As a west-side resident who works at the University of Utah, I take full advantage of TRAX. TRAX is the easiest and most convenient way to get to the U. My nearest stop, the 900 South station, is about one mile away from my home. To get to my stop I ride my bike, e-scooter, or walk. As a physically-able person in my mid-20s, these are feasible and realistic modes of transportation for me. But I do acknowledge that these modes aren’t reasonable for everyone because of the physicality involved.
Contrary to popular opinion, one does not need a car to get around Salt Lake City. For example,commuter cycling is becoming easier with the growing number of bike lanes. The installation of a bike lane on 900 West has transformed the street, and neighborhood, into a more bike-friendly community. The busy street used to be a nightmare to ride on, but now, I find it provides ample space to commute comfortably.
That said, there are a few obstacles that make commuting difficult for me. The biggest one is the blockage of 800 and 900 South by large freight trains. It is hard to plan around the trains because they don’t have a set schedule. Sometimes the trains completely stop, blocking the tracks. When that happens, I either have to wait or walk/bike to 400 or 1300 South, which is very time-consuming. The best way to deal with is this to leave early, in case I have to wait.
Riding the bus isn’t a realistic option in my neighborhood currently, because there isn’t a bus route that travels east from 900 South and 900 West. I prefer to ride my bicycle; it’s the easiest, quickest, and most cost-efficient transit mode, but on days where I have a flat tire, or am feeling physically exhausted, I may take a scooter. A Bird or Lime scooter is about as quick as biking, since they go about 18 mph, but there is a small fee involved. Either way, I can usually make the mile trip to the TRAX station in under 5 minutes if I don’t hit a long red light.
All I had to do the first time I used an electric scooter was to download the Lime and/or Bird apps, and I was ready to go. The scooters are scattered around the neighborhood, and are restocked at certain spots each morning. To find a scooter, I check the map on the app and then take a short walk over to it. The scooters have a small initial activation fee of of $1, plus an additional 15 cents per minute after that.
In extreme circumstances when I’m running late, I will use Lyft or Uber. I try to avoid this option as much as possible because it is the most expensive. On days where I am not in a rush, I find myself walking the mile to TRAX while listening to my favorite music or podcast. When the weather is pleasant, I thoroughly enjoy walking. Not only is it refreshing, it the best way to feel the pulse of my neighborhood. I get sights, sounds, and even smells, that I would never experience if I were driving. Seeing my daily step-count numbers go through the roof is a welcome bonus.
There are two main reasons I try to avoid cars, and use alternative commuting methods. The first one is financially motivated. It is so much cheaper to ride a bike than it is to drive a car. I didn’t have to purchase a vehicle, and I don’t have to pay for insurance, gas, parking, or repairs.
The other reason is environmentally motivated. The air quality in Salt Lake City is poor. If I can help cut back carbon emissions by riding a bike, then that is something I want to do. If all else fails, carpooling helps, too.
Alternative commuting isn’t always easy and it does require a certain level of physical ability, but to many, it can be extremely rewarding. Whether you are walking, biking, or riding a scooter, there are realistic options for west-side residents. I encourage you to give it a try. Not only will the environment thank you, so will your wallet.
Can you imagine a holiday where you actually BUY NOTHING? In Rose Park and the surrounding neighborhood, a Facebook page invites you to do just that, and more.
From the Buy Nothing project itself these words welcome those who are curious about how it’s done:
Buy Nothing: Give Freely. Share creatively. Post anything you'd like to give away, lend, or share among neighbors. Ask for anything you'd like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, no soliciting for cash. We're an adult-only, hyper-local gift economy. We are not a charity or community bulletin board.
There are three levels of holiday sweetness going on here at our own local Buy Nothing page:
Level one is free stuff. Everybody likes free stuff. So far this year we have seen many Christmas trees given and received for free, outgrown toys in good shape passed along to kids around the corner, and extra wrapping paper going to neighbors who did not see it last year. Level one is a fine place to start.
Level two happens for most of us after a while. The awareness creeps up that maybe ten neighbors don’t need ten snow blowers. I know who will share and show me how to use their electric drill, or help me put together the tricycle. Winter coats have been passed among kids and adults both. We know each other. NICE! So level two is shared resources: a huge benefit.
But level three is the sweetest target. It’s connecting with the people who are our neighbors, the feeling of community that happens when you can actually ask for something. Need a ride to the airport or shoulder to cry on, even someone to check on your sick dog when you can’t get home for lunch? You may very well get a generous response. Suddenly you walk the sidewalks and look at the houses in a different way. We are important to each other, on each other’s side, connected. And it started with free stuff. Isn’t that magic?
As far as gifts go – each gift is valued as equal, and there is no difference between wants and needs. Those who feel like they don’t have much can discover they do indeed have an abundance to give from, whether it’s that ride to the airport or teaching someone how to knit. Buy Nothing works because everyone has something valuable to contribute, and in the process you can meet the people you’ll be glad to know after the holidays have come and gone.
And for Holiday PEACE? You will find no discussions, no opinions, no advice, no referrals on Buy Nothing. Instead of asking for a referral for a plumber, ask for plumbing help.
If you live in the area, you are invited to join Buy Nothing Rose Park, Salt Lake City, UT on Facebook. Answer three questions about your approximate location (boundaries currently extend to all surrounding freeways, not just Rose Park), your age (must be over 21), and belonging to only ONE neighborhood group in order to be admitted.
The TRAX Air Quality Observation Project was started by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah in December of 2014 and has been recording air quality measurements across Salt Lake County continuously since its inception. The Salt Lake Valley is vulnerable to high levels of pollution, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone.
PM2.5 refers to any particle that is 2.5 microns or smaller in size. As a reference, the width of a human hair is approximately 50-70 microns and human eyes cannot see anything smaller than about 40 microns. Therefore, these are very small particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause similar health impacts as cigarette smoking.
Ozone is a gas that can form highly reactive free radicals upon exposure. The effect has been likened to getting a sunburn in the lungs and is the reason why many people develop a dry feeling accompanied by cough and some chest pain when they are exposed to high levels of ozone.
Two light rail TRAX cars, operated by the Utah Transit Authority, have been outfitted with sensors to measure and record ozone, PM2.5, carbon dioxide, and methane at a sub-minute resolution using research-grade equipment. These trains typically travel on the Red and Green TRAX lines covering the majority of Salt Lake County and the data is available in near real-time from: http://utahaq.chpc.utah.edu/aq/cgi-bin/current_map.cgi
Some of the most important findings from this project are the large differences in pollutant concentrations measured across Salt Lake County. The highest recorded PM2.5 levels were found during winter inversion periods on the 400 South transect from the University of Utah’s Stadium to the Salt Lake City Library stations, as well as on the transect from the Courthouse to the Fashion Place West stations. These are the some of the lowest elevation areas in the Salt Lake Valley located next to large pollutant sources from traffic.
Conversely, the highest measurements of ozone were found during the summer near the Daybreak and University Hospital stations, areas of high elevation on the foothills of the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains. It is important to inform the public about the dangers of high levels of invisible ozone in the foothills and mountains adjoining the Salt Lake Valley, as these areas are frequented by recreational users during the summer months and, unlike PM2.5, ozone is not visible to the human eye.
This year the TRAX air quality observation project, which was in danger of being cancelled, was funded through a successful appropriation request by Sen. Luz Escamilla and Rep. Angela Romero. All new air quality sensors were installed on November 19, replacing the aging original sensors. The original sensors were donations from various research teams at the U, and Siemens provided the equipment box that house the instruments on top of the train. UTA provided invaluable in-kind support from technicians and staff.
One of the main areas of interest for the TRAX data is the verification of the impact of various air quality policies and environmental forensics, also known as the study of the evolution and transport of contaminants. A clear example of this was the finding of the Roper Railyard as a significant source of nitrogen oxide emissions. (Although the Salt Lake Valley does not generally suffer from elevated nitrogen oxide levels, this particular gas is a precursor to ozone and PM2.5 formation.) The Green TRAX line crosses I-15 as it heads west toward West Valley City and passes next to the Roper Railyard. During analysis of the recorded data, we found two spikes, or hotspots, near I-15. One of these peaks was attributed to I-15, but the other, of similar magnitude, was not immediately obvious.
After closer inspection, the team identified the source as the train railyard, and more specifically, the locomotive switchers. This led to a bill proposed by Rep. Steve Handy to upgrade these switchers during the last legislative session. Had the bill passed, we would have been able to measure the impact of these upgrades on nitrogen oxide readings and report any observed reductions.
While the TRAX observation project measures the here and now, we must be cognizant of what we expect in the not so distant future. The Wasatch Front is one of the fastest developing areas in the United States. Projections estimate a doubling of the population by 2040 or 2050 from 2010 baseline values.
Another study from the U of U Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, has quantified the impacts of population growth and climate variability on future emissions for Salt Lake County. These estimates take into account the residential, commercial, and on-road (vehicular traffic) sectors. The growth in urban environment is derived from models developed by the Wasatch Front Regional Council which span from sprawl to compact growth. These in turn inform whether large, stand-alone single-family homes or apartment buildings will be built in specific regions of the county, and what the road network will look like to serve these communities. Furthermore, office buildings and other commercial buildings were modeled to account for increased employment.
Preliminary findings show that a projected temperature increase will cause reductions in natural gas consumption used for building heating during the winter, but will increase cooling demands in buildings and cars. Several mitigation strategies, including increases in fuel efficiency and increases in electric vehicle adoption, as well as improved heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), water heating, and lighting in buildings were considered. Furthermore, an increase in renewable energy usage to power electricity generation was included in the model, which eliminates fossil fuel combustion.
Our results show that Salt Lake County can achieve significant energy consumption and emissions reductions and reach ambitious targets proposed by several city and local leaders.
Dr. Daniel Mendoza is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Utah, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, and Pulmonary Fellow at the School of Medicine at the University of Utah.
Voting can be confusing and requires some research on the part of the voter. Have you ever showed up at a vote center and asked yourself, “Who are these people on the ballot? I don’t know anything about these candidates!” West View volunteers put together this Voter’s Guide to help you educate yourself.
To preview your complete ballot before the Nov. 6 election, visit the Salt Lake County Clerk’s website at www.slco.org/clerk/elections, where you will be able to type in your address and view a full list of candidates. At the same website, you have the option to sign up for Vote by Mail to receive your ballot in the mail, giving you time to do some research on the candidates and issues. You can either mail in your ballot or drop it off on election day.
The West View has posed questions to candidates for Utah State Senate, Utah State House and state school boards in the districts within the zip codes we primarily serve, 84104 and 84116. This is partly because of our own limited resources, but also because races for countywide or statewide seats are covered by major media sources.
Please be sure to visit the County Clerk’s site because voting district boundaries are not based on zip codes.
Political Candidate Q & A
Questions for non-school board candidates:
1. The proposed inland port covers about one-third of the area of Salt Lake City. It would definitely border, and possibly include, an 800-acre site previously used as a landfill. What do you know about the potential harmful effects to human health related to this site? What legislation would you sponsor or support to address potential problems? 2. Legislation establishing management of the inland port has generated controversy related to Salt Lake City’s voice in the long-term operation of the project. Please state what changes you would like to see in that legislation. 3. How would you address problems related to homelessness on Salt Lake City’s west side? 4. What would the ideal mix of west-side housing options look like? How can we more equitably distribute affordable housing throughout the city?
State School Board candidate questions:
1. What ideas do you have about meeting the particular needs of west-side Title 1 schools (schools with a large low-income population)? 2. Are you in favor of keeping the State School Board elections non-partisan? Please explain your answer.
Utah State House of Representatives, District 23
Sandra Hollins (Dem)
1. During the 2018 session the legislative body passed SB 234, which allows the state to proceed in the creation of a Utah Inland Port Authority. This bill lacked provisions necessary to protect our environment. The bill was amended during a special legislative session in July, which removed wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas. Despite these changes, there are many issues that still need to be addressed, such as the potential impacts of commercial trucks and trains affecting our air quality within our neighborhoods. Considering the current outcome of this bill, I will support future legislation to include zero emission development practices utilizing clean energy sources and air monitoring systems.
About the landfill area: The site that was previously used as a landfill was donated to the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. The State Department of Environmental Quality would administer any cleaning processes to this area and when considering the potential harmful effects, I will urge the support of an installation and operation towards ongoing monitoring systems with ground water, soil, and air for any possible effects on developing this area.
2. The location of the inland port will primarily be located in House District 23. When SB 234 was introduced in the 2018 General Session, my top priority was assuring that the residents of the west side of Salt Lake City had a voice, which I successfully advocated for. Reflecting on the existing bill, I would like to see the following changes:
1.Transparency, accountability, and operation of the governing board. 2.The development of an energy efficient port.
3. The challenges associated with those experiencing homelessness are complex and challenging. Homeless issues on the west side are not new and despite the efforts of Operation Rio Grande, our communities have seen an increase with the unsheltered. As I see the impacts on our west-side residents and businesses along North Temple, it is important we continue to communicate our experiences consistently so that we can strengthen our strategy to resolve these issues. I commend the city for listening to west-side residents and responding with an increase in police bike patrol with a temporary police substation.
This summer, I requested a meeting with the governor’s office to discuss the impact of how Operation Rio Grande impacted our community, which resulted in an increase of patrols by public safety. Currently, it is a short-term solution for a systemic problem, and there is a lot more to do. As a licensed clinical social worker, I believe we need to address substance abuse, providing early interventions with mental health, treatment, and family support to address this problem long-term. Many individuals who are unsheltered have a history of trauma, which may result in disconnection from resources and the community. Additional homeless outreach workers can provide that bridge to reconnect individuals. There also has to be a pathway into livable wage jobs for those who are formerly incarcerated or in recovery. Education and job training is a path out of poverty. Lastly, we need to continue to create affordable housing throughout city.
4. One of the largest issues this city faces is the limited supply of affordable housing. The ideal mix of west-side housing includes diversity for mixed incomes, introduction of middle market housing opportunities, and housing that is near public transportation. This encourages sustainable practices, which offers the possibility of less traffic and an improvement in air quality in our communities. I commend the city, county, and state efforts in allocating funds to develop an equitable and affordable housing plan that provides improved access to public transportation.
Arnold Jones (Rep)
There is the possibility of many health issues arising, such as contaminated water, high mineral levels – many more potential hazards as well. I would like to see regular ground sample tests done to ensure no potential contaminations could occur, limit the type of development opportunities for several years to ensure the potential health hazards could arise. Many other considerations need to be looked at as well.
I would like to have open board meetings, and a very high level of transparency about all current and future development plans of the board. There is a similar project that was developed in Clearfield that has not prospered. More details need to be discussed before moving forward with it.
I would recommend using the current prison site once vacated after the new prison is completed. Don't sell the property for investment. Instead tear it down and rebuild it with a complete community that offers housing, employment training, college, needed health services and more.
Ideal, what would be ideal? That is the question. As housing prices continue to increase, we need low-income housing that individuals on limited incomes can afford. There are many more facets that need to be looked at as well.
Utah State House of Representatives, District 26
Angela Romero (Dem)
The development of Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant, including the ongoing construction of the new State Prison, and the Inland Port, will adversely affect the environment, primarily air quality, but also our sound, light, and water quality. It’s important to note, Salt Lake County is in non-compliance for federal air quality standards for both PM2.5 and ozone. This has led the Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ) to develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to address air quality standards.
Senator Luz Escamilla, Representative Hollins and I are working on legislation to require an “Environmental Impact Assessment and Monitoring for Inland Port and Northwest Quadrant Development.”
In my ideal world I’d repeal Senate Bill 234. I know that will not happen with our current legislative body. I want to see the following changes this upcoming session:
Legislate, fund and require an environmental impact assessment and monitoring system for Inland Port and Northwest Quadrant development. Senator Escamilla has already filed a bill, which I support.
Stop closed-door meetings. Require the Port Authority to be open, transparent and accountable to the community.
Ensure best practices are implemented to protect and track ecosystem health.
The development of an energy efficient port.
Addressing homelessness does not begin or end with Operation Rio Grande, which I view as a Band-Aid approach. We cannot look at people experiencing homelessness through a narrow lens. There are many reasons why people may experience homelessness. We need to ensure all Utahns have access to a quality education, adequate healthcare and mental health services (Medicaid expansion), affordable housing, walkable communities, and a robust mass transit system. Most importantly, we need to setup institutional systems and incentives to ensure ALL people have the ability to make a living wage.
To end, we cannot arrest our way out of homelessness. This is a short-term solution. The majority of people who experience homelessness or who are on the verge of homelessness are often invisible to us. For those that we do see, our long-term strategy should focus on early interventions to address trauma/mental health, treatment and community/family support.
One of the reasons I moved to the west side was because of affordability. A major concern of mine is gentrification. I want to ensure families and vulnerable populations are not priced out of the neighborhood. In the last five years, I’ve seen the value of my house increase significantly. The state has no control over equitable distribution of affordable housing throughout the city. As an elected official, I can share my thoughts regarding city housing options with Salt Lake City elected officials. One example of this is inclusionary zoning. This type of zoning provides affordable housing options, voluntary or mandated, for low to moderate-income households within new market-rate residential developments. I know affordable housing is a top priority for city officials and I applaud their efforts.
Note: The other candidates for State House of Representatives, District 26 did not provide responses: Jonathan Greene (Lib), Man Hung (Rep), and Jeremy Twitchell (Write-in).
State Senate District 2
Derek Kitchen (Dem)
The old landfill has a long history in our city with very serious environmental and health risks. The development of the Northwest Quadrant and construction of an inland port has brought the reality to the surface. While the ownership of the land has changed over the years, Salt Lake City Corp. owns the lion’s share of the liability. It needs to be cleaned up and we need partners at the county and state level to do so. I would support funding to help with cleanup and risk mitigation.
First and foremost, I believe the Inland Port Authority needs to have open and public meetings. They need to abide by the same transparency and accountability standards that exist with other public governing bodies. From an environmental standpoint, I’d like to see the State of Utah and DEQ conduct a comprehensive air quality and environmental assessment of the area. We need a baseline understanding of the landscape and air-shed in order to truly understand the long-term impacts of development of the Inland Port. It will also help us make informed policy decisions in the future. The Utah Inland Port will continue to see numerous pieces of legislation over the coming years. I will support anything that increases accountability, representation, and good planning practices.
Housing and wages. We desperately need access to more affordable housing units, but we also need to prevent homelessness with good wages and stable work environments. It’s also important for the state to expand medicaid which will immediately increase access to affordable healthcare. Many people need mental health support and treatment for substance use disorders. We need funding for wrap around services that provide stability and support for people.
I believe we need more housing of all types. From deeply affordable housing that keeps people in the community, to workforce housing and market rate development. I’d also like to see an increase in home ownership, and infill that takes advantage of the unique post-war neighborhood design. Large lots present an opportunity for missing-middle development, condos, and ADU’s.
Note: The other candidates for State Senate District 2 did not provide responses: Vance Hansen (Write-in) and Chase Winder (Rep)
Utah State School Board, District 3
1) At the State Board level, our responsibility is to make sure that Title 1 schools receive their funding. Right now, there is a movement among some board members to give up $120 million in Title I money in order to preserve parents' ability to “opt-out” of testing. This would be a disaster for west side Title 1 schools. I am working hard to make sure schools do not lose this money. I am the person on the board who consistently speaks up for low-income students and students with disabilities – and as long as I am on the board, I will fight with everything I have not to lose this funding.
2) Yes, I am in favor of keeping State School Board elections non-partisan. The Utah State Board of Education is made up of people with very diverse views and adding partisanship to the mix would add another layer of divisiveness for us to work through. Currently, when I work with legislators on education issues, I can work with those on both sides of the aisle. If school board elections became partisan, I am afraid it would polarize the board of education, and our work with the legislature as well. Having a board of education that is non-partisan allows us to be laser-focused on what is best for our students, instead of worrying about party platforms.
1) Utah State School Board District 3 contains both the second largest and second smallest school districts in the state with 68,000 and 250 students respectively. I believe all students should have equal access to high quality educational programs, instruction, and teachers. The state board of education works with local school boards who provide for the actual Title 1 program. As a state board member, I would want to make sure that funds are appropriately distributed to districts and that within districts, schools are funded equitably and adequately. I would want to monitor the use of funding and make sure that it is used appropriately. I would also advocate for no reduction in funding but the maintenance of funding or even an increase in funding from the federal government. Finally as a state school board member, I would work to have a positive working relationship with the local school boards and superintendents within my district and to be a resource for them at the state level for their local needs. I believe the best way to solve problems is at the local level and I want to make it possible for school districts to accomplish this.
2) Yes. Under the Utah Constitution the State School Board is to be a non-partisan position and I feel it should remain that way. Education should be a right for all students and students should not be subject to their education being a product of the whims of partisan politics. Students should be taught the ability to reason and make up their own minds about many subjects. Schools should be places for students to research, learn, and test their different ideas in a safe environment, not a place where the propaganda of partisan politics determines standards, curriculum, or instruction.
By keeping the Utah State School Board and local school boards non-partisan, a board member or candidate for the board will be judged by their own positions on education and not on a party platform. Also, having them oversee education at the state level in a non-partisan way, making sure that our schools produce the best education possible for all students will benefit our society by graduating students with skills to make their own decisions relative to partisan politics.
Utah State Board of Education, District 5
Laura Collier Belnap
As a veteran state school board member, I have been working to provide additional funding for teachers who work with our most at-risk students and especially in our Title I schools. I have also added a stipend for teachers who stay and teach in our Title I schools for more than three years. I continue to advocate for education to have increased state funding. Federal funds do not stretch far enough to support our Title I school children and staff. I will continue to work for funding that would provide opportunities for schools to remain open more hours, which could provide additional education for parents and tutoring opportunities for children.
The Utah State School Board should not be part of partisan elections. The state school board members should make decisions and votes determined by the needs of the children, parents and schools, not by political parties. The voice of the all the people should be considered concerning the education of our children.
Patrick D. Riley
While there are many things that the state board can do to support Title 1 schools, the most important is to work with state and federal lawmakers to ensure that funding for Title 1 schools continues. In addition, the funding should stay with the schools and not become portable following the child. School-wide programs dealing with the whole school population must be continued and enhanced.
I strongly support non-partisan elections for school board members at the state and local level. If there is any public concern that should be above partisan bickering, it is the education of our children.
Water is one of our most precious natural resources on earth, and necessary for survival. In Utah, we may take water for granted. We do not typically worry about walking over to the sink and accessing all the clean water we want. In emergency situations, however, access to clean water would become critical very quickly.
The rule of thumb for water in emergencies is one gallon per person per day. In other words, if your standard clean water source is disrupted for some reason, you would need to find a gallon per day of trustworthy water to survive (this includes water for drinking, cooking and hygiene). The U.S. government emergency management website (www.ready.gov/water) notes the importance of each household storing sufficient water or water purifying/filtering systems for emergencies. If a major earthquake (7.0 or above) were to occur, grocery store shelves would soon be emptied of all available bottled water and filters. In order to prevent personal or family devastation during such an emergency, storing some water for disasters is highly recommended.
Tips on storing water
In general, avoid storing water in any containers that have been used for products such as milk. If possible, purchase gallon jugs of water when on sale or buy larger new containers made specifically to hold liquid of 5 gallons or more (keep in mind, a five-gallon jug of water weighs about 40 pounds, so adjust size based on ability to manage the weight). Large containers with spouts (50 gallons or more) are also available and can be easily stored in a garage or out on a porch.
If budgeting, one could use well-cleaned commercial drink 2-liter bottles (such as for orange soda or root beer), but be certain each bottle is completely free of any contaminates or drink residue. If household space is an issue, look for unused areas where stackable water storage units could be housed (see information on “Waterbricks” or rigid stackable containers for ideas). Additionally, owning a highly efficient water filter capable of cleaning any type of standing water is a very sound notion.
Remember that water should be first and foremost on your emergency preparedness checklist. Before you do anything else, make absolutely certain you have enough clean water set aside for at least one week for all family members (one gallon per person per day), or at minimum buy a reliable filter which can produce necessary amounts of water each day. One can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water. In an emergency situation, you do not want to be wondering where your next drink of water will come from.
Dr. Marcie Goodman is a professor of sociology who has taught at the U of U for several decades. She oversees emergency preparedness through her church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Rose Park Stake.
Affordable housing is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, especially with record-high home prices and rising rents in the Salt Lake valley. Everyone has a different idea of what affordable housing is. Some people think it’s simply what one can afford as a monthly housing expense. Others think of low-income housing for the most economically at risk in our communities like single mothers and “Section 8” government paid housing.
Looking at the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition, affordable housing is 30 percent of one’s gross monthly income. Based on Salt Lake County’s median income of $64,601, anyone paying more than $1,615 per month would be considered cost-burdened. Zooming in to the zip codes of 84104 and 84116, those incomes are $43,476 and $47,002 respectively. Of course, family size will play into housing cost and other monthly expenses.
HUD doesn’t differentiate between rental or ownership housing. In Salt Lake County, the median housing price hit $315,000 in June. Just the principal and interest payment with three percent down is $1,642 a month. The property taxes and insurance guarantee a family making the median income and buying the median priced house is cost burdened. The math on two-bedroom rentals is similarly discouraging.
There are many types of people who need affordable housing. Young people, college students, people just starting their careers and retired people are all feeling the weight of high housing costs. On top of this, residents are facing high fuel costs, higher costs for automobiles, high healthcare costs and monthly child care costs that nearly amount to a house payment on their own. And, after many years of interest rates being at record lows, both mortgage rates and short-term rates for autos and credit cards are on the rise.
Salt Lake City leaders are aware of the problem. A 2016 report from the city’s Division of Housing and Neighborhood Development noted a shortage of 7,500 affordable units. This deficit has worsened in the last two years. Statewide shortages number about 40,000 units according to State Rep. Joel Briscoe, who’s introduced legislation to help address it.
There are many reasons for this developing housing crisis. The first is an ever-increasing demand for housing. Utah has a booming economy, consistently rated in the top five nationally. Businesses are moving in and bringing their employees. Unemployment is virtually non-existent — hovering several tenths of a point lower than the national rate, which is also very low.
Until recently, low interest rates are a lagging holdover from the financial crisis of 10 years ago making homeownership cheaper than renting in many cases. Both of these factors have pushed up home values to outpace incomes four times for owners and two times for renters.
Another factor is the low supply of available homes. Growth has expanded to virtually the edge of every border in the valley and we’re looking at increasing density to supply necessary housing. This is a massive culture shock for people used to wide-open spaces and a large quantity of single family homes on fairly large lots. In Salt Lake City, where higher density projects are slightly more tolerable, all the multi-story developments are rentals. Most don’t qualify as being affordable.
Two issues are driving the construction of market rate rentals. The first is rising construction costs coupled with a shortage of labor. Builders want to be able to keep what they build after future construction opportunities become scarcer. The second issue is the rise of class action lawsuits against condominium projects after the housing crash. This has severely dampened the construction of new condo projects nationally and decreased financing opportunities for builders.
With the challenges in the marketplace, many homeowners are opting to stay put rather than face searching for a new home in less than ideal circumstances. The shortage of move-up buyers has left the entry level home market with few options which has also fueled demand. Rising mortgage rates will further place these homes out of reach for those on the cusp of qualifying.
While Salt Lake City does have home ownership programs for lower income buyers, the bulk of the city’s efforts have been focused on new construction that are mostly rentals. These affordable projects also tend to be clustered on the west side of Salt Lake City, furthering a negative reputation these neighborhoods have carried for many years. The transit zoning of the North Temple corridor allows for greater density and greater height allowances than the city has ever seen. A proposed affordable project at the former Overniter Motel on North Temple with rents based off of 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) was altered in part because two other similar projects were being constructed and residents felt these affordable projects were being clustered in one location. Higher density projects in Holladay and Herriman have faced strong resistance from area homeowners.
Another attempt to address housing last year was to allow more accessory dwelling units (mother-in-law apartments) on existing properties. This also faced resistance from owners on the east side of the city and the City Council briefly considered different rules for different parts of town. Ultimately conditional use allowances for accessory dwelling units were adopted and we’ll have to wait and see if they add to the housing stock.
As a city, we are going to have to accept we’ve run out of space to build traditional single family homes with yards. We’ve undergone a significant economic shift creating a misallocation of real estate like retail stores that don’t get used in the way they once were. Many cities, nationwide, are looking at increasing the development of mixed-use buildings combining housing with retail/entertainment or work/live communities. In Salt Lake, we need a culture change to embrace opportunities for thoughtful high-density building, including taller buildings.
We also need to find a way to increase ownership opportunities for lower-income earners. Condominium development is an important part of the real estate ecosystem and current higher density zoning favors multi-story condominiums over townhouses, yet none are being built.
In the Community Newsroom meetings leading up to this issue, contributors discussed important story topics related to our theme of Housing & Development.
The most pressing topic that came up was affordable housing – the lack of it in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, the consequences that happen when too much truly affordable housing is concentrated in one area, and the issue of gentrification pushing people out when they can no longer afford to own or rent in their neighborhood.
The topic of homelessness came up, because it is ever present in our city and our neighborhoods. There are chronically homeless people and those who are temporarily homeless living among us. We decided to talk to some of these individuals to find out their stories.
In this issue we also highlight some fascinating, old west-side homes that are being fixed up and restored by new owners. All of these homes are over 100 years old and add to the historic charm of the Poplar Grove and Fair Park neighborhoods.
Come to our River District Homes Tour on Saturday, Oct. 6 to tour and learn about these homes in person. Get tickets online at www.westviewmedia.org. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and benefit West View Media (the nonprofit organization that produces The West View newspaper and website). Tickets are limited, so be sure to get yours now!
To kick-off the tour, registrants will enjoy a light breakfast and an intriguing “Past & Present” display of the featured homes and neighborhoods at the 100-year-old Chapman Library between 9 and 11 a.m. Participants will then receive a map of the houses on the self-paced tour.
The final destination on the tour is the historic Fisher Mansion – the extravagant home that was built for the family of German beer brewer, Albert Fisher, in 1893. The A. Fisher Brewing Co. was located near the mansion, on the banks of the Jordan River, from 1884 to 1960. Utah Preservation will be giving tours of the mansion from 1 – 3 p.m. during an Octoberfest event put on by the recently re-established A. Fisher Brewing Co. This outdoor beer garden will feature food trucks, live music, outdoor games and booths and, of course, beer.
We hope to see you at the River District Homes Tour on Oct. 6! And if you can’t make it, please consider supporting local journalism and the good things happening in our community by donating online on our website or on our West View Media Facebook page.
Makeshift dwellings around the Jordan River, underneath bridges, and in parks aren’t a new thing on the west side. In fact, west side residents are probably more used to seeing such homes than people in other parts of Salt Lake City. Indigent people may not live by our community standards, but they nonetheless live in our community. Some live here for a short time, leading transient lifestyles, but others have lived here for years.
We see these people toting around all of their belongings in shopping carts or asking for handouts in grocery store parking lots, but very little is known about the individuals themselves. Just like people who have housing, the homeless have a story – sometimes an interesting one, even if their current situation is grim. The following are some of the stories we heard during conversations with several individuals experiencing homelessness.
Michael Hilton-Dalton is a combat veteran who served in several countries including Somalia and El Salvador. After he fell off a 25-foot scaffold when he was working construction, he became physically unable to work. The bank took his home when he was unable to make his mortgage payments. He has no family support (most of his relatives are dead), and the friends he has are heavy drug users. Despite his string of misfortune, he gave one piece of advice: “If you don’t be yourself, you’ll lose your identity, and then you’ll become mentally ill like me.”
Andy Hsiao was sharing an apartment with his brother. After his brother died by suicide, Andy couldn’t take care of all the expenses, so he became homeless. Everywhere he went, he got dirty looks. According to Andy, being homeless warrants some of the worst forms of discrimination rivaling racial discrimination. “They don’t like us anywhere. I get, we’re dirty kids.” Before becoming homeless, Andy earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Utah. He laments that getting his college degree didn’t make my life better. “The only way to get ahead in Utah is to be Mormon,” shouts Andy.
Kosovo veteran Daniel Alexander, who once lived in Rose Park and attended West High for a time, became homeless after the war. Alexander returned from Kosovo jobless with no family support. He filed for Section 8 housing, but the process was so long and riddled with rabbit holes, that he had to wait on the streets until it was settled. Before his deployment, he worked as a truck driver, which he called “the most easiest job in the world except when the roads are icy.” Eventually he managed to obtain housing outside of Salt Lake City proper.
For some people we talked to, homelessness is preferred. After bouncing back and forth between the hospital and jail several times, Michael Steve describes that being homeless is easy and convenient for him. “All I have to worry about is what to eat. That’s it,” he said.
John Pacheco, 44-year-old resident of Citifront Apts., told The West View his story:
Pacheco said that he has experienced homelessness four or five times during his life.
The first time was in 1987 when he was only 14 years old. Because of a drug problem, his mother lost their apartment, forcing them to move into the “underpass trailers” — basically a homeless shelter with trailers near downtown Salt Lake City.
A year later, his family was one of the first to move into the Road Home Shelter when it opened in 1988-89. Pacheco was attending Horace Mann, an alternative high school across the street from West High School. During this time, he took on two jobs at Hardees and McDonalds to get himself out of the homeless shelters. He moved into an apartment with some adult men that he met, until his mom got housing at a project near 500 South and 600 East. At this time, Pacheco attended East High School during 9th through 11th grades. He made a contract with the school, promising that if he didn’t miss a day of school, he could graduate. He kept his end of the bargain, but plans changed after his mother lost her housing; they moved again and he attended West High School his senior year.
Although he had all the credits to graduate, he was almost held back because he could only read at a third-grade level. He says he has some mental disabilities that make it difficult for him to keep a job and to read and write. He said that he taught himself to read after high school with the help of Hooked on Phonics.
At age 19, Pacheco moved out and married his girlfriend. The marriage only lasted about four months, and Pacheco found himself sleeping in his car with his belongings in storage. His mother died at the age of 42 of a heroin overdose. Pacheco worked in construction and welding, and he graduated from a welding program at Salt Lake Community College. He got a welding job at Kennecott through Western Mining Service, but he lost that job when the company went out of business.
Recently, Pacheco was evicted from his Magna apartment after a mixup related to what he says was an accidental firearm discharge. He spent last winter sleeping in his jeep with his dog, after putting all of his belongings in storage once again. “I’d rather sleep in a bush or my car than sleep at the Road Home,” he said. “There’s no reason to live at The Road Home; you’ll get robbed.”
Currently, he lives at the Citifront Apartments on North Temple and 600 West, thanks to the federal Section 42 Housing program for low-income individuals.
A partnership between Salt Lake City and Rocky Mountain Power is helping small businesses on Salt Lake City’s west side save money by offering incentives to upgrade their existing lighting systems to become more energy-efficient.
The Small Business Direct program, an extension of Rocky Mountain Power’s “wattsmart” initiative, will introduce business owners to the most common interior and exterior lighting upgrades, including LED, to help them save money on future energy use.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lighting is a highly energy efficient lighting technology that has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the U.S. By 2027, widespread use of LEDs could save about 348 TWh (compared to no LED use) of electricity: This is the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants (1000 megawatts each), and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today's electricity prices.
Rocky Mountain representatives will be going door-to door in west-side neighborhoods from September through the end of December conducting free, on-site energy assessments. Area business owners may also set up an appointment by calling toll free 844-712-6232.
Once the assessment is completed, business owners will have time to review the project proposal, the incentives offered and determine whether or not to proceed. Qualifying small businesses may receive enhanced incentives to save as much as 75 percent of the overall installation project cost.
The “wattsmart” Small Business Direct team will take care of installation and paperwork. “We want our small business customers to know that our technicians will provide reliable information and quality work,” said Clay Monroe, Rocky Mountain Power customer solutions director.
As a resident of the west side, you’ve likely received a knock on the door or a flyer in the mail offering to buy your home today. “We pay cash for houses” is quickly becoming the calling card for our slice of heaven in Salt Lake’s booming housing market.
“The other day I had two different guys knock on my door and offer to sell my house. My kids were in the backyard and one of the guys acted like a salesman. He said he’d sell my house so fast that I could get my kids registered in their new school before it started. I’ve been here for almost 16 years and it seems that the area is going to be the new Sugarhouse,” said Jen, a resident of Glendale who’s last name has been withheld because of the personal nature of what she shared. “When I moved here in 2002 it was to get away from my ex-husband who was threatening to kill me and my kids. I was lucky to buy a home when I did because if I tried now, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. I can’t imagine what other women who are leaving abuse will do.”
Many people like Jen, who have been victims of crime, face the reality of escaping victimization through the lens of affordability. She says that she stayed with her abuser because she wanted to have the security and stability of homeownership. “I chose to stay because I didn’t want to raise my kids in a shelter. I had a beautiful home and all of my friends and family were around me. I didn’t want to lose that. My kids deserved better,” said Jen.
She took a part time job and began to secretly save money. When she felt she could make it on her own, Jen moved into Glendale. It was the only place she was able to find an affordable apartment. She purchased a home a few years later, down the street from the apartment that became her refuge.
The choice to remain in one’s community and home rather than risk losing the quality of life is a heart-wrenching choice made by victims of crime every day. It is a decision that is made even more difficult in a market defined by frenetic sales and ever-increasing prices.
Jen’s story is an example of a much larger issue for residents of the west side – affordability. A lot has changed since 2004 when she bought her home but one thing has remained the same – the security of owning a home of her own. This security and the other benefits of home ownership appear to be disappearing for other victims of crime as housing demand remains unmet and prices soar. According to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau the median home price in 2004 for a home her size was $75,755. Today, the same home’s median price would be $212,000.
In 2016, California became the first state in the nation to adopt a Housing First model using Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding to provide access to housing that is not tied to preconditions and doesn’t require the victim to enter a shelter prior to receiving services.
The Utah Office for Victims of Crime recently began a pilot program for ten agencies to submit competitive proposals and receive up to $200,000 to create victim-centered housing throughout the state. The purpose of this pilot program is to establish long-term solutions to stabilizing housing challenges faced by victims of crime. The pilot features enhanced data which will be used to evaluate housing stability issues statewide for crime victims.
The west side of Salt Lake City has long been a safe haven for people looking for a sense of community and an affordable alternative to downtown. The “housing first” model for crime victims provides a unique opportunity for people like Jen who relocated here to rebuild their lives.
While data and successes are still being collected, the survivor-driven housing pilot program holds great promise as a model for ensuring that people impacted by crime will have the opportunity to call our community home. Jen says she hadn’t heard of the “housing first” model but believes in it wholeheartedly. “I would have left a lot earlier if I had more help. I was so afraid that I would be making my kids live in a shelter, hidden from their friends and family. The west side became a safe haven for me and I hope that the pilot program can create ways to help more people.”