Steering Growth - Extended Version
6 Leaders Discuss Development in Hawaii
Read the shorter, edited version of this forum here
(page 7 of 7)
Kim: You haven’t had that kind of mentality.
Anderson: You know what? I was going to do a project in Waianae last year. Somebody called me and there was five or six acres right on the road, in the kiawe, and I went out and I stopped my car and I walked it and I looked at it and then I went next door and there were a bunch of units for sale with signs. I called the Realtor because they were cheap, $100,000 and some odd thousands. You (Kane) were doing the great Hawaiian Homes project and nobody could qualify and then, typical Andy Anderson, as I drove down I came back and there was seven Hawaiian bike people sitting in the park at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, 22 years old, 25 years old, so I parked my car, jumped the fence, and went and sat with them because they know who I was, working with Fasi. Why aren’t you working? “Andy, I got a bad neck.” “Andy, I don’t want to work. I got a sore hip.” Everybody around that mat on the grass was healthier than I was, I think, and they just chose not to want to work. I mean our lifestyle – I’m not knocking but they’re living in the park they didn’t want to work. They aren’t motivated to have a house. They were happy in a tent, so it’s more than economics, I think. It’s a mentality problem.
Yukimura: It’s education.
Anderson: But we have the problem there. We can’t go back and take this 26-year-old guy and reeducate him totally. It’s going to take a lot of time and money to do it. I agree with you.
Yukimura: But we’re spending a lot of time and money educating first, second, third, fourth, fifth graders up to 12th grade. We can prevent more 22-year-olds who are sitting on the beach but what we’re doing…
Anderson: You’re talking the next generation problem. You have one of the biggest community college enrollments. One of the largest community college enrollments we have here in Hawaii because the kids who graduate from 12th grade aren’t qualified for college so they go there for remedial programs.
Yukimura: That’s correct. Something’s wrong that’s happening.
Hawaii Business Editor Steve Petranik: You folks are all invited back to our education forum (laughter). I wanted to ask you about there’s a small development proposed up in Laie. The Mormon church wants to build it and they say they want to build it for their people who live up there, and that particular community is pretty crowded. But then on the other hand, it’s outside this urban core that Jan outlined. Anybody have thoughts on that kind of development where it does not seem like it’s aimed at rich people from the Mainland to buy a second home, but it is outside where we want to concentrate our development.
Anderson: It’s somewhat contiguous to their community.
Yukimura: Is it worker housing?
Anderson: It’s worker, student, faculty. It’s an expansion of Laie as a Mormon community.
Yukimura: Well, the key would be whether there is a buyback class in perpetuity, because otherwise by the second sale it will be second homes. On Kauai in the last three or four years or maybe more, almost half of our growth in new construction was second homes. The world is the market for Hawaiian and Kauai real estate and if you don’t insulate our homes from the market, you’ll have a humungous homeless problem into the future. In places like resorts, if you don’t do some controls people will be commuting four hours from outlying areas to work and that’s no good for worker. The Big Island already has these long commutes that are just heartbreaking. They never see their kids at night because they are home too late and it’s just crazy to live that way or work that way or have a community that doesn’t work.
Kim: That is not an exaggeration. The people in Kona and Hilo – (they ride) our free bus, the county bus – these people spend approximately 5 hours a day on the road.
Anderson: And that’s because there is no housing in Kona for them.
Yukimura: That’s right. No housing around the workplaces.
Anderson: Well, why? Where have we failed?
Yukimura: Because the land prices tend to be very expensive around resorts, which is why when Kukuiula came in, we required them to put some housing in.
Anderson: We have a great Waikoloa project. Why hasn’t it happened there.
Kim: It will happen.
Anderson: Yeah, but it has been six years.
Kim: These people lived in Puna before job loss became a problem. Remember we lost 100 percent of our sugar.
Yukimura: Many of them would move if there was decent, affordable housing close to work.
Kim: And that’s what we’re trying to get them.
Anderson: But again, the point I’m making, I can’t do it as a new developer, a big developer can’t do it by himself, but we’ve got the mayor of a county with free land at Waikoloa and it’s taken six years, and it’s not off the ground yet.
Kim: First of all, UniDev was sought out to develop a community and a type of community where you got to make it public housing and the slowness was not because of permitting process, the slowness was in regards to financing from the private sector. Our contribution was land and $40 million. That was a total commitment.
Burris: That’s a big commitment.
Yokota: Let me just make one clarification. I wasn’t saying that all the growth should be in the urban core. Just where there is sufficient existing infrastructure. I just wanted to clarify that.
Anderson: Jerry, I didn’t know where to get this in, but Allan touched on it a couple of times. He was talking about the economy and we’re going be in this situation for the next three or five or six years, I mean who knows, but I think we have a one in a million opportunity as a government and governance to sit together Legislature, Councils, etc., and rethink where we’re going as a state and the counties. We have a great opportunity like never before to resize our government, government employees, the size of it, salaries, numbers, I mean you have on the table an opportunity to bring Hawaii back to some reasonable level and if we miss this opportunity, I think we’re crazy.
Burris: There is some of that going on. The Legislature has an interim committee looking at that.
Anderson: I mean is this governor-Legislature deal? I mean you can’t have this hooky-hooky going all the time. The mayors got to get involved with the counties, but there’s an opportunity here if we take it. Try to go back to where we were, I think that’s crazy.
Hawaii Business senior writer Dennis Hollier: We keep talking about government’s role in this. I’m wondering if there’s actually going to be some rethinking of development in Hawaii, what are other good examples elsewhere in the country that we can look at for smart development that doesn’t have the problems of gentrifications and any other things that are sometimes associated with it? Can we look to what examples elsewhere?
Yukimura: Yes, there are many examples elsewhere and I think they’re in Portland, they’re in Connecticut, they’re all over ,and you can see them all at the Smart Growth Conference, which is in February in Seattle. They hold those conferences and they bring together people who are doing this work. They are marvelous examples, just livable prosperous, a huge economic opportunity going on.
Hollier: But are they suitable for Hawaii? Hawaii is a lot of unique features to it.
Yukimura: Yes. I don’t think Hawaii is that unique. I mean a dollar is a dollar and…
Hollier: Well, here a dollar is about 75 cents (laughter).
Yukimura: But the question is why? When you start to look at the causes, when you look at how much money we spend on H-3 and used up all the matching state monies for 10 years for highways, then you begin to see the choices we’ve made either consciously or unconsciously in terms of planning our communities and how we used our dollars and what we could have done with those dollars used in another way. We could’ve had a transit system.
Hollier: So what is the planning process from the government perspective? What kind of planning format are you looking at to have a serious planning approach in Hawaii? What does that look like?
Yukimura: Wow, you’re asking the million-dollar question. I would go to places like Oregon, where they’ve done good planning and there they haven’t let the Legislature do the planning. They let the OCDC, the Oregon Conservation Development Commission, do it according to planning principles, not who lives in my neighborhood and who wants what.
Petranik: We have two level of government that are involved in planning here, both the state and the counties. Are the counties mature enough now so that the state should take up no role or a lesser role on land-use planning? Should the state drop the land board. You have two layers now that you’ve got to go through, which certainly has got to add to the cost.
Anderson: Too much duplication. I’m a strong believer in home rule. Actually, we have 3 governments on Oahu, you have the state, the county, and HCDA (Hawaii Community Development Authority). You’ve got a government within a government. I think the counties are sophisticated enough and I think the mayors and the councils on the Neighbor Islands should be responsible for their growth and their direction. I can see some state direction and participation where you want the finished product to be contiguous and you want it to complement one another. But for the discussions of home rule, I think the counties are sophisticated enough.
Yukimura: I’d say if you went to Hawaii County during Mayor Kim’s time, I’d say you had an extremely sophisticated planning department and excellent planning leadership. I cannot say that was the same thing on Kauai even today. I think there are appropriate levels of oversight for the state to take on but it’s not for the (state) Land Use Commission to do another level of zoning. That doesn’t make sense. But if you look at the model in Oregon, I think you have some statewide goals and some clarity about what their job is. For example, they said every – and California has done this too – OK all the counties, you have to have urban growth boundaries and then they let the counties do it. They approved the urban growth boundaries to make sure that they had followed certain principles of planning but they didn’t try to come down to Lihue and do the urban growth boundary. They let the counties do it, but they made the counties do it, because that was an important thing for preserving ag land in the Willamette Valley. You didn’t want the sprawl beyond the town, so there’re proper levels, but right now we haven’t structured it right.
Kim: The present system of the LUC (Land Use Commission) was created back then historically by the Big Five in the protection of a certain kind of land. Anyone who has tried to go through the LUC will tell of the cost and the time to do that. It’s not only the structure with the county, within state, within the feds, with what is there, we can do it if there is a will to really evaluate the problems of each and fix it within. You don’t have to throw out, as they say, the sink. I had my frustration with the LUC and sometimes I think, “Jeez, if my land was zoned conservation, not through my own decision, it’s a nightmare to even build an outhouse. All those things need rezoning. And it costs time and it costs money. And those things need to be evaluated and I thank JoAnn on the compliment on my planning department, but all of us at the county department know it’s a matter of will. When Micah had come into my office years ago telling me what his dreams were, I committed myself to help Micah, but it could have been the other way.
Hollier: Let’s back track one more time. Another thing that keeps coming up is the idea of redeveloping existing developments and making them denser and that sort of thing. If we’re going to do areas, setting aside Kakaako because of the legal issues, but if we are going to do areas like Moiliili and places like that, what has to change mechanically for that to happen? Is it just a question of zoning or there are other issues that need changing?
Anderson: Are you talking about condemning all the little individual people?
Hollier: Either condemning them or allowing the owners of those properties to redevelop themselves.
Anderson: You would have to consolidate them.
Yukimura: It would take I think more details than I know because you could do it with a mix of incentives. You’d have to do an inventory of the infrastructure, I mean, you would have to know what you need to do in order to get to the goal you have of a redeveloped area. It would be a major planning effort and the main thing you would have to have I think are really good planners and really good inclusion of the community and the stakeholders.
Doane: I think on that example in particular, my reference was more toward the single family homes and this real imbalance between the land value and these old homes. Trying to create incentives, so people can say “You know what? Okay, I’ll knock it down. It’s $200,000 but I’ll get it back in time and it’ll be better.” On the commercial side, for those of us who know that area pretty well, there’re some little gems in Kaimuki and the only thing you’re missing there are a few consolidations and some parking areas. People like to go there and you get people from all different areas that go down Waialae Avenue on either side there. There’s no solution for everything but there is probably a different solution if you were able to find several sites and then you would require some public support in order to consolidate it, get parking, and then what that would do is it would free up maybe two-, three- or four-block area for lots of very small little community-based things.
Anderson: I do have an issue with that.
Doane: Well, the former is fairly simple. That’s got to be a tax credit issue.
Anderson: And if you see government doing the initiating …
Doane: Yeah, the latter, you’re going to have big problems. Any kind of land consolidation where you’re buying people out is going to be a problem especially for parking lots in the long term. You’ve got some real social equity.
Anderson: That was true for Outrigger along the area you were talking about (Beach Walk). It was very difficult to condemn those landowners.
Doane: There’s no single solution for any of the issues we’re facing but lots of solutions.
Kane: I think the point that needs to be driven home is that there are opportunities. There is opportunity in the entitled lands that the state and city have designated. There’re opportunities within the redevelopment of existing communities. We need to understand where they are pukas and it’s not difficult. It’s not difficult at all; they’ll surface pretty easily. People like Mr. Doane know where some of them are. Those of us who have been dealing with some of the major infrastructure know exactly what the impediments are.
Anderson: You know what makes planning in Hawaii interesting and difficult in my opinion? It is the single-member districts. It’s politics on the table but you have 51 single-member districts on Oahu, you have nine council-member districts. No one politician has the opportunity to think big and to think broad beyond his or her little district and you go to Kapahulu and try to do some of this, we would have the councilman and the House of Representatives person and that senator on our back in two minutes. Because the public would probably uproar before they got educated. Our government structure is a problem. I’m pretty sure we would re-educate this legislator from worrying about changing fences and tennis courts in the school for re-election if we could broaden the geographic districts. Salt Lake would never have been considered for the rail because it made common sense to go to the airport but politics came into play. And Kauai, you were talking about a little while ago, is not as you want it because of politics.
Yukimura: Well, we don’t have single-member districts. But I agree with you because single-member districts force people to look at their district and, on two-year terms, they just do whatever they can for their district. Nobody is looking at the whole island and that’s a severe detriment and then they’re on two-year terms and very short-sighted decisions come out of the framework like that.
Burris: Thank you. You’re excused.
Anderson: I haven’t had so much fun in a long time.
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