Lies, Busted Lies, and the Marina City Condo Board

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(Photo: Tell me, Gepetto, do they get taller if you lie about them? Future “unlicensed” images of the Chicago skyline if the Marina Towers Condominium Association gets its way. Original Credit: Steven Dahlman.)

The fun never ends inside Chicago’s upended corncobs, especially if you consider bald-faced lies by your condominium association entertaining. Last week, I brought you the tale of bone-headed new rules proposed by Marina City’s controversial condo association (in a story brought to me by the scrappy, independent Marina City Online website).

Last week, the condo board was claiming copyright and licensing rights over the photographic image of Marina City (or at least the top 42 floors that the association owns). To bolster their argument, they pointed to the “fact” that Chicago’s WBBM-TV had allegedly paid the condo board to film images of the towers to use as backdrops for their local newscast.

In fact, Marina City Online quotes a comment made by property manager David Gantt at a September 7 board meeting: “CBS has agreed to pay the $2,000 fee for the image of Marina Towers so that they can use Marina Towers and shots to and from Marina Towers for the nightly news introduction.”

Well, liar, liar, garbage chute on fire. In a conversation between Steven Dahlman, co-founder of Marina City Online, and WBBM/Channel 2 general manager Joe Ahern reported on Marina City Online this week, Ahern states bluntly, “We do not pay to take shots of buildings.”

As it turns out, Channel 2 did not shoot video of Marina City at all. According to Ahern, the Chicago CBS affiliate paid the Marina Towers Condominium Association simply for the right to film skyline images from one of Marina City’s 61st-floor roofdecks. In other words, they paid an access fee to stand on the roof.

This, of course, completely contradicts the condo board’s claims, most recently reiterated in an October letter sent to owners (PDF link) supporting a draconian set of new rules many think are aimed at stifling residential dissent in the lately infamous twin condo towers.

As I scribed last week, the image copyright idea (“Rule Five”, as put forward by the Marina City board) is laughable. Given that the association doesn’t own the bottom 19 floors of either tower (not to mention that, as Marina City Online deftly points out, state law simply does not authorize copyright claims), the grounds on which yet another board-vs.-owner smackfest are being laid are once again like Emmentaler. That is, full of holes and cheesy.

The issue is set to come to a head next Thursday, November 15, at 6:30 p.m., when the association holds a special meeting to vet resident comments on the proposed rules. Judging by the pointed opposition expressed on local websites like Marina City Online, Lynn Becker’s ArchitectureChicago PLUS architecture commentary site, and the popular residential bitch-and-moan blog, Marina City Watchdog, the meeting should be nothing if not contentious.

The meeting will take place, as usual, in the glass-walled, rented conference room in Marina City’s lower-level public concourse. If you’re a Marina Citizen like me, you may want to attend, if for no other reason than the theater of it all.

Disbelieving or otherwise totally annoyed urban photobloggers, architectural essayists, vacationers with a few soon-to-be-illicit shots of the corncobs, and (ahem) members of local media can always stand in the public area and stick their nose up to the glass. Because try as I might to convince you, the ongoing soap opera that is Marina City and its condo board really has to be seen to be believed.

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