Capitol Park Cottages, controversial in the Avenues, passes Planning Commission

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Buildable empty lots in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City are uncommon. A proposal by Ivory Development looked to fill a now-infamous one located at 675 N F Street.

After nearly three years on the same application, the Planning Commission approved the developer’s planned development and subdivision applications Wednesday night in a 7-1 vote, clearing the project to the permitting stage of approvals.

Capitol Park Cottages, located at the intersection of 13th Avenue and F Street, will feature 21 parcels, including 14 duplex-style townhomes and seven single-family detached homes. 20 of the 21 units would have a space dedicated to a potential internal ADU, while the remaining property would have an exterior ADU space. 

The infamous empty lot north of the historic Meridian apartments has gone through many proposals, from a parking lot to an LDS chapel. Others have proposed housing but have failed to garner the necessary support and overcome the land restrictions. 

The lot is also located where public streets become private, and has difficult grading issues. 

The current idea, covered in detail at the time of application by Building Salt Lake, is for a mix of housing types first introduced in May of 2020 when Ivory requested a zoning change to allow them more flexibility in lot sizes. 

The process continued through 2020 and 2021, while the city worked with the applicant to find the right zone and mix of housing and density for the project. The applicant then submitted a revised planned development application while awaiting the City Council’s decision on the zoning change to SR-1 Special Development Residential Zone.

Neighborhood opposition to Ivory Homes’ rezone at F Street and 13th Ave. 2021 Photo by Luke Garrott.

In December of 2022, the City Council approved the rezoning but attached many conditions to its approval. These included extending setbacks for the western property line, opening up the landscaping/green spaces to the general public, and requiring that all built ADUs not be used as short-term rentals. 

The ADUs are not required to be used as ADUs, but they will be built to allow homeowners now and in the future to have more flexibility in how they use the space. 

After the zoning approval, Ivory still needed to make changes and review plans thoroughly to determine what would work for the unique lot and established zoning. This continued till August 2023, when Ivory held an open house in the Avenues with city planning staff to discuss the project in more detail. 

Public comment at the Planning Commission

This project was not met with open arms from many members of the Avenues neighborhood, including the Greater Avenues Community Council (GACC) and the Preserve our Avenues Coalition (POAC). These groups vehemently opposed the project and showed up to say so. 

Many of the concerns people expressed were about density, housing size, lot sizes, parking,  and overall development on a steep lot. 

“They are cramming people in like sardines,” was a common quote by multiple community members. It is an interesting comment given that the homes are three-bedroom with an additional ADU and garages, making them some of the larger homes in the Upper Avenues neighborhood. 

“This is a highly cramped development. Residents ask that you please, please, please, send Ivory back to the drawing board to produce something that looks like the Avenues,” said resident Larry Perkins.

A building footprint map of the Avenues that was provided by the applicant, Ivory Development.

Others supported the project’s creativity in housing in a nearly unaffordable neighborhood. 

“Outside of a very narrow demographic, home ownership in the Avenues is completely unrealistic without any innovation in housing,” said Brooklyn Lindsay, a third-year law student currently renting what she termed an affordable apartment in the Avenues. 

“I would like to live in this neighborhood when I graduate, but without more housing like the ADU’s proposed in this project, I won’t be able to.”

Many of the commissioners expressed gratitude to both Ivory and the community for the partnership that has happened, whether positive or not, to help come up with an improved plan from the original submissions. 

“We have different densities throughout the Avenues, even in this area, whether rental or not. The Avenues I know is densely populated with houses that are extremely close to each other,” said Commissioner Amy Barry while addressing concerns about matching neighborhood character and design. 

Commissioner Brenda Scheer addressed people who see the project as too dense compared to the existing neighborhood, pointing to the black-and-white footprint diagram previously pictured. 

“If you look at this diagram, you will see all of the Avenues is pretty dense. If you show it to someone in West Jordan, they may say it is packed like sardines. It is a matter of perspective, and this is an urban lot … I think you will find when it is built out it will be a pleasant looking project,” said Scheer. 

This project shows the city’s willingness to try creative solutions for housing, despite NIMBYism from local residents. Whether all the ADUs come to light, the project would bring a newer mix of housing to a lacking neighborhood that rarely sees new development, especially at this scale.

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Posted by Zeke Peters

Zeke Peters is a dual-masters student at the University of Utah studying Urban Planning and Public Administration. He works as a planner and designer in Salt Lake City. He currently resides in downtown Salt Lake and is from Austin, Minnesota, the birthplace of SPAM.