Splash Time

If you haven’t been acting like a lizard and hiding in the shade under one rock at time in this unwelcomed heat, just think: summer has only begun!  What’s August going to be like around our state? The Gov has asked us to pray for rain (for reals) and to conserve energy and water. I might ask him to go further and put some rules into place now rather than when we’re down to our last drops, like asking restaurants to not serve water unless asked to do so and requiring all decorative fountains to be shut down if they aren’t constantly recycling the water, making sure each county that has golf courses evaluates their water use and actually enforce watering times for lawns and agricultural crops.

Where are big fountains in Utah? Free fun can be had at Gateway’s ‘Olympic Legacy Plaza Snowflake Fountain’ which shoots water from the ground into the air, as does the Town Square Park fountain in St. George. The Seven Canyons Fountain at Liberty Park is a favorite play area for kids that’s also free as well as the Oquirrh Shadows Park Splash Pad in South Jordan. The Desert Wave public pool in Price has the WIBIT indoor pool obstacle course at 250 E. 500 North as well as large outdoor pools for all ages, and Lagoon in Farmington has plenty of swim and water play options. The Bellagio-like musical fountain at Station Park in Farmington is not a place to swim but certainly gives you a cool feeling to watch when you’re hot.

One of the more popular parks in Utah is Cowabunga Bay in Draper, which reminds me of a ginormous ‘Mouse Trap’ game only with water rushing up and down it’s raceways. They have beaches, pools, splashes and rivers and cabana’s you can rent for more of a VIP experience around a private pool. Driving by on I-15 you can see the huge yellow water bucket dump 1200 gallons of water onto patrons standing below it. The oldest operating water park is Cherry Hill in Kaysville which is so popular this year that they have sold out Season Passes for 2021. This resort is unique in that it has a campground and mini golf, pools, a lazy river, and water slides. Seven Peaks waterpark in Provo is now Splash Summit Waterpark and offers 15 different attractions for swimmers and kids. It is Utah’s largest water park and they have just spent a ton of money on what is called the Rainforest River. “Guests will float around this new masterpiece enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the rainforest,” said Spencer Shumway, owner. Also in Utah County is the smaller Spanish Fork Water Park at 199 N. 300 West.

Also, there’s a splash zone at Hogle Zoo, which helps when you’re roaming around the grounds in triple digit heat wishing you had some way to cool off. It’s got a cute shipwreck/pirate them and an added tide pool full of starfish and other creatures.

House Porn

I didn’t have television for years. Then my clients started talking about this ‘HGTV’ and all these programs about flipping houses and million dollar listings. So, I signed up for cable and of course like many of you, my brain has turned to mush. I have NOT however gotten addicted to house porn, watching all the home shows, and cruising various websites to view dream homes I could never buy in Manhattan, Hawaii, Mexico, etc. Why? Because I live and breath ‘looking at homes’ seven days a week! I do have agent friends all over the country and I love talking to them about their markets and sales prices and the crazy stories that often go with multi-million dollar properties.

NYC is all abuzz this past month after the biggest transaction so far this year closed at 220 Central Park South. The buyer purchased two floors in the building for a mere $157.5 million. It is right in the center of what is known there as ‘Billionaires Row’, where insanely high glass residential towers have been erected on and around Central Park. On the West Coast where my granddaughter is now apprenticing at a real estate firm in Los Angeles, there have been some multi-million dollar mansions trade hands. Barron Hilton’s (as in hotels, and now deceased) Bel-Air estate closed escrow for $61.5 million. It was designed by an architect who worked for Fran Sinatra and Lucille Ball, and had 13,000 sq. ft, 13 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms and was known for it’s famous Moderne-inspired swimming pool with a blue, gold and yellow tiled pool depicting the 12 signs of the Zodiac.

The highest sale reported so far this year by the Wasatch Front Regional MLS is in Park City in the Colony Project at White Pine. This subdivision is the most expensive place to live in Utah. The buyer paid $14.1 million for a three level (9282 Sq. Ft. per floor) 14 bedroom, 21 bath home with an 18 car garage on just over five acres. And of course, the luxury home has all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a millionaire’s home:  multiple bars, a movie theater, sauna, spa, gym and a 3,000 bottle wine cellar. The highest listed home on our MLS is the $69.2 million Deer Hollow Ranch in New Harmony, Utah. The mansion sits on 800 acres and touts a dozen reservoirs of water and plenty of water rights. The Tudor style home was built in 1985 with 11 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms.

Now that you’ve picked your jaw off your chest, the flip side of this is my poor buyer who wants to purchase their first home and doesn’t bring home a lot of money each month. Right now, the WFRMLS reports only TWO homes listed under $250,000 in the entire Salt Lake County area, eight homes listed between $251,000 to $300,000. Given that home prices have gone up a minimum of 20% over the last year I’m afraid if we don’t fine something soon he will be priced out of the market…forever!

Market Time!

Despite human pandemics, riots, housing shortages and traffic jams, the world turns-literally. The summer solstice has just occurred, wherein the earth’s axis is now pointed directly at the sun. For us it means it’s the growing season as evident by the farmer’s markets popping up all over the state.

Our first farmers markets were held in the capitol city in what we call ‘The Marmalade’ neighborhood. Above the Marmalade City Library on the western slope of Capitol Hill, east of 300 West and north of 300 North, are streets named ‘Apricot, Quince and Almond’. These names are indicative of the long ago orchards of trees planted in the early 20th century by Utah settlers. I’ve heard historic tales of pioneers bringing seeds with them on the long trek to Utah and later shipping young saplings by wagon and later train to plant in small orchards on this hill. The women would turn the ripe fruit into jams and marmalades and on Saturdays would gather at the bottom of the hill to sell or swap goods with neighbors. The tradition continues as markets are in full operation around the state.

The mother of all public markets is the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park which runs from June until September. The Salt Lake Downtown Alliance has been running this wonderful weekly event for thirty years. In addition to locally raised meats, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and nuts there is a local craft market and food trucks galore inside the park boundaries. The market accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments using a wooden token program. Go to slcfarmermarket.org to find out about SNAP and other programs.

The organizers of the Salt Lake market say that “Many of our farmers have had their highest sales at our markets in 2020 because now more than ever families are sourcing nutrient rich, locally grown products.” Others markets around the state include St. George, Saturdays 9-12 at Ancestor Square; Park City, Wednesdays 11 am to 5 pm at the Park City Mountain Resort AND Park Silly on Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm on Main Street; Heber City, Thursdays from 5 until 9 pm at Main Street’s Park; Provo, Saturdays 9 am to 2 pm at Pioneer Park; Logan, Saturdays 9 am to 1 pm at the Cashe County Courthouse; Murray, Sundays 9 am to 1 pm at Wheeler Historic Farm; Sandy, third Saturday of the month 11 am to 5 pm at the Shops at South Town; Bountiful, Thursdays from 3 pm until dark at the Town Square;  Ogden, Saturdays, 8 am to 1 pm on 25th Street; and even in Helper City on Thursdays from 5 until 9 pm at the Main Street Park.

My favorite Chinese restaurant, the Hong Kong Tea House on 200 South has a farm and is the only Asian restaurant I know of in Utah that serves ‘farm to table’ from their own farm. They have a booth each week at the Downtown Farmers Market.

What’s Our Future?

In a time when homes in Utah and around many, many, parts of the country are selling for unheard of prices it’s interesting to go back in time when Salt Lake City was so much smaller and when a home might cost $100 or a trade of a few good horses.  Utah was organized as a territory in 1850 and admitted as a state in 1986. According to the 1900 Census (only the 12th Census ever done) the population of the state was 276,749. This was an increase of 33.1% over the Census done ten years earlier, and comments in the report stated: “A small portion of this increase is due to the fact that there were 2,848 Indians and 26 other persons, or a total of 2,874 persons, on Indian reservations in Utah.”

Indigenous peoples have lived in the area known as the state of Utah for thousands of years and felt that no one could own land, that everyone owned the land.  The first peoples were Anasazi who melded into the tribes of Utes, Goshutes, Paiutes, Shoshone, and Navajo. Each occupied a different region within the state, many of which regions extend across borders into other states. In the 2010 census, there were a total of 32,927 American Indian and Alaska Natives living within Utah’s boundaries, which totaled to 1.19% of the total population of our state. There are 326 Indian reservations in the United States and eight in Utah which include: Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Skull Valley Indian Reservation, Timpanog Tribe, Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Census data show that the largest tribal communities indigenous to Utah are the Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe, and Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.

The Blackfeet tribe were common in and around Idaho, and Crowfoot, their chief in 1885 said: “Our land is more valuable than your money.  It will last forever.  It will not even perish by the flames of fire.  As the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will be here to give life to men and animals.  We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore, we cannot sell this land.  It was put here for us by the Great Spirit, and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us.  You can count your money and burn it within the nod of a buffalo’s head, but only the great Spirit can count the grains of sand and the blades of grass of these plains.  As a present to you, we will give you anything we have that you can take with you, but the land, never.”

I heard of a man buying his Avenues home in the 1800’s for the price of his only suit of clothes. Now I work with people willing to give up everything just to own a home, a roof over their head. What’s our future, Utah?

 

Pride Memories

Utah is about to celebrate Pride month in various ways in various cities. I remember our very first celebration of back in 1974 in City Creek Canyon and at the Great Salt Lake. Basically, it was a kegger up the canyon followed by more frivolity at the lake’s unofficial nude hangout, Bare Ass Beach. Joe Redburn, the recently deceased owner of the Sun Tavern provided the kegs, and a great summer party was created. I dropped in on my motorcycle and then headed out with a GF to the beach. Sadly, my bike couldn’t do the ‘road’ to the beach and so we headed back to Joe’s bar for our first Pride.

Around the same time, I was publishing a women’s newspaper called ‘The Rocky Mountain Woman’ (pre ‘Network Magazine’) and had writing and layout skills. A group of us were meeting at what we called the Gay Community Center and I volunteered to print a gay community magazine of news, dirt, and ads. Most of the ads were for drag queens running for Emperor or Empress of the Royal Court and different bar events. It was called ‘The Salt Lick’ and had a short run mainly because the community center didn’t last that long, but other publications followed (The Open Door and Triangle and now Qsaltlake). Fast forward a few years and the AIDS pandemic hit the world and our community.

Before we knew what the disease was, we heard that some of our gay male friends were getting horrible pneumonia-like colds and strange cancers. I had been going to a general practitioner whose patients were mostly gay. I went in for a check up one day and the doctor himself looked like crap-tired, bags under his eyes. I asked him what was wrong, and he replied, ‘I’ve had so many men some in with the weirdest symptoms, sick as dogs, and they aren’t getting better!’.  Soon we knew the dis-ease dubbed ‘gay cancer’ was HIV/AIDS.

By 1985 the Utah Dept. of Health reported 17 persons living with AIDS in Utah. There were still folks in the bars thinking the disease was spread by using poppers, and not by rando sex with strangers in the tea rooms (bathrooms of gay bars) or gay bath houses. The gay bathhouses were given cessation notices from the Salt Lake City attorney who charged that the businesses constituted “a brothel as a place of lewdness assignation or prostitution.” Yet the gay bars lived on and they became not just a place to meet up and dance but a sanctuary for post funeral celebrations of the never ending gays who fell to the HIV/AIDS plague. Frankly, during the mid to late 80’s all I can remember doing is going to funerals of friends and the wakes thereafter at our bars.

Gay Pride has been publicly celebrated for almost 50 years in Utah. We’ve morphed from a gay community to an LGBTQ+ group as varied as there are colors of our rainbow. AIDS/HIV is still an issue and I thank God for the continued work of the Utah AIDS Foundation and the fact that our gay bars have survived this current pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

Home Remodeling

When you can’t find a new home to buy it may be worth your while to remodel the won you own. Granted you may pay extreme amounts for lumber and wait months for appliances, but every dime you drop into upgrades should give you a great return on your investment when you sell.  And doing so will make you happier in your new space!  Remodeling magazine has released the key remodeling trends specific to Salt Lake City that will give you a great return on your sweat equity or your cost of hiring contractors. Here’s what’s top of the list:

-Replacing garage doors to electric and /or doors with windows that let in ambient light.

-Adding stone veneer to the exterior of your home’s street-facing façade to give it a different look, using river rock or something local.

-Updating exterior siding. Old siding is wide, sometimes made of asbestos or painted aluminum that chips and fades. Upgrade to less wide planks in more modern materials.

-Minor kitchen remodels. Replace cabinet and drawer fronts if the boxes are of good quality. Update your appliances, sink and fixtures. Or simply add ‘roll outs’ to your cabinets-rolling tracks to pull out to see everything in the cabinet.

-New front door! There are so many choices these days in front entry styles made from wood and/or metal. Make sure you replace the casing around the door and update your locks to a Nest-like system that you can control when you’re not home.

-New roof and add/update your insulation. Plus, instead of large expensive skylights, add solar tubes for ambient light. These tubes are great for when you get up in the middle of the night and must use the toilet but don’t want to flick on bright light.

Now that warmer temperatures are here there are inexpensive things you can do yourself to add sweat equity to your home. I generally suggest these for outside and inside:

-New larger numbers on the exterior of your home. Generally I find that signals to people that you’ve updated and paid attention to details.

-Some type of security camera system and door locks. You can buy these now from discount stores like Costco.

-Closet organizers. One bar to hold your hanged clothes is stupid. Break up that space with at least two bars and maybe but up a found set of drawers to add for extra storage.

-Re-caulking bathroom tile/tubs. New bath fixtures can be inexpensive. Cabinet/drawer pulls can be handmade and artsy or you can buy simple modern ones on the web.

-Wallpaper is back from the grave and is in great designs and colors. Do one wall in your home say in the dining, rec room, kitchen or bedroom as an accent to make your home pop.

-Updating light fixtures. New LED fixtures for your ceiling can cost $30. You don’t ever replace the light bulbs, you replace the fixture several years down the road to the newest design in LED fixtures. Easy peasy!

Temple Square Reopens

What are the best places to visit in Utah? According to www.touropia.com they are Lake Powell, Antelope Island, Moab, Park City, Salt Lake City, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. None of those on the list are a surprise to us locals, and many of us ventured out closed to home at these places during the Pandemic. What’s the number one place to visit in our capitol city? Temple Square of course, which has been closed for major renovations since December 29, 2019. Visitsaltlake.com reports that an estimated 3 to 5 million people flock to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake each year, which is more visitors than all five of the state’s ‘Big Five’ national parks combined.

The Salt Lake Temple itself, an icon of Western Gothic Architecture muchly needed a safety and seismic upgrade. The mechanics, electric and plumbing systems were aged and had we experienced a major earthquake the building may have crumbled. We had a big tremblor one morning back in March of 2020 of a 5.7 magnitude. The subsequent shaking caused the golden trumpet on the Angel Moroni to fall off and some of the smaller spires had minor displacement. The major shaking was almost an alarm not just to employees and visitors but to some a signal that God was bringing his wrath upon the peoples of the earth with the rampant Covid 19 pandemic.

To protect the historic building from future damage, Church officials authorized installation of a ‘base isolation system’, one of the most effective means of protecting a building against the forces of an earthquake. A base isolation system is a method of seismic protection where the structure (superstructure) is separated from the base (foundation or substructure). By separating the structure from its base, the amount of energy that is transferred to the superstructure during an earthquake is reduced significantly. This system installs one or more types of bearing to support the weight of the structure through things like sliding plates and elastomeric pads, like shock absorbers to dissipate the energy of the quake. If you’ve driven by Temple Square in the past year, you’d have seen bulldozers digging several stories deep around the Temple

FAIR HOUSING FOR ALL

April is the month when we REALTORS celebrate the passage of the Fair Housing Act of congress in 1968 by sponsoring events and offering education focusing on housing discrimination and segregation, with a recommitment to expanding equal access to housing for all.

If we step back in time, we can all see that segregation in housing in big and large cities alike didn’t happen randomly. Pockets of racial and ethnic makeup often live there because of extremely specific laws that were passed to either try and put them there or keep them there. Think of high end neighborhoods you know of around our country with large homes on larger lots. The diversity of peoples is most likely non-existent at best, with most expensive homes being owned by whites. Over the centuries these landowners have helped to create and enforce zoning rules that put a virtual wall up to keep diversity of housing out-no apartment buildings, duplexes/triplexes, very few townhomes. And as housing prices rise and affordable housing product vanishes, we hear pushback from the NIMBY landowners who may support the concept of affordable housing… if it’s not in their backyard.

During the Trump years, the HUD Secretary (Ben Carson) didn’t seem to initiate or fight for sweeping changes in national housing policies. The overall affordable housing shortage worsened under Carson’s term, HUD’s budget was cut and there was no increase in Section 8 housing vouchers for families in desperate need of rental housing. Obama’s presidency created programs to racially diversify and create more affordable housing in the suburbs, but those programs were axes by Trump, as were the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulations. The latter Trump cut to appease white suburban women before the 2020 presidential election. Carson pushed to make sure that government-funded homeless shelters refused to allow transgender people in housing based on gender identities. Luckily, Biden is committed to wiping out all laws against trans people in housing.

My National Assn. of REALTORS has a new and encouraging Fair Housing Action Plan to help ensure our 1.3 million REALTORS are doing as much as we can to protect housing rights in America by educating not just ourselves but the public in the topic. We are hoping to increase our partnerships with governments and private housing providers/developers to promote best practices to prevent discrimination and foster diverse, inclusive communities in this country.  Most important though, I want you to know that IF for any reason you feel you’ve been discriminated in trying to rent or buy a home because of your race, color, sex, national origin, or religion you can file a complaint with HUD. If they determine discrimination might have occurred, the case would be sent to an administrative hearing or Federal District Court. If a judge finds discrimination did occur, the guilty one could be ordered to compensate you for damages, make housing available, pay a penalty and/or attorney’s fees.

There’s a great movie “The Banker” out with Samuel L. Jackson about two black entrepreneurs in the 1960’s who hatched an ingenious business plan to fight for housing integration with equal access to the American Dream.

 

NATURE CHALLENGE

The 2021 City Nature Challenge is almost here to get us out from in front of our computers and NETFLIX binges and into our neighborhoods, parks and even our downtowns. From April 30-May 3, people from around the world are about to join in a chance to document their local nature using the iNaturalist app.

Let’s think for a moment past the never ending documentaries on television on how our planet is dying and get out and smell some nature and help document what is beyond our front door. There are native trees like Desert Willow, Mountain Mahogany and Bigtooth Maple. None of these trees blew over in the hurricane winds of last Labor Day Weekend! Then there are all the wildflowers starting to poke their heads up, such as White Sand, Snowball Sand and Desert Sand Verbenas, Common Yarrow, Desert Rock Peas, Horsemint Giant Hyssop, Northern Water Plantains and our state flower, the Sego Lily. Many of our local nurseries in the state have expanded their native plant selections and it’s fun to discover what will grow in our yards each year. And less we forget the evil garden weeds also vying for garden space, ones that fool us with their flowers and take over the yard like: Common Mallow, Bindweed, Henbit, Morning Glory, Prickly Lettuce, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. And don’t forget on your adventure to note Dandelions and grasses such as the evil Crabgrass, Hare Barley, Junglerice and Perennial Ryegrass.  I have a newer IPhone that has Google Lens on it, where I just click on the lens icon, point at the plant and viola! it tells me what I’m seeing.

The City Nature Challenge asked you to take pictures of what you find and share with fellow nature lovers and tree huggers. The Natural History Museum of Utah and over a dozen other organizations throughout Northern Utah are in on this event to help us all document our wild neighbors outside our homes.

As a side bar, I know there are urban foresters around the state who help cities and counties with advice and help in planning more indigenous flora. I drove by a school last week where they were planting a long row of small pines along a fence line and I gasped when I recognized that the fir was not a native plant and a tree which would require much water and have short roots-making them susceptible to being blown over in high winds. If you weren’t living in the tri-city area along the Wasatch mountains back in September of 2020, you missed hurricane winds that yanked out 100-year-old trees all over our valleys. My all-time favorite tree nicknamed ‘Thor’ came out ok. This male Fremont Cottonwood doesn’t give off cotton and is located just north of The Bagel Project at 753 S. 500 E. He was planted in 1857 by Peter Beck Hansen.  History has it that Brigham Young told his followers to ‘forest the valley’ when they got here, and thus Thor was planted and thrives to this day with deep, deep roots to the artesian well in the neighborhood (where you can get water 24/7 at the park on the corner of 800 So and 500 E

Rent Relief is Here!

Have you been struggling to pay your landlord the rent they are due? Behind on utilities? The Emergency Rental Assistance program is now open for applications in Utah!  This covers renters expenses from March 13th, 2020 to December of this year if you qualify, and here are the requirements:

-Combined household income at or below 80% of area median income;

-Someone in the household has qualified for unemployment, or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19;

-Household is experiencing housing instability (for example, received a past due utility or rent or eviction notice, or living in unsafe or unhealthy living conditions);

-Applicant resides in the household and is on the lease.

You can speed up the process and be ‘prioritized’ if you have been unemployed for at least 90 days or are living at or below the 50% area median income. The US Census Bureau reports the median household income in 2019 is $60,676 and lower in other counties in the state.

To apply for assistance, you’ll go to www.rentrelief.utah.gov. This site works for BOTH tenants AND landlords who apply on behalf of their tenants late on rent. You’ll fill out an application and take photos of documents they require to load onto the site, like your 1040 or W-2 form. The process will be quicker if you can work directly with your landlord to get their W-9, a ledger showing the outstanding rent and late fees you’re being charged, your income verification like a 2020 tax form and recent pay stubs, any unemployment insurance history, any past due utility bills and an eviction notice if that’s relevant.

I want to mention here that if you’re experiencing housing stress, you may also be in need of food for yourself or your family. The Utah Food Bank is helping to fight hunger statewide (last year they distributed 52.9 million pounds of food or 44.1 million meals to Utahns facing hunger). They report that 1 in 5 kids here are unsure where their next meal will come from. They are always looking for donations of money, food and volunteer time to assist their 203 partners across the state. Last year they got much of their food donated from programs like Grocery Rescue (16 million pounds from 270 grocery stores), National Commercial Donations from Feeding America, USDA commodities, local growers, and food drives. The website www.utahfoodbank.org/get-help will assist you in finding a food pantry or mobile food pantry near you.

Finally, if you are lost in the muck of life, overwhelmed and out of answers, we have a great resource in just dialing 211 for help. They are there 24/7 for you to chat, text, email or call for fantastic resources in housing, food, mental heath assistance, medical referrals, Coronavirus information, distance learning and tutoring, transportation, human services STATEWIDE. And thanks to United Way, it’s a free service to contact them anytime.