Salt Lake City


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Landscaping & Buffers Standards in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

Landscaping & Buffers Standards

On March 5th, 2024, the City Council adopted an updated Landscaping & Buffers chapter in the Zoning Code, Title 21A.48. These updates aim to accomplish goals identified by residents and representatives through the public notification process, discussions with Community Councils, Planning Commission, and City Council over the course of a year. The goals identified by the community are:

  • improving water conservation,
  • simplifying and clarifying the standards,
  • improving air quality,
  • prioritizing trees,
  • reducing the urban heat island,
  • and reducing stormwater runoff.

Each landscaping requirement is directly tied to achieving these goals.

The Landscaping & Buffers Chapter requires landscaping in certain locations on each property. There are several reasons for requiring living landscaping materials in certain quantities throughout the city. First, vegetation reduces the heat island effect caused by our hot, dry summers and the built environment absorbing heat from the sun. It also allows for stormwater absorption, reducing runoff and the amount of water entering the stormwater system which protects water quality. Vegetation maintains soil health and provides habitat and food for animals and insects. And lastly, there are health benefits from living in a vegetated environment including improved air quality.

Updated Landscaping & Buffers Chapter 21A.48.

Salt Lake City Plant List & Hydrozone Schedule.

Salt Lake City Landscape BMPs for Water Resource Efficiency & Protection.

Salt Lake City Northwest Quadrant Plant List

How do these landscaping updates impact me?

Any changes made in the required landscaping locations will need to comply with the Landscaping & Buffers Chapter, 21A.48.

An example of this is if there is turf in the park strip that the property owner would like removed. The existing turf can be removed but cannot be replaced with new turf as turf in the park strip is no longer allowed. The park strip landscaping would need to meet established landscaping requirements in regard to replacing the vegetation ground cover and meet the 33% vegetation coverage and rock mulch and hard surfacing limitations.

Only when there is new construction of a residential building would all of the landscaping requirements need to be met in Single- and Two- Family Zoning Districts.

Multi-family, commercial, and manufacturing properties will also need to comply with the updated landscaping chapter where there are any modifications to a required landscaping location. Within multi-family and commercial properties when a landscaping plan is required all landscaping standards must be complied with.

Where do the Landscaping standards apply?

The Landscaping & Buffers Chapter, 21A.48, applies to every property within Salt Lake City. The areas regulated are shown in the graphic below. In most cases, landscaping is only required in the park strip and the front and corner side areas.

Why prohibit artificial turf in required landscaping locations?

Over the last few years, interest in artificial turf has risen partly due to drought experienced in the Salt Lake Valley, and the ease of maintenance as a landscape material. In some cases, artificial turf has been installed with the intent to do the right thing and reduce water consumption. However, after hearing recommendations from water conservation experts and further research, it was found using artificial turf has the overall opposite effect. It is indicated that artificial turf use actually increases water consumption, through the manufacturing and life cycle process, when compared to other drought tolerant vegetation, while negatively impacting resident’s standard living and needed infrastructure in the city.

The City Council, after careful consideration and analysis, decided to continue prohibiting artificial turf in required landscaping areas for the following reasons:

  • Increases ambient temperatures and contributes to the urban heat island effect.
  • Increases stormwater runoff, contributing to flooding or overrun stormwater systems.
  • Overall, increases water consumption through the manufacturing process and life cycle costs.
  • Contributes to stormwater pollution by increasing microplastics and PFAS chemicals that eventually make it into rivers, lakes, and drinking water; and
  • Creates a false expectation that green lawn is attainable year-round.

Enforcement of artificial turf that was installed prior to adoption of the Landscaping & Buffers amendment (March 5th, 2024) will be delayed until September 18th, 2025, to allow these property owners additional time to come into compliance with the City’s landscaping requirements.

Related references can be found here (coming soon).

Under Enforcement? What you need to do to comply with standards?

Any modifications to any required landscaping location needs to comply with the updated Landscaping & Buffers standards. Below are the standards that apply to residential, commercial and manufacturing districts, depending on the landscaping location.

  • Park Strip: At least 1 street tree is needed in park strips with a width greater than 36”. The park strip needs to have at least 33% vegetation coverage (tree canopies in the park strip may count toward vegetation coverage). A clearance of 7’ above the sidewalk and 10’ above the street is required. Turf is not allowed in park strips. Paving materials and rock mulches are limited to no more than 20% of the park strip area. Artificial turf is not allowed.
  • Front/Corner Yard Areas: Yard areas need to have at least 33% vegetation coverage (tree canopies in the yard area may count toward vegetation coverage). Turf is limited to 33% of the yard area in residential districts, in commercial districts turf is limited to active recreation areas, and in manufacturing district turf is prohibited in yard areas. In all districts turf cannot be in areas with less than 8’ in dimension or on slopes greater than 25%. Impervious surfaces (hard surfaces) and rock mulch are limited to 20% of the yard area. Artificial turf is not allowed.

(Some zoning districts have specific landscaping requirements, please refer to the adopted ordinance for district specific landscaping standards.)

When is a landscape plan required?

A landscape plan is required for all new construction of a primary structure. A landscape plan is also required for any addition, expansion or intensification of a property that increases the floor area by 50% or more, increases the number of parking stalls required by 50% or more, or modifies any required landscaping by 50% or more (single- and two-family uses are except from this provision).

What is needed for landscape plan approval?

The requirements of a landscape plan and issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for new construction have been updated significantly, please carefully review the updated requirements prior to submittal of a landscape plan.

Listed below are the Contents of a Complete Landscape Plan.

Planting Plan

  • A signature by a Landscape Architect licensed with the State of Utah, or an USEPA WaterSense certified professional verifying planting plan compliance with the standards of this chapter.
  • Property lines, easements, and street names.
  • Location and dimensions of existing and proposed structures, parking lots, drive aisles, and fencing.
  • Location of existing and proposed sidewalks, bicycle paths, ground signs, refuse disposal, freestanding electrical equipment, and all other structures.
  • The location of existing buildings, structures, and trees on adjacent property within 20 feet of the site.
  • The location, size, and common names of all existing trees.
  • Sight distance triangles at curb cuts or corners, as defined and illustrated in Chapter 21A.62.
  • Root Zone Protection Plan required when construction work will occur near a street tree or other protected tree and is subject to approval from the Urban Forestry Division.
  • Minimum tree soil standards set by the Salt Lake City Urban Forestry Division.
  • The location, quantity, size at maturity, and name (botanical and common) of proposed plants and trees.

Summary table that specifies the following for each landscaping location separately:

  • Area and percentage of each required landscape location.
  • Area and percentage of each landscape location covered in turf grasses, impervious surfaces.
  • Area and percentage of each landscape location covered in adapted or native plant species and adapted or native trees at maturity.

Grading Plan

  • Property lines, street names, existing and proposed structures, turf areas, and paved area.
  • Existing and proposed grading of the site indicating contours at 2-foot intervals.
  • Any proposed berming shall be indicated using 1-foot contour intervals.
  • Delineate and label areas with a grade greater than 25% (4 feet Horizonal: 1 foot Vertical).

Irrigation Plan

  • A signature by a Landscape Architect licensed with the State of Utah, or an USEPA WaterSense certified professional verifying irrigation plan compliance with the standards of this chapter.
  • Layout of the irrigation system and a legend summarizing the type and size of all components of the system.
  • Delineate and label each hydrozone in accordance with the Salt Lake City Plant List and Hydrozone Schedule.
  • Location and coverage of individual sprinkler heads.
  • Use of a water efficient irrigation system.
  • Type of US-EPA WaterSense automatic controller.

Separate plans from the irrigation plan are required for:

  • Backflow Prevention Plan.
  • Water Feature Recirculating Plan, if applicable.

Prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, a letter of compliance must be submitted to the city when the landscape plan installation is complete. This letter of compliance must be signed by a landscape architect licensed with the State of Utah, or a US-EPA WaterSense certified professional verifying that the landscape plan was installed as it was approved in accordance with the approved building permit.

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