July 26, 2022

By Liz Butler

On July 20, 2022, the Chicago City Council adopted the Equitable Transit Oriented Development Ordinance (“ETOD Ordinance”), amending the Chicago Zoning Ordinance to significantly expand the transit-served location provisions of the City’s code. Below is a summary of some of the notable changes of this new legislation (Ordinance 2022-2000), which is now in effect.

Expansion of Geographic Areas that Qualify as Transit-Served Locations

Under the prior iteration of the City’s transit-served location ordinance (“TSL Ordinance”), properties located within 1,320 linear feet from the entrance of a CTA or Metra station, or a qualifying CTA bus line segment, were eligible for transit-served location development incentives. For properties located on designated Pedestrian Streets, however, the qualifying proximity distance was 2,640 linear feet.

The ETOD Ordinance doubles the proximity range for TSL eligibility from 1,320 feet to 2,640 feet from the entrance or exit of CTA and Metra stations. While the qualifying proximity to CTA bus routes remains at 1,320 feet, the list of qualifying bus routes for purposes of TSL eligibility has more than tripled to now include all high frequency bus routes.

Finally, the ETOD Ordinance expands TSL eligibility for off-street parking reductions to now include properties that are zoned as part of the RM-5, RM-5.5, and PMD (Subarea B) Districts. Previously, only the B, C, D, M, RM-6, and RM-6.5 Districts were eligible.

TSL Incentives Now Tied to On-site Affordable Housing

The TSL Ordinance allowed projects in transit-served locations and within the B-, C-, or Downtown dash 3 districts to achieve greater residential density by reducing the minimum lot area (MLA) per dwelling unit from 400 square feet to 300 square feet for dwelling units and 300 square feet to 200 square feet for efficiency units. Under the ETOD Ordinance, a project may only enjoy the same MLA reduction if 100 percent of affordable units required under the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (“ARO”) are provided on-site. If only 50 percent of ARO units are provided on-site, the MLA will now only be reduced from 400 square feet to 350 square feet for dwelling units and 300 square feet to 250 square feet for efficiency units.

Similarly, the TSL Ordinance allowed projects in transit-served locations and within the B-, C-, or Downtown dash 3 districts to achieve a higher floor area ratio (FAR) than otherwise permitted by the dash 3 zoning. Under the prior rules, projects in transit-served locations were eligible to increase the project FAR from the maximum permitted in the -3 districts of 3.0 FAR to 3.5 FAR. Projects that provided 50 percent of required ARO units on-site were permitted to increase the maximum FAR by an additional 0.25 to 3.75 FAR. The new ETOD Ordinance authorizes an increase in FAR for these projects only when a minimum of 50 percent of required ARO units are provided on-site. Projects that provide 100 percent of affordable units on-site may still achieve up to a 4.0 FAR.

Finally, under the ETOD Ordinance, projects in transit-served locations that provide 50 percent or more of the residential dwelling units as assisted living or affordable units (as defined by the ARO or as otherwise restricted pursuant to a recorded covenant, regulatory agreement or deed restriction as income restricted to households earning no more than 80 percent of the area median income) may reduce minimum off-street automobile parking ratios by up to 100 percent for the entire building, as of right.

Specific Design Criteria for Transit-Served Locations

The prior TSL Ordinance required projects that received TSL incentives, such as parking reductions, floor area bonuses, height increases, or residential density bonuses, to comply with pedestrian-oriented urban design standards for Pedestrian Streets.  Pedestrian Street design standards dictate the building location, quantity and location of transparency on building facades, location of doors and building entrances, location of vehicular access/curb cuts, and quantity and location of parking.

Under the new ETOD Ordinance, regardless of whether a zoning change is sought, new construction in B-, C-, or Downtown zoning districts within 2,640 feet of a CTA or Metra rail station entrance are required to comply with the following specific criteria for transit-served locations:

  1. Parking Maximum: Residential projects are subject to a parking maximum equal to 50 percent of the required parking minimum for the applicable district and use, with any fractional result rounded up to the next higher whole number (unless additional parking spaces are approved as an administrative adjustment).
  2. Bicycle Parking Requirement: Residential projects must contain at least one bicycle parking space per dwelling unit, and non-residential projects must contain at least one bicycle parking space for each automobile parking space required.
  3. Pedestrian Oriented/Transit Friendly Design: Projects must comply with the design standards for projects located on Pedestrian Streets even if the project is not located on Pedestrian Street and must comply with the general goals set forth in the current Transit Friendly Development Guide: Station Area Typology, and any other station-specific plans, designs or guidelines adopted by the Chicago Plan Commission.
  4. Travel Demand Management: All projects must comply with the Travel Demand Study and Management Plan rules of the Chicago Department of Transportation. The City’s Commissioner of Transportation is authorized to issue Travel Demand Study and management Plan rules consistent with the new ordinance.

Design professionals and developers are well advised to familiarize themselves with the new design requirements given the broad applicability of these requirements to rezonings and as-of-right projects in transit-served locations.

Review and Approval Procedures

Prior to the adoption of the ETOD Ordinance, the City’s Zoning Ordinance provided that if the City Council did not act on a proposed zoning map amendment within six months after the date the application was filed, the application would be deemed denied.

The ETOD Ordinance creates a path forward for stalled projects that contain significant quantities of affordable units on-site. An application for approval of a planned development or Type 1 zoning map amendment for a project containing all required affordable units on-site and located in an “inclusionary housing area” will now be classified as an “Inclusionary Application” and will be entitled to receive special procedural treatment. For example, if the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards (“Committee”) fails to vote on an inclusionary application within 300 days after the date the application is filed (or 300 days after the date the Plan Commission recommendation is forwarded to the Committee, in the case of a planned development), then the applicant may submit a written notification to the Chairman of the Committee requesting the Committee to act on the application. If the Committee fails to vote within 60 days after receipt of the written notice, the Committee is required to report on the application to the full City Council with a “do pass” recommendation.

Change to Floor Area Calculation Methodology and Other Revisions

The ETOD Ordinance changes the way building floor area is calculated. Under the new provisions. The floor area of stairway and elevator enclosures and elevator equipment penthouses are not counted as floor area.

Significantly, the ETOD Ordinance attempts to stymie residential deconversions to single-family homes in areas zoned for multi-family residential, creates a mechanism to “swap” parking spaces for affordable housing, and significantly enhances design standards for accessible parking and loading.

The ETOD Ordinance is effective immediately. Projects will be required to comply with new procedural and substantive requirements of the ETOD Ordinance prior to issuance of building permits.

With questions or for more insight on the new regulations and requirements, please contact Liz Butler at liz.butler@elrodfriedman.com or any Elrod Friedman LLP attorney.