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Waikiki Zoning Amendments Disputed
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Waikiki Zoning Amendments Disputed

Over a hundred Waikiki Condominium representatives and other residents were given a preview on March 27, of what promises to be a major controversy about the area's future. Councilmember Duke Bainum, who represents Waikiki, organized a panel of five to present various points of view about the pending amendments to the Waikiki Special District proposed by the Department of Land Utilization (DLU).

Representing the City were Christina Kemmer, Office of Waikiki Development; Cheryl Soon, Chief Planning Officer, and Patrick Onishi, Director of DLU. Representing the other side were Donald Bremner, past president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, and Astrid Monson, League's P&Z Chair.

Kremmer gave a general overview of Waikiki's past and of its present problems. She referred to the "unbridled growth" which predated the '76 WSD regulations and listed three principles to follow: promote renewal and revitalization; support economic strength, and create a Hawaiian sense of place.

Soon outlined the City's agenda for further planning including: Land uses around the Convention Center: Review of the hotel cap set by Council in '94; Review of traffic and circulation; Encourage private/public partnerships to solve problems; and look at the need of the 20,000 Waikiki residents.

Onishi stated that the proposed amendments generally maintain the existing precincts, but change the hotel category to "resort mixed use". He reported that 52% of the existing structures are non-conforming with greater density or height permitted under WSD, or open space is less than required. Another 24% of the non-conformity is in uses not permitted in the specific location.

He stated that the proposed amendments would not reduce the amount of open space, but would relax the rules on renovation or redevelopment of non-conforming buildings. Like the speakers before him. he cited the promotion of a Hawaiian sense of place.

The remaining two speakers were critical of many of the amendments proposed. Bremner, who was the chief, architect of the '76 WSD regulations, pointed out that under the proposed amendments. the day-time population of Waikiki - including residents, tenants, employees and tourists would be comparable to that of Manhattan. Tokyo, Lagos or Hong Kong.

The 1976 WSD was adopted, he explained, by unanimous agreement of residents, land owners, visitor industry, State and City governments, that the area's carrying capacity was being exceeded and future densities had to be cut to prevent further overcrowding and deterioration.

He claimed the proposed amendments would dismantle the '76 regulations and take Waikiki back to pre-1976 building practices. Densities would be increased, open space reduced, nonconformity permitted even when redeveloped, and hopes for a Hawaiian sense of place would not be realized.

Monson described the two schools of thought that evolved in the Mayor's Waikiki Task Force. 1) Rejuvenation required the stimulation of redevelopment, which required increasing allowable densities, and 2) To enhance the Hawaiian sense of place. Permitted densities should not be increased, and when non-conforming buildings are razed and rebuilt, they should conform to present regulations. At no time, should non-conformity be increased.

League analyzed the City's recently completed Waikiki's Infrastructure Study" designed to measure the impact of the proposed amendments on the. .area's need for water, sewerage. drainage,; telephone and electric services. The study designated about 60 blocks representing approximately a fourth of Waikiki's total area. These are "area's susceptible to change" because they were vacant, under-developed, aged, or otherwise likely candidates for development or redevelopment. The 60 blocks were in eight general areas such as Hobron, Beach Walk, main commercial areas. etc....

Monson reported the findings. In the eight areas, the permitted floor areas increased from 22% to 324%. In the main Commercial area the increase averages to 101%. This study did not include densities added on the other 3/4 of Waikiki under the amendment.

The audience was clearly receptive to Bremner and Monson, if the amount of applause and favorable comments made later are evidence.

There will be many other discussions of these issues we may be sure in the months to come.

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