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Recap: City Council

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Here’s a recap our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting that’s focused on affordable housing issues in the city.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 8:10 pm. (Start of this meeting was delayed by an executive session of the Human Services Committee.)

Mayor Steve Hagerty mentions the death of affordable housing activist Adrian Willoughby last week.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz discusses snow emergency effort last week — praises staff and residents for “helping getting through several very challenging days

Ken Cherry from Fleetwood-Jourdain Center describes events for Black History Month.

City Clerk Devon Reid summarizes a letter received from Lawrence Crosby.

Public Comment

24 people signed up to speak

Dianna Rosinski says she supports affordable housing — and limiting accessory dwelling units to owner-occupied properties.

Peter Miller says he favors owner occupancy restriction. Says absentee landlords are only out to maximize income.

Priscilla Giles says services for elderly people were not met during the storm — says sidewalks used to be shoveled by the city when there were a lot of vacant lots in town. Now it’s all built up, and the sidewalks aren’t shoveled.

Tom Swigert uses the parking lot that’s now proposed for affordable housing. Says need some parking to continue his business.

Richard Sweitzer, owner of 2404 Ridge Ave., favors the ADU ordinance without the owner-occupancy restriction.

Tina Paden says one of the properties included in a proposed development at Emerson and Jackson had started as an NSP2 renovation project … and new it’s being resold as a teardown.

Sue Loellbach of Connections for the Homeless says group Joining Forces for Affordable Housing favors proposed new affordable housing projects and opposes restricting ADUs to owner occupants.

Dan Fajerstein, who owns law office on corner of South Boulevard and Chicago Avenue, says needs the parking in the lot that’s being proposed for new affordable housing.

Doug Sharp of Reclaim Evanston says proposed owner-occupancy restriction on accessory dwelling units is unncessary and would perpetuate long-standing patterns of racial and economic segregation.

Calvin Lynn, owner of 424 South Blvd., objects to development on the city parking lot adjacent to his property.

Public comment ends at 9:06 p.m.

Items on on tonight’s agenda …

SP1 – Affordable housing work plan progress to date

Savanah Clement of city staff reports on work plan.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asks how many properties have been demolished each year.

Clement says has averaged five properties per year.

Rainey says doesn’t see value in increasing the demolition tax.

Current fee is $10K for SF home and $3K per unit for multi-family dwellings.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says he’s concerned that the fee may discourage new construction.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he’s concerned about tearing down market rate affordable housing and replacing it with higher-value property.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward asks for info on how many affordable units there are in Evanston and comparison to other communities.

In response to question from Mayor Hagerty, Sarah Flax, housing administrator, says the percentage of housing deemed affordable by a state agency increased from 15 percent to 17 percent recently.

Flax says there are issues with the data source for that.

Fiske notes that the state standard for an acceptable level of affordable housing it 10 percent.

Says need to consider the tax burden that impacts affordability.

Says her ward has a lot of seniors who are struggling to stay in their housing because of taxes.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says wants staff to work on finding mortgage loans to help people stay in their homes.

Flax says HACC is still exploring financing for the planned expansion of the 1900 Sherman Ave. property.

Report placed on file.

SP2 – Owner occupancy and rental of accessory dwelling units in single-family zones

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, says now seems the issue is a lot more complicated than she’d originally envisioned.

But says she wants to deter speculation in residential housing.

Suggests might be able to do a legal non-conforming process for existing units.

Revelle says should encourage ADUs to encourage affordability.

Fiske moves the proposal Revelle seconds.

Rainey opposes it. Says have to come a time when stop considering tenants as 2nd class citizens.

Says the undercurrent of the discussion by owner-occupant advocates is unfair. There’s a huge rental market in this town and tenants take very good care of their property.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says it would create an environment where a sophisticated investor could game the system.

Ordinance is rejected 6-3 vote. Fiske, Braithwaite and Revelle voted in favor of the ordinance.

Revelle says there are nuisance properties in some areas of the town because of loud properties, etc. Says nuisance premisis ordinance hasn’t been effective. Says annual renewal provision being added to the ordinance could provide an opportunity to address the issue. Asks staff to come back with a proposal.

Rue Simmons seconds the idea, not just for ADUs, but for nuisance premisis ordinance generally.

Braithwaite says need to give the ordinance more teeth.

Rainey says the nuisance premisis ordinance can work, just need to invoke it.

SP3 – RFQ/RFP process for redeveloping city-owned property at 506 South Boulevard

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says some city properties are not heavily used. Over the years have looked at various lots to see if they are developable. Most lots are very heavily used. But this lot — lot 1 — has historically been very much under-used — never been used more than 50 percent.

Says next to this lot are four townhouses owned by Housing Authoirty of Cook County, which could be combined with the city lot in a redevelopment proposal.

Says wants to have a meeting with the neighbors before moving forward with an RFQ. Wants to make sure community can support the project.

Moves to table the proposal until the City Council meeting April 8.

Fleming says concerned that will end up with too many restrictions on the proposal.

Voice vote … tabling carries 8-1. Fleming votes no.

SP4 – Letter of support to IHDA for 60-unit affordable senior housing development at 1015 Howard St.

Rainey introduces proposal.

Related story

Developer presentation

David Block, director of development for Evergreen Real Estate Group, and 13-year Evanston resident, makes the presentation.

Fiske asks about greenspace on the site.

Block says plan includes a roof deck on the 2nd floor rear of the building.

Fleming asks about preferences for Evanston residents.

Flax says have to work out how strong the preference can be, but can have some preference.

Approved unanimously.

Call of the wards

Wilson … 6 p.m. 2/13 meeting on Crown project at Crown.

Rue Simmons … 7p 2/13 … ward mtg at Civic Center.

Says in 1940s black families … 1/3 in Evanston owned homes.

Rainey… 7p tomorrow Peckish Pig … neighborhood meeting.

City manager .. April 29 next meeting on affordable housing.

Goals meeting …frozen out last week … reschedule for … Feb. 12 at 6 p.m.

Harley Clarke .. what’s the process … March 25?

Meeting adjourned at 10:44 p.m.

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