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City Council Unanimously Passes 'Monster Home' Permit Measure

Catherine Cruz

The Honolulu City Council is again tightening city regulations on oversized houses in residential neighborhoods. This time by going after the permits that allow them to be built.

Bill 90 (2020) was unanimously passed by the City Council earlier this week -- creating an expiration date on permits allowing homeowners to expand their houses. 

Despite a 2019 law prohibiting the construction of oversized houses on residential lots, they were still being built in neighborhoods across O?ahu. That's because permit applications submitted before the ban could still be approved -- allowing homeowners to legally build "monster homes."

Council Chair Tommy Waters introduced the measure last year after seeing monster homes being built in Kaimuki. He says under the measure, approved monster home permits would expire after a year, and sooner if the application is pending.

"If your monster home application was sitting at DPP, and not review or passed, it automatically expires," Waters said. 

Waters says the expiration forces contractors and builders to reapply for a building permit. But this time, their application would be denied because of the city's current regulations.

Delays and red tape at the department of planning and permitting are widely known. And streamlining the department is a goal for both the City Council and the new administration.

In previous council meetings, the department's former acting director Kathy Sokugawa warned Bill 90 would add antoher responsibility to an already overwhelmed branch. Even saying it would "add another matchstick on the regulatory camel's back."

The department's new director-designate Dean Uchida says the bill is a good thing, and it is another tool to enforce and curb the construction of monster homes. But he adds that construction is one part of the issue.

"You're having an apartment building-type use in a residential neighborhood," Uchida said. 

"The building part, you get a lot of multi-generational houses on Oahu, so big houses aren't that unusual -- especially if the neighbors know who you are. It's a different story when you have 10-20 different people that you never saw before coming in and out of a house."

Uchida says legislation, like Bill 90, is addressing the construction of monster homes. He adds that he's committed to working with the Council on finding a solution to enforcing land use in residential areas.

Bill 90 will now be reviewed by Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

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