Committee votes down 41st Ward proposal, discusses impact of aldermanic prerogative on affordable housing
by BRIAN NADIG
The longstanding practice of aldermanic prerogative in the City Council may have taken a hit at the June 26 meeting of the council’s Zoning Committee, as members almost voted in opposition to the wishes of the local alderman on a Northwest Side development proposal.
The committee voted 7 to 5 against a proposed 297-unit apartment proposal, with 30 affordable housing units, near Higgins and Cumberland avenues. The developer, GlenStar Properties, has filed a lawsuit against the city seeking to build the project, which had been stuck in committee for months.
The project would be located in the 41st Ward, and its alderman, Anthony Napolitano, urged the committee to vote against the proposal. Normally, the committee adheres to the wishes of the local alderman and the votes are unanimous.
However, aldermen John Arena (45th) and Ameya Pawar (47th) argued that the practice of aldermanic prerogative should perhaps be dropped when it comes to issues of affordable housing in an effort to help the city meet its obligations for low-income housing. They added that local opposition to affordable housing can put a lot of pressure on some aldermen to oppose what else would be an acceptable development for the community.
“We don’t have to listen to opposition clearly based in prejudice (against low-income housing),” Arena told the committee.
Napolitano told the committee that he does not oppose affordable housing and that there are about 6,500 existing apartments within a 15 square block radius of the development site and that many of them are are available for rent and are being leased at below market rate rents. He said that the area has residents from “all walks of life.”
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that the development area already is dense. “That’s a pretty vertical area of his ward,” Sposato told the committee. “Please support (him). He knows best what’s going on there.”
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee approved the project in early 2017, but a few months later Napolitano decided to oppose the project due to concerns about overcrowding at Dirksen School and manpower shortages in the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District.
Neighbors for Affordable Housing member Michael Rabbitt charged that density concerns are being used as a “code word” to cover up the prejudicial reasons Napolitano and others are opposing the development.
GlenStar owner Larry Debb has said that the project would cater to young professionals who are seeking to ride the Blue Line to work, as the development site is next to the Cumberland CTA Station. He has cited a study which conducted that only 14 school-aged children would live in the complex.
The proposal was amended at the committee’s meeting to include 30 affordable housing units, which are intended for those households earning about 60 percent of the area’s median income.
Initially GlenStar planned to build only seven on-site affordable units and to buy out 23 of the 30 required affordable units, paying $125,000 into the city’s housing found for each of those units.
The development would be located on an underutilized section of land in front of the Marriott O’Hare Hotel, 8535 W. Higgins Ave.