A quick response to Andrew Schneider’s @ASchneider2008 recent thread defending the idea of down-zoning proposed by Ramirez-Rosa. For background on this plan see: Block Club Chicago. Schneider does an excellent job appealing the the emotion’s tied to home, neighborhood, and nostalgia.
Who wouldn’t want to live next to “Round-Up”? They could turn that space into a cool brewery like they did in that other neighborhood! But, the argument goes, if the property isn’t down-zoned it will be turned into ugly condos.
However, Andrew ignores one key problem, you need people, and lots of them, to support local businesses. The “Round-Up” went under as a theater, then it went under as a restaurant, then it went under as an electronics store. Clearly there is something larger going on here that is causing businesses to go under.
When looking at historic population data, the population peak for Logan Square and Avondale combined for 162,607 people in 1930, the first year wikipedia has data. The population fluctuated over the years and had a peak in 2000 of 125,770. However, since then the population has fallen by 12% to 110,633. With a declining population it is no wonder that businesses are having a hard time staying open.
Ramirez-Rosa’s idea of down-zoning is the exact wrong approach to this problem. Businesses need more customers not less! Ramirez-Rosa needs to reverse course and up-zone all of these parcels to B3-5. Recently, Chicago Cityscape @ChiBuildings reported that a 78 unit courtyard-style apartment building was permitted in Edgewater in a B3-5 Zone.
The above courtyard building will add well over 100 people to Edgewater and is not legal to build in Rosa’s B2-1 down-zone. If Rosa reverses course now and upzones instead of down-zoning, these 14 parcels could add over 1,400 people to the neighborhood.
A quick technical note about zoning. Under Ramirez-Rosa’s B2-1 plan, the lot area per unit is 2,500 square feet. This means that on a typical city lot, you could only have one dwelling unit. However, under B3-5 the lot area per unit is only 200 square feet per unit. So on a typical lot you could have 15 units. These units would be much more affordable than the one huge unit! For more details about this see https://westnorth.com/2016/04/26/how-chicagos-zoning-excludes-small-apartments-from-the-neighborhoods/.
And finally read this piece by Nolan Gray @mnolangray titled: “Density is How the Working Poor Outbid the Rich for Urban Land.”