Both of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s zoning proposals were deferred in committee yesterday and will likely get a second reading at the subsequent Zoning Committee meeting scheduled for next Monday, three days before the full City Council meets.
Committee Members Present: Chairman Danny Solis (25), Vice Chairman James Cappleman (46), Joe Moreno (1), David Moore (17), Matt O’Shea (19), Walter Burnett (27), Deb Mell (33), Brendan Reilly (43), Tom Tunney (44).
Others Present: Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Raymond Lopez (15), Jason Ervin (28), Joe Moore (49).
Zoning Chairman Danny Solis delayed a vote on the Mayor’s proposal to incentivize more development near public transit stations to allow for additional time for the Committee to review the mayor’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) reforms.
The Mayor introduced the TOD ordinance at the July City Council meeting as a way to increase the number of large-scale mixed-use commercial and residential transit-centric projects near CTA and Metra stations. The changes build upon the Mayor’s 2013 TOD ordinance by expanding the size of TOD zones, eliminating all parking requirements, and adding new incentives for affordable housing.
The proposed changes increase the maximum distance required for development projects near CTA and Metra stations to 1,320 ft, up from the 600 ft currently required in the City’s zoning code. The current 50% on-site parking requirement would be eliminated. Developers would instead have to add pedestrian-centric amenities like wider sidewalks, outdoor seating or open green space. Developers who commit to making 100% of units affordable could add additional square footage, through what it known as the floor-area-ratio (FAR). A building’s FAR is equal to the building’s total floor area divided by the total gross area of the lot. The ordinance also gives the Department of Transportation the authority to approve any alternative forms of transportation, like Divvy bike racks, provided on site.
This policy brief from land-use law firm DLA Piper (the firm of recently named Planning Commissioner David Reifman) raises issues with DOT’s potential involvement in TOD projects and questions whether the Department will have the power to reject projects if developers fail to actively promote or provide alternative modes of transportation on site.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) also raised objections to the new zoning changes. He claimed it gave “substantial benefits to big developers, while robbing residents of any meaningful input in these local zoning decisions.”
After testifying at the zoning meeting, he sent out a press release calling for more affordable housing requirements for TOD designated projects. “TOD is broadly recognized to raise property taxes, and is so doing threatens to make transit-rich communities unaffordable for working people,” the release said.
In addition to holding the TOD ordinance in committee, Chairman Solis tabled the Mayor’s plan to establish a new license classification for parties at large industrial venues. The new license would establish new liquor requirements for these types of parties, including a fee structure based on the number of expected attendees, ranging from $700 to $6,600.
Chicago Plan Commission Appointments Approved
The committee advanced three mayoral appointments and one reappointment to the Chicago Plan Commission. The three new appointees–Laura L. Flores, Sarah E. Lyons and Juan Linares–gave brief statements expressing gratitude and excitement. The commission is tasked with reviewing large-scale development projects like Planned Developments and changes to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.
Flores is the lead project architect for Epstein, a global design and construction company that designed the $300 million Medical District Gateway Projects near Damen & Ogden.
Linares is Executive Director of the Latin United Community Housing Association(LUCHA). He highlighted his experience developing affordable housing and defending tenants going through foreclosures. Ald. Joe Moreno (1) vouched for Linares, noting the work they have done together to bring more affordable housing to his ward.
Lyons is a research analyst for Unite Here Local 1, a labor organization that represents garment and textile workers across the county. Ald. Ramirez-Rosa said he used to work with Lyons and called her appointment an “excellent addition” the the Plan Commission.
Doris Holleb was the one reappointment to the board and the only appointee not in attendance. Holleb is a professor of Geographical Studies at the University of Chicago. Appointed to the Commission in 1986 by Mayor Harold Washington, Holleb is the longest serving member on the Plan Commission.
Highlights of Approved Items
With little to no public comment on most of the proposed zoning amendments before the Zoning Committee–save for George Blakemore who testified on as many items he could sign up for–aldermen swiftly approved dozens of zoning applications in two hours. Here are some of the highlights:
Parkway East Project, Lakeview – 44th Ward
Broder Diversey, LLC’s application to build an 11-story residential tower with 56 units and commercial retail near Diversey Harbor was the largest development project approved at yesterday’s meeting. The proposed project site is currently a surface parking lot with a neighboring 3-story residential commercial building that is home to a notable local bar, Yakzies. The developers, Gabriel Development Group and LA Commercial, LLC, filed an application to rezone the area into a Residential Business Planned Development divided into two sub areas. The larger plot, Sub Area A, is 14,250 sq. ft. and will include at least 53 parking spaces and residential units. The neighboring Sub Area B takes up 4,750 sq. ft. and includes at least 3 residential units, but no parking.
When the application went before the Plan Commission in August, several residents raised objections to the project, saying it would overwhelm an already congested strip of Diversey. Some opponents even called the draft plan “ridiculous” because the new building would sandwich Yakzies between two residential towers. A large, landmarked residential building, The Brewster, neighbors the bar on the east side. But at Monday’s zoning meeting, no one signed up to testify against, and it was quickly approved without discussion.
Pritzker-backed Residential Tower in Rogers Park Approved – 49th Ward
The Zoning Committee approved a proposal to turn a mostly vacant strip mall on 1313 W. Morse Ave. into an 8-story residential building with up to 50 residential units on top of a three floor parking garage. Col. Jennifer Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprisesis behind this project, and the Mayne Stage Theater project across the street. Ald. Joe Moore (49) told the committee developers scaled down their original proposal after hearing resident concerns. The application passed without questions or opposing testimony.
The Zoning Committee approved two applications seeking to rezone several plots of land in the South Side’s North Kenwood community to facilitate construction of two large town homes. Marcin Orpick, with D.O.M. Construction, filed two separate applications to rezone 1015-1019 E. 43rd St. and 4300 South Drexel. Both sites are within five blocks of each other and are currently classified as Neighborhood Mixed-Use Districts (B2-3). Orpick sought a rezone to a Community Shopping District (B3-3) to build a six-dwelling-unit, three story town home with an adjacent six car garage on East 43rd street and a nine-dwelling-unit, three story town home building with nine garages. The applications were approved without discussion.
Zoning Change for a New Banquet Hall Approved – 26th Ward
Applicant Tonja Hall got the green light from the Zoning Committee to transform the vacant commercial building on 3213-16 W. 63rd Street into a large banquet hall. Hall requested a zoning change from a Neighborhood Shopping District (B1-1) to a Neighborhood Commercial District (C1-2) to establish the banquet hall on the first floor of the existing 3-story building. The upper two floors would have commercial retail and office space.
Rezone of Former Lincoln Village Cinemas Approved – 50th Ward
Northbrook-based Banner Storage Group, LLC got approval from the Zoning Committee to transform the old Lincoln Village Cinemas into a self-storage warehouse. Gary Delaney, the manager behind the LLC, applied for the zoning change so he could expand the existing theater building to accommodate 95,164 sq. ft. of storage space. The group also plans to demolish the neighboring vacant car wash and turn it into a parking lot.