Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to boost housing and jobs development near public transportation won approval from a City Council committee Tuesday, sending the proposal, aimed at addressing the harms of segregation, to a final vote later this week.
The zoning committee voted 15-4 to move the proposed ordinance to the full City Council on Wednesday, with Alderman. Brian Hopkins, Ald. Anthony Beale, Ald. Raymond Lopez and Ald. Brendan Reilly voting no.
Unveiling the sweeping package, city officials said during the committee hearing and an earlier news conference that it would be a catalyst to grow the economy in all communities near the CTA and Metra and make streets safer. for pedestrians and cyclists.
Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said the proposal aims to undo inequities that resulted from previous initiatives, which led to approximately 90% of transit-oriented development being in areas such as the North Side, Near Northwest Side , West Loop and Downtown.
“This ordinance is one of many tools we are using to address inequities by race and geography in how investments are made across the city, so we can better connect people to the jobs and homes and services they need. Novara said.
Changes include expanded incentives for homes and businesses built near bus and train lines, as well as reductions in parking spaces and affordable units. Additionally, new parking in residential buildings near train stations would be limited, and standards for pedestrian-friendly designs within four blocks of train stations would be implemented.
Lightfoot’s plan also aims to address gentrification. In high-cost areas, proposed affordable housing projects would be eligible for an up or down vote by the zoning committee within one year. And the construction of new single-family homes without a zoning change would be prohibited in areas zoned for multi-family housing in gentrifying neighborhoods.
The legislation does not change existing procedures for approving development, including the practice of councilmember privilege, which gives the City Councilmember representing that district an unofficial final say on projects there.
However, the original version of the mayor’s plan went further. Asked about removing a provision that creates a three-story path near traffic in wealthier areas, Novara said a “compromise” was needed. Historically, two-, three-, and four-story apartments have been an affordable, income-generating homeownership opportunity and a key source of low-cost family housing for renters.
“The story that we’ve seen on this topic, and many others that I’ve been a part of, is that you take what you can and keep working at it,” Novara said. “… We will continue to build from there.”
Roberto Requejo, executive director of the coalition that has worked with the city on the ordinance, Elevated Chicago, added that the loss of the three-story provision was a “disappointment,” but the legislation remains strong.
Among the reasons for the dissent in Tuesday’s committee vote: Hopkins, 2nd, and Reilly, 42nd, took issue with the rule requiring a City Council committee to vote within 12 months, with the latter he said he fears “less scrupulous” developers might use it to “fuck communities” by running out time instead of negotiating with the community on a project. A city official responded that the full City Council would still have the final vote.
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“I don’t know why you would include this poison pill,” Hopkins said. “It’s so objectionable. It is not a precedent that we want to say that it is not a responsible way of governing.”
Meanwhile, Lopez said restrictions on single-family home construction would be unfair to homeowners who wanted to “reap the benefits” of staying in their neighborhoods by creating a single-family home. The District 15 councilman, who is running for mayor in the 2023 election, said the change would be “very hypocritical” as it amounts to what he sees as an expansion of councilmembers’ prerogative.
Another mayoral candidate, Ald. Roderick Sawyer, sixth, voted in favor, but expressed doubt that the ordinance would have force.
“This is my number 1 concern: Will the passage of this ordinance really result in more development in the affected communities?” Sawyer asked. “I have areas that I’ve been working on for the last 12 years, trying to get someone to pay attention to the vacant strips of land that are next to transit lines.”
But zoning committee chairman Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, praised the ordinance that he said would be a long time coming.
“This is an elaborate ordinance,” Tunney said. “…Hopefully we can really translate this into real equitable development on the south and west sides.”