Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker Withdraws Library Square Cop Shop Proposal; Nine More Locations, Eight Of Them Downtown, Still Under Consideration

On June 3rd, 2009, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announced that he is withdrawing a proposal to erect a $125 million "cop shop" on the east side of Library Square in downtown Salt Lake. Three reasons cited in the Salt Lake Tribune include the fact that it would ruin views of the Main Library, shrink an urban park and muddle the square's free-speech, cultural focus. Becker also stated that he had received 400 public comments, most in opposition to the proposal. That widespread opposition was also documented in my previous post. Additional stories published by the Deseret News, KSTU Channel 13 (with video), and KSL Channel 5 (with video).

Not cited in the story was the recent revelation that the proposed Library Square site would be subject to liquefaction in the event of a significant earthquake. Experts consider the Wasatch Front to be long overdue for a serious quake. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

The construction proposal and targeted costs remain the same. It is to be a five-story police headquarters and three-story emergency-operations center, and Becker proposes to spend $125 million on it. He wants to float a bond in November 2009 to fund the public-safety complex. As currently written, the measure would tack an extra $71.82 onto the annual property-tax bill of a $250,000 home. This is still considerably less than a $192 million proposal for five separate facilities rejected by a 263-vote count in 2007 after former mayor Rocky Anderson sabotaged the proposal by coming out against it at the last minute. But the need for such a facility remains firmly established, since the current facility on 200 South has been described as "dilapidated." Water leaks through the ceiling of the evidence room, sewage has spilled into the basement and officers often get stuck inside the building's elevators. So all that remains in dispute is the location.

There are nine other prospective locations for the proposed facility, eight of them downtown. The Salt Lake Tribune has posted a map HERE; they are also listed below, in no particular preferred order:

-- 7/11 northeast corner of 300 South and 400 East (this has been considered the primary alternative)
-- Barnes Bank southeast corner of 300 South and 400 East (this has also been considered a primary alternative)
-- Burger King northeast corner of 300 South and 200 East
-- State Office of Education 500 South midway between 200 East and 300 East
-- Garff dealership 500 South midway between State St and 200 East
-- Chamber of Commerce parking lot southwest corner of 400 South and State St
-- Health Department property 600 South halfway between State St and 200 East
-- Youth City southeast corner of 2100 South and 700 East (near Sugar House)
-- Holding parking lot Main Street halfway between 400 South and 500 South

The latter proposal is the simplest and most desirable proposal because it involves only one landowner and only nominal site preparation costs. But the owner does not want to sell. Conspicuous by their absence are any proposals to erect the facility on the west side, meaning that Ralph Becker's campaign promise to steer more development towards the west side remains little more than empty rhetoric. Already the city has spent $75,000 in consulting fees to determine the future site of the cop shop.

Becker is taking some heat for being supposedly slow about ditching the plan, but he says that he merely wanted to assure a thorough debate, and to provide as much opportunity for as many people as possible to weigh in. Salt Lake Crawlmeister Glen Warchol thinks Becker may have burned up too much political capital. The next goal is to have a new site formally recommended in time for a city council meeting on June 16th, so that they will be ready in July to vote on putting the pared-down bond on the November ballot.

No comments: