Posted tagged ‘Oahu General Plan’

Comments on the draft O‘ahu General Plan

May 23, 2017

The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for the City and County of Honolulu is currently revising the 2002 General Plan that has been guiding O‘ahu’s long-range objectives and policies. The General Plan addresses the critical issues of growth, development, and quality of life that island residents are most concerned about, including regional population, economic health, affordable housing, and sustainability.

The O‘ahu General Plan covers 11 subject areas: Population, the Economy, Natural Environment and Resource Stewardship, Housing and Communities, Transportation and Utilities, Energy, Physical Development and Urban Design, Public Safety and Community Resilience, Health and Education, Culture and Recreation, and Government Operations and Fiscal Management. The objectives and policies are all based on the principle of sustainability in three key areas: environmental protection, economic health, and social equity.

The first public review draft was published in November 2012, after background research and community input. The second public review draft was released in February 2017.

I couldn’t make it to the public meeting on March 7, 2017 at McKinley High School. I didn’t have time to review the Oahu General Plan by the deadline to submit written testimony on May 8, 2017. I wish we had a just a little more time to submit comments, but I missed the deadline, so I thought I would share my comments here.

A removed Economy policy that we should keep:
Economy, Objective B, Deleted Policy 4: “Prohibit further growth in the permitted number of hotel and resort condominium units in Waikiki.” I believe this should remain a part of the General Plan. Waikiki is already at over-capacity, with overpowering hotels and condominiums, diminishing beaches, a lack of parking, and regular closures for parades and events. I think that further growth and expanded renovations are unsustainable.

A Housing policy that should be re-written:
Housing and Communities, Objective A, Policy 1: “Support programs, policies, and strategies which will provide decent homes for local residents at the least possible cost.” I object to “the least possible cost” stipulation because quality materials and craftsmanship are not cheap.

A Housing policy that needs a prerequisite:
Housing and Communities, Objective A, Policy 12: “Promote higher-density, mixed use development, including transit oriented-development.” RELATED – Physical Development and Urban Design, Objective A, Policy 4: “Facilitate and encourage compact, higher-density development in urban areas designated for such uses.” I think that we need to add a stipulation that infrastructure, utilities, schools, and open spaces can support higher-density developments. By open spaces, we need to think both horizontally (parks and landscaping) and vertically (open sky).

An Education policy that needs a broader definition of employment:
Health and Education, Objective B, Policy 1: “Support education programs that encourage the development of employable skills.” I think that public education has three broad goals: to get a job, to start a business, and to serve the community. To encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, this policy should be expanded to include self-employable skills and public service.

A Culture objective that is divisive:
Culture and Recreation, Objective A: “To foster the multiethnic culture of Hawai‘i and respect the host culture of the Native Hawaiian people.” and Policy 1: “Encourage the recognition of the Native Hawaiian host culture…” I think that the term “host culture” is divisive. If Native Hawaiians are hosts, then every immigrant and late-comer is a “guest,” invited or not, who may overstay their welcome.

A new Government Operations policy that we should consider:
Government Operations and Fiscal Management, Objective B, (new) Policy 4: “Provide for remedies/penalties for mismanagement and gross negligence of government programs.” While there is a nod to accountability in Objective B, Policy 3, the policy lacks power. Government officials need to be held liable for their actions  and inactions, beyond shuffling department heads or buying out contracts.

Ironically, Government Operations and Fiscal Management has the fewest number of policies (just eight, even with two new policies added).

What is your opinion of the revised O‘ahu General Plan draft? Which policies and objectives should be changed, added, or removed?


The future of affordable housing

October 25, 2011

The deadline for submitting your comments about the Oahu General Plan is November 30, 2011, and I hope that you’ve taken a moment to think about Oahu’s future. Affordable housing is just one of the eleven key planning issues covered by the Plan.

The Affordable Housing Trend Report starts with the assumption that “affordable housing is a pressing need for the county.” It highlights several issues affecting affordable housing: the aging population, transit-oriented development, gentrification, densification, the conversion of affordable housing to market-rate housing, and green building.

In a statement of the obvious, the report reveals, “While sometimes linked to mental illness, drug use, and outside factors, the availability of affordable housing can prevent homelessness” (page 13).

But the most surprising thing about the report isn’t the trends and key issues; it’s a chart on page 12 that illustrates “The Flow of Subsidies from Public Agencies to Private Entities.” This Institutional Structure chart highlights six federal government programs, eight Hawaii programs, and four Honolulu programs that funnel taxpayer money to developers and property managers, all with the goal of making housing affordable in Hawaii. There are five voucher programs, three block grant programs, tax credits, tax-exempt bonds, two investment programs, and public housing. Despite similar goals and the duplication of services, the report warns, “interagency cooperation may prove difficult” (page 11).

Why is it “difficult” for the various agencies to work together? Why can’t we combine affordable housing programs and reduce the duplication of services?

Affordable housing is an issue for states and counties. Aside from military housing, I don’t understand why the federal government is involved in affordable housing at all. Right away, we could eliminate six programs and vastly scale down the size of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

At the state and county level, the state should be responsible for any affordable housing tax credits, block grants, and funding for affordable housing projects; while the county should be responsible for building and maintaining affordable housing units.

After reading through the report, I have to wonder: what is government’s role in affordable housing? How many years is government expected to provide affordable housing? Why doesn’t the General Plan address the personal responsibility for housing?

Think about these questions, and consider some ideas for affordable housing reform:

* Affordable housing should have time-limits, such as three years for individuals and five years for families; they must agree not to have additional children. This encourages people to work hard and save money so they can move out and find a home of their own.

* Affordable housing should include an agreement to contribute to a monthly “Community Day,” one day of work to help clean and maintain the grounds and common areas, for all able adults and older children. This encourages people to have pride in their homes and helps create a sense of community.

* Affordable housing should partner elderly residents and families with young children. This gives people a way to build friendships, offer companionship, and help others.

All of these affordable housing programs are not affordable for taxpayers, and they don’t solve the problem of homelessness. How do you think we can improve the affordable housing programs we have and ensure that they don’t become generational affordable housing programs?

A general plan or a general’s plan for Oahu?

October 11, 2011

Despite community meetings and a website full of background information, there doesn’t seem to be much awareness or excitement about the Oahu General Plan 2035. It was last updated in 2002, and it’s supposed to outline all the goals and policies for the island, covering all aspects of our lives.

I started with the 23-page “Key Planning Issues” report, which defines the Oahu General Plan as “a guide for all levels of government, private sector organizations, and individual citizens, with specific guidance for 11 areas” (page 2). That’s a lot of authority!

There is one glaring assumption that underlies the planning documents and background reports: the idea that government is responsible for all aspects our life. With all of the assumptions being made about government’s power to dictate our lives, is this a general, wide-ranging plan or a general’s plan for expanding government?

Within the various sections, there are 17 questions to think about as we revise the General Plan, from “Should the General Plan emphasize the need for additional jobs and economic growth directed towards Ewa?” to “Given Hawaii’s overall dependence on imports and the barriers that keep us from being completely self-sufficient, what are the specific policies and measures that are appropriate for Oahu and its General Plan?” Read the direction of their policies for yourself.

We need a shared vision forHawaii’s future. But I don’t think we need government mandates dictating our future.

With that in mind, here are the 11 areas of “guidance” in the Oahu General Plan, and the questions that I think we should consider:

1. Population: Should government “control the pace and geographic distribution of development through the City’s regulatory and fiscal powers” (page 4)? If an area has adequate infrastructure, and people want to live there, why should the government “control” where we live and work?

2. Economic activity: Is government responsible for managing and directing business growth? Should government’s role be limited to promoting a fair and honest business environment?

3. Natural environment: Should government “own” undeveloped land (preservation and conservation)? Can the land be more effectively managed by non-profit organizations or conservatories?

4. Housing: The report states, “Existing language in the General Plan supports the desire to provide all Oahu residents with safe, affordable places to live” (page 10). Should government be responsible for providing us with a place to live? Should government’s role be limited to short-term or transitional housing assistance?

5. Transportation and utilities: What does government need in order to efficiently and cost-effectively plan and maintain our utilities, roads, harbors, and airports?

6. Energy: Should government dictate our appliances, our vehicles, and the design of our homes, how much electricity we can use (during peak times) and how much hot water we can use? Should our neighbors subsidize our “green” upgrades?

7. Physical development and urban design: Should government control where we live, what our communities look like, and how we build our homes, as long as developers and homeowners follow building safety codes?

8. Public safety: Should government protect us from ourselves, if we are only harming ourselves? How far can government intrude on our privacy in order to protect us?

9. Health and education: Should government provide free health insurance and free public education? Should the families who benefit from public education pay a larger share of education expenses? Remember, free health insurance and free public education are not rights. The Hawaii Constitution offers “medical assistance” (not free) and guarantees an education system “free from sectarian control” (not free).

10. Culture and recreation: Should government be involved in culture and recreation? Should nonprofit organizations and communities take more responsibility, aside from allowing equal and reasonable access to parks and natural resources?

11. Government operations and fiscal management: How much will it cost to implement all of the policy suggestions in the General Plan? What are government’s core responsibilities? Should there be a limit to the increase in government? Are there duplicate services or unnecessary functions that can be phased out?

The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting has extended the deadline to submit your comments until November 30. You can email your comments to or fax to 808-545-2050. What do you like about the General Plan? What needs to be changed? What is your vision for Oahu’s future?