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TOD Legislation: Confusion at the City Council

Wayne Yoshioka

Honolulu City and County lawmakers are struggling to enact development rules around future rail transit stations. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

There are four bills relating to Transit Oriented Development making their way through the Honolulu City Council.  The bills cover various aspects of zoning, development and affordable housing rules around O’ahu’s 21 rail transit stations from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.   Elizabeth Creager, chief of the City’s Zoning Regulations and Permitting Branch, says the goal is for pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

“We’re looking for street trees and awnings and shade and places for people to gather.  We’re looking for parking to be set back away from the front of the property.  So right now, a lot of the time, you have people walking on sidewalks and then a big sea of parking and a building set way back.  So, eventually, we would like people to be reversing that.”

But, developers would have three building permit options: one that fully complies with development standards; another based on the physical limitations of the property; and, another requesting a waiver.  On top of all that, there are separate rules for the first two transit stations.  Acting Department of Planning and Permitting director, Kathy Sokugawa, describes the different restrictions for Waipahu and neighboring West Loch.

“Their old plantation town is something that defines Waipahu.  So they are very concerned about preserving that.  West Loch, not so much.  If you know the area, the neighborhood is fairly large lots.  Small and large industrial uses so it doesn’t have that same character in Waipahu Town.”

Waipahu has a building height limit of 60 feet, West Loch, 90 feet.  Adding even more to the confusion are preliminary affordable housing rules that are contained in two separate bills.  These rules could then be consolidated in a 3rd bill once the affordable housing plan is finalized.   Land Use Research Foundation executive director, Dave Arakawa, describes the dilemma.

“Bill 74 provisions might be inconsistent with Bill 15.  So we need to make Bill 74 consistent with Bill 15.  But, then, several months later we’re gonna have the overall affordable housing policy requirements done and that will supersede and overrule Bills 74 and 15.  So, can we just make it simple.”

Arakawa says the pending measures will confuse developers and the public.   Zoning and Housing Committee Chair, Kimberly Pine, agrees.

“There is a lot of confusion because there’s so many different bills moving forward.  And so I think that’s what we’re gonna do, pick a couple of vehicles and just consolidate all the legislation that includes the affordable housing into one.  So that we can send a very clear direction to the public of where we’re going.”

Three of the four  bills have a deadline of September 8th for final City Council Action.    Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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