Thursday, February 19, 2015


Civil Beat on the disappearance of Oahu’s most productive farmland

It goes against all the principles of good planning that I studied
University of Hawaii urban planning Luciano Minerbí, quoted in Civil Beat

by Larry Geller

What is surprising to me is that the Hoopili proposal is still advancing towards approval at the municipal level even as the state legislature frets over disappearing farmland. The senators might usefully invite city council members to attend their hearings to explain themselves. Hoopili, as Civil Beat reports, continues to advance toward approval. It may not be long before Oahu’s best farmland is graded over with asphalt and a new fleet of cars is added to our roads.

That it has taken 30 years or so to get to this point does not make it right.

The pull-quote above? Let no one accuse the City and County of Honolulu of good planning. We have plenty of evidence for skepticism from the continual deterioration of our streets to the neglect of the city’s ongoing affordable housing crisis and the city’s wrongheaded response to homelessness.

Over at Honolulu Hale, the process of granting the developer the needed zoning changes is underway.

Meanwhile, Civil Beat reports that across Punchbowl Street in the state senate:

The state Office of Planning testified that only 67,000 acres on Oahu — or 17.5 percent of the island — is made up of land classified as agricultural that has a slope of 20 percent or less. That doesn’t include Hoopili, which won the state’s approval to change its land classification from agricultural to urban three years ago.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of the island has been urbanized, compared to less than 5 percent statewide.

Senate Water and Land Committee Chairwoman Laura Thielen said she was floored by the analysis.

“I had no idea that the island had gotten to that point,” said Thielen, who chaired the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

The Office of Planning’s analysis doesn’t take into account land that is classified as agricultural but is being used for other purposes, such as luxury housing or solar farms.

[Civil Beat, Disappearing Farmland: Hoopili Continues the Trend, 2/19/2015]

Maybe regulators think that if you plant a transistor, solar panels will sprout. It’s not that I’m getting too cynical in my old age, perhaps I’m finally getting cynical enough.

Hawaii’s electorate is typically unengaged politically, even in election years. That disengagement hands the power to developers, whether for luxury high-rises in Kakaako, or for propagators of urban sprawl in the island’s heart. When the public does get excited, it can have effect—for example, in stopping residential development in Kakaako makai. Here is another instance—if opponents relax or don’t engage, we’re going to be forever at the mercy of high-priced supermarket food.

Local celery is crisp, fresh-smelling and delicious. Local tomatoes are real food, not pink plastic. If you care about local food, do something.

One last snip from the excellent Civil Beat article:

Opponents of the Hoopili development often point out that about 90 percent of Hawaii’s food is imported.

Pamela Boyer, the Oahu president of an advocacy group for local farmers called Hawaii Farmers Union United, testified Wednesday that the land where Hoopili is slated to be built is the island’s most important productive farmland.

“I don’t know how to explain to you how important this parcel is to us for growing food,” she said, noting that the conditions in central Oahu make it more difficult to grow zucchini, broccoli and peppers.

Look, you need to read the Civil Beat article and decide if you care enough to weigh in on this development. Last chance, perhaps.


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