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.