At the January 23, 2019, City Council meeting, Mayor Emanuel appointed Farzin Parang and Sylvia Garcia to the Zoning Board of Appeals to fill the vacancies of Blake Seryce and Sol Flores. The appointments will be considered by the Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards at its next meeting, which hasn't yet been scheduled.

Seryce was the ZBA chairperson and Parang will become the new ZBA chairperson. Parang previously worked in the Mayor’s Office on legislative affairs and economic development projects.

Garcia will fill the unexpired term of Sol Flores, the Executive Director of La Casa Norte. She has served as the Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer for the CTA.

What is the Zoning Board of Appeals?

The Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is the panel which hears cases for applications for appeals, variations and “special uses” as provided in the zoning ordinance. The board, whose five members are appointed by the Mayor, meets monthly to review individual projects.  Most of the cases involve variations:requests to modify the zoning regulations – most often to setbacks for front, side or rear yards – for individual properties.

MAPS’s Urban Planning department staff can serve as your expert testimony, preparing documentation and testifying in front of the ZBA in support of a variation.

Separately, the zoning code also stipulates that some use categories must be reviewed by the ZBA on a case-by-case basis to ensure that their layouts or particular business operations do not disadvantage neighbors. Such uses include drive-throughs, taverns, rooftop operations, and transitional housing.

A third review category, zoning appeals, relates to challenging decisions made by the Zoning Administrator's office. Despite the reference to appeals in the Zoning Board’s name, very few appeals cases are brought to the ZBA.

How ZBA is different than other zoning approvals

The Board’s reviews differ from other governmental processes. Rezonings, for example, are done legislatively. They are reviewed by the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards. The Chicago Plan Commission reviews planned developments, which are for larger projects. Their decisions are advisory only, and are ultimately reviewed by the City Council. ZBA actions are not reviewable by City Council. Their decisions are project specific and are the final determinations.

Photo of houses in the Irving Park community area by Eric Allix Rogers. A common variation heard by ZBA is to reduce the front yard setback.