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December General Meeting
Consensus Meeting - Honolulu LWV Initiative and Referendum Study
Proposals for 1989's Program
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Urgent! Help Needed for Vote Count
Speak Out, Hawaii
Nominations for Board
500-Foot High Convention Center
Up-Date on City Council
Consensus Position - Federal Agriculture Policy
Channel 20
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500-Foot High Convention Center

Should Honolulu build one convention center, two or none? Early in 1987 an article in the Aloha Voter raised a number of fundamental questions as to the need for such a Center, how many large conventions not now accommodatable in existing facilities it could attract, and whether the tax revenue and job advantages these would bring outweighed the costs to the public.

Though these questions were never satisfactorily answered in any objective study, the 1988 State Legislature set up a special convention Center Authority and gave it three years to work out plans and implementation of a Center on Waikiki's International Market Place.

Mayor Frank Fasi, however, prefers the former Aloha Motors site at Kalakaua and Kapiolani instead and is moving ahead with it. The City Council has it under consideration.

Both proposals assume that private developers would bear the brunt of construction and operating costs. In exchange they would receive exemption from various planning and zoning controls such as height limits, so that they could combine a center with condominium, commercial and other uses. The City might have to incur some infrastructure costs--street widenings, additional water and sewerage capacity, and the like. Who would pay the expected operating losses, and other such "details" is yet to be decided.

On October 26, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on various amendments to the Primary Center Development Plan and to the Land Use Ordinance (zoning code). that would set up special treatment of a Convention Center on the Aloha Motors site. Arlene Ellis, Honolulu League President, testified specifically against permitting a proposed 500-foot height limit on the site when existing zoning allows 'a maximum of 350 feet.

"We have," testified Arlene, "consistently opposed exemptions from planning and zoning controls for whatever reason, particularly in Waikiki, which is already overcrowded. Such a height would set a precedent, would be out of scale with the adjoining Waikiki area to which it is the gateway, and would even challenge the mountains which form so majestic a backdrop from sea and air."

"Raising the height to 500 feet would, we feel, undoubtedly lead to demands to increase the permitted floor area, thus permitting a building not only excessively tall but unprecedentedly bulky. Additional exemptions would undoubtedly follow: from yard and open space requirements, from required set-backs, from off-street parking and loading requirements, and so on."

In conclusion, Arlene testified that such proposals are clearly "spot zoning" and may well be illegal, and that "if such special treatment is needed to make construction of a Convention Center viable, we think the price the community will have to pay is too high."

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