Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Community Pushes Back On Possible Rezone Of Salt Lake City Mural Site

A photo of the murals of those killed by police brutality.
Renee Bright
The Salt Lake City murals have become a place to gather and mourn, with people placing flowers and notes under the faces of those killed by police.

The Salt Lake City Council discussed rezoning the Granary District property on Tuesday. It’s the site where an anonymous group of artists have painted murals of people killed by police.

The public art displayed on 800 S. and 300 W. started appearing in early June. It began with a portrait of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, then Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, who Salt Lake City Police shot and killed in May. Now, there are 26 portraits, mostly of people killed by Utah police — except for Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot and killed by police in her home in Louisville in March.

Since then, community members have planted flowers and trees on the property and are building benches to put in front of each mural. The area has become a go-to spot for organizations to host rallies, vigils and other events.

But the city has been considering what to do with the 10-acre lot for years.

The proposed rezone would allow for the development of housing, commercial and light industrial uses. The vacant building there — the one the murals are painted on — was previously used to maintain city fleet vehicles.

During the council’s work session, Salt Lake City Councilmember Amy Fowler said she appreciates the way the mural area has become a place for the community and wants to continue to support that.

“I would love to see part of this fleet block be turned into that public open space, sort of that safe demonstration space as it has organically become,” Fowler said.

Later in the meeting, many people urged the council to preserve the murals as a place to gather and grieve together.

Ashley Finley, a founding member of Black Lives Matter SLC, expressed anger that the council would even consider rezoning the area. She suggested an alternative.

“I propose that if you do rezone that area and disrupt those murals and disrupt that sacred space, that the artists be given funding to paint those murals in the Salt Lake City Airport,” Finley said. “So that anyone who comes into Salt Lake City knows exactly what happens here in this city and how many people the police of the city have killed.”

Councilmember Andrew Johnston said he wanted to make clear to the public that the council is only discussing the zoning right now — not what will happen to the property.

A public hearing for the rezone is planned for Nov. 10, with the council scheduled to vote on Nov. 17.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.