Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has appointed Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, the acting director of the city’s planning and permitting department, to take on the job permanently, the mayor’s office announced on Thursday.

DPP Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna assists with media questions during Mayor Blangiardi's press conference held at Honolulu Hale.
DPP Acting Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna is an attorney with a background in urban planning. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Takeuchi Apuna has been leading the department on an acting basis since September when former director Dean Uchida resigned citing “philosophical differences” with the mayor. She was previously DPP’s deputy director.

“Having worked extensively with Dawn for nearly the past two years in her role as deputy director of DPP, I have seen firsthand her exceptional decision making and problem solving skills,” Blangiardi said in a statement.

Takeuchi Apuna will undergo a confirmation process at the Honolulu City Council.

The appointment is a vote of confidence in Takeuchi Apuna at a crucial time. The department has been under fire this year. Permitting times have soared to unprecedented levels, leaving property owners and members of the construction industry begging for mercy.

Blangiardi has pledged to make it right and said on Thursday that Takeuchi Apuna is up to the task.

“Dawn has a complete grasp of the enormity of the challenge facing her and her team at DPP, and I have every confidence she possesses the vision, grit and determination to create the best path forward as we look toward unprecedented improvement in this critical component of City operations,” he said.

Takeuchi Apuna is committed to increasing staffing and implementing technological upgrades that will drastically reduce permitting times for residential and commercial projects, the mayor’s office said in a press release.

“It is an incredible privilege to be appointed director at this pivotal time,” Takeuchi Apuna said in a statement. “Inspired by the hard work of our staff, and in collaboration with the administration, City Council and industry, I am excited and determined to do all I can to lead the department toward optimum efficiency, effectiveness and integrity in service to the public.”

Before joining the city in 2021, Takeuchi Apuna served as a Hawaii deputy attorney general, the chief planner for the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, and as a deputy corporation counsel for the City and County of Honolulu.

She earned her undergraduate degree in urban planning and her law degree from the University of California.

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