Faith Action’s Environmental Justice Task Force and Blue Planet Foundation co-authored an “Island Voices” article that was published in the Star-Advertiser on Nov. 10. Entitled, “Council should make city walkable, with right-sized parking,” the article is about Bill 2, which is currently being considered by the Honolulu City Council. As introduced, the bill would, over time, restructure Honolulu’s urban landscape to make it more environmentally sustainable.
Bill 2, unamended, would have its greatest effects in densely populated areas, encouraging housing to be located within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants, child care, fitness facilities, health care, and social service agencies. The bill would reduce the current requirements for parking stalls since many are not used. The bill encourages walkable neighborhoods that minimize the need for driving.
Environmental organizations supported Bill 2 in the form in which it was introduced. Development interests, however, want to make substantial amendments to the bill that would minimize its environmental benefits.
For those with Star-Advertiser subscriptions, here is a link to the article (or read the full article below): https://www.staradvertiser.com/2020/11/10/editorial/island-voices/column-council-should-make-city-walkable-with-right-sized-parking/
Column: Council should make city walkable, with right-sized parking
By Matthew Geyer and Lauren Reichelt
Nov. 10, 2020
Published in the Star Advertiser Editorial: Island Voices
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” It’s been half a century since Joni Mitchell first sang those words about Honolulu and the degradation of the environment. But the city’s zoning ordinance continues to require exactly that — to over-build parking and prioritize cars, too often at the expense of accessibility, safety and affordability.
Fortunately, the urban landscape can be redesigned to be more environmentally sustainable by mixing housing with commercial properties to encourage walking and biking rather than driving. Housing can be made more affordable by eliminating the requirement for condominiums to be sold with parking stalls, especially near transit lines.
The Honolulu City Council is considering Bill 2. As originally introduced, this measure envisions a more balanced urban design by modernizing Honolulu’s outdated zoning ordinance that currently prioritizes cars over people. Unfortunately, some forces want to turn the bill inside-out.
Bill 2, unamended, has its greatest effect on urban areas that are densely populated. It encourages housing to be located within easy walking distance of urban amenities, such as stores, restaurants, child care, senior centers, fitness facilities, health clinics and social service agencies.
The unamended bill also modernizes and simplifies the city’s parking requirements by right-sizing them to provide more flexibility for the needs of residents. Inexplicably, the Honolulu zoning ordinance currently requires parking stalls to be built regardless of whether residents need them or can afford them.
A single parking stall in urban Honolulu can cost as much as $40,000, which is often hidden in a mortgage. Many residents have no choice but to accept this cost, whether they drive or not.
The unamended bill separates the purchase of parking stalls from the purchase of condominiums, so families that don’t own cars don’t have to buy parking stalls. Right-sizing parking requirements makes housing more affordable.
To make streets more walkable, the unamended bill proposes new standards for the distance that parking structures are required to be set back from the sidewalk. The setback requirements for buildings with urban amenities would be narrower than setback requirements for parking structures. In this way, the unamended bill incentivizes urban amenities rather than parking structures to be located on main streets.
The original intent of Bill 2 recognizes that people need space for walking, biking, catching the bus and ride sharing, while still providing parking for those who need it. Some of the greatest cities of the world, such as Paris, Venice, New York, Tokyo and Singapore, emphasize non-car modes of transportation and would be far less interesting without the large numbers of pedestrians.
Bill 2, unamended, has received overwhelming support from diverse organizations, including advocates for the environment, social justice, affordable housing, and senior citizens. They support it because it promotes more environmentally responsible, safe, and accessible communities with more affordable housing.
However, some developers are pushing back and are asking to nullify the new setback requirements. Alarmingly, they even want to weaken existing setback requirements that would affect Honolulu’s most walkable areas. Furthermore, they oppose passing on the savings from right-sizing parking to residents. These opponents place a higher priority on their profits than the benefits that the unamended Bill 2 offers to the residents of Oahu.
With only a few City Council sessions left, it is time to take action on this measure. The Council must pass a strong Bill 2 that promotes truly walkable, environmentally sustainable communities, more affordable housing resulting from right-sizing parking requirements, and more transportation options.
Paradise should not be paved for the sake of profits at the expense of people.
Matthew Geyer (pictured to the left) chairs the Environmental Justice Task Force at Faith Action for Community Equity; Lauren Reichelt is the clean transportation director at Blue Planet Foundation.