Tell me about it

Kersten - November 21, 2007

If you’ve check out our big plans, you’ve seen that we’re renovating this current place as a stepping stone while we try to build a house — preferably a modern, fairly green house. Although this is all quite hypothetical, we’ve done a little research on the permitting and building process in some of Salt Lake’s neighborhoods. It ain’t pretty, folks. In fact, a lot of neighborhood meetings and hearings are quite a bit more rancorous than what’s described in this Los Angeles Times article.

Don’t these people look angry? It seems that in California, as in Utah, you just can’t mess with the bungalow without making enemies.

The story is more than a week old, but somehow I fear that it’s timeless: modern aficionado picks a neighborhood based on its charm and liveability (translation: established, mature homes in an older style) and wants to update his property with a contemporary structure. Neighbors burst into flames.

Other than the details specific to this situation, the article does a good job summing up what Tai and I fear would happen when we try to pull a building permit anywhere near downtown Salt Lake City. Many of the city’s best neighborhoods are that way because a developer bought large tracts of land decades ago and built hundreds of houses all in one or two styles. (Sidenote for those of you familiar with the Salt Lake valley: wouldn’t it be hilarious if 50 years from now new Draper was considered historically charming??)

There are plenty of great reasons to preserve and restore significant historical buildings; there also are plenty of great reasons to allow a blend of new and old in established neighborhoods. What’s evolved in Salt Lake City since that developer of yore are historic landmark districts in many parts of the city. I cannot talk about these districts without first bursting into flames — or at least getting an expression not unlike the man’s above — not because their stated purpose is to retain the historical charm of these neighborhoods, but rather because that purpose is often translated to and enacted as “No. New. Anything.” sans discussion about compatibility, building for your era, etc.

This, and the monster home ordinance of early 2006 (more flames), are two of a few very large reasons that we’ve been eying Summit Park more and more these days, despite all the other very large reasons not to, including our genuine love for Salt Lake City proper.

Chew it over while you enjoy your turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


  1. Thank you so much for this post! We too live in Utah (Sugarhouse, one of the neighborhoods you were talking about.) We are also flipping our current home, while living in it, as a stepping stone until we can build a modern home.

    We’ve checked out available lots in Salt Lake and even as far as High Country Estates, but we’d feel a little out of place in Herriman.

    It’s nice to see some like minded people in this Valley!

    Comment by Kalli — November 21, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  2. Kersten,
    I feel your pain, I live in Brownstone Brooklyn. It’s an interesting problem because if you lift the restrictions then that opens the door to all sorts of crappily designed homes. Right now in Brooklyn there are so many developers who are buying up lots in non-landmarked great neighborhoods and building “Fedders” buildings (a nickname given to apartment buildings that have huge AC units built into the outside walls of every unit that are branded “Fedders”, all are without question universally ugly). Absolutely no respect for context or history, just the cheapest materials with no thought for design.

    So how do you avoid that but allow well-designed, context-considered buildings? Who knows. I think that’s why so many of these communities decide to just cut them all off. Not the best solution but probably the safest and easiest.

    Comment by Rusty — November 21, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  3. My primary complaint about the process in Salt Lake is that there don’t seem to be many design or architecture professionals on the boards that make these decisions. I think a balance of “public at large” seats with design/professional seats would be a great start — then the pros can balance out all the “I just don’t like that look” comments with a little reason.

    I hate the crappy developments and developers as well, but I suppose at least part of why they’re building that way is because people will buy stuff regardless of whether it looks bad. Shall we start a groundswell movement for good taste?

    Wow, that was snobby of me, huh!

    Comment by Kersten — November 21, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  4. jlnrzencctkmvsgvwell, hi admin adn people nice forum indeed. how’s life? hope it’s introduce branch ;)

    Comment by Prayeldaddindy — December 30, 2008 @ 10:00 am

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