Planning Commission supports new historic district neighboring one they just voted against

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Just weeks after it voted against a proposed historic district in Salt Lake City’s Yalecrest neighborhood, the Planning Commission voted in favor of another one next door.

The commission voted in September against creating a Yalecrest Laird historic district. On November 8th, it voted in favor of creating Yalecrest Princeton Heights.

This vote went through after two commissioners, Carlos Santos-Rivera and the Commission Chair, Mike Christensen, voted in favor of Princeton Heights and against  the Laird district. 

The Yalecrest neighborhood is one of the wealthiest in Salt Lake City and already has numerous historic districts. There has been a recent push for more local historic districts amid neighborhood angst about city changes that could lead to the creation of less than ultra-luxury housing in the area.

This application was filed around the same time as the Laird District application as a way to expand the existing historic districts that surround it in the Yalecrest neighborhood

Map showing the proposed and current districts of the Yalecrest Neighborhood. Image courtesy SLC Planning Division.

Commissioner Andra Ghent once again was opposed to creating another district. This time, however, she pointed more toward Section 5 of the Salt Lake City Historic Preservations goal on clean air and preventing pollution. 

“Anything that makes adding more density more difficult could contribute to increased [vehicular] air pollution,” Ghent said before the vote. 

Paula Harline, the resident of the neighborhood in charge of the proposal, defended this project to prevent more construction and construction pollution since the main goal of the local historic district designation is to avoid tear-downs of existing historically valuable buildings. 

Harline and others who spoke in the public comment pointed out the unique mix of housing already in their neighborhood versus Laird Heights and the larger street trees.

“Huge mature trees–Ash, Elm, Sycamore, and Norwegian Maple–create a pleasing shaded tree-lined block.”

The conversation then shifted toward the equity of these historic districts when Commissioner Brenda Scheer asked about the number of historic districts on the west and east sides of Salt Lake and whether their distribution is equitable. 

“The entire process is inequitable. I could not even start the process without a mentor who had gone through it before, and until I left my job and had the time to dedicate to the city’s lengthy and involved process,” Harline said. 

While Commission Chair Christensen did not explain why he voted positively on this proposal and not the other, Commissioner Santos-Rivera did. 

“While balancing the needs of historic preservation with the needs for growth is difficult, this specific street and specific application point to more cohesion and reason to approve this designation,” Santos-Rivera said. 

The Commission redirected the conversation back to this specific designation and not toward historic districts as a whole. The Commission sent a positive recommendation to the city council with a vote of 5-3. As with Laird Heights, Commissioners Tuttle, Bitton, and Ghent voted against this proposal. 

Commissioner Amy Barry pushed back on opposition to both proposals, saying, “There are smart ways and places to promote density, and this designation meets the city’s requirements. Ultimately, the city council still makes their decision, and then it’s up to those who live there.” 

Both proposals will appear in front of the city council at a later date—Laird Heights with a negative recommendation and Princeton Heights with a positive one.

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Email Zeke Peters

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.