Chicago Cityscape's '1909' newsletter
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Governor Pritzker will probably sign HB 1438, the bill that legalizes recreational marijuana, really soon. The bill would take effect months later, after the various regulating and enforcing departments figure out the exact rules and regulations.
The bill divides Illinois into 17 regions, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s metropolitan and nonmetropolitan definitions. Each region comprises one or more counties.
The “Chicago-Naperville-Elgin” region will allow 47 conditional recreational dispensary licenses to be issued before May 1, 2020. This region covers nine counties in Illinois and has a combined population of 8,628,040 people. These up to 47 recreational marijuana dispensaries would be in addition to the medicinal marijuana dispensaries that are governed by different borders.
Chicago Cityscape’s suburban zoning partner, Shapiro & Associates Law, wrote a pretty great summary of the incoming law so I don’t have to. I was reading the bill to find what I could map.
The limits on dispensaries noted on the map (quotas) are only for the initial batch of licenses. Ian Brown, an attorney at Shapiro & Associates, wrote, “The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act allows the state to issue a total of 500 recreational dispensary licenses by 2022 over a series of waves.”
Other updates on Chicago Cityscape
- Books. There’s now a permanent home for Chicago urbanist Twitter’s suggested reading about city planning in Chicago, including building histories, school closures, public housing policy failures, and how politicians have wielded power. Reply with your recommendation!
- Revitalization Areas are now in our Incentives Checker, when you look up an Address Snapshot. This is basically another word for how the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development defines a disinvested area, and it’s where people can get a discount on a HUD-owned single-family house or condo. The addition of Revitalization Areas gives Incentives Checker its 22nd incentive to consider when looking up any address in Chicago. Cityscape has several incentives across Illinois, as well.
- TOD status in Address Snapshot has been updated to do a better job saying how far away the nearest CTA or Metra station or eligible bus route is. Commercial and residential property near stations and eligible bus routes have drastically lower car parking requirements, and residential uses can get a free density bonus.
It’s always been clearly communicated that a property is likely eligible for the Chicago “Transit Served Location” benefits by showing a green checkmark. Now, in addition, the section clearly shows how far away the nearest eligible transit infrastructure is.
The second change was making it easier to read and understand what the benefits of the property’s eligibility was as the benefits aren’t the same everywhere. For example, most zoning districts limit the number of efficiency units (studios) in a multi-family building, but that limit is waived if the proposed building is no further than one block away from the transit infrastructure.
Legalizing recreational marijuana: There’s a map for that was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Friday, May 17, 2019
The discussion of whether to allow zoning districts that ban multi-family housing is still hot across the United States, but no hotter than in conversation around SB50 in California. SB50 is a proposed legislation that would prevent municipalities from places limits on housing density below a certain amount near train and ferry stations and some bus routes. The legislation would also implement several protections to prevent displacement of people who rent their homes while also giving certain communities time to adopt their own legislation instead of SB50.
Part of the discussion, however, includes the role of limiting who can live in a community, and where, because of the prevalence of single-family zoning.
In the bulk of CA, it's illegal to build any type of housing other than single family homes. #SB50, the #MoreHOMES Act, ends this prohibition. If we're serious about ending CA's 3.5M home shortage & doing so without sprawl, we need to legalize apartments. https://t.co/fL2HS7A3vf
This blog has published maps showing how much of the zoned land area in Chicago bans the new construction of multi-family housing (that means no apartments, condos, or townhouses, and no affordable housing) — including near high-quality transit. Keeping zones single-family-only also prevents homeowners from making additions to their existing two-flats and three-flats.
How much of Chicago bans multi-family housing?
A lot, and the proportion depends on how you look at the different ways land is zoned in Chicago.
The “zoning department” (it’s actually a bureau within the Chicago Department of Planning & Development) maintains a zoning map in GIS that divides zoning districts (discrete areas of a specific zoning classification that covers one or more parcels) into 12 types. Six of these types allow residential buildings, including the “R” zones that allow residential buildings of varying degrees of size and density, and some other uses like churches and schools. The other types are all mixed-use: B and C (neighborhood business districts), and DX, DC, and DR (different kinds of downtown districts).
The City of Chicago draws its zoning map to include all land area, while many other jurisdictions draw their zoning maps to only include only parcel areas. This means in Chicago that zoning districts will overlap with streets and alleys. Therefore, the following statistics are not “buildable” area, but should be considered in proportion to other districts, assuming that most of our streets and alleys are generally the same size.
Zoned land area means the zones expand beyond parcels; this map shows zones in proportion to each other, not buildable area.
Across the City of Chicago, the six zoning types that allow residential uses comprise 62.0 percent of the zoned land area. (I’m excluding Planned Developments because I don’t know which ones allow residential uses. Planned Developments comprise 13.0 percent of the City’s zoned land area.)
Single-family is the only allowed use in fully 41.1 percent of Chicago’s zoned land area. Multi-family housing is permitted in about 20.8 percent of the city’s zoned land area.
Of the 62.0 percent of Chicago’s zoned land area that allows residential uses, 66.5 percent of that area bans multi-family housing — condos, townhouses, apartments, and affordable housing.
It’s expensive for a property owner to get a zoning change to allow more than one house on a lot ($6,000, at least, for the $1,025 zoning change fee and a lawyer) and the rezoning is far from guaranteed in many wards. While there are thousands of existing two and three-flats in areas zoned to permit only single-family housing, single-family zoning often results in a parcel with multiple units turns into a parcel with just one.
The pattern of teardowns of a two-flat in exchange for the lower-density single-family house is still occurring on the North Side. Single-family zoning is essentially a guarantee that those small apartment buildings will be replaced by a building for one household, and is a contributor to a smaller and less diverse population in some neighborhoods.
For those who want to do something about this — because they want to restore the population density and diversity in their neighborhood, the only thing I can recommend is talk to your alder. Want some talking points? Take it from here, or read Sightline Institute, City Observatory, and the Cost of Segregation.
For those who have questions about the zoning situation of a property in Chicago, look it up on Address Snapshot, or order a zoning report.
Thursday, May 09, 2019
First new post from Chicago Cityscape in four weeks! The monthlong hiatus wasn’t on purpose, but a lot of important commitments came up:
- I’ve been studying the updated Chicago building code with my colleagues at MAP Strategies. I’m not an architect, and I don’t work on the permit management services that the majority of my colleagues at MAPS do, so I’m learning building codes for pretty much the first time. I’m excited about the new building code because it allows some lower-cost construction types for low-rise multi-family housing (2 and 3-flats) to a greater extent than the current code. I also helped design our seminar that we’ve started presenting to developers and architects (sign up here).
- I’ve spent most weekends since January building a hoop house on the West Side with my friend; we finished last Sunday.
- I went on a helicopter ride for the first time ever. What. A. Blast.
- City Open Workshop has needed attention since our whole season of workshops has been about Accessory Dwelling Units — I’ve learned what people want to know about ADUs and coach houses as their re-legalization happens this year. We’ve talked about data, mapping, policy, financing, and community engagement.
- I volunteered on one of Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s transition committees, for transportation & infrastructure. You can read my memo (amongst everyone else’s) about piloting more bus lanes downtown so people can have consistent commute times on the South Side express buses.
There’s been one new feature during this busy time: Ride hail (TNC) trip maps.
This one doesn’t really fit the mission of Chicago Cityscape to provide policy-oriented real estate information, but the Cityscape mapping platform made it the most appropriate place to stash it. Look up an Address Snapshot, scroll down, click “Load ride hail trips” and see a map that shows you where people who took Lyft, Via, and Uber went. (The data is only for November-December 2018 at this time. Just so you know, the most common trip is from the western part of River North to the western part of the Loop.)
Hoop house, helicopter ride, and the new building code was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
On Wednesday, April 10, 2019, Chicago adopted the first comprehensive update of its building code in over 70 years. The update modernizes the Chicago Building Code and incorporates parts of the International Building Code (IBC), which architects from around the country and around the world are more familiar with.
The code allows for more flexible building systems, giving architects and contractors more options on how to construct buildings. Aligning it with model codes also makes it easier to update the Chicago Building Code when those model codes are updated.
For small residential buildings — which I have a great interest in because of the prevalence of deconversions and limited new two and three-flat construction that have contributed to lowered neighborhood density— changes include being able to build small multi-family and mixed-use buildings using wood frame construction. Another example is that the minimum ceiling height in a basement dwelling unit is reduced which could increase the number of basements that are eligible to be converted to apartments (a kind of ADU).
The new Chicago building code will be voluntary in December and mandatory in August 2020. Read about more of new code’s benefits.
Questions about office and large apartment buildings should be directed to my colleagues at MAP Strategies, who are going to give seminars soon.
Other code changes
There are some other code updates that architects, developers, and contractors should know about:
- Proposed: A zoning text amendment that would waive the “conversion fee” when rezoning (from PMD/M to B or C) in Industrial Corridors when the project includes rehabbing a “character building”. The conversion fee is a function of the property area and average land acquisition and construction costs, so it is much more expensive than a typical zoning change. If you have a property in the North Branch Industrial Corridor or the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, get in touch and I’ll explain it to you, if not write a future blog post.
- The Illinois Accessibility Code was updated last fall, and accessibility architect Denise Arnold talked to me about the five changes that impact residential design and construction.
- “Bird Law” might become a design standard soon, which would require that transparent façades use shading or fritting, or some other product, to eliminate the reflectivity of glass that contributes to birds crashing.
- “Mural code” (not really a code) was updated to give building owners with blank walls, and funders, some more flexibility to hire muralists to paint and acknowledge the sponsor without it being considered a sign.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
I-NOMA is looking for the next client for its Design Build 2019 project. Non-profit organizations that have a social mission and want some help redesigning and renovating some of their space should apply for a pro bono design consultation and renovation work.
I-NOMA is the Illinois chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and Design Build is a project that involves architecture-curious high school students in an intense learning, designing, and working program. During Design Build, students will learn how to project manage, design a new room in 3D software, and source materials and eventually assist in the build out.
INOMA needs non-profit organizations with a social mission to apply. Applicants should already own their space or have permission to modify it. The scope of work they want help with mustn’t require a permit — the program isn’t long enough to wait around for that.
The kind of spaces that are great for Design Build include rooms, offices, waiting areas, and classrooms that could benefit from more than a touch of paint. Last year, about 15 students from multiple high schools redesigned an underused space at the Chicago Child Care Society office in Hyde Park. Watch the video below to watch the transformation of that office space at the minds and hands of young people.
Ready to apply? Read the RFP, due April 26.https://medium.com/media/fb4051923dbc32245b606ec39aabeb6e/href
Workshop for architecture-curious students seeks next client for an office makeover was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Wednesday, April 03, 2019
Cityscape added over 20 new features in the last year
As Chicago Cityscape turns five years old this month, I wanted to quickly gather the amount of progress made in just one year. I collated all of the new features and datasets that’ve been added to Chicago Cityscape since last April and came up with this pretty long list.
This is the newest feature: Check if a Chicago property is in a home rental prohibition area — look up an address and then look at the Zoning Dashboard to see if that house is in a precinct that bans short term/vacation home rental, like Airbnb and VRBO.
- Property transactions (full consideration, property description, buyer and seller names) in Cook County
- Opportunity Zones
- 2017 property tax data and 2018 property assessment data
- City of Chicago-owned land map
- Cook County Land Bank Authority-owned land
- Zoning maps for suburban areas: Naperville, Aurora, Evanston, Oak Park, and more
- Basement flooding reports in Chicago: People can report to 311 that water is flooding into their basement, which can indicate problems with the sewer or alley. (Look up an address and scroll down.)
- Submarket narratives: These briefly describe the housing market in a place you may not be familiar with
- “Interesting developments” map: See what below-the-radar projects are being proposed or built, every time you load the homepage
- Green View Index: Compare tree canopy coverage block to block. (Look up an address and scroll down.)
- Energy benchmarking data: Compare how much gas and electricity the building you work in is using compared to the building across the street
- 80 Acres maps: These historical maps can help you see what went on inside certain buildings, that may not exist anymore. (Look up an address and scroll down.)
- Mobility Score: This is one of many ways that someone can gauge transportation access at an address and compare it to others — great for new homebuyers. (Look up an address and scroll down.)
- Financial Incentives: Check for up to 19 of them on any property in Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois
- Renderings Gallery to see what’s being proposed or built in Chicago
- Amenities & Social Infrastructure: Another feature that’s great for homebuyers to see what amenities are near an address.
- Transit Oriented Development status: This currently works for Chicago and Evanston, and will include Oak Park soon. (Look up an address and scroll down.)
- Property Finder: These themed maps are designed for small developers and brokers to locate property that’s ideal for value-add additions, among other focus areas.
- Site Locator: A special zoning map to find locations in Chicago that already zoned for a particular business
Talk about adding incredible value to your membership!
Send your feature ideas in a reply
Tuesday, April 02, 2019
A professor at an out of state university asked this question: The land area for the Central Business District map on Chicago Cityscape is reported as 4.47 square miles, but the Wikipedia page for Loop says 1.58 square miles.
Here’s the answer:
The “Central Business District” map on Chicago Cityscape is drawn based on the boundaries defined in the Municipal Code of Chicago, which makes it an official boundary. It’s defined in the city’s “vehicle code”, 9-4-010 Definitions:
“Central Business District” means the district consisting of those streets or parts of streets within the area bounded by a line as follows: beginning at the easternmost point of Division Street extended to Lake Michigan; then west on Division Street to LaSalle Street; then south on LaSalle Street to Chicago Avenue; then west on Chicago Avenue to Halsted Street; then south on Halsted Street to Roosevelt Road; then east on Roosevelt Road to its easternmost point extended to Lake Michigan; including parking spaces on both sides of the above-mentioned streets.
The CBD is referenced in several other parts of the Municipal Code. The Municipal Code doesn’t define the “Loop” directly, but does define it as a neighborhood boundary in “Exhibit B”, referenced in 1-14-010.
The area is automatically calculated by GIS based on the map you see on the Central Business District page; it will be a bit inflated because the boundary includes a lot of water, although the official boundary stops at the edge between land and water. I drew it loosely because drawing along the edge between land and water is tedious.
“The Loop” is one of the 77 official community areas but it can also refer to the elevated ‘L’ trains that make a loop in downtown. Here’s a map of the Loop, the area of which is calculated 1.66 square miles.
Ask Cityscape: What’s the difference between the Loop and the Central Business District? was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
A couple of weeks after someone signs up for Cityscape Pro, they automatically get a “two minute” survey which asks them how they use the tools and features. Knowing the professions people are in and how they’re using Chicago Cityscape to help them in their work or to learn about new datasets is important to know because it’s used to guide development of new tools, features, and to prioritize which data to acquire.
Allen Bosbyshell is an Americorps/VISTA staffer at the Garfield Park Community Council and answered the survey this month. He works with GPCC’s Housing Specialist La Shone Kelly to increase affordable housing and prevent foreclosures and demolitions.
“We administer the City of Chicago’s ‘MMRP’ program. Part of my job is to find properties listed on MLS that qualify for the MMRP’s $15,000 downpayment assistance, and then find a buyer who will qualify.”
Do you uniquely use Chicago Cityscape? Send a short message about how you use Chicago Cityscape in your business or organization and we may feature you in a member spotlight.
The Micro Market Recovery Program is in designated parts of Chicago that was adopted during the recession to mitigate foreclosures and the impacts of foreclosures on tenants and homeowners in targeted neighborhoods.
“The Garfield Park Community Council tracks vacant housing in the neighborhood, by doing site visits as well as meeting down owners in housing court. We come up with a strategy for each troubled property through housing counseling or referring them to further city resources.”
Allen said he doesn’t need Cityscape to see if a property is in the West Garfield Park MMRP because its boundaries are so simple that he memorized them.
What Allen uses Cityscape for is to look up property ownership and contact information — a feature for Cityscape Pro members like the GPCC.
Chicago Cityscape is able to provide that information to Allen in a simple map and spreadsheet, even narrowing down the properties to only show vacant lots in the West Garfield Park community area.
Additionally, the West Garfield Park Place page shows residents’ reports of vacant and abandoned buildings. Those calls to 311 and reports made via the Chicago 311 app appear on our maps daily. Not only that, but we’ve recently added people’s reports to 311 about flooding in their basements because of a member’s request.
The Garfield Park Community Council and The Hatchery are hosting an indoor neighborhood market on Saturday, April 13. I went to the neighborhood market in February. Eighty percent of the vendors were small business owners from the West Side. This is a great opportunity to buy delicious pastries (and other foods) and see the inside of The Hatchery.
Friday, March 22, 2019
Update 3/22/19 20:06: A Village planner graciously emailed me to point out some misinterpretations and a mistake in the map. Those have been corrected.
Last week the Village of Oak Park’s board of trustees adopted a Transit-Oriented Development and inclusionary housing/zoning ordinance to require affordable housing in new apartment buildings in its newly established TOD areas. If you know the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) in Chicago, the rules in Oak Park will look familiar.
If a proposed development has 25 or more apartments and needs a zoning change from the village, then the development has to comply. Ten percent of the units in that development must be affordable to a household that earns 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), which is the same rule as in Chicago. The original proposal set the bar at 80 percent, but it was reduced during the board meeting on March 11, 2019.
An amended version of the ordinance was passed and that hasn’t been published on the Village’s legislation website yet, so information here is based on a combination of the proposed ordinance and the board’s meeting minutes.
Developments that are proposing condos would not have to comply, although the ordinance does cover for-sale units should the condo exemption change.
Unlike Chicago’s ARO, people who apply for the affordable units in these future developments would get preference if they currently live in Oak Park, “have lived in Oak Park with a member of a household currently living in Oak Park”, or work in the village or are in a domestic partnership with someone who works in the village.
Instead of building the required affordable units, a developer can pay a $100,000 in lieu fee for each unbuilt unit. Any developer who pays an in lieu fee will not be eligible for building permit fee reductions or the density bonus.
Oak Park’s TOD areas include the area within 1/4 mile (1,320 feet, same as Chicago) around the sole Metra station, and all of the CTA stations except the two on Austin Boulevard (one Green Line, one Blue Line). Additionally, the TOD area all of the “MS”-zoned properties on Madison Street west of Lombard Avenue.
The density bonus allows an additional market rate unit for each on-site affordable unit. Chicago offers a similar option, but calculates bonus units differently: If the developer provides 50 percent of the required affordable units on site, instead of the 25 percent on-site requirement, then the FAR increases by 0.25. If the developer provides 100 of the required affordable units on site, then the FAR increases by 0.50. With the increased FAR, the developer can construct slightly more market rate units, or larger units.
These TOD areas will soon be integrated so that when an Address Snapshot report for an Oak Park location is obtained from Chicago Cityscape, its eligibility for the TOD rules is shown.
I’m looking for feedback from Oak Park residents and developers active there for where there is developable land in the TOD areas. I may highlight these on the blog or on the website.
Oak Park adopts a TOD and inclusionary housing rule was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Friday, March 15, 2019
A client recently engaged Chicago Cityscape’s zoning partner MAP Strategies to create custom-designed maps of the medical marijuana districts in Illinois. I had never heard of such a thing, so before we took on the job I had to do a little research.
Illinois has 43 medical cannabis districts, which limit the number of medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers in each district. There are 55 licensed dispensaries and 22 licensed cultivation centers and the state is not authorizing additional ones. The pilot program ends July 1, 2020.
It would have been easy to make the maps if such boundaries already existed. The districts are defined and regulated by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which only described their boundaries.
Since no map existed, I had to create them. Thankfully the districts are pretty simple: Each district outside Cook County consists of a group of counties, and each district in Cook County is a group of townships. Chicago no longer uses townships for any administrative or political function, but their boundaries are still used by the Cook County Assessor.
Like with all of our maps, when you look up an address, the resulting Address Snapshot lists all of the containing boundaries, including legislative districts, police districts, certain incentives areas, and ZIP codes. Now the Address Snapshot report lists which Illinois medical cannabis district it’s in.
And, if you’re looking at one of the Chicago medical cannabis districts, you can also overlay the Chicago zoning map to find the zones which allow medical cannabis dispensaries.
What new maps would you like to see?
Pro tip: If you have a map you’ve already drawn in another program (Google Earth, for example) we can load that into our system as a Personal Place that’s private to you or public for anyone with the link. Email us, email@example.com.
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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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