The West View

The West View

By Nkenna Onwuzuruoha

Ana Valdemoros and Tham Soekotjo, the owners of Square Kitchen, can be described as unassuming, hard-working people. As I walk in their culinary incubator warehouse space at 751 W. 800 South, I find them sitting side by side, heads down, engaged in paperwork behind a folding table where the open area meets the kitchen. They are humble, yet they have both played an integral part in increasing economic opportunities and a general feeling of community on the west side.

Tham worked for over eight years at NeighborWorks Salt Lake, a local organization focused on community housing and development, and runs his own food truck. Ana received her master’s degree in city and metropolitan planning from the University of Utah nearly two years ago, worked for the Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development and Planning Division, runs her own empanada business, and was recently appointed to represent District 4 on the Salt Lake City Council, replacing Derek Kitchen, who was elected into the Utah State Senate. 

Ana and Tham have personally encountered some of the challenges that prevent small food makers from growing their businesses. Their willful spirits and long-standing commitment to the west side set them on a mission over two years in the making to create an outlet to help small business owners learn how to navigate some of these hurdles.

In fall 2018, the couple opened the doors to Square Kitchen, a culinary incubator kitchen where small-scale food producers prepare their goods to sell from their food trucks or in public venues like farmers markets, festivals and retail stores. Clients schedule time in the fully equipped space anywhere from a day, which is ideal for traveling chefs, to months at a time.

The incubator offers emerging businesses an environment that fosters growth and independence. Ana and Tham mentor clients on being efficient with their time, keeping their finances in order, and maintaining a clean work environment. Clients also have access to resources they would not receive elsewhere, including legal services, photographers, and marketing, branding and professional design consultants at no cost. Collaboration and cross-referencing often occur among members. One business may use the bread that another business bakes in one of its menu items. One entrepreneur may tell another about an opportunity to work an event. Square Kitchen clients chat informally and during their meetings that happen every two months about what has and has not worked for them.

Recently, Spice Kitchen Incubator, a nonprofit that provides around 25 refugees and low-income community members with opportunities to grow a food business, relocated to Square Kitchen. The partnership between the two incubators has meant more material resources on site and a lively flux of customers and clients frequenting the space.

This quieter part of the Poplar Grove now not only has more vigor but security. The lights are always on at Square Kitchen since it remains available to clients at all hours. Ana and Tham believe this has been an appreciated crime deterrent in the neighborhood. “We watch out for each other,” she said. Ana and Tham also believe that Square Kitchen’s presence has inspired the houses and businesses to take more pride in their own properties and work with the city to beautify their neighborhood. They both have started to see proof of this along 800 South.

A measure of success for both Square Kitchen and its clients is outgrowing the space. Local businesses Hello Bulk Market, Wasatch Nectar, Fuego Mexican Grill, and Buzzed Coffee have most or all of their production and sales off-site. Moreover, two of the aforementioned businesses have established a physical location on the west side. Buzzed Coffee truck’s owner, long-time Rose Park resident Trina Perez, is looking to open a brick-and-mortar coffee shop in her neighborhood.

For entrepreneurs who look to Ana and Tham or their clients for inspiration on how to start their own business, they stress that perseverance and persistence are key. Tham believes, “If you’re willing to not just work hard, but persevere through all of the trials and tribulations, then good things will come out of it. And don’t forget that there’s always help. We didn’t go through this alone. We had a lot of help and support.”

Ana and Tham have as much ambition as they did when they first embarked on starting their own businesses. I asked them what they see in the future for Square Kitchen five or 10 years down the road, and they look at one another and smile. They tell me about phase two. In the near future, they plan to convert the front space into a retail shop and food court open regularly with about four or five permanent tenants and rotating clients. They also plan to establish an advisory board to assure that Square Kitchen’s mission continues to attract community support.

In the meantime, the two invite everyone to attend the incubator’s Sunday pop-up markets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit Square Kitchen’s social media pages for details. Square Kitchen also rents its front area for events, such as birthday parties, wine clubs, conferences, neighborhood meetings, fundraisers, and wedding receptions, with the option of having any number of Square Kitchen clients cater their event. Ana and Tham are also accepting new clients. There’s an easy pre-application for prospective Square Kitchen clients on

By Flor Olivo and Ed A. Muñoz

One day in March, parents of WestSide Dance students saw a Facebook update from the group’s director Maxine Lucero. She was inquiring about a space to meet for practice that day. This year Lucero’s ballet folklorico troupe (traditional Mexican folk dance group) has been meeting at Mary W. Jackson Elementary in the Fairpark neighborhood. That day, Mary W. Jackson experienced a power outage during school hours and Maxine was worried about having to cancel practice later in the evening. She didn’t want to cancel practice due to a fast approaching and important event for the group. Fortunately, power was restored and practice went on as usual.

Before Mary W. Jackson Elementary the group practiced at Rose Park Elementary for many years. In fact, for the past 21 years Maxine has gathered hundreds of youth in different locations on the west side of Salt Lake City to practice ballet folklorico. She has shared her passion for this Mexican cultural tradition with young people since 1997 when she first founded the group.

Since then the group has made a mark in Utah by mentoring young dancers for over two decades and proving that their talent and dedication can bring much individual and group success. Their dedication has allowed WestSide Dance to perform at prestigious events such as the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Hispanic Fiesta Days, Westfest, Hispanic-American Festival, Living Traditions and more. ​

Members of the dance troupe volunteer their time by participating in many community service projects. Over the years they have provided yard care for the elderly, prepared and served food to the homeless, organized clothing and food drives to name a few.

Of late, Maxine has opened her arms to community organizers who have helped her put together a small board of directors. With their help, a plan of action was developed and is being implemented to help solidify her dreams for the group to become a standing force on the west side for years to come.

When board members asked Maxine where she saw WestSide Dance in five years, the first thing she said was “a place that is ours.” She envisions the group expanding into more schools, providing community workshops, and becoming a formal component for the school district’s after-school programs. She imagines the groups mission “to honor our cultures and share the joy and vibrancy of dance with our community” strongly coming to fruition through this larger institutional presence.

For now, the group is working on solidifying its presence on Salt Lake City’s west side by organizing a 21-year anniversary gala celebration – a festival celebrating the popular Mexican-American holiday Cinco de Mayo featuring a bike and car show, vocal and dance performances, mariachis, children fun booths, karaoke y baile, and a silent auction along with food and drink vendors.

The event takes place on Sunday, May 5 at Sugar Space Arts Warehouse at 132 S. 800 West. The board is currently looking for sponsors that will serve as Padrinos and Madrinas (Godfathers and Godmothers) for the event. The sponsor packages range from $100 - $1000 and include a variety of perks. You can find more information about WestSide Dance and their Cinco de Mayo event at


Grupo local de danza folklórico mexicana busca apoyo para la celebración del Cinco de Mayo

Por Flor Olivo y Ed A. Muñoz

Un día de marzo, los padres de los estudiantes de WestSide Dance vieron un informe mediante Facebook de parte de la directora del grupo, Maxine Lucero. Ella buscaba un espacio para practicar ese día. Este año, el grupo de ballet folklórica de Lucero (grupo de danza folclórica tradicional mexicana) se reune en Mary W. Jackson Elementary en el vecindario Fairpark. Ese día, Mary W. Jackson sufrió un apagón durante clases, Maxine estaba preocupada de cancelar la práctica de esa noche. Ella no quería cancelar porque el grupo tenía un evento próximo. Afortunadamente, la energía eléctrica se restauró, la práctica continuó como de costumbre.

Antes de la Escuela Primaria Mary W. Jackson, el grupo practicó en la escuela primaria Rose Park por años. De hecho, durante los últimos 21 años, Maxine ha reunido a cientos de jóvenes en diferentes lugares del lado oeste de Salt Lake City para practicar ballet folklórico. Ella comparte su pasión por esta tradición cultural mexicana con los jóvenes desde 1997, cuando fundó el grupo.

Desde entonces, el grupo ha dejado su marca en Utah guiando a jóvenes bailarines por más de dos décadas, demostrando que su talento y dedicación pueden traerles éxito individual y grupal. Su dedicación ha permitido que WestSide Dance se presente en prestigiosos eventos como los Juegos Olímpicos de Invierno de 2002, Fiesta Hispana, Westfest, Festival Hispanoamericano, Living Traditions y más.

Los miembros del grupo de danza ofrecen su tiempo como voluntarios en proyectos de servicio comunitario. Por años, han ayudado a cuidar el patio de personas mayores, han preparado y servido comida para personas sin hogar, han organizado colectas de ropa y comida, entre otros.

Recientemente, Maxine abrió sus brazos a organizadores comunitarios quienes ayudaron formando una junta directiva. Con su apoyo, se desarrolló un plan de acción que se está implementando para solidificar sus sueños y convertir al grupo en una fuerza permanente del lado oeste para el futuro.

Cuando los miembros de la junta preguntaron a Maxine dónde veía WestSide Dance en cinco años, lo primero que comentó fue "un lugar que es nuestro". Ella prevé que el grupo se expanda a más escuelas, ofrezca talleres comunitarios y se convierta en un componente formal para el programa de después de la escuela del distrito escolar. Ella imagina que la misión del grupo de "honrar a nuestras culturas, compartir la alegría y la vitalidad de la danza con nuestra comunidad" se está materializando con una presencia institucional amplificada.

Por ahora, el grupo trabaja en consolidar su presencia en el lado oeste de Salt Lake City organizando una gala en celebración al aniversario 21 del grupo. La fiesta popular Mexicoamericana del Cinco de Mayo volverá al lado oeste de Salt Lake City con un festival. La junta está planificando un espectáculo de bicicletas y autos, presentaciones vocales y de danza, mariachis, puestos de entretenimiento para niños, karaoke y baile, y una subasta silenciosa junto con vendedores de alimentos y bebidas.

El evento tendrá lugar el domingo 5 de mayo en Sugar Space Arts Warehouse en 132 S. 800 West. Actualmente, la junta busca patrocinadores que servirán como padrinos y madrinas para el evento. Los paquetes de patrocinadores varían de $ 100 a $ 1000 e incluyen una variedad de beneficios. Más información sobre WestSide Dance y su evento del Cinco de Mayo se pueden encontrar en

December 30, 2018

Celebrations of Light



Celebrating light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, Diwali (pronounced “De-Vah-Lee”) is the East Indian Festival of Lights. Diwali is celebrated by several religions during late Autumn during the dark of the moon on the lunar calendar. It is a major family holiday, comparable to Christmas.

Diwali was celebrated on November 3 at Sugar Space on Salt Lake City’s west side. Friends and family enjoyed traditional Indian dance performances by Chitrakavyya Dance Company, led by Mrs. Srilatha Singh, and special guests Sonali and Julie.

Afterwards, everyone feasted on East Indian food from the restaurant Pastries & Chaat and enjoyed highlights of Bollywood movies. Young “desis,” fresh from the Indian subcontinent, sang along as they partied after the dancing, taking a break from their contract jobs on the Silicon Slopes of Utah. The event was organized by west side native Michael Evans in honor of his late wife and the passion they shared for India, its ancient culture, and the vitality of its present.

Photo 1: Traditional “Alarippu” dancers Pavithra and Shritha.  Photo by David Ricketts

Photo 2: Traditional Diwali decorations by Swathiarjun, including lights and flowers surrounding a brass statuette of Shiva. Photo by David Ricketts

Photos 3: (Top to bottom) Srilatha Singh, Malikava Singh, and Chandana Paukuri. Photo by Swathi Mudiyunur




The grounds of Temple Square and surrounding areas are illuminated every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since the Olympics of 2002, the LDS Church Office Building Plaza has featured a ring of international Christmas Nativity displays made by many hands from around the world. This 2017 display depicts the biblical story of Mary, Baby Jesus, and Joseph as refugees fleeing an evil king. 

Photo by Michael Evans


Randall Lights

Randall lights

The Randall Family has delighted the neighborhood with festive lights and homemade Christmas decorations in their Poplar Grove yard at 924 West Pioneer Circle (620 South) for over fifteen years. Their display includes two 10-foot-tall wooden nutcrackers, an even taller snowman, Mr. and Mrs. Clause twirling a jump rope for six of their grandkids, and a hot air balloon coming down from the roof.

Photo by David Ricketts


Red Neck X-Mas


Every year a family on 900 West near 300 South decorates almost every inch of their front yard with animal and toy-themed displays all aglow with multi-colored lights. They call it Red Neck X-mas! 

Photos by David Ricketts

December 30, 2018

2018 Election Recap

By Michael Evans

Starting with headline-making issues: Proposition 2, the medical Marijuana initiative, passed with language that required the legislature to draft the final law. Replacement legislation called The Medical Cannabis Act passed a special legislative session on December 3.

Proposition 3, expanding access to Medicaid for at least 150,000 Utah citizens, was approved by the voters and will take effect in April of 2019. This federal program is the financial bedrock of the elder care network that so many Utah families rely on for their parents, grandparents, and aging relatives.

Proposition 4, instituting an independent redistricting commission for congressional boundaries passed by a slim margin. These boundaries are redrawn every ten years by the state legislature based on the U.S. Census, and the new law will turn this task over to a bipartisan committee. Salt Lake County, as a whole, may become a congressional district because of this legislation, but that is only conjecture.

Ben McAdams (D) ousted incumbent Mia Love (R) by approximately 700 votes in the election for Congressional District 4, which includes the southern part of Salt Lake County. McAdams is now the only Utah congressman who is in the majority party in congress. Formerly all four Utah congressional representatives were in the majority party.

Incumbent Chris Stewart (R) kept his congressional seat in District 2, comprising most of Western Utah, including West Valley City and Salt Lake County north of I-80. Stewart began his town hall meeting at West High School in 2017 by acknowledging that many in the crowd likely didn’t vote for him, then went on to say it was still important to hear them. His opponent, political newcomer Shireen Ghorbani (D) promised: “No lies, no hate, no health care cuts, no family separations” in a last-minute mailer, and got almost 40 percent of the total votes.

Rob Bishop (R – District 1) and John Curtis (R – District 3) held onto their seats. Mitt Romney is going to the U.S. Senate after earning 62 percent of the vote. He has residences in several states, but his management of Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympics is widely admired.

Democratic State Representatives Sandra Hollins (District 23) and Angela Romero (District 26) were re-elected by wide margins. In Senate District 2, which includes a portion of Glendale, Democrat Derek Kitchen took 76 percent of the vote.

Linda B. Hansen will represent State School Board District 3, and Laura Collier Belnap will represent State School Board District 5. Nate Salazar took 80 percent of the vote against Douglas Greene in the race for Salt Lake City School Board District 4, which includes a small portion of Poplar Grove east of the Jordan River between 500 South and 800 South. All state judges on the ballot were retained.

Constitutional Amendment A, the Military Property Tax Exemption Modification easily passed with the promise of helping to lower the tax burden of military families. Constitutional Amendment C, which gives the legislature power to call special sessions under circumstances like the sudden resignation of Jason Chaffetz in 2017, passed as well. A state property tax adjustment was defeated, as was a non-binding proposal for a gas tax. Salt Lake County passed a bond issue for road maintenance which indicated that Utahns weren’t completely dead-set against taxation for public services.

Nationally, the Democratic Party gained a majority in Congress. The Republican Party took four more seats in the U.S. Senate, but lost two others. Their majority stood at 53, while the Democratic Party and Independents had 47 seats.

Dr. Marcie Goodman

People may ask, “Once I have set aside enough water, then what do I do?” Emergency preparedness is an ongoing activity. Few have the resources or opportunity to compile everything needed all at once. This article addresses some of the approaches and possible ways to organize for emergencies. Please keep in mind that however you structure your own plans and procedures, the most important aspect is to not procrastinate. If a disaster does strike, all the good intentions in the world will not help, so start right away to collect items on a regular basis that will benefit you and your family in case of trouble. 

One tactic when beginning efforts is to gather preparedness items we already have into a special place (such an activity can be turned into a very productive project involving the whole family). We can utilize spare canvas bags or old backpacks to store specific items of one type or another.

For example, you may designate a case to hold tools such as an extra can opener, camp shovel, a pocket knife, additional flashlights with separate batteries, and so on. Taking inventory of what we have on hand, then collecting them into special places is a very good use of time, effort and money, since we are merely repurposing items we already possess without spending a cent. NOTE: a great idea is to ask for preparedness items as birthday or Christmas gifts.

Another way to begin is to sit down with the entire family and have a planning session concerning how to best deal with possible disasters. Using published guides from trusted sources, such as the federal or state government ( or, decide how you will move forward for your individual needs and situation.

Many choose to put together a car kit as an important step, particularly if you spend quite a bit of time in your automobile. Others designate the 96-hour kit as an essential part of their preparedness efforts. Some people begin buying a few extra storage staples (such as peanut butter or mac & cheese) every time they go to the store in order to have a bit of extra food on hand during emergencies. If your budget allows, you may choose to add prepackaged, freeze-dried foods from special commercial sellers to supplement your food storage.

You may want to build a dedicated first aid kit for your family’s particular health needs (or purchase a pre-made version). Whatever you decide on, make certain the whole family is on board, that you follow your plan (as well as adhering to your budget), and that you consistently move forward (look for more information in the future in this column about various types of kits and long-term storage).

Keep in mind that it is easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about emergencies, but planning carefully and taking small steps will help overcome such anxieties.

By Nigel Swaby

It’s a scenario no parent ever wants to go through. While leaving the Utah State Fair on September 12, a family’s 3-year-old child was hit by a car on 300 North. Days later, two other children were hit by cars in the area. One died.

The rejuvenation of the State Fair has brought more attendees during the 10-day agricultural festival. It’s also brought more cars and more traffic. The surrounding neighborhoods are unprepared for the increase in people and traffic.

 The fair saw 283,000 visitors in its 10-day run – a record number of attendees this year.

 Revenue was up as well. The completion of a 10,000 seat stadium last year provides a venue attracting more people during other times of the year for events like the Days of ‘47 rodeo, music concerts and other competitions.

For many years, neighboring residents have rented out their yards for fair parking. In certain parts of the neighborhood, the increased traffic overloads the street and visitors leave garbage in resident’s yards.

This year was a tipping point. Besides the regular inconveniences of living next to the Fairpark, the accidents involving pedestrians sent a wake up call. In an October community council meeting, Mayor Biskupski brought out her leadership team to hear neighbors’ concerns. Besides the parking issue, neighbors complained about speeding along 500 North, where one of the children was struck.

A number of possible solutions were presented at the meeting – all revolving around the following major concerns: 1) The need for better traffic control at the major Fairpark entrances on 1000 W. and North Temple, 2) The need for a four-way stop at the intersection of 1000 W. and 300 N., 3) The need for marked crosswalks at 900 W. and 200 N., 4) The need for better street lighting along 300 N., 5) The possibility of banning or restricting in-yard parking, 6) The possibility of providing additional parking at the state office building (which is closed on weekends) and shuttling fair attendees, and 7) Incentivizing public transit use with free or discounted fair admission.

The traffic and parking problems during the fair aren’t unique to the west side. University of Utah football games create a similar balloon of stress with people and cars in its neighborhood. Mayor Biskupski is hoping to create a city plan to address the problem equitably.

One possible solution was almost universally disliked: permit parking for residents. The Fairpark Community Council will draft and vote on some final suggestions to be presented to the mayor for consideration in the coming months.

Hopefully next year’s fair will be successful and safer for everyone.

By Ann Pineda

The people I know here are happy with the Fairpark's presence and influence on the area.   Some of us bought our homes here because of it. Many of us helped support the fight to keep the State Fair here, valuing it as part of our local heritage and for the unique character it gives to the neighborhood.

Many of my neighbors like to participate in this identity. Some prepare their own entries for fair exhibits and some work directly for the fair. Others happily anticipate the festive atmosphere that arrives in our streets along with the people looking for a place to park.

It has become a tradition among many families here to allow their kids to set up chairs by their driveways and wave parking signs in order to earn a few extra dollars to spend at the fair. This is an accommodation that helps many Fairpark neighbors welcome the periodic influx of strangers and extra traffic. It also creates an outdoor, family presence that complements the Fairpark's traffic management.

We used to see many more accidents and other street problems before they started adding the parking barricades that increased visibility and reduced blind spots – and confusion – where pedestrian and vehicle traffic is heaviest.

I want to say this very clearly: the Fairpark has been a really good neighbor. They have considered us in their planning. They have been responsive when alerted to problems. Neighbors I've spoken with share my view that event parking has not been much of a problem, so we were surprised by fliers left in our fences suggesting otherwise.

A few residents have expressed anger to the city about neighborhood event parking, especially during the State Fair. As I understand it, their problems seem specific to their narrow street and are made worse by the car-parking practices of one of their neighbors. A solution for their problems may not have anything to do with the neighborhood as a whole.

For my part, I don't want to see the city adopt a one-size-fits-all policy that ruins the happy, block-party atmosphere that has evolved organically across the whole area.

I love being part of this unique Fairpark neighborhood that is also a diverse neighborhood. Our neighbors have differing ways because we all come from different backgrounds and cultures. Tolerance and acceptance are normal for us here.

Years ago, not long after I had moved here, a next door neighbor endeared herself to me when she came to me directly about a careless joke I had made, a misreading of our cultural difference. She didn't characterize my mistake – or me – in a negative light. She merely indicated her limits, those that she needed me to recognize. I understood that she accepted me enough to want to fix a problem that could grow between us. I apologized, of course, in confusion but also in awe: no drama and no other people were involved!

This was my introduction to the strength of this neighborhood. Small acts of everyday acceptance. Neighbors liking each other without needing to be like each other.

We can do better than add to the rage all around us these days. I place a high value on my neighborhood for continually teaching me to recognize a wide range of perspectives. Perspectives which, in turn, allow me to see some of my own assumptions. It is not a small thing to be saved from thinking I know it all.

Ann Pineda is an artist who has lived in and cared about the Fairpark neighborhood for 15 years.

By Atticus Agustin
Additional reporting by Charlotte Fife-Jepperson

Commuting on 900 West has changed ever since Salt Lake City’s lane reconfiguration project was completed in November of 2017. Some community members disapprove of the changes, while others approve of the project, but see the need for tweaks.

The 900 West project involved reducing the lanes to one vehicle and one bicycle lane in each direction as well as adding a center turning lane and street parking on both sides of the street from North Temple to 1700 South.

 But that was not all. The street was resurfaced, pedestrian crossing improvements were made on 700 South, 800 South, and Genessee Avenue, and new crosswalks, bus stop improvements, flashing beacons, and bulb-outs were installed. The point was to make the street a safer place for different modes of transportation, including motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The 900 West project runs from North Temple all the way to 1700 South. Similar projects, or “road diets” as they are called, have been completed in other U.S. cities like San Francisco, Tampa, San Jose, and Palo Alto.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, road diets have possible advantages and disadvantages. They can improve access for bicyclists, improve pedestrian safety, encourage lower speeds (and thus less severe accidents,) and the center turning lane can keep through-traffic moving. Some unintended impacts may include reduced road capacity (for cars),  increased traffic congestion during peak commuter hours, and drivers on cross streets or driveways may have difficulty finding a gap in traffic to enter the main roadway.

 Michael Clára, a Glendale resident and community organizer employed by Crossroads Urban Center, is a vocal critic of the road diet. Through the Poplar Grove Neighborhood Alliance, a group that he organized, Clára represents residents who feel left out of the decision-making process.

Margaret Harmon, one of the residents he spoke to who lives on 900 West, said that the lane reduction has caused a lot of traffic congestion. “Traffic really piles up during rush hour...It is usually backed up for at least a block or more, going north and south,” she said.

Julia Torres, who has lived between 300 and 400 South on 900 West for about 50 years, said that the changes to 900 West are “good and bad.” “It’s good, because now we can park in front of our houses, but in the evening it’s ridiculous. If there is a train stopped at South Temple, then cars traveling north get backed up for several blocks.” Torres has noticed a large increase in accidents as well, especially between 200 and 300 South. She attributes the accidents to drivers who are in a hurry to get home from work and who are not paying attention.

Salt Lake City Transportation Division released data on car crashes on 900 West in August that showed a considerable increase in rear-end accidents, and similar numbers or slight decreases in other types of accidents. The data compared the number of crashes that occurred between North Temple and 1700 South during the first six months of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The Transportation Division states on their website,, “The city will continue to add additional crash data to this page every six months.”

According to Jonathan Larsen, Director of Salt Lake City’s Division of Transportation, it’s still unclear if the rise in rear-end accidents are a direct cause of the road diet, adding that the cause could be a combination of more people following too closely or distracted driving. The division says that two to three years of data collection are needed for the data to be representative of new roadway safety conditions.

“My philosophy is that we want zero crashes. But if a crash does occur, we want it to ruin your day, not your life,” said Larsen.

Clára said his job as a community organizer consists of asking people and agencies if they’re going to work with the neighborhood, and this includes the city. “I don’t have a problem at all with the concept [of the road diet], it’s just that the city didn’t notify us and they’re not talking to [the Poplar Grove Neighborhood Alliance]…My end goal is to just facilitate civic engagement – even if it means undoing the road,” said Clára.

Glendale resident, Billy Palmer, who has long been involved in his community and serves as an officer in the Glendale Community Council, feels differently. “The notion that there was not community outreach and that the community did not have input in making 900 West safer, could not be farther from the truth. I understand that some don’t like [the changes], but it makes it safer for us and our kids to cross 900 West. Some people are newer to this conversation, but many of us who are involved in our community have been talking about this for over a decade,” said Palmer.

Palmer said that years ago when he served on a Westside Master Plan committee, he heard over and over how dangerous 900 West was. People asked the city to do something to slow traffic and to increase walkability. According to Palmer, the current road diet was actually scaled back; they had asked for additional traffic calming measures such as a median and bulbouts at the intersection of 800 S. and 900 W.

“We don’t need a freeway running down the middle of Glendale and Poplar Grove,” he said.

Larsen believes that the road diet was a way for the city to help build a better sense of community in the area. “Before, there was no street parking, and this has worked in favor of local businesses,” said Larsen.

Eric, another resident who lives on 900 West near Chapman Library, said that immediately after the project was completed, he noticed an increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

 “It was the city’s desire to make the west side a better place to live. We realize that we can always do better, whether it be in outreach or modifications in the road,” said Larsen.

crash data.jpg

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by Liesa Manuel

Utah’s proposed state-sponsored inland port would comprise about 20,000 acres of mostly unused land, including wetlands, in Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant. An inland port is a hub of commercial transportation options – train, truck, and air – with links to major seaports.  Inland ports have the infrastructure and customs operations to handle high volumes of freight.  Therefore, a variety of businesses are drawn to a concentrated area, and significantly impact that area.

The subject of the Salt Lake Valley’s air quality was not a key focus of discussion at the Utah World Trade Center’s annual Global Forum in November, but it was mentioned in a breakout session discussing the Utah Inland Port. It was not the stated topic of discussion at any other session during roughly six hours of the Utah Global Forum, although sponsors included the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development.

The implication throughout the panel discussion of the inland port was that changing the state’s business freight model was an essential priority for Utah’s future success and that increased rail traffic was the focus of the port project.

Robert Grow, CEO of Envision Utah (a non-profit dedicated to growth planning) moderated the panel. The members included Lance Bullen, Managing Partner of Colmena group, a major property developer in the quadrant; Lara Fritts, Director of Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development; Inland Port Authority Board member Wade Garrett of the Utah Farm Bureau; and Darin Parker, Managing Director of Parker-Migliori, a large Utah-based meat exporter.

Bullen, whose company sponsored the forum, described Utah’s project as an “intellectual idea.” He also said, “I don’t think that we can afford not to do the inland port because of air quality,” adding later, “Trucks will come anyway...Rail beats any form of transit.”

Grow challenged the panel members to be specific about whether regional air quality would benefit from the operations of the port by asking whether they were “confident,” and “Is there a study underway?” While no panel member answered his question directly, Fritts stated that “…air quality is part of the plan,” and Bullen responded, “That process is shared,” and “We are already at non-attainment.” (“Non-attainment” refers to the fact that our region does not meet federal air quality standards.)

Panel members enthusiastically described the business and economic benefits of an inland port in detail, which prompted Grow to point out, “There are three major west-coast ports,” and ask, “Why here?”

Fritts said that Utah, and Salt Lake City in particular, already has a “global brand,” and that the purpose of the port is to support Utah’s growing participation in the “global trade economy.” In addition, she noted that Salt Lake City links two major interstate highway systems. She said Salt Lake City is part of “Team Utah’” and “has always been very committed” to the inland port project, even though “a couple of changes may still be needed.” She did not specify what those changes might be. (Fritts has been reported as objecting to the Inland Port Authority Board’s handling of tax incentives for business expansion in the port boundaries.)

Parker summed up his argument with “The question is not whether inland ports will be built, but where.” He explained the advantage of utilizing easy access to rail. “Shipping by train is eight times cheaper than by truck.”

Bullen said, “We need to make sure that shipping in and out of Utah is cheaper than LA...Today shipping from Chicago is cheaper.” He had already said “there is a 90 percent chance that something purchased this week [in Salt Lake] came by truck from California,” and elaborated that, because customs services would be offered in Salt Lake, containers could be unloaded from a West-Coast port directly onto a train headed for Salt Lake and then transported by train or truck to subsequent destinations. Then, explained Bullen, there is “utility on the backhaul” because “these containers can pay freight back to a home port.”

The efficacy of existing direct international travel routes from the Salt Lake City airport was mentioned by way of analogy. The appeal of expedited routes for business travel was compared to the demand for direct international shipping starting by rail in Salt Lake that the port would offer, but no panel member directly speculated about increased airfreight. Nor did anyone mention an issue that has concerned some environmentalists: a possible additional runway at Salt Lake International Airport – an issue likely to impact wetlands, bird migration, air quality, and anyone who may be taxed to pay for the project.

Parker and Garrett said that the port would be an advantage to existing agricultural exports to Asian markets, stating that Utah is one of the largest U.S. exporters of eggs, while Utah’s largest cash crops are either hay or fruit. These commodities can be transported efficiently by containerized rail shipping.

All examples cited suggested that the “utility on the backhaul” outlined by Bullen would be agricultural products. The relocation of Kabota tractors to Kansas after that state established an inland port was mentioned as proof that inland ports draw out-of-state businesses.

Deeda Seed of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups attending Utah Inland Port Authority Board meetings regularly, listened to the panel discussion and explained her concerns about potential threats to air quality posed by the port after the meeting.

The first issue was the high likelihood that the port will be used to transport natural resources, particularly coal. Seed cited the makeup of the Port Authority Board’s Technical Subcommittee. Members of that committee include representatives from the state’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining; the Community Impact Fund Board, which allocates state funds to communities or government entities impacted by “mineral resource development on federal lands,” according to the Five County AOG website; and SITLA, the oversight board that manages oil, gas, and mineral leasing funds from state school trust lands.

Seed’s other concern was the possibility that the drayage – transportation of containers and rail cars around the rail yard – will remain mostly diesel. Grow had mentioned that the Inland Port plans project a need for a second rail line because of an increased volume of freight. Seed thinks the drayage activity and resulting air pollution would increase, especially since the rail yard is operational around the clock.

Seed says electric switching engines are the logical choice, but expensive. Union Pacific, Salt Lake’s existing rail freight carrier, as well as BNSF, the proposed second rail carrier, would therefore need incentives to make such expenditures.

While Port Authority Board chairman Derek Miller has been quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune as saying, “We’re excited about the prospect of building a clean port,” no concrete air quality standards exist. However, the current version of state legislation creating the Inland Port Authority Board still allows the board to override municipal zoning designating types of businesses, industries, or the type of freight handled by the port.

The City Council completed zoning changes early December. While the city cannot limit the materials handled by the port, the new zoning regulations (if not overridden) address storage and transfer methods for materials that significantly affect air quality such as coal, oil or uranium. The regulations also ban industries that create significant air pollution, such as oil refineries or chemical factories, and mandate environmental mitigation plans for those not directly banned.


Inland Port Authority Board Members

The 11 members of the Inland Port Authority Board are listed below according to the entities that appointed them. The original appointing entities, which were first laid out in a bill that passed in the final hours of the 2017 Utah Legislative session, were modified by special session following opposition from Salt Lake City. The board and its technical subcommittee include members with backgrounds in natural resource development.

The Governor of the State of Utah (at his discretion) appointed:

Derek Miller is the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce president and former Chief of Staff to Governor Herbert.  Miller also headed the Utah World Trade Center. The Chamber of Commerce describes the Utah World Trade Center’s mission as to “help Utah companies think, act, and succeed globally.”  The Utah Global Forum is one of their projects.  Others include coordinating trade delegations and assisting in obtaining grants for Utah business interested in export opportunities.

The Governor (drawing from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development) appointed:

Ben Hart is the Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. His recent work projects have included business education partnerships such as the Utah Aerospace Partnership, and previously his efforts to bring major business developments to the Layton area when he worked for Layton City.

The President of the Utah State Senate appointed:

Gregg Buxton is a Republican state senator representing parts of Davis and Weber Counties. He directs management services for the City of Ogden.

The Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives appointed:

Francis Gibson is a Republican representative from Mapleton (Utah County) and Utah’s House Majority Leader. He has a background in hospital administration. Gibson replaced then House Speaker Greg Hughes, who had appointed himself to the board, but later resigned because of his property holdings within five miles of the proposed project boundaries. (Changes to eligibility rules were made later in a special session of the Utah State Legislature that have benefited other board members.)

The Salt Lake County Mayor appointed:

Michael Jensen is a Salt Lake County Council member and former chief of the Unified Fire Authority. Jensen resigned in 2018 when he was investigated, but not charged, in mishandling of $370,000 in UFA funds.

The Chair of the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (drawing from the board) appointed:

Garth “Tooter” Ogden is a Sevier County Commissioner with a background in farming, but he also sits on the Community Impact Fund Board, which provides grants and loans to communities and other government entities impacted by mineral and fossil fuel development, particularly on public lands.

West Valley City Manager (with City Council approval) appointed:

Nicole Cottle is West Valley City’s Economic Development Director and its Assistant City Manager. She is also an attorney. 

The Chair of the Salt Lake Airport Advisory Board appointed:

Laura Fitts is Director of the Department of Economic Development of Salt Lake City. Her background includes public and private sector positions in business development, and particular expertise in negotiation of tax credits and other government incentives.

Council Member from Salt Lake City Council District 1 (required by code):

James Rogers is the Salt Lake City Council member representing District 1, which includes most of the future Inland Port site. Rogers is a local businessman, who owns property within five miles of the inland port boundaries.

Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation (required by code):

Carlos Braceras is the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation.

Director of the Salt Lake County Office of Regional and Economic Development (required by code):

Stuart Clason is the director of the Salt Lake County Regional and Economic Development. Utah says that during his time in Utah’s Governor’s Office of Economic Development Clason was “the state expert on oil, gas, and mining.”

by Marilyn Shelton

Dockless scooters from Lime and Bird have become a part of Salt Lake City’s street landscape, ever since they arrived in late summer.

“Whether it’s a Green Bike or a scooter, the exciting thing about these options is that they have the power to clear our air by bridging the first mile-last mile gap which keeps many people from utilizing the city’s transit network,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski in October.

“[The mayor] wants people who live more than a quarter of a mile from the bus or TRAX stop to have more access to transit. They can ride that scooter from their apartment or home to the nearest bus stop or maybe all the way downtown or wherever they need to go,” said Matthew Rojas, Director of Communications of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office.

That is how the city came to partner with dockless scooter companies Bird and Lime in an October safety event called “Walk Your Wheels.” The main message of the event was to encourage individuals to use alternate means of transportation, and to follow the rules.

Lime and Bird passed out approximately 700 free helmets and flyers with scooter safety tips at the event.

To encourage scooter riders to stay off the sidewalks and in the bike lanes, Mayor Biskupski spray painted a stencil on the sidewalk near 300 South and 160 East that read, “This is the place for walking.” She also said, “We all have the responsibility to respect the rules of the road and the sidewalks. We must remember that those who choose to walk in our city are also a part of the solution and the sidewalk needs to remain a comfortable place for them.”

“I know of plenty of people who’ve been frightened or nearly hit by a person on a scooter on the sidewalk…Right now we want to use [the scooters] as a new way to get around town, but you know, eventually people could be getting tickets for it,” said Paul Murphy, Deputy Director of Communications from the Mayor’s Office.

“Salt Lake City has great bike lanes in every part of our city, and we want to encourage cyclists and scooters to utilize these lanes whenever possible. The city is continuing to partner with Lime and Bird to make scooters part of our multi-motive transit system,” said Mayor Biskupski.

The dockless scooters travel about 15 mph and apps for both companies dispense safety advice including, “No bikes blocking the public walkway please,” from Bird, and a reminder on the Lime app to use a helmet. There is also a legal disclaimer on the Bird app that says that riders ride at their own risk.

The Bird app requires a driver’s license before riding the scooters, to certify that riders are at least 18 years of age. Both companies require riders to take a photo of where you leave a scooter so that other users can easily locate them after you end your ride by scanning the barcode on the vehicles.

Daniel Franklin, Operations Manager for Lime, addressed the Walk Your Wheels press conference: “We are looking forward to working with the mayor and the city to make scooter riding as safe as possible, not only for the riders but for the pedestrians on the sidewalk as well. We’re going to work with the city to help implement these rules and guidelines.” 

Sam Reed, Bird’s Director of Partnerships for the Central Region, said, “40 percent of car rides are two miles or less. Bird is a last-mile vehicle sharing solution.” “Safety is paramount to us at Bird...It’s our top priority to support the well-being of our riders and the communities in which they ride,” he added.

Reed also spoke about the launch of the “Bird Watchers” program in Salt Lake. “Bird Watchers are a reminder to help improve safe walking on sidewalks and you’ll start seeing them out on the streets in the days ahead. They’ll provide ground support including re-parking of the Bird vehicles so that Birds do not obstruct the right-of-ways.”

At the event, Lime and Bird each pledged to donate $1 per scooter per day to the city to be used for safety outreach and for scooter infrastructure improvement, which may include the placement vehicles. Reed from Bird said, “This is money that will go to improving the already fantastic bike lane infrastructure that Salt Lake City has.”

Murphy from the mayor’s office said that 500 scooters are currently allowed daily placement by each scooter company so, “That’s potentially $1,000 a day that they could be donating toward helping build up Salt Lake City’s scooter infrastructure.”

Of the 1,000 daily scooters allowed in the city, 100 of the scooters are to be placed west of I-15, according to a temporary operating permit in place since July with the companies. Murphy said that the pledged $1 per scooter per day could potentially help with bike lane route expansion on the west side. 

This winter, Lime placed e-bikes in the city. According to Jon Larsen of the Salt Lake City Transportation Division, Lime has deployed about 130 e-bikes so far. Lime is required to pull a scooter for every bike deployed. As of December 6, there were only eight bikes on the west side, but some of them may have been ridden downtown.

“We know that transportation is a bigger problem on the west side. Not everyone lives next to a bus or TRAX station. People living in Rose Park and Glendale, those areas, they need some sort of transportation to get them to a bus or TRAX,” Murphy said.

Out of three people selected at random on Salt Lake City streets and interviewed by The West View about their scooter riding habits and usage, all three of them said that they preferred the riding experience of Bird to Lime. All three also said that they did not use a helmet when riding the scooters, although they all said they followed the rules when riding the scooters. All three riders said that they had a car, but were using the scooters to bridge the first mile-last mile gap and for what public transportation didn’t cover. All three said that they felt safe riding the scooters and hadn’t had any accidents, although one said, “I don’t like riding on the sidewalk. Too many people.”

“Bird has bigger tires and more stability,” said a male scooter rider who asked to remain anonymous, when asked about his preference.

“Bird is a little bit nicer,” said Emily Hauns of Downtown Salt Lake City.

“Bird. Fewer bumps,” said a man who would identify himself only as J.D., who said that he had relocated to Salt Lake City from St. George. “The scooters are so convenient; there is one on every corner. I have ridden them up to seven miles,” he said.

Two of the people polled said that they use the scooters to run errands, and one said that they use the scooters to go back and forth to work.

According to Rojas, “Walk Your Wheels” is an ongoing scooter education and safety outreach campaign with more events planned in Salt Lake in the future. Rojas said that that the rain in early October slowed completion of the sidewalk safety campaign stencils, but more safety messages will be painted throughout the city eventually.

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