Governor’s Emergency Proclamation Addresses Regulatory Barriers - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Craig Watase

Craig Watase is the president of Mark Development, an affordable housing developer and property management company since 1977.

Many regarding historic preservation and archaeological sites have actually been unnecessary.

While it is understandable that Kiersten Faulkner and Mara Mulrooney take their position advocating for important historic and archaeological sites in Hawaii (“Emergency Proclamation Forces False Choice On Housing Versus Heritage”), the reality is that those laws Gov. Josh Green is suspending will improve the speed and cost of the delivery of housing to Hawaii’s residents and has a review process that protects historic and archeological sites.

The governor’s emergency proclamation addresses many of the regulatory barriers. Many of those barriers regarding historic preservation and archeological sites have been, in many instances, unnecessary. 

On many developments, hundreds of thousands of dollars and valuable time are wasted on studies and approvals. Take, for example, land that had been farmed for centuries that we try to convert to housing. Why do we need to have historic or archeological surveys? The land has been plowed over hundreds of times. But environmental assessments are required anyway.

We see archeologist creating work for themselves saying that a 100-year-old, dilapidated plantation home should preserved or studied further. Really? There is nothing historic about a rotting house. Take a picture of it and put it on your website before the termites leave and it falls down. 

Kakaako Condominium construction.
Kakaako condominium construction. Gov. Green’s emergency proclamation on housing is welcomed by some developers. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

A few years ago, my company was doing a rehab and preservation (preserve as affordable) of a 75-unit senior project in Kakaako. While Kakaako is known for iwi (bones), this site was dug up and built 30 years prior. Our plans called for putting some 6-inch paver blocks over our small grassed frontage so that our tenants would have a couple more spaces for visitors to park and drop off or pick up seniors.

In reviewing the plans, the State Historic Preservation Division required us to hire an archeologist to monitor the work at a cost of over $100,000. We argued that the sprinkler system was deeper than what we were proposing but ultimately had to remove that part of the renovation from our plans.

Developers could tell you hundreds of such stories. Yet these laws exist because there has been irresponsible development. However, the governor’s emergency proclamation gives us the ability to fast track land that common sense says the safeguards are not needed. 

I agree with the article that we should work to improve the existing historic preservation review. As a past president of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, I’ve seen our Government Relations Committee work towards these ends only to be faced with extreme opposing positions by environmental and preservation groups.

We should work to improve the existing historic preservation review.

NIMBYs apply political pressure to legislators and Honolulu City Council members to prevent lands that are not productive ag land from being re-zoned. And because only a small portion of Hawaii’s land is classified urban, preservationist create the economics that cause residential land to be so expensive.

Historic preservationist would have you believe “Hawaii’s Soul (is) Jeopardized.” I would argue that Hawaii loses her soul when more Native Hawaiians are living on the mainland than in Hawaii because of the high cost of housing. Hawaii loses her soul when our police, fire fighters, teachers, nurses, hotel workers and our children must move away because of the high cost of housing.

We need to thank Gov. Green and his housing chief Nani Medeiros for being brave enough to make this emergency proclamation. I’m sure they knew they were going to catch flak.

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About the Author

Craig Watase

Craig Watase is the president of Mark Development, an affordable housing developer and property management company since 1977.

Latest Comments (0)

Brace yourselves, misleading references of urban classification of lands are coming!Although Mr. Watase only mentionsThis alludes to the "Land Use Research Foundation’s" (LURF) claim that "only 5% of Hawaii’s land is classified as urban," which they cite the State’s data. Reviewing the land use boundaries, you’ll see that over 180,000 acres in the Puna District are classified as Agricultural land (consider the myriad of housing subdivisions and suburban growth), there are similar housing and growth arguments on classified Ag lands for the North Hilo, Hamakua, and South Kona Districts. The islands’ mountains are all classified as Conservation District and take up a significant amount of space. The BLNR provides exceptions to develop in these respective areas—the Koolau + Waianae equates to over 151,000 acres (for example, Oahu’s total acreage is 386,188), Kauai’s Waialeale is over 187,000 acres, West Maui Mts + Haleakala are over 201,000 acres, and Maunakea, Maunaloa, and Kilauea are over 1 million acres of Conservation land. Scarce urban land claims don’t acknowledge these land use exceptions.

AICP · 1 month ago

Im confused. This developer is saying that he had a housing project in a "high sensitivity area" but is complaining that was forced to have an archeologist there during construction. Bruh. the EP says that he has to do an archeological survey automatic since he is in a "high sensitivity area", so would have cost him more. Maybe he should read the EP before touting how it would have helped him. I dont know anyone who says no need archeology in Kakaako. Lots of Iwi Kupuna are resting in that area, $100k is a small price for a private developer to pay to make sure our iwi kupuna are not desecrated. The archeologists even find iwi fragments only a foot below the ground sometimes. Happy they didnt find anything, but good that they had an archeologist there just in case.

protecthawaiinow · 1 month ago

I agree that much of the regulatory hoops and red tape are ridiculous and unnecessary. However, it is crucial that we do not allow our executives to usurp power that does not rest in their office through emergency proclamations. This is a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope. Soon we will be told that there is a banking emergency or a climate emergency and we will all just have to comply with illegitimate rules or be censored and debanked. If you think this is wild speculation, you have been napping for the last three years. Once the state assumes a new power, they never relinquish it.

LibertyAbides · 1 month ago

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