Steering Growth - Extended Version
6 Leaders Discuss Development in Hawaii
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Doane: I certainly think that the question is limited growth. I think the answer is yes. There will be some growth, it’s got to be very wise given some of the mistakes that have been made over the years, but will there be some growth. But there’s going to be a major thing in the next 10 or 20 years: It’s going to be redevelopment. It’s going to be taking existing locations. It’s going to be some of the places where there are buildings. They were there for a purpose because they were the very best places. And I really think that in many cases, you’re going to see a lot of renewal in existing locations. I think it serves a couple of purposes. It will upgrade what is already in a place whether it’s a home, whether it’s something at Kakaako. And at the same time, it’ll preserve open space – if you’re not developing some place that already is open. So I think there are going to be some different things the next one or two decades.
Yukimura: Just a preliminary remark. It’s to say thank you for this discussion. I just love a good discussion, as I told Steve (Petranik, Hawaii Business editor) when he called me. But more so when you’re talking about decisions that are so critical to our state and our economies, to have something like this is really important and very valuable. With respect to the question, I think I sort of agree with Jan that it’s more about how rather than whether you limit growth, but how and where. I think we’re entering a very different era and the assumptions that we’ve normally gone by are not going to be workable assumptions very soon. For example, we can get these mass-produced tomatoes from the Mainland now for very cheap but the price of oil is not going to stay anywhere near what it is today because we are, by the very laws of nature, reaching some limits to this limited fossil fuel. And so having resources and using resources close to home are going to be really important, even close to people who live on Oahu. And I’m sorry I don’t remember the specific statistic about Singapore, but a huge percentage of Singapore’s food is grown within the city limits of Singapore and that is a function of both transportation costs and other issues. So you know some of the best lands here on Oahu, I mean I just flew over it today as I came over from Kauai. It’s the flat rich soils of Central Oahu and I see suburban growth just sprawling all over. And that is the mode of every island right now. Kauai is becoming, even as we talk about preserving rural quality, we’re becoming suburban where you have to drive to every place, your children have to be driven everywhere. And it’s not going to make much sense. In fact, the Smart-Growth people are saying that suburbs are quickly going to become the dinosaurs of our age and that it is more about dense growth, it’s about energy-efficient growth and growth patterns, it’s about not seeing open space or ag lands as an opposing force to development. But it’s something that is essential to livable and great places to work and live in. And so, you know, there are limits we have to – I mean 6 billion people on this earth with ever-limited resources not only oil, but iron, sand, steel.
Yukimura: Water. Yes, where sustainability is not going to be a matter of choice. It’s going to be a matter of necessity. And the good news is that it can still be very prosperous and wonderful in terms of places to live and ways we can have our children grow up. But it’s going to bring a lot of shifts in our thinking. Thank you.
Burris: Micah Kane.
Kane: I have a little different take – I think we as a state made a fundamental mistake when we started pushing government’s responsibilities onto the private sector in the form of infrastructure. And that is your prime incentive to mold development to areas where you want growth. When you start passing exactions onto developers, it starts to disincentivize a developer to go into growth areas where entitlements have occurred. In other words, we’ve entitled land at the state level and at the county level we’ve all agreed where growth should occur. But we didn’t do is complement the infrastructure. That is what we we’re catching up on together in Laiopua. In the ’80s, Gov. Waihee designated major master planned communities. That was a good thing and it designated funding to go along with that investment. Unfortunately, there were some hiccups along the way and we didn’t get far enough along to really see those communities materialize during his time. Some of the stuff that the mayor (Kim) and I worked on was actually going to back to those infrastructure improvements as government taking back that burden. The private sector will always follow the money. They’ll follow money and they’ll follow certainty. Obviously, Waiawa had a huge amount of uncertainty because of infrastructure improvements that needed to occur on that part of the hillside. The moment government steps away from that, the private sector looks at it as “I got to put a water system here in Laiopua vs. a water system in Kohala, then I’m going go Kohala, you know. And so what you end up with is a mish-mash of infrastructure that is uncoordinated. And so now it becomes a profit-making decision as opposed to whether it’s the right thing for our state. And then you’ve got administration after administration who are making independent decisions based on those requests that are coming in. And I just feel that if government takes back their core responsibility – roads, water, sewer and public facilities – the private sector will follow. And you’ll inherently start to preserve spaces that we as a state want to preserve because it’s too difficult, you know, it’s just way too difficult. Then I think we forget that those natural forces are there for us to just embrace. Right now, we’re fighting it.
Burris: What you just said made me think of Kakaako. Government there stepped in and sort of did what Micah was talking about. Did that work? Did it work as expected?
Yokota: It worked very well in terms of creating the environment for landowners who should do the kind of projects we want – but you had to have the economy as well, so there were times when it made sense to develop and sometimes when it didn’t, depending on the economic climate. But what Micah was saying makes a great deal of sense. The state government over a period of decades decided to commit infrastructure monies to this area and that really laid the platform for development of Kakaako. I completely agree with what Micah has said. It’s very important. It’s a good model. And it was not only just one administration, but it was a number of administrations, so you have that over a 25-year period. And that is what is important – consistent commitment.
Kane: But in terms of growth, a good case in point: Leialii preserves Honokowai; Laiopua preserves Kohala; Kapolei preserves Wahiawa.
Burris: It’s a tradeoff.
Kane: It’s a tradeoff because you’ve invested into the infrastructure and said this is where people are going to live. And, you know, the mayor (JoAnn Yukimura) talks about flying over Oahu and seeing ag land in Kapolei. Well, there was a time prior to the ag community that Kapolei was a thriving place of a lot of people. It was estimated to be one of the second most populated native Hawaiian communities in the archipelago. It was a good place to live then and it’s a good place to live now. We view it as ag land because of what happened in the 1800s and 1900s. I think a lot of that we have to go back a little bit further. I’m sorry I keep going back to it, but there are a lot of answers to our questions there.
Yukimura: I agree with what Micah says about government committing and having responsibility for infrastructure where we want growth. The problem has been that there has been, at least on Kauai, no clarity about where you want growth and Nukolii is a perfect example of that. That is in an open space that was zoned ag and we were to preserve the space in between the two communities of Lihue and Wailua-Kapaa, and there came the developers and said, “We want to develop. We want to change from open and ag to resort in the middle of nothing else.” Not adjacent to any other urban growth. And, you know, the politics against huge citizen opposition put the growth there. And interestingly enough, that hotel is now in receivership, which shows that it wasn’t a good idea anyway. You have to drive somewhere if you want to go to another restaurant, whereas, if it had been part of the Coconut Coast, people could have walked.
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