Since 2010, I have been honored to take part in planning Ho‘opili, a community that will encourage healthy living, public transit and urban agriculture. On Thursday, Civil Beat ran an op-ed by Choon James, who challenged Ho‘opili as a model of sustainability.

In her article, Ms. James writes that we should carefully examine and connect the dots to see the bigger picture. And I agree.

However, what was missing from Ms. James’ piece was a cohesive picture of Ho‘opili. There was no mention of its urban agriculture program, its walkable design, its partnerships with small farmers, or its range of housing options at all price levels. In a piece so concerned with examining the details, the lack of facts about Ho‘opili was alarming. As vice president of D.R. Horton – Schuler Division, I would like to take this time to connect the dots and help readers see a clearer picture of what Ho‘opili offers to Hawai‘i.

Use of Arable Land

Ms. James is concerned that Ho‘opili will displace Hawai‘i’s prime farmlands, causing “irreparable harm to Oahu’s well-being.” However, the numbers show that this fear is unfounded. The state of Hawai‘i has more than 280,000 acres of arable land reserved for agriculture, and Ho‘opili’s 1,375 acres of arable land accounts for only a small portion of this. Ho‘opili is not the last of O‘ahu’s 42,000 acres of agriculture land.

In addition, the state Agribusiness Development Corporation is in the process of acquiring 1,700 acres of prime agricultural land, formerly home to Wahiawa pineapple fields. Opponents of Ho‘opili can be assured that these lands, known as the Galbraith Estate, will be in the hands of those who will protect these precious acres. I hope to see the state Agribusiness Development Corporation continuing to take title to more agriculture lands in the future.

Relationships with Small Commercial Farmers

Ho‘opili is building partnerships with small commercial farms by offering land and resources to help grow their businesses. We recently entered into an agreement with Ho Farms whereby Ho Farms indicated its intent to relocate its operations to Ho‘opili.

Ho Farms, which is currently planned to occupy 18 acres of Ho‘opili’s land, plans to use gulch and former sugarcane lands to build greenhouses and further expand its field crop operations. The controlled conditions will allow for continuous production of grape and cherry tomatoes and Japanese cucumbers. Ho‘opili supports the efforts of farmers who use innovative techniques to bring farming into the twenty-first century, and we aim to conserve water and increase crop yield through a transition from land-intensive techniques to method-intensive techniques.

Urban Agriculture Initiative

Like Ms. James, we too are concerned about food security. That’s why we have designed an urban agriculture initiative, and we have designated 15 percent of Ho‘opili’s developable acreage to backyard farming, steward farm lots, farmers’ markets and small commercial farming. We’re looking back to an older model of self-reliance – growing and sharing food from your backyard. D.R. Horton – Schuler Division encourages people to live more sustainably by growing more of the food they eat.
D.R. Horton – Schuler Division has already shown that incorporating home gardens into the community is possible. At our Kahiwelo at Makakilo development, residents can choose from aquaponics systems as well as garden beds to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and fish.

Support for our urban agriculture initiative is deep-rooted and includes many of Hawai‘i’s agriculture experts. From the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, to the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation, to Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms, who designed Ho‘opili’s urban agriculture initiative, we have sought the guidance and approval of local agriculture experts. In addition, Ho‘opili has the support of Sugarland Farms and Aloun Farms, which are committed to anchoring diversified agriculture at Ho‘opili for decades.

Working with the Community

I am saddened by Ms. James’ claim that developers do not know or care what Hawai‘i is about. D.R. Horton- Schuler Division has taken the time to listen carefully to the community and has worked with a 32-member task force to ensure that Ho‘opili reflects the best interests of the public. Ho‘opili has received the unanimous approval of three surrounding neighborhood boards. We listen to the community and have a history of working closely with the public.

Affordable Housing and Options

Who will occupy these new homes? D.R. Horton – Schuler Division will offer a range of housing options, of which thousands are planned to be affordable housing, as defined by the City and County guidelines. Town homes, senior housing, and single-family homes are some of the options planned to be offered to residents.

D.R. Horton – Schuler Division has already developed a prototype of affordable rental housing at Ko‘oloa‘ula. As the general contractor for this affordable rental housing community right next door to Ho‘opili, we hope to recreate the success of this development at Ho‘opili.

Reducing Car Usage

As a “walkable” community, Ho‘opili is designed as a community in which residents can live and work in the same neighborhood. Ho‘opili aims to reduce car usage and use fewer natural resources by encouraging residents to use bike and pedestrian paths as well as conveniently placed public transit stops. Bus stops are planned to be placed within five to ten minutes walking distance of any point within the community. Two rail stops are also planned to be offered at Ho‘opili, and construction is already underway.

An example of our “walkable” design for Ho‘opili can already be seen in our communities at Mehana – Nanala, Pulewa and La Hiki. Mehana is already 30 percent built out in Kapolei, and it offers residents options like “live-work” homes, nearby businesses, affordable housing and market housing. These options allow buyers to live and work in the same neighborhood, or even the same apartment. As a result, only 33 percent of primary buyers have business addresses in downtown Honolulu.
By taking cars off the road, we aim to be a solution to traffic.

Traffic Solutions

D.R. Horton – Schuler Division has been a part of the ‘Ewa plain for decades and has taken many steps towards alleviating traffic.

Ho‘opili will contribute an estimated $30 million to the ‘Ewa Highway Transportation Master Plan Impact Fee Bill, which collects monies for such roadway widening and improvements on the North-South Road, Kapolei Parkway, Fort Weaver Road, Fort Barrette Road, Makakilo Interchange, Kapolei Interchange and many more.

Ho‘opili is also planned to provide land for the widening and improvement of Farrington Highway. In addition, Ho‘opili is expected to provide a new stretch of the East-West Connector Road, which will extend from Farrington Highway through the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu. These improvements and land dedications equate to more than $100 million in transportation improvements in the area.

Hopes for Ho‘opili

In the end, I believe D.R. Horton – Schuler Division has a hope and vision for Hawai‘i similar to Ms. James. We envision a secure future for our families, our community and future generations. We, too, see the warning signs of Hawai‘i’s challenges. As a company that cares about the community in which we live and work, issues like food sustainability, affordable housing for locals and traffic issues are our concerns too.

D.R. Horton – Schuler Division is offering solutions to combat these challenges by building a model of sustainable living. We hope that the public can join us in offering creative solutions. And when you connect the dots, our hope is that you will see that Ho‘opili will be a community that will encourage healthy living and help to grow an economic center in West O‘ahu.

About the author: Cameron Nekota is vice president at D.R. Horton – Schuler Division, a role in which he is responsible for overseeing the land use entitlement process for Ho‘opili.