city reclaims lost park strips
By Logan Clifford
May 4, 2009 | After years of planning and a new motto
to "restore the vitality of our neighborhoods"
Logan city officials began this summer with a two-year
project consisting of the demolition and removal of
the paved-over park strips within the Logan communities
and replacing them with sod and vegetation.
Paving over city-owned park strips has been against
Logan City ordinance since its establishment in 1866,
but for the past 50 years lack of resources and an influx
in the population, due largely to the increase in student
enrollment at Utah State University, regulation of the
park strips has been neglected. In addition to the ordinance,
park strips do not belong to the property owner, but
are city property.
Many residential and commercial properties have paved
over the once green park strips and added pavement in
order to provide adequate parking for tenants and customers,
but this year the city has said, "No more."
"We want to reclaim the streets," said planning manager
Glen Goins, adding, "We want the residential streets
to feel residential again, not feel like parking lots."
The planning department's goal to green the park strips
is consistent with a national movement to reclaim park
strips and medians. For example, Gillian Gillett, a
California homeowner, has been working hand-in-hand
with her local government to provide more green space
for her community.
Though employed full time, Gillian, with the help
of local officials, began doing public surveys with
a market researcher and interviewing neighbors about
what their streets needed. Just about everyone was in
agreement: more green space. "There were only four trees
on my block," says Gillett. "There was no room for plants
on the sidewalk, but we could green the median."
After the research was completed and had been analyzed,
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation
calling for 5,000 trees a year to be planted, and soon
after appointed a "green czar" who was looking for pilot
Gillett said in an interview with Sunset Magazine,
"This project connected me to the neighborhood." Gillett
says of her now seven-year quest to improve not only
her own block but also her entire community, "This was
never about plants. It was about making a neighborhood
I could walk in."
Logan City shares that goal.
Goins, who arrived in Logan City in Oct. 2008 to fill
the new position of planning manager for the department
of community development, came into the situation with
what he called a "third party perspective" since the
decision to tear out the paved park strips had already
been made in early 2007.
"Being new to Logan meant I could see problems right
away that maybe others didn't even notice, like the
paved-over park strips," said Goins.
But not everyone shares Goins opinion about the park
Sam Dahle, a Logan resident, said in an interview
with the Herald Journal, "We think it's been a big mistake.
They came and took our parking out (that) we've had
for 60 years or longer." Another resident said that
instead of motivating him to stay and take care of his
neighborhood the removal of the park strips could encouraged
him to move away.
Although many homeowners are worried about how this
will affect their property value, students living in
the rental units have felt the impact immediately. Landon
Putnum, a USU student living on 500 North, said simply,
"I'm pissed! They took away our parking. There are,
like, six of us here. How are we supposed to share one
Although the city does sympathize with those living
in rental units who were under the impression that parking
was allowed on the park strip they say there is not
much they can do about it.
"It is the landlord's responsibility to provide parking,"
said Goins. "We are sorry that you moved in under false
pretenses, but we cannot make exceptions," he added.
A group of 30 homeowners, calling itself the Citizens
to Protect Property Rights, LLC, has filed a lawsuit
with the 1st District Court claiming the city was unlawful
in tearing up their property. Charges include "violation
of plaintiffs' due process and other rights," "violations
of plaintiffs' equal protection rights" and "substantial
economic loss," among other complaints.
Goins said that he cannot imagine that they will win,
in view of the fact that the property that the city
is tearing up is city owned land. "It's all about the
bottom line," comments Goins. "No one would care if
they didn't think it was going to impact their bottom-line
"We are standing on firm legal ground," said Kimber
Housley, City Attorney.
One question that has been posed by Kent Dunkley,
a member of Cache-Rich Association of Realtors, is whether
or not the right to park on park strips had been grandfathered,
as residents have been parking there for years.
"How can the city enforce a rule that has not
been enforced for years and then expect everyone to
be OK with it?" said Dunkley.
Attorney Su J. Chon, who wrote the opinion for the
office, wrote that unless property owners could show
a legal right to park in the strip prior to when the
ordinance was created, that right would not be grandfathered.
Many property owners, especially owner occupied properties,
are pleased with the new enforcement.
Jack Bennet, a longtime Logan resident living on 500
North, said he was very excited for the new park strips.
"The cement looks junky," said Bennet. "We
think it's about time the city does something about
James Geier, neighborhood improvement coordinator,
says the new green park strips will add to the aesthetics
of the neighborhood, which will in turn increase property
value. "It's about safety, too," adds Geier. "These
park strips weren't made to be big enough for cars to
park there, so when one does it obstructs the sidewalk.
The green park strips will give our streets a greater
level of walkability."
One resident, whose park strip was replaced last fall,
expressed appreciation to the city for improving the
fašade of their property by planting trees and grass.
"We didn't like the cement in the first place," they
"The overall purpose is to respond to citizens in
those neighborhoods who have come to the council and
mayor and said, 'Please, clean up our neighborhood,"
said Councilwoman Tami Pyfer in a Herald Journal
Concerns about funding for the project have also been
expressed. City Councilmen Steve Thompson says the city
has been "shortsighted" in its approach, believing that
the city will not have a big enough budget to complete
the project and will have to raise property tax.
Goins disagrees. "The money used for this project
has been appropriated into the budget. It is the same
money used to fix roads or prune trees," said Goins.
"There will not be a need for increased taxes."
Despite some disagreement and one lawsuit, the city
will continue its project with high hopes of achieving
their goal of revitalizing Logan neighborhoods. "This
is going to make our neighborhoods better," said Goins.
"A few complaints aren't going to stop this project,
it's too valuable a program."
The project highlights 40 trouble properties between
300 East and 600 East, 300 North and 980 North.