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VivaLFuego Dec 8, 2008 1:59 AM

^ ardec raises a good point - there are real limits to how much land use regulations can overpower underlying market trends, such as demands for certain types of housing.

That said, I think this demonstrates the value of the perverse technique of underzoning land, thereby ensuring that the property owners' highest return is to maintain the current subdivided property with many units rather than redevelop to a lower unit density. This can be seen in Pilsen, where the unit density is much higher than that allowed by zoning, thus creating a disincentive to redevelopment with resulting reduction in density. This is risky though, as the potential result sometimes winds up like portions of Lincoln Park and Bucktown, wherein 3-flats are torn down and replaced with mansions anyway.

Generally, I believe (though I don't have peer-reviewed evidence to support this) that there is a natural demand for denser, smaller, more affordable units near transit facilities. Let the zoning regulations allow that to happen, with allowable density high enough to make the ROI on the property higher with multi-unit than a luxury single family or an underutilized parking lot etc. Such a TOD zoning overlay proposal has to be tied to some economic and land market analysis, since even in healthy areas there are still many "underdeveloped" properties near transit, but it is likely because the current use offers an adequate ROI as compared to redeveloping to an otherwise low allowable density.

I'd be very curious to see a survey of this hypothesis... review all new construction, it's unit density as compared to that allowed under zoning, and it's proximity to transit. My gut tells me there is a natural tendency to maximize density in those locations where transportation capacity (particularly transportation for moderate- and lower-income individuals via transit) is highest. To the extent such density maximization doesn't happen, it is either due to 1) a complete lack of market demand for space in the area, e.g. the south and west sides), or 2) land use restrictions preventing it from happening. In the case of #2 (restricted development), my hypothesis would also suggest that to some extent, there would be an increase rent/values for those desirable properties in the zone of shortage near the transportation facility.

the urban politician Dec 8, 2008 2:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3959586)
By the way, is this a serious proposal? If so, maybe we should put CBP behind it. Getting the interest of planning groups like CMAP could also help.

^ OF COURSE it's a serious proposal! I didn't take time today to post this concept among my esteemed forumers because I was passing time. ;) To the contrary, I did a lot today (went to an Indian restaurant, holiday shopped for my wife, drank whiskey & hot cider in a bar in Bryant Park, etc.)

I would love for some of the "higher ups" in Chicago Government to look seriously at a citywide TOD zoning code, but I'm not sure whether CBP has the clout (is CBP even having meetings, btw?) or connections to push something of the sort through. Of course, this is one case in which I'd love to be proven wrong.

Bottom line is, piecemeal Aldermanic Prerogative is a legacy that's here to stay and if a city like Chicago wants to really boost the role of transit in its way of getting around, it needs to centralize planning around its rail stations. Let the Aldermen piddle-fuck around with everything else (give these dogs a bone..), but those 200 feet around the L stop belong to US, the city.

I think Daley has the power to push something like this through. It just needs to be introduced to powers-that-be, and it needs to be well-conceived..

honte Dec 8, 2008 2:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3959561)
How about this: exempting buildings with an Orange rating or higher from T zoning. You may argue that the insignificant buildings in a neighborhood nevertheless establish neighborhood character, but if history has shown us anything, it's that neighborhood character almost always has to be sacrificed for density increases.

The problem with this is that the survey that produced Orange-rated buildings is haphazard and woefully inadequate in many regards. It's a nice tool, but I disagree with writing it into any legislation.

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3959561)
It's the attempted preservation of these historic buildings, and the requirement that new buildings fit in with them, that has held West Loop and, to a lesser extent, South Loop, back from their wholesale densification.

Actually, any preservation effort in these areas has largely been thwarted, particularly West Loop. And the preservation community largely supports smart densification of these areas. It's mostly view / anti-congestion preservation that has resulted in the West Loop developing as it has. Compare to the South Loop, which has a far greater number of real landmarks, but also many more high-rises and probably will end up with much higher population density.

the urban politician Dec 8, 2008 2:37 AM

^ The issue is, we need to seriously think about what is in Chicago's best interests going forward. For the most part, Honte, I think you're right that the city should go through a pretty intense review process about what buildings need to be landmarked and which ones may need to be sacrificed for the benefits of higher density. Generous tax credits for owners of landmarked structures (as mentioned by somebody earlier) may need to be a part of the package.

But landmarking could be a tool used by anti-development community groups as well. It's important for the 2009 Chicago TOD Act to be as absolute as possible and to not allow for any NIMBY interference once implemented. It should be assumed that any building with T zoning is fair game for demolition and redevelopment unless it is a landmarked structure.

I say this with absolution because any ambivalence in the writing of such an Act could be taken advantage of by, you guessed it, lawyers.

Berwyn Dec 8, 2008 6:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3959227)
What I would love for the city to do is to pass, in one fell swoop, a TOD Act which specifically upzones land in a 200' radius around EVERY L stop in the city (outside of downtown) to a designated T zoning. That T zoning can be defined as x number of stories, x number of units, x amount of parking per unit, etc (landmarked buildings continue to keep their protection, however)

The beauty of creating this Zoning designation in one fell swoop is that it prevents NIMBY's from blaming their individual Alderman for supporting an individual zoning change, as it is really a citywide Act. If Daley had a bit of vision and balls, I'm sure he would have the clout to hammer something like this through given all that I've read about this man in the past several years.

Example of T zoning (simplified, but you get the idea):

1.Building of up to 20 stories allowed
2.Not more than 1 parking spot per housing unit
3.Buildings on the very edges of T zones are zoned T2, and are not to exceed 10 stories
4.Buildings can be residential, commercial, hotel, or mixed

Hmmm... I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I would not support such a proposal. How about starting with single-story buildings and vacant lands around El stops.

ChicagoChicago Dec 8, 2008 1:31 PM

Purple Express Trains to Resume Operating on Inner Loop Track December 29

Pretty stoked about this. Will certainly make my commute easier in the morning.

emathias Dec 9, 2008 9:19 PM

Now that Blago is out, can we get that free rides funding back? How about restoring the half-price (instead of free) fares to seniors?

OhioGuy Dec 10, 2008 12:11 AM

Just a quick update - the Irving Park brown line station reopened this past weekend and the Damen brown line station will finally reopen on December 19th after being closed for just under 13 months.

At that point, only Paulina and Wellington will be left to be completed in 2009! :tup:

the urban politician Dec 10, 2008 2:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Berwyn (Post 3960086)
Hmmm... I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I would not support such a proposal. How about starting with single-story buildings and vacant lands around El stops.

^ What do you see wrong with the proposal?

emathias Dec 10, 2008 8:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3964380)
^ What do you see wrong with the proposal?

Maybe he prefers it not be named after the Boston rail network ... try renaming the zoning at "L" and "L2" ;)

Seriously, though, he probably thinks that across-the-board upzoning would risk wiping out existing buildings that support existing vibrancy. He has a point. It might make the most sense to roll out such changes in a 3-step process:

Step 1) Upzone to your "T2" rules all vacant and 1-story buildings in the area you'd consider a "T" area. This should be all that's done for 5-10 years or until all affected lots are rebuilt, whichever comes sooner (if every available lot were rebuilt in 4 years, there'd be no point in waiting to upzone more). Also prohibit any down-zoning during this time across the full "T" and "T2" areas.
Step 2) Upzone all non-historic lots in that area to full "T" zone status. This should be all that changes for another 5 years. This will help enforce density closest to the "L" station, instead of allowing medium-density to creep into the neighborhood before high density is built by the station.
Step 3) Upzone the "T2" area to "T2" zoning.

Doing it as a stepped process allows time for areas to adapt to the changes, and step 1 will encourage infill instead of wholesale change of existing buildings that may have important economic roles in the community. Once you achieve infill, the area will have an easier time adapting when larger pre-existing structures are replaced with the very large buildings the new zoning will allow.

VivaLFuego Dec 10, 2008 10:57 PM

^ I think such a plan, while technically proficient from an urban land use perspective, doesn't take adequate account of the legal, political and personal aspects of zoning. Remember, an upzoning is a very valuable gift that has value because of the scarcity of buildable density: it's only valuable because you're not allowing density on comparable pieces of property. People with the "misfortune" of owning a historic 2-story occupied building next to a vacant parcel whose owner gets a bonanza of upzoning will ... not be pleased. And the papers will have a field day when it comes out that a partial investor on some large parcel that was being landbanked happens to have serious clout and makes off with a bonanza.

One option that might have been more palatable in years past would be to simply condemn the underutilized property: call the vacant lot or vacant storefront blight, acquire it via eminent domain, then upzone, then issue an RFP to sell it to the highest bidder. Of course, such a process (how much just compensation paid to owners? Whose land gets condemned and whose doesn't?) is itself very political.

Ultimately, I think, the "best" option would be to enact a true comprehensive plan for the city including a new zoning map re-drawn from scratch, applying transit-oriented zoning according to strict and evenly-applied rules. I believe that in general terms such a plan could have public support, but only in general city-wide terms because at the micro level every citizens hates the notion that others deign to anything to real property without permission of said citizen. But the aldermen obviously have no interest in a city zoning map redraw or comp plan, so it's kind of moot.

the urban politician Dec 11, 2008 2:24 AM

^ Viva, my problem with the whole comprehensive rezoning thing is that it's much more difficult and time-consuming to implement, will involve too many parties with too many interests, and in general may involve too much politics.

The reason I propose a "one fell swoop" is that it can be hammered through by a powerful mayor such as Daley and does not involve too many intermediaries. Any attempt to allege corruption can be rebutted by the argument that every transit station gets a 200 foot T zone, period--a blanket rule that covers the whole city. So one can't assume that one particular clout-heavy firm is getting a better deal than another.

And come to think of it, what's wrong with people suddenly profiting from owning property within 200 feet of a transit station? Heck, it's a good investment and it's about time it be treated as such! This sort of thing has happened all the time in American cities (ie people who owned land near future NYC subway stops made bank--and in Chicago's case the train stops have already been built so it's not nearly as bad) and it certainly isn't illegal. I would argue that such concerns as you've expressed are exactly what we should not allow to get in the way of the kind of aggressive policy-making that can finally prioritize transit in Chicago. I'd even go so far as to say that Aldermen and community groups that force land around CTA stops to be zoned to a low density are the real examples of unfair influence, not to mention unfair access to city resources that all Chicagoans are paying taxes to support.

Nowhereman1280 Dec 11, 2008 3:46 AM

I don't know how many of you have ridden the new hybrid Articulated busses, but they are SO much better than the old ones.

A. They don't give you back problems from having a horrible suspension.

B. The seats are reconigured so there is tons more space in the aisle. The all face sideways in the front instead of forward.

C. The LED lights they have make you feel so much better, much less depressing than florescant.

D. There are tons more rails and little loops to grab onto.

E. They even put two loops to hang onto coming from the ceiling in the middle of the Bendy part where there was normally nothing to hold if you were standing.

F. The join in the middle on the floor looks much sturdier, hopefully they won't pop up over time like the old ones and flap around making really loud slapping noises like the ones on the old busses.

G. The interior looks like its much more seamless than the old ones. Hopefully this means less places for them to break with age and less holes for condensation to leak through on rainy or snow days...

Overall I was thrilled, all improvements and no detriments!

jjk1103 Dec 11, 2008 3:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by OhioGuy (Post 3964136)
Just a quick update - the Irving Park brown line station reopened this past weekend and the Damen brown line station will finally reopen on December 19th after being closed for just under 13 months.

At that point, only Paulina and Wellington will be left to be completed in 2009! :tup:

...I noticed that the Belmont station was supposed to be completed AFTER the Wellington Station.......that can't be right ?!

VivaLFuego Dec 11, 2008 4:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3966657)
Any attempt to allege corruption can be rebutted by the argument that every transit station gets a 200 foot T zone, period--a blanket rule that covers the whole city. So one can't assume that one particular clout-heavy firm is getting a better deal than another.

This wouldn't stop the Trib from determining that it was all planned via cronyism.

Quote:

And come to think of it, what's wrong with people suddenly profiting from owning property within 200 feet of a transit station? Heck, it's a good investment and it's about time it be treated as such! This sort of thing has happened all the time in American cities (ie people who owned land near future NYC subway stops made bank--and in Chicago's case the train stops have already been built so it's not nearly as bad) and it certainly isn't illegal. I would argue that such concerns as you've expressed are exactly what we should not allow to get in the way of the kind of aggressive policy-making that can finally prioritize transit in Chicago.
We're not talking about someone speculating that a new transit line will increase property nearby. We're talking about upzoning certain properties, drastically increasing their value (all developers care about in land valuation is price-per-FAR-foot) - but that increase in value comes only at expense of nearby properties that have tighter zoning restrictions. The upzoning wouldn't have inherent value if it were done universally, but it does have inherent value when done selectively, and in the short run that value is extracted from the nearby properties on which higher density would still be prohibited. The windfall on the investment would be redistributive, and a lot of people would find that troubling politically.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see increased density near transit, my only point is that the politics and economics of zoning are quite complicated. These concerns about the fairness value transfers via zoning may be moot if we all determine that the public good of having real transit-oriented development outweighs the negatives of redistributive gifts. But I wouldn't be so quick to brush aside the personal-level politics involved in such a move. Part of the point of zoning is that it shouldn't be changed all the time - and this is one of those reasons. This is why a comprehensive plan would be the ideal solution, I think - I would of course also support something similar to what you're proposing if it were a viable option, but I forsee it being a very tough political sell, not even getting into the stupid traffic/parking/shadows NIMBY bullcrap.

Quote:

I'd even go so far as to say that Aldermen and community groups that force land around CTA stops to be zoned to a low density are the real examples of unfair influence, not to mention unfair access to city resources that all Chicagoans are paying taxes to support.
I tend to agree - but that still doesn't change the fact that dramatically changing the zoning of a select group of properties would redistribute land values in the area. Such a TOD zoning proposal will ultimately have to be pursued carefully and subtly, though I do think such an effort is both warranted and possible. I'm just offering some critique/caution on the ideas being discussed.

Did you not like my "TOD Variance" proposal of basically allowing the existing zoning classifications to have more housing units, fewer cars, greater lot coverage, etc? Fair enough, it doesn't stir mens' blood...

VivaLFuego Dec 11, 2008 4:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 (Post 3966847)
I don't know how many of you have ridden the new hybrid Articulated busses, but they are SO much better than the old ones.

A. They don't give you back problems from having a horrible suspension.

B. The seats are reconigured so there is tons more space in the aisle. The all face sideways in the front instead of forward.

C. The LED lights they have make you feel so much better, much less depressing than florescant.

D. There are tons more rails and little loops to grab onto.

E. They even put two loops to hang onto coming from the ceiling in the middle of the Bendy part where there was normally nothing to hold if you were standing.

F. The join in the middle on the floor looks much sturdier, hopefully they won't pop up over time like the old ones and flap around making really loud slapping noises like the ones on the old busses.

G. The interior looks like its much more seamless than the old ones. Hopefully this means less places for them to break with age and less holes for condensation to leak through on rainy or snow days...

Overall I was thrilled, all improvements and no detriments!

The only detriment I've seen so far is both front and rear door malfunctioning - pretty annoying and time-wasting for now but this is common with new bus deliveries and should be fixable. Everything else you said is true, and I'll also add that the hybrid-electric drivetrain produces much smoother starts and acceleration, so the ride is less jerky than older buses as well.

ardecila Dec 11, 2008 7:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3966884)
This wouldn't stop the Trib from determining that it was all planned via cronyism.

Who's to say that it wouldn't be planned via cronyism? When they ran that exposé on zoning over the summer, I remember feeling a little condescension at the pathetic whining of the people interviewed, since I support taller and denser development anywhere within city limits. However, there is a definite value to setting a defined zoning code and then making all new developments follow it. If people move into a neighborhood knowing that it has zoning for taller and denser buildings, then they have no right to complain when such buildings are built. The same goes for the downtown area, where ever-taller buildings are simply a fact of life. However, the awful practice of spot zoning only gives people a total disregard for legitimate zoning and land control. What the hell, the only way to fix this may in fact be to go the way of Houston, with very limited zoning codes aimed only at historic preservation and reducing off-street parking. Let market forces cluster lots of people near L stations.

As to the Tribune: it's annoyingly self-righteous when it attempts to be populist, but I've gained a little bit more respect for John Kass and his comrades recently - their dire predictions have been vindicated with the indictment of Blago. Perhaps some level of corruption is harmless, but Chicago passed that point long ago, and now it's seriously holding our city, region, and state back as it cripples our education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

the urban politician Dec 11, 2008 2:43 PM

^ So if Chicagoans have accepted cronyism then what's the problem?

We're talking about a Mayor who demolished an airport in a midnight raid. Now he's selling off the parking meter system which will jack up meter rates; already having pissed off the Tribune. The Hired Truck scandal, etc etc you name it Daley's already survived it all.

The T Zoning would be an actual deal that, yes, puts a lot of money arbitrarily in the hands of people who made a good investment, but also could benefit the city greatly. Who cares what the Tribune says? I'm sure Daley doesn't..

ChicagoChicago Dec 11, 2008 4:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jjk1103 (Post 3966852)
...I noticed that the Belmont station was supposed to be completed AFTER the Wellington Station.......that can't be right ?!

Actually it is correct. Belmont won’t be finished, along with Fullerton, until late 2009. Wellington should be finished in the summer 2009. - the reason being that Belmont must stay open the entire time. Belmont still has to build both station houses (one is an antique).

ChicagoChicago Dec 11, 2008 4:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3966891)
The only detriment I've seen so far is both front and rear door malfunctioning - pretty annoying and time-wasting for now but this is common with new bus deliveries and should be fixable. Everything else you said is true, and I'll also add that the hybrid-electric drivetrain produces much smoother starts and acceleration, so the ride is less jerky than older buses as well.

What routes are they running on?


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