IRVING PARK — Four neighborhood associations want their alderwoman to delay a zoning decision for an affordable housing proposal and push the developer to shorten the building and add parking spaces.
Affordable housing developer Full Circle Communities is partnering with Native American-led nonprofit Visionary Ventures for a seven-story building with 45 apartments at 2907 W. Irving Park Road tailored to Indigenous people.
The site is an empty lot that was downzoned by former Ald. Deb Mell in 2018, so the developer needs a zoning change from Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) to move forward.
Developers previously resisted neighbors’ questions about scaling down the building, saying the design was negotiated with the city’s Department of Planning and Development and that the proposed density is what would be financially feasible.
Rossana-Sanchez reiterated that issue, saying the design is tied to strict requirements for the tax credits. The alderwoman has pledged to make a decision on the proposal Thursday, she said.
“Any changes made to the developer’s proposal now can and will put at risk the highly competitive [tax credits],” Rodriguez-Sanchez. “And if we don’t have these tax credits, then we won’t have this affordable housing.”
In an emailed statement, Full Circle Communities and Visionary Ventures said they have “exceeded” Rodriguez-Sanchez’s community driven zoning and development process via additional meetings with area civic organizations, service providers, Cleveland Elementary’s school community and other groups.
Developers also have received support from 33rd Ward Working Families for the project.
“We feel that this outreach, the work of our Native American Community Advisory Council, and an intensive design process with the city of Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the Department of Housing have resulted in a proposal that is thoughtful, well-designed, and much needed,” the statement said.
‘We Are Not Ready To Support This’
Most neighbors appeared on board with the plan during a community meeting with the developer earlier this month.
Since then, four neighborhood groups — California Park Neighborhood Association, Horner Park Neighbors, The Residents of Irving Park and Irving Park East Neighborhood Association — have been circulating a petition to try and stop the current proposal from moving forward. It has 300 signatures.
“We are in support of an affordable housing project — we are not ready to support this oversized, poorly planned proposal,” said Ramona Paravola, president of the California Park group. “We are very disappointed that there seems to be no interest in discussion or compromise.”
The neighborhood groups argue the proposed building is too big, there aren’t enough car parking spaces and they are concerned it will set a precedent for other developments if approved.
The groups want the alderwoman and developer to join a Aug. 23 meeting they’re organizing at Trigger Chicago, 2810 W. Addison St., to discuss “alternative designs,” Paravola said.
“This developer went ahead and purchased a lot that didn’t have the proper zoning, and to make it financially viable for them, they’re asking for a zoning change which is not consistent with any of the zoning changes we have seen in this area,” said Marjorie Allabastro of Irving Park East group.
Rodriguez-Sanchez has been collecting feedback as part of the ward’s community driven zoning process, but she cautioned that is not the same as a community vote, she said.
“This is a process in which we gather feedback and I’ll make my decision based on that feedback and a lot of other factors,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said. “Affordable housing is something that is at the core of what we came into office to do… and this is a holistic process that integrates the needs of the community in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different areas.”
The majority of people who have given feedback supported the project, she said. Her office received 42 copies of a letter from the California Park neighbors group opposing the project, but the alderwoman said less than half have 33rd Ward addresses. The rest of the letters don’t have “an address or contact number for us to verify who is sending us these letters,” she said.
As for the petition being circulated, Rodriguez-Sanchez said she hasn’t seen it.
“I think that a petition with 300 signatures just becomes really confusing,” she said. “A petition doesn’t allow people to answer very basic, specific questions about the development.”
The tax credits are federally funded and administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, according to state officials. A developer must agree to cap the maximum rent to 80 percent of project’s area median income and meet additional criteria from the city’s housing department and other officials.
City housing officials have eliminated required minimums of parking spaces for affordable housing near public transit. Full Circle representatives previously said they were trying to deemphasize parking spaces in part because the building is close to the #80 Irving Park bus line.
That is part of why it’s not so easy to redesign the building, the alderwoman said.
“Even if you’re saying, ‘I don’t oppose affordable housing,’ when you say you want a four-story building, you are fundamentally opposing this affordable housing because this proposal has gone through extensive review in order to get these [tax credits] allocated,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said. “Projects have to apply and these credits are only given to the best possible proposals, and they’re so competitive. Getting one of these [tax credits] approved for this project is such a huge deal.”
If the project is approved, it’ll be the third major development in the Northwest Side ward aimed at addressing rising rents and the de-conversion of two-flats into single-family homes.
During Rodriguez-Sanchez’s first term, she shepherded the construction of the Maria Elena Sifuentes Apartments, 3557 W. Lawrence Ave., which were also built thanks to the highly competitive affordable tax credits.
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: