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South Salt Lake Journal

City officials and residents share opinions on changing SSL

Jan 03, 2022 04:07PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Muralfest is a popular spring event in SSL. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

The release of the 2020 Census data last fall begs the question: How has the City of South Salt Lake changed in the past 10 years?


According to the 2020 Census, SSL's population only rose by 3,160 people or 11.8%. This small gain is a surprise given the SSL building boom since 2010. In the last decade, 11,000 building permits were issued. One reason for the slight increase in this number is based on individuals who took part in the 2020 Census, which was lower because of the pandemic.

With a reported population of 26,777, SSL is the 38th most populated city in the state out of 326 cities. 

Census highlights

The residents of SSL are a bit older than across Utah. The median age in SSL is 32.2. In Utah, the median age is 31.2. However, SSL has a smaller population over 65 years old. SSL had 7.5%, while Utah had 11.4%.

Language other than English is spoken in 34.7% of homes in SSL. This is compared to 16.0% in Utah. In addition, in SSL, 24.6% of residents indicated they are foreign-born, which is three times higher than Utah's number of 8.6%. This data reflects the number of immigrants and refugees that settle in SSL.

The poverty level is always a hot topic. The 2020 Census reports that 18.7% of residents live below the poverty line. This is compared to only 8.9% in Utah. Using 2019 data, the Utah Health Department indicates eight areas in Utah—Logan, North Logan, SLC Rose Park, SLC Glendale, SLC Downtown, Provo BYU, Provo East Central, and San Juan County—have higher poverty rates.

More data is available from the U.S. Census Bureau at 


Data is one thing, but perceptions are also important. Here’s what local officials and residents had to say about the changing face of SSL. 

SSL Administration

Mayor Cherie Wood: "In the past decade, my team and I have rebranded the city. We have grown vertically in downtown and near transportation hubs. New shopping opportunities came with Chinatown and WinCo Foods. Our neighborhoods and families have benefitted from the addition of Olene Walker Elementary and the opening of the Utah International Charter School. …Our city has seen a major shift in new housing along transit lines and enhancements of trails and new green spaces.…While changes have occurred, some constants remain—we continue to be a bustling business point of convergence in the valley. Our city has retained some second and third generation residents committed to vibrant neighborhoods that remain walkable and safe. Lastly, we continue to have committed employees, many of whom have years of experience serving our residents and businesses."

Department of Neighborhoods Director Sharen Hauri: "Much of this change was deliberate and carefully planned and executed, but many things were completely unexpected. As the city tried to re-emerge from the Great Recession, it was grappling with a few things—the loss of Granite High School, pressure to clean up neighborhoods and problem homes, a rapidly changing population that was becoming more diverse, fewer ‘old-timers’ and the realization that urban trends were on the doorstep. The Mayor and City Council took the bold move of approving funding for the streetcar and starting to rezone formerly industrial areas of the city to support transit-oriented development.…However, the massive jump in home prices over the last three years was a surprise. That has led to another rapid turnover of ownership—many older homes have been sold to higher-income families, and many older apartments have been purchased by investors and remodeled. Suddenly, many affordable housing options in the city vanished, and so did the tenants that frequently rented them—refugees and immigrants who had become a part of our city's fabric."

Promise SSL Director Kelli Meranda: "Over the last decade Promise SSL became a city department, grew from four to 13 neighborhood centers, and developed our nine Promise SSL councils. We have developed strong relationships with over 110 community partners. Promise SSL has prioritized offering high-quality, free programming for youth and families focused on reducing barriers to expanded learning opportunities to support academic, physical, civic, social, and emotional success. Utilizing best practices of Collective Impact, Community Schools Model, Results Based Accountability/Continuous Quality Improvement, and a Cradle to Career framework, we are creating a network to support youth and families."

Fire Chief Terry Addison: “We now have an explosive detection and live-find search and rescue canine that helps our community and surrounding agencies detect energetic material and search for lost or missing people. We placed a wildland firefighting brush truck in service that can access the trails and brush along the Jordan River. An additional ambulance came in service at our 900 West station to help cover the increased call volume. In addition, we had a 500% increase in women hired when compared to the previous year. The number of female firefighters in SSL is nearly six times higher than the national average.…The Fire Department underwent an ISO Public Protection Classification audit. We are proud to say that our PPC Classification improved from a 03/3X to an ISO Class 1/1X. We are the second department in the state of Utah to gain this classification."

Police Chief Jack Carruth: "The past 10 years have been the most defining years for the police department. As an agency and partner to the mission of the city, the police department has seen more community involvement and engagement with our residents and businesses with the current city administration. The past 10 years has brought the City of South Salt Lake to life, making it a destination city for all.”

City Council

SSL Council Chair Sharla Bynum: "Two areas I'd like to highlight are food and art. As a foodie, I love cooking and trying new things. I've been pleasantly surprised by the numerous high quality and unique restaurants we have that represent so many cultures. Mural Fest is another special addition to SSL. Thanks to the vision of our SSL Arts Council, we now have the largest collection of street art in Utah for a total of 35. We received City Weekly Magazine's 2021 Best of Utah award for street art!" 

District 2 Councilmember Corey Thomas: "I think SSL has changed in so many ways since 2010. We have a lot of new, wonderful businesses, large and small and local, join our community, we have had a great increase of people moving into our city and getting involved, the city has built a great after-school program for the kids, and I believe our city can become a great place for people to move here and either live here or start their business here." 


Producer/Host of Living with Pride James Brown: "I think number one, because of the leadership of Mayor Wood, South Salt Lake has become a community of people building an economically family-friendly community. Second, South Salt Lake has mastered the idea of diversity and welcomed the inclusionary process for all of its citizenship. Third, people are now interested in visiting South Salt Lake as a relaxing and entertaining destination that offers something for everyone. Fourth, our political environment has caused a distrust of our leadership. I feel that Mayor Wood, city council members, and the team of city staffers have made leadership people-friendly and accessible and that's how we make a change that benefits all the citizens of the South Salt Lake community. This makes South Salt Lake a community, which happens to be a city." 

Cathie Gallegos Chansamone Costanzo: "Cops that don't want to take reports. Government officials that don't want to answer calls. Community centers gone. Library gone. High-rises up. Beautiful homes torn down. Open spaces gone. Crime way up. Small businesses closing."

Community Activist Susan Bowlden: "Granite High is gone. Many women elected. New library. So many apartments and condos. Three or more teeny tiny parks added: many wish they were larger. Tracy Aviary at Madison Park. The MRC came to be. Several attempts to improve crosswalk safety in various areas. Still working on storm water fees and other water issues. Voter turnout continues to decrease with approximately one-third less voters this last election than the previous one."

Bob LeMone: "The biggest gains in the city over the past 11 years is Salt Lake County building, the new Granite Library and Garbett Homes building the new homes behind the Granite Library. The total amount invested on the 26 acres of the Granite property exceeds $100 million. The biggest losses in the city over the past 11 years includes the city continuing to have the highest crime rate in the state with the lowest household income in the county. Also the eviction of the Pioneer Craft House from Scott School was a loss for everyone in the city who enjoyed learning about pioneer crafts and enjoyed gathering as a community with our neighbors."

Stacie Schofield: “We have gotten the S-line since then. It's been a great addition.”

John Cannon: “Funny, I moved to SSL in ’09. It has changed a lot for the better IMO (in my opinion).”