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Update development standards to allow more apartment housing

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Honolulu City Council Committee on Zoning on June 26, 2024.
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June 26, 2024, 9 a.m.
Honolulu Hale

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

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

RE: Resolution 24-148 — PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO CHAPTER 21, REVISED ORDINANCES OF HONOLULU 2021 (THE LAND USE ORDINANCE), RELATING TO THE DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS FOR THE APARTMENT AND APARTMENT MIXED-USE DISTRICTS.

Aloha Chair Say, Vice-Chair Dos Santos-Tam and other members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for Resolution 24-148, which would direct the Honolulu Planning Commission to review a proposed draft bill that would update the city’s minimum lot sizes, lot widths and floor-area ratios for the apartment and apartment mixed-use zoning districts with the aim of allowing more housing units in areas already zoned for denser forms of housing.

For example, if Honolulu abolished only its 1.3 floor-area-ratio requirement for a 10,000-square-foot lot zoned A-1 — floor-area ratio being a calculation of how dense a building can be based on its lot area — that parcel could accommodate 15,000 square feet of living space, compared to just 13,000 square feet now,[1] assuming that all the other development standards are left in place.

That’s the equivalent of legalizing two or three new one-bed, one-bath units. For larger parcels in the denser apartment zones, FAR reform could enable even more units.

And if Honolulu were to revise upward all the other development standards as well — the minimum setbacks, the height limits, the maximum lot coverage and minimum lot widths and depths — the number of newly legal units could skyrocket.

We appreciate that the Committee has decided to hear this important resolution and urge its passage.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1]  § 21-3.90-1 Apartment mixed-use district uses and development standards., Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, accessed June 24, 2024. See Table 21-3.3.

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