December, 1999 Home   Newsletters

January 2000

February 2000

League at Opening Day of the Legislature
President's Message
Education Committee Report (Mary Anne Raywid)
Welcome New Members
Honolulu LWV Budget for FY 2000-2001 (Arlene Ellis)
Galleria Threatens our Historic Downtown (Astrid Monson)
Clean Elections Legislation - Campaign Finance Reform (Laure Dillon)
New HEP Executive Director Appointed
Environmental Committee Report (Karen Ah Mai)
LWV Legislative Priorities 2000
Notice for LWV National Training Program

"Galleria" Threatens our Historic Downtown

It has been announced that construction is to begin soon on the "Galleria," the redevelopment of the downtown Post Office (King & Richards Streets) into a major retail building. Financing ($54 million) is said to be available from mainland investors. About 160,000 square feet of retail space is to be created containing several restaurants cafes, a wedding chapel and four floors of shops, with 106 tenants already signed up.

The site is an historic and architectural land mark and is located within the Land Use Ordinance's "Historic Precinct", which is part of the Hawaii Capitol Special District. Previous attempts to get this project under way failed, but the City's Department of Planning and Permitting finally let the developers get a foot in the door by approving its first stage. This is the interior renovation of the existing structure, provided the exterior walls - particularly the attractive King Street facade – would not be altered.

Under the newly revised Land Use Ordinance, such interior renovation may need only a minor permit, or possibly none at all, and does not require review or action by any authority other than the Director of the Department of Planning and Permitting. The revised Land Use Ordinance, in the name of streamlining the process and making the development easier, weakened many land use controls, including those affecting Special Districts.

The recent approval thus lets a heavily shod foot through the door and will without doubt result in opening the door for far more serious alteration, additions, and new land use activities which will be incompatible with the character of the Precinct and the District. The later phase of the project which involves constructing at least two additional floors and three floors of shops, would probably require a "major" permit under the new Land Use Ordinance. However, neither such construction nor the intended use would be in accordance with the general purposes of the Land Use Ordinance's Special District, or the Historic Precinct.

Major modifications, alterations, additions or repairs to historic structures require a Major Permit, which involves review by the local Neighborhood Board, the Design Advisory Committee, comments by public agencies, review by the Director of the Department of Planning & Permitting, and a public hearing. The new Land Use Ordinance evidently does not require approval of this project by either the Planning Commission or the City Council. Sec. 212.40-2.

If the Director does not take action within 90 days of acceptance of the completed application, the major permit shall be deemed approved.

It is clear that a massive building full of restaurants, wedding chapels, souvenir shops and the like will bring activities and uses not compatible with those of the historic structures nearby – the Royal Palace, Honolulu Hale, the State Courts, etc. and that, since no off street parking is being provided on the site, the atmosphere of the historic area will be destroyed as hundreds of customers are brought in by tourist bus, limousines, automobiles parked off the site. We urge the new Director of the City's Planning and Permitting Department to critically review this project in the light of the above considerations and not to grant further approvals. Since the Redevelopment Corporation has not yet finished buying the site from the U.S. Postal Office, perhaps the door could be closed and the existing permit canceled before any harm is done to this 77 year old historic treasure and architectural gem. It should certainly be closed before more construction can proceed.

Astrid Monson
Co-Chair P&Z Committee

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