Recap: Planning and Development Committee


Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:50 p.m.

A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.

The big item tonight likely will be what’s not happening — the developer of the proposed 601 Davis tower has requested a postponement of review of the projec until the committee’s next meeting two weeks from tonight. The committee is expected to grant the postponement.

Meeting called to order at 7:59 p.m.

Chair, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, announces postponement of discussion of 601 Davis project (item P4)for two weeks. Motion is to continue until Jan. 22. That’s approved.

P 1 – 710 Madison vacation rental.

Request by Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, who’s not here tonight, to hold the item until the next meeting.

That delay is approved.

P 2 – 1815 Oak extension of time to begin planned development.

Alderman Braithwaite recommends suspension of the rules to give immediate approval

Developer says design issues have delayed the project as well as issues acquiring materials.

Extension approved.

P 3 – C1a zoning changes … Plan Commission recommending no change.

Wynne, who recommended changes, says its very dense zoning district. Says she thinks the two changes recommended by the Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission (which were rejected by the Plan Commision should be adopted.

That would set sidewalk minimum width at 12 feet and change the minimum lot size per dwelling unit from 350 to 400 square feet.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, seconds.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggests holding the proposal in committee — wants to be able to talk about it to Wynne first.

Rainey says she wants to propose some changes in the C1a District on Howard Street.

She suggests holding the proposal. Wynne agrees. So, it’s held.

Discussion items

PD 1 – Affordable housing work plan

Johanna Leonard, community development director, suggests inclusionary housing subcommittee would have first meeting at 7:30 a.m. Friday. Fiske objects to that time. Says should be meeting in the evening so its easier for the public to attend. Nyden says will reschedule — date to be determined.

Public Comment

(Wynne suggests people who want to talk about 601 Davis should wait until the issue is before the committee.)

Tina Paden asks about changes in the “three unrelated” requirement. Says it’s not enforced now. How would enforce it if change it, she asks?

Says seeing ads for eight-bedroom houses listed for $6K a month.

Asks whether vacation rentals will be inspected. Says her rental properties were inspected 14 times last year. Doesn’t think the four inspectors on staff will be able to handle it.

Sue Loellbach, of Connections for the Homeless, says city needs more coordination and a broader plan for affordable housing.

Doug Sharp, of Reclaim Evanston, says city needs a coherent and comprehensive affordable housing plan, says city needs a moratorium on any new large scale developments until it produces one.

PD 2 – Assessory dwelling units to address affordable housing needs

Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, asks what city could do to incentivize people to tear down an existing garage and replace it with an accessory dwelling unit.

Leonard says there are some examples from California of models for what can be built, and can have the proposals fast-tracked.

Fiske says almost all of the Kendall Place development houses have accessory dwelling units in their coach houses. Says it’s pretty expensive to build an accessory dwelling units now — versus a garage that’s just a garage.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, says she’d like to see an ordinance that would legitimize the rental of accessory dwelling units to non-family members.

Says she thinks it would be difficult to require that they be rented to low income people.

Rainey asks how many coach houses there are. Leonard says will try to investigate that. Wynne says a lot in the third ward — some are rented out — not always to family members — but a lot haven’t been upgraded and sit vacant.

But says she doubts they’d actually be rented  to poor people. Wynne says in her experience they’re usually rented by single people who have low income and often become long-term tenants.

Wynne says she agrees with Revelle that should legitimize renting coach houses.

Fiske says wants to permit it only when the principal dwelling unit is owner occupied

Suffredin says the coach house idea can also provide additional income to seniors who want to stay in their homes.

PD 3 – Residential occupancy limits — and effect on affordable housing.

Fiske says city is not doing a great job of inspections or enforcement on this.

Says has see developers convert single family homes converted to two and three flats. Says that would greatly increase the density.

Says need to have a conversation about rooming houses. Says some in her ward work beautifully.

Says they’re inspected and licensed and work well. Suggest that offers an aging-in-place option as well.

Wynne says she agrees that that topic should be brought forward. Says this is essentially reversing the pattern of the 1950s — where tried to crack down on rooming houses.

Fiske says she’s concerned about a trend …says apartment building in her ward that had two bedroom units now being converted into three bedroom units …says that’s not a good way to go.

Wynne says wonders what moving sophomores onto campus will do to demand for rental housing.

Revelle asks for a white paper report on rooming houses.

Wynne says in the 50s or 60s the city barred rooming houses from R1 zones, but grandfathered in existing ones — some of which lasted until the 1980s.

PD 4 – Vacation rental licenses

Rainey says had thought that investor-owned properties shouldn’t be allowed to run as Airbnbs. But then said if E2 or 415 Howard had two or three Airbnbs — what would that matter. Says her thinking is muddy now. Says thinks landlords think can make more money by renting to Airbnbs and students. Maybe should just license them for a year and see what happens. The license is for a year and we can always change our mind, she says.

Revelle refers to background in packet on vacation rentals. Says she’s inclined to thing Airbnbs should be owner occupied.

Wynne says Madison, Cambridge and Boulder limit to owner occupied. But St.Paul, Minnesota doesn’t. Says its an issues should keep an eye on. Inclined to just observe it for now.

Meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.

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