CHICAGO — A long-stalled apartment development planned on the Far Northwest Side was approved by City Council Wednesday over the objection of the local alderman, notching a victory for Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her fight against aldermanic prerogative.
Glenstar Properties aims to build 297 apartments near O’Hare Airport, 20 percent of which would be affordable, but Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) opposed changing the site’s zoning. The city’s Zoning Committee Tuesday voted in favor of the plan, breaking its long-standing tradition of deferring to the local alderperson’s opinion when it comes to developments in their ward.
The full City Council approved the project by a 33-13 vote Wednesday.
Napolitano said he understood some alderpeople supported the development because of the affordable housing component, but “your vote tells my residents and your residents tomorrow that as an advocate of the ward that our say … is no longer heard.”
But Lightfoot argued “housing is at the heart” of the city’s segregation and argued the development was “a necessary” project that will help workers at O’Hare Airport.
“This is a time to not just think about your own interests, it’s time to think about the city’s interests,” she said. “It’s critical for us to make a statement about affordability and where it can be located.”
Thirteen aldermen voted against the project along with Napolitano: Alds. Brian Hopkins (2nd), Anthony Beale (9th), Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Marty Quinn (13th), Ed Burke (14th), Raymond Lopez (15th), David Moore (17th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Jim Gardiner (45th).
Glenstar Properties presented plans for the site, 8535 W. Higgins Road on the border of the city and suburban Park Ridge, in 2016. It would be located near the Cumberland CTA Blue Line station.
Napolitano has argued the area is overburdened with residential density and said he wants a commercial development at the site instead. He has denied his opposition to the project is because it includes affordable units.
During a committee meeting Tuesday, Napolitano warned his colleagues that if they voted against him, “your community and you have no say any longer.”
Bringing the project back for a vote despite his previous attempts to block it was a “complete overstep of all of us as aldermen — including you some day,” he said.
“Today I’m sitting in the hot seat, and you may like me or you may hate me, but your decision will definitely reflect the precedent when you are sitting in the hot seat tomorrow,” he said.
But with strong support from Lightfoot, the committee approved the project in a 12-5 vote.
Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said Tuesday the project would support workers at O’Hare Airport as an equitable transit-oriented development located adjacent to the Blue Line and fulfills an “undeniable need” for affordable housing on the Far Northwest Side.
The seven-story development will include 59 affordable apartments, including 20 units made affordable at or below 50 percent of the area median income; and another three made affordable to households earning at or below 40 percent of the area median income. Seventeen of the affordable apartments will be studios, 24 would be one-bedroom units and 18 would be two-bedroom units.
The vote also comes just days before the city’s 50 alderpeople are due to reply to a federal investigation about whether aldermanic prerogative contributes to racial segregation in Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has vowed to rein in the practice, but has largely been unable to curb its use in zoning matters.
The Tribune reported last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a questionnaire to all 50 alderpeople, due back Friday, probing to what extent they believe aldermanic prerogative plays in blocking affordable housing developments.
The federal probe and questionnaire stem from a complaint filed with HUD by housing activists and attorneys, alleging aldermanic prerogative “promotes housing discrimination by keeping low-income minorities from moving into affluent white neighborhoods,” according to the Tribune.