There’s always something interesting going on at Honolulu Hale.

Civil Beat is reporting from the inside.

3:06 p.m. Congestion Tolls in Honolulu … Someday

The final item on the Transportation Committee today is a report evaluating the idea of creating a “cordon” around Downtown Honolulu that would charge drivers a toll of $5, $7.50 or $10 to enter the zone where traffic is the worst — the “central business district.”

The report looked at the impact on traffic in 2035. Department of Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka told the committee that such a toll regime would discourage driving and encourage mass transit.

“This does hold some promise for travel demand management, but we need to think about waiting until we have the other mode in place before moving forward on this,” he said, a reference to the city’s planned high-capacity train system that would give travelers another option.

The program is still a ways off, and today’s conversation was just the first airing of the report. With some small housekeeping matters being wrapped up now, the last of the week’s seven committee meetings will soon be pau.

2:20 p.m. HART Here, HART There

The hottest topic of conversation — the financial health of contractor Ansaldo’s parent company — was restricted at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board of Directors meeting this morning.

Read Civil Beat‘s full story on HART’s handling of that matter here.

HART ran from 10 a.m. until a few minutes before 1 p.m., when Interim Executive Director Toru Hamayasu walked from the Mission Memorial conference room back to Honolulu Hale for the Honolulu City Council‘s Transportation Committee meeting.

The main discussion here at the meeting has focused on HART’s acquisition of properties along the rail route and the council’s desire to be kept abreast of updates — particularly if and when properties need to be condemned and acquired via eminent domain.

10:47 a.m. Zoning Appeals Board Appointments Advance

UPDATED 1:11 p.m. Two of Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s appointees to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals were approved by the Honolulu City Council‘s Zoning and Planning Committee this morning, moving the board closer to a quorum.

The appointments of Lyle Ishida and Antonio Saguibo Jr. will now move to the full Council. If confirmed, the two new members would provide the warm bodies needed to rule on the controversial Kyo-ya hotel redevelopment in Waikiki.1

The permit approvals granted by the Department of Planning and Permitting were appealed by environmentalists to the ZBA, which has been unable to take up the matter due to multiple conflicts of interests disclosed by board members.

10:08 a.m. Committee Moves Sign Bill Forward

The Zoning and Planning Committee moved Bill 47 out for second reading and public hearing at the full Honolulu City Council a few minutes ago despite concerns from the administration and even the city’s lawyers.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Dawn Takeuchi Apuna said the bill would be in trouble constitutionally because by specifying “noncommercial” signs, it unfairly targets political speech and should be changed to render it “content-neutral.”

She pointed to Article 7 of the Land Use Ordinance, which regulates all signs in the City and County of Honolulu.

Takeuchi Apuna acknowledged it was “difficult to argue with a constitutional law professor” — that’s Jon Van Dyke, who said the bill would withstand a constitutional challenge.

Committee Chair Ikaika Anderson decided to go with the expert over his own lawyers, saying that Van Dyke’s testimony made him confident the law would be “constitutionally sound” and would have a “legal leg to stand on.” He said he didn’t want to live in fear of a potential lawsuit and was confident enough to move the measure forward.

Committee members Ann Kobayashi, Tulsi Gabbard, Breene Harimoto and Romy Cachola all expressed support for the measure, though some suggested they would be open to changing the language down the road to further protect the city from lawsuits.

9:47 a.m. Moratorium Lifted on New Sewer Connections in Waimanalo

From a city press release:

The City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services announced today it has lifted a moratorium on new sewer connections in the Waimanalo Wastewater Treatment Plant service area.

The moratorium has been in place since Nov. 26, 1991, from Makapu‘u Point to Bellows Air Force Station, making up the Waimanalo WWTP service area.

The plant, built in 1968, is owned by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, but has been operated by the City since its inception. The state is in the process of finalizing documents to turn the plant over to the City. The plant was able to process 800,000 gallons a day before the state spent $21 million in upgrades, including expanding capacity to 1.1 million gallons a day.

Currently, the Waimanalo WWTP processes about 600,000 gallons of sewage per day to a secondary treatment level, using 10 underground injection wells approximately 200 feet deep.

9:26 a.m. Free Speech vs. Open Space

The Honolulu City Council‘s Zoning and Planning Committee is now working on Bill 47, which would regulate the use of noncommercial signs on private property.

Bob Loy of the Outdoor Circle is in favor of the proposal, which would restrict signs to no larger than three feet by five feet and would limit the number of identical signs on one property to three. He complained about the visual blight caused by political signage, particularly in Honolulu’s rural areas.

Jiro Sumada, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, said the administration is opposed to the measure for two reasons. One, It would be difficult to enforce the provision about “identical” signage, and the law would be a target for lawsuits challenging it on First Amendment grounds.

University of Hawaii Constitutional Law Professor Jon Van Dyke said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that while people are allowed to post political signs on their property, that signage can be regulated. Lower courts have upheld such regulations — one jurisdiction implemented a 15-inch-by-15-inch limit that’s considerably smaller than the proposal for Honolulu.

“We don’t need to be nervous about this,” Van Dyke said. “This is part of zoning, and while you can’t prohibit signs altogether, you can regulate them.”

8:16 a.m. Today’s Committees

Two Honolulu City Council committees are scheduled to meet today. Here are the agendas:

Three committees met Tuesday, and two met yesterday.

Where’s Carlisle?

Mayor Peter Carlisle is in Japan all this week, and has no local public events.

Read Previous Editions of Inside Honolulu

August 3: Board Defends Rate Hike; Appointee Asked About Water Rates; Tow Trucking Debated; Seniors, Disabled Ask for Help; ORI Discussion Coming Soon; Today’s Committees; Fewer Golfers, More Money; Chang’s Public Service; Where’s Carlisle?

August 2: Case Closed, Not Decided; City Rests, Ansaldo Satisfied; City Witness Rebuts Sumitomo; Ireland, Silva Like Merger; Talking Merger; No Competition for Carlisle; Berg: GOP “Party of the Skin Heads”; Today’s Committees; Want Train? Get Brains; Where’s Carlisle?

August 1: Across the Street?; Waipahu Board Backs Hoopili; Executive Session?; Ansaldo Responds; Rail Appeal Continues, With Questions Churning About Ansaldo; Sewage Spill in Kailua; Where’s Carlisle?

  1. An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Glenn Miyasato was appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. He was actually appointed to the Building Board of Appeals.

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