Letters | November

Letters to the Editor may be e-mailed to: letters_honmag@pacificbasin.net, faxed: 537-6455 or sent to: Honolulu Magazine, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 405, Honolulu, HI, 96813.

“Editor’s Page,” October 2006
A. Kam Napier discussed the growth and maintenance of healthy cities.

What started out as a wonderful article turned out to be a simplistic and apparently unresearched editorial about conservation-designated lands and “economics” in Hawai‘i. While I enjoyed your quotes from the book The City, a Global History, the article’s implied correlation between economic growth and re-zonings for conservation lands left me puzzled. Since when is it assumed the percentage of rezoned lands has to equal the percentage of the population growth? We are hardly “hemming ourselves in” on O‘ahu, as evidenced by the new sprawl from Makakilo to Mililani Mauka.

Check out the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s latest statistics at its Web site. One-third of O‘ahu is state-zoned as urban and one-third of that urban land is undeveloped. Even accounting only for lands with less than a 20 percent slope (deemed developable), there are still 19,000 acres of developable, vacant, urban-zoned land available for urban growth on O‘ahu. And while the population of Hawai‘i as a whole has increased by 32 percent since 1980, state of Hawai‘i statistics estimate a 1 percent growth rate for O‘ahu through 2030, hardly a population explosion.

Am I advocating a Hong Kong-style level of density on a comparatively postage stamp-size footprint on the island surrounded by acres of open green space? Well, no. But where are the mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods with, yes, higher densities, that we see so much of in world-class cities? The Vancouver peninsula has the highest population density in North America and is also frequently voted the most livable city with the best quality of life. Paris has one of the highest population densities of any European city, and who would question its perfect urban scale, livability and beauty?

Why do the only new housing options on O‘ahu seem to be 40-story high-rises or the car-centric, mind-numbing sprawl of Kapolei? Let’s see some new mid-rise townhouses, lofts and urban-scale apartments, perched on top of first-floor boutiques, local restaurants, brewpubs and drug stores, all within walking distance of work downtown. These neighborhoods would not be mini-malls surrounded by oceans of asphalt for cars. The idea would be to render the car obselete by designing for the convenience of the resident at a human scale. Far too much of our island is wasted on surface parking.

Let’s start with the hundreds of acres of vacant or underutilized lands between the Blaisdell area, the waterfront and downtown. That ought to free up quite a bit of urban land for some creative city living options. Once that is done we can talk about rezoning conservation lands, but not before.

Jeff Merz, Honolulu

Honolulu has not only grown, it has overgrown to an extent approaching unsupportability. Bad as the freeway system is and its resulting commuter overload, the transportation problem pales when compared with the true problem: O‘ahu has reached maximum sustainability of a finite water resource.

Bruce Matheson, Kailua

“Doe v. Kamehameha Schools,” September 2006
The U.S. Court of Appeals mulls over Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policies.

If Kamehameha Schools is serious about “remediating” a century of suffering, why don’t they quit admitting the best and brightest, and take in the Hawaiian kids who failed the entrance exam? They’re the ones who need help. The smart students could succeed anywhere.

Emily Bott, Wailuku, Maui

In our photo contest, the photo “What Was the Wave” was taken by photographer Marc Yoakum with a medium format Bronica.