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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

City unveils plans for Honolulu's urban core

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

A city planning document six years in the making, intended to guide development in Honolulu's urban core through 2025, envisions more parks and green space, new low-rise apartments for all income groups, convenient public transportation, and protected natural and cultural resources.

Briefing tomorrow

• A second public informational meeting on the Primary Urban Center Development Plan will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park

The draft Primary Urban Center Development Plan presents a Honolulu with pedestrian-friendly streets, new bike lanes, an open waterfront and improved neighborhood business districts.

The first of two meetings to unveil the plan was held last night at Moanalua Middle School. It will be followed by another meeting tomorrow, then consideration of the report by the Planning Commission and full City Council.

The Primary Urban Center Development Plan is one of eight O'ahu regional plans mandated by the City Charter. All but the central O'ahu and urban center plans have been approved.

The plan creates a roadmap intended as a guide to decisions about zoning and permitting, but it does not carry the force of law.

The city's head of the Department of Planning and Permitting, Randy Fujiki, said the five key elements of planning that everyone agreed to during five years of public meetings are:

  • Natural, cultural and scenic resources must be protected.
  • Newly created neighborhoods should be livable, with business districts, parks and plazas, and walkable streets.
  • Urban Honolulu should have in-town housing choices for people of all ages and incomes.
  • Planners should regard Honolulu as the leading city and travel destination in the Pacific.
  • A balanced transportation system will provide excellent mobility.

"(The plan) sets forth the policies and guidelines, goals and objectives for this area, which runs from Kahala to Pearl City," Fujiki said.

"In our planning we want to encourage growth in the downtown area because it is close to jobs and is the opposite of urban sprawl."

But residents who have seen the report say the plan takes away any Hawaiian sense of place from the existing small neighborhoods and creates "superblocks" of low-rise apartment/business areas with no parking, dependent on public transportation, with a small central square of grass instead of parks.

Residents say their views were largely ignored and the project is being fast-tracked, allowing them no chance to study the document thoroughly before testimony.

Michelle Matson, a member of the Diamond Head/Kapahulu/St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board, and members of four other neighborhood boards met Monday to quickly review the plan before the public meetings.

Matson said their consensus was that the plan would destroy the essence of existing neighborhoods and change the planning process to favor development.

"It certainly isn't a Hawaiian sense of place. This is big-bucks, Mainland-development style," Matson said.

"In this plan it is proposed that the land-use ordinance be revised to provide for flexible development and removal of zoning regulations for residential areas. Not for low-density, but for the new classification of higher-density, residential mixed-use areas.

"Everything will be geared for the rapid transit system that is being subsidized by the taxpayers."

Fujiki said the plan is flexible and each neighborhood will be looked at individually. Low-rise apartments are only suggested for parts of Kaka'ako, Mo'ili'ili, McCully and Kalihi, he said.

"We are looking to have places to live, work and play all in one place, to create these livable neighborhoods with in-town transportation system," Fujiki said. "More and more people as they get older or with young kids it will be more convenient to live downtown."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.