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"Chicago cracks down on Midway 'crash pads'"



Friday, April 6, 2007

Chicago cracks down on Midway 'crash pads'
By Fran Spielman
The Chicago (IL) Daily Southtown


Pilots and flight attendants will have to find a new place to "crash" during
Midway Airport layovers.

City hall has lowered the boom on dozens of illegal "crash pads" around the
Southwest Side airport. Crash pads, as pilots call them, are homes,
two-flats and three-flats that rent furnished rooms to pilots and flight
attendants who fly in and out of Midway.

Instead of paying nightly fees for hotel rooms, the airline employees pay
$100 to $150 a month for a bunk bed or convertible couch. Some crash pads
reportedly house up to 20 people per floor, with living rooms converted into
bedrooms. Some building owners even sell residential parking permits to crew
members, depriving the city of parking fees at Midway.

Now the city has crashed the party.

Forty inspections were conducted the past three months, resulting in 31
violations to building owners for illegally operating "transitional
shelters." 

Four openly acknowledged the violations and shut down the crash pads. Twelve
offered no response, and their cases will be pursued in court -- with the
landlords facing fines as high as $1,000 a day.

Five other owners were charged with illegal conversions -- residential units
illegally carved into the attic or basement of single-family homes. All of
the crash pads were within a mile of Midway Airport. 

"Flights are arriving at all hours. You have people coming and going at all
hours. It could be a fire risk," city zoning administrator Patty Scudiero
said. "In one case, we saw four sets of bunk beds. That's eight people in
addition to the owner. The next night, it was another eight."

The city crackdown followed an anonymous written tip from a resident, who
included addresses and owners of nearly two dozen crash pads. A Southwest
Airlines pilot who lives in South Holland was identified as the owner of
nine crash pads. He could not be reached for comment.

Also enclosed in the tip were "solicitation fliers" for crash pads,
purportedly with date stamps from the Southwest Inflight Services
Department. The tipster claimed Southwest "promotes the use of crash pads
and advertises them in crew lounges and orientation sessions."

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King categorically denied that. Flight
attendants have a "bulletin book" to communicate with each other about
living arrangements, but "I've never seen a flier. We don't become involved
in our employees' living arrangements," King said.

A landlord who rents rooms to pilots at her home in the 6100 block of
Keating Avenue said she's not sad to see the end of the crash pads. The
woman, who declined to provide her name, said pilots buy up houses in her
neighborhood and fill them with dozens of renters. 

"Some of these pilots who have bought buildings all over the community have
30 people in a building, and that's not right," she said.

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