Utah has the largest wage gap in the country – and it’s felt
With 70% of Utah’s women in the workforce, closing the gender wage gap is an issue people are tuned into and expect to see changes happening quickly. But more than just equal pay for equal work, those we spoke with wanted to see gender disparity in professions addressed as well. City leadership on these issues would mean doing an internal audit to make sure Salt Lake City is practicing what it preaches when it comes to closing the gap and pushing for gender equity across professions. It was also expressed that there should be trainings on how to negotiate salaries, health benefits, and paid time off.
Childcare is expensive and keeping qualified employees out of the workforce
There is a lack of quality, affordable childcare in the city. This shortage means women (and men) can’t go back to work full time, or they drop out of the job market to care for their children. City Hall itself does not have a childcare center on its premises – something identified as a problem the next mayor needs to address. It was suggested that the city should reach out to the LDS Church and see if there are opportunities to use church buildings that sit empty most of the week as possible locations for neighborhood daycare centers and meeting spaces.
It was noted that taking care of a child does not fit in with a traditional 8-5 work schedule and that the city should set an example by offering its employees more flexibility to work from home to tend to sick kids, pick kids up from school, or allow time to attend school plays. Providing funding for after-school programs, especially in the arts and sciences, would be hugely beneficial to parents of all income levels, as well.
Healthcare and public health education need to be top priorities
Given the uncertainty created by Washington regarding healthcare markets, the need for community health services and Planned Parenthood is greater than ever. Where the state has stopped funding Planned Parenthood, one suggestion was to see how the City might assist with that funding gap.
Social determinants such as domestic violence, teen pregnancy and STI rates are good indicators about the direction a city is taking. An idea brought up was to take mass public health data and locate areas in the city that have higher rates of these social determinants. Once identified, the city could provide additional resources and educational opportunities to these areas as a way to lower rates. It has successfully been done before in Salt Lake City, and a renewed focus on this could better lives of many in our community.
Inclusivity of diverse backgrounds is vital to the decision making process
Including diverse voices in planning and project management is important to build a welcoming and safe environment for all. Be it learning of the need for wider sidewalks to accommodate strollers, including more lighting along streets and pathways, or rebuilding systems to report workplace harassment or domestic violence, the city needs to have a wide array of voices in the decision making process.
Permitting is a painful experience
Every single person shared their frustrations on the length of the permitting process and the expenses that incur because of it. Said one successful business owner 11 months and tens of thousands of dollars of fees into the process of opening his seventh restaurant, “If I was a first-time business owner, I’d be out of business.” It’s clear the process needs a major overhaul.
There is a disconnect between neighborhood residents and small businesses
The ability to walk a short distance to find quality local dining and shopping experiences is a quality Salt Lake City residents love. There seems to be some disagreement on how best to integrate the needs of small business and the wishes of neighbors, though. Having the city better facilitate those issues and come to common sense compromises was one simple suggestion brought up on how best to address this issue.
Incentivize building the city we want
A major concern of small business owners and residents alike is the loss of neighborhood uniqueness as the city grows. Currently, the city makes it easier to tear down and rebuild than it does to preserve architecture that defines many of our neighborhoods. The suggestion made was to have the city take a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to determine what “style” of city we want.
There is a lack of communication between the arts community and other key groups
One of the driving forces behind business moving to Salt Lake City is the high quality of life offered by our cultural experiences. Arts and culture leaders aren’t brought to the table when discussing the larger economic picture for the city, though. Businesses and the arts are both catalysts for economic growth, and it was suggested that a group or commission be formed that brings leaders from these communities together to build a long-term vision for the city.
There is also a perception that city government finds large cultural events to be an inconvenience. One comment was that lip service is given to the arts, but there isn’t much done in the way of promotion. A suggested solution was to create a better tie and communication line through a possible positions such as an “Arts Commissioner” to act as the liaison and visionary leader between the city and arts community.
More space is needed to foster a strong arts and culture community in Salt Lake.
Every participant in our discussion expressed the need for more facilities for the arts. The complicated relationship between Salt Lake City and County have created unnecessary complications in providing studio space and other areas for artistic expression and creation. It’s well understood Salt Lake City residents are great stewards of the arts, so one suggestions was to create a city ZAP-like tax to help with funding, provide space, and increasing opportunities for arts and culture in our community.
Arts are a valuable tool to engage different communities and bring them together.
The arts are great at convening community. By inviting different groups to engage in conversations covering issues like social justice, social movements, and other controversial issues through the arts, we can build a more compassionate, understanding city.
Affordability is becoming a major concern of the west side
The west side of the city has always been the most affordable to live, but that is quickly changing. The 84116 ZIP code is the most rapidly appreciating ZIP in the city and long time residents are feeling the crunch. While their own home values are increasing, there isn’t an affordable place for them to go within the city, creating a snowball of other problems – loss of a city resident to more affordable areas of the valley creating more traffic congestion, worse air quality, and a variety of other issues.
Feedback we received was that the city currently is putting up more hurdles than it is helping with this housing crisis. It was suggested redesigning city programs to better work with non-profit partners would be a good start. Another suggestion was considering providing bridge financing on housing projects to increase home ownership.
Building the neighborhood and community we want
Currently, there is a lack of neighborhood businesses and amenities on the west side. A lack of restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, and grocery stores servicing the Rose Park, Glendale, and Poplar Grove communities hurts those living and working in those neighborhoods. Utilizing business and residential input, we can work together on a plan to create the community that welcomes and accommodates the needs of everyone..
The topic of open spaces was also heavily discussed. Providing resources to develop the Jordan River Parkway was a top priority, as was the desire to finally finish the Folsom Trail – a pathway connecting downtown and the Jordan River Parkway.
The looming issue of the west side: the Inland Port
The proposed Inland Port would be a cargo and distribution hub, servicing primarily the western region, but there is little known or understood about this major construction project on the horizon for Salt Lake’s west side.
The State of Utah took over much of the authority to manage land on Salt Lake City’s west side when it decided to move forward with the project during last year’s legislative session. A void in city leadership and the unwillingness to come to the negotiating table means the city lost its ability to collect taxes from the area, but is responsible for things like road maintenance and providing services. The state also moved forward with the project without doing a comprehensive air or environmental impact study. While the city has little say in if the project will move forward, what the city can do is say how it wants the project to proceed. During our discussion, the idea of building a net-zero, green port was discussed, and how to get the state on board. “We want a project that is looking 20 years in the future, not 20 years in the past.” – Stan.
Strong vision from SLC leadership for the future of transportation
We’re all aware of the fact Utah and Salt Lake City are growing like crazy. Growth in the west typically means building out instead of building up. Salt Lake City needs to set an example for the Wasatch Front and rest of the country that there is a desire for different modes of transit.
To accomplish this, we need to build a city for people, not cars. Building up our urban core supports business, brings life and vibrancy to downtown, creates walking corridors, and gives visitors the amenities they want and expect. Our ultimate goal should be a “5-minute walk shed” where anyone can access almost any service they desire within a five-minute walk, or at the very least be a five-minute walk to a transit center to take people to those services. To accomplish this, we need leadership from the Mayor, and a willingness to paint the picture and push the vision.
We need a comprehensive transportation plan
There are a number of separate studies done on the various modes of transportation, but no single, all-encompassing plan. We need a comprehensive plan that takes into account the full picture on how we get from “Point A” to “Point B”.
Mass transit is the backbone of a comprehensive plan, but we need to go deeper. How can we seamlessly combine modes of transit that work for everyone? What motivates people to ditch their cars? What education programs can the City run to move people towards alternative transportation? What can we do to accommodate the needs of people that are reliant on transit options other than cars. And how can we use technology to help people get around, and what about people who do not have access to smartphones or other tech? These are the questions that need to be addressed in a comprehensive transportation plan, and it should be a top priority for the next administration.
Politics need to be taken out of our transportation systems
A major frustration is the fact that there are different visions and desired outcomes depending on the person in the Mayor’s office. For example, Mayor Becker was heavily committed to bicycle infrastructure, but Mayor Biskupski took a drastically different route when she came into office. There is concern that the $86 million road bond passed in 2018 will become a political tool and the City might lose out on the opportunity to push the envelope with transportation needs and infrastructure. By creating a community based, comprehensive transit plan that ascends the political agenda of any single person, we can build a system that works for every Salt Laker and visitor to the city.
Incremental steps will help people adapt to our changing transit needs
Transit is an empowerment tool, and how we empower people is important. Living car-free is difficult for most in the City, but moving to living “car-lite” is an achievable goal. Household vehicles cost on average $9,000 a year per vehicle for insurance, maintenance, gas, etc., and are the second biggest expense for families. The City could do more to educate people on these statistics and move residents to a “car-lite” lifestyle.
We need to be building a city ready for a “car-lite” future by taking smaller actions that can have long-term impacts. Ideas include increasing frequency of public transit service, giving residents credits to take alternative forms of transportation like GreenBike passes or Lyft/Uber credits, making “Bus Only” lanes on busy streets, building childcare facilities close to transit centers, and offering bicycle maintenance courses in schools.
Public safety is as much an urban design issues as it is police and fire
Public safety is the single-most important role a city plays in the lives of its residents. But cities can be smarter about how to go about creating safer neighborhoods, primarily in planning how they are designed. Activating streets with pedestrian traffic is proven to fight crime in neighborhoods. The city needs to play a bigger role in incentivizing the development of active streets with sidewalk patios, apartment complexes that are pet friendly and encourage dog walking, and utilizing porches instead of backyards.
We need to be smart about how we tackle the housing affordability issues facing Salt Lake City
Housing affordability and planning is a hotly discussed issue – not only for the immediate need, but for the long-term. Units being built today don’t adequately address the larger issue of housing. Salt Lake City is currently pushing out low-income residents and young families – newly constructed apartments are too big and too expensive, and there is a lack of affordable “first homes” for young families. This exacerbates other issues like roadway congestion and breathability, while shrinking a tax base in SLC. We need to take steps to tackle the immediate crisis while also ensuring we don’t hurt the long-term urban fabric of the City.
Taking a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to building the kind of city we wants
Different parts of the city face different challenges and zoning ordinances should reflect those challenges. We need to be taking a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to zoning. The City also needs to play a bigger role in pushing purpose-driven development and following through with its planning. City development studies are conducted and recommendations are made, but funding for those recommendations are insufficient. Added funding for The Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) would go a long way to helping take this neighborhood approach.
Salt Lake City needs to get creative in finding funding for projects
Approximately 50% of Salt Lake City land is un-taxable thanks to the city being home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the University of Utah, and the state government. With the currently configured Inland Port, even more taxable land disappears. City government needs to find creative ways to raise revenue through fees, tackling the issue of land banking, and reevaluating taxing loopholes and incentive programs.
Alternative transit options are critical to the future of Salt Lake City
Currently, cars are the single biggest factor for urban design. Wide roads, poorly maintained trails, and a lack of neighborhood services all feed into our car-centric culture. Designing narrower roadways that encourage scooter and bicycle traffic, following through with trail projects (like the Jordan River Parkway and completion of the Folsom Trail), removing minimum parking requirements on new construction, and bringing services such as small grocery stores, coffee shops, bars and restaurants to our neighborhoods are all ways to move the City away from car use. Another suggestion was to build a public transit minded generation by relocating and building childcare facilities closer to TRAX lines.
Permitting isn’t only an issue for business, it’s a problem for planners
The city permitting process is a hassle for everyone. A lack of communication between departments, especially fire, throughout the permitting process stall projects. While other cities have been able to work with their fire departments to be more flexible with code, the issue persists in Salt Lake City. Modernizing fire code to meet the changing needs of our evolving urban environment needs to be a priority.