Bill 21 (2023): Council should update building code to allow more ‘adaptive reuse’ projects

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Honolulu City and County Council Committee on Zoning on April 5, 2023.

April 5, 2023
9 a.m.
Honolulu City Council Chambers

To: Honolulu City and County Council, Committee on Zoning
      Councilmember Calvin Say, Chair
      Councilmember Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, Vice Chair

 From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
            Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Comments Only

Dear Chair and Committee Members:

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on Bill 21 (2023), which would align the City and County of Honolulu building code with certain provisions of the International Building Code relating to light and ventilation.

This bill would make it easier to complete “adaptive reuse” projects that repurpose existing structures for new housing units.

Adaptive reuse projects have numerous benefits. They can be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than tearing down existing buildings and replacing them with new structures.[1] Further, adaptive reuse fosters a sense of place by maintaining a building’s character while ensuring it is used for productive purposes.

Should the Council want to look into adaptive reuse further, Los Angeles’ adaptive reuse ordinance could serve a model. It has been credited with helping create 12,000 housing units since its inception in 1999,[2] and — while it’s certainly no silver bullet — could be a valuable tool in the city’s housing toolkit.

We would be happy to discuss the model further with you, and we commend the Council for considering this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments.


Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1] Jason M. Ward and Daniel Schwam, “Can Adaptive Reuse of Commercial Real Estate Address the Housing Crisis in Los Angeles?” RAND Corporation, 2022; and “Adaptive Reuse: Reimagining Our City’s Buildings to Address Our Housing, Economic and Climate Crises,” Central City Association of Los Angeles, April 2021, p. 9.
[2] Ibid.

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