Kenwood pedway

A rendering of the planned pedway at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.

Alds. Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) voted with all their colleagues on April 21 to approve a $7.5 million pedway connecting Kenwood Academy with the former Canter Middle School building and a $1.7 million heating and cooling system.

King had announced she had secured the tax-increment financing, or TIF, for the project at a Kenwood Local School Council meeting in February, saying, "If you've got a great school, people want to live around it, be around it. It's great for kids. There's nothing better, to me, that stimulates the economy better than a great school.”

At council, the three also joined with other aldermen to allow Chicagoans to operate home businesses out of 25% or 300 square feet of their floor area (whichever is bigger, including coach houses), sell products on shelves or racks and receive bulk deliveries during business hours.

Aldermen also unanimously banned the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits at pet stores, and they mandated that employers give their workers time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Employers cannot take any adverse action against workers who take time off to get vaccinated. They cannot require workers to get vaccinated off-the-clock, and workers can use sick leave to receive the vaccine if workers want to use it. Those who don’t can get multi-thousand-dollar fines.

There was division among the local members regarding a revision to the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), which passed 42-8.

The old one, passed in 2015, applies to residential developments with 10 or more units that require a zoning change, involve city-owned land, or receive financial assistance from the city, and requires developers to provide 10% of those units at affordable prices or pay fees that the Department of Housing uses for affordable housing across the city.

The ARO that passed, however, increases the set-aside downtown and in neighborhoods with low levels of affordable housing — including Hyde Park and Kenwood — and in neighborhoods facing displacement of low-income residents, including Woodlawn, to 20%.

Developers may also opt out of only 50% of units by paying fees instead of 75%, as they previously could. In addition, the new law increases the proportion of affordable units that must be built, from 25% to 50% of the set-side. It also mandates and incentivizes developers to create more family-sized affordable units, and it allows off-site units to be built in any part of the city lacking in affordable housing.

Ald. Hairston called the ARO “the right thing to do” and “a big step for this city in the right direction,” adding, “Groups worked very hard to get this done.” Ald. Taylor, however, noted that some community groups that helped draft the revised ordinance did not support the end result and, as she put it, “feel like they were used.”

As reported by WTTW, the previous ARO only created 1,049 homes in 13 years while the city has a 120,000-home affordable housing gap, and only around 50 of those units had three or more bedrooms.

"It's not perfect, but it's definitely a strong step in the right direction. Affordable housing is the responsibility of the entire city, not just a few segregated areas," Ald. King said during the meeting. "As I always say, we have to be strategic about our equity, because it didn't just happen by happenstance."

The three also joined the first Chicago City Council meeting to meet in City Council in more than a year remotely, as a number of aldermen had to do so to ensure social distancing in the chamber.

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