Council votes to update TSA zoning

The Salt Lake City Council approved on Tuesday legislation sponsored by Councilmember Derek Kitchen that requires the Planning Division to reevaluate the Transit Station Area (TSA) zoning ordinance for parcels near portions of the Airport and University TRAX lines.

According to Kitchen the motivation of the legislative intent is to ensure that developers are building better projects than what is currently being built.

“What we build today will last the next 50-60 years and that the quality matters,” said Kitchen.  “The 400 South corridor is such an important corridor in our city, and what is being developed is not contributing to a well-built urban environment.”

The Council first embraced transit station area (TSA) zoning in 2010, as part of the North Temple Boulevard Station Area Plan adopted in anticipation of the new TRAX line to the airport.  According to city documents, TSA zoning was intended to encourage development that is “designed for pedestrians and include a mix of uses on the ground floor such as retail, office, commercial and residential space, in order to activate the public realm” while encouraging higher density development within close proximity to TRAX stations.

Two years later the Council expanded the TSA zoning district to include sections of 400 South from 200 East to 1100 East.  Under the TSA zoning for both corridors, developers submit projects for a TSA development score.  Scores are determined by planners that award points for various project and design features.  Projects that earn at least 100 points can apply for building permits without going before the Planning Commission or needing an administrative hearing.

Kitchen said he was inspired to pursue changes to TSA zoning after seeing updated renderings for the 4th and 4th Apartments, a seven-story residential project proposed for the former Sizzler site at the intersection of 400 South and 400 East.  The 210-unit project received a TSA development score of 111 even though the project has no mixed uses on the ground floor.

Instead of a moratorium on new development in TSA zones, Kitchen opted for a legislative action because the Planning Division was already actively reviewing issues with the TSA zone.

“The planning department will do the leg work on this,” said Kitchen.

The City Council expressed interest in requiring ground floor mixed-uses that activate the street level (currently the TSA development score awards 10 points for ground floor mixed uses), limiting the amount of non-durable materials on a building’s facade (stucco) and allocating more points for affordable housing.

“There are issues with how the affordable housing is being distributed,” said Kitchen.

Kitchen argued that most affordable housing is located on the west side, while the demand is citywide.  He suggested several incentives that the city could provide to developers to encourage more affordable housing in new development: including density bonuses, increased height allowances and relaxed parking requirements in exchange for incorporating affordable housing.

The Council’s legislative action makes updating the TSA zone a top priority for Planning Division staff and gives staff 180 days to submit finalized updates to City Council.

“It will give the department some breathing room,” said Kitchen.  He estimated that the Planning Division has already completed about a third the work.

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