March 1972 Home   Newsletters

Apr 1972

May 1972

Seven Elected! Program Adopted! By-Law Change Debated!
April Calendar
Unit: Spectrum "The L EAG ue and I" Part II
Community Announcements - Hawaii Nei 1972
Membership Memo
Voters Service
LWV General Meeting "Problems of Renting in Hawaii" (Vangie Lamberts)
Charter Commission - Observer's Report (Elizabeth Piper)
State Convention April 7th and 8th
National Updates
New Members Since December
Facts and Issues: Planning Part 3 - April 1972

Facts and Issues: Planning Part 3 - April 1972

League of Women Voters of Honolulu


Honolulu has a full-time Planning Director, appointed by the Mayor with approval of the City Council. He may be removed by the Mayor. The Planning Director is one of three department heads who are directly responsible to the Mayor. The Director submits his (the department's) recommendations to the Planning Commission via the Mayor's office with the Mayor's signature.

The current Charter specifies that the Director shall have a minimum of five years training and experience, at least three years of which shall have been in an administrative capacity in charge of major city planning activities. His salary is $27,500. The current Director is Robert R. Way, who was selected from recommendations submitted by a "Blue Ribbon" committee of community leaders formed by Mayor Frank Fasi to help in formulating his cabinet. Department heads do not come under civil service.

The power and duties of the Planning Director according to the Charter are to:

  1. Prepare a general plan and development plans for improvement and development of the city.

  2. Prepare subdivision regulation ordinance.

  3. Prepare zoning ordinance, zoning maps, and regulations, and amendments and modifications thereto.

  4. Give priority to proposed capital improvements contemplated by the several departments.

  5. Advise the mayor and council on planning matters.

The General Plan will be discussed later in detail. The Development Plans refer to a relatively detailed scheme for the placement or use of specific facilities within a defined area (according to the Charter - "so as to insure the most beneficial use of such area in conjunction with the surrounding areas.") A Development Flan is within the framework of and implements the General Plan.

There are approximately 115 people employed by the Department which is organized as shown in the following chart #2- Main organizational divisions are shown with accompanying explanations of duties. The planning staff (excluding Director and Deputy Director) is under civil service.

Specialists in particular fields are employed on a consulting basis to augment the planning staff, or when there is a heavy workload. Consultants have been employed heavily in the General Plan Revision Program.

Basically, planners for the county must have a degree from an accredited college/university with major work in city planning, architecture, engineering, economics, sociology, public administration or a related field, and from 3-6 years of experience in city planning or related planning activities. A request for a planner is sent to Civil Service where screening of prospective employees is done, and a list is sent to the Planning Department where interviews are held. The Department has the final decision on hiring. Salaries range from $9,840 to $20,460.

There are grades of planners I through VI, plus several grades of planning technicians on the professional staff, and a variety of support personnel.

The planning staff was frequently criticized by Councilmen and Planning Commissioners for being improperly prepared for briefings. This coincided with Mr, Way's statement that his most serious problem was recruiting competent professional planners. He feels there is simply more work than the staff can handle, High living costs were the prime reason given for desirable individuals not wanting to come to Honolulu. Extensive recruiting programs have been attempted

Chart #1 shows the position of the planning department in the county government structure,

As is reflected in the media, conflict exists between the Department and the City Council and to a more subtle degree between the Department and the Planning Commission. The name of the game is power, and who shall exercise it. Some disagreement can be attributed to individual personalities and in the main this seems regrettable. One commissioner called it "creative tension", but observers find little truly creative in these personality clashes.

Personalities aside, there are some very basic philosophical differences that must be understood. Put most simply, who should plan the environment of our island, the elected representatives who claim to speak on behalf of their constituents or the professional technicians, trained to understand an increasingly complex responsibility? Ideally, something of a compromise is most desirable, however, the discipline of planning, developing at a galloping rate since World War II, has become increasingly sophisticated, so much so that many experts don't feel lay people are competent to make decisions. On the other hand, the individual participating in decision making is what democracy is all about. If citizens error they must suffer the consequences. But some professionals (and others) fear the environment is too fragile to be experimented upon, and we cannot risk ignoring studied proposals and plans, even if the public doesn't always agree.

As it is now the Planning Director is charged with advising both Mayor and Council, a dual reporting responsibility. The Council charges that since the Director in reality only serves one master, the Mayor, and that they need an independent Council research staff to advise them on planning and other topics. Councilmen feel the Department should provide technical data to the Council upon which they can base their decisions. Members of the Department feel they should have more authority as they consider themselves to be better informed. Councilmen find the Department condescending; Department people feel the Council plays politics, uses zoning decisions to further themselves politically, and that they are short-range in thinking, and do not comprehend modern planning principles. The Department also charges that the Planning Commission serves no useful purpose because they have no expertise in planning matter, and frequently don't understand issues. They also charge that they have no concept of economics and approve "pretty" but impractical ideas. The prime question remains - should planning be a reflection of community values and ideas or a professional and technical consideration? Still more important, can these two be separated?

One council person suggests (and interviews show this to be the majority Council opinion) that the Department's role "should be limited to planning the physical development of the community. It should do this by assisting the City Council in establishing environmental, economic, social, aesthetic, and other goals for the city assisting in converting these goals into a long-range physical development plan. for Oahu, preparing DLUMs (Detailed Land Use Maps), zoning and subdivision ordinances and zoning maps, and regulations for the City Council."

The Planning Department in its current direction cannot agree with this because they no longer accept strictly "physical" planning as the primary goal of long-range comprehensive planning.

In the beginning of city planning the emphasis was on the physical planning of cities. This approach resulted in brightly colored maps, one color for residential, another for commercial and so on. "The reform movement in government of this century had a lot to do with the reinforcement of the physical view of planning since it stressed management and control as did, in great measure, the professions of architecture, engineering and landscape design whose members were natural allies of the movement,' 1 Contemporary urban planners consider the physical environment as only one of many parts in their field.

"A further reason for the emphasis on physical planning was the suspicion. and mistrust which foreign experiences in economic and social planning in the early decades of this century aroused...

"A general emphasis on physical planning, with little attention to its other implications also fitted with a long unquestioned national philosophy which held that by improving the physical environment and by the free play of the market, social problems were automatically taken care of - at least for those people provident enough to be both thrifty and acquisitive. Those lacking both thrift and acquisitiveness were assumed to be morally inadequate, hence, their social problems were of their own making."

World War II marks a turning point after which planning became more comprehensive, taking into account sociology, economics, geography, psychology. All planning still resulted in colored maps, but they were acquiring more meaning. Still today, comprehensive planning moans little more than a thorough physical plan for the community.

Some in Honolulu feel this is the correct method. In testimony during briefings to the Charter Commission in. December the Chairman of the City Council Planning and Zoning Committee had this to say:

"On the matter of continuing the designation of the general plan as "physical" development plan, note that the planning director requested the elimination of the word "physical" in the Charter's definition of the general plan,

"There are three important reasons for retaining the physical development characteristics of the general plan.

"First, experience has shown that coordination of physical development is, a practical necessity, and a general plan that focuses on desirable future physical development of Oahu is an important policy instrument needed by the City Council in carrying out one of its over-all responsibilities, to control our community's physical growth.

"Secondly, the general plan must be physically oriented since it is a guide to property owners and government officials in enacting zoning ordinances. Without such a general plan and zoning regulations, the whole county would become the absolute tools of bureaucratic officials who need not be responsive to the community and who would be subjected in turn to the temptations of selfish motives...

"Thirdly, the City planning director desires to replace the requirement of a "physical" general plan, with a resources or money allocation system widely known as P.P.B.S. He stated in his General Plan Revision Program Status Report, which was transmitted to the Charter Commission, that: "The general plan" revision program may be viewed as a major step toward the development of planning, programming, budgeting system for the City and County of Honolulu."

The Planning Director had requested elimination of the "physical" designation in the following testimony: "It should be noted that the term 'physical' need not be used to describe the plan. All of this is to indicate that the General Plan should set forth the policies of the general public and the community rather than for a single government body. The elimination of the term physical in line with the new direction of general planning which would not restrict consideration to physical needs only Should be considered."

It is generally agreed that a purely physical planning approach is inadequate because it results in "1) literally uncontrolled growth at the city's edges Where few controls apply, 2) para-governmental control of land use by banks, real estate dealers, and developers for in determining who will receive leans and what the cost of housing will be, they are also determining who will, and who will not, be housed, and Who will live in which neighborhood, and 3) an urban environment which is a mixture of physical incoherence and social and ethical confusion. Hence, physical changes indeed have produced social changes, but most are increasingly indefensible since they have resulted in suburban sprawl, racial and housing discrimination, a chronic lack of housing for the poor, and a cultural vacuum in the suburbs." 3

Modern comprehensive planning should go further than colored maps indicating desirable land use. Land use planning is critical, but must go hand in hand with social planning and urban design. And land use planning is taking new directions as land becomes more scarce to most urban areas.

Some background on the current General Plan is appropriate.

The current (1959) Charter states that the General Plan is to set forth the City Council's long range policy for comprehensive physical development; include a map of the city, a statement of development objectives, standards and principles with respect to the most desirable land use, more desirable population density, a system of principle thoroughfares, locations of public buildings, utilities and terminals for water, sewage, light, power, transit; the extent and locations of public housing; adequate drainage and control; and such matter RS may in the Council's judgment be beneficial to the city. The plan was supposed to be based on studies of physical, social, economic and government conditions and trends.

General plans and development plans are adopted by ordinance. In theory, no public improvement project or subdivision or zoning ordinance shall be initiated unless it conforms to the general plan.

This sounds comprehensive and efficient, but investigation has yielded a different picture. The 1964 Plan is a piecemeal, outdated approach that needs revision badly. (However, one planning commissioner stated that he felt the 1964 plan with its revisions was sound,)

The process that created the 1964 General Plan does not reflect intensive study. Following. a zoning controversy over certain lands in the Diamond Head area the State courts issued an injunction on further zoning changes

[one page - bad print on edges of lines]

the City could present a general plan for the island. The State Legislature had authorized a general plan as early as 1923, Pressure from developers whose rezoning requests were being delayed led to hasty plan formation with little study.

The result is more a reflection of what existed and what developers wanted than a true long-range planning effort. One of its primary deficiencies is lack of consideration for solving transportation problems

with rapid transit or an adequate substitute.

The manner for amending this document is specified in the Charter and is […]step by step program published by thePlanning […]changes are time consuming and therefore costly […]could improve the overall quality of this […]

[…] words of one prominent planner interviewed, "What […]

a general plan that reflects where we want to be In 20 years […] the part of the Department to encourage realization of that plan, and a[…] Council with a long range view rather than one bent on granting favors." […] planners would consider a 20 year objective extremely short sighted.

[...]process of General Plan amendment was altered by a significant court case, Dalton v. City and County of Honolulu, 5l Haw, 400 (1969), The decision in the Dalton case made the amending of the plan less flexible, and spells out great detail for the plan than originally intended. Finding sensible as well as legal ways out of those constraints is difficult for the present Charter

language describing the general plan is detailed. It has, in short, become an object instead of a concept, and one which is worshipped rather than […]

The General Plan Revision Program (GPRP) is an ambitious and complex project undertaken by the Planning Department, originally with the City Council's blessing. From the original 'funding to its current questionable status is a

[…]ed path with little agreement occurring between the City Council, Planning Director and the Administration. There is an amazing variety of opinion […] what has happened and what is now happening.

[…]an attempt to update the 1964 plan by instituting a new […]

planning has not resulted in sufficient housing even though

[…] land areas are designated residential in the 1964 plan. Of course,

the problems go much further than insufficient housing, but this is probably the most critical example on Oahu. There needs to be a coordinated planning […] that considers more than just the spatial aspects of residential plan[…]The Planning Department hopes to institute a problem oriented […]which goals and alternatives are developed and[…]for public policies are made, then […]evislon in law for implementation […]

[…]has been celled a P.P.B. system by some. In the arguments over the P.P.B. it is important to understand what PPB is. It is... "primarily a planning system which leads to program decisions which are then used as a guideline for preparation of the detailed budget... Its essence is the development and presentation of relevant information as to the full implications…. […]

and the benefits... of the major alternative courses of action,5

[…]not proven to be the ultimate answer to all planning and […] problems, it does have more validity than standard budgeting still

[end bad page]

used in Honolulu today. (The city has two budgets, the operating budget and the capital budget,) In the operating budget specific amounts of money are given to departments with minimal description of the purposes for which it is to be spent. In other words, there are few goals and little coordination in common in the departments. The capital improvements budget does establish priorities and does provide for incremental building tied to specific goals. There is insufficient relationship between these two. Also the capital budget only considers the initial cost of the item and has no provision for considering maintenance and repair, depreciation and other factors that affect the operating budget.

In order to rationally use the city's tax money goals are necessary. While elected representatives should formulate these goals, this is difficult because (among other reasons) they are trained to think in elective terms, rather than long term future periods of time. Also it is difficult for Councilmen to know what their constituents want because few of them think in long range terms either. While the professional planners seem most efficient technically to form goals, politicians are understandably unwilling to relegate policy formation duties to appointed officials for fear of charges they are not performing their jobs. The question remains: Is planning becoming too complicated for lay people? Are we ready for government by experts and technicians? Can we survive if we don't let experts take over?

The chief criticisms of PPB are: "1) the hands of insensitive administrators, it tends to become more important as a system than the men who use it. 2) can also be insensitive to the kinds of programs to which it is, applied since it relies heavily upon cost-benefit analysis. The assignment \ of benefits is a value bound controversy. 3).., it requires a degree of analytical and management expertise which is not always available in many cities."6 However, some version of PPB can bring long term goals to the city, and in its various modifications it is proving successful in some arenas.

The .maze continues. The Planning Department denies that they are trying to institute a strict PPBS approach to general planning, but that they wish to use the best of its techniques to improve the city's general planning process. The described result would be a plan that would be dynamic and have built in flexibilities and eliminate the involved amending process. Members of the Council counter with charges that the Department is trying to institute a PPBS system for the entire county government with the Planning Department at the head. They feel the Planning Director is attempting to do their job, and "doesn't know his place."

The Department stated in the General Plan Revision Program Status Report that it wishes to develop policies to guide growth with an awareness of cost as well as benefits, with social, economic, and physical dimensions of the city being considered concurrently.

The product of the GPRP will be a set of objectives and a land use plan to achieve those objectives. Quoting from that report: The nature of the objectives and the land use proposals will, to a large degree, determine the specific form of the plan. The adoption of the planning unit, which is problem -oriented for purposes of analysis, may lead to a form which utilized that concept as opposed to the more traditional concept of planning districts based upon physical geography.

"The objectives of the plan will, for a given area, encompass such factors as desired population levels, desired building cubage, a desired mix of functions of activities, desired physical characteristics, and desired

living space for families of various sized and income levels.

"The attainment of these objectives will be accomplished by a variety of actions and controls. These may be traditional controls as zoning regulations as well as non-traditional activities such as a controlled market for land. The controlled market may involve ouch controls over land prices as:

  1. A land bank program whereby land for future urbanization is acquired by the City and County in advance of its need.

  2. Adoption of the principle that public expenditures which enhance the value of land justify arranging for those benefits to accrue to the public. Under this concept, public expenditure benefits would accrue to the public and Private expenditure benefits would accrue to the private interests. For example, the location of transit stop would enhance adjacent properties, and a methodology could be developed whereby this enhancement would accrue to the public interest. In New York City, a new cress town subway line is proposed with the City acquiring !.11 land two blocks each side of the line. The City will then control the redevelopment of this property and return the enhanced land to the private market for development.

  3. Arrangement for public participation in enhancement to land as a result of zoning for more intensive use.

"The controlled or non-free market for land could be utilized to meet social and economic goals, particularly with reference to housing needs, and to underwrite the cost of certain public improvement.

"Other non-traditional leans of attaining objectives include the development of a methodology coiling for the exchange of air tights or cubage rights from ere property to another and the development of /relationship criteria? which will define the relationship of uses. That is, defining the relationship between single-family and multiple-family residential, commercial and industrial uses.

"Such controls could establish a more effective means of attaining objectives and result in a departure from the existing system of land use controls."

This far reaching, complex proposal to literally overhaul the County planning procedures has many ramifications. It is worth the effort to take time to understand it. Few people do, including some of those who have great decision making power. Since it sounds like PPBS some people reject it outright. Still others think those are alternatives less set on cost-benefit standards. (Alternatives do exist, but the problem described affects Oahu directly.) One must remember that both personalities and philosophies conflict. This discussion is important for understanding both decisions on the part of policy makers and the current debates on County structure in the Charter Commission deliberations.

The Charter issues and some comments follow:

1. Drop "physical" from Charter discussion or General Plan

see text

2. Retain "physical" in General Plan description

3. Should General Plan be the City's policy or the Council's policy?a. "Since it is the Council's responsibility to oversee the growth and development of the entire country, the Council must also have a general plan which reflects its policies.
b. It should be called the City's plan, because it is the responsibility of many departments and administrators.

4. The General Plan should have a mandatory review (every five years.)

a. This would conform with State practices
b. Would ensure against having a badly outdated plan.
c. Wouldn't really solve the conflicts that exist - plan will only be as good as policy makers and planners.
d. Wouldn't be necessary if the GPRP is accepted.
e. Any given time would be artificial, and it is impossible to predict when a plan needs updating.

5. Should G.P. be adopted by resolution rather than ordinance?

a. Resolution would give the plan greater flexibility.
b. The specifics of the implementation process would still be by ordinance, i.e. zoning, etc.

6. Should the Director be responsible to Mayor or Council or both?

see text

7. Should there be mandatory City Council hearings on zoning changes?

a. Since the final decision is with the Council, why should the hearings for the public be before the Commission?

8. Should Council have legislative authority over subdivision rules and regulations?

a. Any legislative function should be with an elected body rather than an appointed. (Control in this area rests with the commission currently.)

Other suggestions to the Commission have included:

9. Civic and historic district elements and other information should be added to the general plan to make it more sensitive to the problems of the community.

10. Development plans should be eliminated.

11. Detailed Land Use Maps should be eliminated.

12. There should be improvements in the hearing notification provision. Television announcements should be considered,


1. "Urban Planning and Policy: A Political Symbiosis," Research Report No. V., February, 1972, Charter Commission City and County of Honolulu, pg 2.

2. Ibid. page 3.

3. Ibid. page 15.

4. Ibid. page 31.

5. Selma J. Mashkin, etal., "What is PPBS", Planning Programming, Budgeting for City, State and County Objectives, vol. 1, Washington, 1967), pp. 7, 1. Quoted in Baker, Urban Politics In America, page 270.

6. "Urban Planning and Policy: A Political Symbiosis," Research Report No. V., Feb 1972, Charter Commission City & County of Honolulu, page 24.

March 1972 Top   Home   Newsletters May 1972