Latest Articles

  • Peter Apo: Urban Crawl – Is Hawaii Becoming Just Another Place?

    · By Peter Apo

    I saw a cartoon a long time ago that showed an aging husband and wife sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of their farmhouse staring out across their fenced yard. The farmhouse was encircled by hundreds of new houses, apartment buildings, shopping malls and busy streets. The husband says to his wife, “We used to live in the country — now we live in the city — and we haven’t moved!”

    They have gotten caught in a phenomenon sometimes referred to as urban crawl.

    In West Oahu, the Hoopili project that will replace hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land with hundreds of acres of homes got a green light from the Honolulu City Council. The 15,000 homes and the workforce that the project will house conjure up expectations of live-work-play integration, and that commercial, industrial, business and retail development will follow.

    Although Hoopili, as I understand it, has one last hurdle — securing state Land Use Commission approval — that seems likely to happen.

    Rail columns over farmland in West Oahu signal that the area will become a 11,750-home community known as Hoopili.

    Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat

    In Central Oahu, another large urbanization project, Koa Ridge, appears to be on its way, too. This 575-acre project, when complete, will dramatically expand the urban footprint of Mililani Town with 3,500 new homes and an ambitious mix of commercial, retail, business and industrial activity that will creep toward Waipahu and the West Oahu plain. Like Hoopili, this project also displaces

  • 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

  • Curt Sanburn: Land Use Shenanigans on the Windward Side

    · By Curt Sanburn

    Several weeks back, Honolulu City Council member Ikaika Anderson and his Zoning and Planning Committee threw a wrench into the Mormon Church’s plan to urbanize the Windward ahupuaa of Malaekahana.

    Voting as one, Anderson, Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi, Joey Monahan and Trevor Ozawa approved Anderson’s amendments to the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan, amendments that removed from the legal document the allowance for “Envision Laie,” an ambitious plan laid out by the church and its development arm, Hawaii Reserves Inc., to double the size of Laie northward into 900 agriculturally zoned acres it owns next door in Malaekahana.

    The committee’s move against the church’s development scheme is good news for most people, who want to keep the country country — and good news for good old two-lane Kam Highway itself, with its string of roadside settlements, each more delicate and beautiful than the one before.

    Urbanizing the scenic pasturelands and hills of the Malaekahana ahupuaa would seriously diminish rural Oahu’s distinctiveness.

    Curt Sanburn

    But the story of how the Envision Laie plans got into the KSCP in the first place reveals how the game is played in the giant casino that is land use policy in Hawaii.

    An important visual buffer between Laie town and Kahuku, the green pasturelands and rolling hills of the Malaekahana ahupuaa are a prime indicator that Oahu’s North Shore is, indeed, the country. Malaekahana’s wild makai section, a massive, heavily forested sand dune embracing the churning waters of Malaekahana Bay, formerly a colony of beach houses,

  • Abercrombie Signs Bill to Protect 665 Acres at Turtle Bay Resort

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Hawaii Sens. David Ige and Clayton Hee seize the opportunity to tout their records as they campaign for higher office.

  • Hawaii Legislature Mulls Solar Power and Child Care on Agricultural Land

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Bills would allow more solar facilities, child care businesses and more on farmland.

  • Hawaii Senate to Decide on Aaron Mahi for the Land Use Commission

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    The Native Hawaiian musician would bring a rich cultural perspective to the oft-criticized and powerful land board.

  • Hawaii Monitor: Bill Would Expand Secrecy of DHHL Leases

    · By Ian Lind

    But Senate chair Clayton Hee says: “This is a public trust, public land, public leases.”

  • Living Hawaii: Priced Out of Paradise — Where $600K Is a Bargain Home

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Is there a solution to the high cost of houses in Hawaii?

  • Kamehameha Highway Chaos: State’s Parking Barriers May Bring Lawsuit

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    The state is finally taking action to address North Shore traffic jams but critics say the plan is misguided.

  • Debate Rises Over Development Plan for Kailua Marsh

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Is Hawaii muddying the waters with its plan for the Kawainui wetlands?

  • Hawaii Development Agency Approves Kakaako Tower Over Protests

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Residents’ complaints didn’t keep agency from giving permission for another high rise in Honolulu.

  • Kakaako Rising: Is This Community Development?

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    UPDATED Residents’ concerns about new building proposals have lawmakers questioning whether HCDA should exist.

  • Honolulu City Council Approves Koa Ridge Development

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    But critics say the project is a step backward when it comes to managing development on Oahu.

  • Governor’s Nominee to Board of Land and Natural Resources Draws Criticism

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Critics say choosing the manager of a company with a contested development project would send wrong message.

  • Report: More Traffic Will Clog North Shore If Turtle Bay Expands

    · By Sophie Cocke

    But state and city officials say they can’t stop the project.