The mayor introduced a two-phase initiative to address several health and safety issues that unsheltered individuals have been experiencing in several areas in the city. The first phase is focused on public cleaning and sanitation including public toilets. Covid has deeply impacted these issues as existing day services have been limited due to social distancing at the Weigand Center and public libraries have been closed. The second phase is related to more services addressing legal issues like outstanding warrants and charges that can be handled by Judge Baxter at Homeless Court and access to substance use treatment. The city has been tacitly allowing camping by small groups and individuals throughout the summer as there is not room in the existing shelters and this allows more social distancing for people. It is not the best option, but the best available option that service providers have the ability to offer currently. The SL Valley Coalition to End Homelessness is actively searching for a building to house winter overflow starting in October. As you might guess, no other city, county or private individual has yet offered to provide a public or private building. They are still looking but it might fall to Salt Lake City to do it again.
Budget Amendment 2
Budget Amendment 2, previously discussed here, passed. One change is the continuation of YouthCity Summer schedule and hours into the fall to provide support for families during the remote school sessions. Info can be sent to anyone interested and it is focused on low-income families.
SL City Cemetery
At long last, the Cemetery Master Plan was introduced to the council. Very short – we have a tremendous cemetery that is in need of long-term care and funding. The estimated cost (over time) to complete all needed repairs and improvements to retain its functionality and beauty is just under $34 million. They have formed a Friends of the Cemetery organization to assist in engaging the private sector to help with these efforts. I love the cemetery and wish I spent more time there. I highly recommend going to see it. Visit the Council website for additional background.
Solar Power Agreement
The council was briefed on the plan to invest (with 5 other entities) in a solar power consortium that would quickly produce 88% of the electricity that the city departments use each year. Their initial calculations are that it would be a net cost increase of about $149,000 per year for the entire city, passed on to the departments (Over half the electricity is used at the airport). It’s a step towards greater renewable investment and I support the effort- with one caveat. Instead of the initial 15 yr. contract, it appears that the market won’t finance that term, so they are looking at 25 yrs. A quarter century is a long time in this technological world so that does give me pause and we will need to see what types of contractual mechanisms are built in to address major changes that might come in the future (contracts are an administrative function in the city under the purview of the mayor).
We have heard some negative feedback about the rezone the council approved at the request of the landowner and developer, for 3 vacant properties located between 300-400 North on 700 West in Fairpark (though it was referred to as Rose Park in some comments).
I supported the change after hearing a lot of opinions. It is privately owned so they petition for zoning changes, the city does not. These are vacant lots, so they are not displacing existing housing. It is located close to public transit, only a few blocks from both Trax and Frontrunner so the density makes sense for the area. Having more units allows the price per unit to decrease. I agree these are not low affordability. Few new buildings are, due to sky-high land and construction costs. But lower density is not cheaper and a high-priced home or two would lead to greater pressure on existing home values. The developer is planning to sell these units which gives greater hope that they will lead to increased owner-occupied properties in the neighborhood. As a city/RDA, we have been able to dictate affordability when developers ask for loans. If they do not, we currently have few options. I believe we must pursue a new housing loss mitigation ordinance to address displacement, encourage affordability everywhere in the city through inclusionary zoning concepts (trickier than I previously thought), and encourage homeownership.