Inside Ed Burke's “Palace”

Zoning break, shady partners

In his spare time from being the 14th Ward alderman, Ed Burke wheeled and dealed his way into building what the Sun-Times calls a "palace" for him and his wife, state supreme court judge Anne Burke, through the help of a compliant city council willing to go along with a plan opposed by the city's zoning office.

The city thought the "massive, three-story house" - which was built along with 13 town homes in a $3.7 million Burke development deal - didn't fit in with the neighboring bungalows in Archer Heights.

But Burke's colleagues weren't about to deny the chairman of the council's finance committee.

And the city Zoning Board of Appeals wasn't going to stand in his way either, waiving a city ordinance requiring a certain amount of yard space in the front and back of the house.

Ed Burke gets what he wants because he's Ed Burke.

And his wife is a state supreme court justice. She lives there too.

They don't have to play by the rules.

But you do. There are two kinds of parking permits on Burke's street, the Sun-Times reports: One on his side of the street and one on the other side of the street.

Of course, anyone can be granted a "variance" from city ordinance to build something that would ordinarily be against code if the city thinks you've got a good case.

Burke's case must have been awfully weak, though: the zoning department denied his request despite the fact that Burke hired a law partner of Gery Chico - once the mayor's chief of staff - to lobby for him.

The city council - with Burke abstaining, as if no one knew where he stood on the thorny issue - gave him permission anyway. Maybe if Burke wasn't allowed to watch the vote or know who went which way it would have turned out differently.

(Isn't it a conflict of interest for an alderman to do business in his own ward to begin with?)

Finally, it's worth noting Burke's business partners on the project.

"[Anthony] DeGrazia, 35, of Chicago, is a nephew of Ray and Donnie DeGrazia, a clout-heavy couple who evicted Jimbo's Lounge, the popular bar near Sox Park. Donna DeGrazia, a first cousin of Mayor Daley's longtime friend Fred Barbara, once worked for former Ald. Patrick Huels (11th) and now works for Ald. Tom Allen (38th)," the Sun-Times reports.

How cozy!

"Eric Gonzales [is] president of Gonzales Construction Co.," the paper notes. "The company came under fire from city officials in 2005 - while Gonzales was helping build Burke's home."

City officials accused Gonzales of not having the proper licenses, but later dropped their case. Gonzales's father started the company after he got out of prison; he was convicted in federal court of soliciting a bribe in Operation Greylord.


[See Burke's house on Google Street View.]

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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