Feb 28, 2014

The Cost of Preserving Green Space

$25 Million —- that’s the figure the Mayor has come up with to encourage neighborhood development around the rail stations.  TODs.  Transit Oriented Development:  the raison d’etre for rail in the first place.

According to an article in PBN, “Caldwell wants to spend $25 million to fund a rail-related Transit-Oriented Development plan. Of that, $20.3 million would go toward streets, land acquisition for bus and rail hubs, multimodel studies and “catalytic” projects at the Pearlridge and Kapalama stations. The rest would go toward planning.  Caldwell said that the rail will provide opportunities to develop middle-class neighborhoods along the line and that by focusing on development along the urban corridor through the plan, the city can preserve its green space.”

Mayor Caldwell isn’t the only one to be talking about building in order to preserve green space.  The Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP) with its “same great O`ahu” campaign is also saying — not just implying — that we want to keep the country country and by building a “whole new way of urban living” we can do that.   So are these promises or are they threats?

Too bad we can’t make them sign in blood.  Using keep the country country (PRP) and preserving green space (Mayor Caldwell) are catch phrases that are designed to make us believe that the trade off is worth it, if it is in fact a real trade off.   This seems really sneaky to me.  Especially since, as I have said before, all the land zoned for development on O`ahu would have been built out by 2005.  But!  Presto Change-o!  Rezone Ag land and you can build forever.   I don’t know if there is a catalog of  Ag land that has been rezoned for development  since 2005, but it would be interesting to see it.

Now that rail is a reality, of course we need TODs.  Fooled me there!  I ignorantly thought that the developers of the TODs would be paying for the streets as a condition of building around the rail stations. But gee whiz, it turns out we should pay for the streets and get the land prepped for developers (land acquisition by eminent domain, I think).  Someone will be making money on this, but I am not sure who.

One item I read said that advertising ON the bus (yes I am going there again) could raise as much as $20 million annually.  Coincidence, or is it more?  Bus transit pays for Rail transit development.  I bet they aren’t planning on putting ads on their shiny new trains.

Since they are using “green space” and “well, keeping the country country” (BTW the guy who says this in the PRP commercial is  standing in a parking lot) it seems like somewhere, somehow there should be some kind of guarantee that green space will be preserved and exactly what that green space will be.  And keeping the country country.  What exactly does that mean?   I can only say that development around all the rail stations, 14 new condominiums, and a “new kind of urban living” in Kaka’ako seems like a lot.  Is there a plan here for keeping green space and country country?  Or are these throwaway lines that are supposed to draw us in?



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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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