It can be exceedingly difficult to navigate around Salt Lake. I am much more aware of it when I have to navigate for someone who doesn't know the city. Though the streets are more or less gridwork and often named for their distance from the Mormon temple (45th South, 20th East, etc.), the only landmarks are commercial ones - and generically commercial, like malls and grocery stores and gas stations. Salt Lake, outside of downtown, has no sense of place. When the inversion layer is thick and I can't see the sun or the mountains, I can lose my sense of direction if I'm in an unfamiliar area - and that almost never happens. Streets in Salt Lake remind me of many of the girls and young women in Salt Lake - all commercialized, all the same.
Salt Lake City is so amazingly spread out. I've become accustomed to the density in Berkeley and San Francisco - here, there are vacant lots and low buildings everywhere. I would opt for denser housing and ample parkland and wild space, but that runs counter to the fifties Mormon/American dream of the giant house on a half-acre plot in (boring, stifling, numbing) suburbia. Lots that large require one to drive everywhere, creating terrible inversions in the valley and putting pedestrian-friendly things like sidewalks and street-level storefronts on the back burner, and they make public transit inviable. At least Salt Lake has a minimal but growing light rail system now, thanks to the Olympics.
City planning in the county is terrible. Two years ago they closed the Albertson's down the street from my dad's only to level a wooded hill and build a mega-Albertson's a block away in the opposite direction. Now the old building stands vacant. Ridiculous. I'm not sure if the county or the newly-formed Holladay township is responsible for the stupidity.
So much of the development in Salt Lake valley and all along the Wasatch Front happened so fast. My dad, born in '49, remembers a time when everything south of 21st South was farmland and orchards; I remember when Sandy and Draper were such. Now these places and more are suburbs and strip malls and office buildings, with few parks or public spaces. In the fifties and sixties, trendy Park City was an empty mining town, and parcels of land that are now worth ten million or more were won and lost in poker games. Now main street caters to the shopping tastes of the rich, and the ski resorts keep business going by generating snow from water pumped out of the old mines, poisoning the groundwater with lead and other heavy metals.