The Zoning, Development, Preservation Committee: a Look at Zoning

Zoning Reform and Development, Preservation

This page is bought to you by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website, Contact Zoning/Development Focus Group leader Gary Ossewaarde. Join the Conference, support our work.

Join HPKCC's Preservation, Development and Zoning Committee
Page index
Report of Findings, 2003 Forums.
We held two public forums on the issue and partook in an HPKCC forum on the future of 53rd Street. May 27, 2004 City Council passed the Ordinance mostly as originally presented. Implementation, mapping and application will take years, with nearly all property grand fathered. The enormously large text is on line at the Metropolitan Planning Council and City dept. sites.
Our next areas of interest in zoning are: specific zoning and planned development hearings; looking for areas that are out of line with current and proposed uses that may require general changes.
City site:

Hpkcc is very interested in resolution of the issues surrounding preservation of the FL Wright Blossom and MacArthur houses in Kenwood (esp. interiors) and vetting of proposals for a restoration with commercial use such as a bed & breakfast. (We hosted a public forum.) VISIT OUR HOME PAGE FOR INFORMATION. Also visit the site of a ad hoc group exploring solutions-, where there is an online petition for those in favor of preserving.

Proposed downzoning of 71st Street to residential (i.e. mandatory spot zoning for anything else new) -
May 23, Tuesday, 6 pm- topic at 5th Ward Meeting. June 22, Thursdasy- tent. consideration by City Council Zoning Committee.

October 11 2016, Tuesday, 6 pm. Community meeting called by Ald. Hairston concerning a liquor license for new restaurant Nando Peri Peri, 1447 E. 53rd St. (former Clarke's). Hyatt Place, 5225 S. Harper. No community members appeared- apparently is going to proceed.

October 2016. Request by Target for license across from park and school. Letters requested by Ald. King. Action has been postponed a month. MEETING CALLED FOR NOVEMBER 9, 6 PM. AT MURRAY ACADEMY, 5335 S. KENWOOD.


Next 53rd TIF meeting tba.


May 6 2012, HPKCC HELD A zoning and 53rd St. forum With panel of experts and Q and A- Planning and Zoning 53rd St. United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St. Info coming. Speakers include John Norquist of Congress for the New Urbanism Tim Barton, Hyde Parker and former city zoning staff), and Adam Kingsley of O'Donell law firm specializing in the issues and 53rd St. Release with description.

HPKCC Information Forum on Zoning coming up!
Monday, May 6 from 6.30-8.30 pm, HPKCC will hold a community forum featuring zoning experts at the United Church of Hyde Park.
The purpose of the forum is to educate the community about zoning followed by a Q and A discussion.
Tim Barton - Hyde Park resident and former staff at the Chicago Zoning department. He supervised the creation of the 2004 Chicago zoning ordinance.
Tim will explain the potential within the ordinance for communities to plan their own futures in an open and comprehensive way.
Adam Kingsley - Attorney,O'Donnell Law Firm specializing in land use, zoning and historic preservation, helped the Woodlawn Home Owners Association negotiate the PD43 Subsection 'O' agreement with the University and the City. Adam will talk about the present zoning designations of the Vue 53 (McMobil) site and of 53rd Street in general, what's allowed now, what zoning changes the University would have to get from the Alderman to do the project as planned and the sequence of meetings required, what effect these zoning changes might have on subsequent development on 53rd Street, and other potential zoning options.
John Norquist - President, Congress for the New Urbanism and former Mayor of Milwaukee, WI, will talk about 'best urban planning practices' regarding transit oriented development, pedestrian oriented development, and traffic/parking. The Congress is the preeminent national proponent of "Jane Jacobs' style" sustainable urban development. Their recent publication 'Sustainable Street Network Principles' speaks directly to our neighborhood issues.

MAY 16 2013 THE CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION approved rezoning and PD for Vue 53. (see report in Vue53 page)
June 5, 2013 City Council passed the ordinance (last step other than permits) 49-0 with reclusion by Ald. Burke. The site will be B3-5. Mixed use (up to 6 retail. and the 13 stories allowed, 154 feet tall, 267 units, 230 parking spaces, address 1330 E. 53rd St.

A zoning upgrade request meeting was held September 12 2013 by Ald. Hairston re a car wash in the 1525 E. 55th St. Bldg. and for Promontory Restaurant at 1511 E. 53rd St. Both would change from a B3 to a C2 designation. Opinion at the meeting was favorable.

Woodlawn Avenue Corridor and UC Planned Development Amendment.
Our background is in UC Master Plans Archive and Planned Development 43 page. It shows how UC land use regulation and UC expansion are an extension of zoning, and one of the keys to zoning effects in Hyde Park. See also Woodlawn Corridor.

Deal between university and city for pilot for speeding zoning and permits promises much, touches much.

See Liquor Zoning for the Walgreens disputes.

Sub pages: Zoning changes proposed. Local Option (liquor) zoning changes. Zoning forums report. Media Coverage on 2004 rewrite. Area Zoning Maps. Maps scanned.

More in Harper Redev. homepage, Media Coverage, TIF news, Neighborhood Development and Public Policy navigator page, Vision for the Hyde Park Retail District 2000, Business Climate, Tracking Community Trends, Community and Neighborhood News, Affordability/Ending Homelessness-see "Inclusionary Housing Myths," Taxes, Assessment Crisis and Exemptions

Current members of the HPKCC Preservation, Development and Zoning Committee are Gary Ossewaarde (Chair), Jay Ammerman, Peter Cassel, Mark Granfors, Jane Ciacci, Jane Comiskey, George Davis, Irene Freelain, Alison Hartman, Trish Morse, David Nekimken, Jay Mulberry, Jane Pugh, Judy Roothaan, George Rumsey, Jack Spicer, Pat Wilcoxen, and James Withrow.

There are many kinds and uses of zoning including normal, variance, planned use development, and local option liquor. For recent uses of the latter see our page on Spot Liquor (Local Option) as a business development or project killing tool. People continue to ask for a general zoning and development plan for at least 53rd Street.
Antheus' Eli Ungar says zoning regulations contribute to the difficulties of maintaining and creating affordable housing.

In this page:


Next TIF meeting expected to be September 30, Monday, 7 pm. Kenwood Academy, Little Theater, 5015 S. Blackstone, flagpole entry.

September 30, Monday, 6 pm. Zoning Hearing. There will be a 5th Ward Community Meeting to discuss a zoning variance for a multi-family building, 5432-44 S. Woodlawn Ave., owned by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. The prospective owner would like to increase the number of units in the building from 30 - 40 by converting the basement areas into garden apartments. The proposed renovation also would include off-street parking with the creation of 18 new spaces in back of the properties. The meeting will take place on Mon., Sept. 30, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 E. 55th St.


For budget of 2011, City to account for TIFs in the budget, declare $180 M from $25 TIFs surplus and send it to the taxing bodies, and to merge Housing-Zoning-Planning into one department (zoning inspectors would be under Buildings. Hearing dates set. (the following is a release from Chicago Rehab Network)

Using a variety of strategies and cost-saving measures, Mayor Daley released the $6.1 billion balanced City budget yesterday. Most notable in this document is the inclusion of a new Fund 0B21 which details TIF administrative expenses and a list of each TIF District noted with its available balance and drawdowns--a measure which CRN has repeatedly called for in the budgeting process. [See 2011 Preliminary Budget Testimony]. As a critical part of the City's finances and operations, the inclusion of TIF in the city budget makes sense and we recognize this effort by the City to further increase transparency and accountability in city government.

Mayor Daley has proposed declaring a surplus on 25 TIF districts worth $180 million to help close the budget gap. Per State law, other taxing bodies are entitled to this surplus. The City's share is $38 million with the lion's share of $90 million to go to the Chicago Public Schools. This move also releases $15 million for Cook County, $12 million for the Park District and $6 million for City Colleges.

While the large budget deficit has deemed TIF as a necessary source of funds, we hope that this is a precedent that does not continue -- pulling those dollars into the City corporate fund makes them no longer available for neighborhood housing and economic development.

Another important change is the consolidation of the Department of Zoning and the Department of Community Development as part of cost-cutting and streamlining of city functions. The merger will form the new Department of Housing and Economic Development. Zoning inspectors will be placed under the Department of Buildings.

Departmental hearings will begin on Monday, October 18th. The Department of Housing and Economic Development hearing will be held on October 25th at 9:00 am at City Council Chambers. See the full schedule here.

A public hearing is set for November 3rd at 9:00 am at City Hall and the final budget vote will be held on November 17th.

Stay tuned for CRN's Full Budget Analysis and other budget updates. Contact CRN for more information at 312-663-3936 or visit


Recent zoning filings

1350 E. 53rd as for Del Prado - see Tif mtg. above.

Note, HPKCC Development Committee resolved in December 2008 that there should be remapping before any more spot zoning.

Among those filed in late 2008 are Antheus Capital for condo high rise Solstice on the Park and for Village Center mixed development. We have not heard that L3 has filed for its mixed development PD high rise on 53rd and Cornell. Harper Court Area and Harper Theater await decisions and roll out of RFQ/RFP.

February 2009- MAC Properties/Antheus Capital called a community meeting for Monday, February 23, 6 pm, 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd. concerning its desire to rezone the Del Prado from B1-5 to B3-5 in conjunction with a planned rehabilitation of the building and streetscape. This zoning change would permit the renovated Del Prado to offer a wider variety of commercial uses such as a general restaurant, which may serve alcoholic beverages if all required State and City permits and licenses are issued. Questions? Please contact Peter Cassel at (773) 347-3451 or Announcement in pdf.

Proposal to upzone 1301-05 E. 50th has neighbors up in arms. Pulled from city hearing agenda; meeting scheduled December 2. (7 pm, Church of St. Paul and Redeemer) Withdrawn after public meeting.

Herald, November 5, 2008. By a set of neighbors. Historic Kenwood should retain look

Two single-family residential lots were recently purchased at 1301 and 1305 E. 50th St. Neighbors have been notified by the purchaser's lawyer of a request for a zoning change from single family, low density (RS-1) to a much higher density (RS-3), two-flat permitted. This request for a zoning change would allow the lots to be almost completely built over with two residences and two-car garages, eliminating almost all green space on the narrow lot.

The lots affected are in the Kenwood Landmark District, where residents have taken pride in their restoration of homes, maintenance of appropriate population density and respect for the unique "suburb" within a city, from its trees and green space to its limestone sidewalks and outstanding architecture. It is no wonder that he Kenwood walking tours are among the most popular offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and that tour buses regularly cruise by. It is because the look and atmosphere of Kenwood retains much of what it has been over the last one hundred years.

There are many existing residences in varied price ranges and sizes currently available for purchase in the Kenwood Landmark District. There is no compelling reason to alter a beautiful neighborhood which we homeowners are committed to maintaining and in which we all take pride. It would be and unfortunate precedent to allow the indiscriminate insertion of the high density zoning designation on individual lots among homes hat are currently designated as low density, DRS-1. There is no reason to permit a zoning change which, if enacted, begins a slippery slope whereby no single family lot is safe from altering its status to multi-unit, high density.

We hope that all Kenwood District residents will be organized by Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) regarding this proposed zoning change and support our opposition to altering the character of our community.


Proposed new approach allowing planned development status and flexibility to historic buildings that don't meet the current 12,500 sq. ft. threshold endorsed by preservation, commerce and building owner groups. Would solve problems such as Del Prado without need for zoning appeal.

Hyde Park Herald, September 2, 2009. By Sam Cholke

A change to zoning ordinance by downtown Alds. Brendon Reilly (42nd) may open th door for landmarked buildings to be redeveloped as "planned developments." That change would allow for greater leeway in changing zoning and altering the interior space on landmarked building and endangered historically significant buildings through a public hearings process.

Currently, buildings smaller than 12,500 square feet cannot go through the planned development process. The change is meant to spur reuse of historic buildings downtown, but will affect future reuse of buildings in Hyde Park, like the Del Prado, 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd., among others. The Del Prado's owners recently ran into red tape when attempting to redevelop the former rooftop home of the House of Eng, a storied gathering place for South Siders that closed decades ago.

The floor area, minimum lot size, open space and building height "may be deviated from if that relief is necessary for the rehabilitation and reuse of these structures," sections of teh amended ordinance read.

The ordinance is sponsored by Reilly, Ald. Bob Fioretti (nd) and Ald Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) in City Council.

Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Building Owners and Managers Association endorsed the ordinance. The full council will vote on the ordinance at the Sept. 9 meeting.



Zoning reform was approved by City Council May 27, 2004 in a vote on the bundled sections, to be effective November 1, 2004. (Then the slow application process began). Also, 53rd became the only Pedestrian commercial Street to date.) Remember that when looking at the codes and designation, height is not automatic- footprint and coverage, and a few breaks, have to be taken into account.

Here is the url to the Principles section,critical for retail and other developments.

There is great consternation among some that the invitation to communities to zone themselves was not taken up- the aldermen did it, and continue to do spot zoning with no coordination.

Our first case of zoning change since the passage? Ald. Hairston gained a provisional downzoning of the Vivekananda site on 54oo block of Hyde Park Blvd. to put a potential high rise on hold pending a public meeting.

City Council took up the text part belatedly (fall, 2003 had been expected). Some differences in needs of differently configured neighborhoods and developer issues had to be worked out, including wards with large homes having higher parking requirements while those with affordable and senior developments less than 1 space per unit, and in-between keeping the current 1 to 1 ratio. Aldermen seem inclined to mainly grandfather existing in built up areas like Hyde Park and South Kenwood. For discussion on where we go locally, see below. Citywide, some see the need for a new building code and area then citywide master plans.

More to the point, several local citizens are concerned that our local aldermen have not picked up on the example of several other aldermen in forming Zoning Advisory Councils/focus groups. A meeting of persons so concerned, or just interested in the coming mapping (application) in the neighborhood, is expected to be convened soon. Contact HPKCC board member and vice president James Withrow, 773 773 834-8217.

Jack Spicer wrote re the 53rd Visioning Workshop December 8, 2007:
One way to eliminate the secrecy and capriciousness of zoning changes, and the consequent disruption of a good, market-based development process, is for the community to create a new 53rd Street/Lake Park Avenue zoning map.
Under the new 2004 zoning ordinance communities are invited to review the old zoning designations and then re-map based on the new 2004 zoning categories. The idea is to provide a tool for communities to create broad, clear guidelines that will manage the future development in their communities in a fair, open and thoughtful way. Many Chicago communities have already done this in cooperation with their alderman. Ours has not.

Spicer added in the February 13 Herald,

The aldermanic zoning abuses revealed in the recent and ongoing Tribune series are shocking and discouraging. Fortunately neither of our aldermen have been implicated. But this scandal may be the perfect opportunity for our alderman to lead the community through a comprehensive remapping process for Hyde Park under the new and genuinely improved Chicago Zoning Ordinance.


For more information call the Conference at 773 288-8343 or e-mail us at

Next steps - none? but some call for a local review in light of scandals elsewhere.


A related issue is enforcement of zoning, building codes et al. Sometimes the object becomes fine collection or even generation. What distortions and injustices does that introduce?

In October 2005 Ald. Preckwinkle documented in the Herald a case in Building Administrative hearing and circuit court that endangered both justice and preservation. The departments and city legal department apparently don't care about whether laws and codes are complied with but dog expensive homes with citations of supposed violations over and over and to collect fines. She said, "If the owners of older buildings are going to be asked for additional payments reflecting the additional burden of maintenance on older homes, preservation efforts are in trouble. ...if the goal is collecting money, challenging buildings with difficult owners will be ignored." The alderman will in turn dog the departments during budget hearings. She asks that any with similar experiences contact her office at 773 536-8103.

Summary as mapping starts: from citywide informational meetings, one of which was held March 31 cosponsored by Ald. Hairston.

Visit the whole code (printable) at

Chicago's former zoning ordinances, 1924, 1942, and 1957, we made under the assumption of continuous growth and so gave leeway for density, even where demand for this was not then evident. For example, much was zoned R3 that was single-detached housing, or (esp. by the lakefront) the most intense use, highest R numbers. Also, big gaps were inserted between some sets of designations. Population in fact went down, but started coming up again by the 1990s. This left legal room for developers to build structures out of scale to their blocks and neighborhoods. Also, there was little guidance or themes neighborhoods could use to preserve or promote the quality or directions they want. In 2004 the text of a new ordinance was passed. Now the use designations must be applied to each neighborhood, it is hoped according to its character and hopes.

Some of the objectives have been to simplify yet make gradations consistent and manageable through elimination of unneeded designations and creation of half-steps while covering every foot with logical designations, including open space and streets and requiring justification for change without enforcing rigidity. The rules were intended to create clear guidance on setbacks, coverage, parking, open space on each plot, respect for the street and sidewalk and visual consistency.

Another intention was to protect well-established areas while being smart about growth. The latter includes being economically smart, like promoting access to jobs and services, concentrating density where it is sustainable including by public transit, protecting manufacturing etc. jobs and transportation corridors, encouraging amenities and pedestrian friendliness, retaining taxpayers in the city and their homes, and encouraging diversity and affordability.

Dept. of Zoning officials said Community Conservation and Landmark districts and Planned Developments will work about as now and have even lower thresholds for public hearings and review, and parks etc. will need to justify developments and intrusions. Zoning will generally be done by 4-block sets where there are considerable stretches of consistent uses, and other measures are included to discourage "spot zoning" and "special uses'-although these can still be appealed for as before. The mappers will also work with local development plans (LISCs) as well as with aldermen and community organizations.

Work proceeded by steps. Public meetings followed by aldermanic follow ups to identify what may need to be different from what it is now. By summer, area-specific drafts should start to be ready for aldermanic review and public comment. There was no opportunity for public comment, aldermen saying they just grand fathered existing. The map was presented (maybe in sections) to City Council in late November 2005 and early 2006. Visit

The mapping work occurred on two tracks: Citywide Priority Zoning and Ward Specific Zoning Issues:

Citywide Priority Zoning (Mapping tasks)

Ward Specific Zoning Issues

Zoning Code Highlights (Dept. of Zoning handout)

  1. Residential Districts
    1. 4 new half-step districts RS3.5, RT4.5, RM5.5, RM6.5 (r= residential, s= single, T= accessible, M= mid-density?) will allow smother transitions between existing districts, especially in terms of FAR and # of dwelling units.
    2. New contextual front-yard setback will promote uniform streetscapes
    3. New rear-yard open space requirement added.
    4. Character standards added for residential streets:
      1. Requiring a minimum amount (17%) of windows and doors on any street facade; will eliminate blank walls along sidewalks.
      2. requiring all parking in mid- to- high density districts to be accessed from alleys where they exist. Addresses problem of driveways crossing sidewalks.
    5. New RT4A Zoning District allows builders to choose to build standard 3-flats or ones with dwelling units accessible to disabled or elderly persons. 3-flats with these "accessible units" are allowed slightly more height and building area.
  2. Business and Commercial Districts
    1. Number of districts has been reduced from 12 to 6, providing clearer distinctions among the districts.
      1. B1 - Neighborhood Shopping
      2. B2 - Neighborhood Mixed-use
      3. B3 - Shopping Center Districts
      4. C1 - Neighborhood Commercial
      5. C2 - Motor Vehicle-related
      6. C3 - Commercial/Manufacturing/Employment
    2. New B2 district will allow ground-floor residential use without special approval. This added use is intended to help make development easier for parcels on vacant or underused commercial thoroughfares.
    3. New "Pedestrian Street" designation will provide standards for fostering development comparable to the character of buildings already existing on these streets The standards would prohibit gas stations, drive-throughs, and similar auto-related uses. These standards will require the use of large display windows and prohibit buildings being set back more than five feet from the sidewalk. Examples include: 18th Street in Pilsen, Southport Avenue between Addison and Irving Park, 53rd Street in Hyde Park and Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown.
  3. Manufacturing Districts
    1. As a means of protecting Chicago's industrial and employment base, the new code will limit the number, type and size of non-manufacturing uses allowed in manufacturing districts. This is intended to prevent industrial displacement by commercial and residential developments.
    2. Outmoded industrial performance standards are eliminated, and new screening and buffer requirements are introduced for outdoor storage and outdoor work areas.
    3. The code will have a new "Type 1 Rezoning" process affecting rezonings from districts that do not allow residential use to those that do (e.g. from a Manufacturing district to a Residential zone).
    4. A new procedure will affect postponed rezonings of land in industrial corridors when the change is from a manufacturing use to a non-manufacturing designation. The Chicago Plan Commission will now review these applications.
  4. Special Purpose Districts
    1. Parks and Open Space District - New zoning designation for public parks, park-related facilities, cemeteries and open space. It will provide greater predictability regarding use and development.
    2. Transportation District - A new zoning designation creates a special zoning classification for road, rail and other important transportation corridors. It is intended to ensure public review and hearings on proposals to convert these transportation corridors to non-transportation use. The allowed uses are limited to: roads; commuter and freight rail lines; activities directly related to provision of commuter or freight rail service; bus ways' pedestrian and bicycle trails; and utilities.



Directions and opinions on the mapping process, September 2004

The headline below appears to be misleading.

Local aldermen seek input on city's overhaul of zoning code

Hyde Park Herald, September 29, 2004. by Mike Stevens

Advocates of pedestrian friendly city planning and preservation have a mantra they use to try to drum up interest in the yawn-inducing city zoning code: It matters, it matters, it matters. "If only zoning could capture people's imagination," preservation advocate Mike Moran said in half-serious exasperation. "It's the one thing in the city code that impacts everything we experience from the time we step out of our front door in the morning until we return at night."

Moran blames the cryptic code for driving off concerned citizens leaving only crowds of developers at zoning meetings where important decisions are made. "There needs to be a balance. It's completely fair for everyone to lobby for their own interests. When it comes to zoning, however, it tends to be lopsided in favor of those with expertise, especially major property owners, developers and zoning attorneys," Moran said.

With a brand new city zoning code set to take effect Nov. 1, city planners have moved on to reviewing the zoning maps for the entire city, including Hyde Park, planning department spokesman Pete Scales said. The maps decide what type of buildings can be built and what they can be used for, said Scales.

"We are already beginning the mapping process and that will go on for the next year or so," Scales said. "Some aldermen are already holding community meetings to see if they need any map changes."

The city hopes that the first major overhaul of zoning since 1957 will help maintain neighborhood character and make streets more pedestrian friendly, Scales said.

University of Chicago professor Anil Kashyap urge that now is the time for Hyde Parkers to let their opinions be known, perhaps through a community forum, on what part of the neighborhood they value and what they would like to see changed. "My street got ruined because it was zoned too liberally," Kashyap, a Lakeview-resident, said. "This is the period where a lot of stuff could get slipped through if neighbors aren't paying attention."

But Mae Wilson, who coordinates planning and development at the 4th Ward office, says most of the large decisions were finalized when city council approved the new ordinance May 27. Most streets in the 4th Ward will keep their same zoning classifications," Wilson said. "We are trying to complement what is already there," Wilson said. We don't ant to mix apples and oranges."

Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston's chief of staff Kimberly Webb said their office contacted the Planning Department last week and expect to meet with city planners to go over ward zoning block-by-block. Hairston will use community input from a meeting held on the ordinance last year, Webb said. "If there is a need for more community input, I am sure the alderman will take that under consideration,? Webb said.


Chicago has embarked on its first major zoning overhaul since 1957. A constant flow of requests for changes or variances shows that the current code is out of step with today's needs, does not provide choice and flexibility, and its scope is too limited. Below are descriptions of the reform process and the new goals it embraces. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference is one of several organizations in the neighborhood, including South East Chicago Commission, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, and Harper Court Foundation following this process, which will effect business and residential areas, homeowner/businesspersons rights, parks, open land and transit development, and quality of community life for years to come. We hope residents will become familiar with the proposed changes so we can converse with our aldermen, who have primary say on zoning issues in Chicago. The ordinance is being introduced in sections into City Council and will go through a hearing process at least through August, 2003. Then comes the long, hard mapping process which will apply the designations to the land and space of the city. View land use maps (current generalized neighborhood zoning districts color coded) /designations. View more detailed current zoning maps of Hyde Park and Kenwood. You can also draw these up in pdf form from, Zoning Ordinance, maps.

Read an article showing how density can be an asset. See the Urban Land Institute's Ten Principles for Development in General Development and Policy.


Key helpful websites on zoning reform issues are those of the Mayor's Zoning Reform Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Council. (At the latter you can contact Peter Skosey or visit the Campaign for Sensible Growth site.) These bodies also have CDs (the city's available at ward offices) and short or long publications with good tips for using zoning to shape communities, from housing to transit to protecting pedestrian friendly corridors. These are for distribution. MPO is also holding symposiums and briefings around the city and is working with HPKCC locally. Also weighing in are the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Civic Federation, Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, and Break The Gridlock (which wants to make sure the reform does not increase off-street parking requirements in a way that will, inter alia, encourage the congestion and pollution problem--more at CNT site, more above in Key Items/Concerns first bullet. Preservation Chicago leaders have now also become interested.

To the final Principles section:


Key items, concerns that have been raised at our meetings:

HPKCC presented an informational forum, "Zoning Reform and its Implications" January 29, 7:00 PM, at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

See Report. Also, we've posted some pictures below this box.

Featured presenters were Tim Barton, assistant director of the Mayor's Zoning Reform Commission and the Department of Planning and Development and Peter Skosey, vice-president of external affairs, Metropolitan Planning Council. Aldermen Hairston and Preckwinkle joined Barton and Skosey as panelists in answering thoughtful questions. The South East Chicago Commission cosponsored the event.

A planning committee was initiated, to start to consider application to the local map: To join, contact Gary Ossewaarde

HPKCC zoning forum picturres (five). This features former Ald. Larry Bloom Zoning forum pictures. Features: Ald. Preckwinkle, Peter Skosey of Met. Pl.  Co., Ald. Hairston, Tim Barton of the City (also in frame to right) Zoning forum picturres
Zoning forum- 5th Ward land use map displayed Zoning forum pictures

Pictures by George Rumsey. Upper middle: panel consisting of Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th); Peter Skosey, Vice President, Metropolitan Planning Council; Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th), and Tim Barton, Department of Planning.

Media coverage of the proposal (highly recommended)

Update meeting and task force kick off. Wednesday, June 11, 7-9 pm, Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood. We heard the latest from Metropolitan Planning Council facilitator Heather Campbell and asked lots of careful questions about the process, purposes, and issues of zoning and zoning reform. We identified some research and contact tasks for our group and formed a small committee to talk with officials and cohorts.



Zoning, as Chicago has known it, provides one of several kinds of regulation of business and residential activity,in this case regulation of land use, size of parcels, structure sizes, bulk and placement, and site improvements. It also provides a set of administrative procedures. The rules vary considerably depending upon the type of use—residential, commercial (the most flexible), industrial, and others—and the density allowed by the district designation. Zoning defines how much of a parcel may be covered by structures and improvements (floor to area ratio), height, number of stories, setback, and provision or handling of improvements such as parking, landscaping, screening, and signs. (This traditional zoning is called Euclidian, after a 1926 Supreme Court decision.)

Not regulated by zoning ordinances are the building code, regulation of upkeep, architecture (with exceptions), provision of public services and amenities, and, of course, market conditions. Zoning can be very tricky--for example, if a nonconforming use that is grandfathered becomes vacant, there is a time limit to re[?] for such use or such is barred--the land reverts to the underlying zoning.

The object of the current zoning reform is to not just clarify and consolidate traditional zoning but use zoning to do much more:--help give neighborhoods new options, vigor, and control over their futures--specifically to guide development through expanded housing options, design guidelines, encouraging transit-oriented development, and planning/shaping parks, open space, and aesthetics.

Almost certainly, existing uses will be grandfathered, but, as at present, uses that do not conform will be subject to a process of renewal or termination upon remodeling or change of use or ownership. (We see daily in the news that zoning is as likely as inspections and slow permits to trip up development, changes to properties, and the evolution of the community.)

The Department of Planning has no idea yet how it will draw the maps and hints that the aldermen should do this with their communities. Nor does the city have a comprehensive development and land use plan to inform and be informed by the zoning ordinance revision. So, it would pay for our community to be ready for the mapping by:

1) identifying successful and faltering blocks and sectors (assets and challenges)
2) identifying what key community or localized characteristics we want to preserve or promote (example: the pedestrian friendliness of a street)
3) ensuring that designations reflect the values and fit the needs of the community and its residents and businesses--and nurture both the economic base and quality of life.

(Note: No means was recommended by the Zoning Commission for creating new neighborhood parks or open spaces--MPO suggests density bonuses and notes that no one wants to talk about land banking. We should also watch definitions in the designations "regional park" and"neighborhood park" re: regulation of festivals and other high-intensity uses.)


Specific goals of the proposal:

At a November 8 2003 symposium on zoning reform led by Peter Skosey of the Metropolitan Planning Council, HPKCC representatives learned in more detail some of the goals of zoning reform. Most of these accord well with the proposals and assessment of needed changes presented in the Vision for Hyde Park study (available for examination at the HPKCC offices) released in 2000 under a city-community Planning Now grant. 53rd Street was specifically cited at the symposium as an outstanding and increasingly rare example of a viable pedestrian-oriented old-time mixed use commercial strip. Process has already begun to be able to take advantage of new mixed use designations to ensure flexibility for the 53rd Street TIF District.

At the symposium, speakers and audience said the ordinance should:

  1. Regulate building size predictably.
  2. Preserve street/block character and consistency, including inviting and navigable character.
  3. Provide additional and consolidate present designations so they reflect how each area uses its land in response to market realities and community character and to provide more options; make sure the code reflects today's family, housing, and shopping styles.
  4. Encourage mixed, shared, and changed uses (more options) in commercial areas, especially where former uses and density cannot any longer be maintained. Designate for desired densities of people and the built space.
  5. Encourage transit oriented development and place greatest density near transit.
  6. Create better designations, districts, and regulations for downtown and surrounding areas and for the higher-density lakefront sectors.
  7. Make sure rules keep or attract jobs (including industrial) and residents and a mix of residents.
  8. Enhance transit and mobility choices including fine-tuned parking requirements.
  9. Promote housing affordability and choice (including removal of procedural hurdles and creating bonuses especially near transit nodes).
  10. Expand environmental responsibility through softening and greening parcel and structure edges and envelopes and creating designations for parks and other open space.
  11. Promote rehabilitation and adaptive reuse through changes in parking and non- conformity regulations (setbacks, lot sizes…) and encourage reuse of corner buildings, especially not tearing them down for drive-throughs.
  12. Reduce sign clutter and height and encourage transparent store windows, consistent building height, and building up to the sidewalk in commercial areas and discourage blank walls and garages along the street, curb cuts, and in-front parking lots.
  13. Simplify and streamline the code, provide language and visual illustrations and on-line maps and forms.

The proposed changes in residential designations and parking regulations are among those which each community will have to study carefully in relationship to the character and potential of each section in the neighborhood.

One way of developing a neighborhood zoning change strategy, we were told, is to target for study and perhaps special attention areas doing well (assets) and those not thriving (challenges). What principles and characteristics to we wish to promote for each area, and how should changed zoning be used to promote the goals in each area? Suggested principles might include:

a) Protect the character of each residential area.

b) Promote the character of each commercial street sector (typically a 1200 foot strip--53rd Street was cited as one of the few in the city retaining intense mixed-use viable character of the old-time commercial strip) This might include allowing conversion of underutilized space, while not precluding commercial comeback, and addressing parking inefficiencies.

c) Preserve and plan for open space.

d) Identify, and achieve and maintain appropriate densities.

So let's get started.