The state legislature will convene for five days starting August 28th 2017 to hammer out a financial plan for Honolulu’s rail transit project. Meanwhile, plans for transit oriented design, TOD, projects have been in the works for years. Waipahu’s Neighborhood TOD Plan is the first to be approved by the City Council, and HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports, parts of the plan are getting underway now.
Harrison Rue is Honolulu’s Community building and transit oriented development administrator. The combination of development and community building is no accident. Rue says former Managing Director Amber Shin added the community building element to apply neighborhood principals to oncoming change.
Rue: The idea of building community through making improvements to the physical infrastructure and the connectivity environment is something a lot of communities around the island are interested in. Not really seeing a lot of development, but just, improvements.
Rue says Honolulu's Department of Planning and Permitting has a good track record in planning, and TOD plans started ten years ago. Waipahu was one of the first areas to get started.
Rue: Waipahu, strong Filipino community, strong plantation heritage. That’s one thing here in Hawai‘i , there’s strong attachment to your own community a lot of people go to mainland, go to school, they still want to come back and live by their grandparents and aunties. So it starts with that culture but it’s also history and stories about each of the areas. In a lot of cases, going back to Hawaiian kingdom days, and plantation days. We tend to do the planning by trying to search out the stories.
Mary Pat Waterhouse is President of the Friends of Waipahu Aloha Club, a job placement and education center for the mentally ill located in Waipahu. About eighty people a day attend, eighty percent of whom walk the thousand feet from the bus stop to the Clubhouse. There is no sidewalk along the 1000 foot roadway to the Clubhouse, and about 15% of members have physical disabilities that make climbing to the Clubhouse even more difficult. Two members have already been hit by cars on the road, which suffers ponding during heavy rains. The need for a sidewalk has been apparent for years.
Waterhouse: This process started about 13 years ago before I got involved. I’ve been volunteering there about five years, and I got involved with this process about three years ago because I worked at the City and State before, I got people involved and asked what to do. About two years ago, things really took off. We had a big meeting with Directors from the City and the State involved. Councilmember Elefante, Senator Nishihara were involved in this meeting and we kind of came up with a plan that we do have to have a conceptual plan.
How are you supposed to get a conceptual plan?
Waterhouse: That’s why, someone said SHADE is an organization that does this type of work for a very low amount of work, basically nothing. It’s a non-profit organization. We talked with SHADE and they offered to do the conceptual plan. They worked with our members and the high school next door, having three meetings with them to make sure we got the stake holders involved. Now it’s become a much bigger project where it’s going to possibly stretch all the way down to Waipi‘o socccer park. A good portion fronting the gold course is already with a sidewalk and bike lane that the federal government did.
Waterhouse: The completed idea loops all the way from the corner of Waipi‘o Point access Road and Farrington Highway all the way around the back side of the soccer park all the way up to Waipahu town. The idea is to be able to walk, run, take your bike on that whole loop there. Visitors could use this. I hope so.
Waterhouse: Our next step is, we need to go to the neighborhood, the homeowners will be affected. We just want to be sure they’re okay with it, address their concerns.
Who’s going to do this?
Waterhouse: SHADE and I are going to be doing it just organizing meetings. We’re looking at doing flyers, possibly doing mailing out postcards to notify them. and of course the high school has been involved in some of the earlier meetings but they need to stay engaged.
Staying engaged is key, and that takes committed individuals. I asked Harrison Rue if TOD planning is difficult with funding for rail still undecided.
Rue: Developers are very interested in developing. I think the development community may have more faith it’s going to get solved than anybody else because they kind of understand economics and needs and just the fact that there’s a lot of development interest in Ala Moana that does not seem to be at affected by the question of whether rail is going to be there yet. We have developers doing planning for projects in the next 3-5 years in Kalihi, Iwilei-Kapālama, in Waipahu area, the state is exploring the Aloha Stadium area, the FHA is cranking away on plans for Mayor Wright housing. State agencies are planning to build up to 2500 units of housing moving forward.
Whether or not rail happens…
Rue: The assumption is rail will get solved. Whether you’re a public developer or a private developer, the need for affordable and workforce housing is so great, that people are really looking, how do we meet that need? I think people of faith which includes developers, say we’ve got to address these needs. We’re going to do our part. We’re going to do the planning, we’re going to move projects forward, we assume the policy makers will do their part at some point too. Mayor Caldwell is adamant that we are going to get rail built. It’s going to all the way to Ala Moana and so he’s directed us to keep doing what we’re doing.
Either way, we’ve got our part to play in how our communities change. Three events this week seek public involvement in planning for Iwilei, Kapālama, and the Blaisdell district.
The EPA is sponsoring two public events this week on "Greening Iwilei and Kapalama": July 12 from 8 to 11 am and July 14 from 2 to 4 pm. Both events will be held at Kalakaua Middle School. Please RSVP today.
Check the City's TOD events page for more.
Check out Waipahu's TOD draft plan.