November-December 1992 Home   Newsletters

January 1993

February 1993

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Certificate Honoring and Commending the LWV-Hawaii
Health Care Consensus
Health Care - Position Statement of the LWVUS
Health Care: Phase 2 Consensus Questions
People's Water Conference Focus
Vote Counts
Year in Planning, Zoning and Transit (Astrid Monson)
Health Care - Summary of Proposed Reforms
Comparison of International Health Care Systems

Year in Planning, Zoning and Transit

1992 was a busy--even hectic-year for League's Planning, Zoning, and Transit Committees. Many crucial is-sues were settled by 5to-4 City Council votes, not necessarily by the same line-ups in each case. League was very active-testifying at public hearings, serving on advisory committees, writing letters to the Editor, lobbying, publishing research analyses on specific issues, getting our viewpoint on TV and radio, and urging other public interest groups to do the same.

Over-all, such groups were up against a growing tendency to give developers what they wanted, even in violation of both the letters and the intent of the legislation of the books. Time after time, we showed that various proposals were clearly contrary to the General Plan, the various Development Plans, or the Land Use Ordinance. The public put up a good fight; the preponderance of testimony was on our side; and then we would lose, by 5 to 4. As one Council member said, "You people amaze me. You never give up. You should keep trying."

The major victory of the year-though it may be only temporary-was the Council's 5-to-4 vote against an increased excise tax to raise $1.7 billion to pay 70% of the construction cost of a 15 mile rail transit line from Wahiawa to the University of Hawaii. Though warned that such action would "kill rail," efforts continue to keep the project alive by changing the route, finding a different way to finance it, get more Federal money than the $700 million pledged (but not necessarily appropriated) towards its costs, etc. At present the city administration is proposing a non-finding referendum either by a special election or by mail-in at the same time as the Neighborhood Board elections in April.

As early as our pro-con report three years ago, we raised the possibility of having "bus rapid transit on reserved lanes or busways," based on the concept of priority for public vehicles even at some discomfort--of single occupancy automobiles. Our 1991-92 and 1992-93 programs included "support and monitor study and implementation of 'bus rapid transit' and other alternatives to real transit."

Because Ottawa, Ontario had developed North America's most complete and successful "BRT" system, we analyzed everything we could get describing it, including two videos, helped the Council's Transportation Committee bring Ottawa's General Manager to Honolulu for an all-day seminar, and used it as part of League's half-hour TV show on Channel 22 entitled "Bus Rapid Transit vs. Rail."

In December Council Transportation Committee Chair Rene Mansho and the City Council established a Transportation Alternatives Task Force, on which League is represented, to work out a comprehensive bus transit and. traffic management program for the Council to adopt. We are now working with a new organization, PITCH is described elsewhere in this VOTER.

Our successful work on the transit issue was, unfortunately, not matched in the planning and zoning field. Among the major events of 1992:

  1. The City published its Master Plan for Waikiki, which included some desirable features on beautification but called for an increase rather than the decrease League had urged, in allowable densities, in some cases nearly doubling the present "Waikiki Special District's maximums."

  2. Judge Kaulukukui dismissed the suit brought against the City and developers of the Convention Center on the Aloha Motors site, in which League and half a dozen other public interest groups charged improper and illegal procedures amending the Development Plan and the Land Use Ordinance to permit it. No reasons were given. The decision will be appealed by our attorney Fred Benco.

  3. The City proposed to eliminate all D.P. land use amendments involving less than 50 acres from the Annual Review and process them by independent consideration. This was sent back to Committee.

  4. The Annual Review included a number of proposals we analyzed and testified against among the most important:

    1. Establishing a "Resort Mixed Use" district in about 2/3 of Waikiki, which would allow hotel and commercial development in areas now zoned for apartments. The new designation was approved, but with amendments which could limit the number of new hotel rooms build and require concessions at the zoning level.

    2. Increasing permitted downtown heights from present 350 feet to 400 and 450 feet. Approved.

    3. Allowing more residential land designations in Central Oahu, even though some 13,000 housing units previously approved is still unbuilt. We lost this one too.

    4. Permitting major development at Laie, in spite of existing sewage inadequacy and General Plan population limits being exceeded. Approved.

    5. Permitting major resorttype and commercial uses at Ewa Marina, not originally listed in General Plan as a resort site. Adopted.

  5. An important zoning case was a senior citizens residential and healthcare project just mauka of Kahala, which spot zoned seven acres in the middle of a residential area for a six story structure approximately the volume of the Kahala Hilton. Approved, with some limitations on height and density.

  6. League supported and helped draft basic revisions of the Planning and Zoning chapters of the City Charter, which were intended to emphasize planning rather than the project-by-project approval process of the Annual Review. These was adopted by the voters by a wide margin and League is currently working on an Advisory Committee to the Department of Planning to develop a procedure to carry out the new provisions.

A new Chief Planning Officer, Robin Foster, has been named to replace Benjamin Lee, who will take charge of Waikiki development. League worked with Foster years ago on inclusionary zoning for affordable housing. We look forward to being able to serve a constructive role with the Departments of Planning and of Land Utilization and hope we do better in 1993 than we did in 1992.

Astrid Monson
Chair, Planning & Zoning
Acting Chair, Transit Study Committee

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