George Chapman: SLC threatens increasing density in single-family neighborhoods

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Overniter Motel at 1500 west North Temple in Salt Lake City Monday October 23, 2017. Salt Lake City's Redevelopment Agency has proposed a $4 million loan to buy the and replace it with a development that includes affordable housing, part of a broader plan to create more than 750 affordable units using $22 million set aside by the City Council.

Salt Lake City is asking for feedback on suggestions for increasing density in the city to increase the supply of affordable housing. Many other cities have complained that part of the problem is caused by inflexible zoning rules that are protecting single-family home neighborhoods from increasing density.

The city’s survey explanation suggests that they are considering increasing density in single family home neighborhoods. Salt Lake City should be protecting the single-family home neighborhoods which are part of our character.

The city says: “These questions gauge support for modifying regulations for low and medium density residential districts when affordable housing is included as part of the development.”

Instead of destroying single-family home neighborhoods, the city should be focusing on the most unused housing potential in the city, State Street.

Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency, almost five years ago, suggested that at least 2,000 more housing units could easily fit in the corridor and that is one reason for approving the CRA redevelopment of State Street. But that plan hasn’t reached first base. Other potential housing development areas include the Depot District where the city has owned seven of the 15 acres, mostly vacant for decades, Brickyard and North Temple.

In Sugar House, despite significant community push, Salt Lake City has only approved one building that has affordable housing in the last 10 years.

Instead of micromanaging development, which has resulted in reducing affordable housing, the city should be providing an easy standard to follow to increase mixed use, mixed income housing in areas like State Street, North Temple, Brickyard and Depot District. The standards, called form based zoning, decrease the efforts of developers to build new buildings if they meet basic requirements.

The survey questions include gauging support for accessory dwelling units without hearings, duplexes (if one unit is affordable), reduced parking requirements, townhomes with just one parking space per two family townhouse units (within a quarter-mile of frequent bus routes), tiny homes, reduced lot size and setbacks, alleyway housing and adaptive reuse of schools, churches and large houses (with deed restricted affordable housing), all in single-family zoned areas.

Despite problems with ADUs, caused by the city’s inability to restrict using ADUs as short-term rentals like Airbnb, the city may remove all conditional use hearing requirements that now help decrease the negative impact that they may have on single-family home neighbors.

Salt Lake City is ignoring the many complaints from neighborhoods about using ADUs to add more Airbnb units to single-family zoned areas. The City’s Civil Enforcement Group actually has given business license applications to landowners when they investigate complaints about many different renters in one home.

The questions also include asking if density should be increased along arterials (high traffic streets) that are already congested. In one case, during rush hour, the backup to enter a restaurant off of 2100 South, backs up eastbound traffic for blocks.

The city should not be increasing congestion and increasing the entrance/exiting of vehicles with more driveways. There is already a proposal to add four more driveways on a half block of 2100 South! The increase in turning will also increase dangers for cyclists and pedestrians.

Increasing density will also result in the destruction of thousand of older trees in our city, concentrated in single-family home neighborhoods, that will take decades to replace. All of these suggestions will encourage more movement to the suburbs and increase air pollution. I retired here because I loved the character and quiet of the single-family zoned neighborhoods. I think that they should be protected and not destroyed.

The survey ends July 31. This is an important survey and I urge everyone to take it and comment as they want. Only 2,000 took the first survey and 2,000 people should not be directing the city’s plan for single-family home neighborhoods.

George Chapman

George Chapman is a former candidate for mayor of Salt Lake City and writes a blog at georgechapman.net.