Recap: City Council

An updated rendering of the proposed Albion Residential project at 1450 Sherman Ave.

Here's a recap of our live coverage of tonight's Evanston City Council meeting at which aldermen voted to approve the 15-story mixed use development at 1450 Sherman Ave.


The City Council was also scheduled to consider several changes to next year's budget -- including a gas tax hike -- and review a proposal from a non-profit group to take over the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion.

Plans for the Albion Residential development on Sherman have been revised to provide deeper subsities for some tenants of affordable housing units planned for the project.

The meeting is scheduled to begin once the Planning and Development Committee meeting ends -- which means it probably won't get underway until sometime after 7:30 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight's agenda items is available online.


Meeting called to order at 8 p.m.

Mayor issues proclamation noting the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics.

Lara Biggs, city engineer, notes that the city received a sustainability award from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for the reconstruction of the Civic Center parking lot ... and that the city received an award from Design Evanston for the Sheridan Road-Chicago Avenue bike lane project.

City manager notes that its Winter Preparedness Week.

Public Comment

Mayor says there are 82 people signed up for public comment ... which may be an all-time record.

Says he'll give one minute per person for the first 40 people and then hold the rest of the comments to the end of the meeting.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggests it would be better to give everybody 30 seconds.

City Clerk Devon Reid suggests giving everybody a minute.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, suggests 30 seconds. Says if give people a minute the aldermanic discussion won't start until after 10 p.m. and most people won't be around to hear it.

Mayor decides to go with the 30-second approach.

Going to try to keep a tally, given how short the comments are.

Albion ... For 8 ....  Against 27 .... Unclear 4.

Harley Clarke (Lakehouse proposal)  ... For 20 ... Against 5  .... Unclear 1 

Other notes

Annie Coakley of Downtown Evanston notes that Albion has provided a $10K contribution to provide assistance with parking during construction for local merchants.

And as public comment ends it's now 9:33 p.m.


SP 1 - Harley Clarke Mansion

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, moves to direct city manager to draft a 40-year lease with Lakehouse and Gardens group. Would have 36-month fundraising period, with interim annual deadlines. City could consider other users if fundraising deadlines not met. Various other provisions. Sets deadline of Jan. 22 meeting for City Council review of the proposed lease.

Revelle says city has received only one proposal for use of the mansion. Says it would have broad appeal for the whole community.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says need to move forward with the process (and the Lakehouse proposal). Says people who have other good ideas for the site should continue to share those.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, says she has mixed feelings -- concerned about the fundraising needed. Says she's also concerned about the insurance issue ... and also thinks may need more aggressive deadlines on the fundraising.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says she agrees with Fleming. Asks what happens if don't meet the fundraising goals.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says will need to work through with the Lakehouse group what's appropriate for fundraising goals.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says the programs described are wonderful .. but she, too, is worried about the fundraising. Says City Counci has to be the fiscal arbiters of where and how money is spent.

Asks about the $250K that had been discussed as a city contribution. Bobkiewicz says that's not in the budget now.

Says she's very concerned about whether will see donors step up quickly. Hopes they will. That could give the group the energy to go forward.

Says if the project fails -- then would need to try to recreate what the property looked like before Marquette and Joliet arrived.

Says city has been talking about this long enough.

Says she doesn't want to see an increase in events on the lakefront or more food service than what's in the initial proposal.

Wilson says the $250K of city money should only be used to keep the property from further deterioration.

Bobkiewicz says the $250K has already been spent on repairs to the fog houses.

Rainey asks whose jobs are going to be lost to provide this $250K

Bobkiewicz says not clear what year the money would be spent. Up to the Council to decide.

Revelle says the fog house money came from elsewhere, but that given the budget issues today, she's not asking for the city to spend $250K on the project.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says she supports the project. Thinks the proposal is better than ever before. Says she's very hopeful about it. But concerned about the City Council's fiscal responsibility to the entire city.

Approved 8-1 on voice vote. Fleming votes no.

(Discussion of SP2 - Proposed Budget Adjustments postponed until after consent agenda)

Now 9:53 p.m.


Consent agenda

Minutes off consent

A 3.1 - Chandler-Newberger Community Center contract ... held in committee

A 5 - Settlement agreement in Robinson v. City of Evanston, et.al. ... off consent

P 1 - Vacation rental license for 1026 Garnett ... held in committee.

P 2 - Nic's Organic Fast Food ... rejected at committee ... not moving forward to council

P 3 - Albion Residential ... off consent

APP1 Appointments ... off consent

With those deletions, consent agenda approved.

Minutes ... approved as corrected.


A 5 - Settlement agreement in Robinson v. City of Evanston, et.al.

Rainey says the committee didn't approve the agreement.

Alderman Wilson says a decision to settle litigation isn't easy -- but on occasions have to make a business decision -- and are responsible for the taxpayers' money.

Says it's a smart business decision to settle.

Rainey says very important to make a statement that, while yes, this was a business decision, and the likelihood of this case being decided in our favor was slim -- regardless of the facts of the case. But says she knows for a fact that our city manager in no way discriminated against this woman because of race or gender and that, despite her claims, she was not working in an unhealthy work environment.

Says this woman will go after the Evanston taxpayer for every last penny she can bleed out of us. At some point the city has to stand up for this action. Says belives the city manager, the city attorney and the city's human resources manager have done nothing wrong.

Settlement approved 6-3. Suffredin Rainey and Fleming vote no.


P 3 - Planned Development at 1450 Sherman, Albion Residential

Wilson says residents in Boulder (which some speakers opposed to Albion noted had just won a "happiest city" award from National Geographic -- and which they liked because the city has adopted a temporary ban on buildings taller than 40 feet) may be happy -- but the height limit has had severe impacts on demographics and affordablity

It's probably one of the worst case scenarios, Wilson says, and has lost 30 percent of its black population in the past five years. Have average housing price of $1 million.

Says Evanston has an environment where a lot of developers are looking to build big projects. Says it's important to protect what we have, but not inadvertently harm the people around us. Putting a building on what's effectively a vacant lot is not driving people out of town.

Says the only way to stabilize prices is to get enough supply so prices will stabilize.

Says Denver Post says Boulder is creating a permanent underclass.

Says the 2009 plan calls for a lot of large buildings west of the tracks -- encroaching on the neighborhoods.

Says doesn't want to be steered toward the Boulder model.

Wants to improve the inclusionary housing ordinance so it's more effective.

Says not happy with the way the Fountain Square project has gone. Need to do better than that to avoid disruption from construction.

Rainey notes a person who objected to Albion who lives in Optima Towers -- says people thought that project was going to be the death of the city. Same thing when Sherman Plaza was built.

Fleming says it's been disheartening to hear this conversation -- says approves of affordable housing -- to hear that this building is the epitome of white supremacy doesn't make sense.

More black people are moving because of the school referendum that spiked property taxes than anything about the Albion project, she says/

Says there's lots of things she would vote for that she wouldn't necessarily live in herself.

Says organizing has got to be factual. A lot of African-Americans have moved out -- but Albion hadn't even been proposed then.

Says wished the developer had proposed more in community benefits -- says they should be spread out further around the city, not just around this building.

Wynne says she doesn't support the project. But says Andrew Yule, the developer, has worked very hard and has been remarkably patient. Says the vitriol from opponents is out of proportion to what this building is doing in the downtown. "We all need to take three or four steps back in the level of vitriol in the town." Says we have to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

But says the building is too big, too dense and not transitional.

Says city needs a clear plan.

Says she got 300 emails just over the weekend.

Fiske says need to have ordinances and policies that are clear to the public. Says we don't have that right now.

Says the building is like putting at size 10 foot into a size 4 shoe. Can't make it work.

Says she thinks we are overbuilding rental residential downtown.

Says this block needs development, needs to be cleaned up.

Rainey says (after talking with Rue Simmons) she's going to propose change to public art public benefit so it goes to District 65 so every 7th grade student can observe a performing arts event -- at Northlight or in downtowh Chicago --whatever the district decides.

Says that will serve 850 families throughout the city.

Rue Simmons says she thought much of the public benefits weren't public enough. Says she encouraged the developer to change to have 50% AMI units and that was changed, says it's more responsible for the families.

Says she also suggested responding to the census tract that is the only registered food desert in Evanston (per the Chicago Food Depository) don't have access to fresh food within one mile radius.

Suggest a "freight farm" (suggested by a neighbor) A freight contianer 360 square feet ... produces fresh vegetables. Would be a resource for the Church-Dodge farmers market.

Says the 7th grade age group doesn't have recreation opportunities -- too cool to hang out with their parents.

Fiske says she wants the list of public benefits spelled out -- and not just have them bounce up at the last minute.

Rainey moves and Braithwaite seconds to approve the project.

Approved 5-4. Revelle, Fleming, Fiske and Wynne vote no.

Several objectors to the project create a disturbance after the vote -- shouting insults at the aldermen.


Appointments to Inclusionary Housing Subcommittee

Fiske objects that not all of the people chosen by the mayor have experience in affordable housing.

Rainey mentions concern about Jolene Saul.

Hagerty says Brinshore, which Saul works for, is not involved in any active projects in Evanston at the moment.

Fleming says wants somebody with experience in affordable housing. Rainey says Lynn Robinson can do that.

Revelle says wants to know from a developer what's do-able and not do-able. 

Wilson moves to approve the three names and add two more.

Approved 8-1. Fiske votes no. (She wanted to hold the nominiations.)

Mayor says will look for two additional members -- at least one from non-for-profit community that's involved in housing development issues


SP 2 - Proposed 2018 budget adjustments

City manager proposes postponing this discussion until next week, starting next Monday's meeting at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.


Call of the wards

Rue Simmons ... this week's ward meeting cancelled.

Fleming ... 9th ward meeting Saturday at 9 a.m. at Reba Place

Council votes to go into executive session to discuss personnel items.

Public meeting adjourned at 11:12 p.m.

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