Network 49 Asks – Where’s the Community Benefit on 1531 W Estes Proposal?

February 27, 2018

 

Alderman Joe Moore

49th Ward Aldermanic Service Office

7356 North Greenview Avenue

Chicago IL 60626

 

Dear Alderman Moore:

We write on behalf of the members of Network 49 as co-chairs of its Housing & Community Development Committee. We received notice concerning the proposed redevelopment of 1531 W Estes on Thursday, February 22 via email. We could not find record of this having been presented to the 49th Ward Land Use Advisory Committee, since the committee’s schedules and agendas are not published. We note that the co-developer Rich Aronson continues to serve on that committee and we ask whether he recused himself from any deliberations the committee may have held.

Network 49 favors a balanced development approach and encourages that any granting of private benefit to a developer demonstrate community benefit offsets. Examples might include a commitment to affordable or accessible housing, expansion of green space, or commitments to W/MBE contracting and employment.

In the case of 1531 W Estes, the various zoning variances requested represent a public benefit of considerable value. If not but for the variances, the development could not be built. We believe a clear community benefit should be provided by the developer, before you approve granting requested variances/relief/etc. In the materials you have shared, we see no evidence that the developer is providing a benefit to the community. The community is being asked to accept a major zoning change to accommodate a private owner’s personal business decision. This is a bad precedent, especially given the size of the project. Additional concerns:

The requested zoning designation (RM5) offers an FAR that exceeds what is necessary to construct the proposed development (RT4.5). What written commitments will the city or yourself provide to ensure that other development on the block or adjacent blocks does not pursue the same high-density designation, using 1531 W Estes as precedent?

Have the requested setbacks and access/egress requirements been properly vetted? Neighbor and Network 49 Member Larry Dieckman suggests “there is no need for a variance to the front setback,” because a front setback of new construction can be the same as that of the adjacent properties. He also questions whether there is enough room to accommodate the proposed under-structure parking area, given the need to have adequate turn radius for vehicles accessing and egressing via the same driveway. Larry also points out that the required 10’ side setback for townhouses set perpendicular to the street ensures living areas have plenty of light and ventilation. Reducing setbacks as proposed is inappropriate for townhouses.

We echo Larry’s concerns and add questions of our own:

  1. These units are designated “for sale.” Will the units be owner occupied or can the developer sell to anyone, including investors seeking to rent them out?
  2. What is the estimated sale price for the units?
  3. What is the estimated development cost? Roughly how much of the cost represents the developer’s anticipated fee or profit?
  4. Is the development subject to any affordable housing offsets, whether that be a donation to support the Low Income Housing Trust Fund or setting-aside one or more of the units as affordable to a household making not more than 60% AMI?
  5. Has the property owner expressed or communicated any alternative plans for the property besides this?
  6. In the event that the developer is not granted approval of the various variances requested, what plans does he have for the property?

We look forward to the favor of a reply.

Sincerely,

Thom Clark and Brian White, co-chairs

Network 49 Housing and Community Development Committee