Basement units to be brought to code
by BRIAN NADIG
Temporary up-zoning of a residential property at the northwest corner of Luna and Farragut avenues would bring up to city code two existing basement apartments which have been inside a 10-unit building for decades.
"We’re not creating any longterm zoning change on the block," Alderman John Arena (45th) said at a March 15 community meeting at Farnsworth School, 5414 N. Linder Ave.
The proposal calls for the property at 5270-74 N. Luna Ave. to be rezoned to RM-5 to allow the city to codify the building as a legally nonconforming 10-unit structure. The property would then be downzoned to its current RS-3 zoning, which is intended primarily for single-family homes and two-flats, according to Arena. RS-3 is the predominant zoning in the neighborhood.
Currently the 89-year-old building is considered a legally nonconforming eight-flat. It is suspected that the basement units, which bring the number of apartments to 10, were created after the enactment of the city’s 1957 zoning code, which overhauled the zoning process and requirements throughout the city.
Arena said that the "average home" built in Jefferson Park prior to 1957 is considered nonconforming. He said that in many instances, residential properties do not comply with the required setback requirements for yards.
Project attorney Tyler Manic said that when the owner purchased the property 5 years ago he believed it was a legal 10-flat, but that the city discovered the mistake when a construction permit was sought for improvements to the building’s windows. Records from the city Department of Buildings show that a
citation was issued in 2017.
Arena said that he found the basement units to be in "good" condition when he toured the building, and that the temporary zoning change would allow longtime tenants to remain there. He added that he would not support the zoning request if the basement units were in poor condition.
One of the tenants reported that he had lived in the basement for 23 years.
Some of the residents at the meeting inquired about the amount of time the proposed RM-5 zoning would be in place, expressing concern that RM-5 would be precedent-setting if it were not removed in a timely manner.
Manic said that he hopes that the basement units are codified by October and that he would then file for the downzoning, but warned that delays are possible when dealing with the city.