Will form-based code come to the upper Avenues in Salt Lake City?

Local developers Ivory Homes have applied for a FB-UN-1 zoning change on a long-undeveloped 3.2 acre parcel at F St and 13th Avenue in Salt Lake City’s historic Avenues neighborhood. 

The open space at 673 North F Street – amply zoned for single-family residential at FR-3-12,000 – sits just two blocks above 11th Ave, a zoning line demarcating urban (lower) from suburban (upper) Avenues.

The southeast corner of the subject property at 673 N F St. Photo by Luke Garrott.

The city is currently providing information and accepting comments, as the “open house” stage of the master plan and zoning amendment process is underway.

In May the city council approved a similar master plan amendment and zoning change to FB-UN-1 at 1430 South 400 East, at Cleveland Court. That vote, taken on May 19, 2020 was 4-3.

The Developer’s Proposal

Capitol Park by Ivory Homes is applying as a planned development that would put 25 single-family homes (“Urban House” in form-based code) and 20 ADUs on 3.2 acres, at just over 14 units per acre. 

Conceptual site plan for Ivory Homes’ Capitol Park planned development at F St and 13th Ave in Salt Lake City. Image courtesy Woodley Architectural Group.

The current zoning, FR-3-12,000, requires lots of 12,000 sf minimum (.275 acre) – 3 units per acre but 6 if you count ADU potential. Street frontage is required to be a minimum of 80 ft. Setback requirements are the average of the block face or a 20 ft minimum.

Current zoning would allow only 11 single-family detached structures – at .29 acre per parcel – plus 11 ADUs.

Ivory tells the city their proposal will allow the continued “promotion of environmentally sensitive and visually compatible development as envisioned in the FR zoning and would further provide the flexibility to enhance housing type diversity in the neighborhood.”

Capitol Park cottages, image courtesy Woodley Architectural Group.
Capitol Park cottages, image courtesy Woodley Architectural Group.

“The city zoned this property 33 years ago when Euclidean zoning was the norm…the current zone does not accurately reflect much of the existing housing stock adjacent to the subject property.”

While it is true there are a variety of housing types and densities in the vicinity, Euclidean zoning – defined as separation of uses – is still very much in force. Commercial uses are non-existent in the upper Avenues, and have only recently been zoned back into the fabric of the lower Aves.

Neighborhood pushback

Neighbors have put together a Facebook page under “Preserve our Avenues zoning.” Its point person, Jan McKinnon, states “we are not against development but believe this lot should be developed under current zoning.” 

Typical setbacks in the neighborhood. Photo by Luke Garrott.

The group’s Facebook page claims “This zoning change is inconsistent with the character of the Avenues…Ivory plans no sidewalks or yards…[and] 90 more cars could be added to the neighborhood.”

The neighbors’ worry about more cars needs little verification – with the climb to that stretch of 13th Avenue, every new resident will likely be driving. There will be 45 new units under the developer’s proposal, and 22 if fully developed under current zoning.

Capitol Park site, from the southeast. Photo by Luke Garrott.

If each of those units housed a two-car family, the worst-case transportation emissions impact would bring 90 new cars under the proposed formed-based zoning, and 44 under the FR-3-12,000 status quo.

What will the city’s planners, the commission, and the city council do?

In a story that Building Salt Lake has been following, the city’s appetite for form-based code seems to be growing. But the city council barely approved a similar request in the Ballpark neighborhood recently, in a 4-3 vote where the Avenues representative, District Three’s Chris Wharton, voted “no.”

Wharton told Building Salt Lake “There’s no doubt we need more density in the city, but we shouldn’t approve every request that comes before us. I consider these on a case-by-case basis. At Cleveland Court the increased number of units – 2 – wasn’t enough to override the concerns of the neighbors for me.” 

Wharton added, “That vote wasn’t a signal at all about my position on this project in the Avenues.”

The city has assigned Senior Planner David Echeverría to the application. His open house report can be found here.

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.