James Alfandre: How I’d use creativity, vision and excitement to reinvigorate Salt Lake City

I am not a career politician and, because of that, I have a fresh perspective.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lighting and sound technicians climb scaffolding while setting up Granary Live's first venue in Salt Lake City's Granary District, Wednesday, June 14, 2023.

I am not a career politician and, because of that, I have a fresh perspective. It never occurred to me to run for City Council until last summer when Ellen Reddick, the Bonneville Hills Community Council Chair, and Steve Alder, a long-time neighborhood advocate, both implored me to join the race. My first response was: Absolutely not. I didn’t even know that this was an election year for District 6.

But after taking a couple of weeks to let the idea marinate in my Dad/business-owner/urban-planner brain, I realized that I am a highly qualified candidate to lead us into the future. And my roots run deep in District 6 — my ancestors helped settle the valley and my mother was born and raised in District 6, along with my wife, Jane, and her parents, Steve and Sue Ann. This place means so much to me and my family.

As an urban designer and housing policy expert, I have listened in on many City Council meetings and found myself continually questioning our current leadership. Where is the vision, creativity and excitement for what District 6 could be?

My 15-year career has been shaped by creativity, vision and excitement for reinvigorating Salt Lake City communities and neighborhoods like the Granary District. I use modern ideas mixed with respect for past proven methods of city planning to incorporate walkability, aesthetics, safety and pleasure within the neighborhood experience — all the while respecting the historical context of a place. Let’s protect and accentuate the charm of District 6 with its sidewalks full of kids walking to school, neighborhood events at Laird Park and weekly trips to Crema Foothill for treats. Our neighborhoods have been beautifully and thoughtfully designed in a way that makes District 6 unique.

But we are in a housing crunch now. We need a creative and professional mind to oversee growth so that it doesn’t destroy the beauty and quality of life that we enjoy here. I approach thoughtful growth with a creative perspective to enhance existing places in a way that makes people love to live there. We shouldn’t have to choose between tearing down single family homes and providing diverse housing options for young families, educators and public safety employees. We can do both — but need leaders like myself who have the expertise, passion, knowledge and vision to do it correctly.

The exploding homelessness crisis is absolutely sad and unacceptable, in my opinion. I experience this problem every day as I walk and bike around downtown for my work. I advocate for solutions that offer secure housing, food and health care to those experiencing homelessness. In this spirit, I support a sanctioned campsite downtown — close to addiction and mental health services — for those with no homes. This campsite will offer shelter and a secure environment for them while keeping our city and neighborhoods safe. We must also provide those suffering from drug addiction access to mental health care and safe facilities as well.

We badly need updated infrastructure and amenities to ensure that we grow gracefully. Instead of sitting on acres of vacant property, city leadership should be attracting more companies and businesses to our downtown. This would increase the tax base and would provide the funds we need to improve and update our infrastructure and amenities, while decreasing residents’ tax burden. My professional experience makes me the best candidate to do this.

I never imagined that I would run for political office, but my affection for this district has nudged me toward it. My kids are 4th-generation District Sixers, and I want them to be able to grow up and have the chance to raise their families here as well if they choose that.

Our city is exploding with growth and we are at a crossroads. We can either go down the unsteady trail we tiptoe down now, or we can elect someone like me who will meet these challenges with the passion and know-how to lay a strong foundation for the generations to come.

James Alfandre

James Alfandre has 15 years of experience as an award-winning urban designer and housing policy expert who cares deeply about healthy neighborhoods and this city that has been home to his family for generations. When he’s not working to improve the urban fabric of Salt Lake, you can find him recreating in the local Wasatch mountains with his wife and five incredible kids.