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Lee Adair inside City Boundary April 25, 2023, 6:55 PM

The Residential Conservancy, or RC zone, that is used in the Joaquin neighborhood was probably the most democratic bit of legislation ever advanced and acccepted in Provo. Hundreds of citizens, landlords, and city officials spent countless hours, discussing, planning, negotiating, and finally voting on this particular zoning. It’s very specific goals were designed to preserve one of the last historic neighborhoods in Provo while allowing for higher density development just north of where this current project is proposed.

It’s unfortunate that this landlord has let their property deteriorate to the point where it needs to be rebuilt, at least, according to them. That seems to be a fairly common tactic in Provo. Use a rental property and fail to maintain it until it becomes a neighborhood eyesore and then claim it needs to be replaced with something new, which is a dog whistle for higher density and higher profitability. This particular property still looks fine, fits in the character of the neighborhood, and has a density that’s appropriate to the neighborhood. Thus the only real motivating factor in rezoning here is to put money in someone’s pocket.

Perhaps the current developers should consider moving into and rehabbing these properties and re-developing their current homes for higher density. I’m sure their neighbors won’t mind.

Thomas Spencer inside City Boundary April 25, 2023, 4:54 PM

Having heard the second presentation of this project at Neighborhood District 5’s meeting on March 30, I have the following comments.

Two kinds of arguments have been made for this project. One kind is purely personal: profit (or “financial responsibility”) and sentiment (family legacy, etc.). These are fine as private motives, but I do not believe they have any relevance when requesting a very significant zoning variance. When asking the neighborhood to put aside the recently crafted, democratically informed neighborhood plan, one should rely exclusively on arguments about the benefit to the neighborhood.

Appropriately, the second kind of argument focuses on a community need, and is therefore more serious. The specific arguments within this class seem to be two.

The first community-oriented argument for the Denali project is that Provo needs more housing generally. This argument has undergone a development since the project was first presented. The first time, much was made of the need for more student apartments, but on March 30 the revised project targeted the “young profession” and “small family” demographics. This was a change in the right direction, because BYU students can now live anywhere, and Joaquin neighborhood certainly doesn’t need to take on any more of the student housing responsibility. It has suffered in obvious ways from shouldering the lion’s share of that numeric burden over the past 70 years or so. The luxury character of the Denali apartments also fits the non-student demographic better. There were a couple comments at the March 30 meeting that actually came from the non-student, young-professional demographic, pointing out that home ownership is (for now) just too expensive, so a larger selection of nice apartments in central Provo would be a welcome addition.

I don’t find this housing scarcity argument for the Denali project compelling. While it is obvious that the Wasatch Front is facing a housing shortage, the impact of the Denali on the housing stock in Provo would be too small to make a difference, especially when you consider the size and number of new apartment buildings that are already approved and in various stages of construction in Provo. The Denali project feels more like “getting in on the action” than solving a housing problem. It could only make a difference in the housing shortage if it started a domino effect, inspiring other developers to push for similar large variances within (South) Joaquin and its sister neighborhoods. But this would be to reject altogether the historical and residential conservation goals of these neighborhoods. This slippery slope argument is not paranoid ideation on my part. At both of the neighborhood meetings on the Denali project, other investment property owners were present to see how the wind was blowing.

An unfortunate aspect of the housing stock argument is the implied accusation of nimbyism. I definitely sensed this accusation in some comments at the March 30 meeting. Nimbyism is of course problematic, but I find it a little outrageous to propose that Joaquin residents are particularly guilty of it. First of all, the neighborhood plan gives the green light for new higher-density development in the northern half of the neighborhood. That’s hardly nimby. Also, the southern half is already filled with medium- and high-density buildings that significantly detract from the historical and residential character of the neighborhood. The veiled insinuations of nimbyism are kind of like kicking someone when they are down, or adding insult to injury. I also don’t think the discussion so far has appreciated just how important owner-occupants and long-term residents are in a rental-heavy neighborhood like ours. They are the skeleton crew of civic action, they are the ones who report violations, they are the protectors of property value, they are the lobbyists for public amenities (Joaquin Park, anyone?), they organize tree plantings, they attend city meetings, and they carry on the institutional memory of the neighborhood. One should be extremely careful about disparaging the interests of this vital, endangered species.

The second community-oriented argument for the Denali project is that the dwellings currently occupying 313 E 200 N and 234 N 300 E (the two properties where the project would be built) will not attract long-term residents, even if they are fixed up, since the Apollo apartments stare down on it from two sides. I find this to be the only argument with real traction, because it speaks directly (or at least could be framed to speak directly) to the experience of current Joaquin residents living in a zoning hodgepodge. If I were arguing for the Denali project, I would put the matter like this: Given the disastrous zoning free-for-all in historic Provo’s past, isn’t it possible that carefully crafted micro-zones within the neighborhood, putting like next to like, would actually improve the “logic” of the neighborhood? If we have a sad little house that no one wants to buy (think of Pixar’s “Up”) in the middle of some three-story bedboxes, wouldn’t it be better to create a high density micro-zone there, and replace the house with a modestly sized and attractive apartment building? The argument here is that zoning should be consolidated where consolidation is the only aesthetically and environmentally coherent option.

But even if the development advocates pitched the matter in this non-profit-oriented, neighbor-centric way, there would still be problems with the argument. One of them has been pointed out time and time again: parking. The more people you put in the area, the more cars will be crammed onto the street. It doesn’t actually matter if you have off-street parking or not, because people will choose the street first. This is one of the great truisms of Joaquin neighborhood. Everyone who has lived here knows this. There is something very convenient about parking on the curb, and many renters will not even check if there’s off-street parking available. The only way around this is to charge for overnight street parking, i.e., to have a city parking program, which is currently political dynamite. And telling residents that the owner will only provide two (or however many) parking stickers per apartment will do absolutely nothing to prevent tenants from bringing additional cars and parking them on the street. There is no scenario, I think, in which the Denali as currently (re)designed does not exacerbate the already horrendous parking situation in the Joaquin Used Car Lot…er, I mean the Joaquin neighborhood. True, 200 N is just far south enough in the neighborhood to avoid the full brunt of the parking malaise, but the Denali project would probably change that.

One person suggested in the March 30 meeting that the parking strips around the proposed new complex could be removed and replaced with angled parking, like a sudden widening of the street. But I like to think that no city employee would ever, not even for a second, toy with such an idea. The tree-filled parking strips of our historic neighborhoods are absolutely essential to their aesthetic character, and are often, sadly, the only gratifying feature of a given property. Replacing them with more asphalt would be the worst possible outcome of this proposal, in my opinion. I would rather have 50 units on that property than give up the parking strips.

Also, I am not convinced that home-sized dwellings at the properties in question would not appeal to people, assuming they were fixed up nice. The two “towering” apartment buildings adjacent to these properties are not, in fact, right next to each other. It’s not really a situation like in Pixar’s “Up.” And the developer could—and this is crucial—go quite a bit smaller and still double or triple the number of renters on the properties and make, I assume, a profit of some kind. That would leave room for green space, which is almost entirely missing in the current plan (except for the parking strips). Most importantly, a smaller building could make room for trees between these properties and the Apollo, which would provide much-need aesthetic relief. (Currently there is a line of trees on the property that partially block the unsavory site of the Apollo, which is a great thing.) The current proposal is, in my opinion, still just too big, and would leave no room for trees between the Denali and Apollo.

Finally, the biggest problem with greenlighting the Denali project is that it would almost certainly have a domino effect. Instead of just the Apollo “looming” over people’s houses, there would now be the Apollo and the Denali “looming” together–and the Fleur-de-Lis and all the other big buildings that the developer has pointed to as a justification for rezoning her own property. Instead of fixing the neighborhood’s “looming” problem, the Denali would add to it. I am not making an a priori argument here; I have looked carefully at this property and its surroundings several times in the last month, and I really believe that putting in another high-residential building in this particular area is simply going to drive the rezoning process further. The argument for “no” will get weaker each time.

In closing let me say what I would personally like to see happen here. Regardless of whether some degree of redevelopment occurs, there should be some cooperation with the Apollo to beautify the latter’s property. The Apollo is a classic case of an edge-to-edge sea of asphalt engulfing a couple uninspired bedboxes. There should be some loveliness on that property (the Apollo) no matter which standpoint you view it from. Landscaping is the key here. Maybe there could be cooperation between the two properties to alleviate the eyesore. I would also prefer that the dilapidated units on the corner be renovated, and if that can’t happen, then I think there should be some closely situated new homes there, kind of like around the old Maeser school. I don’t believe that putting 23 units–or even half that many—is the answer.

Michael Mitchell inside City Boundary April 12, 2023, 8:54 PM

It is important to identify the purpose of this ordinance. To what extent is this ordinance designed to promote safety by prohibiting trailer and junk car storage on the street and/or overhanging a sidewalk? To what extent is this ordinance designed to "beautify" a neighborhood by hiding trailers from view? What aspects of these reasons are actually reasonable to require of a private property?
I would suggest that safety reasons should be the main focus of this ordinance, specifically applied to street parking, obstruction of sidewalks, and obstruction of clear vision areas. I believe that if the formerly specified safety hazards and any other environmental hazards are mitigated, homeowners should be permitted to use their private driveway as temporary storage (3-7 days depending) of all types of vehicles and trailers as they see fit. Because of this belief, I am against the proposed changes to the ordinance as well as any current aspects of the ordinance that do not directly pertain to safety.
I also request that there be a clarification as to what a "front yard area" includes. My interpretation of a front yard area does not include a driveway, which I perceive as a designated location for vehicle and trailer driving and storage. While this may be an incorrect interpretation, it does seem to be consionable.

Name not shown inside City Boundary April 11, 2023, 3:50 PM

What will the city do to mitigate the increasing dangers to pedestrians, residents, and bicycle users on 100 North? Speeding has been a problem between 500 W and 900 W for well over 2 decades and gets worse by the year. Concerns have been expressed during neighborhood meetings, public forums such as Facebook, etc., and ignored.
If the goal for the future is to use 100 North to divert traffic off of Center Street, the safety and speeding issues will only get worse. I'm sure this area isn't the only one facing these concerns.

Meili Tark inside City Boundary April 11, 2023, 8:55 AM

Like many in Northern Utah, I'm concerned about the danger of flooding in my area. Recently, a friend pointed me toward the flood zone map which helped me discover that my home is totally safe from flooding, even in the event of dam failures. However, I know people within the debris area and am concerned about their well-being.

I saw that Provo is offering each household 25 sandbags. While I'm grateful to see the city offering help against flood danger, 25 sandbags won't protect even a single home. So far, I have seen two homes with sandbags and they were both within the area that is safe from flooding.

What would help far more would be for the city to educate the people about flood areas and offer more sandbags to those in the most danger. The flood map needs to be sent out so people can find out whether their home is in danger and far more sandbags need to be offered to people in the flood and debris areas.

Name not shown inside City Boundary April 10, 2023, 10:39 AM

I feel like this amendment is adding more government overreach to an enacted ordinance that shouldn't even exist. I do not think that Provo City should be able to tell me where I can park a boat, trailer, or recreational vehicle on my own property - period. I already pay property taxes, as well as vehicle registration, I should be able to park where I want on my own property. Ordinances already exist to limit unregistered and inoperable vehicles from being parked in the driveway and elsewhere; and there are clear vision ordinances that limit where vehicles can be parked if it interferes with being able to see around corners. Why do we also need to be told where we can and cannot park a registered trailer on our own property? It isn't worth the time and effort to enforce this rule, and the truth is the only people who will be enforced upon are those with nitpicky neighbors, which speaks even more to this being an unnecessary ordinance. I would question how often the Code Compliance Division is even enforcing on this ordinance. If it is minimal, that should also tell you how unnecessary the existing ordinance is. I would hope that you deny this ordinance amendment and then seek to repeal Section 14.34.060 altogether.

David Keller inside City Boundary March 30, 2023, 5:18 PM

The applicant showed his plans at a Joaquin Neighborhood meeting, fielded questions, and considered suggestions from neighbors in attendance. Neighbors at the meeting expressed their belief that the planned improvements and conversion of one single-family home to a two-family home fits very well with the Joaquin Neighborhood Plan.

Name not shown more than 2 miles March 19, 2023, 11:03 PM

This could be a positive addition to this part of Provo and I am in support. It looks like a lot of the space will be used for parking. Is there a way to design the space such that pedestrian access is placed ahead of cars? With the river trail and baseball fields close by I could foresee these shops having bike or pedestrian traffic if the space is designed in their favor and is not too heavily car-centric. Thank you!

Robert Hammond inside City Boundary February 14, 2023, 3:19 PM

I have known Robert Walz for many years and I think he would be a tremendous addition to the District 1 Executive Board. Robert has been an important voice in the area and one that is highly respected. I can give my highest recommendation for having Robert Walz on the Board.

Stan Jensen inside City Boundary February 11, 2023, 9:28 AM

Robert has experience in the community and is someone who participates and cares about helping his neighbors and Provo.