Evanston aldermen Monday night rejected a proposal from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to put up a safety fence on the roof of the Sherman Plaza garage.
The proposal was shot down on a 4-1 vote in the City Council’s Administration and Public Works Committee.
While two people committed suicide last fall by jumping to their deaths from city garages last fall, Bobkiewicz said he recognized that the fence would not deter people intent on ending their lives.
Instead, he said, he hoped it would make it less likely that someone would accidentally fall from the roof.
Residents of the adjacent Sherman Plaza condo complex have complained of seeing young people sitting on the parapet wall of the garage and, in at least one incident, tossing objects down to the street below.
But Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked whether any people had accidentally fallen from the Sherman Plaza garage in the eight years it’s been up — or from the old Sherman Avenue garage in the more than 30 years it was on the site.
Bobkiewicz said he wasn’t aware of any, but said in his opinion the city is “at risk as a community” leaving the garage the way it is.
The existing parapet wall on the top floor of the garage is about 48 inches high. The proposed $25,000 fence, which would have been mounted to the wall, would have added another two feet of protection.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said if the garage is fenced, somebody who wants to jump off a building will just go to another one.
“You’d need to go to every building citywide — and every private building where there’s access to the roof — and put up a six-foot fence on all of them,” Rainey argued.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who’s not a member of the committee, said the issue wasn’t mainly about people jumping but about kids sitting on the parapet and throwing things off — potentialy hurting people on the street below.
But Rainey said a chain link fence wouldn’t prevent anybody from throwing objects over the wall.
She said that if neighbors in the high-rise condos are concerned “they need to get the cops over there” and added that the city “is paying a fortune” for the garage management company to police it.
In the end, only Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, voted in favor of the fence in committee and the issue didn’t come to a vote at the full City Council meeting.