Chicago plumbing code revamp would broaden use of PVC pipe, permit extra gender-neutral restrooms

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to relax Chicago’s sanitation law to ease the financial burden on homeowners and businesses went through a city council committee on Tuesday, paving the way for increased use of plastic pipe and construction of “more gender-neutral restrooms.”

At the behest of newly appointed building commissioner Matthew Beaudet, the Zoning Committee has approved several changes.

One would permit expanded use of PVC plastic drain, waste and vent pipes, now restricted to above ground applications in residential buildings no higher than three stories.

The changes would allow PVC drainpipe to be used for the residential portion of buildings up to 60 feet, or five stories, even if part of the building houses commercial space.

PVC pipes would also be allowed for underground residential use “if they are completely separate from commercial use. But if they both use the same thing, then it would be cast iron,” Beaudet told councillors.

“These expanded opportunities for residential use will be a huge benefit for homeowners who want to stay in their homes and for multi-family housing, especially for affordable housing,” the new commissioner said.

Despite the changes, Chicago would retain its longstanding need for copper tubing for drinking water. Some cities allow the use of “other materials”, but after consultation with “industry groups” and the Ministry of Water Management, the city hall decided not to relax this part of the code.

Another change allows “small physical stores”, including restaurants with 30 people or fewer, to provide only a single-user toilet.

“By reducing the floor space required for restrooms, the floor space that can be used for business activities increases. … In a small restaurant there might be room for an extra table with two seats,” Beaudet told councillors.

“This will help tremendously as businesses emerge from the pandemic and new businesses seek to open in your business corridors and neighborhoods.”

Gender-neutral bathrooms instead of separate male and female bathrooms would free up space in restaurants and other businesses. Associated Press

Also, the OC would add provisions for gender-neutral restrooms – with gender-neutral signs – that take up less space and therefore free up more revenue-generating floor space for larger restaurants and businesses.

If, as expected, the full Council agrees to the change, so-called “single-user toilet rooms” could be used to provide the required toilet facilities, “either in combination with or instead of multi-stall male and female toilets”. said the commissioner.

The ordinance also allows “all-gender toilets, with multiple private toilet stalls and shared sinks,” Beaudet said. This option includes requirements to “ensure security and privacy for all users,” he said.

“These changes help create toilets that are more user-friendly and welcoming not just for transgender people, but for everyone,” Beaudet said.

“For example, a parent who doesn’t want to send their child to a opposite-sex toilet alone, or an elderly person who needs help from a caregiver of the opposite sex.”

The changes would also clarify requirements for water safety, water-efficient plumbing fixtures and swimming pool design as part of a series of updates to “better align plumbing codes with the Chicago building code revised two years ago.”

Also Tuesday, the Zoning Committee expanded the list of property owners who can benefit from Lightfoot’s slow plan to replace leading service lines.

Last year, the City Council approved a permit fee waiver of up to $3,100 for homeowners who volunteer to replace their leading service lines. The problem is that only 20 homeowners in the city introduced the mayor.

The expanded regulation would offer churches and other nonprofits the same break.

Muddy Waters House has been approved for Landmark status

City councilors also granted Historic Landmark status to the Muddy Waters home, 4339 S. Lake Park Ave.

The double apartment was built in 1891 and was the home of the blues legend from 1954 to 1973. Chandra Cooper, Waters’ great-granddaughter and current owner, applied for eviction.

Kandalyn Hahn of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development said the “hospitality shown to Chicago musicians and musicians who came to town to record made the house an unofficial center” for the Chicago blues community.

“It was close to the city’s concentration of record retailers and independent record labels like Chess Records, as well as the South Side blues clubs, which made it a natural meeting place for other blues musicians,” Hahn told councillors.

“Musicians were welcome 24/7. Traveling musicians like Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry were offered not only food and drink, but also accommodation. Band members – including Otis Spann and James Cotton – lived in apartments on the second floor. The rehearsals took place in the basement and went outside in the courtyard on warm days.”

Ald. Sophia King (4th), whose community includes the Muddy Waters Museum, said Waters made a “huge contribution” to blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

“Having his special home here in Chicago as a landmark would be something that not only recognizes his contributions, but also the blues’ contribution to Chicago,” King said.

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