Chicago Cityscape's '1909' newsletter

Our latest map takes advantage of information we’ve been collecting and summarizing for years and makes it easier to see, in a quick glance, the locations and kinds of projects that people are proposing across Chicago.

Every month when the new zoning change applications are submitted to City Council, our team member Alex L. reads through each application and summarizes and categorizes them. He also records important details on each application like the applicant’s name, the owner’s name, the architect, and the lawyer and law firm (over 2,200 names noted so far).

The new Proposed Projects map showcases the shorter summary that Alex started writing just last month. Click on a green map marker to read the longer summary and the application details.

This data is exclusive to Chicago Cityscape, and it takes a lot of effort because this information is stored only in PDFs.

Got an idea for a new feature? Tell us. Half of our new features are based on requests from readers and members.

Can your non-profit organization carry out its mission more effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic if it had a Cityscape Pro membership? We are offering free 30-60 day memberships to up to five housing and housing-adjacent organizations. Inquire.

See what’s in the development pipeline was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Chicago Cityscape turns 6

On March 30, 2014, Chicago Cityscape sent the first edition of our free newsletter, called “1909” after the Plan of Chicago published that year. It was sent to two people. The second edition was sent six days later to nine people, and the third edition was sent nine days after that to 15 people.

Within a year, 27 editions of the free “1909” newsletters had been sent, bringing a new look at Chicago real estate data, and informing Chicagoans about new construction projects that were proposed or starting up. Newsletter #27 was sent to 343 people.

Chicago Cityscape sent its first newsletter for paying subscribers on May 11, 2014 — two people received it. Back then, the newsletter was the only service for subscribers, who paid $40 per year to receive real estate information news and construction activity summaries each week. A year later, 35 people were receiving the paid newsletter.

SCREENSHOT: When the first newsletter was sent, Chicago Cityscape was known as Licensed Chicago Contractors and this dashboard was the only website feature. All interaction was done via paid and free newsletters sent weekly.

The two newsletters were how Chicago Cityscape — known until fall 2015 as “Licensed Chicago Contractors” — started as a business. The newsletter for paying subscribers was phased out as the information was published on a new website, and automated location-based notifications and newsletters (like for demolitions and new businesses) were instituted.

The last weekly paid newsletter was sent on Monday, November 6, 2017, three years after the website had been established.

“1909”, the free newsletter, still goes out every week or so, to over 7,000 people, but it goes more by “Cityscape newsletter” than “1909”. There have been 226 editions sent between the first one on March 30, 2014, and the most recent one on March 26, 2020. That’s an average of 37 newsletters per year, or one every 2.8 weeks.

I thank everyone who has contributed articles over the years (16 of them are listed here), and I give special thanks to Samantha Kearney who wrote most of “1909” for two years.

The paid newsletter no longer exists, but 185 people subscribe to Cityscape Permits, Cityscape Pro, or Cityscape Enterprise to access real estate information from over 75 sources in one place. Many more have gained access to the same information on a limited basis by making a one-time purchase of an Address Snapshot, Place page, or Company Profile.

🥂 Here’s to another six years!

Chicago Cityscape turns 6 🍰 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Travel is down drastically, in order for humanity to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Many short term rental operators have no one to rent to. In some places — Dublin, Ireland— it looks like Airbnb apartments are rejoining the housing market. Some are curious if that’s happening in Chicago.

Stay updated on this topic by following this mega thread.

MAP: The density of Airbnb listings as of March 18, 2020, is symbolized by community area. The darker the green, the more listings. Riverdale is the only community with likely zero listings. Data provided by Inside Airbnb.

The short answer is we don’t know. There’s no central registry of apartments (Evanston has one). Zillow is a major source of this kind of research, but it has a bias of considering only the apartments that are listed on its website.

Inside Airbnb is a website that captures data about Airbnb listings on a monthly basis. There is data for February 22 and March 18, 2020, so it may be possible to chart a decline in the number of listings, but that’s an analysis for later. The information, while inexact, is still useful.

SCREENSHOT: The little map on Airbnb’s website that shows you approximately where a listing is, somewhere inside the circle.

Airbnb doesn’t reveal a listing’s location until the traveler books it, and doesn’t reveal it in the data capture either. The data Inside Airbnb captures shows a listing’s location give or take up to 450 feet.

Since the locations are approximate, a listing may be located in a neighboring community area. I chose to analyze the data assuming that the locations are exact. However, the order of magnitude difference in the number of listings between community areas will likely not change.

Show me the data

There were 7,450 listings in the March 18, 2020, data capture, operated by 4,118 host profiles; five host profiles control nearly six percent of the listings.

There are four “room types”, and 5,132 of the 7,450 citywide listings are for an entire home or apartment (68.9 percent). Compare that to the approximately 585,245 rental dwelling units in Chicago (per the 2018 American Community Survey).

Listings aren’t evenly geographically distributed. Five community areas have 42.8 percent all of the Airbnb listings in Chicago’s 77 community areas, per the March 18, 2020 data capture. The West Town community area has the most Airbnb listings for an entire home or apartment with 692, which is 121 more than the Near North Side, which has the second most entire home or apartment listings with 571.

Rounding out positions 3, 4, and 5, are the Lake View (486 listings), Logan Square (403), and Lincoln Park (335) community areas.

SCREENSHOT: A map shows the Airbnb listings that are possibly in the 47th Ward. Due to Airbnb data provisions, locations may be anywhere within a small circle, possibly putting a listing in a neighboring area.

Riverdale likely has zero Airbnb listings. Humboldt Park has fewer listings than East Garfield Park. (I’ll throw out some potential factors, because I wasn’t expecting that: Humboldt Park has a 50 percent denser population, but East Garfield Park has four ‘L’ stations, four more than Humboldt Park.)

Explore the data yourself: View any one of our over 10,800 Places in Chicago. Then, scroll down and click on the “Load Airbnb housing locations” button.


Stay tuned next month when I download an updated data capture and compare the number of listings in April versus March. Or get started yourself and download the data for Chicago from Inside Airbnb.

Check our my Twitter thread from earlier this week with more details.

Question for the data scientists…If you were to normalize the data in the choropleth map above, what addition factor would you use? The area of the community area, its population, the estimated number of housing units, the number of hotel rooms, or something else?

New data: How many Airbnbs are in your neighborhood was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ask your alder to support ADUs

I was hoping that the ADU ordinance would be introduced to Chicago City Council during their regular meeting on March 18, but due to the coronavirus and the need to restrict gatherings to maintain public health, the meeting has been postponed.

MAP: The latest map of alders known to have expressed support for ADUs. Thank you to those who helped me beta test the sample letter and get responses from three alders who weren’t already on the map.

There is still work that can be done, and I need your help. I’m tracking aldermanic support for an Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance and I’m only aware of 11 supporters. Let’s get our alders excited for a potential April introduction so ADUs can be re-legalized this year and construction can start sooner.

Can you look at the current list & map and if your alder isn’t listed send them a short email?

Here’s a sample letter to advocate for basement & backyard homes

Replace the text in the [brackets]. Optionally BCC

Dear Alder [your alder’s last name],

I live in the [your ward number] Ward at [your address]. I’ve become aware, from the news, that Mayor Lightfoot intends to propose an ordinance to re-legalize accessory dwelling units and coach houses in Chicago. These “ADUs” come in the form of garden apartments, attic units, and backyard houses, create unsubsidized attainable housing and more income for homeowners. I think allowing more of these traditional small apartments is essential to providing new affordable housing options and stimulate economic development in our ward’s struggling business districts.

[Choose 1–2 of the reasons they should support ADUs and edit and personalize it to your situation and ideas. Don’t have a situation of your own? Read the personal stories that our readers submitted last year.

[1. Aging in place]

One aspect of ADUs that I think is really special is how it creates a downsizing opportunity for the senior citizen homeowners in our community to move into a ground-level coach house (so they don’t have to climb stairs) and rent out the front house and augment their fixed income. They don’t have to leave the neighborhood, they don’t have to live in a senior housing building, they can “age in place”.

[2. Affordable housing]

New basement units and backyard homes are likely to increase the supply of affordable housing, especially in high-opportunity areas, and can act as a stepping stone for new residents to live in before they move to a larger apartment or buy a property of their own.

[3. More income for homeowners]

By renting out an ADU, a homeowner can generate additional income to pay for overdue maintenance or higher property taxes.

[4. Provide more jobs]

If people are allowed to build ADUs, then they’re going to have to hire architects and tradespeople to build them, creating new job opportunities. Design and contracting work typically pays a living wage, and because this will be a new industry in Chicago there is a lot of room for innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

[5. Preserving neighborhood density]

Many Chicago neighborhoods have lost population and housing options. If we can’t maintain an appropriate density of people and places to live, it’s hard to support local businesses. Allowing ADUs can bring new residents in and keep existing residents and boost local businesses.

Will you support the ordinance when it’s introduced?


[your name]

Thank you for sending your letter! Even alders who already support ADUs would benefit from hearing how important it would be to re-legalize this housing type. And, if you know how to get in touch, it would be good if you could reach out to community groups that organize around affordable housing. That includes Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Communities United, housing providers like LUCHA and Bickerdike, One Northside, RAGE, LSNA, Garfield Park Community Council, South Side Together Organizing for Power, and the North Lawndale Community Coordinate Council (NLCCC).

Ask your alder to support ADUs was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alders Martin (47th) and Vasquez (40th) proposed an ordinance to combine three “Pedestrian Street” zoning designations on Clark Street into a single, larger designation. The ordinance would have been adopted by City Council tomorrow, but the meeting has been postponed to an unknown future date.

MAP: The map on the left shows the existing P-Streets in the North Side Lakefront neighborhoods and the map on the right shows the combined and extended P-Streets on Clark Street in the center, nearly parallel with Ashland Avenue. CTA and Metra station entrances are depicted with red stars.

A P-Street is a not a pedestrian street…the kind of street seen all across cities in Asia, Europe, Mexico, and South America, where motor vehicles are not allowed. A “Pedestrian Street” zoning designation, hereafter called P-Street, is an overlay zoning district that reduces the uses (businesses) that are allowed and implements a kind of form-based code that requires certain building façade preservation. (Okay, Boston and some other towns in the United States have pedestrian streets, but they’re rare.)

PHOTOS: Chicago isn’t getting a pedestrian street, like the above examples in Frankfurt and Lisbon, but a section of Clark Street is getting a “Pedestrian Street” zoning designation.

These three P-Streets are being “dissolved” into a new one that also encompasses the non-P-Street blocks between the three P-Streets:

  1. Clark -Montrose to Lawrence (4 blocks)
  2. Clark -Ainslie to Argyle (half block)
  3. Clark-Winona to Bryn Mawr (4.5 blocks)

What changes?

The building in the ~4 blocks in the gaps between the three P-Streets will now be on a P-Street. New banks will be restricted. Businesses on the P-Street have to be more pedestrian-friendly than businesses not on a P-Street, including maintaining a minimum amount of transparency (view into the business) on the ground floor.

New drive-throughs and driveways, which make it dangerous for pedestrians to use sidewalks, on Clark Street between Montrose and Bryn Mawr will not be permitted. Even billboards are banned from P-Streets.

The best change, however, is that parking requirements for most existing and new businesses are reduced to zero. Being on a P-Street doubles the distance a business can be from a CTA or Metra station entrance and still take advantage of the Chicago TOD ordinance that reduces parking requirements. Reducing the parking requirements by half is allowed as of right, and further reductions for non-residential uses can be granted via an administrative adjustment.

Existing and new residential buildings also benefit from that rule, reducing the parking requirement by half as of right, and further reductions can be granted via a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

What hasn’t changed is the dearth of P-Streets on the South and West Sides. The decision to create a P-Street is left entirely up to the local alder.

Three North Side “Pedestrian Streets” are being combined was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chicago Cityscape has data & maps from nearly 100 sources, but we don’t have yours. By uploading your data, we can combine it with our data, maintaining full privacy, and give you even more ways to visualize and understand the information.

We have two ways to mix data: Personal Places (this article) and My Data.

Personal Places — Maps for you and your team

Chicago Cityscape has maps for over 37,000 Places and boundaries across Illinois, including ZIP codes, neighborhoods, and cannabis districts.

Within each of these Places, you learn about building permits, property taxes, zoning districts, affordable housing, and housing submarkets.

We can also host your maps, privately, so you can view and extract the same information our existing Places show, but within your custom area.

There are two ways to get your Personal Place into Chicago Cityscape:

  1. Draw a Personal Place yourself
  2. Upload a file and we’ll add it to your account

Make informed decisions by using your own boundaries was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A sample “My Data” map that we made for a Cityscape member. The map has been modified to maintain their privacy.

Chicago Cityscape has data & maps from nearly 100 sources, but we don’t have yours. By uploading your data, we can combine it with our data, maintain full privacy, and give you even more ways to visualize and understand the information.

We have two ways to mix data: Personal Places and My Data (this article).

My Data: Show proprietary data on top of our maps

Many Chicago Cityscape users have their own data that they would like to display on one or more of our thousands of maps.

  • You might have a list of properties you’re brokering that you store in Salesforce and you want to see which ones are in Opportunity Zones.
  • You’re looking at delinquent taxes in a selective area and want to see how they overlap with the different incentives geographies.
  • You own 10 apartment buildings across Cook County and want to see what political boundaries they’re in.

Chicago Cityscape can handle all of these ideas.

My Data is available for Cityscape Permits [*], Cityscape Pro, and Cityscape Enterprise members for an additional setup fee. Tell us about your data and what you want it mixed with.

[*] Cityscape Permits members do not have as much access to our datasets and maps as Cityscape Pro & Enteprirse members so options may be limited.

Make informed decisions by mixing your data with Cityscape’s was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Chicago’s vacant land problem

In 2018 when I was working in a City Open Workshop breakout group about land stewardship, Paola Aguirre helped us summarize and visualize the vacant land problem in Chicago as follows:

  1. The scale of the challenge is too large
  2. The pace of land stewardship [meaning someone other than the city acquires and maintains land] is too slow
  3. Available land acquisition processes are considerably opaque, unclear, or incomplete
This 4-part graphic illustrates the problem with vacant land in Chicago. Drawn by Paola Aguirre based on the research from our breakout group called Office of Land Management.

We called the group “Office of Land Management” — it suggests that a city as large as Chicago, or a county as large as Cook, needs a staff dedicated to inventorying land and selling it or giving it away as quickly and “safely” — to the right people, for the right reasons — as possible. Safely means there are financial, monitoring, and displacement safeguards to prevent corruption and mitigate land sales’ impact on gentrification.

In a 2016 analysis I found that there are over 30,000 vacant parcels in Chicago — almost half of them are probably owned by the city because the latest count of city-owned land (most are vacant but some are parking lots) is 14,548 parcels.

The Large Lots program, designed by Chicagoans and implemented by the Chicago Department of Planning & Development, has not been active in accepting new applications for over a year. It disposed of 1,267 parcels vacant, city-owned residentially-zoned parcels in four years.

If that was the only program to sell city-owned land and the goal was to have the city own no vacant land, then, per problem #2, it would take 30 years to get that land into other people’s hands at the rate of 1,000 parcels per year.

Most of the lots sold through Large Lots are not being developed, because new construction is expensive. Long ago, it was somewhat common to build a small house at the back of a lot and then build a larger house later (this didn’t always happen, though, as the photo below shows). That’s not allowed in today’s zoning code [1].

Not every house built at the back of a lot got a front house to keep watch over. This house is on Kedzie Ave, south of Armitage Ave, in Logan Square.

Prioritizing lots

An easy way to prioritize where new housing should go is by focusing development in areas near good transit service, to ensure that future tenants can take advantage of cheap and clean transportation. (Buses are also good transit service, but take longer to map, so I left them out.)

I looked at all of the privately-owned vacant lots in the 2018 tax roll and found 2,206 vacant and privately-owned lots in residential zoning districts within a quarter mile [2] walk of 96 CTA ‘L’ stations in 42 of Chicago’s 77 community areas [3].

Within that group of 2,206 vacant lots, 49 percent — 1,082 lots — are in one of the 10 community areas that are part of INVEST South/West (map), a program to mix new private investment with planned and future public investment and “reactivate neighborhood cores that have historically served as focal points for pedestrian activity, shopping, services, transportation, public spaces and quality-of life amenities for local residents”.

Date note: This analysis excludes vacant lots that were owned by the city in the 2018 tax year, meaning that any land since transferred to private owners and still vacant is not included; including Chicago-owned vacant lots would increase these numbers. It also includes only vacant lots that are 1,650 s.f. or larger because that’s the minimum lot area for most “R” zoning districts, and because there are a lot of weirdly shaped, vestigial lots behind other lots.

Where are the most ‘L’-accessible vacant lots in Chicago?

  1. East Garfield Park has 14.9% of the vacant residentially-zoned lots within a quarter mile of a CTA ‘L’ station (the Green Line carries residents to downtown in about 20 minutes), 390 out of 2,206
  2. Austin, 9.9%
  3. Grand Boulevard, 9.1%
  4. West Garfield Park, 8.8%
  5. North Lawndale, 7.6%
Vacant lots within a quarter mile (1,320 feet) of several Green Line and Blue Line station entrances.

The 390 vacant and privately-owned lots in East Garfield Park that are near the ‘L’ are concentrated around three stations:

  1. Kedzie Green Line station (64.9%)
  2. California Green Line station (24.4%)
  3. Conservatory-Central Park Drive Green Line station (10.8%)

East Garfield Park is not one of the INVEST South/West community areas, but Humboldt Park, a community area without an ‘L’ station, is.

Do you own a vacant lot near an ‘L’ station? What are your plans for it?


[1] The Chicago Zoning Ordinances allows only one principal residential building per lot except in Planned Developments and townhouse developments. Accessory buildings — like garages and greenhouses — are allowed to serve the principal residential building, but coach houses and rear houses are currently not an allowable accessory building type.

[2] A quarter mile, or 1,320 feet, was used because that is the primary distance used to determine if a property is eligible for the TOD ordinance, which grants parking requirement reductions for being near a CTA or Metra station, or a selected CTA bus route.

[3] Distances were measured as a direct line between the nearest point of a vacant lot boundary to the nearest CTA ‘L’ station entrance, which is the measuring standard for the Chicago TOD (Transit-Served Location) ordinance.

Chicago’s vacant land problem was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author’s note: Many people have good ideas about where Metra should build new stations, but this post is about how station locations are selected and built, and what infill stations on existing train lines do to improve access to jobs.

A prominent real estate developer, Sterling Bay, has proposed a new Metra station in the West Loop, near the office buildings it’s erected. The rationale: make it more convenient for people to disembark near their jobs in the new office node a couple of blocks west of Halsted St rather than at either Ogilvie or Union stations a couple of blocks east of Halsted St. Many of those workers then take ride hail vehicles or shuttle buses operated by their employer or the property manager. A new station would put them two blocks away from work.

A new Metra station in the West Loop is a great idea. There should also be more infill stations on Metra’s citywide network to take advantage of their regional reach, and to fill in gaps in the CTA’s ‘L’ and slow bus networks.

Humboldt Park is another area in Chicago that could benefit from a new Metra station, over in Humboldt Park. I looked at two potential locations:

  1. Chicago/Kedzie, in the Humboldt Park community area, and near the East Garfield Park community area
  2. Division/Grand/Central Park, four blocks west of the park

Both potential locations are where three lines— Milwaukee District-North (MD-N), Milwaukee District-West (MD-W), and North Central Service (NCS)– share tracks before they split near the western end of the Bloomingdale Trail.

Infographic showing a map of a hypothetical Metra station at Chicago/Kedzie in Humboldt Park.

Benefits of building a new Metra station

There are two main benefits for building any new Metra station:

  • People who live near the new station gain new access to jobs and amenities elsewhere along the line. For example, someone who lives at the Salvation Army Freedom Center would be able to more conveniently access a job in Bensenville or O’Hare airport, where there are a lot of logistics businesses.
  • People who live elsewhere along the line gain new access to jobs and amenities near the new station. It’s the same benefit as the first, but with the people and work flowing in the opposite direction.

More stations are key to better service

Building infill stations, like a new one in Humboldt Park, is paramount to creating an effective RER system. RER means Regional Express Rail [note 1]. It’s a name borrowed from the Paris region that turns commuter rail systems that serve morning commutes in one direction and afternoon commutes in the opposite direction into a regional rail system that serves people going in multiple directions. The difference between Metra and RER is designing service for all riders.

Metra is tuned to serve people who work weekdays in the Chicago Loop. Regional rail, on the other hand, is designed to serve them and everyone else: people with jobs in the suburbs, people running errands, and people who need to get somewhere at a convenient time between rush hours. To be able to serve those people, you need more stations. Regional rail also requires more trains to run than Metra does, but this post is specifically about station.

Connecting Humboldt Park to the West Loop

There’s another benefit that’s specific to a new Metra station in Humboldt Park. A majority of the region’s jobs are in downtown Chicago, and Humboldt Park and East Garfield Park residents would have a fast ride to the downtown terminals from this station. In fact, two or all three lines would stop at the proposed new station in the West Loop, depending on its final location.

Envision this: Humboldt Park and the West Loop would be connected by a fast, single, two-stop trip. Humboldt Park and downtown Chicago would be connected by a fast, single, three-stop trip.

When the City of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority opened a new Green/Pink Line station at Morgan, plenty of new trip opportunities opened up, following the two main benefits listed above. Living in one place and working in another place, if they’re both along the Green or Pink Lines, suddenly became more feasible and convenient. Live in Austin and go to work in Fulton Market. Live at one of the co-living residences in the West Loop and go to school in the South Loop.

The city is currently constructing a new Green Line station at Damen/Lake, but I’ve argued they haven’t created a transit-supportive land use plan.

1. Chicago/Kedzie hypothetical station

What’s nearby the hypothetical new Metra station on Kedzie Ave just north of Chicago Ave: Imagine the station being at the center of four land use quadrants. Two of them contain light industrial uses, one has a busy anchor strip mall that with clothing stores, two grocery stores, a bank, and several restaurants, and the fourth has older buildings with commercial uses. That’s just on the first block.

Walking a block further, one starts passing by residential uses. In fact, according to 2015 population data, about 16,656 people live within a 10 minute walk of the hypothetical station. (Get a Transportation Snapshot and see details on how that number is derived.)

Suddenly with trains stopping a couple dozen times a day, there’s an incentive for the strip mall owner to densify the land, potentially adding housing and more retail. Across from the strip mall the City of Chicago is expanding and improving Kells Park.

The new station could be paid for with money from the Chicago/Central Park TIF district; TIF money is partially funding the new Peterson and Auburn Gresham stations.

2. Division/Grand/Central Park hypothetical station

A station at Division/Grand/Central Park would serve the same three Metra lines as the Chicago/Kedzie hypothetical station. Fewer people live within a 10 minute walk (11,344 versus 16,656) but the advantage of this location over the first is the opportunity for equitable transit-oriented development: The station is surrounded by vacant land and low-density commercial uses that could be developed to add housing.

A massive building and parking lot, formerly used as a CVS and still owned by the company, has been shuttered and vacant for almost four years. The land could support hundreds of new apartment and townhouses.

Another advantage this location has is practical: There’s land for Metra to purchase to use for its station platforms, ramps, and waiting rooms.

Great idea, now what

Sterling Bay has considerable influence, and its own funding sources that could potentially contribute land, planning studies, or direct contributions, which can get the station built. Beyond the Peterson and Auburn Gresham stations, I’m unaware of any planning for new Metra stations within the city. And given Mayor Lightfoot’s attitude towards lowering the cost of Metra service on the South Side — which would be funded by Cook County — I don’t know if we can count on her support.

Metra’s strategic plan has no mention of building infill stations, and the station optimization study recommended that some stations be further studied for possible closure.

What should you do? Cook County commissioners and the Cook County president choose more Metra board members than the Chicago mayor, and the state legislature can set rules and direction for Metra.

Contact elected officials who represent the Chicago/Kedzie area:

  • Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (1st District)
  • Illinois State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (5th)
  • Illinois House Rep. Jawaharial “Omar” Williams (10th)

And the ones who represent the Division/Grand/Central Park area:

  • Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. (8th District)
  • Illinois State Senator Omar Aquino (2nd)
  • Illinois House Rep. Delia Ramirez (4th)


[note 1] RER in French stands for “réseau express regional”, or regional express network. It is also similar to the S-Bahn systems in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, London Overground, the S-tog system in Denmark, Sydney Trains, and all Intercity and Sprinter trains in the Netherlands. These rail networks have trains that come every 15-30 minutes outside of rush hour, whereas Metra lines vary between 1-6 hours. They all differ from “rapid transit” systems like the ‘L’ where trains come every 5-10 minutes.

Metra should add a new station in Humboldt Park was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Illinois may follow in the footsteps of Oregon, Washington, and California by legalizing accessory dwelling units statewide. This would have the effect of making duplexes (two-unit houses) legal in all municipalities, creating abundant housing options. The proposed bill doesn’t let home rule municipalities opt out. High-resourced towns that prevent lower-cost housing (read: multi-family housing like apartments and condos), leading to higher housing costs and displacement of public service workers who can’t afford to live nearby, would have to participate.

A new construction coach house in Evanston, owned by a member-owner of the Evanston Development Cooperative.

Illinois Representative Robyn Gabel (18th District map) introduced House Bill 4869 last week which says that municipalities can’t have rules that explicitly or functionally ban ADUs.

Updated 2/24/20: Reps. Delia Ramirez (4th District map) and Will Guzzardi (39th District map) signed on as chief co-sponsors. Additional co-sponsors have been added: Theresa Mah (2nd), La Shawn K. Ford (8th), Carol Ammons (103rd, Urbana-Champaign)

Currently, Chicago is one of those places, disallowing ADUs through a combination of restrictive zoning standards. However, as readers of this blog know, the Chicago Departments of Housing, Planning & Development, and Buildings have been working on an ordinance to introduce to City Council.

Gabel’s district includes a fifth of Evanston, and large areas of Northbrook, Winnetka, and Northfield.

While I hoped that this was going to happen in January or two days ago, The Daily Line reported on Wednesday that introduction was delayed. Adoption of an ordinance that re-legalizes ADUs in Chicago requires broad support from our City Council members, and I don’t know if that exists yet. This map shows that eight alders have expressed their support for the needed policy change.

Most Chicago homeowners would have to obtain a zoning change to be able to build a basement unit, attic unit, or backyard house, yet ADUs are more affordable to rent and build than new construction and are a way to provide more housing options for multi-generational households and aging in place. Think of ADUs as a way for older parents to live very close to the rest of your family while maintaining their independence. Or, empty nesters can downsize into an ADU and rent out their house to a family who needs that space.

In Illinois, ADUs are allowed in Evanston and Oak Park in the form of coach houses. ADUs in other states can also be designed and built as “Junior ADUs” inside houses, attached ADUs in house additions, and detached houses (like rear houses, coach houses, and modular construction houses).

I visited a new construction coach house in Evanston earlier this month that is owned by a member of the Evanston Development Cooperative. The apartment above the garage has about 700 square feet of living space, including a single main room with kitchenette, a generously-sized bathroom, and a storage closet. The majority of space was occupied by a home office.

If you live in Gabel’s district, send her a message of support. If you don’t, email the bill to your state senator and house representative and ask if they’ll sign on as a cosponsor.

Legalize ADUs across Illinois, lawmaker’s bill says was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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1909 was the year that Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett published the Plan of Chicago that forever changed the cityscape. The cityscape changes everyday and we track how and where on Chicago Cityscape.

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