Testimony to the Chicago Zoning Committee on Module 4 of the Zoning Rewrite Process - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Testimony to the Chicago Zoning Committee on Module 4 of the Zoning Rewrite Process

The Chicago Zoning Committee held a public hearing on September 25, 2003 regarding Module 4 of the zoning rewrite process, which covers parking, landscaping, and signage. MPC advocated eliminating high-rise building rooftop signs as a special use, allowi

The Metropolitan Planning Council thanks Chairman Banks and the members of the City Council Committee on Zoning for the opportunity to comment on Module 4 of the new zoning code. This module covers essential on-site improvements in the code including parking, landscaping, and signage. MPC congratulates the Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission on its thorough attention to the details of this section, and supports most of the recommendations — with only one major suggestion.


  • MPC concurs with the rationale that guided the Commission’s recommendations regarding residential parking requirements. Simply put, where additional parking would not interfere with on-site open space, the ratio of parking spaces per unit has been increased, and where additional spaces would encroach on rear yards or other open space, the ratio has been maintained at the current 1:1. This recommendation is consistent with MPC’s own research in four neighborhoods around the city that reached the same conclusion.[1]
  • MPC also supports the simplification of shared and cooperative parking by allowing the zoning administrator to grant adjustments in the required amount of parking. This too was confirmed by MPC’s aforementioned research. Had this provision been in place prior, we may have seen parking at such retail hotbeds such as the North and Clybourn avenue intersections combined in a more efficient manner.
  • Finally, MPC is pleased that the zoning code will now address bicycles, a long ignored form of transportation. By requiring minimum bicycle parking, the code will encourage the use of this healthy transportation alternative that benefits the user with exercise and the public at large with reduced traffic congestion and carbon monoxide emissions.


  • There is no doubt the greening of Chicago has had a significant impact on quality of life for all residents. We continue to support landscaping requirements as an integral part of the zoning code. We further applaud the Commission for recommending additional standards that expressly cover landscaping for gas stations and car washes.


  • MPC strongly supports the reduction in maximum square footage allowed for signage. The reduction from 24 square feet per linear foot of frontage to three to five feet depending on the district is a great improvement to the urban design of Chicago’s communities. The Commission has clearly shown that these standards allow more than adequate signage to identify a range of commercial and business uses.
  • MPC recommends eliminating high-rise building rooftop signs as a special use, allowing them only for hospitals and hotels. MPC has long argued against the placement of rooftop signs in the central area. This type of signage is not necessary for way-finding, and has the potential to substantially detract from the majestic skyline that is Chicago’s signature. MPC recommends that the maximum height of a wall mounted sign be equivalent to the height standards proposed for free standing signs, beginning at 24 feet and increasing to 50 feet depending on width of right-of-way. This would more than accommodate way-finding needs for building owners who believe they require them.

MPC commends the Commission for its innovative and hard work on the new ordinance and looks forward to subsequent opportunities to comment. 

Thank you.

[1] Metropolitan Planning Council, Zoning Recommendations from Chicago Neighborhoods, December 2001.


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