League Testifies - Annual Development Plan
ANNUAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN REVIEW, PRIMARY URBAN CENTER AUGUST 12, 1992
Attached is a copy of the PUC portion of our memorandum of April 13, 1992 to CPO Benjamin Lee.
Amendment 92/PUC-1. We oppose redesignating so large a part of Waikiki into a Resort Mixed Use area. In our letter to Chair Nakasone of August 3, we explained why we did not support the creation of such a district in the Development Plans, not even in Waikiki.
Our basic reason is that Waikiki has been widely criticized, by both tourists and residents, as. being overdeveloped, over-crowded, disorderly, noisy, and containing too many bulky, massive concrete structures. The Waikiki master plan speaks of a more open and human-scaled ambiance, a more Hawaiian atmosphere. We do not think that the commercial character of the Resort Mixed Use district, and the higher density it will allow, can implement the Plan's objectives in this regard or lead to improvement in its general atmosphere along the lines desired. In fact, it may well make matters worse.
Amendment 92/PUC-SP-1. We are not commenting on the design aspects of this amendment, but on a number of other aspects, as follows:
- We welcome expansion of the Waikiki Special District's boundaries to include the specified areas mauka of the Ala Wai canal, but we urge that such expansion include the former Aloha Motors site. Whatever its future use, it will profoundly affect Waikiki and should be part of its planning.
- We note that the amendment interprets the present 30,000 maximum visitor unit guideline as applying only to the Resort Mixed Use district, rather than to the entire Waikiki area, as at present. This would permit an increase of 7,000, or 30% over the 23,000 units now in the district. We think this is too much growth and that permitting it will not implement the goals of the Waikiki master plan.
- We have noted the answers to our earlier comments on this point in the DGP's current analysis. Reliance on floor area ratio limits, rather than unit counts, is suggested. This might be acceptable at the current FAR's permitted in apartment areas -- 1.5 or 1.8 -- but we are informed that the intent is to zone the Resort Mixed Use area at FAR 3.5 or perhaps even 4.0 in parts. Even though present FAR's include bonuses for adjoining street areas and are therefore understated, the increase would, we estimate, be 50%, 60%, or more in actual floor area allowed. It is not the mechanics of the controls we are primarily concerned with, but the proposed policy that would permit continuation, and indeed a worsening, of the overdevelopment that led to Waikiki's present problems.
Amendment 92/PUC-SP-2. As we have for many years, we oppose raising downtown's height limits. We do not believe that the alleged benefits of this amendment will be realized, such as more landscaped open space, preservation of historic structures, reduction of the visual impact of garages, etc., particularly if it is followed, as has long been urged by downtown interests, by increases in the maximum permitted FAR's from the present 7.0 to 9.0 or even 11.0. Our reasons are as follows:
- If density is not increased, greater heights merely mean slimmer and higher towers above the spread-out garages covering several ground level floors. If density is increased, the towers will be higher but not slim- mer, and the garages will be bigger.
- To get more ground level open space, the footprints, or lot coverage, of the garages must be smaller. The floor area bonus system now requires only 35% open space at ground level to get the maximum FAR. If we want 50% or more, we have to change the bonus ratio. The garages will either have to go partially underground, or provide for fewer cars, or occupy more and smaller stories. Greater height does not achieve these results.
- If density is not increased, historic structures are not affected one way or the other. If it is, the estimated downtown floor area demand will not be satisfied for two or three more years, but after that the situation will be the same. On the other hand, the greater profitability resulting from permitting higher densities and the resulting increased land values, may well increase the redevelopment pressure on these lower density historic structures and hasten their destruction.
- Arguments that greater heights will lead to a more interesting sky-line have been made. We leave these to the architects, but point out that even now, not all new buildings are designed to attain 350 ft. The sky-line is most visible from off-shore or from a distance. If you are walking or driving through the downtown area, it is not the sky-line that affects you but the feeling of steel and concrete masses towering over you, long shadows, no sunshine, and -- if density increases -- more congestion.
- We understand that it will also be proposed to raise height limits on the Diamond Head side of Alakea St. This would make almost ridiculous the claim in the DGP's Analysis that the greater heights "would provide an appropriate transition to the ... Hawaii Capital District," to say nothing of Chinatown, Punchbowl, and Honolulu Harbor. A transition is something part way between a low and a high, not something between them that is higher than either.
- Our downtown is small and congested. If we really need more floor space, it should be expanded laterally, not vertically. In fact, this is already happening in Kakaako, on Kapiolani Blvd., in Iwilei. Modern technology is decentralizing downtowns all over the country. The only advantage the proposed amendment, plus higher densities, would create, is for downtown land and development interests.
We urge you once more to "just say no."