Editorial: Can’t afford NIMBYism; Seeing Forest for trees; Get ready for mail voting
Every Saturday, we’ll present these short-take editorials to reflect on some of the week’s news.
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Can’t afford NIMBYism
Hawaii has a serious problem supplying its population with affordable housing, and the ever-present NIMBY factor is complicating things even further.
Witness the legal scuffle over Hale Makana O Maili, a two-story apartment project planned on a 2.8-acre parcel on Kulaaupuni Street in Maili, mauka of Farrington Highway. The complex would back up to three cul-de-sacs, adjacent to single-family homes.
And residents of those homes are suing to stop it.
The site had contained 10 homes, six of which will be retained. Six new two-story buildings will be constructed, adding 52 units, including a manager’s home. The developer, Laulima Development, got a zoning exemption from the City Council to allow the added density, under a state law allowing it for affordable housing.
The plaintiffs assert in the complaint that neighbors did not get adequate notice and that environmental review was faulty, and they noted an error in the Council resolution approving the exemption.
Advocates say the case is weak, but whether or not the suit gets dismissed, it may signal potential problems ahead for the state’s ambitious proposals for an affordable-housing construction campaign. If even a small, low-rise project such as this draws fire, what kind of battles will the state have to fight to build the 17,000 units it envisions?
Above all, state Sen. Stanley Chang said recently, success will require “winning hearts and minds.” He might be right about that.
Seeing Forest for trees
Let’s hope the negotiated deal for Sherwood Forest, the site of heated contention between the city and Native Hawaiian activists, holds. It’s a compromise to 11th-hour opposition to a decade-long plan that once enjoyed widespread support.
The agreement, which needs City Council approval, calls for development of four acres of the 74-acre Sherwood’s, also known as Waimanalo Bay Beach Park. That $1.43 million phase will include an 11-stall parking lot, a multipurpose field and drainage system — a big comedown from the original multi-phase plan for a $32 million sports complex and a 470-stall parking lot.
The scale-back comes after a 10-month standoff, the result of protests over cultural concerns that flared last year. When put on the books in 2012, the project to accommodate youth athletics had community support. How priorities have shifted: The current protest-fueled compromise calls for “a cultural and historic park,” to be renamed Hunananiho Park, reflecting its native historic significance.
Confrontation over full-phase development of Sherwood’s peaked on Sept. 26, with 28 protesters arrested for blocking police vehicles escorting an excavator from entering the park. Passionate as those protests were, they remained, commendably, respectful and peaceful.
In contrast: There’s no excuse for malicious vandalism, as occurred in May, when equipment at Sherwood’s was set on fire and damaged. Such malevolent acts, which could quicken escalate to violence or real harm to people, only weaken causes.
Get ready for mail voting
Get ready, Hawaii residents. Under the new statewide system, all registered voters will be mailed ballots about 18 days before this summer’s primary election day, Aug. 8. Completed ballots may be mailed back or deposited at designated drop sites. Either way, the deadline for casting a ballot will be 7 p.m. on election day.
To help smooth the transition from the old system to the new, the state Office of Elections is sending out notices — starting with more than 658,000 reminder postcards that will be arriving in mailboxes within the next week or so. It’s estimated that upwards of 14% of registered voters in Hawaii are inactive because of outdated addresses. Voters who do not receive the postcard are advised to visit olvr.hawaii.gov to check their voter registration information.
Another batch of notices is slated for April, when a “signature capture” card will be mailed to all voters, inviting them to update their signatures — as it’s not uncommon for one’s signature to change in the years after first registering to vote.
Under the new system, voter signatures on file with county clerks will become particularly important because the counties will use sorting machines and trained staff to match them up with the signatures on mail-in ballots to confirm each voter’s identity.
In cases where the old registration signatures don’t match those on mail-in ballots, letters will be mailed to the voter asking for confirmation of the ballot.
A growing number of voters in recent elections have already opted to cast their ballots by mail. Starting this election, though, mail-in voting is the law of the land, with the traditional neighborhood polling precincts a thing of the past. Take the time to get informed — and definitely, spread the word to voting-age family and friends.