Council outlines criteria to minimize impacts of new homeless centers; asks Mayor to announce sites Oct. 10 for public review

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2016
Contact: Dan Weist or Molly Farmer
Council Communications, 801 535-7600

Also Asks Mayor for Plan to Address Homeless Shelter Area Concerns As Well As Providing Services this Winter

The Salt Lake City Council tonight identified needed changes in City land use ordinances intended to minimize potential neighborhood impacts, based on the Council’s concerns about placement and size of two new homeless resource centers. Since site selection is a mayoral decision, the Council requested the Mayor announce sites for the facilities by Oct. 10. This would allow ample time for public engagement before any State legislative deadline.

In addition, Council Members asked the Mayor’s office and Salt Lake County to submit a plan by Nov. 1 for how they will identify and rectify potential negative neighborhood impacts, and identify existing and new resources needed to do so.

Council Members expressed substantial misgivings about the large size and potential negative community impacts of the two centers, which Mayor Biskupski has insisted must each house 250 homeless individuals.

To inform the Mayor’s decision on sites, Council Members took straw polls on important components, so the process could move forward quickly under Biskupski’s Administration. The Council’s legislative power is to make land use decisions, approve related budgets, and set policy. Policy issues the Council has mentioned include limiting and mitigating potential neighborhood impacts. The Council will consider and adopt ordinances to codify its conditions as quickly as can be scheduled.

“Selecting sites and buying property is clearly the Mayor’s responsibility,” said Council Chair James Rogers. “So, it is important that the City Council exercise its legislative authority to set conditions related to land use policy and budget approval. We’ll live with these decisions for decades and we need to be compassionate, fair and respectful to everyone. It’s about our City putting in place opportunities that provide a high quality of life for everyone.”

Size matters

As they have in previous meetings, Council Members expressed grave concerns that new facilities not be so large that they burden their new location and create negative impacts similar to the crisis in the Rio Grande/Pioneer Park area.

“All seven City Council Members have significant concerns about the size and potential impacts of such large facilities, but the Mayor is unwavering in her position that each of the two new centers have 250 beds and she has the legal authority to make that decision independently of the City Council,” Council Member Charlie Luke said. “Regardless, we still encourage Mayor Biskupski to decrease the size of the proposed facilities. I am firm in my position that each facility be capped at a maximum of 250 beds with no potential for additional beds.”

“While site selection is ultimately the Mayor’s purview, the Council is committed to our constituents’ needs – both those with and without homes. We are elected to be the representatives of our districts and I have heard 250 is too large time and time again. I will keep saying it as long as I am hearing it,” said Council Member Derek Kitchen.

Protecting quality of life

Among the Council’s proposed criteria to be included in land use ordinance revisions are ways to mitigate neighborhood impacts, such as providing landscaped buffers, determining how far the facilities can be from single-family houses, identifying maximum facility size, and others. These criteria will be further refined in coming weeks.

A variety of other criteria and restrictions have already been identified by Salt Lake County officials and federal rules, and these may also be incorporated into the City’s ordinances.

“I’m particularly concerned that sufficient resources are dedicated to not just addressing impacts from a new homeless facility, but also addressing existing quality of life issues in order to limit the cumulative effect that can occur.” said Council Member Erin Mendenhall. “I’d like to see the Administration identify ways to measure, monitor and report on how these facilities affect our neighborhoods over time,” she added.

The proposed zoning criteria are tools the Council plans to use to ensure residents’ best interests are kept in mind. Council Members spoke to that end during the Council’s Tuesday night homeless services discussion, before informally voting in favor of the criteria.

“How you run a 250-bed facility and who it serves makes all the difference in the potential impact on the community,” Council Member Andrew Johnston added.

Council Members further requested the Biskupski Administration provide a written plan by November 1 that describes the process the Administration will use to identify and rectify any negative impacts that might arise in the neighborhoods that will host the new homeless facilities, as well as identifying existing and new resources to achieve this.

“People should live in housing, not in shelters. The Council recognizes the link between addressing the homeless issue and providing quality transitional and affordable housing,” Council Vice Chair Stan Penfold noted. “We have made a number of strides in recent months to dramatically increase the City’s investment in affordable housing, including looking to allocate significant resources to contribute to getting this housing built in Salt Lake City.”

Zoning and budget approvals

Depending on the sites selected by Mayor Biskupski for the homeless resource centers, additional Council action may be required to adjust zoning and/or to approve funding. Council Members will ensure that these items receive appropriate public notice and input. Depending on plans and designs of the facilities, it is possible that Council Members could require additional mitigation measures if they feel what is proposed is not sufficient.

“The Council is committed to continued investment in improving public health, public safety, human dignity, and quality of life issues downtown and throughout the City,” noted Council Member Lisa Adams. “Over the past three years, Council Members have initiated and approved more than $3 million for efforts directly related to impacts in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande area, including new police patrols, an innovative social worker program, sanitation crews and portable restrooms, and storage facilities for homeless individuals’ belongings.”

Winter Emergency Services

Council Members called for a plan from Mayor Biskupski in preparation for how the City will address emergency services this winter, and responding to the crisis conditions along 500 West and the Rio Grande / Pioneer Park area.

Next steps

Council Members will continue to discuss issues related to homeless services and facilities at each of their Tuesday work sessions over the coming weeks.

 

Highlights

Salt Lake City Council Members.…

  • prefer more homeless centers, each with fewer beds, but acknowledged Mayor is unwaveringly committed to two, 250-bed facilities. In response, the Council supported a cap of 250 beds.
  • will adopt land use and operational policies to protect neighborhoods and provide best environment for people seeking services.
  • requested the Mayor announce her sites by Oct. 10 so the public can review and comment.
  • requested a plan from the Mayor by Nov. 1 to address potential negative impacts of relocated facilities and to monitor neighborhoods over time.
  • took two straw polls that emphasized that separated services for single women should be provided in a safe environment.
  • recognized it may have future opportunities to shape design and operation of facilities if zoning and budget issues require Council approval.
  • noted past funding to address quality of life impacts and cites commitment for additional investment as needed.
  • requested the Mayor to provide a plan by Oct. 25 for addressing how emergency homeless services will be provided this winter and how the immediate crisis situation will be   resolved.

 

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