Mayor Johnson pressed to appoint zoning board commissioner

Follows rejection of proposal to convert building into housing for homeless

Chicago Mayor Pressed to Appoint Zoning Board Commissioner

A photo illustration of Mayor of Chicago Brandon Johnson (Getty)

Chicago officials are urging Mayor Brandon Johnson to appoint a commissioner of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The call to action follows a rejected proposal to convert apartments in a residential/retail building at 1140 West Wilson Avenue into a men’s homeless shelter with 40 efficiency units, Crain’s reported

Despite significant support from local Alderwoman Angela Clay, the Johnson administration and influential zoning attorney Rich Klawiter, the Zoning Board of Appeals denied the application in a 2-2 vote. Three votes are needed to win a case before the board, regardless of whether it has four or five members.

The rejection came after hours of testimony and deliberation in a crowded boardroom at City Hall. Opponents of the shelter, including businesses sharing the building and nearby residents, testified against it.

The outcome of the vote could have been different if there was another member, though. The board, responsible for settling zoning disputes and granting special-use permits for various businesses, typically consists of five members, led by a mayor-appointed commissioner.

Johnson’s failure to appoint a fifth commissioner during his tenure has drawn criticism from City Council members, who highlighted the board’s pivotal role in neighborhood development. 

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Alderman Timmy Knudsen, who previously served as chair of the ZBA, said a full board is needed to prevent deadlock situations like the vote on the Uptown shelter.

“It just causes further delays in a planning space that we’re really trying to cut red tape and speed things up,” he said. “So I’d recommend them finding a fifth member.”

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The shelter’s rejection has prompted some zoning attorneys to delay putting requests for similar projects before the board, the outlet said. 

Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez, an ally of Johnson, said the administration recognizes the urgency in appointing a commissioner.

“I have spoken with them directly, and I understand that they’re working to fill the seat as soon as they can,” he said.

—Quinn Donoghue