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New regulations proposed for Salt Lake homeless resource centers following temporary ban

The Weigand Center, shown in Salt Lake City, on Jan. 10, provided individuals experiencing homelessness with a warm, safe place to shelter overnight. The Salt Lake City Planning Division presented a change in regulation for proposed homeless resource centers in a public Q&A session on Tuesday.

The Weigand Center, shown in Salt Lake City, on Jan. 10, provided individuals experiencing homelessness with a warm, safe place to shelter overnight. The Salt Lake City Planning Division presented a change in regulation for proposed homeless resource centers in a public Q&A session on Tuesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — When Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall withdrew her support from a proposed homeless shelter in the Ballpark neighborhood last October, she initiated a petition to ban new permanent homeless shelters in the city for six months.

The temporary ban — which excluded temporary winter overflow shelters — was approved by the Salt Lake City Council. Following the approval, city leaders said the six months would be used to consider a new ordinance to determine what types of conditional use permits for shelters or homeless resource centers would be utilized going forward.

"The city council adopted an ordinance that deleted homeless shelters as a land use in the zoning code — effectively prohibiting new homeless resource centers. This was done as a temporary measure so that we can consider a different approach to deciding locations for future homeless shelters and resource centers. The goals of this new process were to ensure the safety and welfare of those experiencing homelessness," explained Nick Norris, Salt Lake City planning director.

Salt Lake City's Planning Division was then tasked to come up with an alternative process to approve future homeless resource centers. That process was presented Tuesday in a public session.

The alternative process, noted at the time of the ban, needed to include considerations of districts that already housed homeless resource centers.

"Salt Lake City, and more specifically, certain districts in the city, bear a higher responsibility than other municipalities in the state, to provide shelter and services to the state's homeless population, and now is a crucial time for us to pause and chart a new, more balanced path forward in our plans for how those services take shape within the city," Mendenhall said in a statement at the time.

A more balanced path requires extensive input and community outreach — especially in districts or areas like the Ballpark neighborhood.

"We want to address what happens when there's a concentration of this type of use and the related services and how neighborhoods that host shelters are impacted, impacted differently than other neighborhoods who do not have shelters or other homeless resource services in or near them," said Norris.

City officials also recognize that there are many stakeholders involved beyond residents in proposed areas.

Salt Lake City planning manager Kelsey Lindquist said, "It was vital to understanding the scope of concerns from all engaged stakeholders so that staff could address as many of those zoning-related concerns and impacts as possible."

After a lengthy process, the planning division proposes that the Salt Lake City Council adopt an overlay zoning district to regulate future homeless resource centers and homeless shelters. The overlay would be adopted into the zoning code with updates to the existing regulations that apply to homeless resource centers and homeless shelters.

Current location of homeless resource centers and resources.
Current location of homeless resource centers and resources. (Photo: Salt Lake City Planning Division)

What's the difference between the current process and proposed changes?

The Salt Lake City Planning Division is advocating for a shift from conditional use process — which were in place prior to Mendenhall's moratorium — to an overlay zoning district.

Prior regulations allow conditional-use applications for homeless resource centers in the general commercial district, downtown support district and the warehouse district. Homeless resource providers would submit a conditional-use application that included security and operation plans, as well as a demonstration of how the building and site are designed to prevent crime.

The conditional use then requires a 45-day public notification period with notice to the associated community council, residents and property owners within 300 feet of the proposed location.

A public hearing is held with the planning commission following the 45-day period, where the commission can give final approval.

The process would be much like the current one, but with the additional regulations included in the overlay. Instead of a conditional-use application, individuals would submit a request for a zoning map amendment. The process includes the 45-day notice period, a public hearing with the planning commission which will offer a recommendation to the city council, and then the city council will discuss the recommendation in a work session, a public hearing and ultimately, a formal meeting to make a decision.

Current zoning districts where conditional use permits are allowed for homeless resource centers.
Current zoning districts where conditional use permits are allowed for homeless resource centers. (Photo: Salt Lake City Planning Division)

Changing review standards

The overlay zoning district would require additional review standards. The updated standards include additional submittal requirements, information required by the city and proximity to other resource centers or providers.

New factors to consider for the map amendment listed by the division include:

  • The anticipated benefits to people experiencing homelessness provided by the facility in the proposed location.
  • The proximity of support services and the ability of people to access services from the proposed location. A transportation plan connecting residents to services is required if the proposed location is not within walking distance.
  • The ratio of homeless-related services proposed in Salt Lake City compared to other jurisdictions in Salt Lake and Davis Counties.
  • The anticipated impacts on city services, including fire, police, and any other city department that would be involved in providing services to the facility.
  • Proximity to other homeless resource centers.
  • The anticipated impact on other government entities that may provide service to the facility if the information is readily available from the government entities.
  • The anticipated impact on the health and safety of public spaces within a quarter-mile of the proposed facility.
  • Equity between different neighborhoods. High-impact land uses are those land uses that produce higher levels of pollution than the permitted uses in the underlying zone.

Issues to be identified in areas surrounding proposed homeless resource centers.
Issues to be identified in areas surrounding proposed homeless resource centers. (Photo: Salt Lake City Planning Division)

How does it compare to other cities?

"We did look at other cities to determine what best practices there are and what we've discovered is that every city does it slightly different," Norris said. "Every city is facing the same kinds of issues that we are right now in Salt Lake City. ... It's expensive to provide emergency shelter and services. Cities when they come to regulating these kind of run the gamut."

Members analyzed the Intermountain cities of Boise; Reno, Nevada; and Denver to determine "best practices" — but ultimately it was hard to compare.

"It's really hard to find a best practice in the United States because every city is different. And to be blunt, a lot of cities haven't done a great job of responding to homeless issues," added Norris.

Is this going to help?

"Zoning is limited in the issues associated with homelessness. Zoning cannot dictate personal behavior, but it can address how land is used to achieve shared community goals," said Norris.

"We know we need homeless shelters and homeless resource centers, for now. We know we need a process for that. But in order to adequately address and decrease the number of people who are experiencing homelessness, there's other things that have to happen related to housing," he continued. "First and foremost, is having more permanent supportive housing in the region. That's the bottom line that we have to do."

Next steps

The Planning Division will provide details of the proposal to the Planning Commission at a briefing on Nov. 9, which will be streamed on the Salt Lake City YouTube page.

An in-person open house regarding the proposal will also be held on Nov. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Public Safety Building. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Dec. 14 where the public can address the commission.

To read the proposal in full visit Salt Lake City's website.

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Ashley Fredde covers human services and and women's issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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