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April 1992

May 1992

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Kakaako's Gentrification (George Mason)
Charter Commission Moves to Revise Planning Process (Astrid Monson)
Addendum (rail stations) (George Mason)
LWV-Honolulu Board Nominees
Annual Meeting

Charter Commission Moves to Revise Planning Process

Two years ago League led the community's successful fight to prevent the destruction of the comprehensive planning process the Charter sets up under the annual Development Plan Review provisions. Some 45 neighborhood boards, community organizations and other public interest groups, as well as many individuals, joined in the effort and helped raise some $6,000.00 to pay for newspaper ads to "Stop the Scandal."

Since then, we have worked hard to improve the process, which has never functioned the way the Charter intended it to. Under a new Chief Planning Officer, Benjamin Lee, the Department of General Planning is finally trying to focus on genuinely comprehensive planning instead of merely reacting to individual project applications on a case-by-case basis.

To encourage this change in emphasis, we have urged that the Charter be revised to clarify the differences between planning and zoning and to delineate more clearly the respective functions of the Departments of General Planning and Land Utilization. We submitted specific testimony incorporating text additions and revisions to accomplish this. We also expressed our opposition to proposals re-combining the two Departments and eliminating the requirements that their Directors had to have certain training and experience. Fortunately, the Charter Commission's Planning committee is chaired by John Whalen, formerly the City's DLU director and for the past two years a private planning consultant. On March 17 he presented to the Commission his Committee's recommendation for a thorough revision of the Planning and Zoning Chapters of the Charter, based on the testimony and proposals received.

Emphasizing that he construed "stream-lining the planning process" to mean strengthening rather than weakening it, he stated that his proposed changes in the City's Planning System sought to conform the Development Plan process to what was originally intended by the 1972 Charter Commission. Major changes proposed include:

  1. Changing the name of the "Department of General Planning" to the "Department of Planning" and the name of the "Chief' Planning officer" to the "Director of Planning," thereby underscoring the major revisions to the planning systems;

  2. Making the DP maps less detailed and more general in nature. Currently, the function of DP maps is unstated in Charter, and DP maps are parcel-specific. Proposed language requires that the DP maps "illustrate the conceptual land use and urban development pattern";

  3. Distinguishing between zoning maps and the zoning code. Currently the Charter refers to "zoning ordinances," which includes both zoning maps and the zoning code. Also transferring responsibility for zoning maps from DLU to the new Department of Planning, and retaining the responsibility for the zoning code with DLU;

  4. Requiring a "degree in urban planning or a related design profession" for the new Director of Planning and the Director of Land Utilization;

  5. Transferring the authority of granting zoning variances from ZBA to the Director of Land Utilization, thereby reflecting a transfer which was already accomplished administratively under the authority of the Mayor to reorganize certain executive departments;

  6. Deleting the requirement to review the GP every five years and to review the DP's annually;

  7. Adding a requirement for the Director of Planning to report on the condition of the GP and DP's on a biennial basis;

  8. Eliminating the Executive Planning Committee.

  9. The committee intends to make further revisions to retain use variances, which have been eliminated in this draft. Whalen concluded his presentation by stressing the paramount importance of implementing planning system reform to more clearly define the actual purpose of the development plans and their role in the effective planning of the city.

Arlene Ellis, testifying as President of the League of Women Voters of Honolulu, expressed her elation with Mr. Whalen's oral presentation of the Charter Commission's proposed revisions to the City's planning system. She stated that she was delighted to discover that Mr. Whalen's proposed draft included many of the League's concerns. She remarked that she was especially pleased that the Commission's proposal addressed the League's most important recommendation; namely, "...the clarification and separation of the functions of the DGP and the DLU to encourage genuine comprehensive planning of a proactive nature by the former and to give the latter an . adequate framework for zoning decisions.

Astrid Monson
Planning & Zoning, Chair

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