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Honolulu planning director says more employees are needed to solve permitting backlog

Casey Harlow / HPR

Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, the director of Honolulu's Department of Planning and Permitting, updated the City Council's budget committee on the department's needs for fiscal year 2024. Among those priorities, she requested a 26% bump for salaries across all of DPP's six divisions.

Recruiting and retaining employees have challenged DPP over the years, contributing to a severe backlog in building permits.

Dawn Takeuchi Apuna.jpg
City and County of Honolulu
Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, acting director, City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting.

Apuna said there are more than 100 vacant positions in the department. She hopes to fill 60 positions over the next year — and 15 of those before June 31.

"When I just look at the list, we have a lot of inspector positions that we need to fill across the board," said Apuna.

Apuna told committee members those positions are the most important for the department.

"So whether it's building plumbing, electrical and housing inspectors. I think there's a big chunk there. And then it's the plans, examining the engineers that we just created those 15 positions for commercial projects," she said.

In addition to inspectors, Apuna told councilmembers the department is also looking for clerks and other personnel to fill open positions. Those vacancies will help streamline the department's processes.

There are other efforts underway to help DPP to address its permitting backlog, while also giving the department time to find personnel. Bill 6 allows a third-party to review and certify plans. That measure was approved on its first reading, and will be further discussed next month.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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