January 1998 Home   Newsletters

February 1998

March 1998

President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Planning and Zoning Activity (Astrid Monson)
Congresswoman Patsy Mink Receives BPW Award
Vote Counts (Arlene Ellis)
National Convention
Orientation Meeting
Motor Voter - National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)
Campaign Finance Reform

Planning and Zoning Activity

Planning and Zoning have experienced months of relative inactivity. For two reasons - the slowness of getting seven of the island's eight revised development plans the 1992 Charter requires formulated and adopted, and the absence of new project proposals due to the depressed economy, there wasn't much requiring League study or action. But things have started happening. I think our members may find what has been going on interesting.

The second revised DP, the one for central Oahu, is said to be about ready to be presented - in March probably- for public review. But on December 13 the City Council, by and 8-to-1 vote, approved amended zoning for the Waiawa-by-Gentry project, located across H-2 from the previously approved Waipio-by-Gentry development. The original Waiawa proposal was to rezone some 874 acres from their presently AG-1 (restricted agriculture) to various land uses, including 3,000 housing units on 350 acres, two golf courses, and another 90 acres for commercial and industrial uses.

On September 9 the Council's Zoning Committee had made some changes requested by the developer, increasing the zoning to 8,400,00 sq. ft. Of commercial and industrial use, permitting the City to take over two of the golf courses and changing the designation of the commercial area from B-1, for a local business district, to B-2, permitting community-wide commercial use.

League had opposed the earlier development plan designation of this site and something like a dozen other large central Oahu projects because growth of the magnitude was contrary to the 1977 General Plan, which called for directing most growth to the Secondary Urban Center in Ewa and limiting growth in Central Oahu to its 1975 proportion of the islands total. The City Council had, unfortunately, approved nearly all these projects, with the resulting widespread "urban sprawl" and its attendant problems of providing water, sewage, roads and streets, schools, and mass transit. The projects had of course, also been approved by the Fasi and Harris administrations.

We considered the Council's December 13 decision just more of the same. Not less than a week later, however, Mayor Harris vetoed the Waiawa project - for three reasons:

  • because he felt it gave a $50 million windfall to the land-owner, the Bishop Estate;

  • because the amount of commercial development was excessive for a local community, potentially exceeding the scale of the Ala Moana Center; and

  • because it would compete with the planning concept of directing growth to the Kapolei area.

He accused Council Zoning Chair Kim of having negotiated the changes "behind closed doors", which she vigorously denied pointing out that both the Zoning Committee and the full Council had approved after public input. All this was reported in detail in the press on December 19.

Next, the Council set up a special meeting for January 15 to consider over-riding the Mayor's veto, which would require 6 votes. Earlier, a bill had been introduced requiring essentially that all documents up for Council action be made available to the public six days before a scheduled meeting - a provision League had proposed early in December after the two council's meetings on the revised Ewa development plan, in which scores of changes were proposed that had not been publicized until the very last minute. On January 8 the press reported the Councilmember Holmes was the only one committed so far to vote against the Waiawa rezoning, because it was "bad public policy to approve growth in Central Oahu and allow more urban sprawl".

On January 12, Gentry and the Bishop Estate wrote to Councilmember Mufi Hannemann, Chair of the Council's Committee on Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, agreeing to cut down the amount of commercial floor area from 4 to 2.2 million square feet and the industrial-commercial mixed use from 4.4 to 1.7 million and also deleting the city's option to lease and develop the Makai Golf Course as a municipal course, all subject to the Council's over-ride of the Mayor's veto.

On January 14, Councilmember Hannemann issued a press release announcing that all parties to the Waiawa zoning dispute had reached an agreement and had resolved the problems that had prompted Mayor Harris's veto.

"At tomorrow's meeting of the full Council", he announced, "the members will vote to override Mayor's veto and they will then introduce a resolution requesting the Department of Land Utilization to process and amendment incorporating the aforementioned changes."

Our Vice president, Janet Mason had agreed to testify on January 15. We felt League should not get involved in the political struggle between the Mayor and the Council, and decided to stick to our usual objections to Central Oahu development.

Janet's testimony was to cover four points:

  1. The project would further exceed the Central Oahu population allowed under the General Plan guidelines.

  2. The commercial area would permit a major community business center (B-2) rather than one serving the local neighborhood (B-1) and would thus compete with the Kapolei business center.

  3. The project would encourage urban sprawl in Central Oahu.

  4. No projects should be approved until the pending revisions of the Central Oahu Development are completed and adopted.

Then, Janet went on: "The League of Women Voters strenuously objects to the fact that decision making on this matter apparently took place before the City Council's vote today – Making democracy work in Honolulu requires all of our elected official to comply with our Sunshine laws and respect our City Charter. This is what the public expects."

Councilmember Hannemann answered Janet, saying that he had no trouble with her first four points but objected to her allegations that the Council had acted wrongly in deciding what action to take before the meeting. "We do it all the time," he said. "We discuss how we are going to vote and then take formal action at the meeting." Janet asked why we bothered to have public hearings if the council had already decided how to vote before the meeting. Hannemann replied that "sometimes we change our vote after hearing the public."

Twenty-three people testified. About four agreed with us, the rest didn't. David Frankel of the Sierra Club gave a spirited statement defending League's position. As was expected, the Council then voted to over-ride 8-to-1 and went on as indicated in the press release. Whatever happened to the Sunshine law?

All this had an unexpected sequel. A few homes hours later in his state of the City address, the Mayor stated unequivocally that he would not approve any more projects in Central Oahu and that from now on new growth would be directed to Ewa and to the Primary Urban Center. Thus, after 20 years, perhaps we can hope that at least this aspect of the 1977 General Plan will be implemented from now on. This is not the the first instance of a stable door being locked after most of the horses have been stolen.

Astrid Monson
Planning & Zoning Chair

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