Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on a proposal to require special use permits for new hair and nail salons on Howard Street east of Ridge Avenue.

The measure is being pushed by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, over the objections of the Plan Commission, which voted 5-2 against it.

The rationale for the restriction, as presented in a memo to aldermen by Community and Economic Development Director Steve Griffin, is that a clustering of such uses “may deter private sector investment.” But the memo provides no evidence to support that claim.

Based on a city survey last fall, there are eight hair and nail salons on the Evanston side of the roughly 3,000 foot stretch of Howard from Ridge to the city limit at the CTA tracks. It appears there are three more on the Chicago side.

On Davis Street in downtown Evanston there is a similar cluster — 11 in the just under 3,000 foot stretch from Ridge to Hinman avenues, although two currently are closed.

But the ordinance would not restrict hair and nail salons on Davis, or on any other street in Evanston except Howard.

The Plan Commission concluded that zoning regulations on Howard should remain the same for all retail service uses, and that redevelopment of the area should be driven by the market rather than ordinances.

One striking difference between the personal care businesses on the two streets is that nearly half of the ones on Howard make it clear by their signage and window displays that they cater to black customers, while none of the hair salons on Davis have similar signage.

Once the special use restrictions are in place, the City Council will have essentially unlimited discretion to pick and choose among proposed new personal care businesses on Howard, and the approval process will add at least three months of delay before such a business could open.

Two years ago, at Alderman Rainey’s behest, the city decided to require special use permits for new storefront churches on Howard, after she said there were as many as seven in a single block and that they caused a blighting impact on the street.

By last fall, a city staff survey concluded that all the existing storefront churches on the Evanston side of Howard east of Ridge had closed, even though they weren’t required to do so under the ordinance. Several of the storefronts they once occupied remain vacant.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Quit stereotyping Howard Street

    I am tired of people being against any kind of planning process to help Howard Street become a viable buisiness district that would reflect and appeal to the racially and economically diverse population of the eighth ward.

    I am weary of people who would say that there should be an unlimited number of nail salons, etc. rather than more varied businesses, and then add that they would not want to go anywhere near Howard Street.

    I find the comparison of Davis Street to Howard Street misleading.  I see people of all racial backgounds shopping on Davis Street.  Also there is a much greater variety of types of businesses on Davis Street than Howard Street.

    The area of south Evanston is diverse but often when I hear people talk about the Howard Street business district, it sounds as if  they think it is a segregated and impoverished neighborhood.

    Many of the residents of the area south of Oakton would prefer that our neighborhood and the Howard Street business district not be stereotyped/feared but be recognized for having the kind of diversity that Evanston is supposed to value.

    Maybe Evanstonnow should write an article about census figures for the area from Oakton to Howard.  I am happy to have neighbors of all races and many ethnic backgrounds.  I am in favor of some planning process to help Howard Street to be a more economically viable business district and a place that anyone in Evanston would feel comfortable in for shopping or dining.

    1. The City can’t dictate the market

      Where your argument, in my opinion, fails is that you assume that the city government knows best as to what types of businesses and how many of each belong on Howard ,and that simply by limiting those businesses that other businesses will come in.  Other businesses can come in now, but there needs to be someone willing to open up the business and customers will need to support it.  Also, by limiting competition among hair salons, it provides a disincentive for those owners to better serve customers either through services and/or reduced costs.

    2. Misleading…

      I find your comparison of Davis St. being more diverse than Howard St. very insulting. While a diverse group of commuters taking taking the train and/or buses pass through downtown Evanston, they do NOT patronize the businesses as they do on Howard St. This is a black (persons of color) and white issue!

  2. Say it aint so! In this town

    Say it aint so! In this town of "equality " and "diversity"? That just doesn't seem fair. But then again, it is Ann Rainey and we all know she gets whatever she demands. It's the game of "Annopoly" and she won't quit until she controls everything from Mediteranean Ave. to Boardwalk. 

    1. Annopoly

      I agree 100% with your comment. Another example of the dictatorship of Ann Rainey! Ugh!!! Vote her out already!!!

      1. Devoted to improving south Evanston’s quality of life

        That's why she keeps getting elected.  She has devoted thousands of hours to improving Howard Street and the adjacent neighborhood. 

        For that, she will continue to have my vote.

        1. Devoted

          She is devoted to dictating her reign of terror on business owners of color, with the help of persons like yourself who keep voting for her to continue. Annopoly!!!

      2. Howard Street

        Remember several years ago Alderman Rainey made a big push to keep store front Churches off of Howard Street. Today its the Hair Salons. Whats it going to be tomorrow will she decide the city should stop funding BARS or that she can't come up with any more BAR names. Is Evanston working with the City Of Chicago for developement on there side?

  3. Excellent article- Rules should be fair across town

     I agree with this comparison. If the city council pushes through this ordinance against the will of the planning commission, it is only fair that the same rules be applied elsewhere in town. If the city council can not do this, they shouldn't push for this change at all.


  4. I’m with you — it’s misleading

    Davis Street is part of a much larger business district.  Look at the cross streets and the streets north and south of Davis for several blocks.  Blocks and blocks of commercial area adjacent to those "3,000 foot stretch" of Davis Street.

    Howard Street is it.  It is the entire business "district" in Evanston.  There are no cross streets with businesses.  There are no streets north of it to make up a larger business "district." 

    There is a big difference in taking up space on one street in a much larger commercial district like downtown Evanston versus occupying the same amount of space on one-street commercial area like Howard.

    Why didn't the article look at total square footage of available commercial space?  Along the lines of "in the XXX,XXX square feet of commercial space in downtown Evanston, there is XX,XXX square feet occupied by personal care salons."  Nope.  Instead, we get the "they must be racists to want this" not-so-subtle undertones.

    I, too, am in favor of some planning process to help Howard Street to be a more economically viable business district and a place that anyone in Evanston would feel comfortable in for shopping or dining.


    1. …comfortable…

      "… a place that anyone in Evanston would feel comfortable in for shopping or dining." Really! Of all the comments made, this is the most racist. Everyone "should" feel comfortable shopping on Howard St. Is there a problem?

      1. Other posters have noted crime on Howard Street

        So that's what I was referring to.  Everyone SHOULD be comfortable now.  But many are not, fearing that Howard Street is crime ridden.  The fact is — it's not.  But that doesn't mean that everyone is comfortable on Howard Street now.

        Not racist.  Just addressing posters on previous articles. 

        Oh, so Evanston to accuse the other guy of being a racist.  I live near Howard Street.  Yeah, right.  Go ahead and believe that I choose to live near Howard Street because I just hate all of those faces that aren't white.  You could not be more wrong in your baseless assumption.

        1. Other posters

          Other posters have stated how dangerous downtown Evanston and other areas have become (with the rash of assaults taking place), so I guess now you can now say people "should" be careful downtown in the Davis St. area? Your comment was offensive and racist! Period! How about apologizing instead of justifying?

          1. Keep throwing stones

            Insisting that someone else is a racist is just a diversion.  I didn't say anything about being "careful" in the downtown area.  I was responding to posters who challenged the safety of Howard Street. 

            I will state again that I think that everyone should feel comfortable on Howard Street.  How do you get racism out of that statement unless, of course, you are looking to throw garbage on anyone who doesn't agree with you on your vile statements about Ann Rainey? 

            Your claims of racism are lost on me because you don't have any basis other than it's the typical Evanston response.  It goes like this "you dare disagree with me?  Then you are a racist."  So tired of that as the fall back for virtually every baseless arguments.

            Keep throwing stones.  You'll get far.

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