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March 1991

April 1991

Vote Counts
League Testifies
Viewpoint 2-25-91
Council Observers Needed
Annual Meeting
Hawaii Schools in the Decade Ahead

League Testifies

…at the State Legislature


(A bill to change the method of voting on amendments to the City Charter to count all spoiled and blank ballots as "no".)

We have not done an in-depth study of this issue and therefore do not have a position from which to speak. However, we do have some questions that we hope this Committee will consider.

  1. What is the reason for this radical change in the determination of the majority of votes? Under this proposed system we already experience great difficulty in passing even housekeeping measures in our State Constitution.

  2. Might this change in determining the majority of votes tilt the playing field toward turning down any amendments to the Charter in any future by giving undue weight to those who do not understand the issues or who are uninformed, by giving more weight to "no" votes?

  3. Would it not be more fruitful to expend our energies and funds to informing the public on the pros and cons of amendment issues? Greater public dialog would result in more intelligent participation at the polls.

  4. Since this change applies to County Charters, and with the Honolulu Charter Commission scheduled to review the Charter in April of this year, should this issue be left to their discretion realizing that if they so determine, they may come back to the legislature for necessary changes in the State statute?

  5. If the reason for this change is to make it more difficult to amend the Charter, are other means of accomplishing this being considered such as raising the requirement for passage from a simple majority to a 5/8 majority?


Land use initiative has never been designed to replace the planning process now in place, nor has it ever been used by any County in Hawaii to circumvent comprehensive planning. By law, any land use designation, whether accomplished by citizen initiative or the City Council, must conform to the State Plans and the County General Plans. In fact, the thrust of the Sandy Beach initiative, for example, was to make zoning designations that were more consistent with the principles spelled out in the Development Plans and Coastal Zone Management laws.

Initiative cannot take away a property owner's right to develop his land as he wants. Land use controls and zoning do that. For example, Queen's Beach was down-zoned from resort to preservation by an amendment to Oahu's General Plan , not by initiative. Initiative cannot deprive anyone of his property without compensation or due process of law, anymore than it can be done by a legislative body.

So why are we working so hard to get land use initiative for the Counties restored? Our planning process is a good one. Unfortunately, decisions are not always made in terms of the process, but by politicians who are sometimes guided more by political rather than planning considerations, and these decisions are sometimes contrary to the very planning principles the process is set up to implement.

Never a substitute for the planning process, initiative is a last and desperate step in it. After all else has failed; after all the public hearings, testimony, negotiations, etc., which are part of the process, occasionally-maybe once in a thousand times -- a decision will so outrage the public that an initiative will be mounted. By this time the issues will have all been examined and debated, the press will have explained them repeatedly, and the planning process will have run its course.

Land use initiative is a safeguard designed to protect the public interest against the mis-use or failure of the planning process in favor of those who would gain by its destruction. Land use initiative does not replace the planning process; it democratically guards it in the interest of the community. When political decision makers know that the public has the right of initiative, they will be more careful not to ignore sound planning principles when they make their decisions.

It is interesting to note that the same folk who lavishly praised the comprehensiveness and complexity of Hawaii's planning process during the land use hearings in the last legislative session are the same people who regularly try to dismantle the State Land Use Commission and spend hours lobbying the County Councils to loosen our land laws and regulations and render them ineffective.


We did not know about this hearing until we saw it listed in the Sunday paper and we therefore have not had time to analyze the bills in detail, but Bill 892 seems quite different from the original LESA recommendations.

We support HB 891, which repeals the ill-advised 1985 law permitting golf courses in agricultural districts which led to the recent proliferation of foreign investment golf courses.

Bill 892 also includes repeal of the 1985 law, but in effect cancels such repeal by shifting as much as 2/3 of the State districted agricultural land into a new district called "open space" which, however, permits a number of uses including golf courses, by special permit.

We think there is a great difference between preserving open space in a district and opening it up to development. Until we were convinced that at least some of the acreage now districted as agriculture and proposed for the "open space" district should not be classified for some kind of agricultural use or for conservation, we could not approve the bill.

We do not think that the State should try to dictate to Counties the details of development in any given State LUC district. As in the urban district, we feel that the County should enact specific planning and zoning controls with the general parameters set by the State.

In other words we think the State should define the districts and indicate generally, from its point of view what could go into each. The County however, we feel should decide what will actually be allowed under its own General and Development Plans and should set its own zoning standards -- all within the general State regulations, of course.

We therefore cannot support 892 as now drafted. We think it should be restudied and revised to better protect areas which should really be kept in ag, conservation, or open space and to differentiate more closely between State and County responsibilities in this regard.

…at the City Council


March 6, 1991

We support Bill 13, FD-1 as the essential first step in making Waikiki the attractive, spacious, Hawaiian-style area it could be. The time has come to halt its continuing deterioration. People who come here to realize their life time dream want ocean views and a tropical atmosphere, not clusters of concrete monsters.

The need for a moratorium is obvious. The amended bill is modest, would apply the brakes for considerably less than a year, and would affect primarily major new developments which, if permitted during the planning period, could render a master plan meaningless. Many construction activities-=alterations, remodeling, renovations-could proceed within current zoning restrictions. Existing permits would be valid.

Why then are its opponents carrying on what can only be termed an hysterical campaign against it? Screaming newspaper ads and slick TV commercials warn of dire consequences-hundreds of millions of dollars will be lost, thousands of jobs endangered, the tourist recession will be deepened, progress will stop.

These arguments are regularly made by developers and the construction industry against attempts to develop better planning regulations. When Bill 48 was proposed by the City's Department of Land Utilization to cut density and increase open space in apartment districts, whole page ads warned that 53,000 construction jobs would be lost. It took five years to get the Waikiki Special Design District adopted over the opposition of many of the same elements now fighting the moratorium.

In the late 80's the limits to future population growths in Central Oahu provided by the General Plan would, we were warned, stop all building there and cost us thousands of affordable homes. More recently, use of the initiative process in land use controversies, we were told would stop construction and cost thousands of jobs. Leasehold reform would have equally terrible consequences. And now the moratorium.

These kinds of emotional, simplistic arguments are designed only to scare the gullible and convince the uninformed. At a time when existing Waikiki hotels are half empty, where is the emergency requiring immediate construction of thousands of additional rooms? Island construction levels have been so high that it had been necessary to import labor. Far from being a bad time for a moratorium, we think this slack period is entirely appropriate. We agree with the Advertiser editorial Sunday that "a carefully drafted pause will far more help than hinder desirable growth in the State's most important economic area."

Opponents claim, furthermore, that "the City Council already has the authority to decide what is built in Waikiki", but the Council can only act within the existing laws and regulations-and it is under these laws and regulations that Waikiki has come to its present sorry state. If these regulations are so great, why do we need a master plan with new regulations? And what good is such a plan unless we can enforce it and delay pending developments till we can do so?

If you are driving along a road and the signs tell you that you are headed in the wrong direction, you don't just keep driving on. You pull off the road, you stop, you consult your map, you find the right road, you turn around, and then you go on. You do not argue that it would have been better to keep going in the wrong direction.

We urge you to adopt Bill 13, FD-1.

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