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Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Can BJ Penn tap out broken zoning code?
By News Release @ 4:24 PM :: 3433 Views :: Maui County, Development, Land Use

The Truth About Gov. Green’s Emergency Proclamation on Housing

News Release from Sterling Higa, Housing Hawaii’s Future, Sept 19, 2023

Nani Medeiros resigned as lead housing officer.

And Gov. Green amended his emergency proclamation on housing to restore environmental review (Chapter 343) and historical preservation (Chapter 6E).

The group won’t bypass the Land Use Commission, and Sunshine Law is restored.

Great, right?

Well, sort of.

The new version of the EP will piss off fewer people.

But, truth is, the governor can’t solve the housing crisis on his own.

The initial version of the EP wasn’t going to solve the housing crisis.

In its initial form, the EP could only speed up existing housing developments and give government agencies more flexibility in hiring and procurement.

But the EP didn’t and doesn’t create any permanent change in government.

We need our legislature and county councils to do that.

The EP doesn’t change land use and zoning policy. And it only indirectly speeds up permitting.

It treats symptoms, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem, especially on neighbor islands.

The Problem is Government Regulation

There are two types of people:  Those who have tried to pull building permits and those who have not.

Those who’ve interacted with permitting departments understand that government is not working.

At least, it seems like government only works for large developers, and that’s no accident.

Hawai‘i’s four counties have the most housing regulations in the country.

And heavily regulated industries tend toward consolidation.

Large companies can afford armies of lawyers, planning consultants, and lobbyists to push projects through our broken government.

Large developers can survive lawsuits and wait a decade or more for project approval (think D. R. Horton’s Ho‘opili or Castle & Cooke’s Koa Ridge).

Meanwhile, NIMBYs freak out over any increase in density in urban areas.

They scream about street parking or the “changing character” of their neighborhood.

So we end up with a truly bizarre system where it’s easier to put up a 400 square foot high rise or to pave over 100 acres of ag land and build a sprawling subdivision than it is for your grandparents to build an accessory dwelling unit in town.

And our children and grandchildren keep leaving because they can’t afford to stay.


See: Maui

On Maui, the County Zoning Code (Title 19) hasn’t been updated since it was adopted in 1960.

It’s a zoning code designed to make housing unaffordable and to produce suburban sprawl. And–surprise, surprise, that’s exactly what Maui got!

Should it be changed?


A 2018 audit of the code noted that zoning codes should be reviewed and rewritten every ten years.

It’s 2023, so we’ve waited 63 years…

On the council floor, Maui councilmembers keep talking about giving millions of taxpayer dollars to this large development project or that large development project.

Meanwhile, the basic policy governing land use in Maui County is ~maybe~ being revised by a Mayoral administration that hasn’t mentioned zoning reform once.

If only we could send BJ Penn to tap out our broken zoning code!


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