Kakaako makai needs protection of HB 2555
THE Star-Bulletin editorial has it all wrong ("Bill would overly restrict Kakaako waterfront options," June 12
). House Bill 2555 (prohibiting the Hawaii Community Development Authority from selling or approving Kakaako waterfront land for residential development) is emphatically needed because the will of the people and nearly 100 percent of the Legislature has taken this stand. There is no excessive restriction going on here. Instead, there is a small autonomous state agency that is pulling out all the stops to try to have its way.
In a series of last-ditch efforts to persuade the governor to veto HB 2555, HCDA has resorted to false statements and parliamentary tricks to push forward its agenda. But what the public knows is that HCDA "earned" the boundaries defined in HB 2555 to block the sale of state land and block residential development in Kakaako makai. It earned this legislation by going forward with plans that were not based on sufficient public input. The HCDA wasn't smart when smart was needed -- to intelligently involve the community.
THE IDEA of turning the so-called blighted redevelopment area into a glitzy venue of residential units, commercial restaurants and retail stores was kept low profile until the HCDA's Request for Proposals was a done deal. When revealed, we learned that HCDA was going to sell state land to Alexander & Baldwin for a cut rate. Whose idea was that? A&B was going to create luxury condos, while HCDA board member Ted Liu argued that this would help reduce Hawaii's need for affordable housing. Whose idea was that? A&B even proposed a six-story bridge to Kewalo Basin Park, but that turned out to be a mere bargaining chip that could be used for a compromise and still build the two luxury condo towers. Once such plans became public and were recognized as made without the community's support, the plans have been rolling downhill.
The vision needed for the Honolulu waterfront shoreline is the "lei of the land" in which we keep an open view plane of the ocean for all to see, experience and enjoy. People want to see the ocean instead of buildings and shops. And they want to enjoy an open park in which the beauty of the shoreline is kept pure and in plain sight. The National Recreation and Parks Association recommends an urban core system of parklands with a total of 6.25 to 10.5 acres of developed open space per 1,000 population. HCDA has no commitment whatsoever to meeting this standard with its mere 15 acres of useable recreation area for 30,000 residents.
THE HCDA's application of so-called "smart growth" already is showing signs of being unable to deal with the weaknesses that are inherent in this planning model. Smart growth creates small, service-oriented business failures in the face of pedestrians headed for (yet one more) Starbucks; housing prices escalating beyond affordability; inadequate provision for affordable housing (only 20 percent of new condo projects); no provision for low-income housing; increased population density to the point that local people seek to live elsewhere; and lack of a meaningful Hawaii vision beyond the spiritually and aesthetically unsatisfying slogan "live, work and play in Kakaako."
Contrary to administrative conjecture, HCDA's proposed advisory committee will not be constrained by HB 2555 because there are many beneficial public use choices. The HDCA is restricting its committee to the smaller original footprint of the 2005 RFP. Thus the constraint is imposed by HCDA alone.
HB 2555 provides the people of Hawaii with full and necessary protection of the valuable Honolulu shoreline, without any constraints, for full public use unencumbered by private use. Further, there is adequate property that is suitable for housing development by Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate and others in Kakaako mauka. Residential development is by definition private use.
Let's keep our priorities straight and preserve this remaining available Honolulu shoreline for precious public open space and needed public use.
Nancy Hedlund is a member of the Ala Moana/Kakaako Neighborhood Board.