Tuesday, August 06, 2013


A radical idea for Honolulu–community control of land

‘We live in this neighborhood. We should have the right to control what happens in this neighborhood.’ And if we talk about community control of land, if we talk about the idea that people who live in this neighborhood should have the right to make decisions about how the land is used, that wouldn’t just help us have a legitimate housing recovery. That would also help us make safer and more informed decisions about economic, environmental policies.

by Larry Geller

The pull-quote above is an unfair, out-of-context snip from Amy Goodman’s interview today with Laura Gottesdiener, author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home.” (Zuccotti Park Press). It is a great interview, please check it out. The segment is entitled, A Dream Foreclosed: As Obama Touts Recovery, New Book Reveals Racist Roots of Housing Crisis (Democracy Now, 8/6/2013) (includes video).

I know it is a tiny piece of what Gottesdiener had to say, but when I heard it, I backspaced the video to listen again.

Imagine that we had the right to control what happens in our neighborhoods here on Oahu. Would we choose to build ultra-expensive high-rise condos with all kinds of zoning exemptions for super-rich out-of-towners?

I don’t think so. But of course, we’re not in control. In fact, by allowing entities such as the HCDA to exist, we cede our power to developers.

So guess what—the Kakaako condos will be built, and after those, more like them, and so on. Nothing about these condos will alleviate the housing shortage on this island, nor will it help Oahu residents stay in their homes, nor will it do a thing about homelessness. It’s hard to imagine any positive effect of the developments that have been revealed to us so far, and easy to predict the impact on traffic and other aspects of infrastructure.

Is that really what we want? So what will we do about it?


Check out this link on what's happening in NYC
Also, today's (8/7/2013) Star Advertiser front page, "July Sales Produce Record Median Price for Condominiums"

Isn't community control - or at least influence - kind of the purpose of the Neighborhood Boards? The theory, at least, was that these elected boards would represent the wishes of the residents in each neighborhood. Again, in theory they would have some clout albeit limited by their powers which are strictly advisory in nature.

The mission of these boards is pretty clear: "The Neighborhood Board is full citizen participation in government so that the powers of the City can properly serve and advance the aspirations of its citizens. Through the Neighborhood Board system, every resident has the opportunity to participate in government decision making which affects his or her community."

The problem seems to be that the City (and darn near everyone else) totally disregards and discounts what the Neighborhood Boards say. Developers consider the NBs as an unpleasant hurdle that must be jumped on the track of doing whatever they wanted to do, abetted by private/public entities like HCDA who give lip service to being sensitive to resident concerns but who deal with all objections as matters that are fait accompli.

Citizen control can come only with citizen power. Saying that this power exists at the ballot box is, of course, a dodge since critical neighborhood matters such as development occur on a different and much faster time frame than elections. Punishing errant elected officials after the fact does no good. Were the Neighborhood Boards empowered with some authority perhaps the voice of the residents would become meaningful in neighborhood decisions.

Maybe there are other and better ways. But as it stands the residents are at a disadvantage becasue of the asymmetry of power between them and the moneyed special interests.

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