By Kristina Whitley
With an almost unanimous voice, Provo City Council voted Tuesday Jan. 8 to downzone South Joaquin.
And many students and developers attending the meeting saw the decision as an assurance that SCAMP will be next.
Janeal Thornock, BYU Legislative Assistant told the Council that downzoning South Joaquin – the area from 50 East to 400 East, and from 100 North to 500 North – would only further force students into the SCAMP zone.
“Students see this as a vehicle or a venue to assure the success of SCAMP,” Thornock said. “We”re limiting the area where the students can go.”
Zoning changes affect who can live in homes – families or renters.
In the case of South Joaquin, the City Council voted to downzone the area from a high-density area – where apartment complexes can be built – to a Residential Conservation area.
For students, that means no more apartment complexes can be built in the South Joaquin area.
The Council was eager to stress that students who live in existing complexes will not be kicked out of their apartments.
The same is not necessarily true of students living in homes, which may be illegally zoned.
Richard Secrist, Provo community development director, explained that many homes in the South Joaquin area are over-occupied, or are being used for the wrong purposes.
For example, a home built and zoned for a single family, occupied by students as two apartments would be considered illegal, and students could be kicked out. But, students living in a legally zoned duplex would be safe.
The Council also unanimously passed an ordinance that requires certain design standards in the Joaquin neighborhood, which encompasses 900 East to 100 East, and 500 North to Center Street.
Thornock explained the zoning changes require landlords to bring old homes, which they rent to students, up to a certain code.
“Landlords can”t afford to live up to the standards that will be implemented upon them,” Thornock said. “The landlords will sell out to families.”
Thornock said the BYUSA legislative taskforce, which she heads up, estimates that approximately 80-120 students each year will lose housing as landlords either sell out, or move back into the homes they had been renting to students.
Several Provo residents, who were in favor of the ordinances, commented during the public hearing that the market would accommodate for the students who were displaced, because of increased occupancy in the SCAMP area.
But Michele Richardson, 21, a senior in international law and diplomacy from Salt Lake said she was concerned that greatly increasing demand, without greatly increasing supply would overwhelm students.
“The way the market supports these changes is by inflating rent prices,” Richardson said. “And rent prices are already inflated.”
Many people made comparisons between the South Joaquin downzoning and another fairly recent Council decision which forced some students, and a lot of cars, out of the Tree Streets.
Barbara Sandstrom, Council vice-chair told NewsNet the Tree Streets decision was designed to “restore home ownership in the area.”
“If a home was rented out, one part of the home should be occupied by the owner,” she said.
Sandstrom said she believed Tree Streets was different from South Joaquin because the Tree Streets decision was made with the intent of getting rid of the “additional cars and additional people” who didn”t own homes in the Tree Streets – student renters.
Secrist told the Council he had heard of “at least a couple” students who were kicked out of their homes as a result of the Tree Streets decision.
Thornock told NewsNet eight or nine students had come to her office to seek help after being kicked out of apartments in Tree Streets. She said she fears the same could happen to students living in homes in the South Joaquin area.
But Sandstrom stressed to NewsNet she hopes that doesn”t happen.
“It”s not our intention to kick people out of their homes,” she said.
After public comment ended, Cindy Richards, Councilwoman for Southwest Provo, stressed that “all the existing legal dwellings that exist in South Joaquin will still be available.”
Meaning, apartment complexes in the area won”t be torn down, but no new ones can be built.
Dan Gashler, 20, a sophomore in archaeology from Abbottsford, Wis., told the Council he didn”t believe they were listening to student voices.
“As BYU students, we number 30,000 strong,” he said. “The ordinances that you”re proposing right now may not have the direct impact of kicking out students, but that will be an indirect consequence.”
Cal Monson, a Provo Tree Streets resident, said he believed the Council was participating in “exclusionary zoning,” by deciding where people can live.
“You”re trying to herd the students into the SCAMP area and you”re ignoring the details,” Monson said.
Stan Lockhart, Council chair tried to refute the idea that the Council doesn”t care about students.
“I”m not aware of a single decision made by this Council that is anti-BYU student,” he said.
Kris Barney, another Provo resident agreed with Lockhart that the decision isn”t being made without consideration of students.
“We”re not trying to push out the BYU students,” he said.
Many residents opposed to the ordinances said they believed South Joaquin shouldn”t have been decided before SCAMP.
Monson told the Council the South Joaquin decision should have been dependent upon whether SCAMP passes.
“You”ve got the cart before the horse,” he said.
Because student housing development has been limited in the Tree Streets, Orem (with a BYU administration decision last semester not to approve any more housing outside Provo) and now South Joaquin, students fear that SCAMP has become the only housing possibility.
Thornock told NewsNet she believes many students don”t understand the immediacy of the Council”s decisions.
“Students should realize that this stuff is affecting them right now,” she said. “SCAMP and South Joaquin aren”t something that”ll happen later. It”ll affect them now.”