City Council cements pro-infill, pro-density policy momentum in avalanche of votes

In an avalanche of votes last night the City Council cemented the direction of its land-use regulations concerning density and infill growth. After more than two years of discussion and deliberation at the council, a sizable slab of regulatory reform was allowed to tumble down the mountain.

All but one of the votes was unanimous, and that one was not significant at 6-1. The consensus votes are likely the result of the ability of council leadership – under Dan Dugan (District 6) and Darin Mano (District 5) -to match their colleagues’ interests with the policy proposed by the Mendenhall Administration. Yes, it took a while. Apparently, this is what representative democracy looks like.

Planning Director Nick Norris’ tweets last week foretelling the council’s actions.

RMF-30, Shared Housing, Off-Street Parking, the Ballpark Station Area Plan, and an upzone in the North Temple TSA zone all passed the council in rapid succession.

RMF-30

The infill zoning reform led by the Residential Multi-Family (RMF-30) rewrite was the only item to encounter a little rough terrain at the meeting before a vote.

Several council members voiced their disquietude with the ordinance not being accompanied by the Administration’s ongoing proposals on displacement and housing loss mitigation – the main reason the council hadn’t acted on these pieces of legislation for over two years.

Here is the council’s information portal on the changes.

A substitute motion by District 2’s Alejandro Puy, which won support, stipulates that the ordinance will have a 180-day delay before becoming law – with the hope that the Administration will supply “affordable housing mitigation ordinances and displacement policies” in the interim.

Council Member Amy Fowler was the only dissenting vote. The Sugarhouse (District 7) representative seemed to stake out some opposition to this ordinance and the RMF-35 and -45 changes to come – which the Planning Division has signaled will mirror the RM-30 ordinance.

Shared Housing

Shared Housing is the city’s new term for single-room occupancy units (SROs). The ordinance was rewritten to allow Shared Housing as permitted uses in the following zones, which is a wide slice of the city’s urban districts:

•All TSA 

•All Downtown

•Sugarhouse Central Business District 

•G-MU, MU, all R-MU

•CC and CG

•All FB-UN zones except UN-1

No zones will require conditional uses.

Some of the new regulations included in the council’s final version are:

•minimum bedroom size of 100 ft for one person, 120 for two

•20 sf of common area for each bedroom

•on-site 24-hour management

•security cameras is all public areas except bathrooms

Off-Street parking

A unanimous vote approved the Planning Division’s off-street parking reforms, i.e. reductions. Although roughly 80% of the city remains untouched, Downtown, Downtown-adjacent, and key corridors like State St. will see their developments penciling a lot easier by not having to use up valuable space with required parking. 

Ballpark Station Area Plan

The plan funded by Wasatch Front Regional Council with a number of local partners rolled unimpeded to a 7-0 vote.

Upzone along the Folsom Trail at 800 West

TAG SLC, a Building Salt Lake sponsor, requested a change in zoning, that, in language on the council’s agenda:

“Would amend the zoning of property at approximately 16 South 800 West from Transit Station Area District – Urban Neighborhood Station – Transition (TSA-UN-T) to Transit Station Area District – Urban Neighborhood Station – Core (TSA-UN-C). The ordinance would also amend the North Temple Boulevard Plan. The proposed amendments are intended to allow the property owner to build a mixed-use building with a possibility of a maximum height of 75 feet.” 

The Folsom Trail under construction in 2021, at 500 West. Photo by Luke Garrott.

It was the fifth of the series of pro-density rulings, and gained unanimous approval. 

An especially germane piece of public comment came from Nigel Swaby, a west side real estate agent, consultant, and former city council candidate, who asked the council to consider a master plan for the area between North Temple and I-80. He noted that the recent zoning changes requested by the Rocky Mountain Power development as well as the 800 West at the Folsom Trail parcel would benefit from the guidance to be provided in an area plan.

Planning Director Nick Norris repeatedly acknowledged his department’s deficit in long-range planning resources. The trend to remove conditional uses, evidenced in the Shared Housing ordinance where the used is either permitted or not, is an example of the city trying to reduce its regulatory touch-points. 

ADU reform – yet to be scheduled by the council for a final vote – is likely to aim at the same regulatory relaxation. Stay tuned here at Building Salt Lake.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.