Sep 25, 2017

Pending legislation: TOD and Affordable Housing Requirement Bills

Following is a summary of the bills:

The TOD bills are back on the Zoning and Housing agenda, scheduled to meet on 9/28/17 at 9am. Pine and Elefante have each introduced their own versions of Bill 74, CD2 (Revisions are also proposed to Bill 75, CD2 and Bill 76, CD2 -- the other TOD bills, pending since 2015). This would be the third and final reading for the TOD bills; the Council could vote to adopt this language, which would take effect immediately.

The proposed revisions are similar, except that Pine's includes language about economic enhancement and a stipulation of contractor's wages. The economic enhancement requirements appear to be visioning requirements that are more appropriate in the Neighborhood TOD plan. As currently stated, the requirements are vague, have great potential to generate controversy during the entitlement process, and therefore should not be included in the final version of the ordinance. Pine's CD2 version states:

Development must include a "positive contribution to the economic enhancement of the affected area, particularly with regard to providing diverse employment opportunities, including but not limited to whether the project is subject to a project labor agreement providing that construction workforce employed on all phases of the project will be paid no less than the prevailing minimum wages established for public work projects pursuant to HRS Chapter 104."

Other language inserted into Pine's CD2 requires fair wages for contractors. While this is important, it is not appropriate to feature this within a TOD ordinance, which is primarily concerned with establishing zoning district standards (i.e., setbacks, height, allowable uses). A summary of the original urban design requirements of Bill 74 -- which have remained largely unchanged -- is included here.

Elefante's version doesn't include that but primarily updates the bill to reference the City's affordable housing ordinance and clarifies that to be considered a community benefit, affordable housing must be in addition to what is required by the City's affordable housing ordinance. That wording was already in Bill 74; he's just clarifying language throughout -- so not much change. 

Both councilmember's versions also clarify that an IP-D (council approval) is required for buildings seeking 20 feet or more of bonus height. 

To better understand how the City's Affordable Housing Requirements compare to HCDA, the AIA Housing Committee prepared a comparison matrix.

Separate bills that would establish the City's Affordable Housing Requirement (AHR) and Affordable Housing Incentives, respectively Bill 58 & 59 (2017) have passed 2nd reading and may become law soon. To understand the scope of projects the AHR would apply to, building permits were used to count the number of units created in new multifamily buildings created between 2005-2016. The proposed language in the Bill states: "New construction of or substantial rehabilitation of ten or more dwelling units developed under a single or unified project concept, on one or more zoning lots." Past building permits show that nearly all new multifamily development -- even those permits for fewer than 10 units -- are part of a larger project concept. Therefore nearly ALL new multifamily development would be required to provide 10% of its units as affordable for-sale or 5% as affordable rental units (on-site, within non-TOD station areas); the requirement would be higher within the TOD-station area. 

Jul 2, 2017

Approved Building Permit Plans

Many approved permit drawings and related permit documents are already scanned by the Dept of Planning & Permitting:
AutoPermits (Document Scanning)
To fully enable electronic document retrieval and research, the Department continues the process of scanning microfilm records of permit plans. This process will ensure that all new permit plans are accessible in digital format. The Department also continues to scan new permit documents upon approval into digital image formats to be accessible through the POSSE system.
(City and County of Honolulu FY2011 Annual Report, Department of Planning & Permitting)
However, the public's access to these records is limited to printed hardcopies. Online access and the right to download these files digitally, is withheld.

Online access to these digital files would streamline the search and verification of critical building information and related details. These documents contain information of interest to the general public: building height, setbacks, number of required parking stalls, required landscaping and noise buffering. And these documents also provide critical information for design professionals: type of construction, fire-protection components, certificates of occupancy, permitted uses, and floor area calculations. More importantly, information in these Department of Planning & Permitting records are typically found nowhere else except on the approved plans and permit documents. High quality scans are important to accurately document critical building information and design professionals need access to the digital version of these documents.

The current practice of the Department of Planning & Permitting is to print hardcopies (typically reduced to 8.5"x11") of pdf'd documents or the public can have a professional printing service reproduce full-sized hardcopies (typically 24"x36"). High quality digital scans and online access to view/download these files, is preferred. The files are available, just not to the public.

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