Here is a summary of the third and final hearing with the City Council Planning and Zoning Committee, which was held on Thursday March 6, 2014.
After two long recesses and more testimony from both sides, the Committee voted to approve the height variance Resolution 14-38, but with an amendment (explained later), and pass it to the full Council for approval. It was a long day which started at 9 am and ended at 3:30 pm. This was after a total of 8 hours of testimony and discussion in the first 2 hearings.
After hearing many testimonies from the previous two hearings, Chairperson, Ikaika Anderson decided to seek an agreement from the Developer and the DPP in order to guarantee a minimum gap (open space) between the 2 towers. Some people from the community argued for a minimum gap of 85 feet in their testimonies, an outcome we believe would be good for the developer as well as the community. The distance between the towers in the Developer’s plans ranged from only 55 feet to 72 feet (at their discretion with no guarantees).
After much debate, City Council asked their attorneys to write up an amendment to the resolution that would require the DPP to enforce a minimum gap of 75 feet (glass to glass) between the 2 towers. This will be contingent on whether HECO and the City allows them to build as close to the sewer pump station as planned. The DPP and the Developer agreed to the amendment.
This is important, because every foot gained in the gap will have a significant impact on views from Four Paddle, Aloha Towers, and to the shadows and sunlight on Kuhio Avenue.
Absent this Committee’s input, we would otherwise have been solely dependent on decision making by the Department of Planning and Permitting, an agency that has shown little respect for the Waikiki Special District Guidelines, the Waikiki Neighborhood Board, the Design Advisory Committee, or input from individual community members over the last two years.
This amendment by the Committee demonstrates that community efforts can make a difference. Now your continued engagement will be required during the Special Permit process to ensure that the revised design of Tower 2 fully reflects the true intent, (and legal standing) of that Resolution.
Many thanks to the people who prepared and testified during the long process over the last two weeks and to the Waikiki Neighborhood Board, – whose important vote helped give stature to individual testimonies from the community at the Committee Hearings.
Meanwhile the input from Councilmember Anderson represented the first serious political effort to bring the parties closer together over the past two years, an initiative that has been sorely lacking from the political representative for the Waikiki District (Councilmember – Stanley Chang).
On a side note, we want to say that it is frustrating hearing testimonies from proponents of the project, who keep testifying that the project will be good for Waikiki, and it should be approved. They don’t seem to realize that we are not against development. Quite the opposite. We’re all in favor of proper development. This project would be just as successful with any number of designs. When these people get up and take an opposite stance to our efforts, they are really saying “we want more walls that will unnecessarily block ocean and mountain views”. Instead these people should think about what they are doing. We’re trying to encourage proper development, and they are trying to encourage “any” development – regardless of orientation and guidelines. Walls deter future re-development behind them. It seems ridiculous that people are standing up and trying to undermine our efforts to uphold the guidelines. They should work with us. We all want proper developments. Nobody wants walls. If people want this project to proceed, that’s fine. But if you want developers to build walls and not adhere to the Guidelines, then say so, because that is what your opposition to our efforts is saying.
One of the other concerns raised were related to requiring a certain percentage of the units to be hotel rooms. City Council said they could not legally require that. There was also much discussion about parking, but no changes were imposed. In addition, many of us argued that the project is being rushed through the process, and more time should be allowed for people to review it and get more answers. But City Council did not vote to defer it. No explanation has been given yet, as to why this is being rushed through the system faster than any other major project that the Waikiki Neighborhood Board has ever seen.
Again, a big Mahalo to everyone who worked hard on their testimonies and presentations to the Committee. The 75 feet will allow more sunlight, views and natural ventilation. Hopefully, the developer will find a way to provide a few more feet of open space in their revised design.
Next, the full City Council will meet on March 12, 2014 in Kapolei, to vote on the Resolution (Click for the hearing details and agenda).
Sometime during the next month or so, the Department of Planning and Permitting will be issuing a notice for accepting testimonies and the date for a public hearing after they have received and reviewed the special permit application from the Developer.