Commission deems project height inappropiate for South Temple

Rendering of the 35 S. 900 East project with current trees as designed by Blackbox design studio. Image courtesy Salt Lake City Planning.
Rendering of the 35 S. 900 East project with current trees as designed by Blackbox design studio. Image courtesy Salt Lake City Planning.

On Wednesday the Salt Lake City Planning Commission voted to favor a negative recommendation for a master plan and zoning amendment for four parcels at 35-39 S. 900 East that are the site of a proposed five-story multifamily project in the South Temple Local Historic District.

“I support height and density but it should go in more appropriate places,” said Planning Commission member Michael Fife.

The developers requested the master plan and zoning amendment to rezone four parcels on 900 East to RMF-75 (High-Density Residential Multi- family).  The properties are currently zoned RMF-30 and RMF-35.  While the developers want an RMF-75 zone, plans for the project only call for a maximum height of 57 feet.  

Zoning map of the 900 East Block of South Temple. Image courtesy Salt Lake Planning Division.
Zoning map of the 900 East Block of South Temple. Image courtesy Salt Lake Planning Division.

Developers told the commission that would like to have a developer agreement that would limit the height to an average of 53 feet with 57 feet at the peak height and number of units to 104.  According to Holt the terms of the proposed developer agreement is based on feedback from the community councils.  

“It is not our intent to build a 75-foot structure.  We see a five-story building as appropriate,” said Dustin Holt, a representative for the developers.  “We think there is a huge missing middle product in this neighborhood.”

Commission member Fife, disagreed, describing the project as a large-scale development and not missing middle.

According to a representative of planning staff, developer agreements are rare and can be difficult to enforce.  Planning staff  recommended a negative recommendation of  the project as currently proposed and cited 37 submitted comments by residents with 32 against and just five in support of the zoning amendment.  

The four parcels make up 1.56 acres and presently consist of two medical clinics, which take up the bulk of the project area, and two detached single family homes.

The majority of residents that spoke to the commission expressed concerns about the number of the proposed units and preserving the historic nature of the neighborhood.

“We are not opposed to development,” said Esther Hunter, the chair of East Central Community Council. “Higher density and more units are not always needed to make a project profitable.  There is always a way.”

Hunter said that the East Central Community Council was opposed to the zoning amendment and felt that not enough of the council’s requests were included in the final design.

The density of the project was also a contentious issue for residents, several of which voiced concerns about new higher density, construction across the city and that approval of the zoning amendment would encourage developers to buy up single-family homes in hopes of redeveloping them into multi-family projects.

“We are very much in opposition to the high-density housing popping up in this city,” said Dave Brewer, the Photo Collective Studios executive director and new owner of the Ladies Literary Club historic building at 850 E. South Temple.  

Holt cited the Sunset Towers/High Tower building directly across the street from the proposed project area as an example of higher density developments already in the neighborhood.  The developers of the 900 East also own the High Tower building.

According to Holt, the heights are needed to appeal to a certain customer and allow for structured parking and elevator access.  Holt argued that the five floors are needed to make the project cost effective and that the site’s steep grade makes the height change request necessary.  Holt cited the TRAX line and high-frequency bus routes as creating the need for multifamily housing in the neighborhood.

After the commission vote, Holt said that the developers will continue to look at different ways to make the project both financially feasible and a benefit to the neighborhood.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at