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President's Message (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Domestic Violence
League of Women Voters "Ad Watch"
League Participation in Growth Conference, June 21, 1994
League and Educational Reform (Libby Oshiyama & Marion Saunders)
Waikiki Rezoning Killed
Hawaii's Infostructure
Cogel Conference Dec. 4-7, 1994
City Council Report
Candidates in Focus
In Memoriam

League Participation in Growth Conference, June 21, 1994

Six members of the Planning and Zoning Committee were among over 200 participants at the June 21 Conference on Managing the Costs of Growth sponsored by the Honolulu City Council. The event brought three distinguished mainland experts on such subjects as impact fees and other exactions, special districts, and taxes levied to pay for the public facilities required to service newly developing housing, commercial, and industrial development.

Among topics discussed by various panels at the all-day conference were growth management, coping with growth costs, and helping the public/private sectors finance public facilities. The experience of a number of other cities was analyzed. An important case before the U.S. Supreme Court--the Dolan case--was described, involving the right of the city of Tigard, Oregon, to exact parts of a privately owned site for a floodway and a pedestrian/bicycle pathway as a condition of permitting a plumbing supply company to expand. (On June 24 the Court ruled against the city and in favor of Mrs. Dolan on the grounds that the City had not adequately shown that the proposed expansion created the need for the land the City wanted the owner to donate.)

League was represented on one of the panels by Astrid Monson, P & Z Committee chair. Commenting on the presentation made by main speaker James Nichols, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Oregon and currently reviewing the land use regulatory system in Hawaii for the Office of State Planning, she said: "I will not focus so much on who pays as on how we might spend less to begin with. Can we find ways of accommodating growth which will not only cost less but be less harmful to our environment and make for satisfying living conditions and a more enjoyable life style than our present congested central cities and sprawling low-density subdivisions?

Present urban growth patterns are surely not written in stone. We can waste our resources or conserve them, we can spend billions on infrastructure to meet the needs of suburban growth, or perhaps a lot less if we do it right. In our island state, we have to find ways to conserve our most valuable and also most limited resource, land, slow up damage and destruction of our environment, and save infrastructure costs, by finding and insisting on better patterns of growth.

"Planning libraries are full of studies of the relative costs of land and infrastructure for various alternative growth patterns. They regularly show that in newly developing areas the costs of land, infrastructure, and long-term urban operations and maintenance, vary in close inverse ratio to both gross and net density. Not only in the immediate neighborhood, but on the inter- neighborhood and regional levels, sprawl exacts a heavy toll in the form of highways and the need for mass transit to the distant urban center and also between far-separated suburbs.

"There are other costs of growth-by-sprawl that are not reflected in public infrastructure or private land costs. People have to spend inordinate amounts of time and money on their often-single-occupancy vehicle trips – nearly 3 million a day on Oahu. They live long distances from jobs and shopping, friends and relatives. They find it hard to engage in community activities. Nobody walks on the streets, so they don't get to know their neighbors. Their children have long journeys to school. These costs are real. But perhaps the heaviest cost of all is the irreversible destruction of the pristine natural environment that is the very essence of Hawaii. Who can pay for that?

"There are about ten square miles of land approved in Oahu's Development Plans for residential development. If the pattern of growth planned by city and accepted by developers were of sustainable communities at moderately higher densities--say, an average of 15 to 20 families per acre instead of 6 to 10--we could hope to cut our land infrastructure costs by 30 or 40%. Per family, this would mean significant reductions in the cost of the land, capital construction, interest on the mortgage, property taxes and maintenance. For the city budget, savings in water, sewage, streets, street lighting, and so on, would be substantial.

"Perhaps we could provide for the same amount of growth on only six square miles of our dwindling stock of buildable land, rather than ten. Perhaps we could save a billion dollars or even two, to be raised in impact fees, taxes, and other raids on our individual and collective pocket-books. This is one of the few instances I can think of where we can both do good and do well at the same time."

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