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Chicago at risk of being another L.A.?
April 18, 2003
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Chicago could turn into a Midwest version of Los Angeles--with more cars, increased air and water pollution and even longer commute times--if developers are required to build more off-street parking, a new study has concluded.
In a city with 250,000 car-free families and 768,013 households--72.3 percent--with one car or less, it makes no sense for the city's new zoning ordinance to require newly constructed single-family homes and town houses to have two off-street parking spaces instead of one, according to the Zoning for Transportation Equity Coalition.
The coalition of 30 developers, transportation advocates and environmentalists was forged out of a common concern about the impact that an increased parking requirement would have on the city. They surveyed 10 other cities to gauge the effect that increased parking requirements have on an array of issues ranging from air quality and traffic congestion to household transportation costs and construction of affordable housing.
What they found was that the parking requirements proposed for Chicago (two spaces for every newly built single family home and town house and 1.5 spaces for large units of two bedrooms and up built in multi-unit buildings) are similar to those in effect in sprawling, auto-dependent cities like Los Angeles and Fort Worth.
"When people know they can find a place to park, they're more likely to drive,'' said Payton Chang, land-use committee chairman for Break the Gridlock. "They're also more likely to buy a car. Fewer people will take mass transit. Commute times will increase. We already have some of the country's worst congestion. We don't need to make it worse."
Experts have said congestion in Chicago averages 67 hours a year per person.
The report recommends shelving the two-for-one parking requirement, maintaining the existing one-for-one mandate and giving developers flexibility to build "car light or car-free housing."
The waiver would be based on whether the development is affordable, close to mass transit and provides amenities for pedestrians and bike riders.
"Our concern is the cost that parking adds to producing affordable housing," said Dena Al-Khatib, development supervisor for Bickerdike Development Corp., which serves West Town, Humboldt Park and Logan Square.
Ald. William Banks (36th), chairman of the Zoning Reform Commission and the City Council's Zoning Committee, welcomed the recommendations and said the two-for-one requirement is "not written in stone."
Transportation and parking issues are expected to comprise the fourth, and most contentious chapter of the zoning rewrite.
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