UPDATED 11/18/11 12:01 a.m.

Some 30,000 homes in the Ewa plain are already zoned and ready for construction, according to several opponents of the master-planned community called Hoopili.

They spoke at a recent Land Use Commission hearing. Developer D.R. Horton is hoping to gain approval for reclassifying 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land for urban use to build 11,750 homes in east Kapolei.

The claims made at the meeting by residents Stuart Scott and Victoria Cannon are a major theme of the anti-Hoopili group Friends of Makakilo.

The group argues “even without the Ho’opili development, 33,000 homes have already been zoned and are ready to be built in the Leeward area, and 20,000 more are planned in the Central area, a total of 55,000 homes without the Ho’opili development.”

Kioni Dudley, president of Friends of Makakilo, who has played a leading role in resistance to the development, told Civil Beat the following via email: “We have enough construction that is shovel-ready to keep our current work force going for more than 20 years. The economy is what is holding things up, not lack of construction projects.”

Civil Beat reviewed documents from Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting, spoke with developers and consulted officials from the construction industry.

Construction Plans

According to the latest version of the Ewa Development Plan, there are 34,805 housing units that have been approved by the Land Use Commission and that have county zoning – two major hurdles in the development process.

Some of the larger developments include about 6,000 units planned for the City of Kapolei, 4,040 units zoned for the University of Hawaii West Oahu campus, 2,500 units for Kapolei West, 6,500 units for Kalaeloa and 3,286 units for Ko Olina Resort.

Ocean Pointe and Hoakalei developments have about 1,850 units still to be built.

There are some errors in the Ewa Development Plan list. For example, Palailai, which has 350 units listed, doesn’t have county zoning, according to Steve Kelly, vice president of development for Kapolei Property Development.

Also, while the 6,500 units designated for Kalaeloa don’t need zoning approval from the county, they still need zoning approval from the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which works to accelerate community development through public-private partnerships. And Kalaeloa lacks infrastructure so is far from being shovel-ready.

Other developments are in the midst of construction, such as the Villages of Kapolei, where about half of 645 homes are complete, according to Bruce Barrett, executive vice president of residential operations for developer, Castle & Cooke. He said that the economy had held up the completion date by about a year and a half.

While the Ewa Development Plan is dated July 2009, Civil Beat found in checks with the major builders that the majority of their units had yet to be built.

But that doesn’t mean their land is shovel-ready. Land re-classification and county zoning approvals are only a couple of the major steps to develop land, according to Kathy Sokugawa, a chief planner at the Department of Planning and Permitting. Developers also have to obtain approval of subdivision and roadway design plans and obtain building permits, she said.

Gaining all the approvals for large developments can take months to years.
Kelly, of Kapolei Property Development, said that there could be 25 to 30 extra conditions at the state and county levels that developers must satisfy, such as infrastructure planning, affordable housing and transportation planning.

The Bottom Line

Civil Beat concludes that the assertion that there are about 30,000 housing units that are zoned and ready for construction is half-true.

There are thousands of housing units that have passed big hurdles in the entitlement process, but this doesn’t mean they are shovel-ready.

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