May 7, 2017

Permit Streamlining Efforts

There are numerous resources for permit streamlining at the local level. Within the continental US, one of the primary motivations for efficiency and timely approvals is competition. If regulations become too unfriendly or the Authority Having Jurisdiction has a reputation for being difficult, developers will simply shift investment to the nearest neighbor and build at the fringes. Market forces (supply and demand) determine the baseline level of service and efficiency customers are willing to accept.

Unique places, such as San Francisco, New York City, and Honolulu that are highly desirable with geographically limited developable land are exceptions to this rule. And these cities are known to be highly regulated, difficult jurisdictions to obtain building approvals.

For perspective, the following map from HUDuser.gov, shows that not many US counties (dark blue) issued more than 1,500 building permits for new single or multi-family dwellings in 2010.

Resources for further reading:

Apr 30, 2017

ePlans checklist for plan submittals

http://www.honoluludpp.org/OnlineServices.aspxThe Dept of Planning & Permitting (DPP) has stated that one of the causes of building permit delays is incomplete plan submittals by design professionals. DPP has prepared the following checklist to assist.

Interestingly, incomplete plan submittals have been a longstanding issue for DPP. If incomplete documentation has been an ongoing issue with DPP, then by itself, it would not seem to be responsible for the recent spike in permit processing time that occurred after ePlans became mandatory for new buildings.

A 2004 City Auditor's report of DPP noted that "Failure to submit properly documented applications delays the approval process and can result in staff wasting their time trying to process or 'fix' incomplete or inadequate applications." 

The report stated that over 33% of applications received, were incomplete. 
"However, permitting staff often spend similar amounts of time with 'professional' applicants who submit incomplete and/or inadequate applications. For example, a professional applicant may submit plans that are stamped '80 percent complete,' when it is known that plans must be stamped as 100 percent complete. Such attempts result in staff wasting time attempting to process applications that professional applicants already know are unacceptable. Other professionals may submit inadequate or 'sloppy work,' banking on staff spending extra time and effort to correct their materials. Some insist their applications be submitted even when they are advised they are incomplete. While staff emphasized that many professionals make a good faith effort to submit correctly prepared applications, those who do not cause more delays for the remaining applicants." (Office of the City Auditor, 2004)
In support of complete submittals, DPP's ePlan submittal checklist is provided below. It can also be downloaded here.

   EPlans Checklist Plan Format by QQuestor on Scribd

Apr 27, 2017

Affordable Housing Requirments

The Honolulu City Council held an informational hearing to gather input from the community about proposed affordable housing requirements that would be implemented island wide. The video has been uploaded to Youtube in a 3 part video (total mtg time was about 2hr 40mins).

Testimony, in order of appearance:
PART 1 of 3
Sumner Lacroix, Univ of Hawaii Dept of Econ Research Fellow & Prof
Harrison Rue, Community Building & TOD Administrator, C&C of Honolulu
PART 2 of 3
Harrison Rue, Community Building & TOD Administrator, C&C of Honolulu
Rick Cassiday, Housing Market Analyst
John Wallenstrom, Pres. of Forrest City Hawaii
David Arakawa, Land Use Research Foundation
Gavin Thornton, Appleseed Ctr for Law & Economic Justice
Chris Duker, private developer
Scott Settle, Attorney and Pres NAIOP Hawaii
PART 3 of 3
Chris Duker, private developer
Bob Nakata, FACE (Faith Action for Community Equity)
Deja Ostrowski, JD, OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs)
Tim Hiu, Deputy Director C&C Dept of Planning & Permitting
Harrison Rue, Community Building & TOD Administrator, C&C of Honolulu

BACKGROUND: A policy brief was provided by the Mayor, highlighting major provisions along with an update on the implementation status of previous and current initiatives. More info at the Mayor's Office of Housing: City's Leadership on Affordable Housing.

In the video, part 3 of 3, at 14:03, Councilman Ikaika Anderson asks DPP Deputy Director Tim Hiu what can be done to reduce permit issuance time.

Feb 11, 2017

All Kinds Drafting Services

If you're looking for drafting services, please contact
Architect Mike Lau (MikeDaDino @ gmail d ot com)
2151 Wilder Ave
Honolulu, HI 96822

How Long Does it Take to Get an ADU Permit in Honolulu?

How Long Does it Take to get an ADU Permit in Honolulu? by QQuestor on Scribd

Spatial Distribution of ADUs in 2016

According to City data, there were 100 new ADUs (accessory dwelling units) created in Honolulu in 2016. All of them were mapped to identify which City Council District had the most and least new ADUs.

Ikaika Anderson's district tops the list with 36% or one out of every 3 ADUs. A closer look at the building permit data shows that 29 were in Kailua, 2 in Waimanalo, and 5 in Kaneohe. Trevor Ozawa's district of Hawaii Kai ranked second with 20% of all ADUs. Perhaps a surprise, Brandon Elefante's district that includes Pearl City and Waipahu, had the 3rd lowest rate, adding just 4 new ADUs. At the bottom of the list: Ron Menor's district that includes Kapolei and Mililani, did not have any ADUs.

Data provided by the City and County of Honolulu

Sep 29, 2016

Drafting Table

For some reason, we used to get a lot of calls asking if we sold drafting tables. (We do not.)
For those who are still looking: http://www.versatables.com/products/drafting/
Freedom Drafting Table

Jul 5, 2016

Population Weighted Density

Residential density is notoriously difficult to calculate in a meaningful way. The obvious calculation is # people divided by land area, but this would distort the data if large unoccupied lands were included as land area in the calculation along with highly dense centers of population. Urban areas should be recognized as different from rural or suburban locations, but how do you delineate the boundary between them?

Although a wealth of demographic data is gathered by census tracts, tracts come in irregular shapes and sizes. The formula below is one way researchers standardize quantities to be able to compare different sized tracts.

In 2012, the US Census Bureau used Population Weighted Density to more accurately describe density. As the description implies, areas with high concentrations of people are weighted more heavily than sparsely populated locations. The equation looks like this:
I wanted to understand how to "weight" a quantity and started to plug in numbers to see how to actually apply this formula.

As an example: 2 census tracts, each with 100 sq ft. Tract A has 2 people. Tract B has 100 people. The traditional measure of density would weigh both parcels equally and calculate density as: total pop÷total area: 102÷200 sq ft=0.51
Population Weighted Density: [(2÷100x2)+(100÷100x100)+(if there was a Tract C, etc)]÷102=0.98
The weighted density more accurately reflects the perceived density (PD in the equation above) since it gives more weight to areas with higher population. If the density were based solely on the larger tract, density would be 100/100=1.0. In our example, weighted density is 0.98.

Data downloaded from the US Census Bureau shows Honolulu ranks as the #4 most dense metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the country. (Why aren't we included in more studies about major metropolitan areas?)

Most of the above information comes from this article by CityLab

Jan 26, 2016

ADU or Rec Room

Some considerations for building an ADU vs Rec Room
  • Regardless of what you call it: ADU or a Rec Room, if you obtain a building permit and the space contains a food prep area, as defined by the Dept of Env Services, the City & County of Honolulu will assess a  sewer base change, monthly. Meaning that you will likely be charged a sewer based charge for the primary dwelling + a sewer base charge for the ADU or Rec Room. 
  • Fees are collected via you monthly Board of Water Supply (BWS) bill. On the back, it includes a sewer base charge, currently $77.55/mo per ESDU. When sewer usage fees and BWS fees are added, when you add an ADU or Rec Room, your monthly BWS bill will increase approx +/-$100 (depending on  actual water usage).
  • An ADU is a legal second dwelling unit and adds more equity/appraised value than a Rec Room. An ADU may allow you to use the income from the 2nd unit to help qualify for or refinance your mortgage; lender requirements vary.
  •  An ADU can be separately metered for water, electricity and gas, which makes it easier to pass on those costs to the tenant. A Rec Room cannot have separate meters installed by the utility companies, but some owners install privately owned and read submeters for water and electricity.
  • If you wait (5+years) until you need it, you may not have the energy, resources, time, or health to see the project through. It takes a combination of all that and more to supervise a construction project in your own home.
  • Codes will change in the future and may require additional retrofits before an ADU can be legally installed (i.e. fire sprinklers, solar water heater -- these are not currently required, but could be in the future). Future zoning regulations may restrict locations where ADUs are allowed, or the CIty Council may rescind ADUs entirely.
  • Sewer capacity may be used up in your neighborhood and other infrastructure may no longer be avail to support new/additional ADUs in your area.
  • Permit fees will increase in the future.
  • Permit fee waivers expire 6/20/2018. ADUs permitted before then save by not having to pay the one-time sewer connection fee is currently $6,616 but has increased each year for the past few fiscal years and may increase again on July 01, 2017.
Caveat: The above information is provided for discussion purposes only and should be verified by the appropriate government agencies. The source of this information makes no warranties as to its accuracy.

Nov 16, 2015

Visualizing urban growth

The things that happen in Seattle; amazing.
From Seattle's Open Data website:
"Here's a fabulous example of what can be done with data from data.seattle.gov. Using Processing, (www.processing.org), Zubin Rao created an animation depicting Seattle building permit activity, charting permits by location and animating the permits based on dollar amount and issue date. The size of the circle is based on the dollar amount of the construction cost and grows to full size over the course of a year. As the time slider on the right descends, circles from previous years "ghost" out and disappear."
Mapping the quantity and intensity using building permit data allows construction value to serve as a proxy indicator for where urban growth is occurring. The analysis could be tuned further be filtering the results to show specific types of occupancy: Residential, Industrial, etc and new floor area vs alterations. This can be used to show spatially, which areas are adding new commercial square footage; what neighborhoods are undergoing conversions of uses: industrial to commercial, and so on.

One of the challenges of doing this in Honolulu (and perhaps elsewhere) is that properties are tracked by tax map keys. Legal and real property tax boundaries change over time: consolidation, resubdivision, dropped parcels, etc. When this occurs, it is difficult to track the continuity of permit activity through time. Sometimes permits get "lost," which leads to undervaluation of permit activity. DPP does seem to tag properties by census block group number (which also changes over time, although perhaps not as much as TMKs); not sure if permits are also assigned to CBG.

Another great app on the site: Seattle in Progress, shows the spatial location of Land Use Permits mapped around the city. Users can access further details about each project. I can learn more about proposed and accepted permits in Seattle, than i can in Honolulu.

Here's one example: https://www.seattleinprogress.com/project/3016806 by Perkins and Will. At the end of the presentation is the visual rationale for the "random" block forms -- they evolved from curves in a much older, traditional structure into the seemingly randomized block form, below.