Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

March 23, 2014

Sidewalk Pennies

2014

Have you ever walked down a sidewalk in Salt Lake City and noticed a penny on the ground but when you bent over to pick it up you realized it was permanently attached to the concrete? That odd little disk is actually a survey marker from long times past. We don't see new ones much anymore because GPS technology has replaced them. These bronze markers were placed as part of land surveys to show a reference as to where a property line was and where a surveyor had dropped a plumbbob.

As humans began to stand upright they began to mark their territory. It was important to let the neighbors know where one plot of land began and another ended. Originally lines were marked by cairns. Maybe you've run into the odd pile of rocks while hiking out in the wilderness? That marker may have been someone's claim to that land, that edge. Over time people have used clay pots and even liquor bottles to show their ownership. Pioneers carved arrows into rock faces pointing to their boundary lines. As the country grew up so did the need for accurate surveys. Orson Pratt and Henry Sherwood were the locals who surveyed Temple Square in 1847. There they set up the center marker for all government surveys in Utah, called the 'Great Salt Lake City Base and Meridian'. The original meridian stone was inside the walls of Temple Square and is on display at the Museum of Church History and Art. You can now visit a replica of the original marker with a memorial plaque on top of it sitting just outside of Temple Square on the Southeast corner.

When you buy a home or a piece of land, your deed will have a description of the property written on the document. Most often, a title insurance company will ensure that deed you have in hand that this is the right property. As a side note, title insurance is a U.S.A. thing and was created in this country because surveys were bad and recording of liens against title holders was poorly tracked in many cases. The very first title company was created just 4 years before Temple Square was surveyed.

There are hobbyists who search out survey benchmarks around the world because of their odd locations and various designs. That obscure bit o' fun probably led to the most current trend of geocaching. If you can read your GPS coordinates on your phone or a hand held device, you can treasure hunt. According to 'geocashing.com' there are over 6 million geocachers and 2,300,000+ cashes to find in the world. Caches can be found in just about any city. They are put there by other geocachers. Some are easy to find, others take hours because they are hidden so well. Once you do find the treasure you jot down your name in a log book to mark down the date you found it and your name. Some larger geocache locations have bags or boxes full of oddities or toys that one can take and replace with like-weirdness. There are over 50 caches in the Salt Lake/Ogden area alone. Here's an example of one local Salt Lake clue:

"This cache isn't for everyone. This is not your typical 'urban' cache. You will be required to think about your surroundings and perhaps you may have to step out of your box. You will have problems with your co-ordinates. You will be around buildings and trees which will cause you problems. I spent 30 minutes trying to get an accurate set of numbers and was able to get within 7' after the cache was hidden. So let this be fair warning that you may be calling me every name in the book, but I hope you enjoy it! Coordinates N 40 º 39.753' W 111º 53.111' "

February 19, 2014

Oh, CRAP!

2014

What looks like a metal beach towel that hides your naughty bits when you want to take a poop, has its own Facebook page and is coming to downtown Salt Lake City? Plop, it's the infamous PORTLAND LOO!

This sustainable urban outdoor toilet is a brand of a public toilet designed to stand up to the worst weather and the most public abuse while offering a clean alternative to taking a shat on the sidewalk. Let me get down to the dirty basics here: 1) if you're homeless and you look sketchy, no small business is going to let you use their rest room; 2) if you don't have access to a rest room, you'll do your business in an alleyway; or 3) if you're psychotic and suffering the ill effects of Bath Salts or Meth, you may have lost your personal boundaries and will crap right in the middle of the street.

Salt Lake City will be getting its first two public toilets soon, one at 500 West and Rio Grande and the other in the sidewalk between Toasters and the Shilo Inn on 200 South. Up until recently there were no public toilets around the homeless shelters downtown. Spyhop Productions is located directly across the street from one of the shelters and has too many experiences to recount about fecal and urinary behavior around them. Four Port-O-Potties were set up this past year on 500 West and 200 South but you can't see what's going on inside the plastic outhouses. Thank goodness they were installed but they have also become a nasty place for more drugs, sex and bad behavior in the neighborhood. The option of a Portland Loo is so fantastic because you can see the person in the stall from the outside (18" from the ground up). Your bits are protected from view but everyone can see who's in the toilet. As their Facebook page says, "We can see your trunk, but not your junk."

What's really great about these toilets is that they have been tried out and are hugely successful. They are easy to maintain with little visible plumbing and a faucet on the exterior. There are no mirrors, no paper towel holders, and no sinks inside. The steel construction is prison-grade metal and the power for lighting at night is via solar cells above it. They will be 'open' 24 hours a day.

Give it up to Salt Lake City officials always looking to Portland, Oregon ... lusting endlessly to be our own 'Saltlandia'. We need these toilets now as badly as P-Town did back in 2008 when they first installed this airy alternative near the Greyhound bus station in the Old Town-Chinatown neighborhood. Their fine city had been spending $200,000 a year to keep one bathroom open 24/7 in City Hall for the homeless to do their business. A Portland Loo reportedly costs less than $2000 a month to maintain. They are manually cleaned twice a day and the finish on the steel makes it easy for workers to remove graffiti with simple cleansers. Some other designs of this urban outdoor facility are self-cleaning but these new ones about to come to Utah are not of that ilk.

Don't be scared. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Our conventioneers from out of state will know what this loo is all about and they'll use it to and from events and their hotels. The homeless shelter area further west will hear grumbles that has been taken away but our police force will be happy to see two legs instead of six in the crappers by the shelters on 200 South.

February 07, 2014

Groovy, Baby

2014

I know this will date me as two years older than a pterodactyl, but I remember when the coolest thing in college that you could own was a waterbed. If you've never seen a waterbed, it's like a giant pillow made of thick vinyl, full of hose water and held in a clunky wooden bed frame. Think air mattress, only full of water. The only way you could get the water into the bed 'bladder' was to use a hose and hope you would have the proper attachment to get the water in the bulky thing. The bigger the bed, the longer it took to fill. You were totally screwed if you got a new bed in the dead of winter, your outside water spigot wouldn't work and your hose was frozen.

Then again, everyone always wanted to get sleep in a water bed and it was the mandatory piece of furniture for the sexual revolution that took place at the end of the last century. If you got the 'waves' moving in sync together in the bed, you'd have a swell time. If you didn't figure out the water movement in the big bladder the two of you would be bounced out of the bed with the backlash wave. Anybody that was cool in the 70's and 80's had a waterbed. The place in Utah to buy water beds during those avocado and gold tinted years was at the Stone Balloon waterbed store in the 9th and 9th neighborhood in Salt Lake City. The owner had the grooviest headboards and Naugahyde-lined bed boxes in town. I never owned one although I remember going in and coveting the beds on a monthly basis after shopping trips to another neighborhood store-Mother's Earth Things.

Waterbeds went out of style when foam, cloud, pillow top and dial-your-own-number beds started appearing. By then renters and homeowners were fed up with having to drain them and patch them when they sprung leaks. I can remember making every excuse in the book to avoid helping friends move the beasts from apartment to apartment. Landlords began not allowing them after a decade of popularity because of the water disasters they could cause to floors and ceilings. You can still buy them for special needs though, but Stone Balloon and waterbed stores a thing of the past.

Flip ahead 30 years. The 9th and 9th neighborhood is no longer a bastion of hippie shops and small stores where you could by tickets to a night in heaven. Gone are far out concerts at the Terrace Ballroom on Main Street with groups coming into town like Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Man, even the Doors played that venue with the faux-star lit ceiling. You'd spark a few from your dime bag, dance in your platform shoes all night and then crash at someone's pad on their waterbed in the wee hours of the morning. You'd hope the heating coils under the bladder had been left on during a cold January night and that you wouldn't get too nauseous riding the waves-because those beds were next to impossible to get out of quickly.

Sigh. Don't read me wrong. I love the 9th and 9th hood and all its quirky local shops these days just as I did back then. Standing outside of the Tower Theater and reading the weathered 'bark' of music posters for local bands and venues that are stapled or taped to the utility box and light poles just takes me way back to memory lane.

2014

Condominium owners in Utah and Salt Lake County saw increasing values in 2013, just as single family homeowners enjoyed last year. I think the condo market is back to damn healthy levels and we've now leaped over that ugly abyss of the crash. For some reason condos here were not initially affected by the tumbling economy in 2008 but they soon caught up with all the bad short sales and foreclosures losses along with single family properties. Most condo owners who didn't lose their homes are seeing equity come back - enough to sell if they want to or need to now.

There were 1267 condos sold in 2012 in Salt Lake County at an average price of $153,000. In 2013, there were 1600 condo sales at an average $176,880. That is an average increase of 16% in values in one year and 26% more sales in just twelve months. Currently there are 506 condos for sale in the County at an average asking price of $263,725 and 106 units with sales pending at an average asking price of $178,840.

Right now the condos that have sales pending show a lower than average asking price probably because the data represents the final big shakeout of condominiums with owners under financial distress facing short sale or foreclosure from the crash. We won't be seeing so many of those bargain hunter deals in this 2014 recovery unless random banks decide to release hidden inventories we don't know about. In the downtown area I watch there were 175 condos that changed hands in 2013 and 136 in 2012, a rise of 28% in sales. Prices jumped up almost 19% from an average sale of $205,200 to $243,000 in one year.

The Metro condominiums at 350 South 200 East were one of the last, large, high rise projects built before the economy tanked. In 2012 and 2013 the number of sales there were 9 and 8 respectively but prices jumped in that one year from an average sales price of $260,000 to $299,000. The Parc at Gateway which saw a large number of Asian investors buy-in during the Olympics when they were put on the market had only three sales in 2012 at an average sales price of $206,000 but 11 sales in 2013 with boost in closing prices to $248,000. The Dakota Lofts, one of the first modern urban conversions in the city had no sales in 2012 but four in 2013. The huge American Towers condominium project that opened in the 1980's during that's decade's economic crash saw 6 sales in 2012 at an average of $285,000 and then 18 sales last year with a bump in the average sales price to $306,000.

Around the state, St. George condominiums increased the most in value in the last year, albeit sales volume wasn't that much higher. According to WFRMLS web data 34 units were sold in 2013, 5 over the year before. St. George was hit hard by the recession as so many of its condo inventory there is second home business. When a family is in financial trouble, a second home is the first to go into foreclosure. Prices jumped from and average sale in of $101,000 in 2012 to $150,000 in 2013. That's proving to me we've bottomed out in real estate values here in Utah.

The highest reported sales prices of condominiums in Utah in 2013 were: $1,249,000 at the Village at Sugarplum at Alta; $1,250,000 at the Chateaux on the Green (at the north of Bonneville Golf Course) and $2,650,000 at Silver Star in Park City. All three luxury condos sold for more than offering price.

2014

Burrrrrrrrrr. When trapped under an inversion of smog in single degree weather it’s hard to remember sweat and single layers of clothes during the summer. Salt Lake City’s GREEN-BIKE program has taken away its fleet of 65 bikes downtown until the snow melts in the spring with the promise of 30% more bikes and more stations in 2014 (greenbikeslc.org) that will begin to sprout when the warmth returns. 

The more construction cranes a city has in the air the better the economic outlook is for the community. I’m counting cranes right now and we’re back at a 2007 level for new construction projects that are going up in the air. Sadly, most of those are for apartment buildings for young renters (instead of condos with owners). Yeah, I’m a REALTOR who wants to have inventory to sell. I also know that statistically owners take better care of properties than renters and they have more invested in their neighborhoods. The 2008 crash put a kibosh on developers and banks willing to invest in building high rise owner-occupied properties. HUD and FHA loans were cut and condo associations had to re-apply to get buildings re-approved for low down government-insured mortgage approval.  Additionally, no one is building senior high rises, yet baby boomers are the biggest population in the U.S. The very first new housing (apartment) project that actually faces 400 South has been approved by the Salt Lake Planning and Zoning Commission for construction in the New Year. This is what the Master Plan for the 4th South Corridor has always been mapped out to look like - businesses, live/work spaces, condos and apartments mixed in nicely along the TRAX route. Up until now Mayor Becker had never been able to get anyone to build housing along there to meet his vision but the economy has improved and well, to coin a phrase, ‘Downtown is Rising’…again.

If I look into my crystal ball for 2014, credit cards, mortgage and other loan rates will start to climb. The Fed is beginning to pull back on the post-crash/stimulus handouts it gave out and as the U.S. economy improves, big investors do a little Snoopy dance on the heads of the little people while raising loan rates on any money we borrow. You know what they say, “What’s good for big business is good for the economy!”  And as I sit typing this and watching the long line of homeless people waiting to get into the shelter this snowy day I know that 2014 isn’t going to get any better for many of the have-nots. Greed will grow in the New Year with retailers making employees work Thanksgiving day and night and other major traditional holidays.  All those folks who get paid minimum wage and can’t afford a car, or who don’t want a car and are forced to work on holidays can’t ride TRAX, Frontrunner or a bus because public transportation is closed on big holidays except for limited buses to ski resorts.  And maybe, just maybe, the Utah Legislature will mandate that buses, TRAX and Frontrunner will be free and state subsidized on red burn days in 2014. We are killing ourselves and our kids by not addressing our pollution problem right now, this year. 

            

December 09, 2013

Planning Our Future

2013

Our poor little downsized (but brave) newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune, has tried for the last few years to get crime stats on buses and trains here from the Utah Transit Authority. Folks want to know how safe it is to take public transportation here, right? After a few years of mumbling and jockeying back and forth and finally a ruling from the State Records Committee in the newspaper's favor, UTA released its crime data that was collected for them by a third party during 2012. The majority of crimes committed on our mass transit system are by people trying to catch a free ride and not paying the fare. Can we assume they aren't all joyriding and some folk can't afford the fares?

Right now the Planning and Zoning department for Salt Lake City is collecting thoughts from citizens in order to visualize what our Capitol City could and should look like downtown in 25 years. This is necessary to expand the framework of rules and regulations and help plan land use for the next generation. Would our kids and grandkids want more TRAX the addition of trolleys in the downtown area? Should the transportation system be free to use in the future? The last time the "Downtown Master Plan" was updated was in 1995, when there were no commuter trains operating along the Wasatch Front. Anyone is welcome to chime in at various public meetings going on now or by going to www.plansaltlake.com to type in your ideas.

"Downtown" is described as North Temple to 900 South, and from 200 East west to I-80. From information the City has collected about itself, less than 5000 people actually live in this downtown area and only about 500 live and work downtown. I thought it was a bit lonesome down here! Over 80% live in multi-level buildings with limited parking. Molly Robertson from Salt Lake City Planning and Zoning told me, "It's like 60,000 people come to work in Salt Lake every day and 59,500 go home every night-away from and out of downtown." That's a whole lot of people who put a burden on the police, Salt Lake City Corp. and the fire department. We will grow in the next 25 years and we've got to come up with solutions for an increased burden on services. Also, data from Planning and Zoning at Salt Lake City Corp. counts one out of every five people who lives in downtown as homeless. This is a population who needs transportation to get to jobs and job interviews if they are seeking work. Predictions are that this group of residents isn't going to decrease in population and we all must seek solutions to help.

It's the season of thanks and of giving. It's also a good time to talk with your friends and family about how we can make our city, county and state better down the road. Pull out your laptop after dinner with the family and chime in on how you envision our future together. And happy Thanksgiving everyone!

December 09, 2013

Pop Up Vendors

2014

It's not a craze; it's a great and small form of creativity and commercialism sprouting up all over the Wasatch Front in unlikely and obvious spaces. Pop-Up businesses and restaurants have become the new standard for hyper-local fans and the DIY generation. We've all grown used to the fake roses and stuffed animal vendors on various street corners during Valentines week or the zebra or wolf blanket purveyors at boarded up gas stations in the summer. That's not what I am talking about here.

The new Vive Juicery is a great example of a good and rare idea in Utah - cold pressed raw juices 'fueled by love and local farms'. These folks got their idea because they couldn't find the hydraulic pressed juice they had tasted elsewhere instead of veggie juice from centrifugal machines. Going through all the hoops of setting up a store front, passing all the rules and regulations of the health department and city licensing officials can break the bank of any entrepreneur. The folks at Vive Juicery have a great idea - why not share a space with a restaurant that's not open during the day in an already approved kitchen? Do a little Kick-Start and next thing you know, Brittany and Bryce Thaxton are making juice at 7 AM inside the restaurant Zest, pressing their fresh beet, date, ginger and green magic mixes available for walk-in patrons and on-line orders. Zest opens at 4 and so the juicers just slide out the back door as the veggie loving dinner guests start coming in the front door. This pop-up only shows that complimentary foods and people working in the same space to create great food for the healthy minded souls.

Pop-Ups are easily found at the Downtown Farmers Market. What you haven't heard - it's open during the winter! Yes, you can get your Winter Market shopping on at the Rio Grande depot a block west of Pioneer Park every other Saturday. Just before Thanksgiving we discovered a booth there from Urban Pioneer Foods. Brooke Woffinden, a local personal chef and caterer was offering small canning jars of pumpkin seed and cilantro pesto. At $9 a jar the item seemed pricy but OMG no one we shared it with even wanted it on pasta - it was good enough to just eat with a spoon.

The goal of many pop-up owners is to bring a unique item to a local market in the hopes it will take off and be financially viable. Remember years ago at the Market when a humble young Latino man was selling refried beans and tortillas from a cart? Jorge Fierro has now become infamous and successful with his brand, Rico Foods and Frida's Bistro. Microenterprise and the people who support the little guy have helped Happy Monkey Hummus move from the Market to grocery stores.

What happens at your place of work after hours? Maybe you could share space with a start up /pop up business. Got a good idea for a better widget but can't quite raise the funds to pay for machinery? Think about your options and support the small independents this holiday season.

November 06, 2013

Drinking in Utah

2013

Here's an excellent party trivia question: "How many liquor stores are in Utah?" Answer: 44 State Liquor Stores. Unlike most states in the good ol' USA, we in Utah cannot control our adult cravings and must have the government pick what we drink, when we drink and where we drink. Yet, we Utahn's have a great history of booze made by white men that continues to today.

Supposedly the first brewer in the state was Brigham Young's personal hit man and self proclaimed cannibal, Porter Rockwell. He opened the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel in 1856. There was simply a great need for beds and liquor in the territory because immigration and industry were whirling towards Zion like a modern day sharknado. If hard working rail roaders and miners couldn't get a simple beer or a shot of cheap whiskey after a back breaking day of work they'd just keep movin' on to another state like Wyoming or west to California that did would to drinkers. Local Mormon businessmen learned quickly that booze was good for business if they wanted to attract workers.

Flip the page forward to today. The same mentality for a successful business atmosphere continues. The LDS Church-owned City Creek Mall allows the Cheesecake Factory and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria to sell alcoholic beverages on its property. That might not have happened if the Mormon-controlled legislature hadn't met earlier to increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses just in time for the grand opening of the shopping mall. Thank goodness because the immigrants keep coming and are demanding more and more options! Look at Goldman Sachs with almost 2000 employees working in downtown with more coming. Many of their folks hail from big cities and want food trucks, bike rentals, local pubs and restaurants. Whaaaat? Neumont University just opened its doors in the old Salt Lake Tribune building and has 40 apartments upstairs for eager tech-minded students to live in year round. That's 500 students who are coming closer to the heart of Zion. It's working numbers like that which helped Gracie's on West Temple just get voted 'Best Cocktail in Utah'.

Just east of downtown there's been a vicious verbal throw down for the owners of a proposed pub near 2100 East and 1300 South. They recently came to Salt Lake Planning and Zoning to ask for permission to create their drive-up, sit down restaurant and pub aptly named 'Brewhaha Tavern'. Owners Jones and Pohlman want to bring a concept of a neighborhood pub to an area of town occupied by people who apparently don't drink a sip of liquor. Over 400 'neighbors' signed a petition to not let them open. Rumors flew that modern day temperance workers were telling other businesses in the area that they would stop shopping with them if didn't also help vote the potential pub down. Residents complained that they didn't want their children to walk by a bar (God forbid the kids might hang at Foothill Village behind the building where McCool's Tavern operates). One NIMBY ("not in my back yard") said she was scared that a place like Brewhaha might bring strangers and addicts to the neighborhood. I'm not making that up. Sadly, the loud neighbors won out so far and P and Z voted the request for a conditional use permit down. That means the owners can't get a liquor license now.

I recall when Dick N Dixie's at 479 E. 300 South-across the street from Michaels "Now and Again"-consignment shop petitioned the Salt Lake Planning and Zoning Commission to open up their neighborhood bar. Neighbors streamed into the hearing to complain that the world would end if their new changes to the hood passed through the city permitting system. Low and behold, Dick N Dixie's has a 4 star rating from Yelp and is one of the hottest little dives in town. I have not been able to find any statistic that any addict has been sleeping on the sidewalk there or that crime is at an all time high on this urban corner because of this pub.

The more business we want to attract to Utah the more all of us will have to look to improve the accessibility to adult watering holes and boozy beverages for the immigrants we wish to attract.

November 06, 2013

Parklets

2013

Let's go back in time to the early 1900's in Salt Lake City. The J.G. McDonald Chocolate Company had just built a 100,000 sq. ft confectionary factory that produced sweets, chocolate and a chocolate drink intended to replace tea and coffee. J. G.'s dad had been a taffy maker in the 1860's and his son took the talent and small company into sugary success. The building which housed the operation had wonderful Victorian gardens on the roof, where ladies in their corsets, petticoats, fancy dresses, big hats and white gloves could enjoy fine treats served on white linens by an equally well dressed wait staff. Sadly, the garden isn't there anymore but the building still is...and is now known as The Broadway Lofts Condominiums (next door to Squatters).

Visitors know our capitol city as a clean town with ultra-wide streets and 20' sidewalks. There are lovely gardens and plantings from the Temple grounds down Main Street here, but it's been difficult to find outside dining or friendly places to sit to enjoy downtown without the interruption of our panhandler plague. How to make areas of town more inviting to pedestrians has been a dilemma. We've rushed ahead to make bike lanes and put in UHaulcareshare and green bike rentals. And slowly bars and restaurants have been setting out a few tables to lure in more traffic-with or without the permission of City Permits.

I remember many years ago the only place you could go for outside dining was Ruth's Diner, The Park Café and out south to La Caille. Now we have many options to sit, eat and watch the world go by AND we're about to get more. City officials are ready to enact sweeping guidelines to enable and clearly control outside dining. The process to change rules is not quick. For example, it took a few million meetings for the City to get on board with food trucks this past decade. Old planners with pocket protectors ran around in a dizzy yelling about the potential trucks, "Where will they get power? Where will they go to the bathroom? Will they stay open late?". After all the worry we have a thriving community of local, mobile, yummy alternatives to Taco Smell and Dickey Me's for lunch or dinner. Our winter weather doesn't make for good roof top dining or curbside tables but soon you'll see proper short walls and portable heaters going up in front of several eateries downtown because the laws are being updated.

The other great addition to our city that I've personally been pushing for is the legalization of 'Parklets'. Other cities in the U.S. from Boston to SoCal have found that their street scene is not warm and fuzzy with just merely sidewalks and parking spaces to greet people. Businesses and neighborhoods have created mini-green spaces to sit, read, dine, exercise or have marshmellow roasting parties. Parklets are like pop-up small urban parks legally created in usually two parking spaces outside of buildings. We have had parklets here before and this Saturday, 9/21/13 from 11-5 there will be more. I tip my fedora to the 21st and Twenty First Autumn Arts Festival on the north side of 2100 South (between 2100 East to 2200 East). The local businesses there have worked with Salt Lake City to put in temporary grass and planters for the day's activities of food, art and music. Go check it out-it's a free event and you can see what a parklet looks like and maybe get some ideas for your own area.

Last time I was in San Francisco we went shopping in it was 'Parklet Friday' and all the stores on one block face had erected side by side experiences. It made you want to stop and check out the crowds and the fun. One parklet had temporary indoor/outdoor carpeting and a surround of crafty trees. People were BBQ'ing weenies on hangers while skinny jeaned kids played silly camp songs on acoustic guitars. Another parklet had several old school exercise bikes that you could get on and pedal with your friends for as long as you wanted. There are more permanent parklets all over the city where people can just sit and read. Restaurants can't use them to serve customers, but people can eat there and must abide by local laws (like no smoking).

Soon Salt Lake City will have its outside dining regulations updated and the rules for operating a seasonal parklet on the books. Methinks next summer will be a lot more fun in this old city of salt!

December 09, 2013

Holiday Wheels

2013

"My wife and I live in a condo with very little parking. It would be expensive and stupid to own two cars, have two car/insurance payments each month especially since Salt Lake's version of Zip Cars has a rental parked outside of our home. A cute little Mini has been stationed there for a year, under the U-Haul car share program Salt Lake City initiated. Mysteriously U-Haul's cars have disappeared and been instantly replaced with Enterprise Rent-A-Car vehicles in the dark of the night."

If you've not lived in a city with a car share program, it's smart and simple. To use the cars you must of course have a valid driver's license and car insurance and some form of pay plastic. Cars are generally in good city locations and here you can find them near TRAX and FrontRunner stations, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University and at several locations in the capitol city. You log on and reserve the car and if you don't cancel it in time you will be charged a fee. UTA has jumped in with Salt Lake City and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to suggest locations for the autos to help with the mass transit that we should all be trying to support and use here. The good news is that the annual membership for the new program is $40, but if you sign up NOW your joining fee will be waived through January 31st of 2014. The cost of the cars starts at $5 per hour and can be up to $75 for an entire day depending on the kind of car that you rent. http://www.enterprisecarshare.com/car-sharing/program/slc

During the holiday season, tax TRAX downtown and jump on the free Jingle Bus supplied by the SLC Downtown Alliance that will move you from the Gateway to Temple Square, to the Gallivan Plaza, Capitol and City Creek Center. This is a way to keep down the insane car traffic during the holidays around the malls and Temple Square. The cute Jingle Trolley (it looks like a trolley, not a train) runs from 5-10 pm 7 DAYS A WEEK in a loop that takes 20-30 minutes from beginning to end. Thus, you could park at Gateway and see the giant electric Christmas tree (unveiled Nov. 21), buy some old school candy at Blinkenstaffs, hop on the Trolley up to Temple Square for photo ops, wander over to Macy's and see the six candy windows (unveiled Nov. 21st, too) in the front of the former ZCMI store and wander through City Creek. Hop on the Trolley again to the Gallivan and get some cocoa and ice skate or head to the Capitol Theater for the Nutcracker and back to the Gateway. Easy peasy and fun for families and date nite. The Alliance has volunteers like yours truly give tours along the way, start up songs or tell jokes to get people in more jovial (not manic/panic moods). I can tell you last year it was so cold some nights people burst into tears when we pulled that Trolley up alongside their group and said, "Free! Warm! Come ride with us!"

For a map: downtownslc.org/jingle