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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The West Bench

Many people in Salt Lake County know about the Daybreak development in South Jordan, but how many know of Kennecott's future plans? Most people have no idea what lay in store for the regional community. Kennecott has very specific plans for what they are calling the West bench. In 2005, Kennecott contracted the services of Calthorpe Associates to design a long term community plan for the West bench. This plan is quite ambitious. Kennecott has planned a string of communities that are linked by transit corridors and have large amounts of open space. These communities will all follow the principles of urban design, but will all be unique according to Kennecott. Many of the village centers will be located deep within the Oquirrh Mountains and one will be a ski resort. Other ambitious plans include a college campus, three reservoirs, a trail system, and three town centers. These now unincorporated areas will become cities in the next 50 years. I personally like this level of planning because it prevents unplanned suburban sprawl. But I wonder if this plan will actually come to fruition.

Kennecott Land is owned by the Rio Tinto group. This massive conglomerate is an international mining company based in London, England. Like most corporations, Rio Tinto has a broad declaration of environmental sustainability and in most cases that I have seen, that is true. But how long will Rio Tinto own Kennecott Land? According to Businessweek,

The average life expectancy of a multinational corporation Fortune 500 or its equivalent is between 40 and 50 years. This figure is based on most surveys of corporate births and deaths. A full one-third of the companies listed in the 1970 Fortune 500, for instance, had vanished by 1983-acquired, merged, or broken to pieces.
What will happen to these plans if a different company, one that determines new urbanism is not profitable, buys Kennecott Land? We can only wait and see. Hopefully, no matter what company owns the rights to the land on the West bench, they will consider sustainable growth as the only viable option.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Daybreak Demographics

When you study demographics you study the future. What does the future of Daybreak hold? Lots of kids. According to recent census information, 35% of south Jordan's population is under the age of 18. With another 31% falling between the ages of 18 and 44. Instead of a bell curve South Jordan's population looks like one large declining slope with a jagged peak in the middle. The most recent demographics of Daybreak indicate a whopping 43% of residents are under 18 with the majority of those between the ages of 0 and 3. Yeah lots of kids. No matter when I walk or drive the streets of Daybreak kids are out playing and having a good time. It makes a nice atmosphere. What about income? 75% of households in South Jordan gross more than 50,000 dollars a year with 25% making over 100,000. Much higher than average. People who live in South Jordan tend to be more educated with 31% holding a bachelor's degree or higher level of education. These demographics have been formed by a formidable population explosion. In 2000 the population was around 30,000, but now it has grown 67% to just over 50,000. City officials estimate that South Jordan's population will top out at around 90,000. This will probably happen once Daybreak has been completed. In short South Jordan as well as Daybreak are budding communities that will see years of substantial growth. This is definitely in drastic contrast with many older, but declining neighborhoods and towns in the Salt Lake valley. All of this bodes well for Daybreak residents as demographics such as these facilitate a healthy community. Hopefully it will stay that way for generations to come.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mountain View Corridor

The proposed Mountain View corridor has been in the news a lot lately. This new highway will contain up to eight lanes that run North and South along the East side of the Oquirrh Mountains. For those who would like to drive North from Daybreak in the future, this highway will definitely beat taking bangerter. However, the Mountain View Corridor will bring with it all of the things that we hate about I-15. Pollution, noise, and dust come to mind immediately. It will bring these unwanted side effects directly in to Daybreak as the corridor passes directly through the town center. There is always a price to having such a convenience nearby. In short, the region and county needs this transportation corridor and running it near Daybreak makes sense. With the growth that is expected in the next 30 years the region would suffocate in traffic unless this highway is built. The good news is that the pollution aspect of vehicles will have greatly diminished by then. As you have seen in the news cars have become more efficient and suitable alternatives are being speedily researched in the midst of escalating oil prices. In fact the government predicts that the more stringent federal regulation of emissions will drive vehicle emissions down even though the number of vehicles on the road will have increased and estimated three fold.

So why so close to Daybreak? If you look at the map of the proposed route, they could build the road around Daybreak, but why would they run it through a future subdivision of Kennecott? It would have the same effect and it would cost more. Looking at the West Bench plan Kennecott has compensated for this by having the corridor pass through the more urban section of Daybreak - the town center. So the highway wont necessarily be in your backyard.

What about the noise and the dust? The solution to those problems will essentially be the same barriers that you see along the existing freeways. If Kennecott is smart, and I think they are, they will plant lots of trees and other such vegetation to act as natural noise absorption barriers with the added benefit that they filter the air. Local governments and UTA have been working together to bring Trax and other mass transit options to the west side as well. Considering that Kennecott made a massive contribution to the environmental impact study that was conducted for the jordan light rail line, I feel that they have also promoted mass transit in Daybreak as well as the West bench. Kennecott seems likely to continue this encouragement in the future as they tend to follow new urbanism principles.

Another feature of this new highway that raised my eyebrows was the consideration of a toll for use of the road. This would essentially make those who use the road pay for its maintenance and construction. Not a bad idea, but why should residents of the west side have to pay a toll for their North-South mobility while the rest of the county does not? I will address this and other issues in later posts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Foreclosures in Daybreak

According to RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosures around the United States, foreclosures increased by 75% in 2007. Utah, for the most part, has bucked this national trend with foreclosures actually going down compared to last year. However, Utah had 7,438 properties in foreclosure this last year. This statistic sparked my interest and so I used the map feature on RealtyTrac to get an overview of foreclosures in Daybreak. I was fairly surprised. According to the map there are 5 houses that are in pre-foreclosure status, 10 houses that are at auction status, and 3 houses that have transferred ownership to the bank. Looking at the definition of pre-foreclosure on RealtyTrac I found that properties in pre-foreclosure are those whose owners may have received a notice of default or are significantly behind on their mortgage payments. Apparently if a loan is not reinstated by the end of the pre-foreclosure period then a house may be put up for auction.

Does this make Daybreak a foreclosure hotspot? No, not really. Considering the actual foreclosure rate in Utah is about 1 house in 400, there is bound to be a couple of foreclosures in a 1000 home community such as Daybreak. Life happens. Maybe somebody lost their job or have a mass of medical bills for some unforeseen health problem. Most of those houses that are in pre-foreclosure status or auction status will be sold before they are actually auctioned or the bank takes possession. I seriously doubt that this will have a big impact on property values in Daybreak. However, there were some interesting patterns in the data posted on RealtyTrac. Most of the pre-foreclosures, auctions, and bank-owned properties were concentrated in the Southwestern portion and the outskirts of Founder's Village. Eastlake did not have any listings on the map. The heart of Founder's Village is virtually free of mortgage problems. I think this also corresponds with actual property values, but will need to do more research to be sure. Hopefully Utah's economy along with actions by our federal government will ensure that Utah and Daybreak do not suffer the same fate as areas in Florida and California.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Google - Going Too Far?

I found in the news today that the street view feature of google maps and google earth is now active along the Wasatch Front. This feature shows street level photographs along all of the public roads in our area. You can look at photographs of every house in Daybreak with this feature. I can definitely see this as being a useful resource for those who might live in another state and are thinking of moving to Daybreak. A great way to preview the neighborhood. You can see anything that a person might see during a casual walk down the street. However, I feel this presents some danger. What if someone uses this new tool for purposes that are not benign in nature? Could this tool be used to preview a house before it is burglarized? The answer is that it can be. Just like any other tool we have created, this too can be abused. As for privacy and the law, Google has not broken any laws by integrating these photographs into Google Earth and Google Maps. The law provides that as long as a person is on public property, they can photograph anything within sight. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, but I could not find any that would apply here.

The pictures were taken by a camera mounted on a Chevrolet Cobalt. Google had hundreds of them deployed to cities across America to accomplish this task. If you pan down in the pictures you will see part of the car. The pictures were taken before Halloween as many of them feature pumpkins and other Halloween decorations. Many of them feature Daybreak residents and kids. However, the pictures are of such a quality that faces, license plates, house numbers, etc. are difficult if not impossible to make out. Part of the picture is obscured by the exhaust of the vehicle as well. I recommend that you go to Google Maps and take a look for yourself. You might be surprised at what you see.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Daybreak Elementary - Quality Education?

Daybreak Elementary school is located in the heart of Founder's Village - the first phase of Daybreak. This school is unique to other schools in the surrounding area because of its construction and year round track schedule. The school has been recognized by the United States Green Building Council for being energy efficient. According to Kennecott, "The district average energy cost per square foot is $1.09; Daybreak Elementary School and Community Center uses $.84 per square foot." When you consider that the building is 116,700 sq ft, you get an approximate annual savings of 31,827 dollars. Daybreak Elementary is also the community center for Founder's Village with space for various exercise activities and classes. This is a convenient arrangement for both kids and parents. With all the awards and hype aside, how well does this school educate the children of Daybreak? Obviously this depends on your child's individual needs. However looking at the aggregate published statistics can help. The school has a 1:27 teacher to student ratio which is eight students per teacher more than the state average. However, this is the Jordan School District which is by far the largest district and is growing at an incredible rate. This ratio is not surprising and does not necessarily label the school as a horrible place to educate our children. Standardized tests reflect a different matter. Daybreak's CRT scores are higher than the district and state average, but not by far. Other elementary schools in the valley have much higher scores than Daybreak. Another thing that could probably be improved is attendance. 45% of the student body missed 10 or more days in the last school year. The quality of the school will not matter if the students do not show up for class. Considering this, Daybreak Elementary is a decent school to send your children, but could be much better.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

New Urbanism and Daybreak

Kennecott, the founding company of daybreak, embraced the concept of new urbanism when it conceived the idea of the development. New urbanism is a movement that started over two decades ago to promote sustainable growth in the United States. This idea has been steadily gaining popularity and momentum as people have become aware of environmental concerns and community impact. So how well have the founders of daybreak followed the concepts of new urbanism? Let's compare Kennecott's practices with the concepts of new urbanism outlined by Professor Pieter Sijpkes of McGill University:


  • Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
  • Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
2. Connectivity
  • Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
  • A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys
  • High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable
3. Mixed Use and Diversity
  • A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
  • Diversity of people - of ages, classes, cultures, and races
4. Mixed Housing
  • A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity
5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design
  • Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit
6. Traditional Neigborhood Structure
  • Discernable center and edge
  • Public space at center
  • Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
  • Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
  • Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge.
7. Increased Density
  • More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
  • New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities
8. Smart Transportation
  • A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
  • Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation
9. Sustainability
  • Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
  • Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
  • Energy efficiency
  • Less use of finite fuels
  • More local production
  • More walking, less driving
10. Quality of life
  • Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.
In my opinion, Kennecott has done fairly well in creating a community that follows the principles of new urbanism. Some of the principles are not applicable as of yet because daybreak has not been built out that far. However, in looking at the future plans that Kennecott has for Daybreak, I can see where they would get high marks for those categories in the future.

Real Estate in Daybreak

When considering real estate in Daybreak you should know that Daybreak represents a unique market within a unique market. The Wasatch front is a unique real estate market that has bucked some of the national housing trends in the last year and a half. This digression has been fueled in part by our strong economy and low unemployment rate. However, I would argue that Daybreak is a unique market within the Wasatch front because of the amenities, architecture, and new urbanism concepts that are followed by the community planners. On average, homes are definitely more expensive in daybreak than in the surrounding areas because of these factors. So how will this affect future values? Daybreak was modeled after other prominent neighborhoods in Utah including the Harvard - Yale area. This particular area is also a unique market that has unique trends when compared to surrounding real estate. Because of the quality of life in the Harvard - Yale area, the property values are extremely high. A modest 3500 sq ft 4 bedroom house in this area could easily run you a million dollars. This value has been gained over time and will remain as long as the quality of life in this area remains high. Considering that most people who live in daybreak had to pay a premium to live there, they have a vested community interest in the quality of life in and around their neighborhood. This vested interest is different than other communities along the Wasatch front because of the uniqueness of Daybreak. You literally cannot find another neighborhood like it. If you want to move to a neighborhood that is similar , where would you move? In the long-term, house values in the Daybreak area should climb higher than values of surrounding homes because of the initial design and the continued interest that residents have in creating a high quality of life.

Daybreak Today - First Post

This blog will be focused on anything and everything daybreak. Posts will discuss all aspects of this master-planned community located in South Jordan, Utah. This blog is not authorized or condoned by Kennecott Land. I am writing this blog because of my great interest in what I believe to be one of the most unique housing developments in the country. I will substantiate claims that I make on this blog with evidence that I find from a variety of sources. When I do give opinions they will be based on fact, but please note that they are just my opinion. I encourage readers of this blog to comment and write about the postings on this blog and hope that open participation brings more useful information forward.