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Bill 64 (2023): Allow mulltifamily dwellings in business zone, defer food truck parking rules

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Honolulu City Council Committee on Planning and the Economy on March 7, 2024.
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March 7, 2024, 9 a.m.
Honolulu Hale

To: Honolulu City Council Committee on Planning and the Economy
      Esther Kiaʻāina, Chair
      Radiant Cordero, Vice-Chair

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

RE: Comments on Bill 64 (2023) — RELATING TO USE REGULATIONS

Aloha Chair Kiaʻāina, Vice-Chair Cordero and members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on the portion of Bill 64 (2023), FD1 that would amend the city’s land-use regulations governing residential uses.

In general, the amendments proposed in this measure would make it easier to build homes and would promote walkable mixed-use buildings and neighborhoods. Many of them accord with the recommendations we made in our report, “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii.”[1]

We would like to comment on three groups of changes in Chair Kiaʻāina’s proposed amendments: the standards for multifamily housing in B-1 and B-2 zones; the changes to permitted home occupations; and the parking minimums for food trucks.

>> Multifamily units in business zones

The current draft of Bill 64 would allow multi-unit dwellings to be built in B-1 and B-2 zones in the Primary Urban Center development plan and Ewa development plan areas. Currently, multi-unit dwellings are permitted in the BMX-3 and BMX-4 zones.

One of Chair Kiaʻāina’s proposed amendments would expand multi-unit dwellings in B-1 and B-2 zones to the Central Oahu sustainable communities plan — a welcome change that could promote mixed use in Wahiawa and Waipahu.[2]

The amendment would also allow certain multi-unit dwellings to proceed as long as they provide some commercial floor area. Setting the minimum floor-area ratio for non-residential use at either 0.2, 0.05 or 10,000 square feet, depending on the size of the lot — as the amendment does — would preserve the mixed-use nature of the building while allowing builders flexibility in allotting the floor area between commercial and residential uses.

>> Home occupations

In our housing report that we released in December, we recommended that lawmakers relax restrictions on home-based businesses because small-scale mom and pop entrepreneurs can boost a neighborhood’s sense of community and place.

Chair Kiaʻāina’s proposed amendment would take some steps to liberalize home occupations. It would allow one non-household employee to work at a home-based business at any time — although it is unclear whether household members could work at the home-based business at the same time as the non-household employee. Clarifying that the non-household employee could work on-site at the same time as any household members could prove helpful for small salon, consulting or other personal service settings.

Likewise, the amendment would retain existing language that allows a person to paint or repair up to five vehicles at their residence in a given year and would set standards for when non-household employees could help with a home-based childcare.

>> Food truck parking minimums

We are concerned about the proposed language relating to parking minimums for food trucks — or mobile commercial establishments, as the amendment calls them.

The new language would require that whenever three or more mobile commercial establishments are operating on one zoning lot, each would need to provide five off-street parking spaces. Currently, the code requires five parking spaces per mobile commercial establishment, so this new language is an improvement of sorts.

At the same time, this language brings up other questions, such as when this requirement is triggered. Would three food trucks operating on a vacant lot on a single weekend need to provide 15 spaces?

We believe this amendment should receive more input from stakeholders, including business owners.

Overall, though, the Grassroot Institute believes many of the changes in Bill 64 would make Honolulu a better place to live and do business; however, while this is a good bill on its face, we do ask that the council consider delaying the vote until a redline version can be distributed to the public to increase transparency.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1] Jonathan Helton, “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, December 2023.
[2] See: “Zoning, (City and County of Honolulu),”  Hawaii Statewide GIS Program, accessed Feb. 29, 2024; and “Sustainable Communities Plan Areas,” Hawaii Statewide GIS Program, accessed Feb. 29, 2024.

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