CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel will preside over his last City Council as mayor on Wednesday — and it will mark one of the few times in his eight-year tenure that it is not clear whether aldermen will do his bidding.
Sending City Hall into chaos, Emanuel backed Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s call on Monday to delay a key vote on $1.6 billion in city subsidies to fuel two massive developments that will transform Chicago’s landscape with 16,000 new apartments and condominiums.
Emanuel had led a full-court press by his office, his closest aides and his allies on the City Council to push Lincoln Yards and The 78 through City Council before he left office. The push continued despite vehement objections that the projects will exacerbate Chicago’s affordable housing shortfall and the economic or racial segregation plaguing the city.
If the projects were stopped, it would have a chilling effect on business and development in Chicago, according to the mayor and his team.
However, Lightfoot said in a late-night statement Tuesday that she expects the measures to be approved Wednesday, despite her concerns.
And early Wednesday, she was proved right. The Finance Committee led by ousted Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) approved the $1.6 billion in tax subsidies for both mega projects. Which means the full council will vote on the measures later today.
Lightfoot said her team met with Sterling Bay, the developer of Lincoln Yards, and Related Midwest, the developer of The 78, on Tuesday and “both developers agreed to meaningfully strengthen their commitments to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises” from $80 million to $400 million overall.
Lightfoot said her team would closely monitor compliance with those agreements.
“These changes represent a vital sign that my administration will be able to make progress toward an equitable and fair deal for our communities,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said she was “confident” provisions in place in the agreements “will allow for us to further improve these deals and to bring community voices into the process going forward” if they are approved Wednesday.
“Either way, upon swearing in, I will engage with the community and committed activists who have advocated forcefully for affordable housing, park space and the responsible use of tax increment financing dollars for many months,” Lightfoot said.
To set up a potential final vote by the full City Council, the Finance Committee will met at 9 a.m. Wednesday consider the plans to create a 168-acre Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment Area (F2018-72) for Lincoln Yards and a 141-acre Roosevelt/Clark Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Area (F2018-71) for The 78.
Ald. Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward includes all 55 acres of Sterling Bay’s proposed Lincoln Yards development, has vowed to defy the mayor and push for a vote, insisting he has at least the 26 votes necessary to pass the measure.
Lincoln Yards is a $6 billion project that promises to transform 55 acres along the North Branch of the Chicago River with 6,000 units between Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Fourteen aldermen voted against the project last month — 12 short of killing the project.
The Cortland and Chicago River TIF will generate at least $900 million to cover the cost of infrastructure projects to pave the way for Lincoln Yards to be built, including new bridges over the Chicago River, a new Metra station, an extension of the 606 trail, water taxis, dedicated bicycle lanes as well as a potential light-rail transit way and extension of the city’s street grid.
Lincoln Yards is set to include 600 affordable housing units as part of the development.
The 78 would include 10,000 apartments and condominiums between the South Loop and Chinatown. It was approved unanimously by the City Council in November. Ald.-elect Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th) urged aldermen to reject the subsidy.
If the Roosevelt/Clark TIF is approved, it would generate $700 million to build the infrastructure necessary for The 78 – a new CTA station, a realignment of Metra tracks, Clark Street improvements, a 15th Street extension and a new river wall.
Developer Related Midwest agreed to set aside 500 units as affordable as part of the development, and pay a $91.3 million fee to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund in lieu of adding another 500 on-site units.
The meeting could also be the last for ousted Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st); Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th); Ald. Milly Santiago (31st); Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) Ald. John Arena (45th) and Ald. Joe Moore (49th).
In addition, retiring Aldermen Ricardo Muñoz (22nd); Margaret Laurino (39th) and Ameya Pawar (47th) could bid their colleagues goodbye — while disgraced Ald. Danny Solis (25th) is not likely to return to City Hall. Sigcho-Lopez, who was elected to replace Solis, is one of at least five members of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America who will join the City Council May 20. Locked in too-close-to-call races, Alds. Deb Mell (33th) and James Cappleman (46th) will not know until next April 16 whether they will return next term.
The lame-duck aldermen face an agenda packed with measures from Emanuel’s bucket list.
The City Council will consider whether to ink an exclusive nine-year contract to allow Lyft (O2019-1434, O2019-1611) to operate the city’s Divvy bicycle-sharing system — and reject a proposal from Uber to offer dockless bicycles and scooters. [Our coverage]
Aldermen are also expected to approve a watered down package of reforms proposed by Emanuel that would:
- force committee chairmen to give up their perk-filled perches if they recuse themselves from a vote before their committee more than three times per year and fail to resolve the conflict.
- ban committee chairmen from presiding over matters they plan to recuse themselves from.
- require aldermen who object to a permit to name “substantive reasons” to block it within 20 days.
- block campaign contributions of more than $1,500 from parties with matters before City Council for six months before the matter’s consideration in addition to the current limit, which applies for six months after the matter’s consideration.
- require aldermen to update their annual Statements of Financial Interest within 30 days of any changes “relating to outside employment, board service or business interests.”
The City Council will also consider a measure (O2018-7001) that could allow liquor to be sold within 100 feet of places of worship, schools and hospitals as well as homes for the aged, indigent and veterans with the support of Chicago’s liquor commissioner.
While supporters said the change would reduce red tape and fill empty storefronts, opponents said the new rules could complicate efforts by aldermen to block unwanted bars and liquor stores. [Our coverage]