Council moves toward allowing ADUs citywide

A accessory dwelling unit under construction in the Central Ninth neighborhood as part of the Jefferson Walkway development as seen in April, 2017. Photo by Isaac

During Tuesday’s work session, the Salt Lake City Council opted, in a 4 to 3 vote, to remove a tentative boundary for a proposed Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) ordinance the council is considering for adoption.

The removal of the boundary, that excluded the Avenues and East Bench neighborhoods from the proposed ordinance, would make ADUs allowable citywide pending a formal adoption of the ordinance.

“You have just eliminated single family zones everywhere in the city if you approve this,” said Council member Stan Penfold.  “This straw poll basically eliminates that use in Salt Lake City.”

Penfold, who represents the Avenues neighborhood, was one of the three council members to vote against removing the boundary.  The other two council members, Charlie Luke and Lisa Adams represent the East Bench neighborhoods.

Council member Derek Kitchen, who made the motion to straw poll vote for the boundary removal, noted that there are already single family zones in the currently proposed boundaries, most on the city’s westside.  Council member James Rogers noted that City Council Districts 1 and 2 already have the largest number of single family homes.

“It’s an unrealistic view to say that what we have are nice single family residences and that this will eliminate those,” said Council member Erin Mendenhall.

Luke argued that expanding the proposed ADU boundary would be adding multifamily housing to single family neighborhoods.  “We are completely altering the way the city has handled single-family zones for years,” he said.

Kitchen countered that expanding the ADU boundary would increase the housing options in residential districts, encourage walkability, accommodate growth and add more transit oriented development.  “It needs to be citywide if we are going to be serious about affordable housing,” he said.

ADUs refer to secondary residential structures like granny flats and in-law apartments in low and mid-density residential neighborhoods.  According to city officials, the central purpose of the proposed ADU ordinance is to provide more housing options in residential neighborhoods, increase the housing stock to keep housing more affordable and meet current housing demands, support transit oriented development and enhance walkability by reducing car dependency and increasing density.

The ordinance is inspired by the Colorado city of Durango that adopted an ADU ordinance in 2013 and attributed the ordinance to a citywide increase of affordable housing.

During a July work session, council members focused their concerns on ADUs being used as temporary rentals through websites like Airbnb and the exclusion of more affluent neighborhoods in the Avenues and East Bench from the ADU zoning ordinance.

Last-minute legislation passed during the 2017 Utah State Legislature session prohibits cities from blocking short term rentals. Yet, the current city ordinance requires a minimum rental period of 30 days.

Council member Charlie Luke, who represents District 6 and most of the East Bench residents, presented a letter from several community councils in his district that laid out their concerns about allowing ADUs in their neighborhoods.  Pushback from East Bench residents is what led planning staff to propose only allowing ADUs west of Canyon Road, south of South Temple (after State Street) and west of 1300 East to Interstate 80.

During a series of straw polls, council members also voted to keep an owner-occupancy requirement in the ordinance, only require one parking stall per one ADU, require that adjacent neighbors are notified and abutting neighbors be given 30 days to respond to ADU building permit applications and limit approved ADU permits to 25 a year.

“The new ordinance as proposed is encouraging people to not have a car so that we have fewer cars,” said council member Lisa Adams.  “The reality is that people have cars.”

Adams was one of two council members, the other was Charlie Luke, that voted to increase the parking ratio for ADUs to one stall per bedroom.

Staff told the council that under the proposed ordinance two bedroom ADUs would be rare because ADUs can not exceed 600 square feet if they are detached.  Attached ADUs can’t be larger than 50 percent of the main home.

The proposed ADU ordinance would be incorporated into the Growing SLC plan, a proposed five-year housing plan created to address affordable housing.  According to city officials, the housing plan could lead to zoning changes citywide intended to increase housing options in residential neighborhoods.  The city council will vote on the Growing SLC plan later this year.

The city council will hold two public hearings on September 19 and October 3 during their formal city council meetings with potential Council action planned for October 17.

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