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President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Rail Transit Task Force (Patricia Tummons)
We Won! ... Well, Almost! (Astrid Monson)
Vote Counts
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We Won! ... Well, Almost!

On January 10 some forty community organizations and prominent individuals, with unprecedented unanimity, testified against Councilman Abercrombie's bill eliminating the annual development plan review process. On January 31, the Council's final meeting on the matter, all who spoke opposed the bill once again.

The Council then voted 8 to 1 to retain the planning process unchanged except that developments which include a housing component in which 60% of the units are affordable by families with incomes under $47,000 (120 of island median) could be processes by "independent consideration" instead of as part of the process.

Councilman Kahanu, Council Housing Chair, opposed the bill to the last because "there's already a law (Ch. 201-E of the Hawaii State Revised Statutes) that lets us review housing any time we want... The new amendment encourages developers to build housing projects that are not truly affordable... There are a lot of projects that can be built with homes that cost much less, and that's what 201-E is for."

In her testimony January 31 League president Ellis said: "The development plans have, almost from the beginning, been more like zoning maps than the general policy and development guides the Charter intended. Instead of dealing with growth problems and making recommendations for their solutions, public officials have merely reacted to specific project requests when developers and land owners wanted them. Thus we have in effect abandoned the "directed growth" concepts on which the General Plan was based, in favor of the "private-sector-initiated" growth policy it specifically rejected.

"We feel, therefore, that even the present amendment before you is going in the wrong direction in that it permits even more "ad hoc" project decisions. This is in spite of the fact that for twenty years we have worked for and supported measures to increase the supply of affordable housing. We were among the organizers of the People's Housing Coalition twenty years ago, and two of our members helped draft the basic State Housing Act 105.

"However, we do not think that 'independent consideration', though theoretically designed to speed up the process, will do more than create more of what Councilmember Abercrombie has aptly called 'paper houses.' Tens of thousands of these are already through the Development Plan process. If any additional ones are impeded by the process, they can be processed outside it under State Act 15, Chapter 201-E --which, by the way, both the City Council and the League of Women Voters opposed when it was Senate Bill 3287, for reasons similar to our objections now.

"Nevertheless, it is now the law. We urge you to endorse the 'use it or lose it' doctrine just enunciated by Governor Waihee in his State of the State message, and in fact often mentioned by former Chief Planning Officer Don Clegg, to discourage holding Development Plan-approved land off the market for future speculative price increases instead of building affordable housing--or anything else--on it.

Astrid Monson
Chair, Planning & Zoning

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