Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, chair of the council zoning committee, removed consideration of a proposed high rise near Ala Moana from a committee meeting agenda Tuesday because of concerns about the developer’s plan to include a separate entrance to the building’s lower-cost rental units.
The developer of ProsPac Tower is seeking a transit-oriented development special permit, which waives zoning requirements for projects near planned rail stations if the developers provide community benefits, like affordable housing.
Seventy-eight of ProsPac Tower’s units would be considered affordable to people earning 80 percent or less of area median income ($58,600 for an individual).
Pine said Wednesday she took the proposal off the committee agenda so the developer could have more time to talk to opponents of the separate entrance.
“I felt that this was something that we could all come together and work out,” Pine said. “We just needed more time to clarify everyone’s intent.”
Pine said concerns about the separate entrance are legitimate. She added that her focus is on ensuring the project includes affordable units, which are not required for the special permit.
“My biggest fear is that we’ll lose the 80 percent (AMI) affordable(units) because we’re debating a door,” Pine said, adding “every concern to me as the zoning chair is very valid.”
Of three special TOD permits the council has approved so far, two projects include no affordable units in their extra-tall towers. One approved Wednesday would be 250 feet tall and include 33 affordable units.
ProsPac Tower would be 400 feet high in an area where zoning would normally restrict it to 250 feet. It also would nearly quadruple the normally allowed density.
Current plans call for residents of the ProsPac Tower’s 351 market-rate condominiums to enter the building from Keeaumoku Street. Those living in the building’s 78 rental units would enter from Makaloa Street.
Similar proposals in New York City drew criticism from affordable housing advocates who see separate entrances as a way to segregate residents based on economic status. The design is sometimes referred to as a “poor door.”
Shayreen Lum of Bennet Group, a spokeswoman for the developer, had no comments Wednesday morning.
In an earlier interview with Civil Beat, Daniel Simonich, the building’s assistant project manager, said having separate entrances is more feasible than a single entrance because the affordable units will be managed by a different company than the market-rate units.
Before she removed the item from her committee’s agenda, Pine offered amendments to the ProsPac proposal, including adding 19 units to the project that would be considered affordable to people earning 120 percent or below of the area median income ($103,920 for an individual).
Last week the developer declined to comment on Pine’s proposed changes.
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