Janet Hemming: Yalecrest neighborhood doesn’t deserve charges of racism or NIMBYism

The shortage of affordable housing is more complicated than just increasing density.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Historic preservationists are hosted a walking tour of a few blocks in Yalecrest, Saturday, October 24, 2015.

I’d like to set the record straight about charges made by Atticus Edwards in his Salt Lake Tribune opinion piece of June 15.

  • Instead of asking a question of our panelists during a Q & A session at the Yalecrest Town Hall meeting June 9, Edwards decided to give a sermon about racial injustice. After repeatedly being asked, “Do you have a question?” he refused to offer one, refused to relinquish the mike, and the mike was removed from his hand. The removal was not “a violent gesture.”

  • By his refusal to play by the rules, Edwards, not the Yalecrest Council, is the one who “could not maintain civility.”

  • Edwards falsely implies that because San Francisco created single-family zoning in 1909 and used it to practice redlining, most single-family neighborhoods created afterwards — including Yalecrest — were “surrogates(s)” for redlining.

  • Single-family neighborhoods existed long before single-family zoning appeared in the U.S. (more than 250 years in New York). So to say that R-1 zones are primarily a racist tool is also groundless. The real culprit is our own government – Roosevelt’s New Deal, which, supported by the banking industry, passed laws that made redlining acceptable in the 1930s. These laws were abolished in 1968.

  • Edwards is entitled to his opinion, but not his own set of facts. One of the Yalecrest panelists pointed out that the death of condominium construction in the U.S. was a big contributing factor why there is so little suitable low-income housing today. And there are dozens of other reasons.

  • Despite his worn-out claim of NIMBYism, the moderator and panelists all said they favor affordable housing, specifically: “We want to get to yes” and find solutions – including solutions in Yalecrest. Yalecrest has 51 duplexes which are moderately priced. We are not opposed to more.

  • Edwards blamed climate change on single-family homes which sounds more like Alice in Wonderland than science. Single-family neighborhoods, like Yalecrest, have an abundance of green space, parks, trees and other plant-like things that contribute to the environment. Density — which is in the city’s plan — destroys this. In the plan, fourplexes replacing single-family homes could contribute eight new cars on the street in front of one lot. Talk about increasing the carbon footprint.

  • Edwards never bothered to raise the most important question of all: Will this plan alleviate the shortage of low-income housing? We asked the city that very question in an email and they responded: “We understand that not being able to forecast the future is making it harder for people to support the proposal.”

  • Finally, on April 14, the Yalecrest Council hosted a senior planning official for nearly 40 minutes to explain and promote the city’s affordable housing proposal. We were gracious hosts. The June 9 Town Hall meeting was an opportunity for five expert panelists to offer their own opinions — in about 40 minutes — and explain finite details about the plan’s impact.

  • Edwards sees it as a propaganda meeting of “empowered suburbanites.” How silly of us to think that we had a right to meet as a group of concerned citizens and discuss a very complex subject in 21st century America.

Janet Hemming

Janet Hemming is chair of the Yalecrest Neighborhood Council.