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New Coach Houses To Be Allowed Under Proposed Law Before Aldermen Wednesday

The coach house ordinance is one of several items before aldermen during the City Council's last virtual meeting of 2020.

City Council chambers at City Hall.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CITY HALL — The City Council will convene for its last virtual meeting of 2020 to approve dozens of licensing measures, development approvals and new policies while officially discontinuing the controversial Pilsen Historic Landmark District two years after its creation.

Among the ordinances set for approval will be a long-brewing measure to legalize the construction of coach houses and basement conversion apartments, also known as accessory dwelling units, in five “pilot areas” around the city.

Related: Coach house ordinance returns with smaller footprint after hitting City Council resistance

Aldermen voted 22-1 during a joint meeting of the council’s committees on housing and zoning on Tuesday to approve the ordinance, which was significantly pared back from a proposal (O2020-2850) introduced in May by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a group of aldermen.

The sole dissenting vote was cast by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who said the ordinance could give a legal pass to some property owners who illegally converted their basements into extra apartments.

The original ordinance stalled in July after facing pushback from multiple aldermen who worried that letting property owners add units without zoning approval would sap aldermen’s powers to vet individual proposals.

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City housing and planning officials introduced an amended version of the proposal on Tuesday following “a lot of conversations and a lot of feedback” between aldermen and city department staffers, according to housing committee chair Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), a sponsor of the ordinance.

“This ordinance we have before us is not going to solve all the problems of housing that we face in the city of Chicago,” Osterman told his colleagues Tuesday. “It is one tool among many — a tool private homeowners and property owners can use to add units that by nature are affordable.”

The ordinance set for final approval on Wednesday would legalize new coach houses, whose construction in the city has been illegal since 1957, and it would allow apartment owners to convert basement or attic units into new homes in five “pilot areas” across the city. The zones are located on the city’s North, Northwest, West, South and Southeast sides.

City officials drew the pilot areas in order to include a “representative sample of all the different kinds of neighborhood contexts that may affect the way that this policy plays out on the ground,” Department of Housing policy director Daniel Hertz told aldermen on Tuesday.

The program would be especially limited in the South, West and Southeast zones, where no more than two coach houses may be built per block per year. The updated version also adds language empowering Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara to make conversion units more widely available via Low-Income Housing Trust fund vouchers, as well as to “establish grant programs to assist low- and moderate-income households with the construction, rehabilitation…and preservation of conversion units.”

The ordinance gives city housing and planning officials until May 31, 2024, to report back to the council on whether the pilot zones should be kept, expanded or eliminated. However, Novara repeatedly emphasized on Tuesday that housing officials will provide quarterly updates on construction of accessory dwelling units around the city, and she left the door open for adding new pilot zones in neighborhoods that clamor for the program before the three-year pilot is up.

If approved on Wednesday, the city’s Department of Buildings may begin accepting applications for new coach houses and conversion units on May 1.

Also on Wednesday, the council is set to affirm the zoning committee’s unanimous decision earlier this month to discontinue the Pilsen Historic Landmark District two years after it was created by the city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

The lapse of the district, effective following the council’s vote on Wednesday, will represent a major victory for Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and a broad network of Pilsen residents who argued the district’s rules would burden property owners and invite gentrification.

However, the council will also likely affirm the zoning committee’s rejection of Sigcho-Lopez’s proposal to temporarily freeze demolitions in the Pilsen area. The ordinance failed in a 7-11 vote following pushback from city attorneys and buildings department officials.

Related: Aldermen kill Pilsen Landmark District, reject 6-month neighborhood demolition moratorium

Additionally, the council will approve $757,500 in legal settlements, including a $300,000 payment to settle a lawsuit brought by Dnigma Howard, who alleged she was dragged down two flights of stairs by a Chicago Police officer stationed at Marshall Metropolitan High School when she refused to leave school following a suspension.

The council is scheduled to grant final approval on Wednesday to the following citywide ordinances:

O2020-5783 — An ordinance extending the life on the city’s Expanded Outdoor Dining Program until Dec. 31, 2021. The ordinance also extends the city’s amnesty period for expired business licenses until July 15, 2021, and it preserves until March 2022 a lower-cost, expedited sidewalk permitting system approved by the City Council (SO2020-2891) earlier this year.

O2020-5728 — An ordinance modifying and expanding the city’s Small Business Improvement Fund program, in part by raising the maximum allowable size of grants awarded to businesses.

O2020-5786 — An ordinance deferring until 2024 a $250,000 payment the Chicago Cubs had been scheduled to make to the city this year as part of a 10-year agreement to fund public infrastructure around Wrigley Field.

O2020-5784 — An ordinance giving the Chicago Department of Water Management preliminary authority to enter into a potential agreement with the city of Joliet to supply 30 million gallons of drinkable water per day.

O2020-5729 — An ordinance allowing the Illinois Housing Development Authority to recoup $170 million in state-provided tax-exempt bonds that were not issued by the city. Chicago is issued $269 million in bonding authority for affordable housing each year, but most of the money is typically not used, officials said Monday.

O2020-5161 — An ordinance extending the city’s minority- and women-owned business contracting program through Sept. 30, 2021 while a “disparity study” on the program is pending.

O2020-5223 — An ordinance waiving fines for people who do not renew their 2020 residential parking permits through the first 10 days of 2021.

O2020-3557 — An ordinance reducing “impact fees” charged to developers who make minor changes to buildings in historic overlay districts. The ordinance only applies to buildings in Planned Manufacturing Districts that also have historic overlay districts, meaning it will only apply to the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and North Branch Corridor Overlay District when it goes into effect.

O2020-5774 — A fund transfer of $10,000 within the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards from the Contractual Services Fund 100 to Commodities Fund 0300 “to provide funds to meet the necessary obligations” of the committee.

O2020-5007  — An ordinance to increase penalties for property owners who violate the rules carved out by historic landmark districts.

The following location-specific measures are set for final approval during Wednesday’s council meeting:

O2020-5750 — An ordinance extending the life of the city’s Near North, Near West and Milwaukee Corridor Affordable Requirements Ordinance pilot areas until June 30, 2021. The extension is designed to buy city leaders more time to approve a long-planned overhaul of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance.

O2020-5748 — An ordinance authorizing up to $12 million in multifamily housing revenue bonds for Brinshore Development and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center to build the 24-unit Paseo Boricua affordable housing complex at 2709-2715 W Division St. in the 26th Ward.

O2020-5181 — An ordinance authorizing the city to issue up to $13 million in tax-exempt housing revenue bonds for Brinshore and The Chicago Lighthouse to acquire and develop a 76-unit affordable housing complex at 1800-1812 W. Roosevelt Road and 1801 Greenshaw St. in the 27th Ward.

O2020-5720 — An ordinance authorizing the city to enter into a redevelopment agreement with Greater-Auburn Gresham Development Corp. and Greater Auburn-Gresham Support Corp., supported by tax-increment financing (TIF), to convert a vacant building at 839-845 W. 79th St. in the 17th Ward into an approximately 51,000-square-foot office building.

O2020-5753 — An ordinance extending an intergovernmental agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District “to complete a flood protection and runoff reduction pilot study” in Chatham in the 6th, 8th and 9th Wards.

O2020-5756 — A $3.8 million loan for the Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation to fund interior renovations to an existing 180-unit affordable senior housing complex at 5801 N. Pulaski Road in the 39th Ward.

O2020-5732 — A measure to sell city-owned properties at 11700, 11702 and 11708 S. Buffalo Ave and 11701 S Burley Ave in the 10th Ward to Northpoint Development for $22,000. The parcels overlap with the site of a building Northpoint plans to begin building next year as part of its 2.3 million-square-foot Commerce Park industrial campus on the Southeast Side.

O2020-3724 — A proposal by California-based developer Prologis to build a 112,000-square-foot Amazon shipping-and-logistics warehouse near 2424 S. Halsted St. in the 11th Ward.

O2020-4798 — A proposal from New York-based Nahla Capital to build a 35-story, 75-unit luxury condo tower at 40 W. Oak St. in the 2nd Ward.

O2020-4579 — A proposal by Vista Property Group to build a new 15-story office tower at 601-611 W. Randolph St. in the 42nd Ward.

O2020-4800 — A proposal by United for a Better Living to build a 4-story, 43-unit residential building at 4531 W. Washington Blvd. in the 28th Ward.

O2019-8496 — A proposal by Praia Management Group to build an 8-story, 60-key hotel at 862-68 N. Orleans St. in the 27th Ward.

O2020-4820 — A proposal by Alexander Troyanovsky to demolish an existing building at 5214-24 N. Lincoln Ave. in the 40th Ward and build in its place a 55,000-square-foot, 4-story mixed-use building containing retail space, 40 residential units and two “live/work units.”

O2020-4829 — A proposal by the non-profit Latin United Community Housing Association to convert the Humboldt Park United Methodist Church into 22 residential units at 2120 N. Mozart St. in the 1st Ward.

O2020-4495 — A proposal by The Resurrection Project to build a new 4-story, 14-unit residential building at 2008-12 S. Ashland Ave.

— A series of measures lifting liquor moratoria in the 27th Ward (O2020-5780) and 40th Ward (O2020-5645), as well as to reimpose liquor moratoria in the 38th Ward (O2020-5618)

O2020-4729 — An ordinance establishing the new Nov. 75 Oak Street Special Service Area (SSA) along Oak Street between Rush Street and Michigan Avenue in the 2nd Ward.

O2020-5679 — A proposal to build a 5-story mixed-use building with 3,409 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 56 residential units above at 4511-23 N. Clark St in the 46th Ward.

O2020-4757 — An ordinance to downzone the property at 2107 N. Cleveland Ave. In the 43rd Ward

O2020-4572 — A proposal by Lake View Lutheran Church to construct a mixed-use building with 37 residential units on top of a ground-floor religious assembly space at 835 W. Addison St. in the 44th Ward.

O2020-786 — A proposal by CSX Transportation Inc. to redevelop a 22.3-acre property at 2240 W. 63rd St. for an “intermodal freight container yard.”

O2020-5680 — A proposal by Habitat for Humanity Chicago to rezone property at 955 W. 115th St. in the 34th  Ward from a manufacturing/business park district to residential for an affordable housing development including 22 townhouses.

O2019-5811 — A proposal by Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) to downzone 2643-51 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the 35th Ward.

O2020-5580 — An ordinance to allow for package liquor sales as accessory use to the existing retail food sales grocery store at 2156 N. Kimball Ave. in the 26th Ward.

The council is also set to approve the annual budgets of 53 other SSAs, as well as the appointment and reappointment of 10 commissioners serving on SSA boards around the city.