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Lincoln Park, Old Town

11 Aldermen Vow To Oppose Lincoln Yards As New Zoning Chair Pushes For More Affordable Housing

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who is up for re-election this month, became the latest alderman to announce he would vote no on the project.

Lincoln Yards office towers are part of the development's first phase.
Sterling Bay
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CITY HALL — Eleven aldermen are on record as of Friday vowing to vote against the $6 billion Lincoln Yards development because it fails to combat Chicago’s affordable housing shortfall or reduce the economic or racial segregation plaguing the city.

As the opposition to the project swelled last week, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) — who controls the fate of the megaproject as the new chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee — said he would insist developer Sterling Bay commit to building affordable units earmarked for the city’s poorest residents in the 2nd Ward — but not as part of the development itself.

On Friday, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who is up for re-election this month, became the latest alderman to announce he would vote no on the project.

“The taxpayers of Chicago should not be subsidizing luxury homes they have no hope of living in,” Maldonado wrote in a newsletter to ward residents.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) both announced their opposition to the project last week.

RELATED: Lincoln Yards Plan Unanimously Approved By Key City Commission, After Hours Of Testimony Against It

“I believe we are missing an opportunity here to create more on-site affordability in a balanced, new neighborhood,” said Tunney, adding that he was also concerned about “the size and scope of the project along with the impact on traffic, schools, parks and other neighborhood amenities.”

Tunney told residents that the creation of the 168-acre Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment Area (F2018-72) to generate $900 million would be “an unnecessary burden on taxpayers” and that public funds should not be used “to subsidize this multi-billion dollar private project in any way.”

A majority of the 50-member City Council is needed to reject the project. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who supports the project, would vote in the event of a tie. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for March 13 — after the municipal election on Feb. 26 — but the project must first be considered by the Zoning Committee.

Aldermen who have said they oppose the Lincoln Yards development along with Maldonado, Cardenas and Tunney: Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd); Ald. Deb Mell (33rd); Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th); Ald. Michele Smith (43rd); Ald. John Arena (45th); Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th); and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th).

RELATED: Hundreds Pack City Hall, Calling ‘Rushed’ Lincoln Yards Vote The New ‘Parking Meter Deal’

Plans for the new tax-increment financing (TIF) district are set to be considered by the Community Development Commission at a special meeting Feb. 19, after which the subsidy would be considered by the Finance Committee.

Of the 6,000 apartments, condominiums and townhomes planned for Lincoln Yards, 1,200 must be set aside for low- and moderate-income Chicagoans.

Sterling Bay plans to include only 300 of those units as part of the development itself, the minimum required by the city.

Sterling Bay also plans to pay $39 million into the city’s housing trust fund in lieu of building another 300 units as part of Lincoln Yards. Half of the trust is earmarked to subsidize individuals’ rent in existing buildings, and the other half is set aside to build new homes for the poorest Chicagoans.

Pawar opposes allowing developments that get city subsidies to pay into the trust fund.

Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said during the Plan Commission hearing it was appropriate for Sterling Bay to be allowed to pay into the housing trust fund to finance affordable housing developments across the city.

The remaining 600 units would be allowed to be built outside the development, but within three miles, according to the plan. Sterling Bay would also have the option to pay into the trust fund instead of building some of those remaining units, or including them as part of Lincoln Yards.

The 300 affordable units built as part of Lincoln Yards would be earmarked for low- and moderate-income Chicagoans making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income, or $47,400 for a family of four, according to city data.

Those units are out of reach for Chicago residents who are already homeless or at greatest risk for becoming homeless, Cappleman said.

The Uptown alderman replaced disgraced Ald. Danny Solis (25th) as chairman of the Zoning Committee last month.

Cappleman said 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins — who defended the project’s affordable housing component at last week’s Plan Commission meeting — had agreed to reconsider it and to meet with representatives of the Chicago Housing Authority and other nonprofit groups to develop plans to build new housing in the 2nd Ward for those making no more than 30 percent of the area’s median income or $11,850 for a family of four.

“My concern is the very poor,” Cappleman said. “No alderman has done more for the homeless in Chicago than I have.”

In addition, Cappleman said he asked Hopkins to work with the Department of Planning and Development to ensure that the rest of the remaining affordable housing requirement is met in the 1st and 27th wards.

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