A proposal for a “tiny home” community called The Other Side Village – slated to house chronically homeless individuals on 45.13 acres of land on Salt Lake City’s Westside – is moving through the Salt Lake City Planning Commission and could be approved by the Salt Lake City Council later this year.
The site at 1850 W. Indiana Avenue, currently owned by the city, is being considered for a zoning change from public lands (PL Zone) to a form-based district (FB-NU2). The zone change is needed, according to SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall, because public land use does not allow for the village’s planned residential and mixed-use development. There will be a public hearing at the Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 27. Members of the public are encouraged to submit comments about the zoning change.
The first phase of the proposed project, located at 1850 W. Indiana Avenue just west of Redwood Road, will cost approximately $7.5 million to be raised primarily by private donations and in-kind services, said Samuel Grenny, who runs village communications, noting that more than $2 million has already been raised and, if the project is approved, the first 50 homes are expected to be completed this spring.
The tiny-home village project got underway last April when Mayor Erin Mendenhall asked The Other Side Academy to spearhead the initiative because of its “proven track record of successfully managing a peer-based community.”
According to its website, The Other Side Academy, founded in 2016, is a self-sufficient community that houses up to 100 longtime felons who through intensive care and counseling work to become productive citizens rather than lifetime offenders with extensive jail sentences.
At an August open house held for residents of the nearby Poplar Grove and Glendale neighborhoods, Jennisa Fields said, “I had some major concerns about homeless people wandering through my community and the associated crime and drug use, but after hearing about the project, I now feel that the homeless village will have the opposite effect,” she said.
Other Poplar Grove neighbors, Melanie Pehrson-Noyce and Sam Noyce said they feel the village will be positive for the surrounding communities. “The planned grocery store, park, community garden and possible amphitheater are things that surrounding neighborhoods need. They (the homeless in the village) won’t be taking anything away from us. They deserve to have the basic necessities just like we have,” said Sam Noyce.
However, not everyone is in favor of the proposed location of The Other Side Village.
Residents have formed a group called “Poplar Grove Unite” in opposition to the location. They have an active Facebook page and organized a meeting in September that was held at the Pioneer Police Precinct.
Levi Oliveira, who lives in Glendale near the Fortitude Treatment Center – a state correctional halfway house at 1747 S. 900 West – said that while he is sympathetic to the needs of the homeless, he feels that the Westside is already overburdened with halfway houses, shelters, jails, and the soon-to-be state prison, and he wishes more residents would demand better for our community. “We are a dumping ground, and we have been beaten down so long that we don’t speak up anymore,” he said.
Poplar Grove Unite organizer and mother of three, Esther Stowell, said, “We have a lot of problems in our neighborhood. I’ve personally seen feces, needles, used condoms and garbage on our children’s school playground. Our kids don’t need to see this as the norm. We are speaking out because we want our children to be safe, to be able to walk to school on clean sidewalks and play in needle-free parks.”
At an August virtual meeting hosted by Other Side Village proponents, local resident Madison Elms asked why the village can’t be spread out into several locations instead of one large space. Joseph Grenny said that the project must be a certain scale to bring the number of support agencies and amenities.
Because the old Salt Lake City dump was located on the site several decades ago, there are concerns about soil contamination. District 2 Council Member Dennis Faris said that a 2018 EPA report stated that no further soil mitigation was necessary, as long as the old landfill site was vacant, fenced and no housing or schools were located within 200 feet.
Other Side staff indicated that during their first phase of construction they would not build on the landfill site, but they might use it as a parking area. Faris said he “has concerns and wants to make sure people are safe.” He is awaiting the findings of a current EPA study.
The village master plan calls for an estimated 440 single homes – between 250 and 400 square feet in size – in a gated community with furnished living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom with shower. Rent will be $200-$400 per month and residents will be required to pay their rent on time, obey civil laws, and follow the housing rules to be set up by the community.
According to the village’s zoning amendment the housing will be arranged in neighborhoods of approximately 25-35 homes each with amenities and green spaces to include a small pavilion, laundry, and a multipurpose room for social gatherings.
When completed, the village will include a park, a performing arts center, amphitheater, grocery store, coffee shop, barbershop and hair salon, community garden, a dog park, an Airbnb for visiting relatives, neighborhood gathering spots, mental and physical health facilities, and family and employment services, according to village plans.
At the August open house event, The Other Side Academy and The Other Side Village Board Chair Joseph Grenny said, the planned village will have a full-coverage camera system and a 24-hour security patrol. In addition, he said that people moving into the village will have to meet certain criteria if they want to stay. They will have to make an application and be background-checked, and they will undergo an extensive and constant peer review process.
“For those who think this village will be a cesspool for additional crime in the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods, I ask that you look at the statistics of The Other Side Academy [on 667 E. 100 South] where crime has actually gone down since we came into the city six years ago,” said Joseph.
Only individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness are eligible to live in the village. “We define chronic homelessness as any person who has been living unsheltered for the last 12 months continuously or on multiple occasions within the past three years that total 12 months,” said Samuel Grenny. Those with past sex offenses or arson convictions are not eligible for residence, he said, adding that “the key to making this community a success is the social system and support that will surround each resident.”