I have lived in the Ballpark neighborhood since 2015, and while the May 8 Salt Lake Tribune article “Ballpark residents inundated by crime feel unsafe, unheard by Salt Lake City leaders,” does a good job of highlighting the troubling and important experiences of some, others in the Ballpark Neighborhood emphasize a more optimistic view. We see its potential.
My neighborhood is one of the most exciting places in Salt Lake City and we have an incredible future. While addressing immediate needs to create safety, the city is also working towards long term, generational transformations, which will not only improve safety but materially benefit the lives of all ballpark residents.
Crime does exist in our city, and many Ballpark residents do feel unsafe. This is unfortunate and unacceptable. Salt Lake City is working hard to find solutions, including increasing the capacity of our police and fire departments, hiring more social workers and are locating a new office in Ballpark, expanding the Downtown Ambassador’s to Ballpark, creating new programs including civilian responders and park rangers, and investing in affordable housing.
The anticipated $2.75 million of state mitigation funding will finally allow us to dedicate public safety resources directly around the Homeless Resource Centers. These are only some of our ongoing efforts to address public safety in Salt Lake City.
Direct investment in public safety, however, is not the only way the city is supporting in Ballpark’s future. Our neighborhood has inherent advantages including public transit, walkability, great freeway access, wonderful restaurants and bars, diverse housing types and affordability and, of course, the Salt Lake Bees. Even more exciting than what we already enjoy is what is on the horizon.
The proposed Ballpark Station Area plan lays out an ambitious vision for the neighborhood. Realization of this plan will make us a community that urban designers around the world will study and try to re-create. Salt Lake City is prepared to make significant investments including library services, a festival street, investments in housing and economic development and improvements to the stadium itself. We have already spent millions on projects such as 300 West and 900 South street improvements, high-frequency bus service on 900 and 2100 South, and a complete transformation of the Central 9th Neighborhood, just to name a few.
Government investment, however, can only do so much. The Ballpark neighborhood is poised to thrive with these new developments, especially with business owners and residents choosing to locate here, contribute and thrive. Property owners rehabilitating vacant buildings and investors catching the vision are key contributors to the success. On the other hand, only amplifying the negative means people won’t visit and support our businesses, organizations will leave, and we will see more vacant buildings and more crime.
I also invite our community’s compassion and kindness to guide our view of people experiencing poverty, addiction, or mental health issues. Yes, crime and homelessness often coexist. But being unsheltered is not a crime. Addiction is not a crime. Mental Health Crisis is not a crime. The more we treat others with respect, the more likely they are to improve their lives and in turn the safety and welfare of our entire community.
It is true that facilities like homeless resource centers, detox centers or permanent supportive housing often have a negative impact on their host communities. What is even truer is that these facilities are necessary, lifesaving and provide people access to resources they desperately need. The absence of these resources would have a greater impact on our community and more importantly the individuals who rely on those services.
Ballpark, we can do better. Rather than focusing on problems, let’s work together to find solutions. Let’s make sure everyone knows how great the Ballpark neighborhood really is. Let’s not let a one-sided representation of our community threaten the potential that we can achieve. I believe in this neighborhood, in each person’s right to be treated with respect and dignity, and I will keep fighting for our future as long as I am lucky enough to serve.
Darin Mano is the Salt Lake City Council member for District Five, which encompasses the Ballpark, Liberty Park and 9th & 9th Neighborhoods.