Emergency Proclamation Forces False Choice On Housing Versus Heritage - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Kiersten Faulkner

Kiersten Faulkner is executive director of the Historic Hawaii Foundation.

Mara Mulrooney

Mara Mulrooney is president of the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology and has co-authored this column on behalf of its board of directors.

Hawaii cannot place already endangered and irreplaceable cultural and natural resources at further risk.

On July 17, Gov. Josh Green signed the Emergency Proclamation Related to Housing. In it, the governor cites “lengthy and cumbersome planning, zoning, and permitting processes” and studies that have called for their streamlining. Instead of offering lasting and meaningful solutions to involved review processes, the governor has suspended “all the laws that get in our way.”

The emergency proclamation may have serious adverse impacts to Hawaii’s historic places, as well as the ability to provide appropriate protections for iwi kupuna.

Historic Hawaii Foundation and the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology have a shared mission to preserve, promote, and respect the unique historic properties that enrich our understanding and appreciation of Hawaii’s history. Among the seven laws that are being suspended through the emergency proclamation are Chapter 6E HRS Historic Preservation Program, and Chapter 343 HRS Environmental Impact Statements.

We agree that affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues facing the state. However, historic preservation and environmental protections are themselves important societal objectives.

The state of Hawaii cannot place the already endangered and irreplaceable cultural and natural resources of our islands at further risk. The environmental and cultural resources that Chapter 6E and Chapter 343 aim to safeguard are not renewable resources; once they are destroyed to make way for development, they can never be restored.

Hawaii’s Soul Jeopardized

The emergency proclamation sets up a false choice between providing housing or protecting Hawaii’s unique and special places. These goals are not and should not be mutually exclusive.

The historic places, natural resources, scenic beauty, and exceptional culture of Hawaii are among the strongest reasons people want to live here. In the urgency to address housing, the emergency proclamation is jeopardizing the soul of Hawaii.

Affordable Housing Kuilei Place Apartments
Hawaii desperately needs more housing, but it should not come at the sacrifice of cultural and natural resources. (Ku‘u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2023)

The proclamation suspends all state laws protecting cultural resources, including archaeological sites, historic architecture, and burials. It strips authority from a team of trained professionals at the State Historic Preservation Division who have specific expertise in the historic preservation review process. This authority has been transferred into the hands of a single individual, a lead housing officer who has no qualifications or expertise to make decisions about historic preservation.

Under this scheme, the LHO will consult with — but not be bound by the recommendations of — a working group of representatives from state agencies and other organizations, the majority of whom likewise have no historic preservation expertise. The LHO and working group are charged with the goal to “steward housing projects through the development process.” Preserving and safeguarding Hawaii’s irreplaceable cultural heritage is incidental to, and may be sacrificed for, these projects.

Instead of working to improve the existing historic preservation review process, this emergency proclamation has effectively eliminated the established laws, replacing them with “rules” that unilaterally rewrite the laws governing historic preservation.

This re-envisioned, streamlined “process” has been designed with the explicit aim of fast-tracking development. It lacks transparency, is contradictory, and offers a naïve and inadequate approach to historic preservation review.

The proclamation suspends all state laws protecting cultural resources, including archaeological sites, historic architecture, and burials.

Among the new “rules,” the emergency proclamation requires a project proponent to identify and analyze the cultural and environmental impacts of a project. The LHO, in consultation with the working group, is then tasked with determining the project’s effect on historic properties.

The LHO and working group have neither sufficient experience nor access to the historic property information compiled and held by SHPD.

Based on this limited information, the LHO will decide whether an area merits further study prior to its development. If the wrong course of action is determined, the result could mean the destruction and desecration of historic properties and burials.

The emergency proclamation’s revised “rules,” which were developed without the input of those most affected by them, will significantly disenfranchise descendant communities from participating in the care of their iwi kupuna.

These rules do not allow adequate time to recognize cultural or lineal descendants who must have a voice in the care of their ancestors. This EP removes the time and space necessary for meaningful consultation, effectively undoing any progress made towards restoring agency to Native Hawaiian communities in the care of iwi kupuna.

Descendent communities of individuals deemed to not be Native Hawaiian are treated even more harshly as they have no ability to even be involved in the process. Historic properties that are not related to human remains — including those listed in the Hawaii Register of Historic Places — are given even less consideration.

Cultural identity and historic places should not be sacrificed as collateral damage to other societal needs or issues. Indeed, the purpose of the historic preservation review process is to find ways that the state of Hawaii can both house its people and honor the islands’ history in ways that allow present and future generations to learn from the past and inspire a better future.

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About the Authors

Kiersten Faulkner

Kiersten Faulkner is executive director of the Historic Hawaii Foundation.

Mara Mulrooney

Mara Mulrooney is president of the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology and has co-authored this column on behalf of its board of directors.

Latest Comments (0)

Thank you CB for publishing this article. This is absolutely unacceptable and clearly abuse of power by county and state officials and their needs to be heavy consequences moving forward. The Hilo councilwoman leloy district 3 and all council members that supported this false emergency proclamation B.S. including the former prosecuting attorney for Hawaii County and now mayor Mitchell roth. The gov. Joshua green, and his nominee he appointed Dawn Chang to DLNR director/chair that at least one dozen people that is responsible for breaking law. The 4 with the intention of creating a fake emergency and then following up with the proclamation district 3 councilwoman leloy , DLNR director , Hawaii County mayor and the governor, must be charged with crimes for falsifying and emergency proclamation documents through abusing their authority and powers upon the people of this fake state with their corrupt government acts. To suspend laws only to break laws through a EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION. Their reason of emergency does not fulfill the definition nor holds the integrity of an emergency especially within a proclamation. The last election was rigged and this project isn’t affordable housing

Publictrust · 2 months ago

Nothing like ruffling more than a few feathers!If folks generally were more informed, and understood natural and cultural history concerns, then hands could be raised during planning. Oh. There are like iwi kupuna there (As in all the developed areas of Honolulu, built before Burial Council laws.] Oh. Get the last patch of wiliwili there in Kapolei. Oh. Az OK. We goinʻ bulldoze anʻ plant sum moah. Nevah mine da ghoses. No be sked.Folks in various communities often lack understandings of place, and Legislators are worse. Clueless. Yes, sacrifices and compromises must be made, but first, gotta know what get.Less expensive housing? Repeal most building codes, or go back to those (if had) of the 1930s or 40s. Increase density with thoughtfully designed complexes. UH School of Architecture, anyone? Stop saying No Can (because of the law, code regulations). Tell us how Can! Get rid of Pilau Crooks so multimillion towers arenʻt built in Kakaako for the wealthy. [Has anyone done subsurface salinity testing of the groundwaters there? Seems like should be salty. Salt + rebar + cement = Maybe not so good and towers goinʻ huli?Itʻs a Kākou Thing! Cʻmon!!! Can!

Patutoru · 2 months ago

Another opinion article that fails to recommend solutions or provide irrefutable evidence as many others have stated. What should be a greater outrage is the amount of destruction our cultural sites and likely iwi kapuna have already endured because of homelessness. Take a look at our coastlines on the West and East sides of the island; have they not seen what happen to Lake Wilson? Gov Green is justified with this emergency proclamation on account of the pervasiveness of homelessness. The drugs, crime, and perpetuation of the problem should be enough to justify his action. The solutions are reforming density zoning, opening up a housing construction boom on the remaining ewa plain out towards Kunia. In Kunia, this would mean that agriculturally zoned lands should be opened up for urban development. There should be accelerated development between Waipahu and Mililani. Hawaiian Homesteads in Waimanalo and Nanakuli should be expanded and include apartment complexes. If we are really ambitious than a ferry between Molokai and Oahu should be re-established so that people can move to Molokai and work on Oahu (I know we tried this, and these same activists shut it down).

Akamai_ideas · 2 months ago

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