Questions have been swirling about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s plans to develop Kakaako, with many residents concerned about whether the area has adequate sewer, water and street capacity to handle new high rises and thousands of additional people.

During a town hall meeting on Oct. 17, Mayor Kirk Caldwell answered questions from residents about whether Kakaako has adequate infrastructure.

“[Kakaako] actually has more infrastructure than other parts of the urban core,” Caldwell said. “McCully and Moiliili for example cries out for what Kakaako has received.”

But is that true?

Caldwell was talking about the Hawaii Community Development Authority and its large investment in the Kakaako area since the agency was created in 1976.

The HCDA has invested more than $200 million in Kakaako’s infrastructure since the 1980s, said agency spokeswoman Lindsey Doi. That includes improvements to roads, sewers, water pipes, storm drainage and utilities.

HCDA only has jurisdiction over development in Kakaako and Kalaeloa, so that means the state is able to put a lot of money into relatively small areas of the city, enabling infrastructure development that other neighborhoods don’t enjoy.

But comparing infrastructure from one district to another is tough, city officials said.

Civil Beat asked Lori Kahikina, the director of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services, the best way to compare sewer capacity between districts.

She said you can’t.

“You simply cannot measure/compare sewer capacity between districts as each district is unique within its own right,” Kahikina wrote in an email to Civil Beat.

So how does Caldwell know that Kakaako has more sewer infrastructure than other parts of the city like Moiliili and McCully?

Kahikina said Kakaako is getting primed for development so its sewer capacity has increased in recent years, more so than in other parts of the city that aren’t expecting growth.

Barry Usagawa, a program administrator at the Board of Water Supply, said that it’s hard to compare water capacity between districts, but industrial and mixed-use zoning in Kakaako means that the area requires larger pipes and water flows to extinguish fires compared with McCully-Moiliili, which has more residential zoning.

He added that water conservation efforts have freed up 15 million gallons per day since 1990, allowing more capacity for growth.

Usagawa agrees with the mayor that, at least when it comes to water, Kakaako has more larger pipes than McCully-Moiliili. But he noted that Kakaako’s pipes still aren’t as big as those in Waikiki and downtown.

When asked whether Kakaako has more infrastructure than other parts of the city, Honolulu’s director of the Department of Transportation Michael Formby answered, “It depends how you look at it.”

“The transportation infrastructure in Kakaako is well developed given the sparsity of existing development,” Formby said. “In McCully-Moilili, you don’t have the curbing, sidewalks or drainage that exist in Kakaako.”

But the city’s assurances haven’t calmed residents. Some say there are sewer problems on South Street, near the site of planned development. The Honolulu City Council is considering a resolution on Wednesday demanding more information from the city on the issue.

BOTTOM LINE: When compared to McCully-Moiliili, Kakaako does appear to have more sewer, water and street capacity in place. Kakaako may not have as much infrastructure when compared with Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, but since the mayor specifically referred to McCully-Moiliili, we find his statement to be TRUE.

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