• The 12 page agenda at this month’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting was a sign of things to come. The agendas for the August and September meetings are full, and most deferred items from yesterday’s meetings had to be rescheduled for October.

    Start Time: 9:21 a.m.
    Board members present: Chairman Jonathan Swain, Sam Toia, Sheila O’Grady
    Aldermen present: Ariel Reboyras (30), Ald. Brian Hopkins (2)

    Nearly 50 people gathered to testify against Michael Verdone’s application to renew licenses for three vacation rental units at 55 E. Cedar Street. The property got initial ZBA approval in 2011. Nick Ftikas, from the Law Office of Sam Banks, told the Chair his client would withdraw all three applications. And the most heated item of the day, a proposed three story addition to a house in the 32nd Ward, ended up being the last item discussed. It took over an hour of debate between applicants, the neighbors and their attorneys (Item 233-15-Z).


    Item 262-15-S - 3rd Ward - The applicant, Baderbrau, LLC, is applying for a special permit to open a tavern with a special tap room on 2515 S. Wabash Ave., near McCormick Place. In order to apply for a special use permit, the owners need to prove hardship. The applicants say the space can’t be used for anything else, and want to brew on site,

    Item 270-15-S - 27th Ward - The Intercultural Montessori Foreign Language Immersion School at 114 S. Racine Avenue applied for a special use permit to expand the school to the second and third floors of their current building. The goal is to triple the student body from 200 to 600 kids, says attorney Carol Stubblefieldwith Neal & Leroy. Stubblefield said the school got its first permit to open the school from ZBA in 2009, but the permit only applies to the ground floor. Steve Kelly, the expert witness, said the school held a community meeting for the initial expansion, but they have yet to talk to residents about the pending application.

    Items 272-, 273-, 274-, 275-15-Z- 48th Ward - These four applications are for two addresses and were grouped together because they were filed by the same applicant, 1300 W. Devon Partners, LLC. The applicants asked for two rear setback expansions and a reduced accessory parking requirement. They want to build a three-story, six unit building with a commercial component at the base and 5 surface parking spaces. Mariah Digrino, and attorney with DLA Piper, testified on behalf of Matt Ferrino, the property owner, who is affiliated with 3 Corners Development. The two properties in question–6355 North Wayne Ave. and 6354 North Lakewood Ave.–are corner lots and have been vacant for the past 30 years, says Patrick Thomson, the architect. Dan Luna, chief of staff to Ald. Harry Osterman, testified in support of the applicant.

    283-15-S & 8-15-Z - 36th Ward - Jorge Marban applied for a special use permit to build an indoor soccer field on 6310 W. Grand Ave. His other application is a request to build accessory parking for the gym on a neighboring vacant lot (6260 West Grand Ave.) Attorney Mark Kupiec, with Mark J. Kupiec & Associates, testified on behalf of the applicant. He said a similar application had been filed by the building’s former owner and Marban wishes to see it though. The applicant’s son, Angel Marban, testified on his father’s behalf. He told the Board his dad bought the lease from the prior owner who had operated a soccer field at the location under the name Club Concord. The appraiser was late so Kupiec requested a recess. When it was brought up later, Read Carnihan, with La Salle Appraiser Group, said the accessory parking won't have an adverse impact on the neighborhood because it is a vacant lot that people are already parking their cars on.

    243-15-Z - 27th Ward - After some confusion over ownership, attorney Sylvia Mikasof Chico and Nunes introduced an application asking for a variation reducing the rear setback at the former site of St. Dominick’s at 367 W. Locust St. The Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Josephine Lucas are the owners. The applicant, Locust Sedgwick, LLC is in the process of redeveloping the church to a 6-story residential building with 45 units and parking for 52 cars on site. David Ruttenberg, with residential developer Belgravia, testified that the alderman and community groups are in support.

    15-15-S - 37th Ward - The applicant, S. Bar Sinister, LLC wants to expand an existing recycling facility on 1238-1300 N. Kostner Ave. The applicant’s attorney, Scott R. Borstein, with the law firm Neal & Leroy, said this would be the owner’s third expansion since ZBA granted the company its first special use permit in 2009. Owner Joel Fink said the expansion would add more jobs and wouldn’t impact property values because the area is already zoned for manufacturing. When asked if the expansion was necessary for the public convenience, Fink said facilities like this help the city because they get abandoned cars off the street by taking parts, selling them, and having the cars crushed off site, though he later interrupted Board proceedings to clarify that some cars are crushed on site.

    Some Continued Items:
    Items 263-, 264-, 265-, and 266-15-S - The applicant, HSC Realty, LLC is asking for special use to turn an RM 5.5 zoned, 4-story, 4-unit building into 4 vacation rental units at 1308 N. Lasalle St. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) requested a continuance citing a need for additional community input. Chicago’s vacation rental substitute ordinancerequires a $500 license per unit, and any units zoned above an RT 4 need special use approval. The issue will be brought up again at the October 16 meeting.

    Item 242-15-A - Alderman Leslie Hairston requested a continuance on an application to appeal a Zoning Administrator’s decision to refuse an addition to a three-story fraternity house. The applicant, House Corporation, Board of Directors, Chi Upsilon Alumni, wanted to add a rear enclosed porch and a two-story rear addition. It will also be re-examined at the October 16 ZBA meeting.

    Item 271-15-S - A quorum issue delayed a hearing for the Cermak Group’s special use application to establish a one-story restaurant with a drive through lane at 1300-16 W. Cermak. Board member Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, regularly recuses himself from applications involving restaurants, and without Toia, the Board does not have a quorum. Since the reschedule is due to the Board, Chairman Swain said the issue will be squeezed into the August 21st ZBA meeting. Item 255-15-Z, from applicant V75 Unlimited, will be similarly rescheduled because of Toia’s recusal. Owner Charles Taylor wants to establish a “public place of amusement” at 125-127 W. 75th Street in the 6th ward. The base use will be a restaurant.

    Item 269-15-S - 14th Ward - The application was for a special use permit to establish a day labor employment agency, but Chairman Swain continued the application to October 16th because the applicant didn't have an expert witness to testify on her behalf.

    Item 239-15-Z - 2nd Ward - The Applicant’s lawyer began testifying, but Chairman Swain cut him off and asked where his client was. He said due to the unfortunate delay, he had to leave the chambers and head to New York. The application filed by 755 N. Wells, LLC c/o Jenel Management Corporation was the fourth item on the agenda, but it was called for a hearing around 2:30pm. Chairman Swain apologized and gave them an earlier continuance date, despite having continued pervious items to October.

    370-14-S - 40th Ward -  Tom Livaditis, the owner of Pathways in Education Illinois, applied for a special use permit to build a new high school on 4816 North Western Ave. Nick Ftikas, with the Law Office of Sam Banks, told the Board that Ald. Pat O’Connor and the applicant have requested another continuance on the matter because they are still “working on community issues and the special use required for the off-site parking.” Ftikas asked for a “long continuance”. Chair Swain moved it to December 18th and warned Ftikas that if both parties are not ready by then, he will dismiss the case.

    174-15-S -11th Ward - Nick Ftikas says the applicant, Paradise Nail Corporation, is requesting a continuance because they need additional meetings with the alderman. “We have been trying to schedule a meeting with the alderman and we’ve been having a little difficulty scheduling this so that we could have a neighborhood meeting,” another representative for the applicant said (he didn’t give his name). It was continued to October.

    133- 134- 15-Z - 46th Ward - Nick Fitikas says Ald. James Cappleman (46) asked for a continuation of both applications filed by Troy Leight for a property he owns on 743 W. Bittersweet Place to reduce the rear setback and expand the existing floor area by no more than 15% to build a three-story, rear addition to an existing three-story building. Each floor of the proposed building would have its own rear porch. The applications were rescheduled to October.
  • The Chicago Plan Commission unanimously approved all items on the July agenda, but warned one developer that their plan for a proposed residential tower on a vacant plot south of the Cabrini-Green rowhouses may need to be resubmitted if major changes are made to the building design. Applications now advance to the City Council’s Zoning Committee for review.

    Davis Lakefront, LLC wants to build a 23-story mixed-use building with 200 residential units anchored by commercial retail at the base In River North at 460-476 W. Chicago Ave., but the local alderman says they still need final community approval.

    “We’re still in the middle of this,” Ald. Walter Burnett (27) told the Plan Commission that due to the influx of proposed development projects in his ward, which encompasses parts of River North, the West Loop and Fulton Market, the local community and developers have had a hard time finding a time to schedule a final public hearing.

    Developers have already downscaled the height of the building from the originally proposed 30-stories, added additional parking, and expanded the retail base and green space around the building, Burnett added. He says residents were also interested in adding mixed-income units to the building. But despite his reservations, Ald. Burnett asked Commissioners to approve the project, so that it could advance to the City Council’s Zoning Committee where it would be held until the public hearing.

    Department of Planning Commissioner Andrew Mooney warned the developers that while he was voting in support of the project, the application would have to be resubmitted to the Plan Commission for re-approval if any major design changes are made following the community meeting.

    Commissioners Green Light A Scaled Down Nobu Hotel in West Loop - 27th Ward
    Commissioners approved a scaled down redesign for a proposed Nobu Hotel and restaurant on a vacant lot in the West Loop. The original plan called for 155 hotel rooms, 65 parking spaces and a 10,000 square foot restaurant. The project, as approved by the Plan Commission, is seven stories and includes 83 hotel rooms and 35 off-site parking spots. Plans also include an amenity level, rooftop penthouse, and outdoor seating for the restaurant. Since the project qualifies as Transit Oriented Development–the new Morgan St. CTA station is within 600 ft. of the site–developers don’t have to build on-site parking, but have purchased a building on Mason and Randolph St. as a backup lot, according to the developer’s legal counsel, Rolando Acosta, with law firm Ginsberg Jacobs.

    “We think this is a momentous event for Chicago,” Acosta told the Commissioners that when the hotel is constructed, it will be the first Nobu Hotel and Restaurant built from the ground up. The Nobu Hospitality Group, started by famed Japanese ChefNobu Matsuhisa, operates hotels and restaurants across the country, but they are all located in refurbished buildings. Acosta added that the boutique hotel and restaurant is expected to employ 200 people.

    “I didn’t think this day would ever be here, that we would see this [project] before the Plan Commission,” Commissioner and Zoning Administrator Patty Scudiero said before the roll call vote. When the project first reached her desk in 2012, Scudiero recalled, developers had requested that the site be rezoned as a Downtown district, which would have removed height restrictions. She said it was a big ask, especially as the Department was developing the Fulton Market Innovation District Plan. She thanked the applicant for being, “more than patient with the City.”

    Ald. Burnett also noted that when the developers brought the proposal before the community, residents were not opposed to the originally planned height for the building; the concern came mostly from him and the City because rezoning the property would go against the character of the neighborhood.

    Six people signed up to testify, only one of them was against the project and raised concerns that the hotel seemed too large for the neighborhood and would increase congestion.


    Lincoln Center Development Approved - 43rd Ward
    After an 18-month review process with nearly 50 community meetings, including three widely attended public hearings, the Baker Development Corporation finally secured Plan Commission approval to move forward with a proposal to tear down the old Lincoln Center Condos on the 2500 N. Lincoln Ave. block and build a mixed-use residential and commercial building next to the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park.

    Baker Development seeks to build a ten-story mixed-use building with 200 residential units, approximately 16,300 square feet of retail space, and at least 138 off-street parking spaces. The neighboring Apollo Theater would remain. The applicant’s legal counsel Rolando Acosta, who also represents the developers for Nobu Hotel, noted that the entire building was reoriented as a result those meetings and meetings with the local alderman, Michele Smith (43). 

    Ald. Smith attended the Plan Commission meeting to testify in support for the project. She noted that after a “rigorous community process” the redesign will effectively remove a long standing eyesore in the community, revitalize the Lincoln Center commercial corridor, and provide additional open space to the neighborhood. She also noted that while this project is considered Transit Oriented Development, the developers have agreed to exceed the amount of parking required. Residents of the new building will also be ineligible for permit parking, says Smith.

    Nearly two dozen people signed up to testify on behalf of this project during the public comments section of the meeting.  Those who supported it noted that these residential towers would reinvigorate the community. Those who opposed the project were mostly concerned about congestion and lighting, complaining the tall building would block sunlight.


    Lincoln Park Parking Lot - 46th Ward [Approved]
    Commissioners approved the Chicago Park District’s request to reconstruct the existing 4.5-acre parking lot in Lincoln Park to install an underground stormwater storage and infiltration system that will eventually be disconnected from the City’s sewer system. Timothy King, legal counsel for the Chicago Park District, told the Commission the current parking lot is filled with potholes and “at the end of its useful life.”

    The $2.4 million project is a joint effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Department of Water Management and the Park District. A $1.4 million green infrastructure grant will help pay for the project. Additional greenery that will be added to the new parking lot will cut the number of available parking spots from 580 to 507. Commissioners Doris B. Holleb and Ald. Tom Tunney (44) were concerned the blueprint didn’t look like it could accommodate the number of cars listed in the proposal.

    Read Dunning Memorial Park - 38th Ward
    Commissioners approved the transfer of 7.5 acres of property to the Chicago Park District, at 4030 N. Oak Park Ave, for the construction of a new athletic field with accompanying bleachers, concessions, scoreboards, athletic field lighting, bathrooms and parking. According to the application (15-070-21), the proposed park site is “currently vacant, unimproved, and irregularly shaped.” The application also says the new park would fill a void in in the community. The closest, comparably sized athletic field is at Hanson Park, nearly 3 miles southeast. The state has already committed $3 million towards construction and the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved acquisition of the property at the January 12th, 2011 board meeting.

    Other Agenda Items
    Prior to discussing the five large-scale development items on the agenda, Commissioners unanimously approved items 1 through 16 filed under section C, items with the inter-agency planning referral act. This includes the sale of four city-owned plots for private use and development under the Adjacent Neighbors program, and the sale of six city-owned properties (a mix of vacant land and dilapidated or unhabitable buildings) for private use and development.

  • The Chicago Plan Commission meets this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. to discuss large-scale development plans to reconstruct a large parking lot in Lincoln Park, plans for a 30-unit residential building off the Southport Red Line stop, a new luxury boutique hotel in the West Loop, a new mixed-use building next to the old Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park, and a mixed commercial and residential building near Cabrini-Green.

    Lincoln Park Parking Lot - 46th Ward
    Developers seeking to reconstruct the parking lot in Lincoln Park at 500 W. Wilson Dr. plan to install underground stormwater storage and a landscaped infiltration system separate from the city’s sewer system. A new 507-spot parking lot will be built on top of the new irrigation system.

    Southport Red Line Residential Development - 44th Ward
    The planned development adjacent to the Southport Red Line stop (3401 N. Southport Ave) will take advantage of the City’s new Transit Oriented Development Ordinance, which minimizes onsite parking requirements for buildings constructed near public transportation. The applicant, Southport, LLC, plans to build a 4-story mixed-use rental building with 30 apartment units and retail at the base.

    Lincoln Center Development - 43rd Ward
    Baker Development Corporation is part of a group working to buy the Apollo Theater building and adjacent Lincoln Center condominium building in Lincoln Park (2518-2552 N. Lincoln Ave; 922-928 W. Altgeld St.). Baker eventually sold the theater, but retained the air rights so it could demolish the existing condos and build a ten-story mixed residential and commercial building. That building would have 200 apartment units anchored by 16,300 square feet of ground floor retail space. The original proposal was amended after the public review process to cut parking from 186 spaces to 138 spaces, reduce the facade from 240 ft. to 140 ft., and include 25 fewer residential units.

    Luxury Boutique Hotel West Loop - 27th Ward
    Architectural firm Booth Hansen designed the proposed 12-story Nobu Hotel and Restaurant on 848-56 W. Randolph St., commonly known as restaurant row. While the applicant on file is 848 W. Randolph, LLC, the Nobu Hospitality Group (which includes Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and actor Robert De Niro) is behind the plan to construct the commercial hotel. The group is planning on 83 hotel rooms, a 10,000 square foot restaurant, and off-site parking. Nobu Hospitality Group first released plans to build the hotel last year, and has since scaled down the project.

    Residential Towers near Cabrini-Green - 27th Ward (deferred at the April meeting)
    The Davis Group is behind a year-old plan to build a multi-story residential building on 460-76 W. Chicago Ave., a vacant lot south of the Cabrini-Green row homes. The building would have 200 residential units with commercial retail at the base. Since the land is part of Residential Business Planned Development No. 447, the applicant seeks to amend development requirements to build beyond zoned height limitations.

    Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plans

    Belmont/Central TIF - 30th, 31st, 36th, 38th Wards
    The City seeks to amend the Belmont/Central TIF Redevelopment Plan, which was originally approved in 1999 and was subsequently amended again in 1999, 2000 and 2011. The newest revision would extend the boundaries, provide a housing impact study, and update budget projections and costs. The original area consists of 81 city blocks and 446 buildings. The added area will bring 75 city blocks and 598 buildings into the fold. According to the report, minimal growth and a lack of private investment in the area will likely continue without a uniform plan to improve recreational space and remove blighted areas within the TIF boundaries. The redevelopment plan is expected to cost $95 million.

    Sanitary Drainage and Ship Canal TIF Redevelopment Project Area - 12th & 22nd Wards
    The project site is along an old industrial corridor at the site of the the former Campbell’s Soup Plant. It extends from Central Park Ave. to California Ave., running parallel to the Stevenson Expressway. The City first proposed the Redevelopment Project in 1991, following the decline in the manufacturing industry. The goal was (and continues to be) to clear older, obsolete structures, improve traffic, and incentivize private investment. The City authorized the use of TIF funds for the project so that it could serve as the “central force” for a “unified cooperative public-private development effort.” The proposal before the Plan Commission seeks to amend the original plan to extend the estimated completion date of the project, update the map to allow for mixed industrial and commercial uses, and add language regarding the use of eminent domain.

    Sale of City-Owned Land & Property
    The Plan Commission will also take up four requests to sell city-owned land under the Adjacent Neighbors Land Acquisition Program (ANLAP)which lets local homeowners buy vacant city-owned lots for under market value. Two of the vacant lots in question are in New City (20th Ward), one is in Humboldt Park (27th Ward) and one is in Roseland (34th Ward).

    Other sales of city-owned land not part of the ANLAP program include a townhouse in the 15th Ward built in 1912 and a condemned two-unit home built in 1909 in the 16th Ward.

  • When we sat down with Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7 President Dean Angelo to ask what Chicago is doing right on crime, he paused. It was the only time in our interview when he didn't have an answer ready. "I think Chicago is looking for opportunities, and I think they're looking for answers, and that's a step in the right direction." And Chicagoans are watching their police force's every step.

    Angelo has been the top union leader for just over a year, stepping up to the position mid-contract negotiation, pivoting to a pension agreement, and now helping his members manage a summer where the number of shootings in the city have already topped 1,000. In our "Chicago Influencers" interview with Angelo, he talks overtime ("Do we need more policemen? Yes. Will that lower overtime right away? I don't think so."), to Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy ("I can't fathom how it is down there on 35th every day.") to how the FOP's relationship with Mayor Rahm Emanuel has changed ("I think it could be worse,").

  • It was a fairly slow week for fundraising, with about two-dozen reported individual campaign contributions to aldermanic campaign committees and ward organizations.

    Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr. (27) disclosed receiving 11 contributions between July 8th-9th, including $1,000 from UFCW Local 881, a regional affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union that represents retail food and drugstore employees, health and nursing home workers, barbers, and cosmetologists.

    Most of Ald. Burnett’s contributions came from real estate developers, including Structured Development, LLC ($1,500), Walnut Street Properties ($1,500), and Chicago & Kedzie, LLC ($1,500), the owner of the Chicago Kedzie Plaza.

    Ald. Will Burns (4) reported receiving a $1,500 contribution from Lakefront Phase II, LLC, the developer behind the $51 million housing development of Lake Park Crescent in Kenwood. In 2012, the City Council approved a $5 million loan, $1.3 million in donation tax credits, $3.1 million in low-income housing tax credits and fee waivers for the construction of the multifamily rental housing units. Real estate developer McCaffery Interests also made a $1,000 contribution to Ald. Burns’ committee.

    The People’s Co-Op for Affordable Elderly Housing contributed $2,500 to Ald. Pat Dowell’s (3) candidate committee, Citizens for Pat Dowell. The Co-Op is part of the Bronzeville Family Apartments, an affordable multifamily housing complex the city helped finance in 2010 with $2.5 million in TIF funds and $2 million in multifamily loan funds.

    Ald. Michele Smith (43) disclosed a $1,500 contribution from Heneghan Wrecking Company, Inc., a family owned demolition firm that used to do business with the city (the last awarded contract is from 2012). Hubbard House Restaurant LLC, which owns the Hubbard Inn in downtown Chicago, also donated $2,500 to Ald. Smith.

    Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) reported a $1,500 contribution on July 11 from PNC PACa political action committee registered in Pittsburgh, PA for the PNC Financial Services Group.

    CSX Transportation, Inc., an international company that transports more than 2.5 million carloads of freight across the state’s railroads, donated $1,000 to the 19th Ward Democratic Organization. The company makes annual contributions to the far South Side ward’s political organization.

    Ald. Harry Osterman (48) transferred $3,500 into the 48th Ward Democrats and the Illinois Restaurateurs PAC transferred $1,500 to the 43rd Ward Democrats.
  • Citing stalled pension negotiations in Springfield and a lack of state funding for education, Chicago Public Schools released reduced individual school budgets to principals and warned of additional cuts when the full budget is released later this summer if the impasse continues.

    CPS allocated $3.647 billion to schools across the city, with 416 of those schools receiving $99.5 million less money compared to last year. 238 schools will receive an additional $68.5 million dollars in funding. This includes supplemental funds, Title 1 funds, Supplemental General State Aid (SGSA) and program dollars.

    Here is a downloadable school-by-school spreadsheet detailing the cuts provided by CPS.

    Since the city funds schools on a per-pupil basis and the rate is the same as last year, budget reductions are due to demographic and enrollment shifts, says CPS interim CEO Jesse Ruiz. CPS allocates $4,697 per student enrolled in kindergarten through 3rd grade, $4,390 per student enrolled in 4th through 8th grade, and $5,444 per student in 9th through 12th grade.

    The preliminary numbers released yesterday include the recently announced $200 million in cuts. The numbers are based on the assumption CPS will receive $500 million in pension relief from Springfield before the end of the summer. Inaction on pensions could ultimately impact class sizes, says Ruiz.

    CPS says it was able to mitigate some of the cuts thanks to a waiver from the federal government that provided CPS with more flexibility in how it doles out Title 1 funds, which must be set aside for specific services. The federal waiver removed that requirement and says CPS doesn’t need to dedicate the federal aid to specific services and can instead dole out the money to the school through the per-pupil funding allocation.

    Charter schools projected an uptick in enrollment–2,695 more students compared to last year–which allowed these school to pick up an additional $23.42 million dollars in additional funding. District-run schools projected a loss of nearly 4,000 students and saw $59.632 million dollars cut from their budgets.

    But charters and contract schools will only get a fraction of their first quarter payment because there isn’t enough money to make the full payment, says CPS Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro.

    Citing costs, CPS says it can no longer let schools that over-projected enrollment numbers keep the extra money after the final enrollment day, a process known as “hold harmless.” While this could lead to additional cuts, Ruiz maintains that schools have gotten a lot better at projecting enrollment numbers and CPS is “confident there won’t be huge shifts in enrollment numbers.” He says CPS has $8 million set aside to make up for any changes.

    Principals across the city’s 13 regional school groups will now have to decide how to allocate the money and submit their proposed budgets to local school councils.

  • In advance of Chicago Public School principals receiving their school budgets today, the Council Education Committee held a lengthy three-hour hearing on Friday to discuss why Chicago Public Schools is in its current financial dilemma and to urge Chicago legislators to push through bigger state appropriations for CPS.

    Committee Members Present: Chairman Will Burns (4), Vice Chair Michele Smith (43), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Danny Solis (25), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Nick Sposato (38), Ald. Pat O’Connor (40), Ald. Harry Osterman (48), Ald. Joe Moore (49).

    Others Attending: Ald. Milly Santiago (31), Acting CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz, CPS CFO Ginger Ostro, Executive Director of Advance Illinois Robin Steans, State Sen. Andy Manar, State Rep. Christian Mitchell, State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Chicago Teacher’s Union Political Director Stacy Davis Gates.

    State lawmakers, Chicago Public School officials, education advocates, representatives from the Chicago Teachers Union, and aldermen convened Friday morning in the Council Chambers to hear testimony on the state of state education funding and how CPS is likely to be impacted this upcoming school year.

    The lengthy hearing hosted by the City Council’s Committee on Education, chaired by Ald. Will Burns (4), was partially an attempt to debrief aldermen on the financial issues facing CPS and partially a call for aldermen to help state legislators lobby for a bill, Senate Bill 1, that would amend a decades old state formula used to allocate public school funding across the state.

    Illinois’ current funding formula is outdated and inequitable, according to the testimony from Robin Steans, the executive director of Advance Illinois, and the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

    Illinois only provides an average of 25% of operating expenses  to local school districts, compared to the national average of 50%, says Steans. SB1, or The School Funding Reform Act of 2015, is an updated version of last year’s Senate Bill 16, a proposal to replace the Illinois General State Aid Formula. It was designed to change the funding formula to benefit districts with lower income and higher need students. While it passed in the Senate, it never made it to the House for a vote because of concerns that it created winners and losers. SB1 amended the language of SB16 to address those concerns with the primary goal to create a single, need-based funding formula that prioritizes districts that have a higher concentration of students from poverty, English as a second language, and children with disabilities.

    “It’s time for use to put an end to the current formula and put in place a new formula that recognizes the needs that we have in the state today,” State Sen. Manar told members of the City Council’s Education Committee, noting that CPS would benefit from additional aid under the revision.

    State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) echoed the sentiments of those who testified before him that “equal and adequate money is the civil rights issue of our time” and assured aldermen that they have the votes to get the bill through Springfield. Rep. Mitchell added that the CPS’ current financial crisis coupled with a governor who has promised to “fully fund education” puts state lawmakers in a position to create a “political coalition to get this done.”

    “I think Chicago Public Schools made some difficult choices and there are more to be made,” State Rep. Mitchell warned. “If we don’t have a sustainable education funding solution, it gets worse and worse for Chicago every year.”

    When it came time for Acting CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz and CPS CFO Ginger Ostro to testify before the committee, they concurred with the state lawmakers saying state underfunding is what put Chicago public schools in their current financial mess.

    CPS is expected to receive $56 million dollars less in state funding this year compared to last year, Ruiz noted. Since 2011, CPS has cut $740 million dollars in spending, mainly from administration and operations, to make up for the funding gap, Ruiz added, noting the most recent plan he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled last week to make additional cuts to address the $1.1 billion dollar funding gap CPS faces when school resumes in the fall.

    “The one place left to make real cuts is the classroom,” he warned. “We cannot deliver on our promise of a high quality education if we are asked to compensate for the state’s embarrassingly low funding level for education.”

    CFO Ostro then piled on the data. Chicago has double the number of low income students than any other district in the state and four times the number of english language learners, Ostro said. She added that for the past four years, CPS has had to use reserves to make up for the lack of revenue coming in from the state.

    Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) questioned whether CPS was doing all it could to lobby for better funding in Springfield. Ruiz said it was, but Ald. O’Connor was unsatisfied with the answer and asked Ruiz three times why CPS was having such a difficult time getting “sympathetic” legislation through both houses. “What legislators do you work with? Do you have a team of people to push our stuff?” Ald. O’Connor pressed for specifics. “You are in a better position to push this out than an alderman does.”

    O’Connor wasn’t the only alderman in the chambers to pepper Ruiz and Ostro with accusatory questions about CPS funding, especially as it relates to per pupil funding and how local schools will be impacted this fall.

    Ostro said she couldn’t give specific numbers because the budgets hadn’t even been given to the principles yet.

    Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Curry (D-Chicago) then told aldermen that if Chicago wanted more money for schools, they shouldn’t wait on Springfield to address a problem it could take care of on its own. She pointed to the fact that several downstate districts have increased property taxes through referendum.

    Chicago Teacher’s Union Political Director Stacy Davis Gates liked that idea, noting that teachers and administrators are tired of cuts, tired of layoffs and tired of not having enough resources in the classroom. “It’s a revenue issue,” Gates said.

  • The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved a preliminary recommendation to designate Marina City an official landmark.

    Board Members Present: Chairman Rafael Leon, Ernest Wong, James Houlihan, Tony Hu, Andrew Mooney, Commissioner of Planning and Development

    Others Present:
    Matt Crawford, Architectural Historian for City of Chicago
    Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois
    Adam Natenshon, Preservation Chicago
    Eleanor Gorski, Director of Historic Preservation for the Department of Planning & Development
    Gabriel Dziekiewicz, board nominee
    Carmen Rossi, board nominee

    Commissioners gave the okay after hearing details about the structure's historical significance from a 54-page report commissioned by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The two 60-story cylindrical towers, adjacent theater, office building (now a hotel) and commercial base that comprise Marina City on the north bank of the Chicago River, meet five of the seven criteria needed for landmark designation, according to Matt Crawford, the city’s architectural historian.

    (Brief summary of the criteria from the report)

    • Criteria 1 – Value as an Example of City, State or National Heritage: Marina City is “an icon of Chicago urban planning” and it was built at a time when no one wanted to live in downtown Chicago. It was also one of the first residential buildings in the city to house middle-income singles or childless married couples, a point that Chairman Rafael Leon called “groundbreaking”.

    • Criteria 4 – Exemplary Architecture: The Expressionist Style residential structures were the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.

    • Criteria 5 – Work of Significant Architect or Designer: Marina City was Bertrand Goldberg’ first large-scale commission and it made him internationally famous.

    • Criteria 6 – Distinctive Theme as a District:  “Marina City was a bold response to the threat of suburbanization and disinvestment in Chicago’s downtown in the decades after World War I.

    • Criteria 7 – Unique Visual Feature: Location on the riverfront and the “distinctive shape and rhythmic pattern of curved concrete balconies” make it a Chicago icon.

    Yesterday’s approval was just the beginning of a lengthy process that must occur before the the riverfront towers get historical designation.

    The Department of Planning and Development now has 90 days to commission and submit another report to determine if landmark status meets the city’s plans and goals for the area. If the City’s landmarks commission approves that report, DPD will start sending consent letters to all property owners who would be affected by designation. Owners will then have to return consent forms to the city within 45 days, a timeline that can be extended by request through the local Ald. Brendan Reilly (42).

    Since Marina City is comprised of five structures–two 60-story residential towers, a theater, an office tower, and a 4-story commercial base–it is unlikely that there will be unanimous support for historic designation and public hearings will have to be held, says Eleanor Gorski, the Director of Historic Preservation for the Department of Planning and Development.

    Gorski anticipates that a final recommendation for landmark status will be introduced at the beginning of next year.

    After the discussion of the Marina City Designation, the Commission approved to schedule a public hearing on a permit application to modify a residential home in Wicker Park. They also approved all projects the Permit Review Committee reviewed and approved at their June 4th meeting.

    Chairman Rafael Leon then thanked Commissioner Mooney for his time served with DPD (he is retiring) and announced that Tony Hu and Anita Blanchardresigned from the Committee. Their replacements await City Council approval.

  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced appointments to more than a dozen boards and commissions on Tuesday. Here is a breakdown of those appointments, starting with nominations that will require City Council approval.

    Appointments Requiring City Council Approval

    Nominated to Police Board

    Purpose: To oversee various matters of the Chicago Police Department, including: deciding disciplinary cases involving police officers and other department members and nominating candidates for Superintendent of Police.

    The board has nine members. Positions for two members, Melissa Ballate and Rita Fry, expire next month. Mayor Rahm Emanuel will replace them with John Simpson and Claudia Valenzuela. William Conlon will be re-appointed.

    • John Simpson is a partner at Broadhaven Capital Partners with over 30 years of experience as a head investment banker and financial services executive, according to his company bio. Before joining Broadhaven, he was Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Canyon Partners and a former Vice Chairman of Wasserstein Perella & Co. He donated $52,800 to Chicago for Rahm Emanuel and $25,000 to Chicago Forward this past election cycle.

    • Claudia Valenzuela is an Associate Director of Litigation at the Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center, an organization that provides legal services to immigrants. She represents non-citizens facing deportation before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and in federal court.

    • William Conlon (re-appointment) is a partner at Sidley Austin LLP.

    Nominated to Chicago Plan Commission

    Purpose: The Chicago Plan Commission isresponsible for the review of proposals that involve Planned Developments (PDs), the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs), Industrial Corridors and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts. It also reviews proposed sales and acquisitions of public land as well as certain long-range community plans.

    The board has 22 members, 9 members are Mayoral appointees and the other 13 are ex officio members, like aldermen.

    • Laura Flores is the lead project architect for Epstein, a global design and construction company that designed the $300 million Medical District Gateway Project near Damen & Ogden. Flores worked on projects in Mexico. [LinkedIn]

    • Sarah Lyons is a research analyst for UNITE HERE Local 1, a labor organization that represents garment and textile workers across the country. She is a former board member of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals.  [LinkedIn]

    • Doris Holleb (re-appointment) is a professor of Geographical Studies at the University of Chicago .

    Nominated to Zoning Board of Appeals

    Purpose: To hear appeals of decisions by the Zoning Administrator.

    Members: The is made up of 5 members appointed by the Mayor. Blake Sercye is the only new appointment.

    • Blake Sercye, is a litigator for corporate law firm Jenner & Block and also has a pro-bono practice in Austin that focuses on fair housing, prisoner rights and criminal defense.  Sercye was unsuccessful in his bid for the Cook County Board of Commissioners last year, even after getting endorsements from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He served on the Illinois Medical District Commission and Chicago’s Community Development Commission.

    • Sol Flores (re-appointment) is the executive director for La Casa Norte, a nonprofit in Humboldt Park that serves homeless youths and families.

    • Jonathan Swain (re-appointment) is the Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman and president of Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, a liquor store in Hyde Park.


    Nominated to Commission on Chicago Landmarks

    Purpose: To recommend to the City Council that individual buildings, sites, objects, or entire districts be designated as Chicago landmarks; and to review proposals for the alteration, demolition, or new construction affecting individual landmarks or properties in landmark districts as part of the permit review process.

    Members: The board has nine seats, eight are appointed by the mayor and one seat in an Ex-Officio. Mayor Emanuel has recommended two new members to the board.

    • Gabriel Ignacio Dziekiewicz is the president and principal of design for DesignBridge, an architecture, interior design and graphic design firm. Prior to joining DesignBridge, Gabriel worked for two Chicago architectural firms, Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Destefano+Partners, Ltd., where he worked on the design for One South Dearborn, the downtown office tower where law firm Sidley Austin, LLP is stationed.

    • Juan Moreno is the president and founder of JGMA (Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects), a self-described progressive architecture and design firm founded in 2010 and based in Chicago. Moreno was born in Bogota, Columbia and studied architecture at California State Polytechnic University Pomona. He has won several awards for his designs.

    • Carmen Rossi is a commercial lawyer and restaurateur. He owns the Hubbard Inn in River North and Barn & Co. in Lincoln Park.

    • James Houlihan (re-appointment) The former Cook County Assessor, he also is the senior advisor/president of Houlihan Consulting. He previously served in the state legislature and in the Harold Washington administration.

    • Rafael Leon (re-appointment) is currently Board Chairman and executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation.

    • Mary Ann Smith (re-appointment) is a former 48th Ward Alderman, who retired her seat in 2011.

    • Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver (re-appointment) is a rector at St Edmund's Episcopal Church.

    • Ernest Wong (re-appointment) is a founder and principal at Site Design Group, Ltd.


    Nominated to Community Development Commission

    Purpose: To review and recommend action to the City Council on the establishment of new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, Redevelopment Area designations, and appointment of members to Community Conservation Councils. In addition, to review and recommend action on the sale of city-owned property located in TIF districts or redevelopment areas, and the provision of TIF financing to assist private redevelopment projects.

    Members: The Board is made up of 15 mayoral appointees. Mayor Emanuel plans to replace four board members with the following appointments.

    • Gwendolyn Butler is vice chairwoman and chief marketing officer for Capri Investment Group, LLC, a global real estate investment manager. She specializes in raising capital for the firm’s global investments. Prior to Capri, Butler worked for UBS Global Asset Management, Bear Stearns, and SEI. She is the former Chair of the national Association of Securities Professionals and a past President of the Board of Directors of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. [LinkedIn]

    • Cornelius Griggs, Managing Partner, GMA of Illinois

    • Celena Roldan Moreno is the wife of Ald. Joe Moreno (1) and the executive director of Erie Neighborhood House, a social services agency. She has held previous positions in the Emanuel Administration, including a spot on the Mayor’s Education Transition team and the Mayor’s Early Childhood Task Force. [LinkedIn]

    • Philip Alphonse is a partner for the The Vistria Group, a private equity firm focused on education, healthcare, and financial services. The Vistria Group was founded by Marty Nesbitt, who also founded the airport parking company The Parking Spot with U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Alphonse also worked at private equity firm Sterling partners for ten years. [LinkedIn]

    Nominated to Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund Board of Directors

    Purpose: To supervise the business of the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, a non-profit organization established to provide Chicago's low-income residents with secure, safe, sound and affordable housing.

    Members: The Board is made up of 15 mayoral appointees.  Mayor Emanuel requests four new members and the re-appointment of six current members.

    New appointments to the board:

    • La Toya Dixon is an attorney advisor for the Social Security Administration.

    • Elise Doody-Jones is a community organizer, volunteer manager and small business owner. She is the former treasurer of First Ward First, the independent Democratic political organization Ald. Joe Moreno (1) founded in 2011. She also made an attempt to unseat Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) in the most recent municipal election.

    • Bishop Horace Smith is a pastor at the Apostolic Faith Church on Chicago’s South Side and a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.

    • Jennifer Welch is the first deputy commissioner for the Department of Family and Support Services.

    Reappointments to the board:

    • Levoi Brown, Managing Director, BMO Harris Bank (re-appointment)

    • Malcolm Bush, Affiliated Scholar / Chapin Hall, University of Chicago (re-appointment)

    • Sol Flores, Executive Director, La Casa Norte (re-appointment)

    • Rev. Wayne Gordon, Lawndale Community Church (re-appointment)

    • Thomas McNulty (President), Partner, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP (re-appointment)

    • Kristin Nance, Director, Lewis University Stahl Center for Entrepreneurship (re-appointment)

    Nominated to Chicago Community Land Trust Board of Directors

    Purpose: To govern the Chicago Community Land Trust.

    Members: The Board can have up to 17 Mayoral appointees. Mayor Emanuel has only requested one new member, Michelle Morales.

    • Michelle Morales is an associate director for the Alternative Schools Network (ASN), a nonprofit that oversees a network of community schools for high school dropouts. [LinkedIn]

    Reappointments to the board:

    • Patricia Abrams, Executive Director, The Renaissance Collaborative, Inc. (re-appointment)

    • Joel Bookman, President, Bookman Associates Incorporated (re-appointment)

    • Timothy Hughes, Real Estate and Facilities Director, ComEd (re-appointment)

    • Edward Jacob, Formerly Executive Director, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (re-appointment)

    • Guacolda Reyes, Vice President, The Resurrection Project (re-appointment)

    • William Towns, Assistant Vice President, Neighborhood Initiatives, University of Chicago (re-appointment)

    • Marva Williams, Economic Development Director, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (re-appointment)

    • Jeffrey Wright, Business Banker, Urban Partnership Bank (re-appointment)

    • Eva Brown, Vice President, Government and Community Relations, U.S. Bank (re-appointment)

    Nominated to Board of Ethics

    Purpose: To administer and enforce the City of Chicago Governmental Ethics and Campaign Financing Ordinances.

    Members: The Board can have up to 7 members, all appointed by the Mayor. There are currently two vacancies on the board. Zaid Abdul-Aleem and Juan Calderon would fill those seats.

    • Zaid Abdul-Aleem is a managing director at investment banking firm Moelis & Co. He has also worked for Greenhill & Co., Piedmont Investment Advisors, and Morgan Stanley. He is a former Duke University football player and Fulbright Scholar.

    • Juan Calderon, is the Chief Operating Officer for the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Humboldt Park. [LinkedIn]

    • Rev. Dr. Mary Carr (re-appointment) is a senior pastor at the Christian Heritage Training Center.


    Nominated to Human Resources Board

    Purpose: To conduct hearings in instances of alleged misconduct by career service employees; and to preside over appeal hearings brought about by disciplinary action taken against employees by individual city departments.

    Members: The Board is made up of 3 Mayor-appointed members. Karen Coppa would likely replace one of them.

    • Karen Coppa is a lawyer and former Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. Coppa also works as a principal for Clearbrook Consulting, LLC [LinkedIn]


    Appointments That Do Not Need City Council Approval

    Appointed to Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Board of Directors

    Purpose: To integrate the planning of transportation and land use in the seven counties of northeastern Illinois.

    Members: The Board is made up of 16 members, 5 of them are mayoral appointees. Mayor Emanuel has appointed one new member, Peter Skosey.

    • Peter Skosey is an executive vice president for the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC). He started his career at MPC as an urban development director in 1996. During his tenure at the nonprofit, he helped rewrite the Illinois Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Act in 1999, overhaul Chicago’s zoning ordinance in 2004, and passage of the Illinois’ Public pRIVATE partnerships for Transportation Act in 2011. He was also on the Mayor’s Transportation and Infrastructure Transition Committee and co-chairs the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee. [LinkedIn]

    • Lisa Laws (re-appointment) is the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the City of Chicago.

    • Andrew Madigan (re-appointment) is son of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and the senior managing director for Mesirow Financial, an insurance company.


    Appointed to Illinois Medical District Commission

    Purpose: To develop and manage the Illinois Medical District on the West Side.

    Members: Seven member board. Four Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, two by the Mayor and one by the Cook County Board President. Mayor Emanuel has made two new appointments.

    • Alejandra Garza is president of AGG Consulting, a marketing firm. She is also the former director of Marketing and Business Development for UnitedHealthcare, Inc., and co-founded a company that makes bilingual videos about health care. [LinkedIn]

    • Everett Rand owns Midway Airport Concessions (MAC). His twin brother, Tim Rand, is the president and CEO of the company, which owns most of the food concessions at Midway. The Rands also founded the Chicago Football Classic, a nonprofit that provides athletic scholarship to Chicagoans that attend all black colleges.


    Other Appointments

    Re-appointed to Illinois Sports Facilities Authority Board of Directors

    • Richard Price, Chairman and CEO, Mesirow Financial

    • James Reynolds, Chairman and CEO, Loop Capital Markets

    Re-appointed to North River Expanded Mental Health Services Commission

    • Joan Liautaud, Senior Director of Clinical Operations, Heartland Health Outreach

    • Roger McGill, Staff Assistant, Vietnam Veterans of America Service Office

    Designated as Chair of the Advisory Council on Veterans

    • Victor Lagroon, Manager of Engagement and Strategic Partners, University of Illinois, Hospital and Health Sciences System

    Re-appointed to Illinois International Port District Board

    • Terrence Fitzmaurice, Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer of Painters’ District Council #14

     Re-appointed to NeighborSpace Board of Directors

    • Michelle Boone, Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

    • Ald. Walter Burnett (27)

    Re-appointed to Board of Examiners of Crane Operators

    • John Ahlgrim, Business Representative, I.U.O.E. Local 150

    • John Ricker, Safety Coordinator, I.U.O.E. Local 150

    • Thomas Rottman, Jr., Business Agent, I.U.O.E. Local 150

    Re-appointed to Board of Examiners of Mason Contractors

    • Henry M. Leahy, Owner, Four Province Masonry

    • Luciano Padilla, Jr., Union Representative, IL District Council One of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers

    Re-appointed to Board of Examiners of Plumbing Contractors

    • James Majerowicz, Instructor of Plumbing, Plumbers' Local 130 U.A.

    • John Rottman, Deacon, St. Thecla School

    Re-appointed as a Member of the Board of Examiners of Stationary Engineers

    • Bill Iacullo, President, I.U.O.E. Local 143

    • William Masterson, Business Agent, I.U.O.E.  Local 399

    • Jacob Preciado, Construction Manager, Archdiocese of Chicago

  • The Council Committee that oversees the city’s new independent budget office–commonly referred to as “COFA”–met yesterday afternoon to appoint a Vice Chair, Ald. Ed Burke (14), and officially approve the appointment of Ben Winick to lead the office. The meeting took close to an hour, and more than half of it was closed to the public in executive session, at Ald. Burke’s request.

    Members Present: Chairman Carrie Austin (34), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Ed Burke (14), Ald. Ameya Pawar (47), Joseph Pijanowski*

    Others Present: Ald. Michele Smith (43), Ald. John Arena (45), Ben Winick

    *Pijanowski, with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 126A, is the labor representative on the committee.

    Ald. Burke replaces Carole Brown, who forfeited her committee spot when Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her as the city’s new Chief Financial Officer. At the meeting, Burke jokingly asked Chairman Austin if being Vice Chair means that he gets an additional appropriation. She said no, and Ald. Pat Dowell chimed in to say, “only if you share”.

    Shortly after the committee approved the first item on the agenda by voice vote, Ald. Burke moved to, “evolve into a closed door executive session,” to discuss the second item on the agenda, the appointment of Ben Winick as Financial Analyst for COFA. Chairman Austin approved the order and committee members walked out and convened a private meeting in a neighboring room for approximately 30 minutes. When they returned, Ald. Burke moved to appoint Winick to a four year term. The committee approved the motion by voice vote and Chairman Austin adjourned the meeting.

    Winick was present, but he did not testify before the committee and declined to speak to reporters after the committee approved his appointment.

    Chairman Austin will recommend Winick’s appointment to the full Council later this month.