Evanston environmental activists gathered Sunday for the unveiling of a draft climate action plan for the city that many of them have been working on since last fall.

The plan contains nearly 200 recommendations for transportation, land use, renewable energy, recycling and waste reduction.

It is an outgrowth of a pledge aldermen made in 2006 when they signed on to a proposal from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 to 7 percent below their 1990 levels.

That target is contained in the Kyoto Protocol agreement signed by many nations but spurned by the U.S. federal government.

While many of the goals presented at the new, environmentally-certified Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation building at 303 Dodge Ave., may prove to be non-controversial, others may run into opposition from certain city interest groups.

For example the plan says the city should “continue to support and encourage high-density, mixed-use, green/high-performing, transit-oriented development.”

That could be seen as an endorsement of high-rise proposals for downtown Evanston of the sort that have engendered intense opposition from certain segments of the community in recent years.

And it could also be seen as a rebuff of the recently adopted rezoning for the Central Street corridor which down-zoned much of the district to minimize high-density, transit-oriented development opportunities.

The climate action plan also calls for considering reducing the number of parking spaces required in new developments near transit lines.

And the plan calls for increasing affordable housing in Evanston, claiming that will reduce vehicle travel, and suggests setting housing affordability goals that would mirror the salary levels paid by Evanston-based employers.

Existing affordable housing efforts have proved controversial, with residents of some parts of town concluding they are being forced to accept a disproportionate share of low-income housing, while other parts of town have little or no affordable housing.

The full climate action plan is supposed to be posted on the city website, but it was not available there as of mid-afternoon today.

The plan, developed by the city and the Network for Evanston’s Future, a partnership of community organizations, will require adoption by the City Council to take effect.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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14 Comments

  1. Responsible development is high density
    Those opposed to the 708 Church Street proposal have repeatedly objected to the height, density and perceived lack of parking while simultaneously clamoring for a higher LEED certification than Silver.

    LEED standards actually award additional points for increased height, density and minimizing parking. A truly “responsible development” is indeed being proposed at 708 Church, and yet it is being strenuously objected to by a group of citizens who ironically are calling for “responsible development”.

    I hope city officials can see past such contradictions, and continue to encourage high-density, mixed-use, green/high-performing, transit-oriented development. There is clearly an education process that officials many citizens need to go through in order to understand the benefits of such developments, and looking at the recommendations in this climate action plan carefully would be a good start.

  2. Climate Action Plan and personal agendas
    Bill – I think you may be missing the point or want to start a discussion on development – the issue is to reduce the Carbon foot print. The residential is a small piece compared to the insitutional users here — since we have no industry in this town of any scale. Also high rises may or may not have the effect of reduction depending on how they are done… Bill what if someone buys a whole floor in the 49 story tower and lives on it alone — how is that reducing the carbon foot print? Many of the new condos are quite large so how are they reducing the foot print in regards to energy reduction? I think a discussion in regards to the current zoning and high raises does little to approach the problem of the carbon foot issue. Go take a look at the shrinking ice caps and the disappearing rain forests, low income housing and 49 story towers are meaningless.

    At the meeting there were those who admitted they were not following the issues — such as the one speaker who talked about carbon off sets to donate to a low income housing fund in Evanston they even admitted it may not even be creating the off sets. It is more Evanston nonsense -like using diversity to justify are crime problem.

    The issue is quite complex – I have not been able to find the zerofootprint calculator they spoke about for Evanston although I found the Web site for Zerofoot print out of Canada.

    1. apples to apples
      Bill what if someone buys a whole floor in the 49 story tower and lives on it alone — how is that reducing the carbon foot print?

      Junad – It did deeply trouble me to have to admit that you may have been right about the Hahn building. I am glad that you have returned to your natural state of being wrong.

      Do you really think that anyone is going to move out of their tiny bungalow or apartment and buy a whole floor of the condo?

      Anyone who is willing to spend to buy a whole floor of the tower clearly has a lot of money, and a rather extravagant lifestyle. My guess is that this person, if not living alone in the tower, would probably have a 37-room mansion full of cats in Kenilworth or Barrington ( or in the 6th ward) which uses up even more carbon. So for such a person, living in the condominium would represent a reduction of the carbon footprint.

      Mr. Who Knows

    2. Even rediculously large condos are “responsible” in comparison
      “Bill what if someone buys a whole floor in the 49 story tower and lives on it alone — how is that reducing the carbon foot print? Many of the new condos are quite large so how are they reducing the foot print in regards to energy reduction? I think a discussion in regards to the current zoning and high raises does little to approach the problem of the carbon foot issue.”

      The size of a condo unit has very little to do with the size of a carbon footprint.

      Even if a 49 story building only had 49 units in it that each took up an entire floor, those 49 massive units are still going to be far more efficient and use far fewer resources than 49 single family homes of a similar size.

      Each single family home requires it’s own roof, driveway, garage, along with individual sewer and water infrastructure, electrical and gas lines, etc. Each single family home requires four sides of brick and siding, concrete foundations, weatherproofing, and so on which increases the materials consumed. A single family home has to be individually heated and cooled and each single family home requires its own lot, which spreads out homes thus requiring more roadways, sidewalks, space, infrastructure etc.

      49 condo units can share a roof, driveway, garage and infrastructure which will reduce the materials used compared to single family homes. There is also a reduction the impervious surface which reduces the heat island effect that rooftops and driveways have. The 49 condo units will benefit from collective heating and cooling, thus requiring less energy per square foot than the 49 single family home. The 49 condo units consume far less land than 49 single family homes, which requires less roadway, sidewalks, infrastructure, etc.

      Since these 49 massive condo units would still be built within the core of downtown (a place that would be very difficult to build 49 massive single family homes without leveling several blocks), residents can walk to shops, restaurants, offices, CTA, Metra and other destinations, where typical single family residents live further from downtown and tend to drive such destinations.

      While you are correct that the impacts of residential buildings are not as severe as industrial, commercial and institutional buildings, there aren’t any large commercial,industrial or institutional buildings being proposed in Evanston. With so much residential development going on in our city, it would be short sighted of city officials to simply ignore the environmental impacts of those developments, and only weigh the impacts of commercial, industrial and institutional proposals.

      1. I did not suggest building single family homes in the downtown
        Phil – I did not suggest building single family homes in the downtown – the issue of how a condo or house is build has a bigger impact on the amount of energy used. I am not suggest building only single family homes here.
        On surface the large condo tower many look more efficient, but it clearly depends on how it is built – a very well built passive solar home could be far more efficient than the hundreds of cheaply built condos in Evanston. Also I would not be so certain these high raise condos are so inexpensive – some of the large buildings have very high cost per square foot when compared to a home.
        As a example what single family home has an elevator or sprinkler system? Few if any have large foundations and steel or concrete frames. These large condos have many items of cost a single family home does not, at a cost of the some more expensive condos of over $1000 square foot in Chicago – they are by not means low carbon foot print buildings!

        Phil by the way “There is also a reduction the impervious surface which reduces the heat island effect that rooftops” my own home has singles which are coated with 3M roofing system which is meeting the energy star rating – for high slope roofs, so single family homes can also reduce the carbon foot print.

        1. green plan
          Talking about the construction merits of old vs new or towers vs single family barely scratches the surface of “green benefits”. A LEED building like this will probably last around 80 – 100 years at least. This means the residents of 200 plus condo’s don’t need to jump into a car every time they get dry cleaning, groceries, go workout or eat lunch.
          Transit oriented means a great many of the residents will walk, bike, or cta-rta to work every day, just like in all the other currently existing condo’s downtown.
          Take the saved resources of fewer vehicles needing to be manufactured, garaged and maintained. Take the saved resources of 200+ units not needing to jump into their cars 2-4 times each and every day and multiply that over 80 – 100 years and i think it’s pretty clear where the real green benefits reside. Talking about benefits with timelines that don’t look beyond construction periods or 5 or 15 year windows is not complete.

        2. Tall condo buildings are the most efficient way to live
          “Phil – I did not suggest building single family homes in the downtown – the issue of how a condo or house is build has a bigger impact on the amount of energy used. I am not suggest building only single family homes here.
          On surface the large condo tower many look more efficient, but it clearly depends on how it is built – a very well built passive solar home could be far more efficient than the hundreds of cheaply built condos in Evanston.”

          Junad – If you want to discuss the energy efficiency of condo buildings, you have to be willing to compare them to other housing types. You asked the question “Many of the new condos are quite large so how are they reducing the foot print in regards to energy reduction?”. The answer lies in comparing condo development to other types (mainly single family and townhomes).

          The answer to your question is that a 49 story condo building with 200+ units is far more efficient and has a much lower impact than 200 single family homes or town homes of the same size. It doesn’t matter if the units are 900sf, or 9,000sf… as long as you’re comparing the same size units to each other.

          There is more involved in the environmental impact than just the structure. Building tall residential buildings in urban locations allows people more to live close to transit, shopping, dining and services which will translate into fewer car trips. 200+ units in one tall structure will consume less land and materials than 200+ units built in 200 individual 2 or 3 story structures.

          You seemingly want to compare 1 passive solar home that is very efficiently designed to a 200+ unit condo building. Yes, 1 single family home is going to be more efficient and use far less energy than a 49 story building with 200+ condos, but unless 200 people can live in that home, the comparison is flawed.

  3. Are we sure minimizing parking will reduce emissions?
    I’m a little surprised at the suggestion to minimize parking spaces near the train. Does inconvenient parking actually reduce the number of cars – or wouldn’t it just increase driving distance to places where parking is easier? I wonder if decreasing parking near the trains will increase the number of car commuters driving from outlying suburbs to downtown Chicago, which is a worse result, environmentally speaking.

    Is there research behind these suggestions? While I’m all for decreasing the number of cars on the road, we need to be sure that the strategies used will actually do so.

    Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

    1. LEED agrees on minimizing parking in new developments
      The LEED rating system set up by the US Green Building Council awards points for minimizing parking lot and garage size in new construction buildings. They encourage developers to consider sharing parking facilities with adjacent buildings.

      They also award points for locating buildings within walking distance of trains, providing bicycle storage and providing alternate fuel vehicles to some occupants.

      While I’m not sure what research methods they use to justify their rating systems, the intent is to encourage building occupants to utilize alternate forms of transportation beyond single occupancy vehicles. If building occupants live close to a train, for example, they are less likely to need multiple vehicles per household. This green plan seems to echo that train of thought.

      I believe that the green plan and LEED certification are talking specifically about private residential and commercial developments, and are not suggesting a reduction in public parking facilities that commuters from outlying areas may use to park and ride. Evanston currently has several public parking garages in close proximity to CTA and Metra, and from what I have observed there are plenty of available spaces for commuters to park and ride.

  4. Transit-oriented development
    When comparing Google Map driving times to RTA map travel times, the differences abound.
    It is hard to imagine people who will pay Evanston prices for condos who will also agree to use mass transit unless there is nothing but a straight route between Evanston and their destination — no transfers, no connections.
    Many people in Evanston don’t work in the Loop at a place reasonably proximal to Ogilvie Transportation Center, don’t work in locations near stops along the Union Pacific North Line, and don’t work in locations near stops along the Red Line.
    These facts dampen my excitement about how many people might actually use public transportation for regular, daily commuting from their homes in Evanston.
    So when people move here, they will continue to arrive loaded to the gills with cars.

    1. Now approaching Evanston Davis Street
      What you are not considering is that people who buy condominiums downtown often choose to do so specifically so that they can take public transport or walk to work. So many of the buyers of these units will in fact be people who take CTA or Metra to work .

      You are saying “many people in Evanston don’t work in places near public transport, so condo buyers will bring lots of cars”. I say “People who work near public transport will buy condos in Evanston so they can ride to work”

      Also- I just checked this Google maps, and it says that you can drive from 708 Church to Michigan & Randolph in around 33 minutes . Sure…try leaving on Monday morning at 7:30 am and see if you make it before 8:45. And then consider the cost of gas+parking+wear on the car. The Metra is around 28 minutes to Ogilvie, and even walking .75 miles would only add 20 minutes. The Purple Line will be more competitive once the track work is complete.

      Anyway, Metra ridership figures tell a different story. There is a story in today’s Tribune “Metra adding trains to deal with rush-hour crunch”. It seems that the price of gas and construction on the Edens are pushing more people on to my UP-North train, so they are ordering more cars. Similar things are happening across the country.

      I have often had to stand all the way home, so this is good news. I do enjoy having a window seat, where I can drink my can of MGD and see all the drivers paying $3.80/gallon jammed up on the Kennedy as my train passes them.

    2. Re: Transit-oriented development
      Doug,
      Have you ever seen the Davis Street and Main Street CTA and Metra platforms during the morning rush hour? Have you ever seen how many people come off of each Metra train that arrives at Davis street in the afternoon?

      There are plenty of people living in Evanston who take public transportation daily for a variety of reasons that extend beyond ideal drive-times.
      Does it work for everyone? No.
      Does it work for many people? Yes

      People buying condos and living in Evanston, while simultaneously relying on public transportation for their daily commute is not a new phenomenon. It’s one of the reasons I chose to move to Evanston in 2003.

    3. transit oriented development
      In my buildings garage on any given work day you will see an awful lot of cars parked inside. why, new condo residents are using public transit, moving in to be close to jobs at nu and downtown. Are they “loaded to the gills with cars”, well I guess if you consider owning a car as being loaded to the gills, yes. Are those cars driven a lot less often than your average Evanston neighborhood resident? I think the answer to that is sitting in the garage.

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