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Zoning Ordinance vs Building Code: Chicago Accessible Parking

2022 0627 Ideas Post
Jun 27, 2022
Michael Grochola

Contrary to most code knowledge and understanding, the Chicago Zoning Ordinance has a stricter accessibility requirement than the applicable building code.

Chicago’s zoning ordinance is not the building code, but there are accessibility items within the zoning code that are applicable to a wide range of projects. For a project to be fully accessible it must comply with the strictest requirements that are applicable. The zoning requirements commonly align with or are superseded by stricter language in the building code, yet in the case of accessible parking, this would not be accurate.

Per the Chicago Building Code, ICC A117.1- 2009, Section 502 on Parking Spaces. It states that car parking spaces can be 96” minimum in width and van parking spaces can be 132” minimum in width, both with an adjacent access aisle measuring 60” minimum in width. The code does have an exception, allowing the van parking spaces to be reduced to 96” minimum in width when the adjacent access aisle is increased to 96” minimum in width.

Per the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 17-10, Section 17-10-0903 it states that both car and van parking spaces need to be 132” minimum in width with an adjacent access aisle measuring 60” minimum in width.

There is no allowance or exception to this zoning requirement that would allow any other accessible parking space or access aisle sizes. Meaning that the zoning ordinance is the strictest requirement for accessible parking in Chicago at this time. Any parking on a project shall be designed with this requirement in mind from the start, otherwise, it can cause problems and delays later during the permit approval process.

Why the difference in language?

It is our understanding that this is a code remnant from the prior version of the Chicago Building Code. Chicago's new building code went into effect in 2020, but the Zoning Ordinance language wasn’t changed to reflect the new language found in the building code on accessible parking. In effect creating two parking requirements, but as zoning remains stricter its requirement would take precedence.

MAPS is currently in conversations with the city about potentially changing the language in the zoning ordinance to reflect the building code. When we have an update on this, we will share it with an updated blog.

If you have questions about accessible parking layouts or parking requirements on your project site, feel free to reach out to MAPS.