Archive for January 2018

Envisioning Ala Moana Beach Park

January 30, 2018

This may not be what the City envisions, or what you envision for Ala Moana Beach Park, but take a walk with me. This is the Ala Moana Beach Park that I can envision…

We walk through the tall white pillars at the central Pi‘ikoi Street entrance to Ala Moana Beach Park. We stop to read the display board that highlights the activities going on at the park: swimming lessons, surfing and paddleboard classes, canoe-making workshops, Saturday under the Stars, a craft fair, and food truck offerings. There is also a two-panel display board with a short history and historical photos of Ala Moana Beach Park over the years.

We pass by a group of visitors and residents who are taking a walking tour of the park, learning about the park’s history, unique design, and beach safety. Local high school students and Lions Club volunteers ask if we want to join the group. We smile and say, another time.

Along the sidewalk, we look down and see pavers engraved with people’s names, alternating with engraved floral designs. These are the people who helped renovate and maintain the park, by donating money or volunteering their time.

We admire the comfort stations, which are enlivened with painted murals and ceramic tile murals created by local artists. Each comfort station has a different theme, so it’s easy to tell people to meet near the “rain forest” or “undersea life” or “surfing legends” station. They look clean and inviting, with well-designed drainage for the outdoor showers, and people take pride in them.

In the great lawn, there are people playing tennis an exercising at the exercise stations. There’s a shaded playground where toddlers and young children are jumping on the padded climbing structures – turtle, shark, canoe, hale. There are people picnicking at the park tables, which are painted with designs of flowers, birds, and ocean life. There are people relaxing on park benches – the one that we sit on was donated to the park in memory of a loved one and has a small plaque on the back rest.

Near McCoy Pavilion, which now has a rooftop garden, and between the ponds, there are food truck sites. The food trucks offer food and drinks that are not regularly available at the permanent concession stands, so we try something different – maybe a new dish by a KCC Culinary Arts Program graduate trying out new recipes and the restaurant business.

There are no stores, but there are small Sun Safety stands where people can buy ocean-friendly sunscreen and hats with UV-protection, and refill their flasks with filtered water. We also see discrete pet waste stations to encourage people to pick up after their pets.

We walk down the beach boardwalk and stop in the middle of the park, facing the ocean. At both ends of the beach, we see floating docks where people can launch their canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. The docks can be pulled in closer to shore when they are not in use. Behind us, on the boardwalk, we hear a beach park ranger stopping to talk with a family.

The two ponds on the east side have been transformed with running salt water, flowing from a rocky waterfall along Ala Moana Blvd, with salt water conveyed inland through an underground pump. The pond on the west side has a smaller waterfall, with salt water pumped in from Kewalo Basin.

Over the parking lots, there are roofs covered in solar panels, which power the well-light walking paths and picnic areas. There are Biki racks so that people can bike around the park. Beach park rangers are also testing out a solar-powered tram to take people from Magic Island to the ponds at each end of the park, and back again.

Near one of the canoe hales, there is a small group of people who are learning how to hand-build a canoe or surfboard, as part of a joint class offered by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the University of Hawaii. Children are learning about tying knots. We see a poster inviting people to a monthly star-gazing class run by Bishop Museum and the UH Astronomy and Astrophysics Department.

At Magic Island, we see a small tide pool built into one end of the lagoon. High school students show younger children the tide pool creatures and teach them about coral reefs, as part of a community service project in partnership with Waikiki Aquarium.

What do you envision for Ala Moana Beach Park in the next 20 years? What improvements would encourage you to use the park more?

Thoughts about Honolulu’s complete streets

January 23, 2018

Last November, the Honolulu Urban Core Complete Streets Program invited community input during a series of public workshops and pop-up events. Urban Honolulu continues to grow and change, with increasing densification (high-rise apartment buildings) and transit-oriented development. The goals of the Complete Streets plan are to improve safety, accessibility, and comfort for all users, encourage physical activity, and reflect community needs and character.

The Honolulu Urban Core includes about 16 miles of roadways within downtown Honolulu, from North King Street and Downtown, through Kaka‘ako, Lower Makiki, and Moiliili,  that are planned for rehabilitation, repaving, or restriping.

I work in the Ward/Ala Moana area, and my son goes to school nearby, so the Complete Streets proposals will affect us almost every day. Our commute is about 10 hours during the weekday, and while it’s a big chunk of time, I know that it could be a lot worse. I try to see our commute as personal time with my son, asking him about school, going over homework, or letting him take a power nap.

I wasn’t able to attend the public workshops or pop-up events, but I decided that it’s not too late to share some of my thoughts, and answer the four questions they are using to plan our streets:

How do you move around the area? I drive to urban Honolulu every weekday morning, dropping my son off at school and picking him up after work. I rarely drive during the day – I am fortunate that I can walk to many of the places I need to go to (the bank, the post office, the grocery store). I appreciate the clean, uncluttered streets.

What streetscape features make your neighborhood unique? In my neighborhood, I appreciate wide and well-lit streets, and trees planted between lanes of traffic (though I understand that there are issues of tree maintenance and road upkeep). We have neighborhood entrance signs that make street corners more attractive and give us a sense of place and pride.

What obstacles do you encounter while traveling through the area? In downtown Honolulu, I feel anxiety about one-way streets and finding parking. In urban Honolulu, I feel stress from the lack of dedicated left-turn lanes along Kapiolani Avenue. At Neil Blaisdell Center, traffic often gets backed up on King Street when there are trade shows or events, because there are limited parking entrances.

How could better transportation options improve your everyday life? I would like to have more convenient access to downtown Honolulu somehow, without worrying about parking. Near my workplace, we do have transportation options — we are near a bus route (though it doesn’t take me to places that I need to go) and Biki stands (though I would not like to ride a bike in “work clothes”).

3 small, inexpensive improvements that work.

  1. Wider striped crosswalk areas create a safer zone between vehicles and pedestrians.
  2. A longer delay in traffic signals between “red” on one street and “green” on the cross-street allows a “grace period” for vehicles to complete turns and pedestrians to cross the street.
  3. Buffered bike lanes with a designated space separating the bike lane from regular traffic.

3 costly, confusing changes that don’t work.

  1. Sidewalk corner bulb-outs and midblock bulb-outs are less safe for vehicles and pedestrians crossing the street.
  2. Urban roundabouts are more confusing than “stop” or “yield” signs, because there is no clear right-of-way.
  3. Bike boxes that put bikes at the front of the lane.

Do you live or work in urban Honolulu? What do you think of the Complete Streets plan?

Reacting to an emergency alert

January 16, 2018

It could have been the last 13 minutes in Hawaii. On January 13, 2018 at 8:07 am, I was away from home, preparing for our company retreat, when received an emergency text alert about a ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii.

It was quiet, with normal Saturday morning street traffic – no warning sirens, no aircraft overhead, no urgent radio broadcasts. I couldn’t believe the alert. Maybe I was in denial. Mainly I felt confused.

My son was still sleeping; I gave him a goodbye hug before I left. My husband was driving home, and he didn’t stop driving; he called to tell me that according to Facebook posts, it was a false alarm.

So we knew we were safe before the official word.

We had already started our company retreat. Ironically, we were planning for the future, reviewing last year’s accomplishments and updating our strategic plan.

Later, I met my family and we ate lunch, did errands, went to the library, ate dinner, and watched the local news with some disbelief.

I wondered whether it’s better to know, so we can prepare and say goodbye; or better not to know, so we can minimize fear, anxiety, and stress if the threat is averted.

I wondered whether I was able stay calm because there were so few people around me. We stood around feeling confused because there were no warning sirens. In other parts of the Hawaii, stores and hotels went into lock-down; and people in larger groups panicked.

When we got home, I did laundry. Even though the threat was over, it seemed important to have clean clothes.

I woke up Sunday morning and felt like doing something creative, so I painted.

Where were you when you heard Hawaii’s emergency alert? How did you react – and what would you do differently if we receive a second alert?

First sunrise of 2018

January 9, 2018

Instead of staying up late to watch fireworks or writing New Year’s Resolutions that would be broken, we got up early on New Year’s Day and walked the First Day Hike up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail.

I wanted to start the new year with something we could do as a family, something we had never done before, and something that we could also share with other people. A hike, even an easy one on a paved road with a gradual ascent, seemed like the perfect way to start the new year: a little bit of effort, clean air, and gorgeous views of the Kaiwi coast.

With jackets, flashlights, and water bottles, we walked up the clean road, stopping at the lookout points to peer down at the ocean. The near-full moon was a bright disk over Koko Crater, giving us enough light on the first part of the hike. The wind was cool and temperate; no sudden gusts pushed us towards the edge of the trail or seeped through our warm clothes. Above us, people ghosted across the mountain on smaller trails. Like mountain goats, people sat on the slope below the Point and made themselves comfortable.

I sat cross-legged on a rock wall at one of the Makapu‘u Point lookouts, before the top of the trail. I closed my eyes and could hear the waves crashing against the rocks, the murmur of voices in the early dawn. The dark gray clouds slowly lighted from cobalt to blush to orange crème.

Facing the sun, we couldn’t see any lights from homes or the highway. We were in a private family circle, part of the community.

At sunrise we walked up to the Point and listened to the pu, the oli, the bagpipes, and taiko drums welcome the new year.

The hike down the trail was quicker in the morning light. Energetic runners jogged past us on their return trip. A boy sat on a rock facing the ocean. A woman danced on a boulder.

It wasn’t even 8 am yet, and we had the whole day ahead of us, the whole year ahead of us.

How did you celebrate the new year? What do you look forward to in 2018?

“Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson et. al.

January 6, 2018

I don’t like confrontation. I have never asked for a raise – not because I think I don’t deserve one, but because I’m uncomfortable bringing up the subject. And I have never bought a car on my own – not because I don’t know which car I want, but because I’m not comfortable negotiating for it. I’m usually the peacemaker in my family and at work, too.

So I was very interested in reading “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” Second Edition (2012) by the co-founders of VitalSmarts, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. I wanted to learn how to handle risky situations, like asking for a raise, suggesting a change at work, or talking with a family member.

“Crucial Conversations” is a practical, easy to read handbook to help people identify and initiate crucial conversations, those day-to-day conversations that have a big impact on your life, where there are opposing opinions, high stakes, and strong emotions.

The book is based on two beliefs: first, the only person we can change is ourselves; and second, we create our own emotions. In effect, we are the ones who make ourselves angry, insulted, or uncomfortable, and we have the power to change how we feel.

With examples and scenarios, the authors lead us through a 7-step plan so that we can keep calm, keep others calm, and have successful crucial conversations.

  1. Start with heart: focus on what you really want. Don’t get distracted by winning an argument, punishing someone who disagrees, or keeping the peace. Look at challenges and skepticism as opportunities to convince others.
  2. Look for the moment a conversation becomes crucial. Lean to pay attention to your own physical, emotional, and behavioral signals, and watch for times when people react with aggression or silence.
  3. Make it safe to talk. When we react with aggression or silence, it is a sign that we feel unsafe. We can make people feel safe by apologizing when appropriate; using contracting don’t/do statements, like “I don’t want to suggest that the problem is yours. I do think it’s our problem;” and asking “Why do you want to do that?” to find the real reason why the two of you disagree.
  4. Separate fact from story. We tell ourselves stories about other people’s actions, often turning ourselves into victims (“It’s not my fault”), others into villains (“It’s all your fault”), or believing ourselves to be helpless (“There’s nothing else I can do”). Instead, stick to the facts and ask, “Why would a reasonable, decent person do what they are doing?” Then focus on what you really want and ask, “What would I do right now if I really wanted those results?”
  5. STATE your facts. Facts provide a safe beginning and are the more persuasive and less threatening than opinions.
  6. Explore others’ paths by asking what other people want. Use four listening tools: ask (“What do you mean? I’d really like to hear your opinion on this”), mirror (“You say you’re okay, but by the tone of your voice you seem upset” or “You look nervous. Are you sure?”), paraphrase (“Let me see if I have this right”), and, as a last resort, prime (“Are you thinking that maybe…?”).
  7. Move to action. Decide how you will decide (command, consult, vote, or consensus); assign specific tasks and deadlines, including what you don’t want; document decisions; and then follow up.

The sample scripts are really helpful and made me feel more prepared for stressful moments. For example, in response to criticism or negative feedback, you might say, “You know what? We need to talk about this. I’m glad you asked the question. Thank you for taking that risk. I appreciate the trust it shows in me.” Or when talking with an unenthusiastic patient or client, you might say “It sounds like you had a problem of some kind. Is that right?” Or when you disagree with someone else, you might say, “I think I see things differently. Let me describe how.”

There are also links to online videos and exclusive content, including Style Under Stress test (I scored about what I expected: high on silence, low on violence). The book ends with 17 tough cases and ways to change our reactions to those situations.

So far, I’ve had two chances to practice crucial conversations techniques. At work I suggested a business change and at home I attempted to mediate between two arguing relatives. Neither conversations turned out as I hoped (one was interrupted and the other was hijacked by the need to repeat their opinions), but I’m working on it. I just need to practice more crucial conversations skills.