The City Council this week voted to bar construction of new buildings in Evanston in which a bedroom borrows its light and air from another room.

Retired architectural design professor John Macsai, who favors the ban, told aldermen that, by reducing the amount of exterior wall required in a multi-unit building, a loft-style unit can be built for $5,000 to $7,000 less, and that the deeper and narrower apartments also typically permit developers to add one or two more units per floor.

Mr. Macsai said the concept works reasonably well in conversions of old loft-style buildings with 10 or 12 foot ceiling heights, but with new construction, where ceiling heights are often only eight feet, the back bedrooms, he said, have no light and no air.

The 2003 International Building Code adopted by the city permits the windowless bedrooms in both new construction and conversions. If the amendment introduced this week is given final approval at the council’s next meeting, Evanston will still permit the design in conversions of existing buildings to residential use.

The measure was requested by Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who objected to windowless bedrooms in a project under construction at Chicago Avenue and Kedzie Street in her ward.

In other actions, the council voted to:

  • Place a referendum on the February election ballot asking voters to approve a 20 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax to help cover the shortfall in the city’s police and fire pension funding.
  • Extend the construction moratorium on the Central Street corridor for another 120 days to provide more time to develop zoning rules to implement the master plan adopted by the council for the area.
  • Approve a special use permit for the planned Sarpino’s Pizza restaurant at 2428 Main St., setting closing hours of 11 p.m. for carry-out service and 2 a.m. for delivery service, with a provision that the owner could return to request midnight and 3 a.m. closing hours after six months.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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