Oak Park Residents Debate Benefits and Problems Of Proposed McDonald’s

The monthly Oak Park Neighborhood Association Meeting for January was
packed with more than 50 citizens ready to debate the merits of a
proposed McDonald's Restaurant to be built in their neighborhood.

The meeting, which was moderated by Paul Towers, vice president of the
OPNA, also had in attendance Kim Garrett, a representative for
McDonald's, and Patrick Diffley, a member of the McDonald's construction
team. Garrett and Diffley were stocked with data promoting potential
benefits to the surrounding area should the proposed McDonald's be
constructed. Some of those benefits included:

* The development of a lot that has been vacant for years
* The addition of approximately 128 jobs to the area
* Over $2,000,000 annually spent on wages and benefits on this
restaurant alone
* The use of recycled and energy-efficient materials in

Leading the debate for the opposition was Charlene Hauser and Joellen
Arnold, both of whom are local residents. They were quick to point out
that a "quick service" restaurant would do little to add to the sense of
community that they are trying to nurture in Oak Park. They argued that
the 24-hour "double drive-thru" would disturb nearby residents and
create a danger to pedestrians and cyclists. Another topic of debate was
the low nutritional value of the food that McDonald's serves.

After only a few minutes, a noticeable change in the demeanor of the
room was apparent as more and more local residents expressed their heavy
reservations to the construction of the McDonalds. In an exercise of
moderation, Towers asked the residents to write down their concerns and
comments on index cards so they could be collected and read aloud to be

The residents' comments were read aloud by Joany Titheringtion and
LaTisha Anderson of OPNA. Concerns and comments from the attendees

* Would McDonald's be willing to forgo the installation of the
* Would McDonald's be willing to substitute some of the
less-nutritional items on its menu for healthier ones?
* Would the existing trees on the property be destroyed?
* Who would be responsible for the increased litter that some
foresee being a result of the new restaurant?
* Would McDonald's be willing to erect a mixed-use style building?

Garrett and Diffley did their best to appease the attendees' questions,
however audible groans and laughter was the response to most of their
answers. At one point, in a somewhat ironic observation, a local
resident pointed out that a childhood obesity clinic was located just
across the street from the proposed restaurant site.
Still other residents lamented that Oak Park is a "food desert," lacking
adequate access to healthy food for all, and that a new McDonald's would
be a continuing move in the wrong direction.

As the evening drew to a close, both sides were invited to continue the
dialogue at the end of the meeting. It seemed, however, that the two
respective sides had already made up their minds, with the consensus of
the residents being against a new McDonald's, and the promoters of the
restaurant ready to move ahead with logistical planning and formalities
toward reaching their end goals.

At that point, Hauser produced a petition, asking Oak Park residents to
sign their names stating their opposition to the proposed construction.
Still others pleaded with their fellow citizens to stay engaged and
informed so their voices can be heard before the City Council and their

Photos Attached:
1.) CGI Concept of proposed McDonald's
2.) Aerial view of proposed McDonald's site (marked in red), location of
Ronald McDonald House (marked in yellow)
3.) Architect rendering of proposed McDonalds' (Street Elevation)
4.) Architect plans of proposed McDonalds and parking lot (Overhead
5.) Attendees follow "New McDonald's" Debate

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

January 7, 2011 | 9:58 PM

If McDonalds hadn’t sold off Chipotle..they could have substituted that. Why hasn’t OPNA managed to attract a Mexican restaurant since well over half of Oak Park’s population is Hispanic

January 7, 2011 | 10:04 PM

Go OPNA!!! Keep up the good fight to protect your neighborhood.

January 11, 2011 | 12:01 PM

Yea OPNA! Keep your neighborhood a slum without honest commerce and keep a vacant lot vacant forever!!! :-P

Charlene Hauser and Joellen Arnold come across as nothing but troublemakers.

January 8, 2011 | 7:48 AM

McDonald’s is a reputable company that offers employment to both young people & seniors who need to supplement their “retirement” income. The company has a management training program that offers opportunity to workers who would otherwise be locked in low-paying menial jobs. Although I am concerned about a double drive-thru & the trash problem that comes w all fast-food establishments, I do not believe the OPNA should become Oak Park’s office of the food police. I am put off by do-gooders who are so sure of their own correctness/superiority that they dictate how others should live.

January 8, 2011 | 5:02 PM

This isn’t just about McDonald’s—although it is ironic that a company that contributes so greatly to the health woes of this country want to set up shop next to a childhood obesity office and two major hospitals. One of the most important roles of local government is what decisions it makes about it’s land uses. Stockton Blvd and the rest of the city’s commercial corridors are ideally suited for neighborhood serving developments that promote walkability, community, and a sense of place. When I was out gathering signatures today in opposition to the McDonald’s proposal today, the neighbors were–without exception–opposed to this development.

For more information on how folks can get involved, please visit the Healthy Developments for Oak Park website:

January 11, 2011 | 12:06 PM

Yah, because a run-down neighborhood with lots that have been vacant for years is in any position to demand “walkability”. :-P

You want walkability? How about making the area less dangerous to walk?

January 8, 2011 | 8:08 AM

I did not feel as though the forum supported an equal opportunity for the supporters. Controlling the submitted questions allows the mediators the parce the submitted question and skew the dialog. I feel the Neighborhood Association should support balanced dialog and debate by outreaching to a larger cross section of the neighborhood. Black and Hispanic and Asian representation was negligible. NIMBY was fully represented.

January 8, 2011 | 12:17 PM

Terrence- Aren’t you on the board of the neighborhood association? Maybe you should try and get more people there if you feel certain populations are underrepresented? I also hear that you were responsible for McDonald’s providing the food for the meeting on Thursday night (where McDonald’s was speaking). If anything seems skewed, it would be that.

As a resident of Oak Park I am all for new businesses coming into my neighborhood, but I think you’d be hard pressed to justify the need for a new fast food restaurant.

January 8, 2011 | 12:50 PM

If you have any suggestions on how OPNA can increase attendance @ association meetings, please present them. The MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE would be grateful to hear from you. http://www.oakparkna.com/

January 11, 2011 | 12:08 PM

“justify the need for a new fast food restaurant”? How about getting any kind of redevelopment and commerce into a run down neighborhood, especially in this economy?

January 11, 2011 | 11:56 PM

I am a 20 Oak Park resident and board member of the neighborhood association plus a dozen more community-related or community-based organizations promoting both neighborhood participation and business and economic development. By even asking if “Maybe you should try and get more people there if you feel certain populations are underrepresented?” I understand you to be a shallow and narrow mined individual only commenting here to attack me and not to address the question of building a fast food restuarant at 2nd Ave and Stockton Blvd. Obviously, you lead me to presume that you were not present at the OPNA meeting – to report that you only “hear that you (I was) …responsible for McDonald’s providing the food for the meeting …..(where McDonald’s was speaking). Yes, indeed, I am the coordinator for the monthly meetings and food. I have accepted the task to bring salads, coffee, apples, fruit smoothies – all generously donated by McD’s on Broadway – thereby saving the OPNA monthly food budget at least $50 dollars. It was fresh, and healthy – a specifc request by the Exec. Board members. Take your constirnation and study real estate entitlements. The dialog should return to the question: is this an appropriate location for a fast food restuarant? should a double drive through be allowed at this proposed site? This is not about me.

January 8, 2011 | 3:13 PM

To those of you who disapprove of McDonald’s, I recommend you check the nutrition info on the menu items. The highest calorie items are drinks, some of which are duplicates of the over-the-top calorie items you drink @ Starbuck’s. It is possible to choose from many food items that are within the range of a healthful diet.


January 8, 2011 | 1:13 PM

I work in childhood nutrition and when I speak to women about what they eat, the “healthy” choices McDonald’s offers are not what most people purchase. Many of the supposedly healthy choices are more expensive than burgers and fries, which also makes them cost prohibitive, or at least less appealing, for many folks.

I think you need to look at more than calorie count when defining what is and isn’t healthy. Salt, sugar, and fat contents of their food are way beyond what can be considered healthy for anything other than an occasional treat (but that’s not what McDonald’s is to many people, right?).

Further, McDonald’s supports completely unethical and unsustainable agriculture practices. Sure, that doesn’t necessarily affect our backyard, but it’s still something that should be considered when endorsing a company.

January 11, 2011 | 12:04 PM

Wow, the nanny statists have discovered that eating better means paying more! Countless gourmet diners could not be reached for comment.

I shudder at the anti-business mentality of so many here, who think that there is anyone other than the Golden Arches waiting in the wings to develop a lot that has been vacant for years.

January 8, 2011 | 6:05 PM

McDonald’s keeps promoting that corner of 2nd and Stockton because it is so close to the Ronald McDonald House. It is such an important point that the connection is even shown in the slideshow at the top of this page.

But I just don’t get it. Let’s say they build the McDonald’s at 2nd and Stockton. You would never know that the charitable arm is so close by. You can not see it from 2nd/Stockton. It’s not even on the same street. They might as well build at the corner of Stockton and Broadway – there is already a fast food presence there and it’s equally as close to the Ronald McDonald House as 2nd and Stockton is.

I don’t understand their logic. While I bet the restaurant would be successful, it would come at the expense of the residents of Oak Park and those that commute to the medical facilities at UC Davis or Shriners.

January 10, 2011 | 12:34 PM

And also the residents of the west side of Tahoe Park and east of the med center.Ever drive north bound on Stockton in the morning,south from mid town or east Sac in the afternoon or either way at lunch? I do .I live in Tahoe Park and work down town.The traffic congestion is terrible. A drive thru on that corner will just cause gridlock.

January 11, 2011 | 9:17 AM

“at the expense of the residents of Oak Park and those that commute to the medical facilities at UC Davis or Shriners.”

You mean, by providing a place for them to get a bite to eat on their commute to work, or providing local jobs for the teens in the area? :-P

January 9, 2011 | 2:35 PM

What bothers me most about building a McDonald’s on that corner is the fact that the entire business is based on quick-turnover, which only promotes isolation, no matter whether you get a salad or a burger on your way through the drive-thru. When isolation prevails in a community, there is higher crime, more traffic, and worse health conditions overall as people are afraid to walk and the only air they breathe is exhaust fumes. If the McDonald’s did not have a drive-thru, and people were encouraged to use the restaurant as a true gathering place, where neighbors spent time getting to know each other, then I would be all in favor.

RIght now I’m a rentor in Oak Park, with the possibility to buy in the new 2 years, but if Oak Park encourages this type of business, then it is not a community I want to be a part of.

January 11, 2011 | 9:27 AM

If the McDonald’s did not have a drive-thru, it wouldn’t generate enough revenue to make it worth placing. And there isn’t any other business waiting in the wings. Beggars, choosers and all that.

January 11, 2011 | 9:23 AM

As an owner of an Oak Park property, I’d rather see a successful business there than a vacant lot ANY DAY.

January 11, 2011 | 9:32 AM

Here’s what we know: lower income communities have a harder time accessing fresh and healthy food. As a result, the people who live in those communities struggle with health issues such as obesity. Let’s get a Fresh and Easy in there–not a fast food restaurant!

January 11, 2011 | 9:42 AM

Open one there, and tell me how long you stay in business. Until then, stop dictating to others how they should live.

January 11, 2011 | 11:40 AM

Oak Park doesn’t need another “quick serve” restaurant; McDonald’s or other. It needs local businesses offering healthy alternatives, we owe it to our residence to support those options. No more fast-food or liquor stores in Oak Park…churches and tire shops are up there for me personally as well.

January 11, 2011 | 12:07 PM

So you are ready to set up shop on that vacant lot, then? I thought not.

January 11, 2011 | 2:10 PM

I’m glad to see that the residents of Oak Park are finally standing up to an attempted corporate takeover of part of their neighborhood. Maybe the local farmers market can establish a healthier alternative to Mickey D, who wouldn’t dare even show their faces in better neighborhoods such as the Fab Forties or Curtis Park.

January 12, 2011 | 8:20 AM

Wow. You know there is a McDonald’s on Alhambra, and another at 59th/ Folsom? They don’t have one in the Fab Forties? Zoning laws about *residential areas* have a lot to do with that.

The Local Farmer’s Market? In gangbanger Oak Park?

What color is the sky in your world?

January 11, 2011 | 9:03 PM

Oh yes, keep feeding the epidemic of obesity in this country letting more McDonalds to invade neighborhoods that need to keep growing with independent business and offering ONLY HEALTHY FOOD!

January 12, 2011 | 8:20 AM

Oak Park? Growing neighborhood? The lot has been vacant for *years*. No commerce other than Golden Arches wants to take a chance there.

Really, how out of touch are some of you?

January 12, 2011 | 10:52 AM

Oh boy, I live right off of 2nd Avenue (for more than 20 years now) just a few blocks from Stockton Boulevard and have walked daily to and from the Med Center area for several years and I would welcome a McDonald’s on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Stockton Boulevard. That vacant lot is an eyesore, but it’s more than that. With so many blighted homes in Oak Park and the number of vacant lots that have attracted illegal dumping, let’s get some commerce in there and occupy that space once and for all! I didn’t hear about this until a neighbor sent me an email and I have never been approached with any petition either pro or con, so I speak my mind now. I support this construction of McDonald’s. I’m sick of hearing people bitch and complain about healthy alternatives, when the responsibility of eating properly rests on the shoulder of the individual, and oh, by the way, there are healthy choices at McDonald’s. If folks are in opposition to this restaurant, maybe some effort to oppose the Jack n the Box a few years ago should have been considered and that franchise is just down the street! Why not focus on the more relevant issues that continue to plague Oak Park as you continue to “nurture” the community, like blighted and substandard homes; vacant homes and lots; illegal dumping; chain link fencing, and oh by the way, crime, gangs, and drug dealing continue to wash over these residential blocks within Oak Park – we all know there’s a difference between the north of Broadway vs. the South of Broadway; and the north of 2nd Avenue vs. the south of 2nd. One day, the constituents of Oak Park are going to have to agree on the priorities, and building a McDonald’s should be at the bottom of Oak Park’s ‘bucket list…’

January 12, 2011 | 12:32 PM

McDonald’s food isn’t so bad to eat once in a “great while” and furthermore, it brings jobs to the community. “HELLO JOBS” I have never seen so many young unemployed people in this neighborhood, and I’ve only live here for a year in this community. What’s the problem?. …
What is wrong with McDonald’s? Well let’s see, is it the nutrition, or how about the calories, or maybe it’s the prices of the “healthy” food, non affordable>>>hmm! how about the neighborhood, very slum looking, vacant lots everywhere, totally DEAD ZONE… What’s the fuss about people?…….As far as food is concern- well let’s face it-
I believe when it comes to healthy choices of food-well forgive me but it all starts @ home. one burger is not going to make you fat, or raise your cholesterol nor a soda is gonna draw your blood to become a diabetic, fries..not, we use greese @ home to cook with. Whatever is the case- it starts @ what you feed yourself @ home or allow your kids to eat @ home. You know why? Many parents these days are to busy in their lives to stay or come home and cook a “healthy meal for their families these days. So what do we do-go to McDonald’s or some other fast food place for a last minute meal.
Don’t blame it on McDonald’s food. Sure their are other concerns that come with this development, but give it a chance. How about giving the young folks out in the street or @ home a chance to be a young responsible growing worker if they’re not going to attend school.
As far as garbage is concern Damn! I live on the corner of 4th and 38th..a vacant lot sits right across the street from my home, they’re constantly dumping mattresses, TV’s, sofa’s etc.etc…not garbage!
why because it’s VACANT! What’s up with that!…Do you want that over there on Stockton?
listen, working @ McDonald’s was my daughter”s first employment @ min. wage many many years ago..that was here opportunity to become a young responsible woman straight out of high school..she now works for a Law firm in Chicago where President and Mrs Obama once worked for..yep, she worked her way up alright!, “and it all started @ McDonald’s…Give it a chance for the young generation.They’re the future.

January 12, 2011 | 2:23 PM

I read the article twice and I am mystified as to where they want to put the McDonalds. The author should have included the location of the vacant lot. Perhaps I missed it in my reading, but I don’t think I did. It should have been apparent in the first paragraph of the story. I am not writing this to be critical, but to be helpful. The article just doesn’t mean much to me not knowing where the vacant lot is that they are talking about.

January 12, 2011 | 2:47 PM

You’re right, sorry about that. Stockton Blvd and 2nd ave.

Article Author
January 13, 2011 | 10:18 AM

I wish I had known about these meetings relative to this issue and hope to be in-the-loop on the status of this potential project development in Oak Park. Again, not one arguement or comment that I have seen posted on this blog has swayed my decision to oppose a McDonald’s on 2nd Avenue and Stockton Boulevard, and for those of you know don’t live in or near the proposed site for this franchise, you really don’t understand the other more pressing challenges that this neighborhood has faced in the last couple of decades. As we have noticed, the med center continues to expand and grow, and construction is prevalent on three sites at the medical center, one notable project now underway on the corner of Stockton Boulevard directly across from Shriners. Undoubtedly that may cause some congestion on Stockton, but for now the contractors seem to have potential issues under control. This obesity thing that we are all supposed to worry about is a dead horse – remember we do have a Food Source Supermarket that we fought for for years just down the street, and they do sell fresh produce and healthy meal options. By the way, I refuse to shop there because I’m sick and tired of being hit up for money by freakin’ crack heads, now there’s a real problem, imagine that..?

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