SB2011 would promote mixed-use neighborhoods

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committees on Housing and Water and Land on Feb. 1, 2024.

Feb. 1,  2024, 1 p.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 225 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Housing
      Sen. Stanley Chang, Chair
      Sen. Troy N. Hashimoto, Vice-Chair

     Senate Committee on Water and Land
     Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye, Chair
     Sen. Brandon J.C. Elefante, Vice-Chair

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


Aloha Chairs and Committee Members,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for SB2011, which would allow the construction of multifamily units in commercial and industrial zoning districts in each county.

In a recent report, Grassroot discussed how mixed-use buildings were common prior to the advent of the automobile: “It was normal for watchmakers, bakers, lawyers and all sorts of other business people to live in the same buildings in which they worked. Their stores or offices were usually on the bottom floors, and their living quarters were typically on the floor or floors above or in an apartment in back.”[1]

This bill mirrors one of the suggestions we put forward to promote such mixed-use neighborhoods. We said the counties should allow “residential uses in all existing business-related zones. Such residential uses should not be limited to either the ground floor or floors above the ground floor; all floors should be available for use as dwelling units.”[2]

The walkable neighborhoods these mixed-use buildings encourage have many positive health benefits and save people money on transportation. Just as important, they give people a variety of neighborhood styles to choose from when deciding where to live.

Building more housing in urban areas also would alleviate a much-raised concern: the availability of water and wastewater infrastructure. Fewer new pipes would need to be installed on the suburban fringe if existing buildings were retrofitted with housing units or old buildings were demolished and replaced with new housing.

One wrinkle that might stunt the intended effects of this bill is that the counties could create new zoning classes not listed, and those classes would be exempt from this bill’s requirements. Thus, we suggest the following language be inserted:

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the construction of multi-family dwelling units is permitted on any lot designated with the following zoning classifications as well as in any newly created zoning district classified for commercial, business, or industrial use, subject to reasonable standards that each county may adopt

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1]  Jonathan Helton, “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, December 2023, p. 15.
[2] Ibid, p. 16.

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