Mayor’s plan to streamline development forges ahead

Fewer design reviews among recommendations to cut red tape

Johnson’s Plan To Streamline Development Forges Ahead
Mayor Brandon Johnson (Getty)

Mayor Brandon Johnson is putting some specifics behind his plan to streamline development approvals in Chicago.

Johnson’s recently released “Cut the Tape” report details 100 recommendations aimed at accelerating the city’s arduous approval process, which has long been a gripe among local developers, Crain’s reported

The initiative has been offered as part of a larger effort to address the city’s affordable housing shortage and stimulate economic growth through increased construction activity.

The report stems from an executive order signed by Johnson in December, which mandated city departments involved in the approval process to provide recommendations within 90 days. The recommendations target reducing bureaucratic obstacles for developers seeking zoning changes, building permits and financial assistance.

To oversee the implementation of these recommendations, Johnson will appoint a director of process improvement and establish a task force later this month. The task force will monitor the progress and ensure accountability among city officials responsible for executing the changes.

One immediate change welcomed by developers is the reduction of mandatory meetings with the city’s design review panel from three to one. The review panel, introduced by former planning commissioner Maurice Cox, has been criticized for delaying projects

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Chicago COO John Roberson stressed the need for smarter, more efficient procedures, such as eliminating redundant documentation requirements.

While many recommendations will take months to implement and require City Council approval, Johnson’s administration is confident in the feasibility and impact of these changes. 

These are things that are grounded in best practices that are based upon things that we have seen in other cities,” Roberson told the outlet. “This is not about years for me, this is about months.”

Johnson’s commitment to addressing the approval process was evidenced by his appointments of Ciere Boatright as commissioner of the Department of Planning & Development and Lissette Castañeda as commissioner of the Department of Housing. Both appointees have been vocal critics of the existing system.

The report’s 100 recommendations include 10 major initiatives, such as new hires, zoning rule overhauls, expedited reviews for affordable housing projects and enhanced technology for processing payments and financial assistance. One significant proposal is the elimination of parking minimums citywide, a move aimed at reducing construction costs but likely to face resistance from City Council members concerned about parking availability in their wards.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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