Building a Better Hawaii Goes Much Deeper than Rail

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BY LIZ LARSON – With the heated debate over Rail and the concern citizens have over the proposed plans to build a 650 foot skyscraper on 690 Pohukaina Street in Kaka’ako, I thought it would be a good idea to explain why some government agencies and land developers are making the decisions they are making.

You hear the buzz words ‘Transit Oriented Development’, ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Livable Communities,’ but what does that really mean?


According to the Leeward Oahu Transportation Management Association’s Handbook on ‘Creating More Livable Communities’, it means that a community should be built “that is transit-and pedestrian-friendly.”  They outline a plan to build tall, high-density housing and narrow, winding streets with very limited parking to discourage automobile use.

While many of the ideas outlined in the plan would be beneficial, such as building a community with mixed uses for commercial, recreational, and living space, so that long commutes could be decreased and there would be more open park space, the fact that they want to build communities that are unfriendly to cars is a major point of concern that should be discussed by the community.  Having tall buildings with narrow streets and no parking sounds like a nightmare.

Liz Larson

The Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) is currently spearheading the construction of a 650 foot skyscraper on 690 Pohukaina St.  The current height limit is 400 feet.  The community should know that if this project goes through and the height limit is increased to 650 feet, many more skyscrapers will go up in Kaka’ako.

The Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) is an example of the government pushing through construction projects without important public scrutiny.  The PLDC, created in 2011 by the legislature (Act 55), has the authority to develop public lands without having to follow permitting and zoning laws.  Because of this, citizens do not have the ability to have input or control over any of the development that will be happening in their neighborhood on government land.

The community should not be left in the dark about the plans that are being made about high density living, especially in Kaka’ako, where buildings will be taller, density will be higher, and cars will be replaced by rail and other forms of public transportation.

There is a way to develop communities that are automobile friendly and have ample parking and also have good public transportation, bike paths, and safe pedestrian byways.  We want to build a beautiful, prosperous Hawaii where people have choices, not a shoddy, environmentally unsafe Hawaii where people are forced into one mode of living and transportation.


Liz Larson is the Republican nominee in the 12th Senate District.  See more about her at