Strategic Goal #2: Upzone SLC

03 June, 2023


As Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods grapple with unmet housing needs, it is important to reevaluate our approach to zoning. To increase housing availability, communities need to host a diversity of housing types; but to diversify the supply of housing-types within a community, it is first necessary to diversify the size of the lots on which properties are allowed to be built. Traditionally, zoning regulations have prioritized single-family homes and low-density development, which prioritizes large lots, big lawns, and car-centric sprawl. Decades of data shows that this pattern of development leads to spatial inequities, social isolation, and unsustainable growth. This approach is not sustainable and directly exacerbates issues facing Salt Lake City today, from the Great Salt Lake to I-15 expansion are the legacy of our land use decisions of years past. Here is our proposal: 

  • Reform all single family zones to create for a minimum lot size of 1400 square feet. 
  • Reform flag lot ordinance to better support infill development and reduce minimum lot width to 20’. 
  • Allow for lot splitting and alleyways to be used as frontage for infill development.
  • Increase lot coverage allowances to 80% and reduce minimum unit size. 
  • Reduce side yard setbacks to 3’, front yard setbacks to 10’.

Below, we’ll discuss the many benefits of upzoning, both for Salt Lake City residents and for our community as a whole:

Upzoning Increases Housing Supply

One of the most significant advantages of upzoning is its potential to address the pressing issue of housing supply. In particular, upzoning will allow for the construction of smaller, more attainable homes for residents who would otherwise struggle to purchase a home. In addition, allowing the construction of multi-home buildings and mixed-use developments, the city can accommodate a greater number of housing options. 

By increasing the supply of different types of housing, upzoning can help alleviate housing shortages and increase economic opportunity for people across all income levels.

Upzoning Enhances Walkability and Connectivity

Upzoning is an important part of creating walkable communities, where people can access amenities, employment, and services near to their homes. By promoting mixed-use development, with connected residential, commercial, and recreational spaces, we can reduce the need for long commutes and foster a sense of community. This not only benefits residents but also bolsters local businesses, stimulates economic growth, and reduces traffic congestion and air pollution.

Upzoning Strengthens Community Connection

All neighborhoods benefit from social interaction and connection, shared experiences, and a sense of community identity. Upzoning can strengthen community connection by promoting interaction among residents and fostering a greater sense of belonging. With upzoning, we can build neighborhoods where residents interact with their neighbors and build community connections. Mixed-use and mixed income communities with active public spaces, parks, and community centers create opportunities for people to connect, engage in civic activities, and build strong ties with their neighbors. By encouraging inclusivity and equitable access to neighborhoods through upzoning, we can break down barriers and build vibrant and diverse communities. 

Upzoning Supports Environmental and Financial Sustainability

Urban sprawl driven by flawed zoning patterns often results in the destruction of agricultural and natural habitats, increased energy and water consumption, and unsustainable use of resources. Conversely, upzoning promotes environmental sustainability and the financial health of communities. By concentrating development in existing urban areas, upzoning helps to reduce the need for additional infrastructure, allows us to preserve agricultural communities and green spaces, and encourages the use of sustainable transit systems. Well-designed neighborhoods can also facilitate the adoption of renewable energy sources, promote efficient waste management systems, and encourage sustainable practice. Additionally, upzoning allows the use of smaller and more energy-efficient homes, reducing pollution and promoting environmentally and financially sustainable lifestyles. 

Upzoning Maximizes Land Utilization

Since land availability is limited in Salt Lake City, there is a need to maximize the utilization of the land that is developable. Upzoning enables builders to make the most efficient use of available land, reducing wasted space and decreasing the cost of long-term infrastructure maintenance. By allowing for more houses to be built, neighborhoods can accommodate our growing population and provide homes for more families without compromising our quality of life.

Upzoning Incentivizes Transit-Oriented Development:

Upzoning goes hand in hand with transit-oriented development (TOD), where high-density housing is located near sustainable transportation hubs. TOD not only supports sustainable mobility but also ensures that communities are accessible to all, regardless of car ownership. By integrating housing, workplaces, and amenities in close proximity to transit options, we can reduce reliance on private vehicles, alleviate traffic congestion and air pollution, and enhance opportunity for everyone.

SLC Neighbors for More Neighbors is working collaboratively with communities, policymakers, the development community, and urban planners to ensure that increased zoning density is thoughtfully implemented in Salt Lake City. Upzoning allows thriving, diverse, and sustainable communities to grow and provide a high quality of life for all residents while providing enough housing to meet our city’s needs.

Our partners at the Libertas Institute have created materials that further illustrate the power of small lot reform. Read more.