Planning -- A Hawaiian Success Story |
the most geographically remote major City in the nation brings with it a
special set of opportunities and challenges.
Spectacular geography, mild climate and a diverse population make
Honolulu one of the world's great visitor destinations.
Honolulu, America's eleventh largest city, is also at the
intersection of U.S. and Asian cultures and economies-something we see as
a mixed blessing. Although
Hawaii prospered during the Asian economic boom, we are still recovering
from the region's economic downturn.
by 2200 miles of open ocean from the U.S. mainland, and even greater
distances from its Pacific Rim neighbors, the City and County of Honolulu
contends each day with the impact of isolation.
Nearly all of our food, fuel and building materials are shipped in.
Honolulu is simultaneously one of the most independent and
dependent of U.S. cities. Because
of this, in Honolulu sustainability is more than a goal.
It is has become an island-wide grass-roots crusade.
over a year, thousands of residents have met hundreds of times to develop
a sustainable community vision for our island.
I have committed capital improvement funds to this ongoing program
to help communities to translate their visions into reality.
The process has shaken the City's political foundations, toppled
the power structure within the City Council and recently received a Best
Practices Award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development
the City and County of Honolulu includes the entire island of Oahu, the
Pacific Ocean defines our city limits.
Within that boundary you will find a towering urban core of
concrete, glass and steel, historic areas such as Chinatown, a government
district with a royal palace, the Waikiki resort area, and dozens of
residential communities-each with a character of its own.
Like other major cities, our freeway system is clogged each morning
and evening with commuters from bedroom communities on their way to and
from work in our metropolitan areas.
the City limits also encircle agricultural lands that are in transition
because of the migration of sugar and pineapple operations to other
countries. They encompass
rain forest and rugged valleys held in conservation to preserve our vital
water supply as well as small towns with the character of old Hawaii.
a year ago, I challenged our citizens to become more involved in designing
the City's future. The
response was overwhelming. Over
1,000 people assembled at our new state convention center on a Saturday
morning to talk about their dreams for their communities.
Then, because of the variety of communities involved, they divided
into 19 separate but inclusive work groups to develop unique visions for
their communities such as Waikiki, Chinatown and the Waianae Coast.
developed a vision for land use that addressed community values, the
environment and local aspirations for economic development-many as part of
the federal Empowerment Zone process.
These were translated into a series of
sustainable community plans.
the process, communities validated concepts such as the designation of
urban growth boundaries to "keep the country, country."
They supported redevelopment of Honolulu's urban core with
revitalized downtown and waterfront areas, and they supported channeling
additional growth to a second city under development in Central Oahu.
the process evolved, professional groups stepped forward to assist, and
they did it pro bono. Members
of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) joined
community vision groups, as did the American Society of Landscape
Architects, the American Planning Association and the Consulting Engineers
Council of Hawaii.
community group soon had professionals on board to help them develop
projects and guide them toward completion.
When the chair of the City Council announced his intent to delete
many of the teams' projects from the budget, over 400 citizens turned out
at a public hearing that lasted until 3:00 a.m.
The projects were restored and,
just days later, the Council was reorganized under a new chair.
in partnership with the State Department of Transportation, the City and
the 19 groups went to work to
develop a transportation system to fit their community vision. For most that meant making the automobile less important
while making their neighborhoods more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Some planned for circulator bus routes, and others placed a
priority on express bus service. Many planned bike paths and traffic calming measures within
and between neighborhoods. This
year $38 million has been earmarked specifically for those projects, and
next year another $38 million will be dedicated to realizing that vision.
the groups started a comprehensive program for long-term management of our
island's water resources. That
will take over a year and will address everything about the way water is
allocated, from stream flow, to our artesian sources, to re-use to
possible desalination. The
planning horizon for this effort is between 25 and 50 years.
important has been the acceptance of the vision process by people
throughout our city, including acceptance by people who were skeptical of
government and people who, until now had chosen to sit on the sidelines.
As one community volunteer said to me when the City accepted the
HUD Best Practices Award for the vision process, "Mayor Harris,
you've given us the power to design our future, and we never want to give