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Lakeview Christmas Trees: 'Festive' or 'Waste of Money'? Residents Torn

By  Erica Demarest Mina Bloom and Mauricio Peña | December 2, 2014 8:43am 

 Central Lakeview Merchants Association paid Patch Landscaping to put up Christmas trees as decoration around the neighborhood in 2013.
Leftover Christmas Trees in Lakeview
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LAKEVIEW — When you see undecorated Christmas trees lining the streets of Lakeview, do you see a "winter wonderland" or a "sad, hulking" dog pee target?

Residents of the neighborhood seemed divided on the issue last year, but the Central Lakeview Merchants Association decided to bring back the trees for another holiday season, with the goal of giving them out to needy families in late December.

Last week, Patch Landscaping put up a total of 600 trees around Lakeview and Wrigleyville, according to Travis Sedler, director of the merchants association behind the program. 

The 6-foot trees, which don't have any trimmings save for a few bows, were tied two-to-a-pole.

 "They bring a sense of community," one Lakeview resident said. Last year, some residents weren't happy.
"They bring a sense of community," one Lakeview resident said. Last year, some residents weren't happy.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

Jennifer King, a 22-year resident of Lakeview, was unimpressed with the decision to bring back the trees a second year in a row. The trees are "ridiculous," King said. "There's nothing festive about them."

What bothers King most, she said, is the cost of the trees. She said the neighborhood group purchased 644 trees at $45 a piece last year, which comes out to more than $28,000 and some change, she said.

"I'm almost certain those were paid with taxpayer dollars under special service area No. 17. If this is how my tax dollars are being spent, I'm not happy."

The Central Lakeview Merchants Association would not say where the money for the trees came from, though they do fund some projects with property tax money from the special service area.

Executive director Gus Isacson refused to comment Monday on whether the trees were paid for by tax dollars or not.

"People are getting a free tree," Isacson said last year. "What do they care where the money comes from?"

King was dissatisfied with the Isacson's response last year.

"If he didn't have anything to hide, he would have answered whether the money came from tax dollars," she said.

Some locals were pumped about the comeback, while others said the money could be better spent.

"They bring a sense of community," Lakeview resident Arthur Hawkins, 24, said last week. "There's more to Lakeview than the '12 Bars of Christmas.' I'd rather see a Christmas tree and experience the holiday season."

Ron Hansel, who co-owns Something Old Something New at 1056 W. Belmont Ave., said he thought the thousands of dollars used toward trees could be better spent.

"It's a waste of tax money, and it doesn't do any good," he said. "No one pays attention to them, and that money could be used elsewhere. At least buy something artificial that you could use every year."

Last year, residents complained that the undecorated trees looked more like trash than decorations.

Lakeview resident Amalie Drury said that at night, they become "sad, hulking beasts" without lights to brighten them, and another resident told DNAinfo the bare trees look like "perfect" targets for passing dogs to pee on.

Central Lakeview Merchants will be donating the trees on Dec. 22 in front of Houndstooth Saloon, 3369 N. Clark Ave., to people who couldn't afford their own trees.

Last year, 51 of 644 trees were donated. The business association called the promotion a success.

"We had families come from all over," said Jeff Briggs, who handles business relations for the group. "It was just a successful day. That's the best way to sum it up."

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