (south) station, where I changed to the Amsterdam Metro so I could disembark at Jan Van Galenstraat station. Why? That’s the nearest station to where the bike I own lives. (It lives at another friend’s flat, who lend it to their visiting friends occasionally.)
Schiphol airport is a notable station: it has six platforms and trains to everywhere in the country, plus Thalys trains to Brussels and Paris stop here. My friend will sometimes take the train from Rotterdam, disembark here, and bike the rest of the way to his Amsterdam office to ensure he gets enough cycling in that day.
I unlocked my bike (which my friend had set out for me the day before) and rode it northeast towards the city center. My destination was the Allard Pierson Museum because I wanted to see their “Maps Unfolded” exhibit. The exhibit displayed maps created by Dutch people and over the last 400 years, showing the Netherlands, places colonized by the Dutch, and maps of the world made by Dutchies.
As usual, I missed a turn or two but serendipitously encountered a recent major streetscape change (basically a project that converted asphalt and space for cars to space for people and more landscaping – read about the changes at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal on Bicycle Dutch).
The upper floors of the Allard Pierson Museum gave me great views of the Rokin canal, the shops that front it, the cyclists that ride it, the tourists and Amsterdammers that lunch on the water’s edge, and the tour boats that slowly motor along.
After the museum I checked out the new underwater bike parking garage. Read that again. The Dutch have built an underwater. bike. parking. garage. Watch this 1-minute time lapse video that shows how it was built. A canal area in front of Amsterdam Centraal station was dammed and emptied of water. The garage was built, with a watertight roof and vertical circulation and the water was replaced.
This bike parking garage has 7,000 spaces, on double decker racks that use pistons to assist bicyclists in lifting the upper racks up and down. Again, Mark W. has demonstrated this over and over again on his blog. Each of the numbered aisles indicates about how many spaces are free.
The garage replaces two other garages on the south side of the station, and is part of a long-term project to “clean up” the areas around the station. (The project includes enlarging waiting areas for the tram platforms, reducing lanes for cars, preventing vehicles that aren’t taxis and mobility transit from getting close to the station entrance, and decluttering bikes.)
Everyone who uses the garage must check in their bike using their OV-chipkaart (public transport smart card) or a contactless bank card or smartphone wallet. This way the garage automatically tracks that everyone who leaves with a bicycle was also tracked as entering with a bicycle (although the system doesn’t check that it’s the same bicycle).
The bike parking garage has a direct entrance to the Metro station and the train station (where one can board trains to anywhere in the country, as well as to Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, and I think Czechia).
The next new thing to see is the IJboulevard, an extension of land into the former bay called the IJ on the north of Amsterdam Centraal. (I really don’t know what to call it now, the Wikipedia article calls it a “body of water”.) The IJboulevard is a kind of linear plaza that’s as long as the train station shed, a new public space. It wasn’t hot when I was traveling, but I’ve recently seen complaints on Dutch Twitter that it’s oppressive without landscaping.
Also on the north side of the train station is the bus station, which is on level two (or level one if you’re European). It’s been there for many years, but it’s impressive due to its operations and the architecture.
The ferries are also on the north side of the train station. This station is truly a multimodal hub. It’s one of the most fascinating and bustling places to be in the city. There are two ferry routes here for pedestrians and bicyclists to the north side of the IJ, and another ferry route a quarter mile to the east. All the ferry routes are free and operate 24/7 because there are no bridges or tunnels for pedestrians or bicyclists (even if there were they would be sorely inconvenient because of their length and depth or height). Since 2018 there has been Metro service to the north side of the IJ; this allows bicycles but there’s a fare and doesn’t operate 24/7.
Ferries are designed to walk and roll on and go back and forth; they don’t need to turn around. They leave on a schedule – pay attention to the countdown screens at each dock – but must yield to boat traffic already in the IJ, which I got to watch.
It was time to move on, towards the restaurant where I would be meeting my Rotterdam friends. I biked to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s main park. Vondelpark is surrounded mostly by housing so it connects to side streets, but it’s crossed by a main street and buttressed at the south end by a main street separates it from Rijksmuseum and Museumplein.
Because of how it’s connected to so many side streets, and a couple main streets, Vondelpark makes a greater “intersection” for through-routes. But it’s also a wonderful place to cycle for people watching, recreation, or to cycle in circles, like I did. Using my new handlebar phone mount I recorded some video and captured this awesome scene of three bicyclists riding side by side by side all turning at the same time!
We ate dinner at a vegan burger restaurant called Vegan Junk Food Bar that dyed their buns hot pink as a fun gimmick (some of the food was good and some of it was mediocre) and afterward had beers at Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Brewery of the IJ).
From the brewery we walked about half an hour to Amsterdam Centraal station and boarded the next Intercity Direct train back to Rotterdam Centraal, and took the Rotterdam Metro back home – this time with my personal bicycle so I could have it for the next five days in Rotterdam, and a special ride around Texel island (in a future blog post).
Alternative headline: The zoning map and the zoning code work hard to limit new housing and density.
Several times a week I browse the descriptions of recently issued building permits in Chicago to find the “interesting” projects so I can post those on the Chicago Cityscape social media accounts and keep people apprised of neat things happening.
I also track when new ADU permits are issued, because the city does not.
Yesterday a permit with the description of “basement to be converted to an additional legal dwelling unit” was issued in Roscoe Village, so I went to the city’s list of ADU pre-approval applications to determine if the permit was for an ADU or the applicant was taking advantage of the property’s #UnusedZoningCapacity.
It was not an ADU, and since it was zoned RS-3 – which bans multi-unit housing – it was also not the owner taking advantage of #UnusedZoningCapacity.
What was permitted?
I went to the city’s online zoning map to look for other clues, and I found that the property was involved in two Zoning Board of Appeals actions. This is where the story gets interesting. I will do my best to summary the proceedings but I must disclaim that I am not a lawyer.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is an appointed, quasi-judicial body that has three primary functions:
Grant variations where the zoning code authorizes them to (deviations from the code because of atypical circumstances or circumstances that have been previously deemed to require additional review).
Grant special uses where the zoning code authorizes them to (business types that have been previously deemed to require additional or special review).
Appeal decisions made the Zoning Administrator, the person who works for the City of Chicago in the Chicago Department of Planning & Development (and by extension, the plan review staff).
There is a provision in the Chicago zoning code that says that houses that, upon special request, the Zoning Administrator (ZA) can grant an Administrative Adjustment (AA) to allow an additional dwelling unit at houses that are 50 years old or older (subject to other provisions in 17-13-1003-BB).
The owner – also known as the applicant in this blog post – of the two-flat decided to request this AA. The ZA said that the applicant was not eligible for the AA. “The Appellant [applicant] then attempted to seek a variation before the Zoning Board of Appeals” because the ZBA can “grant a variation for any matter expressly authorized as an administrative adjustment”.
Before an applicant can approach ZBA, though, they must apply for a building permit and receive an official “denial of zoning certification” (more on this at the end). This “denial” means, in the unofficial layperson’s zoning translation dictionary, “the permit reviewers see what you’re trying to do and while it’s not permitted as of right under the circumstances you can take this certificate and apply for relief from the ZBA”.
The ZA, who oversees the permit reviewers’ review of a building permit application’s adherence to zoning standards, “refused to issue” the denial. They did this pursuant to 17-16-0503-A, which says the ZA “may deny or withhold all permits, certificates or other forms of authorization on any land or structure or improvements thereon upon which there is uncorrected violation of a provision of this Zoning Ordinance…” The building had an uncorrected building violation citation from 2007.
The property owner disagreed with the application of that section of the zoning code. They filed an appeal and asked the ZBA to reverse the ZA’s decision to refuse issuing the denial. (In the same filing the applicant also asked the ZBA to legalize the basement garden unit, which they declined to do.
I’m going to skip a bunch of the proceedings, which are in the attached meeting minutes from two meetings, but conclude that the ZBA “finds that the ZBA did err in refusing to issue the Appellant an official denial of zoning certification” and ordered the ZA to issue the denial.
The story ended well
Having won the appeal, the applicant has the official denial of zoning certification and can proceed to file a new case with the ZBA and request a variation asking, again, for them to grant them the administrative adjustment that the ZA had previously said the applicant was not eligible for.
The applicant’s building permit for the additional unit was issued on June 7, 2023. The processing time on the building permit was 961 days, which should represent the date when the applicant first submitted the building permit application with the intention of getting the official denial of zoning certification from the ZA.
The result was that the city lost an additional home in a high-amenity, high-resource neighborhood for three years and a property owner had to pay thousands in legal fees.
124-22-A. The appeal of the ZA’s denial to issue the official denial of zoning certification.
12-23-Z. The variation granting the property owner the right to establish an additional dwelling unit in the two-flat.
This is titled Ferry #1 because there is a second major ferry that I rode during this trip, from Den Helder to Texel island in the Netherlands, that I will write about later.Read other posts from this trip.This is day 9.
Two Wednesdays ago, on May 10, I spent about eight hours on a ferry from Harwich, England, to Hoek van Holland, Netherlands. (That’s pronounced “hook fawn holland”, by the way.)
I had an exciting time…so exciting that I captured 429 photos and videos that day. I also published an accompanying short video showing some of the unique parts of the ship and the voyage.
It started with a picture of an empty street during my early morning walk to the bus stop in Covent Garden, London, and ended with a picture of a long-awaited “döner box” for dinner in Rotterdam.
Months ago while planning my trip to Europe I decided that I would take one of the ferries from England to the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands (as my destination after the ferry was Rotterdam). At some point I decided upon taking the Stena Line from Harwich. P&O also operates a ferry, from Hull.
Stena’s ferries leave twice daily, at 9 AM and 11 PM. I was originally going to take a night ferry, but I booked a day ferry because I wanted to see the departure and arrival ports in the daytime, I didn’t want to have to stay up late to travel to the port and settle into the cabin, the day cabin is half price, and I wanted to work a little. The ticket was around $120, which included the crossing fare and the cabin fare for a private room with en suite shower and a window to the sea.
Getting to the port
I woke up at my friend’s friend’s flat – the one in Covent Garden – at 4:45 AM and walked over to Strand to catch a night bus to Liverpool Street Station. Taking the tube would be longer because of changes and there was approximately zero traffic ahead of the bus for the 18-minute ride. Plus, I remember that the journey planner indicated the Elizabeth Line – the most direct route – wouldn’t start running until a little after 5:30 AM, putting at risk meeting my scheduled train departure of 6 AM.
I hopped onto a Greater Anglia train that departed on time toward Norwich. I changed at Manningtree for a train that left for Harwich Town, calling at Harwich International, the name of the port. I took the train at this time because if I missed it there was only one more train that would get me to the port on time before check-in closed. If I missed the boat then I would have had to go back to London and buy an expensive same-day Eurostar ticket to get to Rotterdam. Needless to say, I made the train I wanted, and I got to the departure terminal 30 minutes ahead of check-in.
Boarding the ferry
The smallest group of ferry travelers, it seemed, were “foot passengers”, those who walk on from the terminal waiting room like I did. The larger groups are those driving their personal vehicles onto the boat, and freight truck drivers. Bicyclists must use the same lanes as those driving on, but I don’t know how many of them there were.
There’s an airport-style security screening (although a bit simpler, as shoes can stay on) after which I presented my passport to a Stena Line staffer who gave me my boarding card. The paper boarding card has a barcode that doubles as the room key. The staffer told me to head down the gangway and off I went, onto the ship. I was the first foot passenger to board.
What I found funny when boarding is that I encountered no other workers between the check-in desk and the cafeteria. I didn’t see anyone to guide me to my room; I didn’t even know my room number until I reviewed the boarding card for some kind of indication and saw “10384”; this meant deck 10 room 384.
I found my room alright – there are maps and signs everywhere – and dropped off my luggage and headed to buy some breakfast in the cafeteria, as the ferry would leave in about 45 minutes and I wanted to be outside to witness the departure. Breakfast consisted of oats porridge (oatmeal made with milk) for £5.
Outside there was still a lot of action. Dock and ship workers were still moving semi-trailers onto the ferry. They had special tugs with very tight turning radiuses, and the drivers could turn their seats 180° so they could drive backwards. After the driver got the semi-trailer into place, workers on the deck would place a stand under the semi-trailer, the tug would drop it onto the stand and leave.
Deck workers would then tie the semi-trailer to the deck. Two adjacent semi-trailers could be tied simultaneously and there was enough room on the aft deck for two drivers to maneuver around each other. (This is shown in the video.)
Port workers shoved off the boat’s many ties and the ship slowly moved laterally away from the dock, and then the ship gradually made its way forward. I didn’t measure it but it felt like it took 10 minutes for the ship to finally slip past the Felixstore fortress and leave the harbor.
The ship passed two docked container ships, for Evergreen and MSC, being unloaded, and a couple of boats working to dredge the port. The port also had two lightships, a ship acting as a lighthouse. When leaving the port we passed an inbound MSC container ship, the MSC Sariska V (which I took 22 photos of…thank you brand new phone with three camera lenses).
On board the Stena Britannica
Since I awoke so early I skipped taking a shower at the flat, and I took one on board the ship instead. This was the largest ship I’d traveled on, by an order of magnitude. Prior to this the largest ship I’d traveled on is either the Staten Island Ferry or the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island. I was wondering how I’d sleep.
The ship is incredibly stable. The minimal rocking was helpful or at least nonintrusive for my two-hour nap.
I took my laptop over to the cafeteria-lounge to work for a couple of hours. The ship has wifi and free internet access. Passengers can pay for higher-speed access, but I was only visiting webpages and I tolerated the standard speed.
The journey was nearly over pretty quickly, but I can’t account for all of the time. There was about an hour watching the departure, a slow hour showering and checking messages on my phone, two hours of napping, two hours of napping, and another hour of watching the arrival.
Rotterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world. There are a few reasons for my affinity. A primary reason is that a friend of mine lived there for many years so I visited a couple of times –2014 and 2015 – and got more than a shallow introduction. I also lived there for three months in 2016, and revisited in 2017 and 2022. After many years away, my friend lives there again (with his now spouse) so I am visiting again!
Stena asks that passengers in cabins pack out and wait in the lounges an hour prior to arrival so I gather my luggage and go outside to watch the mooring process. When it seems we’re docked I go inside to wait for the foot bridge to open so I can get out fast – I had to get into the city center to get my friend’s house key before he headed out to a show.
Once I’m off the ship there’s a long walk down to the terminal. Along the way I spot what’s being offloaded: a few manufactured houses were transported from the UK to the Netherlands. Huh.
I entered the country and walked right up to the Hoek van Holland Metro station. To pay for transit, I have a personal OV-chipkaart (public transport smart card) that bills a bank account for usage on any transit service in the country – save for most ferry crossings – at the end of the month. However, Metro now accepts contactless bank cards and mobile phone wallets.
I took the Metro to Rotterdam Centraal Station, which also happens to be my favorite train station as I love its dramatic roof, wide open plaza (Stationsplein and Kruisplein), and beautiful boulevard approaches from all four directions. It’s designed well for passenger experience inside, too.
After getting the house key I checked out an OV-fiets, a “public transport bike” (literal translation), using my OV-chipkaart, and biked to my friends’ house. (OV-fiets are available only to those with a personal OV-chipkaart, which must be tied to a Dutch bank account and thus it is generally not available to tourists. It is rented on a 24-hour basis for €4.45, and must be checked in to a train station at least once every 72 hours.)
I quickly dropped off my luggage and biked back to the station so I could get a döner box from The Döner Company for dinner. Turkish fast food in the Netherlands is like Mexican fast food in Chicago: pretty good no matter where you get it, inexpensive, and ubiquitous.
The döner box – comprising salad, sliced beef, fries, and chili and garlic sauces – was as delicious as I remembered it being.
My friend and I walked down about 190 steps in Covent Garden. Northern Line stations are “deep tube” stations” and several rely on large elevators to move passengers between the street and the platforms. There are staircases, of course, but the London Underground uses blunt messages on signs to discourages using them to go up.
We met our other friend for breakfast at Polo Club, a diner across from Liverpool Street station. He then set off to the airport to go back home.
My friend and I then took the tube to Farringdon station where we boarded a Thameslink train to Brighton, a city on the sea. (Read more about Thameslink below.)
Brighton is a place for resorts, attractions, and shopping. There are plenty of pedestrian streets with national and independent shops, many of them are quirky or vintage shop, and there are tons of restaurants and cafés. I got a millionaire’s shortbread from Jolliffes Coffee Shop. (I bake these, also called caramel slices, a few times a year after first having one in Australia in 2019 and I’ve sampled the Scottish and British versions at nearly every opportunity).
In Brighton we visited the pebble beach, had some beers at Palm Court Restaurant in Palace Pier, and checked out the Volk’s Electric Railway, apparently the oldest operating electric railway in the world and now a heritage line for tourists (although it provides a costly transportation route if you want to save walking east along the boardwalk by 1 km).
We rode a double decker Brighton & Hove bus uphill back to the train station, and had a beer and a snack at Grand Central. Then, we grabbed snacks and sandwiches at the M&S to-go shop at the station for the train ride back to London Bridge station.
From there we headed home to Covent Garden, walking over the Millennium Bridge, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, along Strand (a street name without a suffix), stopping in a pub for a pint (okay, I actually got half pints which I’m glad is a possibility at every place we went since I reduced my drinking to put off potential migraines).
Day 7 (Tuesday)
Tuesday, May 9, was the trip’s final day in London for my friend and I. We spent the day trainspotting.
First we went to Embankment station on the Northern line to see the extreme gap between the train and the platform. A Transport for London (TfL) employee is always present to watch the platform and use a paddle to signal to the driver, via CCTV, that the train is ready to leave. They also have a wireless microphone connected to the PA system and shouts “mind the gap, mind the gap”.
From Embankment we took the Northern line to Nine Elms, in order to check out what a brand new Underground station in London looks like. We grabbed snacks at the Sainsbury’s hypermarket next door and then hopped back on the train to disembark at Battersea Power Station. BPS is a brand new, mixed use mega re-development of a former coal power plant. There are offices, residences, and an indoor mall, nestled in some prescriptive landscaping.
(Between the Sainsbury’s and the station there is a pedestrian alley with a very basic but acceptable design. Let’s call this the inter-building space. I like how common they are, even if not all of them are very pretty.)
We boarded a Thames Clippers “Uber Boat” which is a semi-frequent transit option on the River Thames. It’s a bit slow and expensive, but it has a bar on board, it’s relaxing and you can see a lot of the city. (The “Waterbus” in Rotterdam is much faster, but the Maas and IJssel rivers are wider and have less boat traffic.)
Next we went to Camden Passage, a pedestrian street behind Islington High Street, and encountered a controversial minor change to a roadway to slow drivers. This is also where we first tried some cinnamon rolls – including one with dulce de leche on top – at a Buns From Home location.
Regent’s Canal and Broadway Market were our next stops. The canal is used more as a place to live than to transport cargo. We had pints and a nutty snack at Dove Treehouse & Kitchen, a pub. I’ve been pleased at the variety of non-alcoholic beers on offer as well as the ability to get a half pint of beer anywhere.
On our way back to the flat in Covent Garden I got a döner box from a franchise called German Doner Kebab – and it was great. I first had döner box in Rotterdam in 2016 from a small chain (found only in large Dutch train stations) called The Döner Company.
Thameslink is a fascinating “subnetwork” of National Rail, running 24 hours a day on certain services of its many lines. Lines run through London to the suburbs. I would probably characterize it as a long-distance regional rail. The route to Brighton is high speed, sometimes reaching speeds of 100 MPH using third-rail electrification. The trains are fully articulated, so it’s always possible to move to a different car easily.
The interior displays rotate through several screens showing train loading to advise passengers where cars are less crowded, and which of the five bathrooms, including the accessible one, are occupied.