by Ken Obenski
Hawai’i already has the worst business climate in America, primarily because of an excess of rigid planning. Nothing can happen until countless bureaucrats have had their hand in it, and their hand moves with the speed of a glacier, often in the wrong direction. Hawai`i’s lack of progress is not due to a lack of planning, but rather to, more than anything else, an excess. Block anything that’s not in the plan. So here comes even more rigid planning to lock in an imaginary future, and lock out true progress. But wait it’s not even a plan, it’s only a vision. A plan has to have a budget and a timetable. The Kona Community Development Plan has neither. Instead it’s a vision of someone’s utopia.
A vision that is TOO:
• Biased, it starts from unfounded assumptions, such as that planners can see the future correctly and that mass transit is always superior.
• Cliché ridden, it uses sloganeering to make it easy to rally the useful uninformed.
• Contradictory, it starts out with “keep Kona Kona”, but imposes all these changes to try to make it like Paris.
• Convoluted, it is almost impossible for anyone to comprehend the internal relationships.
• Complicated, it incorporates details that are best published separately, such as street design and tree planting.
• Dictatorial, it sets land use and design rules that amount to taking of private property.
• Expensive, the whole thing ignores implementation cost in a county that resists funding anything west of Mauna Kea.
• Hard to enforce, the multitude of minute regulations would take an army of enforcers.
• Hostile to agriculture, adds even more barriers, like no water south of Ho`okena
• Ideological, grounded in unfounded assumptions about transit and lifestyle preferences.
• Ignorant, it ignores the magic power of the automobile, and ignores the severe limitations of transit in a low density community.
• Impractical, it assumes that so called urban villages and walkable neighborhoods will thrive in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
• Inadaptable, it assumes that the planners anticipate the needs and lifestyle of the future, then seek to impose it.
• Intrusive, removes many choices and takes private property without consideration or compensation.
• Isolated, there seems to be no connection to the Hawai’i County General Plan
• Jargon laden, the language creates a mystique of science where none actually exists. TND, TOD fifteen pages of definitions and abbreviations. What the hell is a pedestrian shed? When did alley become “allee” and mean a line of trees. Many definitions disguise additional regulation. “Bus rapid transit” means a dedicated busses-only highway.
• Long, its very length discourages any attempt to comprehend and critique.
• Manipulative, it tells the people what’s good for them, and imposes it.
• Restrictive, the attitude does not allow for future demands or innovation
• Rigid, the structure has no provision for periodic revision.
• Specific, right down to locating trees along roads not yet built. Then what, the color of our curtains?
• Unimaginative, it’s just plans from an elementary Urban Planning textbook superimposed on a flat map of Kona.
• Unrealistic, does any rational person believe this utopia if enacted can be consummated by a county government that cannot build 1000 feet of road in eight years and has demonstrated repeatedly that it considers West Hawai`i only as a cash cow to provide money for Hilo amenities?
• Unscheduled, does it progress in stages, or happen all at once? Who can tell? Where is the PERT or CPM chart?
• Urban, after all Kona is a rural district characterized by farms and villages with a small town core.
It is Oblivious to:
• Topography: Why are there circular “pedestrian sheds” on land with a 25% grade? The busses run on the level, the pedestrians trudge up the hills.
• Economics: Most progress comes from independent entrepreneurs who notice a need then seek to fulfill it. The rest comes from leaders who respond to different needs at the appropriate time.
• Future technology: Who in the 18th century would have predicted the streetcar and subway that define large cities? Who in the 19th century would have predicted the automobile would define more modern cities, or the airplane that defines inter-city travel?
Although the Kona CDP references the old County General Plan it is hard to see them as compatible. One is as vague as the other is picayune, but both lack funding and neither has a timetable. What’s more, the things we lack in West Hawai’i (Hokuli`a bypass, parks,) are not due to a lack of planning, they are due to a lack of will to spend county money on anything that does not directly benefit Hilo.
Ken Obenski is a resident of Opihihali email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For information of the Kona CDP final draft released in May and other CDPs see: www.hcrc.info/community-planning/community-development-plans