Mayor Kirk Caldwell today allowed to become law a bill aimed at speeding up the processing of building permits for one- and two-family houses, although he dislikes the bill and says it may make the Department of Planning and Permitting’s issues worse than already exist.
Under the bill, DPP will be required to process applications for one- and two-family dwellings within 60 days of receiving them, provided they are submitted under the city’s one-time review process.
Meanwhile, Caldwell announced that he is introducing a series of seven initiatives that will allow DPP to streamline the permitting process. Among the changes: Allowing all permit applications utilizing third-party review to be accepted without re-checking or spot-checking; rejecting incomplete permit applications immediately; limiting review cycles for both residential and commercial projects to no more than three; hiring additional plan checkers; and establishing “Malama Mondays” where plan examiners will devote one entire day a week to addressing backlogged permit applications.
While it’s not his preference to allow permits for smaller residential projects to step to the front of the line, possibly delaying permits for larger high-rise or commercial buildings, “we want to see how it goes,” the mayor said to reporters while standing in front of DPP’s One Stop Permit Center at the Frank Fasi Municipal Building.
Caldwell said he would have preferred the bill not be passed and that the Council allow for his initiatives to be implemented and tested first.
Bill 64 was approved 9-0 by the Honolulu City Council Nov. 14. If Caldwell had vetoed the bill, six of the nine Council members would have been needed for an override.
The bill was introduced by Council Chairman Ernie Martin and was prompted by an increasing number of complaints about the permitting delays. The Building Industry Association, as well as individual builders, contractors, engineers and architects say the length of time necessary to obtain permits make it difficult for them to build houses efficiently, sometimes resulting in financial losses and layoffs.
Some said they need to wait a year or longer for their permits.
Kathy Sokugawa, DPP acting director, testified against the bill. She said putting building permits for one category ahead of others means longer delays for those other projects – including high-rise condominiums.