Latest Articles

  • Is Kapolei a Mistake?

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    The 1977 decision to transform fields of sugar cane in West Oahu into a new city known as Kapolei is one of Honolulu’s most significant planning decisions.

    Nearly $11 billion has been spent on major infrastructure, commercial and industrial improvements in the Kapolei region over the last 10 years, and billions more are expected.

    But some urban planners now think that starting a community from scratch miles away from downtown Honolulu was a bad idea.

    A bus stop on Haumea Street in Kapolei stands out against empty lots. The community has not grown into the vibrant Second City originally envisioned.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Originally envisioned as a solution for Honolulu’s affordable housing crisis and bad traffic congestion, Kapolei is still largely a residential community. Many residents spend hours commuting to and from urban Honolulu for work.

    The decision to leapfrog growth into Kapolei has had the added effect of promoting development on what had once been productive farmland and creating urban sprawl.

    In an ideal world, some planners think Kapolei would not have been developed the way it has been. Instead, Honolulu would include more high-density low-rise and mid-rise buildings, rather than so many single-family homes and skyscrapers.

    “It has been a mistake and now we are paying in a dear way, in many ways,” said Luciano Minerbi, a planner who has taught at the University of Hawaii since 1969.

    Planning principles have evolved since Kapolei was first carved out as the Second City in the 1977 Oahu General Plan. At that time, “smart

  • Denby Fawcett: Making It Easier to Build in Rural Oahu

    · By Denby Fawcett

    Honolulu’s director of planning and permitting is contemplating the creation of a new rural land development standard to make it easier and less expensive to build new homes in rural parts of Oahu.

    That is among many ideas George Atta is exploring as he ponders ways to address the needs of a growing population without changing Oahu’s urban boundaries.

    Atta sees creating a new rural development standard as a way to make the construction of more affordable housing possible for Oahu residents who want to live near their jobs in rural areas.

    This idea is also favored by Eric Beaver, the president of Hawaii Reserves Inc., the land development arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).


    Hawaii Reserves’ conceptual plan for a residential development at Malaekahana that would include open recreational space around clustered houses.

    Hawaii Reserves

    Beaver thinks such a designation could be created by adopting a new rural land ordinance or by adding a section to Honolulu’s current land use ordinance to deal with new housing development in rural Oahu.

    All homes on Oahu must now follow standards required for urban construction, but a rural standard could allow, for example, more open space with fewer streetlights, sidewalks and other amenities than are required in urban developments.

    “It is a way to have a different standard more in keeping with a rural area and to bring the cost of construction down,” said Beaver.

    I spoke with Atta and Beaver in separate phone conversations over the weekend to

  • Honolulu City Council Panel Says No to 875 Homes in Malaekahana

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    The Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee approved a planning document for the North Shore on Thursday but amended it to remove a highly controversial new residential community at Gunstock Ranch in Malaekahana.

    Dozens of supporters drove down from Laie on Thursday to advocate for the development before City Council members. They told stories of overcrowding and family members who were forced to move away because they couldn’t afford to rent or buy a home in their community in windward Oahu.

    They urged the city lawmakers to approve the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan as drafted by the city Department of Planning and Permitting, which included references to a new residential community on Malaekahana.

    But Zoning and Planning Committee Chairman Ikaika Anderson said he wants to stick with the island’s General Plan, which calls for keeping the North Shore rural. The committee voted unanimously to pass his amendments to Bill 47 that remove all references to new housing in Malaekahana.

    “I don’t believe that the people proposing this are bad people or they want to do anything ill in their community,” Anderson said. “I’m just of the view that this particular development does not fit in the Malaekahana area.”

    Supporters and opponents hold signs during hearing about a plan that would allow 875 new homes in Malaekahana.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Anderson said he’s often thought about whether he would support a similar development in Waimanalo, where he lives, to help his children find homes in their hometown.

    “I’ve come to the very difficult

  • Why Did Council Overrule Waianae Residents and Council Member?

    · By Michael Levine

    Honolulu pols don’t explain why controversial “purple spot” kept in plan.

  • 2012: Year of Honolulu Community Planning

    · By Michael Levine

    City Council to update plans for Central Oahu, Waianae and more.

  • Urban Planning, Architecture Books Atop Hawaii Governor’s Desk

    · By John Temple

    Abercrombie says it’s his job to “lead” when it comes to urban design.

  • When Leases End, Lessors Could Gain From Rail

    · By Michael Levine

    Government, Bishop Estate show up on list of underlying landowners.

  • Station To Station: East Kapolei, UH West Oahu and Hoopili

    · By Michael Levine

    A closer look at the landowners and land uses near future transit hubs.

  • Planning Panel Split Over Honolulu Vacation Rentals

    · By Nanea Kalani

    Updated Proposal to deter illegal rentals still in limbo; revote set for Sept. 7.

  • Most Oahu Parcels Within Two Miles of Rail Station

    · By Michael Levine

    More than half of all island properties are close enough to make regular use.

  • City Starts Work on Commitment to the Future

    · By Michael Levine

    Oahu General Plan will serve as guide for next 25 years in Honolulu.

  • In the Shadow of the Train, Landowners Stand to Gain

    · By Michael Levine

    UPDATED Two developers, government control land near rail route.

  • Laie Hotel Advances, But Flooding Still A Concern

    · By Michael Levine

    Developer makes small gains as Honolulu City Council heads to Koolau Loa to engage community.

  • Waikiki Beach Is Shrinking, But Hotel Tower Is Rising

    · By Michael Levine

    Erosion and economics push and pull in opposite directions.

  • Waikiki Hotel Plan Caught In Honolulu’s Tangled Web

    · By Michael Levine

    Conflicts of interest hold up Moana Surfrider tower proposal.