Guide to the Chicago Landscape Ordinance
Chicago Department of Planning and Development
The City of Chicago passed a landscape ordinance in 1991 that required the installation of landscaping as part of development and redevelopment projects. In 1999 the ordinance was updated, with more stringent requirements, especially in and around parking lots.
Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. was responsible for organizing, writing, illustrating, and editing the original and revised versions of this publication, the goal of which is to translate the legal language of the ordinance into an understandable explanation of the city’s goals, expectations, and requirements for landscaping. Both versions involved research into similar ordinances in an effort to seek appropriate models for landscaping requirements.
The “Guide” outlines and illustrates landscaping requirements for parkway tree planting, screening and fencing around vehicular use areas, internal planting of vehicular use areas, and enhancements where site conditions preclude the required landscaping but other measures are required in lieu of the Guide’s requirements. The “Guide” addresses technical aspects of urban landscaping, with lists of acceptable and unacceptable plants, typical planting details, and requirements for the use of “structural soil,” “root paths,” and other measures designed to improve the viability of trees and other planting installed in the stressful urban environment.
The landscape ordinance has had a profound effect on the appearance of development in Chicago; many projects that historically had provided little or no planting have become new islands of greenery and shade. This project received an Illinois Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award in 2000.